Akuyaku Reijou ni Koi Wo Shite:
“Event :The Devil Stirs ( Second Half )”
If an engagement was just a question of numbers, the knights could deal with that.
However, that was only true in absence of other factors. The undead would rise again and again no matter how many times the knights defeated them. There was no way for them to win against an enemy like that.
It didn’t help that before they knew it, the corpses were now coming from behind them as well. With the undead crawling up from under the ground they had expected this but sometimes just knowing something doesn’t help.
Rion and the knights were now completely surrounded. They were still able to keep the enemy at bay, but they were about to reach their limits. Some of the knights got to that point already, their movements grew dull and thus they were unable to prevent themselves being pulled into the undead crowd.
They heard a scream one would never think a human was capable of. They felt queasy just from imagining what was happening to the companions inside the mob.
A moment later. There were figures clad in armor that could be seen within the crowd of enemies, the knights killed by the undead turned and became one of them.
「J-Jason… No way…」
One of the knights muttered in a shaking voice. The name must have belonged to a dead companion that was raised against them.
They might’ve been close before, but this was hardly the time for sentiments.
This was what Rion thought to himself without voicing it out loud. Which was unfortunate as the knights could have used a reminder of the fact.
Seeing their allies turned into undead made the knights lose composure and that caused the situation on the battlefield to worsen. The knights, who hesitated to cut down their former allies that had turned undead, were mercilessly slaughtered.
Each time one of them fell, the number of the raised knight increased. Faced with the prospect of becoming one of them, the ones still alive started to lose their sanity. Unable to cope with the fear they went berserk and recklessly charged ahead.
Obviously, that only made the amount of undead grow even more.
「This is hopeless…」
The few surviving knights muttered despondently.
「Such a detestable way of fighting. Someone that resorts to battles like those must be not only repugnant but a huge coward too.」
In contrast to them, Rion was speaking as if making fun of someone.
「You sure are carefree, aren’t you?」
Asked a knight who still had his mind sufficiently intact to ask a proper question. His armor, slightly more ornate than the rest of the troop, indicated that he was the one in charge of them all, but that was not something Rion was aware of.
「Carefree…? I guess, I wasn’t really pressed so far.」
「How did you get to have such an impressive endurance?」
「A lot of harsh training.」
「Heh, admirable, but there’s no telling when you reach your limit.」
Although Rion said that in jest in order to put the knight’s feelings at ease, the man seemed to take this seriously. Rion was convinced that everyone was about to run out of steam.
「Even if we’re all aware of that, we still lack the means to destroy them permanently.」
「That’s because our enemy is a coward! A so-called devil that fears human knights so much that he has to hide in a small corner while the fight takes place!」
「Are you alright? What are you saying?」
The knight was bewildered by Rion’s sudden shout.
「Just offering a coward some well-deserved ridicule! I know you can hear me you craven little fiend!」
「What is this all…」
Rion only ignored the knight and focused his gaze at one point. It looked like his target finally made its appearance.
「There it is.」
「….What’s that!? Is that a human?」
Following Rion’s line of sight, the knights noticed a new silhouette and inadvertently raised their voices. The new arrival was clad in a jet black robe and looked surprisingly humanlike.
However, it was not a human. The being that just revealed itself was the one Rion has been looking forward to finding. It was a devil controlling the undead in the castle.
「Oh, look! The coward is here!」
Even though the real enemy had finally shown itself, Rion continued his verbal assault.
「…So cocky for a kid.」
「It even speaks!」
「Such cheap provocations. Do you really think anyone would fall for petty tricks like these?」
「Well, you say that, but you did show up in the end.」
「…I came with full knowledge of your aims. Only despair awaits you and my presence here will make it so much more delicious and so much more crushing.」
「I don’t care for your reasons, you appearing is all that matters.」
「Defeating you will make all this end.」
「And you consider yourself capable of that, child?」
Rion didn’t consider the problem. Failing would mean breaking his promise to Ariel, therefore he must defeat the enemy at all cost. Regardless of the method.
「I don’t need to be capable! Look at those valiant knights! Once they reach and kill you, they’ll break your hold on the dead and the ordeal will be over!」
「Now is the time! The true enemy has shown himself! Make use of this chance!」
This was a provocation too. However, this time it was not aimed at the devil but at the knights who were fighting alongside Rion. They fell for it splendidly and charged through the crowd of undead in order to try and defeat the mastermind. Even though in the back of their minds, they knew it would be futile, they could not resist the temptation of the chance to end their desperate battle.
「Foolish humans! Come and fall before my puppets!」
The devil did not even worry for a second about the possibility of the knights breaking through. If they were really capable of such a thing, the knights would’ve been able to break their encirclement and escape already.
But it did make one miscalculation. It was oblivious to the fact that, excluding the two people most important to him, Rion never cared about the life of others. As such he was ready and willing to use them ruthlessly if it led to fulfilling promises made to those dear to him.
The devil exclaimed in surprise.
Suddenly, the undead mob was smothered by flames and utterly demolished. The fire didn’t stop there, racing towards the devil, turning everything that stood in its path to ash.
Now that the knights were dead, Rion had no one to hide his strength from. He could now use all his abilities in order to emerge victorious.
「So you can conjure fire!? Bastard!」
「Did I ever say I can’t?」
「Don’t get cocky with just that!」
The devil was clearly shaken and Rion knew the reason for that. When one thought about undead, the weakness that came to mind were fire, light or holy attribute magic if such existed. His enemy’s unease allowed Rion to confirm that this was indeed true in this case too.
Whether the controller shared the weaknesses of his puppets was still an open question. But that was only a matter of testing things.
The magical flame summoned by Rion transformed into numerous small dragons circling his opponent.
Judging by the disdain in its words the devil clearly had countermeasures available. And just as if to confirm this, multiple blades of water formed on its fingertips. Water for the fire, the response was indeed splendid.
The water blades moved to attack the flames surrounding the devil, but…
「Like I’d let you!」
…They were all intercepted by water balls conjured by Rion. This caused Rion’s enemy to blunder by losing its composure.
The boy took his chance and struck, beheading his foe with his sword.
The severed head began muttering curses as it rolled on the ground.
Even beheaded, the devil was clearly still alive. Rion was looking at its head with a cold glare.
「How dare you?!」
「If you kept your mouth shut, I might have thought that you were already dead and left this place.」
「So what? I’m an undead, like the Immortal King. Someone like you cannot kill me.」
These words prompted certain memories to surface in Rion’s mind.
「You… You are a lich, aren’t you?」
According to Ryou’s knowledge from his former world, something called an immortal king would usually be a lich – a magic user who turned himself into undead by means of his own craft. But Rion wasn’t able to recall anything more.
Spot on. But this guy was rather lame for a lich. Honestly, he was just pathetic.
「Let me think… How did one kill a lich?」
Unfortunately shaking up his opponent was all that Rion’s knowledge was good for. On the ways of killing liches, he drew a blank.
「That was a rhetorical question. Now then…」
As Rion looked to be lost in thought, a water blade began forming at the hand of the lich’s headless body. But before it even reached Rion’s back it’s path was blocked by a wall of ice.
「You really are a fool. What smart person would betray his ambush by a shout?」
It wasn’t like he managed to defend himself because the lich raised its voice. Anticipating surprise attacks, he instructed Diane to assume defensive stance from the start.
He only ridiculed the lich for raising his voice to irritate it some more.
「Hmm, I guess if I don’t know what exactly can kill you I should just use everything. Sarah, Diane, it’s all yours!」
The severed head of the lich was pierced by Rion’s sword and then engulfed by Sarah’s flame. In the meantime, multiple blades of water fragmented its body.
「Naive! I will neve…」
Those were the last words of the monstrosity. The fire consumed its head completely and nothing remained on the ground where it had fallen.
「…never die just from that? Maybe. But you still showed up too early and that’s why you lost.」
Rion said this even though there was nobody left to hear his words. He assumed the reason he was able to win was because the enemy was a tutorial boss. An existence that would never be a threat to the protagonist, just a stepping stone for her to gain experience.
But in reality, he was misunderstanding things. This event was not what he thought it would be.
The encounter in the castle was supposed to result in the defeat of the protagonist’s party in order to make them determined to grow stronger. Not an uncommon plot device.
In the game, when fighting the lich, the heroine’s group would be unable to save even a single life and would end up mourning their powerlessness. Due to that, they would resolve to get stronger as to not let such a thing happen ever again.
This was an event that Rion shouldn’t be able to survive.
In the meantime, the protagonist’s party…
Arnold and the others were able to find a different escape route and exit the abandoned castle. They didn’t manage to leave unimpeded though and had to fight numerous groups of undead along the way.
While fleeing, Arnold was able to sense that all the knights had perished.
His body could be seen quivering in frustration as they moved towards the rear castle gate on the way to rejoin the expedition members left to watch over the carriages.
Once they got there, a dispute erupted. Ariel wanted to wait until Rion came back, Lancelot argued for immediate return to the royal capital so proper authorities can be informed and a punitive force dispatched.
The nobles voted and with four votes to one the decision went against Ariel. Frustrated she tried to stay anyway, but was ordered by Arnold to evacuate as well.
Their carriage left straight for the capital. The horses were constantly whipped to go faster even though they would soon need to rest anyway regardless how fast the group wanted to reach their destination. This made the haste meaningless, but it gave them an excuse to get away from the castle as fast and as far as possible.
That situation inside the carriage, while their emotions could hardly be called positive, made for a very cold atmosphere with no member of the party able to say anything.
At the center of that cold air was Ariel, with a face like a Noh mask and stiff, deathly still body. It made everyone else think that, inside her, her rage had mixed with the fear of losing Rion and turned unimaginably intense.
[TL Note: A noh mask is a wood-carved, hand-painted, somewhat life-like mask. It’s a pretty interesting Japanese cultural artifact, you can read more about it here : http://www.the-noh.com/en/world/mask.html ]
The spirits that were in resonance with Ariel’s feelings ran amok within the carriage which was why the air felt so cold. But even without that, she was simply emitting an aura that could freeze one’s heart solid.
The only one who was able to call out to her in that situation was Arnold, a man of true courage. One possibly urged by his sense of responsibility as Ariel’s fiancé.
However, his courage was left unanswered. But even so, Arnold began to weave words.
「…The fault is mine. If only I was stronger.」
It was unknown whether these words of Arnold were brought by the game plot or did they arise from his heart.
However, there was a person who took it as a sign of scenario progression.
「The fault does not lie with Arnold-sama alone. I too bear responsibility for this.」
That was Maria, who instantly followed up on his words. After she said that the ambiance within the carriage immediately changed.
「That’s right. I am also responsible. I was unable to do anything.」
Lancelot also spoke his own thoughts.
「Of course, this is true for me too.」
Charlotte followed up.
With all of them brooding on their own powerlessness…
「Let’s become stronger. So strong that we won’t lose anyone precious ever again.」
The protagonist resolves herself to get stronger.
「Maria is right. We have to grow stronger. So that the lives of those who let us escape won’t be sacrificed in vain.」
Lancelot’s response followed what Maria remembered from the game.
「Correct. We have that responsibility after all.」
So was Charlotte’s. It was not in her character to behave differently here.
Now both Maria and Lancelot were urging Arnold to follow suit.
「…I know, I understand. I will get stronger. Strong enough to make sure that no one by my side has to face despair ever again.」
Arnold’s words seemingly went out to meet their expectations. It had always been like this for these four.
However, this time not everything was like in the cutscenes. The prince’s gaze was fixated on Ariel and never wavered. His resolve was not an answer to theirs but a vow to his fiancé.
「Everyone, let’s do our best! We are all—-!」
Maria was not able to continue her words to the end. A strong gust of wind hit her face interrupting her mid-sentence.
It was different from Ariel’s cold aura and originated at the door of the carriage that should’ve been shut during the journey.
The voice of Arnold reverberated in the small space.
Before they knew it, she was already standing in the open doorway ignoring Arnold completely. Her body was visibly shining with delight.
Her unexpected action caused Arnold and the others to exclaim in surprise.
But what surprised them even more, was the sight of Rion who was trying to catch up with the carriage on a horseback.
And then Ariel dived towards her brother’s valet.
As expected, unable to deal with so much momentum, Rion was knocked off his mount with the girl in his hands. He hugged Ariel in a way that would prevent her from getting injured as he landed on his back.
The tremendous force of impact made him struggle for breath. But having not even tried to cushion the fall and hitting the ground square with his back he could consider himself lucky that he ended up only winded.
「…Do you need healing?」
Ariel, still hugging Rion, looked up to him with upturned eyes.
「….I-I can’t brea–」
Normally, Rion’s face would’ve been bright red in a situation like that, but not this time.
「Shall I provide some air to your lips?」
「E-eh? Ah… No… That!」
With her body slightly elevated, Ariel was peeking at Rion’s face from above. That unexpectedly caused Rion to blush furiously and thrown his heart into turmoil.
Wind flowed gently around Rion at that moment. It was Ariel’s magic.
Rion suffered from a huge misunderstanding.
「Is this much enough?」
「….Ah yes… I am as new, milady.」
「I see. Thank goodness.」
Ariel was really worried before, but now a smile brightened her face.
He was back where he belonged. Looking at her face, he felt that certainty radiate from his soul.
「…Ah, now that my head is clear milady. Can I have a request?」
「What would it be?」
「In the future please refrain from jumping from a speeding carriage onto a running horse.」
「I believed Rion would deal with the trivial hazards involved in that.」
Absolute trust. That was the relationship forged between them.
Rion kept the promise that he made. Ariel just kept believing in him. That was why she had never felt that leaving him in the castle was synonymous to abandoning him. Rion would be able to survive that situation, Ariel kept believing that.
It was just, as one would expect given those circumstances, that she regretted her own foolishness.
But even so, Rion was able to return. Ariel was unbearably happy just from that.
And for Rion, being able to receive that absolute trust of her made him happy too. He would respond to her trust with even more obstinate fight against her destiny. That was how Rion felt.
The two just kept on smiling and staring at each other.
Seeing them like that made two people scowl.
There was the Crown Prince Arnold. He craved that kind of smile that Ariel was showing Rion. He couldn’t stand seeing it directed at someone other than him.
Then there was Maria. Rion, who should’ve already died, somehow was able to come back. That, according to her conclusions, meant Rion was an existence impossible to remove from to plot line.
With this Rion had ceased to be a capture target, he now became an enemy that hindered her conquest.
Another event had concluded. Although the story’s path changed slightly, the plot was still intact.