【"Splendid work! That was truly splendid!!"】
As if he was not aware of his own position, Locfarl walked towards Kyle with a wide smile.
Kyle scowled at him.
There were a lot of things Kyle wanted to ask. For exemple, he wanted to ask about the other Melra believers. If he borrowed the services of Minagi, who was used to interrogating people, he would surely get some information.
"For now, I guess I'll bind him...." Thought Kyle, but he was not able to do it.
【"Not only you defeated him, but you defeated him after a hard fight. With this, your popula... rity... ?"】
Although Locfarl had been speaking cheerfully, he looked curiously at his body mid-sentence. Then, as he wondered what was going on with a puzzled expression on his face, he saw an arm coming out of his chest. That arm was holding a heart which was wriggling as if it was reluctant to go so soon.
As Locfarl looked at his own heart, his face seemed to express that he was at a complete loss as to what had happened.
【"Alright, that's enough..."】
Targ had appeared behind Locfarl's back and crushed his heart in his hand. Locfarl's body convulsed for a moment before it completely stopped moving.
【"Phew, this should help me save some face."】
Said Targ in a refreshed manner, as if he had just finished a tasking job. In response, he received Kyle's glare.
【"Oh my, is there a problem?"】
【"You appear at the end and take credits for work that someone else did, so typical of demons."】
Acting tough and throwing sarcasm around was all that Kyle could do now. He was wounded all over his body, and it was absolutely impossible for him to fight. And the truth was that Targ had no intention to fight either.
【"But, I mean, you had no intention to kill him, right?"】
【"I had things to ask him!"】
【"Leaving him alive would have been convenient for you, but wouldn't it be dishonest towards mister Zeurus to not kill the mastermind behind the people who deceived mister Gruldo?"】
The fact that Targ had a point made Kyle click his tongue.
【"Besides, mister Zeurus is a just individual. So, even if not for that, he would at least appreciate the fact that I gave the finishing blow to the bad human being who tried to use mister Gruldo."】
Indeed, the dragons would certainly want Locfarl dead.
They did not care about Melra worshipers and whatnot. Moreover, regardless of the context of the situation, it could said that Targ had taken action for Gruldo's sake.
If Zeurus was going to acknowledge the work of Kyle and the others, then he was going to acknowledge Targ's work at the same time.
【"...Are you sure you should talk big like that after running away from Seran like you did?"】
As Kyle said so, some curiosity appeared on Targ's face.
【"...Don't you think that I could have come here after defeating that man?"】
Since Targ had concealed his wound, there should have been no way to figure out the outcome of the fight.
【"Like hell Seran would be defeated by you. Also, he never leaves a job half-way done. And yet, somehow, you're right here, which means... you ran away."】
As Kyle said so with an expression that seemed to be asking "What are you even talking about?", Targ showed some admiration.
【"What an amazing bond of trust... Your people were also sure that you wouldn't lose against mister Gruldo... And you actually completely defeated him."】
Targ had come here to see what had happened to Gruldo. If Kyle had been losing, Targ had planned to kill the man who was manipulating Gruldo directly and rip all the profits.
【"Well, my job here is done, and you seem to be very worn out, so... For now, I'll go report what happened."】
When Targ was about to leave, Kyle asked him a question.
【"Hold on! I have one question for you. The person you're going to give your report to... is he a black-winged demon with no horns?"】
Kyle asked this based on his intuition only, but somehow, he was certain that he was right.
【"Oh? Hmm.... Why would a human like you ask that?"】
Targ's perplexed state was enough for Kyle to know that his intuition was right.
The person Kyle was thinking about was the demon king whom he had fought to the death in his previous life, in a battle where they somehow both brought each other down ―― To be more precise, it was the demon king who would take the throne in two years and a half and would try to destroy humanity.
Having unexpectedly grasped a clue about the situation, Kyle opened his eyes wide and tried to ask more questions, but Targ stepped back like he could not say anything more.
【"Oops, I am very sorry but I cannot answer you any further. Well, although I can't speak of any details, you'll probably have the opportunity to find out about all that eventually... Now then, if you'll excuse me..."】
With one last suspicious smile, Targ suddenly disappeared.
Aware of how important this matter was, Sildonia looked at Kyle with an expression which was as serious as it could possibly be.
【"Well... I finally got my hand on a clue. I guess I'm gonna have to meet with that guy again."】
It was going to be difficult to meet him since he was a demon, but still, it was necessary for Kyle to do so.
That was because, if things went well, perhaps Kyle would be able to stop the 'Great invasion' altogether.
【"....By the way, we managed to make Gruldo pass out and all, but how are we going to bring him to the great tree now?"】
【"I actually didn't think about that either.】
Kyle and Sildonia started pondering about the question together, while looking at Gruldo, who was lying on the ground.
Since the people from Lincecol had watched Kyle defeat Gruldo, they were likely going to come take a look at the situation soon.
And if they were to realize at that point that Gruldo had merely fainted, that would cause a great stir.
【"There is no helping it, I'll ask Ilmera if he can carry him."】
【"But didn't he say that he can't meet with him?"】
【"I'll just explain that it's alright since Gruldo is unconscious. At his core, Ilmera is the straightforward type, so he's easy to trick."】
【"...That is probably the same reason why Gruldo ended up being deceived."】
In the end, Ilmera agreed that meeting Gruldo wouldn't count as a transgression since he was unconscious, and he successfully carried him until he was near the world tree.
【"Hmm... Oh here you are."】
Lize was looking around the world tree left and right. And when Yulriga finally came into her sight, she merrily called out to her.
【"What did you come to me for?"】
Yulriga looked at Lize with a clearly annoyed expression on her face.
【"What I want? Well, you're going back to the demonic territory, right? So I came to see you off."】
"That's only natural, isn't it?" Added Lize with a smile.
After everything was over, Kyle and the others had all returned together to the world tree.
Ilmera had carried the exhausted Gruldo until he reached the world tree, and Kyle and the others carried him for the rest of the way for appearance's sake, in order to make it seem like the law had been thoroughly followed.
Having accomplished her duty, Yulgira was supposed to return to the demonic territory in order to give her report to the demon king. And Lize figured that since Yulgira was Yulgira, she was likely going to leave without saying goodbye.
Be that as it may, Yulgira still had to report to Zeurus and offer him a greeting before leaving the world tree, therefore, Lize had asked Ilmera to tell her about it when that time would come.
【"I mean, regardless of the circumstances, we fought alongside each-other, so it's normal for us to want to say goodbye. Kyle seemed awfully reluctant to do it, though."】
【"That is only natural..."】
Yulriga sighed with a serious look on her face, as if to tell Lize that she did not understand anything.
【"As you said before, I certainly don't have any particular thought or opinion regarding humans. Moreover, it is part of the great demon king's policy to not quarrel with the human species... However, that's only the current policy, and the demon king could wage an all-out resistance against the human species by tomorrow. If that happens, I will kill you without any hesitation. That's just how it is between demons and humans."】
【"So we shouldn't get involved with each other... For both of our sakes."】
This rejection could not be clearer.
Lize opened her mouth to say something, but no word came out.
The two of them were completely quiet, however, for better or worse, someone interrupted that silence.
【"Oh? You're going back?"】
The person who had suddenly shown up was Seran.
【"It's you... How is your left arm?"】
【"Well, there was no problem with it. It was splendidly reattached."】
Seran showed the spot where his left arm had been cut. Although he did have a scar, it was so thin that it was barely noticeable, and he was able to move his wrist and fingers without a problem.
【"The magic medicine was really effective... You don't have to worry anymore about having sliced it off."】
【"I was not worried in the first place."】
【"I see.... By the way, Lize, what are you overthinking things for?"】
Perhaps because he could not read the mood, or perhaps because he had completely disregarded it, Seran spoke in an easy-going manner.
【"You should think about this more simply, if she's about to leave, then just say 'See you next time, and take care'."】
【"I'm pretty sure you're the one who's not thinking enough, Seran."】
【"But I guess you're right"】 Added Lize with a nod, despite still finding Seran's thought process absurd.
【"Then.... See you next time, Yulriga. Take care, alright?"】
Lize waved her hand with a smile.
【"... You do realize that we might have to fight each other if we meet again, right?"】
【"If that happens then so be it, we'll fight you with all we've got, don't worry about that."】
Those simplistic words that Seran spoke with a grin made Yulriga sigh again.
However, unlike the previous one, this sigh was relaxed.
【"I'm sure life would be nothing but fun if I shared your perspective on how it should be lived... Still, this is probably the last time we meet each other anyway."】
【"I feel like you said that before...."】
【"This time was an exception! In the first place, it would normally be unimaginable for humans and demons to meet each other multiple times..."】
After her tone of voice went completely our of order, Yulriga turned her back on the two others before slightly turning her head to look one last time at Lize.
【"Your meal.... was not bad, Lize."】
With those parting words, Yulriga took her leave. She had shown a light smile for the first time.
【"Heh, you look weirdly happy."】
Said Seran with a laugh to Lize, who was grinning as she looked at Yulriga's back.
【"She said 'not bad', she called me by my name, she smiled.... This was an exceptional step forward."】
Looking at Lize merrily laugh to herself and smile, Seran recalled something.
【"Oh, this kind of reminds me of that unfriendly cat that you used to feed... When you saw that it was very wary, you became really fired up about taking care of it."】
Seran still remembered how genuinely delighted Lize had been after she had succeeded in domesticating the cat.
【"Hey! I'm not treating Yulriga like a cat, okay?"】
【"You kinda are.... Just now you had the exact same smile as when you managed to hold that cat in your arms."】
【"W-what? Okay, if that's what we're doing, then remember when you and Kyle used to..."】
Although Lize and Seran made a racket, they both had fun talking about their old memories.
【"How is Gruldo's condition?"】
Zeurus, Sildonia and Kyle were having a discussion in a room within the world tree.
【"For now, there is no problem, he has regained consciousness properly. The only issue is that he is in a bad mood, he was roaring about how he was absolutely going to 'make that human pay'..."】
As he recalled the state that Gruldo was in when he had met him earlier, Zeurus let out a long sigh.
【"I'd really appreciate it if he could delay that payback for about a hundred years..."】
Answered Kyle with a very worn-out face.
The wounds he had received from his fight with Gruldo had brought him close to death. He had somewhat recovered by drinking a large quantity of recovery magic medicine, but, nevertheless, he did not want to ever do this again.
【"He's currently on house arrest, but I do intend to punish him in some way."】
Although Zuerus' tone was serious, Sildonia perceived some joy in his voice.
Gruldo was a problem child and Zeurus was in a position where he had to be strict with him, but as a grandfather, he was likely glad that his grandson had returned to him.
【"Well, as long as he has his health and vigor, he should be alright. Now then, next... Well, I think you already know without me having to repeat everything again, right?"】
Sildonia reminded Zeurus of his promise.
【"You are right... Well, Kyle, I owe you one. I'd like to give you something as a reward. Do you have any particular wish?"】
【"Well, would you be willing to take the side of human beings in the 'great invasion' that will come two and a half years from now?"】
【"...That's impossible, I don't have the authority to make such a decision."】
Kyle's most desperate wish was rejected flat-out.
【"You don't have the authority? .... What are you talking about? You're the dragon king, aren't you?"】(Sildonia)
【"Like I said before, I only obtained that title by being the oldest, but I am merely a representative of my kind. I have no intention to impose my decisions on everyone."】
【"You're so stubborn...."】
Sildonia found it absurd that Zeurus refused to impose his will on the other dragons even though he could most likely do it.
【"But that was the only wish I..."】
Refusing to give up, Kyle tried to interject in the conversation, but Zeurus continued to speak.
【"Instead of that... As a member of Gruldo's family, I'd like to offer my personal thanks... The last time I shed my skin was 500 years ago, I could give that skin to you. Your armor is made of the skin of a lower-class dragon, it's completely incomparable."】
Zeurus' proposition made Sildonia roar with a loud "Wow!".
【"The skin of the dragon king? ... Mixing that in a sword is as good or even better than using dragon fangs, it's top grade among the first-class raw materials."】
【"Indeed, and if you make an armor with it..."】
【"Mhm, the boost in defense would be unmatchable."】
Kyle's armor was the best that money could buy, but no matter how much money he had, Zeurus' skin was not something that could be bought. An armor made out of that material could very well be something that had never been seen in history.
Given that he had almost died to Gruldo's attack, Kyle wanted this very badly.
【"But there is one problem, how are we going to use the material? Back in the Zares era, we would probably have managed somehow, but... Is there anyone who can make an armor out of this in the current era?"】
Sildonia's face turned gave, and Kyle, who had been delighted before, was now feeling down.
【"I don't know about that, but, anyway, you can do as you like with the skin... And I can also swear on my life that I will not cooperate with the demons."】
Zeurus once again declared his intention to be neutral. Kyle had at least achieved his basic goal.
【"Well then, I have to go back to Elina and the others soon. I can't make them wait forever."】
In order to carry Gruldo, Kyle had come straight to the world tree. The people in the dark elf village were probably worried around this time.
After that, Kyle left the room. Sildonia was about to follow after him, but she ended up turning around and asking a question to Zeurus.
【"Why did you make a dragon and a demon work together with humans?"】
When Sildonia asked that question, Zeurus crossed his arms with a complicated facial expression, and then, he slowly replied.
【"...What I seek is a world in harmony. And, because of that, I have a little bit of a dream. I dream that, one day, the demons and humans will coexist with each other, and with us dragons as well..."】
Zeurus looked up at the sky as if he was gazing at a place very far away in the distance.
【"That's an empty dream. You of all people should know that, after all, you have personally witnessed the long history of conflict between humans and demons, right?"】
As someone who once stood at the summit of humanity and who had battled against demons, Sildonia knew how impossibly difficult it would be for both species to coexist.
【"With that demon king, it could happen. He could make the first step forward happen and then... Sorry, I'm letting my sentiments do the talking, I couldn't help myself. Forget about it."】
【"I don't really buy it. Is the current demon king that big of a deal?"】
【"Enough so for me to start having such dreams."】
Sildonia was also starting to get interested in this demon king, who had managed to make Zeurus speak so highly of him.
【"I see...I'd like to meet with him, too."】
Said Sildonia with a slightly distant look in her eyes.