That was all the voice I could wring out of my chords in the face of despair spreading before me.
The darkness of its uncannily deep black eyes stared right through my body, as if it was looking past a piece of trash.
Its rounded body, extending down from its thin and long neck, had an alternating line pattern shimmering in black and dark purple. The wings connected to the sides of its torso had a reddish tinge, creating an off-beat mass of blackness in the middle, which my brain somehow registered to be ‘beautiful’.
The creature wasn’t even particularly large. Rather, it was human-sized, and actually had just about the same height as mine.
This is it…. a Heavenly Beast. A sacred legend among the creatures of this world.
What the hell?! That thing only took a breath! Why does it even hurt?!
Moreover… it’s hurting even more than before……
This time, the damned purple phoenix of death actually changed its expression ever so slightly.
What now? It’s like… I’m seeing some sense of surprise in those reproaching eyes?
“You are most unusual, human.”
It just talked.
So the rumors were true that these beasts can understand human speech…
“It is quite unheard of for one to withstand my Arcane Drain twice.”
Arcane Drain? -! That’s it!
So it WAS absorbing arcane energy with its breath… That’s why I’m feeling the same exhaustion that comes with excessively rapid consumption of arcane energy.
Despite knowing that, I was shocked nonetheless by the truth I saw upon the invocation of my Appraisal Glasses.
Just one breath shaved off a whopping 8,000 MP! Seriously?! That thing only needs to breathe four more times, and I’m dead meat!
I proceeded to use the Appraisal Glasses on the bird, albeit fully expecting it to not work.
Or rather, I had no idea what move to make other than that.
TITLES: Violet Phoenix, Legend, SS Slayer, The Transcendent, ???
SPECIAL SKILLS: ???
…Yeah, no way in hell we’re winning against THAT.
It’s not even a matter of losing morale. It IS scary, though. But I never had any intention to fight it in the first place.
The rumors had been right so far, but apparently not the part where it didn’t hurt humans unless provoked?
It’s practically showering me with its murderous intent here, that’s for sure.
I could tell… that it had no care for humans whatsoever. That was probably why it had been rumored to not attack humans. Not unless they entered its territory, at least. Yeah, that’s probably the thing about it.
“I have one question.”
A question? Whatever could that possibly be?
Wait, no… I’ve got to calm down. It’ll be all over if I mess this up. That’s one thing I’m sure of.
I’ve got to calm down, and then give an answer as accurate and as satisfying to it as possible.
“…What is it?”
My voice was hoarse, muted, and shaky as all hell. So much so that I couldn’t even hear myself without having to strain my ears.
This was no mere Rank SS monster. The sheer pressure it exuded was the very proof that it had lived since the previous era of the Devil King.
“Why have you attacked me? You seem to yet lack the foolishness to contemplate doing so, do you not?”
Those unexpected words further worsened my trembling.
“W-what’d you mean, attack…?”
Really, what nonsense is this bird spewing?!
We were here only to catch a glimpse of the Shi’shichou! Right?! I mean, we’d be dead meat if we showed even a sliver of hostility! That was why we had been proceeding on our way so casually.
Pochi, Betty, Barun, and Ricky also knew that full well. We had done that deliberately as we went. That was no oversight, but an affirmation of non-hostility!
“From the way you speak…”
The Shi’shichou continued,
“I shall assume that you have a death wish.”
“AHHHHHH!! Stop right there! We really, really had no such intention! Yes, we did enter your territory, but only so that we may get a look at you, a rare sight of a legend! We mean no harm, I assure you!!”
I tried to explain it the best I could.
Or rather, I tried making excuses for myself despite not knowing the reason why I even needed to. At any rate, I simply knew that I must stress that we weren’t hostile.
I’m not sure what sort of opinion the Shi’shichou had on that, but it turned its body away, and then turned only its head back around.
“Then what is this?”
The Shi’shichou briefly glanced at its own buttocks before glaring at me again.
…There, I could see a faint – and by that, extremely faint – scorch mark.
A scorch mark… Did we do that? Nope, nope, nope! No way in hell!
There was no way we would even consider doing something that dangerous!
“…I understand that you may not remember. But there is no doubt in my mind that it came from you – or to be precise, the direction your group approached from.”
That made me realize what was up.
It happened just a little while ago.
We had been fighting a Wilhelm, an S-ranked monster.
I had unleashed the Gatling Lightning, a large magic spell, in order to finish it off.
Of course, its target had been the Wilhelm.
However, due to its sheer power, the spell had pierced through the Wilhelm’s body, and then streaked through the air into the distance.
As for the direction it had gone in… well…
Countless lightning bolts lashed forth around the Spell Circle, rushing straight at the Wilhelm.
They passed cleanly through the monster’s body, streaking through and fading into the ravine behind it.
‘Fading into the ravine behind it’… Yeah. So could it be that…?
I took another look. A scorch mark, its size proportional to the attack power diminished by distance.
…Looks like I hit the nail on the head.
I sounded quite hysterical there, if I say so myself.
And in response to that, the Shi’shichou’s eyes flared up once again with intense murderous intent.
Perhaps even more intense than before, even.
“Now I see that you do remember. I shall grant you a painless death. Any preferences?”
“AHHHHHH!! I swear I didn’t mean any harm! We were fighting a monster called the Wilhelm, and that was a powerful spell I used for finishing it off, you see?! And it pierced through the Wilhelm into this direction!! I never intended to aim at you specifically-“
“Would you be so willing to state the same if the victim was one of your own kind?”
I was at a loss of words. An excuse, at the end of the day, would stay an excuse. I would never be able to say the same if I were to misfire my magic spell and hit another person.
I had been careless with my conversation with the Shi’shichou.
…The meaning of the word ‘conversation’ suggested that two parties were of equal intellectual capacity.
Which was to say, I had considered the Shi’shichou a mere beast – albeit still an immensely powerful one – throughout my bid to survive.
…I really messed up big time.
“Oh-ho, you are laying down your weapon? Commendable. Any last words?”
Welp… Looks like this is as far as I go.
Let’s just tell him what I ought to, at the very least-
“…Several years from now, the Devil King-“
The last parts of my last words were drowned out by the yawning of my foolish Familiar.
I’d intended to at least inform a Heavenly Beast of the coming Devil King’s resurrection, but this she just had to interrupt me at the most important part. Seriously, what’s wrong with her?
Don’t tell me… Pochi is the Devil King and has actively been trying to jeopardize our operations? Hah, now we’re never gonna win.
Not messing around, the Shi’shichou stared coldly at Pochi while the doggo rubbed her eyes.
“Ah, good morning, Master! …Hmm? Why am I back here?”
Pochi, perhaps still half-asleep, still has not noticed the piercing gaze directed at us.
…Hmm? That piercing gaze… I can feel it slowly ease down?
“You… No – who are you people?”
The look of surprise in its eyes felt stronger than before. But what in the world could it be surprised about?
While Pochi was busy scratching her neck with her hind leg, the Shi’shichou proceeded to spread its wings wide in front of me.
Its murderous intent has already gone, and it now looked quite calm as it stared at me. What’s up with this sudden one-eighty?
“…First, you – what is your name?”
Upon me telling so, the Shi’shichou kept silent as it stared at me for a while longer.
And Pochi proceeded to scratch her own neck again.
“…I see. Remember to do me a favor later, and I shall let you off the hook, Asley.”
I tilted my head, questioning whatever that could mean. However, the Shi’shichou answered nothing as it instantly disappeared from my sight, leaving behind a strong gust of wind.
Pochi, surprised by the wind, made a goofy face as she turned to me – or rather the spot where I had been before that wind had blown me a bit away.
“Whoa-?! Wha… what’s the deal with that wind, sir?!”
“Well, it’s… probably just normal wind, nothing special.”
Staring at the new-empty sky, I could only give a half-hearted reply, with Pochi giving a look of utter confusion in response to that.
And then she realized that Betty, Barun, and Ricky were still on the ground. Making a big deal out of it, she proceeded to whack the back of my head as I was still stuck in a trance.
“What are you spacing out for, sir?!”
…I sure would like to say that right back at her. But when all was said and done, we hauled up everyone and headed back to Regalia.