~~Royal Capital Regalia, Late At Night~~
Two shrouded figures ran along the roofs of buildings.
The one in front was small and swift, and the one in the back was about just as quick.
“…Stop right there!”
The young woman, holding down her trademark dark brown wizard hat as she ran along, was Melchi.
Some of her blonde hair stuck out from below her hat and swayed in the wind, and she was gradually getting farther from the black-robed man chasing her.
“You know that telling someone to stop won’t ever work, right!? Maybe tell that to Ishtar as well!”
Melchi shouted behind her, her eyes shimmering with blue light.
“Gruuu… why can’t I… catch up?”
“Nahahaha… because you’ve only been grinding your levels, not actually training! Remember that, Cleath!”
“Tch! Damn you Evil Eyes user…!”
The mutated-bodied man in a tattered black robe, Cleath, took only an instant to read through Melchi’s movements.
But in the end, Melchi’s pure speed was just too much for him to catch up.
Melchi disappeared into the shrouding darkness of the city. Cleath had no means of tracking her down now.
He proceeded to hop onto an inconspicuous building’s roof and drew a Spell Circle, into which he promptly faded away.
And then Melchi, who had disappeared moments ago, reappeared from a distant house’s chimney.
She narrowed her eyes, starting at and confirming the properties of the Teleportation Spell Circle that Cleath had just used.
“Hmm. Roofs are supposed to be hard to draw Circles on because of their uneven surfaces… but he pulled it off anyway. He’s crazy good at this. And it’s the Teleportation Spell Circle… looks like Ishtar’s got good pawn on her board!”
Melchi vocalized her thoughts on her observation to herself, then nodded in agreement to what she heard.
“Whoops, gotta get outta here, or the soot’s gonna ruin my beautiful face! …Wait, no, maybe a little bit might make it look better!”
Melchi hopped out of the chimney and onto the building’s roof, on which she proceeded to draw a Spell Circle.
“Welp, looks like I’m crazy good, too! Now… up, up, and away!”
Successfully invoking the Teleportation Spell Circle, Melchi promptly stepped on it. As she faded away, her beautiful, shining blue eyes were fixed onto the night sky.
Colors briefly flickered in her eyes, so transient yet so dangerously unstable.
Immediately upon reappearing at her destination, Melchi could hear footsteps congregating nearby.
The vicinity was similar to a man-made dungeon, with rock walls, simple doors, and wooden ceiling reinforcements.
“Nahahaha… Hello, hello! Is the old man home?”
Melchi, with some soot still stuck on her nose, forced out a courtesy smile, to which no one responded.
Everyone proceeded to bow their heads and silently walk past her.
[Man, these guys are way too serious about their jobs…]
Melchi let a subtle sigh out her nose.
At the same time, a warrior approached her — a middle-aged woman with short red hair. She carried countless daggers in her thigh and chest plate sheaths.
Compared to all the others here, this particular woman was lightly equipped, but all of them had one thing in common: all the armor they wore was colored in pure silver.
“Welcome to the Silver General, Miss Melchi.”
“Hey there, Belia. Looking as sour as ever, I see… Quite a waste of your pretty face, don’tcha think?”
Melchi said and chuckled. Belia said nothing, however, and simply started leading Melchi deeper into the base.
“Argent has been expecting you. Follow me…”
The silver choker on Belia’s neck shone brilliantly.
“Man, not even a little chat? Guess I should be grateful for how friendly Big Betty is, huh?”
Melchi chuckled again as she walked while folding her hands behind her head, leisurely following after Belia.
Then Belia stopped walking.
“…You’ve met that girl?”
“Huh… ‘that girl,’ eh? Met a few times, yeah. All of the Team Silver is good friends with my mentor’s junior apprentice. We’ve also been helping each other with recon lately, y’know?”
Belia kept silent for a while, and hid her face from Melchi’s view.
She finally said, and then resumed walking.
Melchi, unsuccessful at her attempt to get Belia to talk, narrowed her eyes and looked at the latter’s back as she went along.
“…Boy, oh boy…”
Belia, having guided Melchi to the front of the innermost room, took a glance at the latter to signal her to go in. The latter proceeded to do so.
“Oh, you’re finally here.”
“Really, that’s what you’re greetin’ me with? And man, you really should move outta this place…”
“Hahahaha, you haven’t changed one bit, Melchi. Life in a hole in the ground actually isn’t so bad, you know? …Oh, where are my manners? Would you like something to drink?”
Argent asked, his eyes on the wine bottles on the shelf. Melchi held her hand out, interrupting him and refusing the offer.
“No thanks. Got another important meeting right after this one.”
“Oh-ho… found something new, I assume?”
“Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
Getting a casual yet important-sounding reply, Argent let out a dry chuckle and scratched his own head.
“Hmm… care to explain?”
“…The Prophecy Monument.”
That one keyword from Melchi was enough to eliminate all laid-back humor from Argent’s eyes.
“…Tell me more.”
“You know how there’s one of them in the Royal Capital, kept in Regalia Castle? Just the other night, it started shining, like it was reacting to something.”
“Does that mean that one has the true text after all?”
“Probably. Not like we’d find the true text anywhere else in the castle, anyway. And get this — each time the Monument shone, I’d feel it emitting a little bit of arcane energy. Maybe there’s… someone… yeah, someone nearby, regularly supplying it with energy. Ishtar seems to notice it every time, and she’d always erase all the energy off of it… but this time she missed it.”
Argent stood up suddenly, knocking down his chair.
“So the Prophecy Monument’s text has finally been completely revealed…!?”
“Look, we all had to memorize that prophecy back when we were little, so I understand why you’d react like this, but…”
“Have some sense of personal space, damn it!”
With Argent moving in too close, Melchi flicked him on his forehead, knocking him away.
“Owowow… my God, you’re as absurdly strong as ever.”
“Hey, your fault for intruding on a little girl’s personal space.”
“Yeah, a little too old for ‘little girl’ now… lady.”
“You said something, punk?”
Melchi cast a sharp glanced over to Argent, prompting him to shut his out.
Then, after seeing Melchi heave a sigh, Argent looked blankly forward and started muttering to himself, as if recalling,
Denizens of the future, prepare thyselves for the coming Devil King…
O, the Army of Twelve, thou shalt be the guiding Light o’er the World
O, the Army of Twelve, thou shalt be the People’s Light o’er the Night
“…That’s all we knew of it.”
After he was done reciting the prophecy’s excerpt, he turned to Melchi.
Melchi, seemingly knowing what he wanted from that look, started reciting the excerpt’s continuation,
O, the Army of Twelve, thou shalt rise with the Twelve Starsigns
O, the Twelve Starsigns, together with the Army of Twelve, thou shalt help the Chosen One
O, thou who revere days long past, the Devil King’s return is near
Thou shalt love God, and shalt obey His word
Do so, and the Way will be shown, if with but a Ray of Light
Before long, the Chosen One will appear, and he shalt show thou the Way
O, the Army of Twelve, follow the Chosen One, and be the guiding Light o’er the World
O, the Army of Twelve, follow the Chosen One, and be the People’s Light o’er the Night
On the coming of the Chosen One, hold on to Love, Power, and Laughter, and crush the Devil King’s Ambition to pieces
The Chosen One — the Holy Warrior, Poer
Argent, having heard the whole prophecy, thought hard over it as if to burn it into his very mind.
“So the Holy Warrior will appear? But wait… what are the Twelve Starsigns?”
“Well, that’s where the Duodecad Conference’s name came from… Sucks to know that it came from a distorted translation, I know. Anyway, the Twelve Starsigns is the Duodecim Signa Zodiaci — it’s a part of E’to, a T’oued system of astrology. They don’t have much in way of diplomatic relations nowadays… but back in the Holy Warriors’ days, the two Nations were probably connected a fair bit.”
“I see… Then Melchi, is this T’oued the place you’ll be going next?”
“Right. I gotta find out exactly what E’to is about, how it relates to his, who this Holy Warrior Poer is… and I think I have to go there to figure all that out.”
Melchi pushed down hard on her wizard hat to fix its position on her head.
Then she drew another Teleportation Spell Circle on the floor.
“…All right. I’ll pray for your success.”
“Nahahahaha, gimme a holler if you find anything over here!”
Melchi replied cheerfully before disappearing into the Spell Circle.
Then the room fell dead silent.
Argent proceeded to pick up his fallen chair, and at the same time he muttered to himself, recalling what he had just heard,
“……Huh? Love, power… and laughter?”
Returning to the Regalia Castle in the Royal Capital, Cleath was now hurrying his way through a secret passage within the castle.
This place was none other than the very same passage that Hatchel had led Asley through in ancient times.
Cleath, due to his grotesque appearance, was not permitted to walk through the castle itself. He would usually go through passages like this one, out of people’s sight.
He eventually reached a certain room — the same room in which Asley had met the old Holy Emperor Hudl.
Another man was already there, standing in wait.
“…You failed to eliminate her.”
“Hmph… and in the first place, it was YOUR mistake that let her in, Billy…”
“She has been doing it since before I was posted here. The mistake has always been yours, Cleath…”
Billy and Cleath glared at each other, their arcane energy auras growing more intense and focused.
A single word was all it took to defuse the explosive situation between the two.
Upon hearing it, both of them promptly straightened their posture, and then knelt down.
The source of the word was a low, hoarse voice, impossible to discern whether it was a woman’s or a man’s.
Then a black-robed figure appeared before the two.
It was none other than Ishtar of the Black.
“So you’ve failed, Cleath?”
Cleath’s shoulders twitched upon being asked so by Ishtar.
“……I’ll take any punishment, ma’am.”
As if he was being suffocated, he had to force himself to reply.
“Hehe… Come to my room later, then……”
Shivering, Cleath bowed his head, his face covered in greasy sweat. Billy, glancing at him from the side, grinned sarcastically.
“Time for work.”
Billy, understanding the meaning behind the short statement, promptly looked up, a happy expression painted onto his face.
“Ohh! We finally have a lead, then?”
“The process has had… extra hindrances, but now we know at least one of our targets…”
“I will go anywhere for your sake, Lady Ishtar.”
Billy bowed his head deeply.
“Now now, this isn’t some faraway place we’re looking at.”
Billy waited for further elaboration from Ishtar.
“The Rat… is exactly the one we expected. His elimination is your highest priority.”
“Oh, I see…!”
“Always have your guard up… or you won’t come out of it only lightly scalded…”
“Yes; I know that all too well. After all, we were friends in our younger days…”
Billy stood up in the room illuminated only by candlelight.
And in sync with his movement, a weak breeze blew in, flickering the candle’s flame.
Billy stared at the flame, narrowed his eyes, and started to grin.
“The time has come. Now I can finally kill you… Gaston.”