~~Morning, Seventeenth Day of the First Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
One whole day had passed after Lala had first arrived in this house. The snow, which had suddenly stopped for a time, has finally begun falling again. Lala’s cheerful shouting echoed through the Pochisley Agency as she waded through the snow on the courtyard. Still sleepy, I rubbed my eyes, while I peeked out the window, observing the activities in the courtyard from the second floor.
“IT HATH BEEN DONE!”
At the side of the garden was Lina and Haruhana, watching over her, as she shouted out cheerfully – and following suit was Natsu, who has also grown up nicely over the years. She had always been energetic, but even more so now.
Lala and Natsu were around the same age, so they had become fast friends – but now that I considered that age, Lala’s combat prowesses were absolutely abnormal. She was precocious, almost like a natural-born genius.
At this time, Bruce still hasn’t agreed to everything that has been going on. He didn’t hold any ill sentiments toward Lala, of course, but make no mistake – it was without doubt that he didn’t trust Tzar fully. Blazer and Betty hadn’t outright objected to anything, but on a fundamental level of all the things, they didn’t seem to mesh well with them either.
While I looked on at the four, Lina eventually looked back up at me and lightly waved her hands, having been the first to notice me. It might have just been in my head, but there seemed to be a wholeheartedly delighted emotion under her reserved smile. From now on, I wanted to take care of everyone and everything more thoroughly, but reality dictated that I couldn’t do it all myself.
We still had some time before the Devil King’s resurrection that the Divine Messenger had told me about.
The Devil King hasn’t even entered his Fetal Stage yet, which meant that his actual resurrection was still a few years away.
So during these few years, we must do anything we can to fortify our strength as much as possible.
Again, our opponent is the Devil King. Two years ago, we had faced an SS-ranked monster, the Ogre King – monsters of that level were practically cannon fodder, grouping up around the Devil King to guard him.
We’d had such a hard time dealing with just one of them, so as we were now, we’d have no chance against a group, not to mention the even stronger enemy in the center of them all. Indeed, we must tirelessly temper ourselves, day and night, but with just that, we would eventually be hit with an uncrossable wall.
After all, even Level-100 talents such as Gaston and Irene wouldn’t win against SS-ranked monsters by themselves.
It had taken us our strategies and improvisation to take down just one. The problem now was to figure out how to cross that wall. According to Tūs, there existed an ancient secret solution somewhere within the Nation. A solution hidden by the Dark Elves thousands of years ago.
Judging from his implications, it was a large-scaled fixed-position Spell Circle, but the issue hit me when he’d said that he “doesn’t remember where it is”, so I had to set out in search of it. Moreover, there was the thing about the Prophecy Monument… well, Melchi’s probably working on investigating it, so I’ll have to wait for more information on that front.
And today, I have arranged a gathering of many of my trustworthy allies I had made over the last four years. The place is right here in the Pochisley Agency. In seating order, there are me, Pochi, Lina, Bruce, Blazer, Betty, Gaston, Billy, Irene, and Haruhana – a total of ten attendees.
It’s still too early for Natsu to deal with this, and we’re not yet on a fully trustworthy basis with Lala.
I had figured that it would not hurt to discuss things with all these people early in the game.
…In particular, about the Devil King’s resurrection.
“Hmph, long time no see, young man.”
Bah, good old Gaston… still calling me a young man after all this time.
This might also be just in my head, but doesn’t he have a sharper look in his eyes now compared to two years ago?
“Good to see that you’ve returned safely, Asley – that’s what truly important.”
Billy is the same as ever – addressing me but having his eyes trained of Pochi.
“It has been a long time indeed, Sir Gaston and Sir Billy, thank you for your cover-up back then.”
“Hahaha, that disguise Spell Circle was quite a surprise, that’s for sure.”
“You can say that again, sir! I was spooked as all hell when my Master turned up home buck naked!”
Thanks to Pochi’s totally unnecessary commentary, Lina’s face started reddening up slightly.
Betty chuckled, and Irene had a stern, judgemental expression all the way through, but those were the usual gestures for those two.
Haruhana was totally unfazed, and that’s perhaps due to her former line of work. Goes to show how mentally mature she is.
“So what’s this important thing you wanted to discuss? The new semester is right around the corner, so I don’t exactly have free time, you know?”
“Apologies, but this must be dealt with as quickly as possible. First off… Lina, Haruhana… I must explain this one thing to you two.”
Irene and the three of The Silver had a prominent reaction to that statement.
It seemed that they already knew what I must explain first.
“What might that be?”
My nervousness had caused me to leave quite a long gap, but finally, I began explaining my circumstances to them.
First… the fact that I was more than five thousand years old.
The two kept quiet as they listened through it. Haruhana seemed extremely surprised, but I didn’t get that strong of an impression from Lina. It seemed that she had already been suspicious in one way or another.
I suppose I should have expected this from one with an insight of a Student Council President. That, or it’s the issue of our distance once again…
Either way, the two of them didn’t doubt me, accepting the truth without objection.
Lina did look a little sad, though… perhaps she was disgruntled that I had kept the truth away from her?
“The Drop of Eternity, I see… and Pochi took it, too. I never would have known.”
Lina didn’t pitch anything in. She cast her eyes down, seeming to be lost in thought.
Betty, sitting to her side, patted her shoulders and whispered something into her ear.
But then Lina shook her head and faced forward once again.
To be more specific, facing ME-
“So… Sir Asley, when you said you must explain this to us two, does that mean everyone else already knew this? Is this really necessary for the discussion that’s coming up?”
“Y-yeah, it is… I think it’s needed to make sense of the rest of the story.”
“No more of that bull, Asley! We’re comrades in arms – we’ll believe anything you tell us!”
Pushed forward by words of encouragement from Bruce, who sat opposite of me, I proceeded to explain the coming Devil King’s resurrection to everyone. Their reactions varied, from those who were just surprised to those who took it as an absolutely big deal, but everyone took this discussion seriously all the same. Listening especially seriously were Gaston, Billy, and Irene, who turned to look at each other with a grim expression on their faces.
“Hmm, this scenario is somewhat believable… what do you think, Billy?”
“The Devil King hasn’t been resurrected for the last recorded 2,000 years. According to Asley, that last happened more than 5,000 years ago… meaning it’s entirely possible that it’s no fabrication.”
“I can agree to the reason why Holy Warriors aren’t born in this day and age too. Faith in God is… indeed something that the general populace lacks.”
Hmm…? Did she say something that I overlooked just now?
“Everyone’s more understanding of you than I expected, Master!”
That’s what I thought as well.
I had expected at least more questioning, or outright objection.
“Shouldn’t that be obvious enough? The Conference exists for that very reason after all.”
“The Conference… what does that mean, Sir Gaston?”
Lina asked, unsure of what that word referred to.
“The Duodecad Conference. Billy isn’t part of it, but he also knows about it – it’s an elite ‘army of twelve’ organized in preparation for the Devil King’s return.”
“Hoo~♪ First I’ve heard that, ma’am.”
“The Nation holds this one Prophecy Monument stating so, you see…”
“A Prophecy Monument… that sounds shady, sir.”
I gave a good knock on Pochi’s head for her loose lips – and then Gaston, surrounded with quite a gloomy ambience, started explaining his point.
Denizens of the future, prepare thyself for the coming Devil King…
O, the Army of Twelve, thou shalt be the guiding lights o’er the world
O, the Army of Twelve, thou shalt be the people’s lights o’er the night
“-and that’s all there is to it.”
“Huh, isn’t it a bit too short?”
“Yes, it is. No one would think this makes a full ‘prophecy,’ wouldn’t they, young man? This is only a third of it, with the monument itself being contained in the castle of Royal Capital Regalia. It’s a part broken off from the larger whole.”
Right… makes sense, since I already knew that much about the prophecy. I’d heard the particulars from Tūs, but I think he’d referred to the ‘army of twelve’ as the ‘chosen ones’ or something? Aha, so maybe that’s what the Duodecad Conference was established for.
It is most likely that the more important parts of the prophecy were written on the missing parts, but we don’t have any way of knowing that right now. We don’t even know where or whom this prophecy had originated from, but the Duodecad Conference being established in the first place might have given it some credibility. All things considered, the people in the Royal Capital couldn’t have made up the monument themselves, not to mention faking a loss of its contents.
Without any other remaining information available, the contents and whereabouts of the text were still up in the air. Still, quoting Tūs… once information is out there, it stays out there somewhere. Such was also one of the reasons for Melchi’s trip to the Royal Capital. Not the main one, of course.
“But if all that Asley said is true, then we’ve got to face an army of that one SS-ranked monster from two years ago… we won’t have enough lives to even stand a chance.”
Blazer clenched his fists strongly, an unusual gesture coming from him.
“It’s the Holy Warriors who are abnormally strong, being able to take those monsters down so easily.”
Huh? Something about what Betty said must have sparked some idea in my head. What is it?
I’d gotten that feeling from what Irene talked about too…
“If only the Holy Warriors appeared, we wouldn’t even have to come to rack up our brains like this, sir!”
The Holy Warriors… that’s right, the Holy Warriors!
“There are some things I’d like to ask…”
“What is it, young man?”
“The part of the legend where the Holy Warriors would make their return concurrently with the Devil King’s resurrection still exists in this era, doesn’t it?”
“Then how come they’re focusing on the Duodecad to prepare for the Devil King’s resurrection?”
That one question of mine caused everyone to hesitate to talk and ponder things over instead. I mean, isn’t that suspicious?
The prophecy stressing the existence of an ‘army of twelve’ implied that the prophets had known that no Holy Warrior would appear in time for the Devil King’s resurrection. Well, one would expect ‘prophets’ to know that, of course, but if so, why did they not just state that ‘the Duodecad will rise on the occasion of the Devil King resurrection’? Why does the belief stand to this day that Holy Warriors will be born into this world?
“What if the prophecy is correct… but not entirely accurate?”
Lina, albeit still half-unsure, was the first to offer her take on the topic, and I… would have responded if not for another person reacting to it near-instantly.
The one in question was… Irene.
“What if… there’s already an advance party for the Devil King? Not recently either – but for ages ago.”
“Care to elaborate, old lady?”
“Again, it’s a what-if… but if we consider that things were perfectly fine when the prophets – be it the Holy Warriors themselves of those involved – erected that monument, and then the advance party in question altered that information to misdirect the future generations…”
“And that led to the Duodecad? The fact that information exists regarding the Holy Warriors implies that the advance party in question were spreading misinformation, doesn’t it?”
Irene nodded in response to Bruce’s suggestion.
“That’s it. If the Duodecad was established following incorrect information, then we’d be left without a way to go against the Devil King, and if we were to focus our efforts on distributing the presumably correct information and raise awareness of the Holy Warriors’ powers, that might affect the social balance to the point of collapse. Either way, it’s a convenience for the Devil King.”
Meaning… ah! Wait, no… or is it?
“Is something wrong, young man?”
“…There’s one more thing… that’s a convenience for the Devil King…”
“Yes – the Black and White Chain, isn’t it, Master?”
That’s right… the forces of darkness had seeped their influence that deep into the Nation, that is for sure.