Chapter 7.21

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Chapter 7.21



A very long, long time ago.


In the mountains dyed by the sunset, two dragons faced each other.


Mikael and Tiamat.


The dragon, clad in jet-black scales reminiscent of the night, looked down with pain in his eyes, glanced at Mikael, and suddenly opened its mouth.


"Mikael, I'm going to stay here after all."


"Why? You were told to come back to the village, weren't you?"


“…………”


Hearing those words, Mikael let out a sigh as if to say, "I knew it."


"Are you still worried about those humans?"


"Yes. Those people are suffering right now because of the drought that has been going on lately."


"Didn't Tet already solve that problem? You made a mistake and created a sea of trees."


"I haven't been able to use my power to take root in the land. I'm a failure ...... Mikael, you knew that, too, didn't you?"


Humans whom Tiamat had helped before. In order to help those who were suffering from famine in the barren land, Tiamat used her power to produce crops.


Although she accidentally created a sea of trees by mistake, the villagers, who were on the verge of death, escaped the immediate danger for the time being.


However, even though Tiamat's power temporarily revitalized the land, she was still a black dragon. It was difficult to completely restore the land with just the power that governs darkness.


"I wouldn't advise interfering with the humans in the buffer zone. Besides, if we want to save the humans who live in this barren place where the power of spirits is scarce, it will take a lot of time. You know what that means, don't you?"


Tiamat looked down due to the grave words coming from Mikael's mouth.


Basically, the dragon races rarely go outside of their own jurisdiction.


The buffer zone was originally established near the boundary line of each dragon clan's territory, and no dragon would stay in this area for long.


Above all, Tiamat and the others have been ordered to return to their respective villages. To defy this order was the same as abandoning the village.


"I don't see the point in me returning to my village. But the people here seem to need me..."


Tiamat looked up at the sky with a sad expression. Mikael bit his lip at the sorrowful expression on her face.


Tiamat had been an outcast in the village since birth.


She had no parents. She was a heretic dragon who suddenly appeared in the village of the black dragons.


Dragons, a race that possessed the highest power among spirit species but also possessed physical bodies, could not help but mate with dragons of the same species and could only increase in number by having offspring. At the same time, the offspring can become stronger and wiser by inheriting their parents' knowledge and power.


However, Tiamat had no parents and had neither the power nor the knowledge to inherit. She was not good at using the power of the spirit and could not control it well.


It did not take long for Tiamat, such a heretic, to be ostracized by the village, and her birth further spurred her exclusion.


Of course, there were dragons who were concerned about her lack of relatives. Tiamat's foster parents, the black dragons, took her in as a young girl and worked hard to raise her as their own.


But even so, that didn't change the way the people around her looked at her from afar.


"So, you don't intend to go back?"


"Yes. I've made up my mind. I know I'm not very good at what I do and I'm an idiot, but I can't leave those people alone."


Her face, which was determined to leave her village, showed a hint of loneliness, but there was a strong light of will in her eyes.


"... I'm sorry, Mikael."


In front of Mikael, who was concerned about her, Tiamat apologetically lowered her eyes.


A slight tinge of sadness mingled in the depths of Tiamat's eyes, which had been shining with the force of her strong will.


"… I understand."


Mikael said those words the moment he saw that color.


"Mikael?"


"I'll go with you. If you are on your own, you might make a mistake and end up in trouble."


Mikael's cheeks loosened after seeing Tiamat's puzzled and anxious expression.


At the same time, something hot rushed up from deep within his chest.


"… Are you sure?"


"My father wants me to come home, but I can't leave Tet alone. Besides, I don't have a place to stay either..."


Despite inheriting the blood of the chief of the clan, Mikael was always compared to his superior older brother.


And before long, no one saw Mikael as Mikael anymore.


His superior older brother was always beyond their gazes.


Mikael himself didn't hate his brother. He respected him and had always taken good care of him.


However, the pitying glances he had always received from those around him have always pierced his heart.


He always felt that he was nothing more than a substitute for his brother.


(If I am only a substitute, then what is the point of my being here?)


These doubts gradually grew, and before he knew it, he was paranoid about himself, his surroundings, and everything else.


His jealousy and resignation rose and were about to burst. His heart, which could burst at any moment, was healed by his childhood friend in front of him.


(Everyone, please ……)


(What are you doing ...?)


The meeting with the various dragon races was held in the buffer zone. Tiamat was brought there as the daughter of a leading figure on the Black Dragon side.


While the adults were meeting, she was brought in to show her face.


(Eh? Ah! It's dispersed...)


When he first met her, she was trying to adjust her power to become attuned to it.


That was the most basic of basics in performing spirit magic, but such things were not originally necessary for the dragon races.


They were born with the same nature as spirits, and they could communicate their intentions to the spirits around them and use them as their limbs. This was something that the dragons called instinct.


However, the black dragon in front of Mikael could not even do what such instincts could do.


(Uu, I was so close...)


(... Ha, ha. It couldn't be helped.)


Driven by the indescribable feeling he felt in front of the teary-eyed, downcast little girl, Mikael went along with Tiamat's practice until the end of the meeting.


At first, he just couldn't leave her alone because it was dangerous. But after spending time together for a while, his heart naturally became calmer.


It was some time after that encounter that he heard that Tiamat had become able to use spirit magic.


That was the beginning of these two.


"I want to see it too. How this country that you and I are trying to build is going to turn out..."


"... Thank you, Mikael"


A smile appeared on her face as if she was bashful. There will surely be hard times. But together, they were sure that they could overcome them.


Filled with such a feeling, the two of them smiled at each other.


This was a long time ago. A faint memory of when they believed in their future


===================================


Irisdina and the others were running through the forest at night. An old man with a white beard was running alongside them.


"So you are saying that you and the other dragons have been looking for Tiamat, who escaped from the seal?"


"That's right. I arrived in this city looking for someone who escaped from the sealed world a few months ago. Well, I was surprised when I saw the boy who was safe and sound even after taking Tiamat into his body."


Zonne answered Irisdina's question without hesitation.


An old man suddenly appeared in the infirmary. He bowed his head to Irisdina and the others and begged for their help.


They were not quite sure what was going on. The old man further claimed that he was of the dragon race that had disappeared from the continent and that he had been observing Tiamat, who had escaped from the seal, for a long time.


Naturally, it was not easy to believe the words of an unidentified old man.


Mimuru looked at Zonne with suspicion, and Mars said something along the lines of blatant disbelief.


However, Iris Dina and the others were told that Nozomu was in danger, and judging from Zonne's unusual behavior, they decided that it was not a trivial matter. They decided to give priority to joining up with Nozomu for the time being.


Norn, who had been with them in the infirmary, was now gone. She was supposed to join them immediately after reporting the situation to Jihad as the one who could talk to him.


"Frankly, I have a lot of questions I'd like to ask you..."


"I suppose so. Now that this has happened, I can't remain silent. But for now, please be patient. We must stop Azel as soon as possible."


With eyes downcast and looking apologetic, Zonne rushed through the dark forest.


"I never thought that even Jihad-sensei was involved..."


"To operate secretly in the human world, we desperately need collaborators like Jihad-dono."


Norn, who had been in the infirmary with Irisdina and the others, now went to talk to Jihad.


Because the situation was so serious, she thought they would need Jihad's help to settle the matter.


Norn was the most suitable person to talk to Jihad because she is a teacher.


"Azel's goal is to reseal Tiamat, and to do so, she will use the dragon-sealing barriers that I have placed around this city."


"Dragon-sealing barriers? Is there such a thing?


"Yes. It's special barrier magic dedicated to Tiamat. Originally, I had placed it as insurance, but due to that trump card, Azel becomes motivated to get things done right away."


A dragon-sealing barrier. It is a magic that seals only the power of dragons of the same race.


It was a forbidden technique developed by the dragon clans to ensure the purge of their own people.


Irisdina and the others, who had no idea that such a thing existed in their city, couldn't hide their surprise.


"Here... This is where the dragon sealing barrier I have placed. There are also signs that Azel used some kind of magic."


Irisdina and the others were speechless but continued on their way. Eventually, they came to a place with a clear view.


"This is……"


The old man led them to the ruins of a goblin settlement that Irisdina had also visited before.


The settlement, which had been taken over by orcs and completely ruined by Nozomu's rampage, looked strangely distorted in the darkness of the forest.


Irisdina and the others looked at the scenery as if they were looking at it through a cloudy glass.


"Azel and the boy are now in a different space. I will pave the way there."


Zonne said so then suddenly extended his hands into the air. A faint light leaked out from his hands and spread out as if dissolving in the air.


As they watched this scene, Irisdina and the others looked at the old man in front of them with a hint of suspicion.


They now knew that Zonne is a dragon. However, there were still many questions they wanted to ask him.


They didn't have time to think about it while they were running, but when they stopped like this, they couldn't help but be curious.


In the midst of the delicate atmosphere, it was Mars who opened the conversation.


"So if this Azel is after Tiamat, why is she aiming for Tiamat so much?"


Zonne's shoulders shook.


Zonne continued to interfere with the barrier in silence for a while, but then he dropped his shoulders as if he had given up and opened his mouth.


"Azel thinks that Tiamat is the enemy of her father, my son, who was called ...... Mikael."


"Avenge her father?"


Zonne nodded his head in confirmation of Mars' question.


It was as if his back become smaller.


"Mikael and Tiamat are what you might call childhood friends. It's a long story..."


His tone was flat. But there was a hint of regret in his voice.


They would like to know the details, but unfortunately, they didn't have time right now.


Above all, the space in front of them shook before they could ask Zonne about it.


"... Either way, there's a good chance we're going to fight against this Azel."


Mars shrugged his shoulders as he clanked the gauntlet in his hand. Everyone nodded in agreement with his comment.


As Mars said, Azel was the one who tried to reseal Tiamat even by separating Zonne, the guardian.


It would be inevitable that they would collide with her if they continued on their way.


Naturally, Mars' expression hardened. ]At that moment, a voice suddenly came from next to Mars.


"What's the matter, you look so meek. Are you afraid?"


It was Feo, carrying his favorite staff on his shoulder, who provoked Mars with a smirk on his face.


"Well, you got beaten up by Nozomu who went out of control before, so it's only natural that you lose confidence, right? I heard you've been doing something with Tom lately, but I haven't heard any good news about the magic combination technique either, so I guess it's not going well.~ "


Despite the situation, the vicious fox peered into Mars' face with both of his slit pupils and went out of his way to agitate him.


Faced with Feo's sudden provoking behavior, a vein bulge on Mars' temples.


To Mars, the memory of him being nearly overrun by Nozomu who went out of control in this forest before was still fresh.


At the time, he was relieved that the situation was resolved, but at the same time, it was an event that made him realize his inability and lack of strength.


"U-, umm..."


Tima who was standing beside them started to panic at the appearance of the two who suddenly started drifting into a disturbing atmosphere.


"... Shut it, what about you then?"


"Well, I had a lot of things on my mind too. A lot of things ..."


Mars glared back at Feo with an angry facial expression, and Feo cowered his shoulders.


Both of them felt the same sense of helplessness. They didn't speak any further and looked at the swaying air in front of them.


The tension was still there. However, the two, still standing shoulder to shoulder, seemed to have a strange sense of ease somehow.


"Eh? Eh? Eh?"


On the other hand, Tima, who was completely left behind, just flustered behind them.


While Mars and Feo were creating a strange atmosphere, Zonne's technique was spreading through the air.


Eventually, a hole the size of an insect spread in the air, and soon it expanded large enough that several people could enter through it. A colorless glasswork-like landscape peeked out from behind the hole.


"Alright, now we can get inside ...... Hmm!'


The expression on Zonne's face as he opened the hole became distorted as if he were biting down on a bitter bug. The next moment, a strong wind blew out from behind the hole.


It was not a natural wind. It was a gust of wind generated by a powerful burst of force.


"This is... looks like something bad happened..."


"~! Let's hurry!"


"Yes, Ane-sama!"


"I know."


Something unusual had already happened. Irisdina, Shīna, and Somia's eyes widened at this fact, and they reflexively jumped into the hole.


"Fox, let's hurry!"


"Yes, yes. I know, muscle brain!"


"H-, hey, wait for me, you two~!"


Following the three girls, Mars and Feo jumped into the hole, and Tima hurried after them, trying not to be left behind.


"Mimuru! Hurry up!"


"Roger that~! Hold on tight, Tom!"


"Wait~!"


In addition, Mimuru rushed in with Tom. Before Zonne knew it, everyone present had jumped into Azel's sealing world before he could stop them.


Anyway, Mimuru rushed in with Tom in a princess's arms.


"Ah-, hey! Ladies, wait up!"


Finally, Zonne followed while looking panicked.


Eventually, Irisdina and the others emerged in an open space.


However, it was not a natural open space.


Large trees were scattered around them, snapped in half, and the ground was gouged out here and there.


Perhaps it was the result of a powerful release of energy. Some of the fallen trees were charred and carbonized.


It was as if a tornado of extreme flames had raged through the area.


It was clearly not the kind of devastation that could have been caused by humans.


"This is…"


Irisdina and the others were speechless for a moment. At that moment, something of crimson color appeared at the edge of their vision.


Irisdina peeked out to see what it was and saw Lisa crouched in a gap between the fallen trees, her face distorted in pain.


"~ !? Lisa-kun, are you okay?"


"Ugh, gohoh, gohoh"


As Lisa coughed, red liquid splattered from her mouth.


Her complexion was pale and completely devoid of blood. Her condition was obviously very serious.


"Oh no! We should heal her immediately!"


"Y-, yes!"


"Okay."


Mars and Feo carried Lisa's body out of the gap between the trees, and Irisdina, Tima, and Shīna worked together to cast a recovery spell.


A gentle light enveloped Lisa's body. However, Lisa did not even twitch.


"No, it has almost no effect!"


"Kuh~... could it be that her internal organs were injured? She's getting weaker!"


Irisdina and the others let out a voice of frustration after looking at Lisa's complexion, which remained pale.


Her internal organs had been badly injured, and she had lost more vitality than expected.


Recovery magic heals wounds by activating the injured person's life force, but cannot be fully effective if the person is weakened.


At this rate, Lisa would die before her wounds could be healed.


Such tension began to fill the three of them. At that moment, Lisa's mouth moved slightly.


"Hm?"


"……ry"


Irisdina listened to her groaning while being careful not to let her recovery magic run out.


"I'm-, sorry ... Nozo-, mu"


What came out of her mouth was her apology toward Nozomu.


She was unconscious and her life was in danger, but she just kept saying such words toward her former lover.


"I'm-, sorry ...... for not-, believing in you..."


Her pleas were even smaller than the whisper of the wind. Irisdina's heart was helplessly stirred by these words.


The pain was as if his heart was being squeezed.


Her mouth naturally clenched, and she was tempted to use her hands to beat and shout abusive words at the pale-colored face.


At the same time, she felt disgusted at herself for thinking such a dirty thing.


She was only thinking about Nozomu just a few minutes ago, but ugly jealousy invaded her mind so quickly.


Irisdina turned her gaze on Shīna who continued to use the same recovery magic in front of her.


The elf girl frowned at Lisa's deteriorating condition but continued to use magic in a desperate attempt to heal her body.


There was no jealousy, pity, or any other negative emotion in her eyes. She was simply struggling desperately to save the life in front of her.


Irisdina admired how pure Shīna was, and at the same time, she was reminded of her own pettiness.


(I really am pathetic ... but)


However, she was no longer trapped in that mind.


She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly.


"Fuh~ ..."


Indeed, there were times when she despised herself as an ugly person. She was not able to think of her as purely as Shīna did, and she was not yet able to completely suppress the resentment toward Lisa that welled up in her heart.


Whenever she was aware of such a thing, she was tormented by an indescribable sense of inferiority. It was as if she was like those aristocrats whom she detested.


Still, if she closed her eyes, she could picture Nozomu with a troubled smile on his face.


For her, he was the first boy of the opposite sex whom she want to be intimate with. With that alone, the turmoil within her chest calmed down.


Before she knew it, the mud that had been stagnant deep in her chest had been completely washed away.


"Cough, cough!"


"~ !? This is bad, her pulse is getting weaker!"


Red liquid splattered again from Lisa's mouth as she coughed, and Irisdina's consciousness suddenly fluttered back to reality.


Strengthening her nearly slackened consciousness, she poured all of her magic power into the technique.


She certainly had mixed feelings about her. But for now, she wanted her to live. For Nozomu's sake.


However, as if to betray her feelings, Lisa's body heat was gradually disappear from the palm of her hand.


"Kuh~! Pull yourself together! How will Nozomu feel if you die here! You're going to plunge him to the depths of despair again!"


Irisdina raised her voice as if to plead with her, but Lisa's life was bound to disappear.


They couldn't save her with their own strength. Just as they were about to be swallowed up by this reality, someone suddenly called out to them. It was Zonne.


"Let me take over."


Zonne intervened between Irisdina and the others and held up his hand.


A white magic circle was deployed. The elements overflowing from the old man's body poured into Lisa's body through the magic circle.


Then, vitality gradually returned to Lisa's face, which had been pale until a few moments ago.


"I'm healing the wounds on her internal organs while directly reducing my own life force and passing it to her. She should wake up in a few minutes."


"You're amazing. Old man ..."


"I can't let her die. By the way, where is that boy?"


Mars let out an exclamation of admiration. But Zonne didn't seem particularly concerned and immediately began to look around.


A lifeless, gray world. This is where Nozomu and Azel should be. ......


"Ooooo!"


The next moment, a scream echoed through the gray forest.


At the same time, a gust of wind blew, and the ground shook along with a roaring sound.


"Kuh~!"


"Is it an earthquake!?"


From the deepest part of the overgrown trees, a light shone to the point it could burned the eyes.


Zonne saw the light and his face distorted as if he were biting a bitter bug.


"... It seems the dragon-sealing barrier has been activated."


"Is this Azel's doing?"


"No, this is ..."


The activation of the dragon-sealing barrier. If they were to believe in Zonne's words, this would mean Nozomu had been detained by Azel.


If Azel's goal was to seal Tiamat, Nozomu would not be left alone.


The situation was so dire that Irisdina and the others were looking at each other with a deep sense of urgency.


"Irisdina-san, you and the others should go to where Nozomu-kun's is. This old man and I will take care of Lisa-san."


"Tom-kun..."


"My apologies. I can't move until this young lady is healed. Just give me a few more minutes."


"B-, but ..."


Tom and Zonne urged them to go ahead.


Irisdina looked at Lisa, who was lying on the ground, as if she was lost on her thought for a moment.


But then she immediately looked up and turned her eyes straight into the forest.


"... Alright. Please, take care of her. Somia, you should stay here with Zonne-dono."


"B-, but ..."


"We don't have Anri-sensei with us this time. So, it's safer to stay here."


With some hesitation and frustration in her heart, Irisdina stood up, looking toward the depths of the forest where she saw the light, as she said so to Somia.


"Mimuru, don't do anything rash."


"I know. I'll be fine!"


"Mars, you too ..."


"Yeah, I won't do anything reckless without an opportunity."


"Young Lady, take this with you."


"Eh? Kya!"


Just as Irisdina was about to run, Zonne threw something towards her back.


She quickly caught the object and found it to be a hexagon crystal, as transparent as quartz.


The surface of the crystal was covered with geometric patterns, which somehow resembled the multiple magic formation technique used by the old man.


"What is this?"


"It's a kind of protective talisman... If Azel interferes with the boy, you can throw it at her. It will give you some time. Azel is a young girl, but her strength can't be underestimated. It's like an amulet, but it's better than nothing."


"Is it really that effective?"


"I used a part of my soul. Although this is a hastily prepared product, but I can assure you that it will work."


"A part of your soul ... are you really going to be okay?"


It is not okay. If they belonged to the spirit category, they might be fine compared to humans. However, there were also some of them whose roots were in their own souls.


If they continued to split their souls, not only their abilities but also their memories would be impaired. In the worst case, they lose their ego and become wanderers.


But Zonne shook his head as if to say that he was fine with that.


"I don't think I can be trusted now, but I still have to show my sincerity. For that purpose, I will not hesitate to go this far."


"I understand. Please take good care of Lisa-kun."


With a meek facial expression, Irisdina clutched the protective talisman that was given to her.


Although there were many things on her mind, at least the old man was sincere in his desire to face Irisdina and the others.


If that was the case, he vowed once again to do what he could to the best of his ability.


"The dragon sealing barrier is a barrier that, due to its nature, limits the power of inner interference to the utmost limit. On the other hand, it is surprisingly fragile against outer interference. If you were to use the talisman well, you should be able to destroy the dragon-sealing barrier that has been cast on the boy."


Nodding at Zonne's advice, Irisdina and the others ran without hesitation deep into the forest.


What lies ahead was a legendary being who, just like the old man, possessed power beyond human understanding. While stifling their breathing, which was becoming more ragged than usual, Irisdina and the others hurried to Nozomu's side.


Ignoring the twigs that were knocking against them, they continued on their way and eventually came to an open area.


"That's……!"


"Nozomu !?"


What they saw was Nozomu, who was restrained by white light with his eyes dyed red, and a white dragon with one of its wings was torn and lacerations on its body. A shining crystal floated between them as if it were interrupting Nozomu and Azel, who were glaring at each other.


The moment they saw Nozomu's red-tinted eyes, a bad premonition ran down the spines of Irisdina and the others.


"Nozomu !? No ... this murderous intent is ..."


The image of Nozomu, whose consciousness had been nearly swallowed by Tiamat, flashed through her mind. Irisdina and the others involuntarily stopped as they recalled the scene of Nozomu raising his deadly blade to bury anything and everything in sight.


The killing intent that radiated indiscriminately from Nozomu's body and the chill that felt like an icy arrow had been thrust into their spines further aggravated their unease.


"Oooooooooooooo!"


Along with a scream that shook the atmosphere, an enormous amount of Qi was released from Nozomu's body.


It was a blazing Qi reminiscent of a volcano. However, the power that erupted immediately dissipated and had no effect on the magic formation that was restraining him.


Furthermore, from Azel's body, which was glaring at the restrained Nozomu, a white, shining element erupted and flowed into the floating crystal in the air.


At the same time, the light emitted from the magic formation that was restraining Nozomu began to radiate even more light.


A disturbing premonition came. At the same time, a magic circle covering the entire sky centered on the floating crystal in the middle unfolded, and the ground began to rumble as if something were crawling underground.


Rushed by a chill that felt like an insect crawling up her spine, Irisdina found herself shouting out loud while casting her magic.


"Wait !"


Along with a resounding shout, more than a dozen magic bullets rushed toward Azel's back.


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Reading Ryuu Kusari no Ori -Kokoro no Uchi no “Kokoro”-

Ryuu Kusari no Ori -Kokoro no Uchi no “Kokoro”-