“Tell me, am I father’s……King Henry Ignitia’s son?”
Auguste’s question echoed in the hidden room.
I was going to answer him in reflex, but stopped.
I thought it was a question for me, but his line of sight was facing another place.
It sounded like an invisible conversation partner was there.
“So, I am a human? This power, what the heck is this?”
With a serious tone of voice, Auguste’s question continued.
I couldn’t see his expression, he was turning away from me.
“……You always use gentle words for my ears. Always say something that is convenient for me. You are a liar, you twist the truth as much as you like.
Aah, I know. Really, because my heart is weak, I cannot believe your words.
I shouldn’t run away……from the truth, from myself, and from you.”
Auguste cut off his words and looked back slowly.
“……You followed me to a place like this, Erica.”
Auguste’s expression was covered with a calm smile, even though he was appealing to someone with sorrow as if coughing up blood until just now.
Auguste wouldn’t even show his sorrowful expression, because then his heart would terribly hurt.
In a few days of friendship, I couldn’t step on the other side of the smiling mask.
But, it didn’t matter.
What I wanted right now was not caring for Auguste’s heart.
After we escaped from the fate of destruction, I could slowly heal the wounds of his heart.
“Auguste-sama, let’s go home. It will still be in time.”
“Be in time? What is? What do you mean ‘in time’?”
Unintentionally, I was lost for words.
Auguste’s amethyst colored eyes shook.
“Everything, it’s all too late. Things that once got into the heart of a person cannot be wiped away easily. To reverse the suspicions that had entered, I need great power……that is, the power that can cause miracles.”
Auguste said with sharp words.
“My mother has always believed in me. My father also tried to believe in me, no matter how doubtful it was.
I want to give my parents the results they wanted.
I want to be the Auguste they wanted.”
I couldn’t possibly understand his feelings.
I didn’t know about Auguste’s three years of suffering that had begun at the age of seven.
What kind of experience did he has, that he had to resort to this forbidden magic?
We had been together for the last few days, but I didn’t try to understand him.
But, it shouldn’t be a thing that could stop his ruin.
Even if someone else who knew nothing interfered unnecessarily, it should be fine.
“Even so! Auguste-sama, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice yourself!”
“Sacrifice……Erica has seen through everything, huh.”
To my plead, Auguste laughed thinly in a self-depreciating manner.
“You knew about the magic, you knew and hid it.”
“Sorry. I lied to you.”
“I don’t want you to apologize. I want you to give this up……”
“I already decided, Erica.”
Blocking my words, Auguste said so with a lost voice.
I wondered why he had a fragile smile on his face that seemed like he would disappear somewhere.
“Thank you for being my friend, Erica.”
“Why are you saying that now? It’s as if we won’t be friends from now on.”
It was almost like a last farewell.
Since he was one of my few friends, I would be troubled if he quitted from being my friend.
As I quickly told him that, Auguste seemed to close off.
Or, he could forcibly stop his emotion when someone drew near, I wondered whether it was good.
“If my wish came true, I will surely disappear.”
“So, I’m glad I could meet you again in the end.”
Silvery light flared in Auguste’s hand.
It was a knife with a strange design.
It seemed that there was something like that in the cathedral exhibit.
The problem was what he was going to do with that.
“Don’t do it!”
Auguste made a small slash on his palm quickly before Tirnanog and I could rush over to him.
“If only one miracle can happen, I wish for the ‘me’ that I should have been.
Not the ‘me’ that is right here, but the ‘me’ that is confident, and never doubt myself.
The ‘me’ who can ride the dragons freely and dance in the sky, and make my father and mother proud.
If I can get it, I don’t need my heart—”
Drops of blood were dripping from his hand.
But before that dripping blood touched the floor, the blood disappeared as if it had been licked by something invisible.
The purple eyes of Auguste quietly closed.
“According to the old pact, as a price for my wish, I will give my guardian my blood, meat, and soul, —I dedicate everything.”
Strength faded from Auguste’s body, he looked up to the sky and fell down.
At the same time, flame flared up behind him.
The flame burned red and reached about twice the height of an average person’s height.
A person-like shadow flickered in the flame.
Two arms emerged from between the tongues of the raging flame and hugged Auguste.
『Foolish child……you make my heart worn-out with worries.
Ah, even so, what irony is this?
Because of the scars carved in your heart, in your eyes, your soul that cannot be compared reflects so beautifully.』
The flame gradually became smaller and the person hidden in the fire revealed their appearance.
Voluminous blonde hair of the color of the sun, reminiscent of the lion’s mane.
Tanned skin reminiscent of the burning desert.
The heat of the flame turned into threads and weaved a red dress of the South, and the light condensed and turned into golden accessories.
It was a beautiful and terrifying woman that made me seem wild and ferocious.
She looked young, but she also seemed to be old.
She looked immature, but also appeared to be well-developed.
I couldn’t guess her age from her appearance, but it was no wonder.
Because, this woman, no matter how I looked she was not a human being.
She couldn’t be measured by human scale.
Above all, it was her eyes that cemented the thought that she was not a human.
Golden pupils with vertically elongated iris, reminiscent of a cat-family carnivorous beast.
Slightly lifted, big pair of eyes.
Sense of intimidation and dread that seemed to clogged my breath just by looking.
Attraction and sense of security that seemed to melt my heart just by looking.
Just by looking at the pair of eyes that made conflicting impressions, my instinct understood that she was a foreign being in the human world.
“Palug-san……? No way, you are the contract beast……?”
The person who no matter how I looked was the self-proclaimed devil, Palug only smiled while narrowing her eyes.
I received that smile as affirmative.
I couldn’t mistake that face.
But, even if I got the confirmation, I couldn’t believe that she was that self-proclaimed devil.
The impression was different from the time when we met in the God’s mural painting room or on the terrace of the royal castle.
Right now the obvious indications of a monstro was coiling around her, I would even be convinced if I was told that she was not truly the self-proclaimed devil.
Palug laid Auguste on the floor with a gesture as if treating a precious treasure.
It was a compassionate gesture like a mother.
『Well, I never expected to you to come to a place like this……Erica-ojousan?』
“Palug-san, if you are the contract beast, then this conversation will be easier. I beg you, do not sign a contract with Auguste, please.”
Why was she the contract beast?
I wondered why she didn’t grant Auguste’s wish so far even though she was the contract beast.
I pushed back all those doubts and decided to convince Palug.
Because if the contract was to be fulfilled it would become the contract of destruction, I needed to stopped the contract beast no matter what.
Truly, I was even prepared to battle if needed.
However, since the contract beast was Palug, I might be able to get rid of the contract without needing to fight.
“If you fuse with Auguste-sama for the contract, six years in the future you will be in a rampaging state.”
“I do not know the reason, but the contract beast……you cannot withstand the fusion with Auguste-sama.”
“If you are in a rampaging state, there is a risk of killing people. Besides, by separating from Auguste once again, he will lose the ability to ride a dragon. This time, forever.”
『That’s why I said, I know.』
After Palug laid Auguste, she looked backward slowly.
Unlike the gentle eyes that were pointed towards Auguste before, listless eyes stared at me.
『Wait, Erica! Do not get any closer to her!』
『Be careful, just because her body is humanoid, that doesn’t necessarily mean her heart is the same as human’s.』
“But, Palug-san is……”
Light flashed in front of my eyes.
At the same time, there is a black shadow before my eyes.
The armor of the left forearm of Tirnanog was scratched.
Palug’s pose was different from a few seconds ago, she was in a posture as if brandishing her right hand.
It was only these two ‘results’ that I could confirm.
In a split of second, it seemed that some battle had began between these two people……no, two beings.
『Oh my~, such a smart snake. I thought I’d give you a gentle end in a moment before you could figure out what happened.』
『You finally show your true identity, female fox! I thought you were suspicious since the beginning!』
Tirnanog stood in front of Palug as if to protect me.
No matter how I looked at this, fighting was unlikely to be avoided.
But, I didn’t know why Palug would try to kill me.
I mean, did I raise a death flag without noticing?
Please forgive me for being surprise.
“Tir, ‘since the beginning’, but you didn’t……”
『I told you. Do not be deceived, this is not a devil. Probably, that guy is not a devil, but a kind of a phantom beast. If we ignore the definition’s correctness, it may be intuitively easier to understand to call her a divine beast.』
“A divine beast……? Palug-san is……?”
Palug-san shook her head.
The golden hair that looked like a lion’s mane was shaking like a kabuki play in my previous life.
From her head, ears resembling a lion’s came out, both of her arms were covered with short golden fur, and her sharp nails grew even longer.
From the gap of her dress that was opened from the back to the waist, a lion-like tail stretched and swayed.
Golden eyes stared at us between the turbulent hair.
『Before it was a fox and now a divine beast, you keep calling me as you like. Snake, do you have bad eyes?』
『Nuuuuu……! Woman, you bastard, you dare calling me a snake!?』
Tirnanog kicked the floor and shot towards Palug.
The moment his black claws tried to reach Palug, that flash of light clashed again with his claws.
Tirnanog who was wearing a heavy armor was blown off and he came back in front of me after somersaulting in the air.
『I am at disadvantage with this body……Erica, release all my restraint.』
“Y-yes, I understand!”
I cast an order for the armor that Tirnanog was wearing so that it could be shed mid-air.
Star steel brought out malleability equal to gold by pouring magical power and gained hardness comparable to steel.
Fortunately magical power exist abundantly, so another hidden function was built in Tirnanog’s armor.
“Open the cage, release the constraints, torn the chains, all commandments will shatter and turn into stardust.
My magic is an invisible furnace. My law is an invisible mold.
My spell is an invisible anvil. My curse is an invisible hammer.
Release the memory engraved on iron.
Return the true appearance and cover my friend. Stardust armor.”
As if hearing the command words that I had spoken, magic letters of ancient Aurelia emerged faintly on the armor that covered Tirnanog.
From the Philosopher’s Stone which had integrated with Tirnanog’s soul, lots of magical power flowed into the star steel armor.
The star steel armor that covered Tirnanog was breaking in the form of letters and fluttered in the wind like petals.
Tirnanog who exposed his liquid body was expanding more and more.
He was as big as an elephant, and his figure was like a dragon.
Star steel, which dissembled in the form of letters, adhered to the liquid epidermis which shaped the figure as he was when we met at the megalithic altar.
The fragments that once again covered Tirnanog like fish scales gave off a strong light all the time.
When the light dimmed, the star steel which looked like scales merged into the huge armor of the black dragon.
『My, my, you think you’re going to win just by growing bigger?』
『You should know that it’s not just my size that has changed!』
Tirnanog, who completed the transformation in a split of second, shot all the way towards Palug.
The claws of Tirnanog which were brandished as he moved first with all his power, were struck against the golden divine beast.
A thunderous roar as if the air itself exploded shook the whole hidden room.
Right. This is something I had always want to write but can’t because of spoilers.
The name of Palug herself came from Cath Palug, a monstrous cat from Welsh legend. (source). And in this story, all the cat monsters in various legends are one and the same. That including the legend about Sphinx. So don’t be confused that the story behind Palug is a mix of everything.
And about the beasts classification. Humans only divide them into two classification, which are magical beasts and phantom beasts. Contract beast is not a classification, it’s just that: a beast that performs a contract.
I guess divine beast is a beast that is stronger than phantom beast, but it’s still in the classification of a phantom beast. Since the characteristics of phantom beasts are: can understand and speak human language, stronger and harder to elucidate than magical beasts, can manipulate systematized magic, and only few sightings and encounters.
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