79-79 Two Astilas

 The woman I met in the mysterious place called herself Astira.

"Astila ......? Where have I heard that before: ......?

 ...... Am I remembering this wrong?
 But I do remember hearing about it.
 I can't remember right away where it was, but I think I heard that name recently.

"What? ......? Do you know me?
 ...... Oh, maybe I've become famous outside of ...... ......?
 I'm sure you've heard of it, but I'm not sure if you've heard of it or not.
No, I don't think it was anything like that at all.
I don't think so at all. ...... Oh, really? I was kind of expecting that.

 Astila looks somewhat disappointed, but I think not. I think I heard that name from Leanne.

 I don't know who she's talking about.
 Suddenly, as I was trying hard to remember, the scenery around me distorted strangely, and a human voice echoed around me.

──── Oh, there you are.
 I didn't think rats could get into a place like this. How in the world did you get past the multiple layers of warding ────?

 A woman's voice sounded from somewhere, and then the empty space in the air was distorted as if it were ripped open, creating a vortex of light large enough for one person to pass through. As we stared at the vortex, a woman emerged from it.

 She wore a white robe with sparkling jewels on it, just like the giant skeleton beside us. They were different sizes, but they seemed to be wearing the same outfit.

"What the heck is that ────?

 Astira seemed surprised to see her.
 I was also a little surprised to see her face.
 I was a little surprised to see her face too, because what came through was a woman who really looked like Astila.

 No, ...... they don't look alike, but if their clothes weren't different, they would look exactly alike, or almost the same person.
 It's really hard to tell them apart. ...... But if you look closely, you'll notice that there's something off about them.
 The woman on the other side seems to have a somewhat cold atmosphere.
 They are similar, but slightly different.

Who is that? You look just like Astila. ...... Are you related?
"...... No, it's not. I wonder who ............ that really is.

 Astila next to me also looked confused.
 I thought they might be relatives or sisters because of the resemblance, but apparently not.

"I'm Astira. I'm Astira, Pope of Mithra.

 As we stared at her face in bewilderment, the woman who looked exactly like Astila introduced herself as 'Astila'.

"...... Astila?

 That's where I got even more confused.
 There's Astira and there's the Pope ......?
 What do you mean, ......?

 Pope ────?
 Oh, yeah. The Pope.

 I finally remembered.
 Astira," Lean had told me, was the name of the Pope of this country, Mithraism. But then I saw the one who claimed to be the Pope, Astira, and I wondered again.

"...... is that really the Pope Lean was talking about?

 The Pope was said to be an old woman over 200 years old. But the woman who appeared in front of me was much younger than I had imagined. She's a lot younger than I imagined. She's a lot different from the person I imagined in Lean's story.

 I've also heard that the Pope is a man who is respected by all the people, but ...... I still feel uncomfortable.
 Her mood is much colder than that of Astira next to me.

 Maybe some people like that kind of thing, but ...... I couldn't imagine this person being loved by the whole nation.

Who are you, ......? Why are you telling me my name? And what's with your face ......?

 Astira, next to me, asked the cold Astira.
 Astila, who looked cold and a little bad-tempered, laughed.

"Well, well, how dare you talk to me like that when you're my fake. I kept it in case it would be of any use to you. Why are you talking like that?

What do you really mean, "...... I'm a fake ......? What are you really talking about ......? ...... no way.

 Suddenly the Astila next to me turned around and looked up at the huge skeleton sitting behind him.
 Then she turned serious and looked at Astila again, the one with the bad personality.

No way, are you from ────?
"Shut up.

 Suddenly, a violent bolt of lightning struck Astila next to her. Although it didn't strike her directly, Astira staggered and sat on the ground from the impact of the lightning gouging the ground.

That's something you don't need to know. Please be quiet. I only have business with that man.

 With that, Astira, the badass one, stared straight at me.

The one there. Could you please give me what you're holding in your hand?
 I don't know what it is, but it seems to be a dangerous item.
"This sword? Why?

"You don't understand. This is not a request. ──── If you don't understand, I'll tell you.

 ──── again, thunderstrike.


 I swung my sword as quickly as I could to repel the lightning.
 I'm not sure if you've seen this before, but I've seen it before.

...... That's funny. I was going to kill you with that one.
"...... Why are you doing this? It's dangerous.
If it doesn't work now,......, there will be some strain on the body, but it can't be helped,.......

 Astila, who seemed to have a bad personality, did not answer my question.
 Instead, she slowly held up one of her hands towards me, and I saw something glowing in her hand for a moment.  
 I wondered what it was, and when I looked closely, I saw ────

"[Black Lightning]

 Instantly, black lightning shot out from her hand.

 A huge bolt of lightning that covered my entire field of vision struck me before I could even blink.
 You'll be able to find a lot more information on the web.

 ──── This is not good. If we eat this, we'll die for sure.


 I felt the danger, and this time my arm moved faster than the lightning could reach me.
 I'm not sure what to do, but I'm sure I'll be able to do it.

 ────, but it was heavy.
 I feel a strong response in both hands gripping the sword.
 As I swung my sword out, feeling my arms scream, the lightning changed its trajectory and fell behind us.
 The ground and air trembled simultaneously, and the roar came late.

──── That was a close one.

 I stared at the huge hole in the ground behind me and felt a chill run down my spine.
 ...... It's so powerful.
 I'm sure there's not a bone left in your body if you take these things seriously.

 Astila was also sitting on the ground behind me, stunned.

"...... is that ...... lightning, by any chance?
Yeah, apparently so.
I've never heard of ...... lightning being flicked by a sword. I've never heard of that before.
Yeah, I never thought I'd be able to do something like that before, and I didn't think I could either, but ...... you can do it if you try, right?
I've never thought of doing something like that before, and I never thought I could, but ...... you can do it if you try, right?

 But with a normal sword, instead of playing it, I bet I'd get electrocuted and go numb.
 The only reason I survived was because of this sword.
 Once again, I can't help but feel grateful for this black sword.

But I've heard that playing lightning with a sword is ...... usually difficult to even catch with your eyes?
"I thought so too, but ...... well, actually, the spear of a friend of mine was faster. I've heard that lightning isn't that fast.
"And the spear I knew was faster than ......? Is there such a person ......?
Yeah, Gilbert's a great guy. I'm not even close.
...... Wow, I didn't even know the kingdom of Crais was ...... in so much trouble, did I?

 In the event you're not sure what you're looking for, you'll be able to find a lot more information on the web.

I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I'm not the only one who's had to deal with this. ...... That wasn't very powerful. ...... I guess that means this body has reached its limits.

 I felt more dangerous than before, I held up my sword towards Astila, the one with the bad character.

Are you still going to do this ......?

"Yes, I do. I didn't want to do anything too violent here, but ...... it's a good opportunity. I think it's better to move your body (・・・・) once in a while. My new body is finally coming of age, so let's celebrate that.
 I thought it was a little early to throw away this body that I've grown accustomed to, but if it's deteriorated this much, I can't help it.

"...... throw away?

Yes, ──── this body has been really useful for more than two hundred years so far.
 It's not as good as my body, but being a half-elf is pretty good too. And I didn't think I'd be able to have children with this duplicate. ...... I wish I'd realized that sooner.
 Then I wouldn't have had to keep you locked up in here for so long as a spare.

What are you talking about?

 I couldn't understand what the Astira in front of me was saying.
 The Astila next to me seemed to have no idea what she was talking about either.

......, but don't worry. You won't be needed anymore. Your work here is done.

What the hell are you talking about, ────?

It means your new body is already in place. And the next replenishment. So I don't need you or this anymore.

 As she said this, the atmosphere of Astira, who was wearing a white robe, changed.
 It seems as if some kind of black mist is spewing from her body.

──── I will deal with you personally from here on out.

 Suddenly, Astila, the one with the creepy smile and the bad personality, fell to the ground as if she had lost her strength.

What is it? ...... What's wrong?

 At the same time, I felt a strange movement in the air around me.

 I don't know what's changed.
 I don't know what changed, but I felt something moving somewhere.

 I don't know what it is, but there's something very big going on.
 But there's nothing here but the three of us and that creepy skeleton. ────

──── No way.

 When we turned around, we saw a huge skeleton behind us moving and pointing its palm at us.

"...... is that skeleton moving? ......!

 As Astira and I looked up in surprise at the giant skeleton that had suddenly begun to move, we saw the palm of the skeleton's hand shining like a starry sky.
 Then, the many tiny sparkles gathered as if they were being sucked into the center of the palm, which was nothing but bone, and gradually became as large as a grain of sand. ────

 The beautiful grains of sand in the skeleton's hand danced and shone violently for a moment.

 ──── The moment I thought so.

 A jet-black thunderbolt shot out from the skeleton's hand.
 It was a huge thunderbolt, incomparable to the previous one.
 It was like a natural disaster, a threat that I had never imagined before.


 I swung my black sword madly.
 When the sword touched the lightning, black sparks flew violently, and I immediately felt a strong discomfort in my hands.

 ──── It's incredibly heavy. It's too heavy.
 You can't compare it to anything you've ever seen before.
 You'll be able to find a lot more than just a few things to do.
 I felt a kind of abnormal pressure and impact on the handle of the sword that I had never felt before.
 I instantly let out a scream as if my arms and fingers were about to be torn off.
 It was as if he was striking a huge mountain with a single sword.

 It's not just my arm.
 My whole body is screaming ────, but I can't be bothered with that right now.

 If we let this huge lightning strike near us, we'll be dead for sure.
 It's a good idea to have a good idea of what you're looking for and what you can do to help.

 ──── followed by an ear-splitting thunderclap.
 At the same time, there was a tremendous blast, and the violent vibration of the ground shook my entire body.

 There seemed to be a huge hole in the ground in the distance, but I couldn't be bothered to look at it.
 There was such a storm blowing around me that I could barely keep my eyes open.

 ──── A single blow, and this is it.

 I got goosebumps.
 It seems that I avoided instant death, but I don't feel like I survived at all.
 I was desperately trying to hold on to my sword and keep it from being blown away by the wind, when I suddenly realized that the wind around me had weakened and I felt a sense of relief.

...... Are you okay? That was amazing, wasn't it?

 Suddenly, the pounding storm that had been hitting my body disappeared.
 It seemed that Astira was protecting us with some kind of power.

Oh, thank God. I'm sure I can handle one more ......, but I can't stand it if they keep coming at me like that.
"You're pretty much the same ......, aren't you ......?

 I relaxed for a moment, but we soon quit talking.
 The huge skeleton slowly stood up from the chair in front of us.
 The mere act of standing up made all the difference.
 It's like looking up.
 Astira and I both gasped.

"What the hell is that ......?

 Astira and I gasped, "What the hell is that?
 And at that moment, a thought occurred to me.

 ──── is a monster made entirely of bones.

 I know a story about that monster.
 No, I haven't met one yet, but I've always wanted to.
 But when I went out to find it, I couldn't find it.
 The demon that was supposed to be my rival as an adventurer.

 When I think about it, this thing in front of me looks a lot like ──── that demon.

 It's bigger than I expected, but I guess that's the way demons usually are.
 The goblins I've encountered so far have also been incredibly large.
 The goblin emperor is said to be several times larger than that.

 ──── Yes, I'm sure of it.  
 I'm sure you're right.

 Yes, this is ──── "Skeleton".
 I never thought I'd meet him here.

I'm sure you'll be able to find something to help you out. I'm sure you're right. ...... Astila.

 I confirmed in a whisper.
 I'm sure she knows what she's talking about, as she's been in a party as an adventurer and has plenty of experience.

"......What ......? ......That's a ...... skeleton! ...... Pfft.  Haha!

 But then she suddenly started laughing.
 In fact, she's belly laughing.
 I thought I was being quite serious when I asked her. .......

No,......, I'm sorry,....... It's just that it came so unexpectedly in such a situation. ......

 Then she caught her breath a little.

...... You're not, by any chance?

No, ...... yes, that's right, Noor.
 It's a skeleton.
 It's a skeleton. ...... Well, it uses magic, so I guess you could call it a skeleton wizard.
 Whatever it is, it's nothing to be afraid of. ...... It's a small fish, a small fish! I'm not sure what to make of that.

 I've been wondering about that for a while now.
 I'm not sure what to make of it, but I'm sure it's a good idea.

I'm not sure if it's just me, or if it's the other way around. I'm not sure I can do it on my own, but I'm sure ...... you can do it with me.

 Astila then turned serious again and quietly held up her staff.

I'm sure.

 I also gripped my black sword and pointed it at the skeleton in front of me.
 I'm a little curious about her reaction, but I can't be bothered with that.

 ──── Again, black lightning struck us.
 It's even bigger than the last one, a tremendous thunderbolt.

 It seems that even with the previous attack, the opponent has not yet reached its full potential. That fact scared me a little.

 But ────


 I summoned all my strength and struck the lightning with the belly of my sword.
 It flew farther than before.
 There was a blast from where the lightning struck again, and I was almost blown away, but Astira was protecting me this time.

...... Are you okay?
"Yeah, I'm getting used to it. I think I can handle something like that now.
...... You ...... are really amazing, aren't you ......?

 As we stared at it, the skeleton began to wear a blue light all over its body.
 It was the same light that I had just smashed to get here. I guess they're still going to try to attack me.

 As long as the attacks were the same as before, I would be able to withstand them.
 However, I will not be able to keep defending myself.

 ...... My "black sword" is not suitable for cutting.
 But I heard that the bone can be cracked by striking it.
 If that's the case, I think I can defeat it by smashing it to pieces, though it would be forceful.

 To be honest, I don't know if I can do it, but I have to try.

 I'm not sure I can defeat it by myself.
 But like she (Astira) said, if it's just the two of us.

 ──── I'm sure we can defeat a bone monster of that size.

 That's what I thought as I readied my sword again.

Let's go, Astira. ...... Kill the skeletons. If I get in trouble, you can help me.
Yes, I'm counting on you, Noor.