81-81 Mother-child dialogue

 Tyrence and I hurried to the place where the Core was located in the deepest part of the world, slaying the endless amount of demons that spawned.
 When we reached a slightly open area in the darkness, Tyrence suddenly stopped and looked around.

"...... Wait, Lean.

What's wrong, Tillens?
Something's a little off. There are strong wards around this area that prevent people from entering, and it should not have been easy to get in.

 If you look, you can see numerous large trenches on the ground.
 Perhaps that was the place where the powerful wards he was talking about had been placed.

Did the Pope himself deactivate it in order to go deeper?
No, then she would have put the wards back up again. ...... After all, something has happened here.
...... I see lights in the back.

 I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that I'm not the only one who's a fan of your work.
 Then we saw a large, glowing blue crystal ahead of us.

"Is that the core of the ...... labyrinth?

 This is the first time I've seen it in person, but I'm sure of it.
 This is the core of the labyrinth, the dungeon core.

"So this core is still alive.

 As we approached it, we could see that it was as big as we could look up at.
 It's much bigger than I've heard.
 There was nothing around the huge blue crystal, and the area was silent.

There was no one there, or ......?
Wait, there's something wrong in there.

 We sensed that something was about to appear, so we kept our distance.
 Suddenly, flames burst into the darkness, and a woman jumped out of the fire.

"...... That can't be.
"......His Holiness......?

 The person who jumped out of the blue stone, surrounded by flames, was Pope Astira.
 We both cowered in amazement at the sight, but when she landed on the ground, she slowly stood up, looked at us, and smiled.

'Well, well, well, ...... Tirens. And Linneburg, too. Looks like we got lucky. My body didn't burn up, and I didn't expect you two to be waiting for me when I got out.

 The woman who spoke quietly as she was enveloped in flames was indeed the Pope.
 But what was that figure?
 Her body was engulfed in flames that lit up the area, and she was still burning in many places.
 Even the holy silver robe she wears, which is resistant to powerful magic, has been charred and is melting in places.
 How could it have done that much damage ......?

Tyrence ──── thank you for rushing over here ...... thank you so much. I'm glad you're here.

 I was rendered speechless by the gentle smile on the Pope's face.
 The flames that enveloped her ──── must have been created by a tremendous amount of magic.

 Even though it's still burning her skin.
 How could she not be in pain?
 Why is she smiling so nonchalantly?
 ...... There is something wrong with her after all.
 The unchanging expression on her face sent chills down my spine and cold sweat down my cheeks.

"──── Mother.

 The Pope was smiling as he gazed at the prince, surrounded by flames.
 I could no longer believe that it was a human expression.
 I was at a loss for words, but Tyrence spoke to her beside me.

 ──── Mother," he said.

 That's what Tirens called the Pope.
 I don't know how I feel about calling that being that.
 But for the first time, I felt as if I understood how he felt when he said that his mother (Pope Astira) must be destroyed.

I'm sure you'll agree with me. What's going on here?
Bandits, Tyrence ......, have infiltrated the interior of our country.
Pirates ......?
Yeah. A little girl there took advantage of today's celebration to blend in. They're very nasty people, Tyrence. They've driven me to this point. But you don't need to worry anymore. They're locked up over there.
"...... over there?
I can't say there's no way for them to get out, but they won't be able to do so anytime soon. As long as he gets the flesh and blood of his people and regains his true power by then, I'm sure he won't even be an enemy. ────

 I didn't understand the meaning of her words from earlier.
 In spite of this, my heart was beating agonizingly fast and alarm bells were ringing furiously.
 I've been ──── locked up (・・・・・・・), which means ...... what?
 And getting flesh and blood from the people (・・・・・・・) is ...... what are we talking about?

 I have an idea.
 But my reason refused to understand it, and a chill ran through my body.

It's ────── cold. ──────

 The chills I felt in my spine grew stronger and stronger.
 The chills on my spine grew stronger and more disturbing ──── and my skin flushed even more.

 ...... Something is coming, here.
 The moment I felt it in my gut, I knew that something terrible was coming.
 The moment I felt it intuitively, the space around me distorted greatly.
 And ────


 From the distortion, something huge wrapped in dazzling flames appeared.

 At the same time, the walls of the cave were scorched and the air instantly became throat-burning hot.

"──── That's ......!

 I choked on my breath.

 Standing there, surrounded by scorching flames that seemed to scorch the surrounding rocky ground, was a ──── huge human bone-like monster.
 It was an overwhelming and crushing presence just to look at it.
 A huge skeleton with a shattered jaw, clad in a holy silver robe as scorching as the Pope's, burning in the darkness.

 I've never seen a monster like that before.
 But I've seen it many times in paintings.

 There's no mistaking it.
 It is the same figure that is always depicted in the "icons" that you see all over Mithraic countries.

"──── 'Saint Mithra'

 We could only look up at the huge skeleton standing in flames.
 We could not move even a fingertip in front of the enormous torrent of magical power that seemed to be no match for the human body.

 That's "Holy Mithra".
 The Holy Mithra is the object of worship in the Holy Mithraic Kingdom, and is said to have brought numerous "teachings" to the Mithraists through the Pope several hundred years ago.

 And as I stare at her, I remember the words of the Pope earlier.

 He said, "If I get flesh and blood (・・・・・) and power (・・・・・) from the people (────).

 ...... who(......)?
 You don't want to know, but you do.

 It must be ...... the being in front of me (Saint Mithra).

 And at the same time, it occurs to me.
 And at the same time, it occurs to me that it has been carefully prepared in advance.
 Perhaps hundreds of years ago.
 From the very beginning of this country.
 It has been manipulating this country from behind the scenes, through the hands of the Pope.

 It has gathered in the city of Mithra to feed (・・・・・・) on its own followers (・・・・) and to gain power (・・・・).

 Originally, it was for this reason alone (・・・・・・) that the city was populated, the nation ──── and the faith of Mithra's people were created.

"Yes, you are correct, Linneburg. This is Saint Mithra. He is the master and savior of our nation.

 At the same time, I realized.
 I had to understand in an instant.
 That thing is not something that we can handle.
 I could tell just by looking at it.
 The mere sight of it sent chills to my core, and my body stiffened like stone.
 There is too much of a difference between that thing and a person.
 Just standing here, my heart is overwhelmed with fear, and I have the urge to run away right now.

...... So, it wasn't a dream after all.

"Come to think of it, ──── Tyrence, I believe we've met before, haven't we? Yes, of course we have. St. Mithra is not a fairy tale. And the day of resurrection, as per the doctrine of Mithraism, ──── is right now. Tillens, Linneburg. Come with me. Let's all come together to receive salvation and blessings.

 The Pope said that and beckoned to us.

 ──── I know.
 It's not safe to go near there.
 It's not safe to stay here.
 We have to get out of here as fast as we can.
 My brain understands.
 But my body won't listen to me.  

 If we don't run, we have to take the sword and resist it.
 But ──── is no match for it with my strength.
 Once I started thinking that, I couldn't move my legs anymore.
 Regardless of my will, despair had already taken over my body.

"──── Mother. May I have a moment?

 As I froze in fear, Tirens spoke quietly to the Pope.

 ──── again, Mother," he said.
 He sounded as if he had called out without any emotion, not fear, not affection, not embarrassment, not anything at all.

"Yes, Tyrence?
I have something important to tell you. I'd like to talk to you alone, if that's possible.
"Well, ...... yes, it would be good to have you alone (・・・・・・) first. Come with me.

 She said and smiled with her hands outstretched, unconcerned about her burning skin.
 With her back to the huge skeleton, she was smiling with a calm expression.
 After all, there is ──── something definitely wrong with this woman.
 Like the skeleton (St. Mithra), she is something other than a person.

 Don't go to ────.
 I try to warn Tirens, but I can't get it out of my throat.
 Tirens whispered to me.

"...... Lean. It looks like my bad luck has ended here. I thought I could get a little more out of you ...... but I was a little naive.
"Tyrence ......?
I want you to ...... get out of here somehow. ...... I'm sorry I've been so selfish, asking you to do things for me. But you know what ...... it is, don't you?

 I just nodded at his words.

I just nodded at his words. "I really appreciate you going along with me this far. I really appreciate you sticking with me this far, and I hope you can somehow escape and let the higher-ups know what happened here. ...... It's really presumptuous of me to even ask you to do that. You're the only one I can rely on right now. I'll buy you some time. ──── Please.

 After saying that, the prince walked straight towards the Pope.

"Tyrence. What are you doing? ...... Don't keep St. Mithra waiting.
"...... Mother. Don't be in a hurry, I'll come to you now.

 Tirens walked slowly.
 I understand what he's trying to do.
 I know what he's trying to do, but I can't move my body.

"...... Tirens. To be honest, I really think it would be a shame to let you end up here. You have very, very good blood in your body. But it can't be helped. It's a shame what happened. I won't let it go to waste.

"...... Wait, wait, ────!

 I cleared my throat and let out a squeal.
 At the same time, I saw him take out a red dagger from inside his jacket and hold it in his hand.

 The dagger that the ──── prince just grabbed was the Red Blade of Doom.
 It is a treasure that will surely take the life of the target of the blade (・・・・・).
 And at the same time, the user is also certain to lose his or her life (・・・・・), making it a must-have weapon with a price.
 Such a thing was in the hands of Prince Tyrence.

"Yes, Mother. I will not waste this life either.

 Of course, with something like that, he'd be ────.

"...... Wait, that's ────! 

 I strained my voice.
 But he doesn't hear me anymore.
 Instead, I hear a cold voice echoing from his mouth.

"──── Hey, you wanted my body, didn't you ......, Mother?

 I'm sure you'll be able to understand that I'm not the only one.

 ──── I was mistaken .

 He was telling me.
 He wanted me to help him kill Pope Astira (his mother).
 He said he would take the blame for the crime.
 But he did not mean that he would bear the stigma of his own handiwork.
 What he meant by "the guilt is mine to bear" is this: ────

"Then I'll give it to you as you wish (・・・・・). But ────

 He went into this day with the intention of risking his life, which he had done from the beginning.

 Tirens plunged into the Pope's chest with an acceleration that even my eyes could not follow.
 You can see it.
 It was the final blow of his life.

 ──── I should have known better, sooner.
 I had to stop him.  
 But the body wouldn't move.
 Why. Why am I so weak?

 All I can think about is the regret I feel when I see him.

"──── Don't think you can do what you want with my life.

 And so, the Prince's red blade reached the Pope's chest. ────

 It looked like ────.

 But a moment later.
 I'm not sure if you've seen this before, but I'm sure you have.


 The next thing I knew, St. Mithra's huge hand was grasping and holding Tyrence.
 I hadn't seen any of the action up to that point.

"...... Good boy, Tyrence. St. Mithra will be pleased to see you. It's good to see you jumping into my arms so vigorously. ...... You're going to be a good source of nourishment. It's really worth the effort of bringing you up to this point.

 Tirens is unconscious from the shock of being crushed by St. Mithra's hand.
 The Pope laughed in amusement as he stared at him.

"──── lies ────.

 A voice came out of his mouth, refusing to see the reality.
 How can he move that fast with that huge body?

 ──── It's impossible.
 Everything is beyond my imagination.
 I can't find anything in my knowledge that can compare to that.
 Perhaps this thing in front of me right now is a monster of a level that cannot be measured on any known scale such as [disaster level] or [natural disaster level].
 A monster of a level that has never been seen in the records of history, a monster that has never been faced by mankind.
 Something like this has been controlling a country from behind the scenes.
 For hundreds of years.

 ──── How can I face this thing alone?

 Even escape is hopeless.
 I completely blew the opportunity that Tyrence had given me.
 But I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to escape it even if I had given it my all.
 I couldn't help but realize that in light of what had just happened.
 There was nothing more I could do.

"──── Come on, Linneburg. You, too, are welcome.

 And then the other hand of the skeleton (St. Mithra) reached out toward me.
 Slowly, as if she understood that I was in despair, like a puppet that could not even move.
 A huge hand grasped my body, unable to resist, and lifted me up.

 ──── I thought I was a little stronger.
 But I wasn't.
 I was still weak.
 I thought I tried.
 But I couldn't do anything about it when it mattered.
 I could feel the tears of regret on my eyelids, and I was angry with myself for being here, shedding tears.

 Still, I can't seem to do anything about ────.

 And then ────.
 Tyrence and I are lifted up in front of the face of a giant skeleton.
 The skeleton's broken jaw opens wide and its face turns up.
 We were slowly carried to the top of it.

"Hmm, this should be fun. You guys have great potential. I'm really, really excited to see how much it will benefit St. Mithra. ...... Good luck to all of you in your future ────.

 And so I accepted my fate ──── and closed my eyes.
 I gave up everything and waited for the time when I would be thrown into the mouth of that monster.
 But the time did not come.
 I wondered and opened my eyes. ────

 I saw a ball of fire appear in the corner of my vision.
 Inside the ball of fire stood a familiar figure holding a black sword. ────

...... Finally, you're out. ...... I really thought I was going to die.

 I heard a familiar voice.

"──── you.

 Instantly, the Pope and the skeleton (St. Mithra)...... of that monster took a step back.

 ......What happened?
 ......What appeared now?

 My current, confused mind couldn't make sense of it.
 After a breath, I regained my composure and saw ────

"...... Lean? What are you doing here? Aren't you in the middle of a ball or something?
"──── Dr. Noll?

 Dr. Noor was there.
 He was standing in front of St. Mithra and the Pope, his whole body engulfed in flames just like St. Mithra's.
 At that moment.
 The hand of the skeleton (St. Mithra) let go of us, and Tyrence and I were thrown into the air, and the arm of the skeleton (St. Mithra) disappeared.

 ...... Don't.
 The monster's hand is trying to crush the teacher.
 No matter how much of a teacher you are, you can't take on this monster. ────!


 A roar that tore at my ears.
 With a shock that shook the area, I noticed that the hand of the skeleton (St. Mithra) that was supposed to be swinging down was shattered, and Tyrence and I were flying in the air.
 It was only for a moment, and I had no idea what had happened.
 I selflessly carried Tyrence in the air and landed at a distance from St. Mithra, but my feet wobbled and I fell to the ground.

 Did fear make you wobble again?
 ...... No, no.

 ──── The earth was shaking violently from the blow.

 You'll be able to see a huge crack running up the wall with Dr. Noor at the center, and the ground is shattered all around.

"──── Hey, Noor! Please don't leave me here!

 And then, belatedly, another one.
 Another figure appeared, engulfed in flames.

I thought I was going to be ...... alone in there again. ...... Huh? The two of you ...... over there are ......?

 She landed on the ground, blew out the flames that covered her body with wind magic, and then caught our eyes.
 The sight of her confused me and Tyrence, who awoke with her in my arms.

 Because ────

"...... your mother ......?

 It was a woman who looked so much like someone we knew.