97-97 Princess's Bet

 After I launched a large fireball at the swarm of demons and wiped them out, I looked up at the sky and gasped at the sign of something strange.

"────That's ...... no way.

 The monster's black body transformed into something alien.  
 The monster was about to quit being a lump of flesh and revert back to its previous bony form.

 At the sight of this, I lost my voice and shuddered in surprise.
 And I hesitated to believe what my eyes had witnessed.
 Because ────

 It was so much like I had predicted (・・・・).

You've finally decided .........

 It is now transforming its body into one suitable for high-speed movement.
 Probably the thing it feels most threatened by is Dr. Noor's Black Sword.
 That monster can only be hurt by it.

 However, even though Dr. Noor struck the Black Sword with a powerful blow that pierced the depths of the labyrinth from the ground, it did not seem to do any damage to the bones.
 Perhaps that flesh is in the way.
 As long as that flesh is there, the attack cannot reach the bones.
 Our biggest challenge was to deal with that swollen flesh.
 The monster must have known that.

 But what if... ......
 But if I could convince the monster that the flesh was no longer meaningful (・・・・・・).

 That's why I sent Inez and Lara up into the sky.
 Lara and Inez just kept chipping away at the flesh and burning it.
 Dr. Noll can't take that kind of attack.
 If they continue to do so, the monster's body will eventually shrink to a small size.
 If it is ......, what will it do then?

 In the end, the only threat to it is Dr. Noor's Black Sword.
 The Black Sword will repel all of its attacks.
 But as you confront it, you will surely realize that the black sword can only be handled by Dr. Noor, and that even if it is handled by someone other than Dr. Noor, it cannot be a threat.

 If it is ────, it will surely understand that its user (・・・・・・) must be destroyed (・・・・・) at all costs.

 But Dr. Noor's speed is extraordinary.
 If you want to challenge him with the determination to stab him in the back, that huge amount of meat will surely get in the way.
 Then, I thought, I should challenge it with the minimum amount of flesh armor that can barely withstand being hit by the Black Sword.
 Now, that monster seemed to have come to that decision.

 It was a gamble whether or not it would come to that conclusion.
 ...... to begin with.
 To challenge or to escape.
 That was also a major fork in the road.

 The worst that could happen was that it would run away (・・・・・).
 The worst thing that could have happened was that it would have analyzed our strength, prepared for us, and stalked us from then on.
 But I was confident that it would not do that.

 ──── It's Pope Astira.

 I don't even know why I think that.

 But there is something close to certainty.

 "Pope Astira" and
 Pope Astira and the man standing right there right now, Astira, are two completely different people.

 I know this because I've met him face to face.
 That arrogance of taking everything for granted.
 The self-righteousness that thinks it's okay to trample and toy with everything for its own sake.
 The vanity of thinking that all beings should serve him.

 That's why it's impossible for it to choose to escape here (・・・・・).
 I had something close to an intuition.
 And it seems that I was right.

 It is now cornered by Dr. Noor, Inez and Lara, and is about to play its final game.
 In order to defeat Dr. Noor, who has the Black Sword in his hands.
 Things are going exactly as I envisioned, to my horror, and I'm inwardly surprised.
 But you can't let up now.

 Because this is where it all begins.

 That monster probably doesn't realize that it was a bad move.
 It was distracted by Inez's [divine shield] and Dr. Noor's [black sword], and doesn't think that there is anything on the ground that is blocked by Inez's shield.
 I hope you're right.

 I hope so, because the main attack to cut its flesh is this one.

 The talisman I was given by Professor Oken.
 With it, I can deliver a blow that surpasses that monster's imagination just once.

 ──── "Keraunos," a tiny portable magical artillery device.

  It's the only prototype magic tool in the world that was developed by Oaken-sensei with the secret technology of the Magic Empire in his hands.

 This magic tool contains a huge magic stone that was kept secret by Dr. Oken.
 It's the highest quality "Demon's Heart" that Mr. Oken says he's never seen a better magic stone in his life.
 With this, I can cast a single spell of tremendous power.
 I've decided to bet everything I have on this.
 There is only one chance to shoot in every sense of the word.
 If I put all my magic into this prototype, it will quickly fall apart.
 Besides, once it is detected, people will be wary and it will be difficult to hit it again.

 ──── Once you shoot it, that's it.
 There is no second chance.
 It's a one-time, risky gamble.
 I'm putting my life on the line for the rest of us here.

 That fact makes me feel nauseous and dizzy.
 But as far as I can tell, there's no more ideal hand at hand.
 Before we left for Mithra, Dr. Oken handed us his best trump card.
 It was as if he had foreseen this in advance.

 The only question now is whether or not we can take advantage of ────.

 I think it was a real gamble.
 Of course, not everything will work out the way I envisioned.

 Also at ────. Fortunately.
 I've won the bet so far.
 Everyone is doing incredibly well.

 Inez, who is aware of this strategy, has been guiding the monster, without a hint of unnaturalness, directly above the stone marker (・・・・) that we have built on the ground.

 Yes, that's not exactly a wall.
 It's a ──── marker.
 It's a huge imprint carved into the earth in order to coordinate with the sky here on earth.
 For this reason, I never moved from my predetermined position and waited patiently for this moment.

 At last, I am getting ready.
 The situation is as good as it's ever going to get.
 No, everyone has worked so hard to make it ready.

 ──── All that's left is me.

 Yeah, just me.
 I'm the only one who has to fail.
 So if we give Professor Noll with the Black Sword a chance, we can win.
 We have a chance.
 There has to be.

 That's what I believed when I envisioned and orchestrated this mission.
 I envisioned and orchestrated this mission as a gamble, as reckless as it may seem.
 That's why I can't afford to fail here.
 I mustn't fail.

 My breathing is ragged from the pressure.
 ...... Don't worry. I'll hit it.
 You'll hit it. That's it.
 You're already doing a great job.
 All that's left is for me to make sure I don't screw up the operation of this trump card.
 That's all there is to it. ────

 So I looked up at the sky to take a deep breath to calm myself down: ────
 Immediately, my body became cold.
 A shiver went through my body, and just before I could make up my mind, all of my questions started to swell.

"...... guess ......? And ......? How the hell did ...... do that?

 That question quickly turned into despair.
 The huge body in the sky above me was moving around like lightning itself.
 What's going on up there is a battle of unimaginable proportions.

 The target is huge.
 But it's too fast.

 Too fast.
 ...... hit that thing?
 How can you do that?

 ...... Absolutely not.

 My naive plan falls apart at the last minute.

 ──── I guess I was naive.
 ──── I will fail.
 ────I will fail. ────I will fail.

 I'm sure I'll fail.
 My nature, which leads me to dark conclusions immediately from logical thinking, comes out.

It's not ────. Even if you can't, do ────.

 I deny and warn my inner voice, forcing my faltering heart to spit out my trembling voice.
 We've come this far, there's no turning back.
 I can't let my weakness ruin the situation we've all built up to this point.
 I clenched my teeth, summoned up what little courage I had, stretched out my hand toward the heavens and took a deep breath. ──── I gave my final instructions to the people around me.

I will no longer be attacking demons on earth (・・・・).
 I'm sorry, but please take care of the rest.

 That was all I could say.
 No, ......, this is not a very good explanation.
 This is not enough to convey my intentions in this confusing situation.

"......What? What do you mean?

 Confusion ensues as a matter of course.
 I haven't explained this to them.
 If I tell them, there is a chance that the monster will sense it.
 ...... I failed.
 I don't even have time to try to fix it. But.

"──── Okay. I'll take care of it. We'll reconfigure the formation around her.
Wait, ......, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
This is the big game, Miranda.
Yeah, we'll be fine. We'll be fine.

 Prince Tirens, Astira and Sigil instantly understood my intentions and took care of me.
 Leaving the rest to them, I focused all my attention on the inside of my body.

 The ──── attack will come from here, you know.

 I'm not sure what to do, but I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out.

 It's only a few dozen seconds away from being directly above me.

 The moment it reaches the top of my head, I'll unleash an attack with everything I have.

 I must put everything I have into that blow.
 I must hurry and prepare for it.
 Failure is not an option.
 I can't afford to fail here.

 Even though it's ────.
 And yet.

"...... why ......?

 Even here, my body was still trembling slightly.
 The more I tried to contain the trembling, the louder it became, more than I had ever experienced before.

 ──── Why?
 ...... Why?

 ...... It's obvious.
 What I'm about to do is a genuine "gamble".
 No matter how you look at it, I'm going to do something reckless.
 Deep down inside, I know it well.
 That's why my body won't move.

 The ──── teacher showed me in the basement of King's Landing, using the ten (.) magic [fusion magic].
 I'm not sure what to do with it.
 With that kind of power, it would be easy to rip off the flesh of that monster in an instant.
 Based on such theoretical calculations, I constructed this situation.

 It's not wrong in terms of possibility.
 It's just a possibility.

 But the possibility is ──── infinitely close to zero.
 In the first place, it is a skill that can never be acquired overnight.
 In fact, I couldn't acquire it.
 No matter how many times I tried, I never succeeded.
 No matter how hard I tried, the more I repeated, the more I realized that I would never be able to reach that realm.
 I should have known that.
 And yet.
 I'm about to do it now.

 I'm going to do it now, and I know what it means, but I've incorporated such a vague thing into this operation.
 It's just an excuse to say that I chose the option that would sacrifice the people of Mithra the least because I couldn't think of anything else at that time. ────

 At that time, I wanted to sacrifice (・・・・・) no one if I could.

 Sacrifice the few to save the many.
 There are many situations where this is the best decision.
 Choices always involve sacrifice.
 You can't gain something without giving up something.
 You have to be ruthless at times to be worthy of being a king.
 I understand that.

 But I tend to look for a different path.
 Subconsciously, I avoid the choice of sacrificing someone else.

 When we are faced with a choice, we tend to look for a way out.
 I wonder if there isn't a path around ──── where no one will be unhappy, where no one will be sacrificed.

 It's a ridiculous dream.

 ──── The result is gambling today.

 I'm just a dreamer who keeps dreaming sweet dreams like a child.
 I can never be a realist like my brother.
 I'm incapable of making a rational decision.

 So maybe I'll die here.
 But I'm sure that even if I die here, my brother will inherit the kingdom of Crais.
 I'm sure you'll be able to find something that will work for you.

 ...... That's right.
 I feel bad for Inez, Rollo, Dr. Noor and anyone else who came with me. ────
 But no matter how many times I think about it.
 No matter how many times I think about it .
 Surely this is the least amount of sacrifice we can make in terms of numbers.

 ...... So.
 In that sense, my decision is a rational one.
 In that sense, I am making the most optimal choice.
 And since I am betting on it, I am not doing anything wrong.

 Deciding to believe that, I re-focus my mind.
 If I miss this opportunity, ──── it will never come again.

 ...... At last, my body begins to listen to me.

────[Magic Barrier]

 In the event that you have any kind of questions concerning where and how to use the internet, you can call us at the web site. I'm going to start preparing to spit out every single drop of magic power that lies dormant in the bottom of my body.

 My plan is endangering the lives of those who are still here.
 So, I can't afford to be selfish.

 ──── After this, all I'll be left with is a shell.
 I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to do it, but I'm sure I'll be able to do it.


 I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but I'm sure you've heard of it.

 ...... done. So far, so good.
 And ────
 All that remains is to fuse them together.
 You have to succeed.
 I have to.
 Only then will my magic be powerful enough to rip the flesh off that monster.

 But if I can't.
 If I fail here...

 My body trembles at the thought.

 At the same time, your limbs stop moving as if they no longer belong to you.

 ...... No. What are you thinking about?
 It wasn't supposed to be like this.

 ──── Oh, I knew it.
 I knew I was going to fail.
 A certainty in the name of desperation that I had tried to contain reared its ugly head.

 I'm not sure what to do.


 I'm not sure when, but there was a boy standing next to me.
 ...... Rollo.
 He seemed to be able to hear me.

I'm sorry, Rollo. ...... I'm so, so sorry.

 My voice trembled with shame.
 I could see the tears welling up in my eyes, and at the same time I felt angry with myself.
 ...... I shouldn't be crying like a child at a time like this.
 If I do this, I'll let him die too.

 I'm even more disturbed, and my magic dissipates again. And then ......

 Rollo touched my hand.

 As soon as ──── was touched, my power that had been rampant stabilized.
 I was surprised to see that the power that was not fixed was converging at will, and the magic that should have dissipated was surrounding me much more powerfully than before I lost it.

 I looked at Rollo's face in surprise.

"Don't worry, I'll help you.

 I had completely forgotten about ──── until just now.

 I had forgotten that this child was the one who had made Dr. Oken call him a genius.
 He can't use magic.
 But he's the best magic manipulator Professor Oaken has ever seen in his life.
 I'd been told that.
 If I had forgotten that, then maybe I still regarded him as unreliable somewhere in my mind.

 ...... I had misjudged the power of my companion, which was crucial.
 I sigh at my failure.
 And at the same time ──── I regained my composure.

"Rollo, I'm sorry to ──── assist you, please.

 Rolo nodded and put his hands on my arms.
 Then the magic in my body began to pulsate in a frightening way.

 I was surprised by this, and tried to soothe the force, and the surging power instantly quieted down.
 ──── It's so easy to do what I struggled so much to do.

 ...... She's amazing, after all.
 I was wrong.

 I was mistaken.

 I thought I had to do it all by myself.
 But after working with Lolo, I realized how reckless that was.
 When you actually experience it, you realize how far apart you are from your teacher.

 The teacher is in a far higher realm.
 Higher than I could even imagine.

 But now, with Rollo's help, I've reached a realm that I could never have reached on my own.

 ──── I can reach that realm for just a moment.
 I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it.

 There is an unprecedented amount of magic swirling around in my body.
 You'll be able to do anything you can imagine in your head.
 And then, as soon as you have a clear mind, you will begin to see your surroundings more clearly, ...... and you will be even more ashamed of your lack of thinking.

 ...... It seems that I was really narrow-minded.
 So I was easily despairing and about to give up.
 I didn't have to do that.

 Dr. Noll and his team's battle in the sky.
 I'll never catch up to that.
 You're right.
 I'm still not sure I can catch it moving at high speed.
 It's absolutely impossible for me to catch it.
 But ────, that's okay.
 It doesn't matter if you don't catch up.
 There is no need to catch up.

 If I can't catch up (・・・・・・), I can just stop (・・・・) the other side (・・・・・).
 That's all I'm saying.

"I really ──── think I'm ...... forgetful.

 I put one hand on top of my head, took my hairpiece and threw it in the air.

 It's that "ward off" diadem I made. ────
 It's a great way to make sure you're getting the most out of your vacation.
 The principle of making and preventing them is the same after all.

 I was bound by the "warding" before when I was attempted assassination ──── and I understood its essence.
 It's a special magic formula (・・・・) that manipulates time (...).
 It uses magic power as its activation source to stagnate a limited space and prevent the objects within it from moving.
 It seems to operate on a different principle than the [skills] we usually use, and it took some time to analyze. ────
 In the three months before my visit to Mithra, I made it my own.

 ...... From the beginning, I had another ideal hand in hand.

 Feeling relieved and sighing at the same time, I rewrote the magic formula in the diadem as it flew through the air.
 The hairpiece explodes under the load, but no matter.
 From now on, I only need to activate the formula for a moment.
 It's enough to stop the monster for a moment.

 At the same time, I feel the monster approaching above me.

 The shield of Inez in the sky has disappeared.
 There was no longer any barrier between the earth and the sky.

 ...... At that moment, all the conditions I had envisioned came together.

 ──── No.

 The dream that I had vaguely imagined ────
 I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but it's a great idea.

"──── now

 I shot a blow to the sky with everything I had.
 At the same time, an impromptu "ward" was activated, capturing the monster and stopping it from moving.
 I saw a pillar of light pierce the monster directly above me, and immediately, the heat of the light I had released scorched its face.
 The palm of my hand, which was supposed to be protected by multiple barriers, was swallowed and my fingertips were quickly burned away.
 At the same time, my eyeballs were burned and I lost my sight momentarily.

 ──── but I never look away.

 Even though I have lost almost all of my vision and can see only a little, I cannot turn my face away.
 ...... Because this is the only blow I have.
 Even if my hands are gone, even if my elbows are swallowed by the light of Keraunos, I can't let up.

 In an instant, my eyeballs were completely burned and I could no longer see anything.
 After this, I can't do anything else.

 ──── Then...
 I decided to let out everything that was left in me at that moment. ────

 I'm not sure what to do, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.


 I released the flame that I had poured everything into into the sky.
 My flames, unleashed beyond their limits, scorch the monster.
 It burns the flesh.
 I will rip it all away and strip it naked.
 Until then, I will never relax my power.
 I don't care how much my flesh is burned for that.

 Because this is the last time.
 Because if I miss this, there won't be a next time.

 And ────
 The impromptu warding had done its job in an instant.

 The fragile wards I created shattered, and the monster, unbound, was soon on the move again.
 It was only for a moment that I was able to catch it.
 That was all it took for me to exhaust my strength to the limit, and there was nothing left in my body.

 Now the monster would be free of ──── again.
 It starts moving again with a speed I can't catch.
 I've used up all my strength and there's nothing I can do.

 The monster's time, paused only for a moment, begins to move.

 Even at ────.
 But beyond that...

 That monster is on the move again, and it's going to be ────

 ──── Dr. Noor (・・・・・), is there (・・・・).


 My eyes can't see anything anymore.
 But I know what happened.

 ──── I heard the sound of the monster's bones shattering far above me.

 You can find a lot more information on the web.
 In an instant, the vibrations of the monsters stomping on the earth stopped, and silence fell. ──── Soon, something fell like snow on the ground, and I felt someone's voice rise up around me.
 I could only faintly hear their cheers.
 I think I've lost my hearing.

 My body, having used up all its strength to the utmost, has finished its task and falls straight to the ground as if collapsing.
 But at the same time, something touched my burning body and ...... I felt as if someone was gently holding me.

 Relieved by the feeling,──── I let go of my consciousness.

 I had won my bet.