Section 5: What Awaits
[???]: “I never thought you would arrive here so quickly.”
The woman was sitting back on the throne, her head resting on one hand. Her silver hair shined white under the light that spilled forth through the window fitted high above in the solid stone wall.
Mippo and Moppo stood at the front of our band, and with half their bodies buried in the fluffy carpet, they both simultaneously tilted their heads in front of the new, strange woman.
[???]: “…..ah, you are referring to this one?”
The woman then grabbed Linzflare-san by the hair and forced her to her feet.
I almost yelled for her to stop when I saw what she was doing, but Saluena’s hand came up from behind and blocked my mouth before I could say anything.
[Saluena]: “We’ve come here for the sake of that gnome. I would ask that you release her.”
She then gave a more proper response on my behalf.
[???]: “Is that so? I personally have no further use for it, so I wouldn’t lose anything by allowing you to take it…….”
Despite her words, the woman still had Linzflare-sans’ hair pinched between her fingers. She had even begun shaking her back and forth as if she were some doll to be played with.
[Litzreich]: “The girl, she couldn’t already be…….”
I could hear Litzreich muttering underneath her breath.
[Toslin]: “Carol. If Mippo or Moppo try to make a move, I want you to grab them. They’re giving off a dangerous aura. I definitely don’t want them getting too close.”
[Carol]: “Mm. Got it”
Linzflare-san isn’t moving even though her hair is being yanked on like that.
Her limbs are just hanging at her sides, and she isn’t flinching from the pain.
(It’s a lie……isn’t it? Linzflare-san is a spirit isn’t she? No, she’s a great spirit which means she should have an enormous amount of power right? And yet…….)
[Toslin]: “Ashel-sama, we’ll leave guarding Iris to you.”
[Ashel]: “I understand”
In the face of a senseless scene, Toslin managed to stay calm, but her voice as she slowly passed out orders was as dry as sand.
[Toslin]: “Saluena. Litzreich. Give it everything you’ve got right from the very beginning. When I give the signal, rush in.”
[Litzreich]: “Mm, I’ll follow your lead.”
Toslin drew the longsword hanging off her back followed shortly after by Saluena.
Litzreich slid a new gem into her gauntlet, and the dull light of her Magic Shell shone around her body.
[Rose]: “And me, Toslin-san?”
[Toslin]: “Hold on. I want to hear something first.”
Toslin glared at the woman in the throne with a kind of blatant anger I’d never seen her show before.
[Toslin]: “Oi, you……. I hate to ask, but, that spirit…….is she dead?”
[???]: “…….fufu……well, perhaps? I honestly cannot say for sure.”
The woman broke into a smug smile as she lifted Linzflare-san further up by her hair so that her feet were dangling in air,
[???]: “Here, take a look for yourself.”
and then casually tossed her away.
[Toslin]: “――!? Catch her Carol!! Don’t let her hit the ground!! Bring her to Rose so she can be healed!!”
Linzflare-san’s body had ragdolled as it flew through the air, her limbs swaying in the wind as the rest of her lifelessly arced through the air.
It’s not my first time seeing someone like that. It was actually just a few hours ago, on the 35th floor.
She looked the same as Moppo did when we rescued her from her wrecked golem, moments away from death.
[Toslin]: “That…….Damn womanーーーーーー!!”
Seeing Toslin rush forward, Saluena and Litzreich quickly followed after her.
[???]: “Teehee♪ Damn woman? …….How crude. Have elves truly changed this much after a thousand years?”
Carol jumped up and caught Linzflare-san out of the air. Her movements looked slow and cautious, as if she were cradling a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest.
And yet despite her delicate touch…….*CRACK*, one of Linzflare-san’s arms broke off and turned to dust in the wind.
At the same time, Mippo and Moppo raced over, silently crying with big tears in their eyes.
[Toslin]: “Who……the hell are you!?”
Toslin shouted out even though she was already in the middle of her attack.
Her sword came down hard on the woman’s shoulder with zero hesitation behind the strike.
*CRUMBLE*…….the blade carved through nearly half the woman’s body, but it eventually ground to a halt.
[Toslin]: “What the……it’s like I’m cutting……..”
What’s more, the sound the sword made as it carved through was strange. Obviously not the kind of thing you would expect to hear after cutting through a person’s body at least.
[???]: “Oh, you actually managed to cut me. Even though I had to rip away all the energy that girl had in order to make this body.”
[Litzreich]: “Stand aside!! I’m……going to crush her!!”
Toslin yanked her sword from the woman’s body and smoothly ducked away. Saluena and Litzreich were on the mystery woman a second later with a new sword coming down on her neck and a giant fist crashing into her head.
*KaKAKONーーー! Two consecutive hard clangs echoed in the room. If any more evidence was needed that she wasn’t human, we now had it.
Saluena’s sword bounced off the woman’s neck, but Litzreich’s fist completely crushed her head into the back of the throne.
And yet, the woman’s voice continued to echo off the walls.
[???]: “Who am I…….If you truly wish to know that badly, I suppose I could oblige your curiosity.”
[Lapris]: “H-Hey? Is it just me……or did everything just start shaking?”
Lapris popped her head out of my hair. And certainly, things have started shaking. The body of the woman with the crushed head, the floor, the walls, the ceiling, everything around us was trembling as if the earth itself was splitting apart.
[???]: “I’m sure my answer will bring you nothing but untold despair, but you are the ones who trounced upon this stage uninvited. Hold no grudge against me for what is about to happen.”
*CRACK*…….*CRACK*, *CRA-CRACK*, *CRACK*……..
The headless woman’s body broke apart and stitched itself back together from on top of the throne. Again and again, it broke apart and repaired itself, absorbing bits and sections of the surrounding walls all the while to make itself grow bigger and bigger.
[Ashel]: “Wha-……this is…….what’s happening to her body……..”
From my side, I could hear Ashel-sama’s stifled murmurs as she pulled out her sword.
[???]: “My name is……”
And finally, her body stopped growing.
There was nothing left of the woman who had sat in the throne, the sound of her voice being the only clue that what we were seeing now was indeed the same being.
[Carol]: “You’ve gotta be kidding me…….”
Carol squeezed out her shock as she slowly lowered Linzflare-san’s body onto the carpet.
What now stood before us was a giant dragon with four mighty wings raised off its back.
[???]: “Sanz Wanz”
…….the truth was thrust into our faces.