I hesitated a bit and decided to ‘transfer’ to the terrace of Arianne’s room. I didn’t want to appear directly inside her room, as it could be awkward if something happened, but appearing in the hallway might expose me to others.
And above all, I couldn’t just casually visit her as the Demon Lord!
So, I knocked on the window. Knocking on a window is a bit unusual, I must say.
Inside the room, I heard some bustling, and soon after, Arianne opened the window, unlocking it from inside.
“Good evening. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
I greeted her and handed over some snacks I brought with me.
“…Today, you’re alone.”
“I left ‘him’ behind… Oh, don’t make such a disappointed face, you’ll hurt his feelings.”
I said it jokingly, and Arianne’s expression changed from slightly disappointed to surprised, and then she gave me a mischievous smile.
…Wait, Arianne’s atmosphere seems different now.
Arianne kindly served tea for me, which I appreciated. Hmm, it’s delicious.
“Sorry for visiting at this hour.”
“I don’t mind at all. In fact, I wanted to talk to you about something… Tomorrow, I will officially inherit the position of High Priest at the temple.”
Ah, so now Arianne can actually move the temple.
“I’ve decided to start repairing the temple in earnest from now on.”
Arianne said and moved away from her seat for a moment, returning with several books, all of which had no titles written on them.
“I looked into the Forbidden Bookshelf of the temple and found out why the temple was created.”
I see. These must be forbidden books, so they have no titles.
Or perhaps, the titles were erased, and that’s why they are still considered forbidden.
“And then, I thought… Perhaps the Goddess is no longer in this world.”
That line is almost like a taboo for someone involved with the temple. Arianne’s voice trembled slightly.
“The Goddess created the temple because there was a need for someone to teach her teachings in this world. But that means the existence of the Goddess was necessary for it to work. So… I believe the Goddess created the temple as her representative and then left for another world. That’s what I think.”
…I can’t believe she’s saying this as a bookkeeper.
“Yet, we, relying on the Goddess’s blessings, arrogantly… Now, I understand why you created the source of magic leak, the ’cause fragment,’ to bring together the scattered humans.”
Arianne’s words resonated heavily.
…I’ll quietly smile and have a sip of tea until I can sort out my thoughts.
Wait a moment.
I think I understand why the Goddess is in that book.
As Arianne said, the Goddess entrusted the world to humans. She decided not to rule over it herself.
So, probably, she chose to become a book herself. She mentioned that if she didn’t divide herself like that, the world would reach its capacity. From all that, I believe it’s reasonable to say that the Goddess chose to become a book.
So, Arianne’s speculation seems quite accurate. The Goddess willingly withdrew from ruling this world. That’s understandable.
The real issue lies with the Cause Fragment… the source of magic leak. It seems the Demon Lord created it. Yes, it’s hard to understand its intentions or where exactly it’s causing the magic leak, but anyway, the Demon Lord made the Cause Fragment.
We still don’t know the Demon Lord’s true intentions, but for now, we can say that the Cause Fragment was made by the Demon Lord. Alright.
We may not know much more at the moment, but we’re starting to grasp the relationship between the Goddess and the Demon Lord, perhaps.
“Therefore, we want to try and redo this world entrusted to us by the Goddess. Not relying solely on the power of the Hero, but with our own strength.”
“That’s a wonderful spirit. So, how will the temple act from now on?”
“I’m planning to start by selling the belongings of the former High Priest in his room to raise money,” Arianne said. “It’s a way to return the money that people have donated, as it seems the High Priest has been using those funds for personal gain. Additionally, we’ll use the funds to train the temple’s priests, so that we can deal with the Cause Fragment with our own abilities.”
I see. So the temple will be taking up the role of the Heroes from now on, I suppose.
“However, I have no idea about the Heroes. I know the temple performs summoning rituals, but why do we summon multiple Heroes, and how do we find them? Did the former High Priest know?”
I don’t know either. Yes, the former High Priest probably didn’t know much either. The detailed meaning behind summoning the Heroes might have been forgotten long ago.
Or perhaps, someone intentionally erased that knowledge.
I don’t know how many generations ago it was, but at least N generations ago, the High Priests saw the Heroes or people from other worlds as a mere source of magical power.
Even now, there are remnants of that ideology in some places where they capture people from other worlds and turn them into slaves.
…There’s no need for Arianne to know about this right now.
I think it’s better for her to learn about it when she has some free time.
“If you don’t know, then it’s fine. Just promise me that you won’t get involved in anything uncertain where the consequences are unknown.”
Not knowing about it means that there won’t be any meaningless Hero summonings from now on, and there won’t be any unauthorized returns either.
“Yes, that’s right. We have to be careful not to make any mistakes from now on. We’ll do what we can as the temple, cautiously but as quickly as possible,” Arianne replied with a strong smile as she picked up one of the pastries I brought.
“That’s what I wanted to talk about. Do you know about the country in the southwest of Aitzol, the one involved in the revolution?”
Well then, it’s my turn to share information.
“Yes, I’m aware of it. It’s about the revolution, right? I received a request from the temple knights in the royal capital.”
I see, information is already flowing in.
“I see… By any chance, does the temple send Heroes for such missions?”
“Um, well… One of the Heroes is actively participating in that plan, and it seems that person has already sent requests for other Heroes to join as well…”
Nice work, Fukuyama-kun! That was quick! Too quick!
With this, it seems like almost all of the Heroes are likely to participate in the attack on the underwater city. We already know that the number of Heroes is limited to the number of physical lives, so once we capture them, we can confirm who will be involved.
Well, well, Fukuyama-kun really does a great job at times like this. Good job!
“I see. Let the Heroes do as they please. I won’t say anything,” I said, intending to say something if they didn’t send the Heroes. Of course, I wouldn’t really blame them.
“I’m glad to hear that. As the temple, we didn’t fully understand the situation, so we were hesitant to take action. That’s why we won’t send temple knights, but it’s reassuring to know that the Heroes can participate of their own free will. It may seem cowardly, but….”
Well, it’s good for the temple too. The Heroes, apart from Fukuyama-kun, have their own thoughts and motivations. As long as they can act on their own, and the nobles get the powerful force of the Heroes, everyone seems to be happy. Everyone can be happy!
“Isn’t that enough for the temple? If the Heroes want to move, you shouldn’t stop them.”
Arianne seemed to feel a bit guilty, as if she was using the Heroes for her own purposes. When I told her that, she seemed to feel relieved and smiled a little while sipping her tea.
“It’s strange. We were supposed to be enemies, but now you’re the one giving me the words I need the most.”
“It’s an honor.”
While thinking that Arianne must be going through a lot, I poured more tea from the pot into her empty cup as a gesture of support. Arianne lightly thanked me and then hesitated for a moment before bringing up another topic.
“Um… I know this may be rude, but there’s something I want to ask.”
Ask away! I’ll do my best to answer within my knowledge! At this rate, Arianne might figure out the truth about the Demon Lord soon!
After all, Arianne might know more about the Goddess and the Demon Lord than I do. Well, if worst comes to worst, I can always say, “I am the Demon Lord, but the second generation, so I don’t know about the previous one!”
“Do you… like that person?”
… That was way off from what I expected!
“Of course. …Though your idea of ‘like’ and mine might be different.”
…I know it’s probably a bit insensitive, but I’m aware that Arianne is quite passionate. I’m pretty confident that what she means by ‘like’ and what I mean are different.
“Then, what does the Demon Lord feel for that person?”
“Respect and friendship.”
As I said that, Arianne’s expression changed, showing surprise, amusement, sadness, and a mixture of emotions.
“Are you sure you can stay that way?”
Based on her words alone, it sounds quite violent to me, but when her expression is taken into account, I don’t sense any hostile intent.
“It will come to an end someday. They are amazing. I don’t know about being lovers, but they are the best as friends, and I deeply respect them. They are such fascinating individuals. Someday, they might find someone and fall in love. When that time comes, it’s probably better for me not to be around.”
That’s the end of it. Not everyone can believe in it.
“Why stay together when you know it will come to an end?”
“Because I believe in them.”
Not everyone may believe it, but I do. I believe that they have friendship towards me, and I, too, have a similar or even stronger feeling of friendship towards them. That’s what I choose to believe.
Shaking her head slightly, Arianne stared at me intently.
“That person… also said that what exists between you is friendship and respect.”
Arianne quickly emptied her cup in one gulp.
“They really are difficult people… Hey, Demon Lord, can we become friends?”
… How did it come to this? I don’t understand what’s going on in Arianne’s mind.
And the premise is that if the Temple goes in the wrong direction, I’ll kill everyone, but that’s how it’s set up for Arianne to take charge of the Temple.
Yet, Arianne is trying to rebuild the Temple in a very sensible way, and she somehow made me feel like… she is someone I can trust.
Perhaps we can leave behind the notion of killing everyone at the Temple. Just because we are friends doesn’t mean we have to kill each other, and I can understand that Arianne didn’t bring up this discussion with that intention.
As I shook hands with Arianne, her face lit up.
“From now on, let’s continue to support each other.”
She had a bright smile as she said that.
And so, I returned to the group.
It seemed like everyone was already asleep, so I tried to be as quiet as possible. I gestured my gratitude to Hariu, who emerged from the shadows, and then gestured a “goodnight” as we both settled in for the night.
…Hariu, I’m sorry you came all the way with me even though you didn’t have a role to play. Well, I guess it’s better that way.
When I entered the room, it turned out my senpai was already fast asleep. Well done!
As the night went on, we all slept peacefully, ready for whatever tomorrow might bring.
…I’ll make a sleeping area on the adjacent sofa, and I’ll sleep there! I mean, just imagine accidentally being treated as a body pillow by a half-asleep senpai. There’s a real possibility of dying, you know? Even without any stat boosts… if I get strangled, it’s still dangerous, especially around the neck.
Alright, good morning, everyone. When I woke up, there was senpai next to me. It’s so strange.
Carefully, I slip out of the sofa so as not to wake her up and start preparing breakfast.
Today, we’re having rice. Why, you ask? Because we have a rice cooker, thanks to senpai’s skills! With such a well-equipped kitchen, there’s no way I’m not using it.
You know, as much as I love the taste of rice cooked in a clay pot, sometimes I just crave rice from a rice cooker… I wonder why.
While I was cooking breakfast, Kariya came into the kitchen.
“Oh, good morning. How was last night?”
“Yeah, well, we found out that the “cause” was made by the Demon Lord or something.”
By the way, that “cause” is still floating on the dining table. If you think of it as avant-garde art, it actually looks quite intriguing.
“That just deepens the mystery even further, doesn’t it?”
Kariya also should have been affected by the “cause” draining his powers, but he seems to have gotten used to it. He doesn’t look particularly troubled.
“By the way, I’ve become friends with Ariane-san.”
“Maito-san did? Friends, you say?”
Why does it sound like he’s making fun of me?
“Why? How did that happen?”
“I don’t know.”
Maybe it was just the easiest way to categorize things.
…I guess the reason why Suzumoto didn’t want to go with us wasn’t really because he was worried about getting a cold. He’s just an honest guy.