—It took courage for him to call himself the Finest of Knights.
He was called that by others and was proud of being praised so. However, he had never called himself the “Most” “Superior.” He could pride himself on his days spent diligently studying. However, in his inexperienced and immature life, he was surrounded by excellent elders, worthy companions, and amazing juniors. He thought it was a regrettable yet happy situation.
Being recognized by others should be in return for one’s efforts and dedication. If he wanted to be recognized by everyone, his efforts and dedication would need to be tremendous, and he would have to study in such a way that everyone would admire him for that alone.
—Have I made a good enough effort? He wonders.
It was true that he had been proud of spending his days studying diligently. But did he overcome his limits? Did he hone himself to the best of his abilities? Inspired by the efforts of others, did he vow to work harder towards his ideals?
These were the questions he had asked himself. And—
Julius Juukulius had already done that.
He had overcome his limits, honed himself to the best of his abilities, and, inspired by the efforts of others, worked harder towards his ideals.
—Therefore, he had been able to hold his head up high in spite of confronting the being said to be at the apex of the Sword.
“—I am the Finest of Knights, Julius Juukulius. The sword of the Kingdom that will slay you.”
Grabbing the hem of his cloak, Julius bowed at the Sword Saint, who remained silent. Then Reid closed his eye, the one not covered by the eyepatch, and did not even look at him. He simply crossed his thick and strong arms and went deep into thought.
However, he did not think for long. His nature was not one that was suited for thinking about things. And it was easy to tell even though they’d not known each other for long.
“Ooh, ooh, ooh, Ooooooh— It’s a contest!!”
Scratching his head intensely, Sword Saint Reid stomped on the ground with a great amount of force. With that one movement, the white floor of the second floor shook and then split open. Watching the confrontation between the two of them, Echidna flinched, but Julius stood upright without moving an inch.
When Reid saw that, he clicked his tongue with a “Tch.”
“Showy, showy, showy... Ah, just showy. Ya said the same thing as my follower, you. I don’t like ya, ya son of a bitch.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know him, but I can’t help but sympathize with him.”
“What? Who said my follower’s a guy? First of all, workin’ with a bastard is no fun. The follower I’m talkin’ ‘bout is a woman. She was a dazzlin’ gal, but she was way too logical.”
“Woman... What do I have in common with a woman?”
“Ah? Do I really need ta repeat myself?”
Wrinkling his nose, Reid smiled ferociously like a shark. Then he tapped on his cheeks with his unfolded hands.
“A pretty face, but too logical.”
“Ha, well ain’t ya irritated? It’s a shame since it’s cute... But, that’s alright.”
Reid snorted at Julius’ lackluster reaction, and then he cracked his neck loudly. Shortly after, he observed him with his blue eyes—no, not him, but what was surrounding him. The lights, which hovered around him, shined more brilliantly than ever. Above all, this had been the first time they’d shined like this in front of Reid.
“My buds...no, my beautiful maidens, you mean?”
“Haaah, it’s nothin’. I’ll take any dazzlin’ gal regardless of race. But sorry, I ain’t interested in a gal I can’t bang. —You, ya became stronger when ya broke outta your shell, didn’t ya?”
“If you say so, there may have a been a way like that.”
Something like giving advice to his juniors was unfathomable based on Reid’s personality. This only happened because Julius, who had no choice but to trust in his sword, was extremely desperate, and Reid felt like it was a total waste.
If he were to cling desperately to his sword anyways, then he should at least not care about his appearance. —What he desired from Julius was for him to show that kind of attitude and determination, and to see it as a path forward.
“I’ve decided to go this way. Or, as you said, it’s also possible for me to become stronger by breaking out of my shell and accepting my true self.”
Julius himself was aware that if he was not strongly conscious of it, it would happen without him knowing it. At that moment, when he’d been fighting desperately offensively and defensively, and one mistake would’ve been the difference between life and death, Julius’ true face appeared.
But that was only the story when he wasn’t strongly conscious of it. —He could waver no longer.
“I swear. I will master the chivalry I believe in. Moreover, rather than becoming the way in which you have tried to guide me, I shall become a better me in every respect.”
“Hah? What kind of reasons do ya have for doin’ that, you.”
“That should be obvious. The knight I believe in should embody an ideal. He should be pure, honest, and invincibly strong. Then, I also have to be like so, because I call myself a knight.”
This had been his own absurd reasoning, thoughtless words, and oppressive arrogance that naturally deserved to be laughed at. But when Reid heard it, instead of showing anger or contempt, he just smiled with his sharp teeth. And—
“I’m gonna make ya cry.”
While Julius was staring at him, Reid threw away the chopstick in his hand and jumped back. Then he slowly moved his hand to the side and picked up the Sword of Selection sticking out of the white floor with his big hand—
Reid Astrea was only supposed to be an existence that served as a Trial Overseer in the tower. However, for some reason, this mechanism of the tower was overcome with the power of his will, and by taking over the body of the Sin Archbishop of Gluttony, he managed to somehow revive himself.
No longer being in a position where he had to obey the Trial of the tower, he pulled out the Sword of Selection for the first time, as per its original purpose.
That is to say—
“—Gain his permission, by hand of the Fool who has reached the Heavenly Sword.”
“That’s my line... Well, it completely slipped my mind, though.”
“I thought that would be the case, so I said it instead. —I challenge you.”
“I’ll never forgive ya, ya bastard. I’m gonna make ya cry.”
In front of Julius, who had drawn his knight’s sword, Reid pointed the sword he’d just pulled out at him. There was no chance. This was the ultimate swordsman who was a natural.
—The pinnacle of all swordsmen, Sword Saint Reid Astrea.
“Here I come—”
Believing in the chivalry that’d shaped him, Julius Juukulius took on the Sword Saint with all his might.
His mind and body felt light.
Without using an analogy, it was the power of excitement that wrapped around the body of Julius, wielding a knight’s sword. It went without saying that one’s mental fortitude played a major role in a fight.
Come to think of it, Julius had been in an unstable state of mind since he got to the Pleiades Watchtower—or, rather, since his Name was taken away in the Watergate City.
Of course, Julius had warned himself as much as he could, and had restrained himself and kept it a secret. This type of self-discipline, which could be called an iron will, was not something to be proud of.
The result of not revealing his own illness, and of deceiving his companions and even himself, led to the series of successive defeats since his arrival to this tower, and to that terrible defeat. Julius should have believed in the people around him in the beginning.
Overcome with the shock of having his existence being forgotten, he felt pity for himself, who had been removed from the world, and overlooked what he should have believed the most.
Were the people Julius cherished the most, whom he trusted, pledged his allegiance to, and entrusted himself to, the kind of people who would despise Julius Juukulius, who had been removed from the world?
—Absolutely not, is what he could say for sure.
If so, then Julius only had to do one thing. He should have appealed to them with sincerity and showed them his love. —Just like he’d done with his buds.
“I should have reformed the broken bond. What is nothing can become anything...because I myself have witnessed it!”
Julius, who was nothing, could have become anything. And—
“No matter how many opportunities I get, I will always look up at that fiery boy with admiration on that day, at that back that embodies the ideals of chivalry, and I will challenge you, who is at the apex of the Sword, again and again.”
“Quit prattlin’ on and on, you’re a sassy little bitch, you!!”
Reid howled that at Julius, who was intent on killing him. With his whole body getting struck by the wind and the pressure of his sword, Julius, with his yellow eyes narrowed, admired him.
This was the fourth time he’d fought against Reid. He had been defeated immediately when he challenged him the other three times. However, on his fourth try, the entire tower had been in danger, and he had reformed his contract with his buds.
Out of all of them, this was the first time he had used a weapon other than chopsticks, although it was questionable whether chopsticks could be called a weapon. And now he felt as if the Sword Saint, who was at the apex of the Sword, was fighting at full strength with a sword.
“Compared with the chopsticks, the power of the sword doesn’t seem any different...!”
“I already told ya. I ain’t strong because I can swing a sword. I’m strong because I’m strong.”
Receiving a downward sword slash which had been thrown casually, his knees creaked under the pressure, and then he was immediately chased from below. Julius flew back in shock, barely evading it. Reid followed him, not by jumping or running, but by simply walking with big steps.
Julius wanted to believe that there was something special about the way he was walking, but there wasn’t. Reid was the only one who could create a walking style that would have taken many generations to perfect just by thinking about it during a battle when he wanted to catch up to an opponent who had retreated.
As Reid himself had said, he was just an extraordinary Being.
“You wanna cry yet?”
“—. No, it is quite exciting when I feel like I’m going up against a legend!”
It was just a bluff, but Julius answered him, driven by his own strength.
Yes, that’s right. Reid Astrea was right in front of him. How many times had Julius himself been excited by stories about him with sparkling eyes?
He had been surprised by his personality, but his abilities were the ideal he had dreamed of. And if so, how much time had he already wasted? There had been many opportunities to exchange words, exchange swords, and exchange ideas and beliefs—
Julius let that out at the sudden thought of clashing swords with the Real Thing. Though it was out of place, that truly pleasant thought made his heart throb with excitement.
“What’re ya laughin’ at over there?”
“No, I just thought…that when I finish what I came here to do, I would challenge my friend Reinhard.”
When Reid asked that, that idea suddenly popped into Julius’ mind.
Julius had never competed against Reinhard in sword fighting. On the contrary, he never thought of competing against him until he’d already he’d joined an opposing camp in the royal selection.
—He regretted not trying to catch up to him before.
That was one of the reasons why Julius served Anastasia, who was involved with the royal selection. But even if he hadn’t had such thoughts, he would have been charmed by her great talent and stood in the same place as her, hoping to share the same dream.
Then, there had been no need for him to come up with trivial excuses or speak in a roundabout way from the beginning. The only thing he needed to do back then was meet up with Reinhard with two wooden swords in his hands.
There had once been a time where Reinhard had crossed swords with the best swordsmen of the Vollachia Empire. While everyone else had been filled with excitement on the training grounds on that day, Julius had been moved to tears. That was the kind of response he gave—
“Hm, I ain’t familiar with that name. Who is that nobody?”
“He’s your descendant. As well as the current Sword Saint, and also my friend.”
“Hah! Another person’s brat is already a stranger to me. Even if I met ‘em on the street, I wouldn’t even notice ‘em.”
With a combination of kicks and swordplay, Reid spat that out while snorting. When that declaration had been refuted, he spoke again as Julius was readying his sword—
“I’m getting’ tired of talkin’ ‘bout someone else. You, are ya talkin to me?”
“—. I don’t deny that I’d like to chat with you, but I can’t help but say no.”
“I’d like to talk with you for two or three nights if the time allowed it. But now is not the time for that. He told me to “Hurry your ass up.” Therefore—”
From a distance, Reid could be seen lifting his cheeks . In the reflection of his blue eyes was the image of Julius, who was becoming brighter by the second. Six colors were swirling around and blending together, which then slowly began to draw a halo and emit the colors of the rainbow.
—A light radiating the colors of the rainbow was let off and swept across the world of white towards Reid.
Julius himself was amazed by the power and range of the sixfold light he’d just released.
It had been transformed from a great spirit arts technique to a magic attack of an extraordinary scale, so it would be improper to treat it as the same thing as before.
His buds—no, they can no longer be called buds now that their talents have bloomed. Beautiful, lovely, brave, dignified, colorful, and perhaps even divine—they were now maidens, not buds.
Possessing the six girls, each of whom had their own charm, by himself alone might make him more sinful than a Sin Archbishop. But—
“Even if you have forgotten me, I still love you all.”
Julius then moved forward to catch up to the light he’d just released. The rainbow-colored light made up of six elements was capable of breaking through any and all defenses and destroying the object it’d been released at. Therefore, the two things that an opponent could do before the sixfold light reached them would be either taking it head-on or ducking.
And as expected of him due to his nature, Reid Astrea didn’t try to duck or evade the sixfold light. As the colors of the rainbow flashed in front of his eyes, he waived his powerful arm and cut the end of the sixfold light off with the Sword of Selection in his hand.
A Sword Technique of pure violence that did not rely on any special magic or Divine Protections. —He erased the enormous amount of magic that Julius had fired with all of his might with a single stroke of his sword.
But Julius had already planned for that. Rushing out from behind the bright light that had been extinguished, he borrowed the power of his sword and his maidens.
In an instant the red and green spirits, responding to his call, increased their strength, and the power of the wind combined with the power of fire, forming a blazing vortex beneath Reid’s feet. Feeling the heat beneath his Zori, or sandals, Reid escaped by jumping upwards before it could burn him. But this was where the Nameless Knight’s link with the Finest of Knights came in.
The yellow spirit caused something to protrude from the white floor, pushing Julius’s body upward. At the same time, the radiance of the blue spirit froze the moisture in the atmosphere, stopping the rising Reid in his tracks. Then he clicked his tongue, kicked in the air, and reversed his position with what could be called an inhuman feat. While standing upside-down from a block of ice that had been created in midair, he glared at Julius.
All of a sudden, Reid began to increase the strength in his knees, but Julius quickly shot upwards to intercept him.
As the Sword Saint’s counterattack approached, the black and white spirits interfered with the world with their own power. The white light that was emitted powered up Julius’s entire body, while the black light decreased the power of his enemies, even if only slightly. That small difference at that moment was the key to landing a blow.
The ice ceiling that had created a foothold in midair shattered, and the image of Reid as he pushed off of it was blurred due to his sheer speed. The Sword of Selection had a special function or ultimate form where vertical and horizonal slashes were prevented from being read. —Instead of seeing it as a threat, Julius took it head-on with his head held high.
It made sense to him that he’d have to trade sword strikes with a power that was out of his league. Therefore, Julius opened his eyes. —Eyes that have always looked up and always looked forward.
Breaking through the sound barrier and moving at the speed of light, Reid broke through the space with a flash. Whether he did it using his chopsticks, or did it with the Sword of Selection, the result was the same—everything in his path was cut down. Because that was a manifestation of the function of a Sword.
The Sword was created in order to kill things. And Swordsmanship was a general term that encompassed techniques used to kill things with a sword.
Therefore, a single flash that was capable of killing anything in this world was the true embodiment of the Sword and Swordsmanship, and the true meaning of that word. Those who have been cut by such a slash would never forget that fact for eternity.
And so the scar that Julius had received beneath his left eye would forever remain. That had been the price of dodging the Sword Saint that moved like a flash at a distance that was within arm’s reach.
He gave up on the attitude that told him to accept his fate and watched his opponent’s sword for but a moment during the battle. Blood gushed from beneath his left eye, but he refused to close that eye and simply swung his arms while he kept his eyes on Reid. Pouring in the power of a hundred into an offensive attack, he abandoned his defensive stance—
Julius Juukulius, letting off the best sword attack of his life, drew the colors of the rainbow. It smashed into Reid Astrea’s ferocious shark-like smile, and—
—The eyepatch covering the left eye of the Sword Saint flew through the air after the knight’s blow struck true.
As he landed toes-first onto the white floor, the sound of his shoes seemed unusually loud. As soon as his consciousness returned, his heart, which had seemingly stopped beating in the depths of Julius’ chest, reactivated. The sudden flow of blood made him step back, and he took a deep breath and exhaled deeply. Then he turned around and looked at that strong back that was turned away from him.
His long red hair swayed in the wind and his back was completely still. He held the Sword of Selection in his right hand and covered his face with his left. There used to be an eyepatch where his left hand was, but it was no longer there. The Sword Saint’s eyepatch had fallen beneath Julius’ feet.
“—Did I do it?”
His eyes fell to the white floor, and, looking down at the knight’s sword in his hand, his voice trembled.
It seemed as if he had forgotten how to speak, and the six lights fluttering around Julius praised him for what he had accomplished. A warm flower called deep affection tried to fill the void created in Julius’ heart. And with the praise of his flowering maidens—
A faint voice was heard, and Julius turned towards the direction it came from. There was a great man who had turned away from him, his maidens that were showering him with praise, and, overlooking the battle from a different viewpoint, and the one who had called out to Julius, was a woman with light purple hair.
She was the eternal spirit that had the same face as the lord he cherished, who he had sworn to dedicate his sword to, and who he had unknowingly hurt—
She had never revealed whether or not she cared about Julius because he cared for Anastasia, or because his Divine Protection of Gathering Spirits was at play. However, Julius Juukulius was extremely grateful that there was someone who had witnessed his resolve, and, feeling the load on his heart lighten, he raised his knight’s sword in the air.
In silence, he raised his knight’s sword to the heavens. The trail of the sword drew a rainbow with the remains of the sparkling lights, as if it were blessing the knight named Julius Juukulius.
“—If this were the damn Trial, ya would’ve won with that, you.”
As he spoke, that great man casually stepped across the floor with his Zori. Reid’s face was in one piece. The tip of Julius’ sword had only reached his eyepatch, but he wasn’t shameful enough to not admit that he hadn’t been hit. Above all, his remark earlier wasn’t a poor excuse, but was the truth.
If this had been a continuation of the Trial of the second floor, Electra, of the Pleiades Watchtower, then Julius would have won with that first blow and been allowed to challenge the first floor of the tower. But the battle between Julius and Reid had no longer been about the Trial of the tower. It had been the battle between a knight and a swordsman, in order to settle the score man-to-man.
Reid, who had lost his eyepatch, gripped the Sword of Selection with both of his hands. He gripped the handle of the sword with his dominant hand first and gazed at the sword with his eyes. —Indeed, the Sword Saint was ready. Instead of swinging it around carelessly, he held it properly this time in order to cut down his enemy.
“Don’t complain even if ya disappear.”
“Even if I wanted to complain, I wouldn’t be able to do so if my mouth also disappears.”
“Ha! Weren’t ya the one who never laughed at jokes? You, what was your name again?”
When the legend himself asked him his name, Julius raised his eyebrows. He knew that he must have told him his name many times already, but he wasn’t sure, and it didn’t matter if he couldn’t remember it. Because Reid asking him that question meant that he had finally accepted Julius.
“Julius Juukulius. It’s an easy-to-forget name, so please remember it.”
Julius pointed his knight’s sword at Reid, uttering a joke he would not have been able to laugh at not too long ago. And he again requested the help of his six spirits who had just helped him out earlier. The current them would be able to make the power of the sixfold light even more powerful.
Al Clauselia and Al Clarista.
With the help of his six spirits, the six elements combined to release the light of the rainbow. —Clauselia, which released his maximum level magic, and Clarista, which imbued his knight’s sword.
Beyond that, it had been a secret technique that had never been successfully performed due to his own inexperience.
“—Let’s do this.”
At that moment, that extreme light filled the white space, and the sixfold light once again challenged that godlike red-haired man.
The secret behind the rainbow spirt arts technique that was originally created by Julius Juukulius—
He did not imbue the rainbow light in his sword nor did he emit it, but instead clad himself in it, becoming the aurora itself that eliminated what it was aimed at.
The ultimate attack of the Spirit Knight was met head-on by a flash of white.
From beginning to end, it had been too out of this world to follow with untrained eyes.
Not to mention the sword attacks that collided with each other, but the constantly changing positions and foot movements, whether they be superior or inferior, could not be seen by her blue-green eyes. And it had nothing to do with the fact that her body was not her own. It was just that there were people fighting to the death on such a high level, and compared to them, the world she lived in was way too normal.
If a person’s value was based on how strong they were, then she was weak enough to be considered worthless. It was also evidence that she had spent hundreds of years doing nothing and had turned away from the path of self-improvement.
From the moment she first became aware of her own ego, she had a hunch. She knew that from the moment she’d been born that the purpose of her unnatural existence had already been fulfilled. If she had to explain it, the very act of being born had been her life’s purpose, and she’d fulfilled it already. Therefore, she had been left alone and wandered around the world without a purpose, and was forced to live in a vacuum for 400 years.
She wouldn’t mind dying, either, but she had no reason to die. So she decided to just procrastinate, and for a long time, she was quite lazy. But after some time, she met a girl.
She had been fascinated by the way that young girl lived her vivid life, and her cold life was suddenly filled with passion. She became eager and impatient to see what the girl, who had made bold claims with her tiny body, would become, or might not become.
At some point, such interests no longer mattered, and—
“I don’t want to lose you or the children you cherish so much.”
She knew that the passing of time could be kind or cruel. Time healed all wounds, but it could also make one stuck in their ways. For the first time in her long, long life, she thought—that she didn’t want to leave this in the past.
“This is also an unreasonable wish.”
Even if she begged it to stop, time would go on without stopping. A life that was supposed to be small and weak could show all kinds of changes in that time.
It was like the Nameless Knight, who had been deprived of his Name and was taken from everyone’s memories, who wanted to prove that he was still himself, Julius Juukulius.
—A knight clad in the colors of the rainbow dove straight into that white light.
In contrast to Julius, who brought out his secret techniques, Reid Astrea’s fighting style was very simple to understand. He simply repeated using the same downward sword slash that let out a light that cut through the world and destroyed everything in its path.
There was nothing special about it, and it wasn’t even a special magic attack. Just by waving his sword, the world got burnt by the light. It was something she did not understand. Was Reid Astrea just beyond understanding, or were all Sword Saints like this?
What was certain was that—
She wanted to do everything in her power to prevent the sixfold light from being overwhelmed by that overpowered white light. It was the truth, and she wouldn’t even complain even if her soul were destroyed after charging in for one final suicide attack.
And she, Echidna, was already aware that she was powerless and could do nothing in this situation. What if, in this moment, Julius Juukulius, who had unleashed that sixfold light, could do something here?
She then put her hand on her thin chest and felt the existence sleeping inside. The original owner of this body was within, who was unable to wake up from her deep sleep, and this was the reason why Echidna came to this tower in the sea of sand. —But she had only been lying to herself. Echidna already knew why she wouldn’t wake up.
She boasted about how greedy she was and how she wanted to take everything for herself. Once she had something in her hands, she wouldn’t let go of it no matter what, and she was one who truly hated to lose, so she could only think of one reason alone.
“Having given up your body to me, you are now temporarily hiding in your own Od, unable to be interfered with by the outside world. —One’s Od is its own world in a way.”
And she had locked herself in there. The reason as to why was obvious. —If she left her Od, she would be affected by the horrible Authority of the Sin Archbishop of Gluttony. It was capable of making one forget what one didn’t want to forget, and making one let go of what one don’t want to let go of. Anastasia Hoshin didn’t want to forget about Julius Juukulius. And so she did this, but—
“It seems to me that everyone who came to this tower is extremely stubborn. —No one is cute enough to not end up getting lost.”
For the past two months, she’d tried to copy her in every way, but it was about time to put an end to that. Besides, she’d watched him run around as a Nameless Knight, and saw both the good and the bad, so she felt like she could go ahead and teach her about him, even if she’d forgotten him.
“Oh, that’s right.”
She was an artificial spirit without a purpose who had lived lazily after her creation. She thought that was the role she had to play, but that wasn’t all there was to it.
She needed to create a bridge between a precious girl, a precious knight, and everything the two lacked. This role requires a lot of responsibility, doesn’t it? It felt like such a large amount of responsibility that she thought she had been born for this.
“—You’re stingy, so it’s not like you to not want to see your knight acting cool.”
—A white light clashed with the light being released.
Even with the help of the six spirits he’d renewed his contract with, and putting his entire being into the attack, he was still being pushed back. He’d brought out his secret technique, while the other guy just swung his sword with a bit more seriousness. —He was amazed at how inhuman the guy was. And yet, at the same time, he couldn’t help but get excited as his blood boiled.
The world got split in two by his sword. It was a Sword Saint skill that Reinhard was also able to use when he swung his sword. Suddenly, in the middle of this life or death battle, Julius had a thought.
If they were to fight, who would be stronger, Reid or Reinhard? Two legendary Sword Saints—he wondered what would happen if the two of them fought a hypothetical battle. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to find out.
“Then I have no choice but to confirm it myself.”
The only people who could cross swords with Reinhard Van Astrea and Reid Astrea were those who had reached this tower. Only Julius and Emilia, who had reached the top floor, would be able to do so. —Julius had no intention of handing over that role to someone else. And so, all he had to do now was win.
He would get by that white light and kill Reid Astrea using that sixfold light. To that end, he would devote his entire being and the power of his sword—
With a little pride and power in the tip of the sword of the Finest of Knights—
That had been a voice that should never have reached him. In the midst of a battle that slowed down the passage of time, it only took less than a second for their swords to clash. That had been the way they’d fought in that slow-motion world. There would be no way for a voice to reach that place, and definitely not when they were in the middle of a life-or-death battle.
But the voice managed to reach Julius. Or perhaps it had not reached his ears, but deeper into the innermost part of his chest. Since he had chosen to continue pretending to be a knight, there was no way he would not respond to it.
So when Julius heard the voice that couldn’t have possibly reached him, he turned to the person he could not possibly see, and looked at her blue-green eyes. The light in her eyes was clearly different from before. —
“Go, my knight.”
And with these words alone, he let off one last thrust with all of his power—
“La! Kua! Aro! Ik! In! Nes!”
Giving himself one last push, he called out to the spirits who became part of that aurora of light. In front of him, beyond the white light, was the enemy he wished to defeat, and he needed to get past it. In order to get the point of his sword to reach beyond that light—
He opened his mouth in a unsightly way and let out a blood-curdling cry. In the face of death, Julius stepped forward, not caring about whether or not he was being graceful, yet still refusing to allow his beliefs to be broken, and gave it his all.
And under the assault of the sixfold light, the white light increased in intensity. It grew so great that the sixfold light and the white light clashed violently—
The clash, which seemed as if it would last forever, had come to an abrupt end.
Julius was dumbfounded by the dismal sound that had escaped from his throat. The clash of their attacks going at full-throttle ended abruptly. However, the momentum of his strike did not stop, and his sword, still tinged with light, was stabbing through his opponent’s vital area.
“Tch, ah, shit. Is this is gonna be the shitty ending to this boring show?”
Julius, on the side that had done the stabbing, was in great turmoil, while Reid, who was the one who had been stabbed, was completely calm. Even though something had stabbed into his chest, he did not even grimace in pain. Was this due to his mental fortitude, or was it because of what had happened to his godlike body?
The hard chest of Reid Astrea had been wounded—or perhaps cracked as Julius’ sword stabbed into it. And it wasn’t just the chest. The cracks spread to his arms, legs, neck, face, and other parts of his body.
Julius had a hunch as to what it was too. Something that was not supposed to be there was being corrected. This is what he believed to be a sign that the process was occurring.
“In the end, that’s how it is. There ain’t no vessel that can contain me other than my own.”
While looking at his cracked palm, Reid figured out what had happened.
Reid Astrea had been eaten up by the Authority of Gluttony and acquired a physical body by taking control of this one—but the body he was currently using belonged to the Sin Archbishop of Gluttony, Roy Alphard.
In other words, the vessel of Roy Alphard could not contain the powerful soul of Reid Astrea. As a result, it started breaking down during the last part of the fight against Julius.
“You’re just so much better than me!”
“Ah, if I hadn’t been eaten by him, ya might have been able ta win in the end. If that was the case, it would’ve been over when ya removed my eyepatch, wouldn’t it?”
“Ka-ka-ka. You’re a weak guy who can’t do anything. You wanna cry yet?”
Throwing away the Sword of Selection, Reid smiled maliciously, showing his teeth.
How can he laugh like that? Julius wonders. It was almost certain that he would disappear in the near future if he kept it up like this. Or, if he had just killed Julius, he might have been able to start a new life, but now even that possibility had slipped away.
“You’re an idiot, you. Livin’ forever? Who would wanna do such a troublesome thing? Besides, what if ya ran into me out there?”
“...Unfortunately, you already died of old age 400 years ago. Even if you go out now, you are still different from the person you were before.”
“Gah! And ya expect me to recognize the face of someone else’s kid? Get outta here with that bullshit.”
It seemed as if he truly did treat his descendants as if they were strangers, so his earlier statements were true after all. Expressing no real interest in living a second life, Reid cracked his neck.
“Ha, you really have no regrets...?”
“Ya know. My style is ta do things whenever I wanna do ‘em. I think it would be a lot easier for ya if ya did that, ya know.”
“...I appreciate your guidance. But, that path would be a lot more difficult for me.”
He willingly chose to wear that shell. Even if he was told that he just pretended to be something he wasn’t, or that he acted differently from his true self, it didn’t matter.
Julius, though he was dazzled by the carefreeness of Reid, could not choose that path, for he knew that it would have been better for him to choose it, and to do as he wished.
When Reid heard Julius’ answer, he snorted. Then he pointed at the wound on his chest—on it were the cracks that had formed due to going beyond his body’s limits, as well as the stab wound—
“You, ya aren’t mistaken, are ya? It was just a stroke of luck that your sword reached me. If this were my body, ya wouldn’t be able ta do shit.”
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all in that case...”
“Huh! That ain’t exciting!”
After spitting that out, Reid struck Julius on the shoulder with the hand that had been pointing at his chest. Stiff as a statue due to his sudden movement, Julius took deep breaths.
He was not yet convinced of everything yet, nor had he been able to take everything in properly. But the thing occurring right in front of him was much more unnerving, and it would have been more unbearable for him to be upset and miss this moment.
The cracks were widening and the end was near. And so Julius brought his knight’s sword up and held it in front of his face—
“I respect your swordsmanship from the bottom of my heart.”
“I don’t want your respect, ya bastard. —It was my win, and I’m ‘bouta head out, Julius.”
Hearing him call him by his name, Julius fell into a state of wonderment. However, since he had already decided to not be upset, he hid his surprise behind his smile and respectfully bowed once.
He had proudly declared that he was the Finest of Knights in the presence of this legend. So there was no reason for Julius Juukulius to be ashamed of the ideals and appearance he strove after.
“Yes, from beginning to end. —It was your victory, Reid Astrea.”
“Ha, that’s a good look on your face, loser.”
After he said that, the cracks on Reid Astrea’s body began to widen.
Contrary to its appearance, the cracks on his body continued to expand without making a single sound. Without even the sound of glass shattering, the red-haired figure vanished as the light flickered—and what was now lying on the white floor was a small, white-eyed boy.
A disgusting being known as Bizarre Eating who ate the Names and Memories of others whenever he wished. Roy Alphard, the Sin Archbishop of Gluttony, had fallen onto the floor and let out a whimper before going silent.
Whether he was alive or dead, Gluttony didn’t move an inch from where he lay. However, the deep wound on the left side of his chest was proof that he had been fatally injured. Observing this, Julius lowered the knight’s sword that he had just lifted up as a sign of respect, put it into its scabbard, and looked behind him.
The sixfold light had returned to normal, and now their individual auras increased in intensity around Julius. Without the power of his girls, who had blossomed from buds into maidens, it would have been him, and not the other guy, who was lying on the white floor.
Julius wanted to express his gratitude and appreciation for what they had done, but for now, he could only apologize to them and postpone that until later.
He then slowly moved forward.
While walking, he could see someone else coming his way—a small, delicate woman with blue-green eyes. She was dressed in white, which didn’t seem to match the sand dunes at all, and had long, wavy pale purple hair. Under her feet was a white fox who was shaking anxiously. Her appearance, which was supposed to be in the form of a scarf most of the time, meant something big had happened.
Realizing this, Julius closed his eyes. And—
“—Nice to meet you.”
Just like how he did a little while ago as a challenger, he decided to restate the same statement he’d said to the Sword Saint to her. But the feeling in the back of his chest was different from the feeling he got when he was in a battle. And some things did not change.
It was like opening the first page of a new story about a boy with an adventurous spirit who longed to be a knight.
She responded to Julius, who had knelt on the ground and spoken first. Staying in that position, he waited for her following words. He felt as if he could wait as long as she needed. He believed that if he simply waited patiently, he could hear that person’s words.
“—I am Anastasia Hoshin.”
“I want everything in this world... So, what’s your name, good-lookin’ guy?”
Halfway through, Julius could see how she smiled while tilting her head with her hand on her cheek. While kneeling, with his head lowered, he let out a quick “Ha.”
“I am Julius Juukulius. —Your one and only knight.”
“You may have forgotten it, but, I have dedicated my sword to you. I will do everything I can for you and support whatever you wish to do.”
Giving the most respectful salute he could muster with his knight’s sword on the floor, Julius finally looked up. No matter how his lord responded, he would not regret anything. Being upset, puzzled, and looking down was not how a knight should act.
Because it was none other than Julius who longed to look better and be better dressed than all others.
And, looking down at him, she narrowed her round eyes—
“Is that so? I don’t remember that... However—”
“—With a single look, I had a thought. —I knew that ya just had ta be mine.”
In his immediate view was his lord, with glittering, flaming eyes that sought after him, who was never willing to part with the things she desired.
Julius Juukulius again pledged his sword to that Greed that desired everything.
Like the king and the knight of that story, it had been a divine act—
The bond between the master and servant had been restored on the second floor, Electra.
One of the obstacles that Natsuki Subaru had told everyone about had been overcome.
The Second Trial of the Great Library of Pleiades: Finished.