Chapter 3 Part 6
I had a bad feeling about this, so I went into town looking for Anastasia….
── And I was right.
I mean, why is it that only terrible premonitions like this can come true?
Anyway, Anastasia is still dazed mentally and is being assaulted by a group of thugs.
Of course, there’s no way I’m going to overlook this.
I headed towards the thugs and grabbed the wrist of the man who was trying to tear off Anastasia’s clothes.
“Sorry, but that’s my companion”
I twisted his wrist, and it snapped.
“How dare you!”
A thug attacked me from behind, so I turned around and gave him a straight right to the face. |Editor’s Note: “Straight Right” In boxing, basically a power punch using your right hand.|
I felt an unpleasant squishy feeling on my fist. A single blow was enough to pulverize his nasal bones.
“Now, only two left”
A kick to the right knee and a karate chop to the clavicle later.
Each of them was left in a state of pain and agony.
The sound of the men collapsing with a heavy thud echoed through the back alley, and so I called out to Anastasia.
“Hey, Anastasia? You’re really troublesome, aren’t you?”
“Um, er… troublesome…?”
It’s like her heart isn’t there.
The incident must have been quite a shock since there’s no color… or rather, life in her eyes.
“Why did you steal the Raikiri from me?”
“…That’s… the special slave crest…”
“I shouldn’t have asked that question, I’m sorry. So let me ask again. Why didn’t you tell me anything?”
“…The slave contract is absolute, it’s the core of the social system. Even if I tell Ephthal-sama, it’s obvious that there’s nothing you can do about it…”
“It’s obvious that there’s nothing I can do about it, you say? Hey, Anastasia? I’m Ephthal Alcott”
“In other words, I’m one of the legendary Four Emperors”
“The legendary… Four Emperors?”
Anastasia gave me a blank look that screamed, ‘What is this guy talking about?’.
Well, the legendary Emperor of the Thunder God has already passed away four hundred years ago, so that reaction is natural.
“Hey, Anastasia? The act of contracting slave contracts is the core of the social system, you say? What does it matter?”
“Even though things may appear this way, I still work hundreds of times harder than other people. Hey, Anastasia? Don’t measure me… with your standards of common sense”
I gave the same unclouded smile that I had given Merlin after our last magic duel.
Then, I briskly placed my palm on Anastasia’s head and caressed her.
“── Don’t underestimate Thunder-sama too much, okay? I picked you up. I picked you up knowing the whole story. Don’t worry, I got your back”
Gradually, the color returned to Anastasia’s eyes.
Anastasia’s expression then changed to one of relief, just as Merlin had before.
“What’s the matter? Anastasia?”
Anastasia said to me with tears in her eyes and a perplexed face.
“…Uh… um… I can’t do it… anymore. I’m sorry. Please… help… help me”
“Yeah, I’ll take it from here”
I beat on my chest with a thump.
After the incident ──
“I see, it’s more or less as I have imagined it, but that’s the situation, huh”
In the dining room of Ephthal-sama’s mansion.
I explained to him, with tears flowing down my face, what had happened so far.
Then a steamy teacup was placed in front of me.
“…Have a drink”
“Um… uh… Merlin-sama?”
The nice aroma of herbs wafted from the tea served.
“Don’t make me repeat myself. You must be cold, aren’t you?”
For the first time, I feel like this person has shown me a compassionate smile.
Well… I guess Merlin-sama is a compassionate person, after all. Then suddenly, master clapped his two palms.
“Alright, drink that, and then we’ll get started”
“Er… get started… with what?”
Master nodded and replied.
“We’re going to break the curse”
We descended the long, long spiral staircase of the mansion.
After a couple of minutes of descending to the depths of the mansion, the three of us reached a large room.
“What is this place?”
In a white space about a hundred meters on each side.
It was a room with an advanced defensive magic circle drawn on the wall.
“Um… what is… this…? I’ve never seen… such a defensive magic circle… before”
“It’s a Level 10 defensive magic circle”
“Um, uh, er… le… level 10…?”
Merlin-sama gave a small nod.
“The long-standing art performed by all Four Emperors. Well, the Emperor of the Fire God was quite reluctant though…”
“Haha, well, he wasn’t very cooperative, after all. I had a hard time forcing him to admit that he lost the poker game, too”
“Ephthal-sama has always been unbeatable at poker, after all”
That’s where I became speechless.
“Um, uh… Merlin-sama…?”
“Hm? What is it?”
“Er… is it really true that… master is one of the legendary Four Emperors…?”
Merlin-sama nodded proudly.
“Yeah, it’s true. It appears to be reincarnation. On the contrary, it would be unlikely for one such as me to serve anyone but Ephthal-sama himself, wouldn’t it?”
“No, but… this is just insane…”
“Hey, what do you know?”
“As master’s apprentice, I concluded that there was no other explanation. That’s what I thought the moment we got under each other’s skin with magic”
“Don’t you measure my master ── with your common sense”
Hearing that, I chuckled.
Well, master really is the reincarnation of the legendary Four Emperors, huh?
After all, both the master and apprentice said the same thing…, “Don’t measure Ephthal-sama with your common sense”.
Besides, there’s the fact that a heroic figure as great as Merlin-sama said that, “there was no other explanation”.
That’s what she thought when they were comparing each other’s magic at the time, I cannot help but judge it as highly credible.
“…Master? So what is this place?”
“Aah, it’s one of the best underground magic laboratories in the world. This is a durability spell cast by the Four Emperors’ ritual class magic. There’s no other facility with higher durability than this one. It used to come in handy for mock battles between my apprentices, or with me even”
Master then approached me and bluntly said, “Take off your top”.
“…Take it off?”
“Just take it off”
As instructed, now that I’m showing my underwear, master touched the slave crest on my shoulder.
“Um… what are you really planning on doing…?”
Master grinned at me ──
“── We’re going to do it by force”
And that’s what he said. Honestly, I have no idea what he was saying.
Be that as it may, master is going to perform the technique of breaking the curse of the slave crest on me.
I can use that technique, too.
However, if I do that without achieving the conditions needed for the release of the slave contract…. Then the contract beast lying dormant within the slave crest would appear in this world… and pass down judgment due to the forced termination of the slave contract.
“…Master? Merlin-sama? At this rate…”
“Yeah, I know. A contract beast will appear in this world, and those who interfere with the execution of the contract will be erased. It seems that not long ago, a small country consented and tried to annul a contract… that led to the country’s ruin”
“…Could it be that… you’re going to fight head-on against… the contract beast that is akin to a God?”
“No, but… that’s not something that… mortals can do, after all. Isn’t that why magic contracts are woven into the core of our social system?”
Merlin-sama, checking her favorite staff, said.
“What are you talking about?”
“…No, but… forcefully annulling the contract… is none other than the miraculous work of God…”
“Ephthal-sama said he would do it. And I will assist him. All the preparations are in place, you know? In other words ──”
Merlin-sama kept silent for a moment.
Then she took a deep, deep breath and said.
“── What is about to happen is not a miracle, but it’s just inevitable”
They are seriously going to have a fight with a God, and they intend to win.
I gulped as I saw them smiling at me.
But… it had me thinking.
It is a general term for those who dwell in the spiritual realm, one stage higher above the mortals.
That is to say, a being that is everywhere and nowhere.
That is because they don’t possess a body of flesh, but are with the atmosphere as a spiritual being.
God is a very conceptual entity, and its origin is spontaneous existence due to people’s collective unconscious interfering with the will of the macrocosm in the first place… well, let’s not go into the details.
At any rate, God is a conceptual living entity that lives off the energy of people’s spiritual activities.
To put it simply, it can either be nice or frightening to have such a being exist.
It’s easier if we think of it as the embodiment of people’s unconscious envy and fear.
For example, the Goddess of Mercy rarely performs miracles in regions where plagues are rampant.
And at other times, the God of Destruction would stir up major earthquakes or turn great forests into wastelands with meteorites.
They generally get energized by spiritual activities in the form of faith and awe, but of course, the world of Gods is also tough.
They have to get people to recognize, worship, and fear them. So, a God who is not well known in the first place is… well, it seems to be tough.
The point is that if they disappear from people’s awareness completely, their very existence disappears.
Now, back to the contract beast.
There were once guardian beasts called the Four Divine Beasts in the Eastern Island Country.
Genbu. (Black Tortoise)
Suzaku. (Vermilion Bird)
Byakko. (White Tiger)
Seiryu. (Azure Dragon)
They were originally Gods who were said to protect the country from supernatural disasters.
However, about a thousand years ago, the country itself had disappeared, and the populace who believed in them instantly diminished.
It was then that a great mage made contact with them and proposed a new role for them as they were about to disappear.
That is ── the enforcement of the contract system.
It is still the same today, but there are many people with a shallow sense of morals in the past.
Naturally, promises and contracts were meant to be broken in this world, and the social system was in a somewhat troublesome state.
That’s when a genius mage was commissioned by the Grand Chamber of Commerce to create a basic social system that would make people honor their contracts.
The genius mage’s new role for the Four Divine Beasts is to be a strict God, punishing those who violate contracts.
Although they’re nowhere to be found, they’re there… they are certainly everywhere.
Furthermore, for them, who have absolute power, it is simple to punish the mortals with their power.
The type of punishment depends on the type of contract, but it starts with removing a finger, and the most severe punishment is death, just like mine.
Well, that’s how they went from being revered for protecting a country from supernatural disasters to being feared.
Thus, the contract became absolute in the world, and the Four Divine Beasts escaped the fate of disappearing from being forgotten by people.
No, that’s not all.
They became widely known as the contract beasts and successfully made people always aware of their existence….
If anything, they became more powerful.
── Naturally, the power is not that of the former divine beasts… not of the low-ranking Gods that were on the verge of disappearing.
Needless to say, they’re beyond what mortals can handle, so they’re feared and revered as Gods.
But Merlin had said.
“── What is about to happen is not a miracle, but it’s just inevitable”
Still… I have my doubts.
Are they really going to fight against God… and plan to win…?