“Shen? I heard from Miss Amanta that you wished to see me-… Eh? From where did you get this beautiful rose?” → Sylvia
She sheepishly entered the room, only to see me with a serious face staring at the rose in confusion. After she saw the flower her face brightened up instantly as she walked beside it to look at it closer. With shining eyes and a beaming smile, Sylvia now stared at the white rose while she gently caressed the closed petals. Seeing her expression change so much only because of a flower made me look at her in a daze then shake my head confused. Without thinking about it too much I simply said:
“If you like it that much, why don’t you have it? It was mine after talking it out with Elsey, but now you can have it if you love it that much.” → Shen
Sylvia suddenly turned my way and stared at me with big eyes, looking as if thinking that she might have heard it wrong.
“W-what?” → Shen
I was somewhat surprised by her reaction as I asked confused. She then took the rose in her hands and walked beside me, a small smile on her face. I got up from the bed and stared confused at the rose that she showed to me, thinking that it might be something wrong with it. Right then, her calm and melodic voice resounded as she started to explain to me.
“Shen. I don’t know how it was back on the Earth you’re coming from, but here, a white rose represents pure love. Bestowing a pure white rose upon someone else means you’re offering your heart to the respective person with a wish to marry. Will you still gift this flower to me?” → Sylvia
Her last words resounded with a slight tremble in her tone as her eyes slowly looked up at my face while talking.
At her explanation, I looked at her then at the rose and simply shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t know of any tradition or flower-language. I’m just thinking that this rose kind of resembles you. So why not? You can have it.” → Shen
“What about the explanation I just offered you?” → Sylvia
A frown formed on my face as I lightly shook my head.
“I am unable to offer you my heart, even if I’d wish. See this?” → Shen
I then showed her the tattooed chains on my arms and neck while I explained with a dark expression.
“This seal is temporary. Something that only makes me aware of when the devil’s powers are showing more enmity than normal. What truly keeps the devil from escaping is me myself by closing him down with two heavy metal gates in the deepest parts of my soul. You’re asking me to give you my heart, but that would mean to free the devil as well, something that I’m unable to risk yet.” → Shen
Hearing this, Sylvia’s eyes widened, as she wasn’t aware of this. She then lowered her head but still smiled lightly.
“However, that means you still wish to open up to me, don’t you?” → Sylvia
“You truly hear whatever you want.” → Shen
“Hehe~.” → Sylvia
Her bright smile made me think that nothing could ever make this person feel down. She then looked affectionately at the flower and asked with some surprise in her voice.
“But how come you’re gifting me this flower? Have I done something for you to be happy about?” → Sylvia
“No… You can say it’s some kind of pay-back…” → Shen
“Pay-back?” → Sylvia
I scratched the back of my head while staring outside at the cloudy sky, thinking about how I should explain myself.
“It’s just… I forgot everything about you. So I’m thinking that, if I really was such an important person to you, then me forgetting you must’ve caused quite a bit of pain. I think… If that rose makes you feel better, then I’m all for you to have it.” → Shen
I felt really cheap by trying to pay back for some of my mistakes with just a flower. However, Sylvia was thinking otherwise.
“Thank you, Shen. Thank you.” → Sylvia
Crystalline tears fell atop the closed petals and green leaves as Sylvia’s head lowered even more, trying to hide her face. This kind of reaction made me unable to think right for a moment as I rushed toward her and asked confused.
“W-wait, what happened?! Why are you like that all of a sudden?! Have I said something wrong-?!” → Shen
Unable to finish my words, Sylvia suddenly raised her head and on her tiptoes, she reached out and surprised me with a kiss on my lips. Although sudden, I was unable to take a step back as our lips continued to be sealed, her tears continuing to fall down her cheeks. After a while, she released my lips and rested her head on my chest while she dearly held the rose in her arms.
“You truly have no idea how much I tried not to cry when I heard the news… When you rushed at me with the intent to kill… when you forgot about me… My heart shattered multiple times only thinking that you might never be able to love me again. I said many times before that I’ll accept whatever decision you’ll make in the future. But… knowing that you might leave me for good… I was unable to accept it, Shen…” → Sylvia
“…Sylvia…” → Shen
This would be the first time I’ve seen her cry and show so much pain and frustration. I always thought she was ridiculously strong, a being above mortals. At such a point that I even forgot she’s just a 19 years old girl. And the thought that I was the one to cause all this pain made me feel even more conflicted.
“I’m… sorry…” → Shen
This would be the very first time since I woke up after being possessed by the devil when I sincerely apologized with my all.
Then she looked at the rose in her arms and smiled lightly, feeling my heartbeat a new kind of rhythm, but so familiar to her.
“Shen.” → Sylvia
“Yes?” → Shen
“This rose… can I take it as you offering your heart to me… as a future promise…?” → Sylvia
“…Sylvia. I told you I’m-“ → Shen
“Unable to… I know. But still… Can I?” → Sylvia
Being unable to see her face, I simply sighed as I shook my head helplessly then answered lightly.
“As you wish…” → Shen
“Thank you.” → Sylvia
She then looked up again and quickly landed another kiss, this time on the tip of my nose, and left the room with a blissful smile on her face.
I was left somewhat confused as to why she was so happy, but then I simply gave it no mind and thought about what to do next. I stared out the window only to see William talk with a worried expression on his face to Alexander right beside the gates of the villa.
“I’m begging you, mister Alexander! Please stop those monsters from reaching my village!” → William
“Oy oy oy… Even If you tell me that. Aren’t there around 3 rank-A monsters? Even though I’m of Grandmaster power-rank, fighting 3 of them on my own might prove to be quite challenging. Besides, my techniques have been forged to be used against skilled humans, not huge beasts.” → Alexander
With a troubled expression, Alexander tried to explain himself but this only made William more panicked.
“Just what’s happening here?” → Shen
I suddenly appeared beside the two outside the courtyard and asked with some curiosity. Disregarding the difference in rank and power, William hastily grabbed me by the shoulders and started talking in a panic.
“F-founder Johan! Please help me with this one time and I’ll forever be indebted!” → William
“Lord William. Please calm down. Alexander, mind explaining?” → Shen
While William was taking his breath, Alexander started explaining with a rather complicated expression.
“It seems that a few villagers that left to hunt inside the woods for some meat, returned back with only some human remains of their own companions while being covered in blood and-“ → Alexander
“Just explain what’s the commotion about, damn. Keep out the useless details.” → Shen
I had no reason to listen to Alexander’s bloody image as I rushed him for the info.
“Alright. Well, everything is about 3 rank-A monsters that suddenly appeared beside the village. As I already told you, it seems that a few villagers already meet their maker.” → Alexander
“You mean that a few villagers met with 3 rank-A monsters and still returned alive?” → Shen
“Hahaha~! Sounds fishy, aye?” → Alexander
“W-what are you two talking about?” → William
Seeing my serious expression and Alexander’s sharp eyes, William’s face started to pale even more than before. Then, Alexander explained amused while his aura made the air to ripple.
“Isn’t it obvious? Those damn monsters just played around with the villagers and made them run back to their mamas and papas.” → Alexander
“Eh…?” → William
“Meaning: they used the tormented villagers as a trail toward this village to reap more prizes… It seems that these monsters are quite smart.” → Shen
I explained then turned to William that was already sweating bullets, asking him to show me the way to where the demonic beasts have been spotted the last time.
“Oy, hold on, boss. You can’t be serious? Going solo versus 3 rank-A? Shall I help?” → Alexander
“No, it won’t be necessary. I’ll be fine on my own. I need to let go of some steam anyway.” → Shen
“If you say so… By the way, soon I’ll be meeting with one of my men. Any special orders?” → Alexander
“Yes. Find the location of the former Firewings from Elsey, send some men towards them, and bring them to me. If they show resistance then don’t force them. Just say: Shiroko is searching for you. They might prove to be more inclined to socialize afterward.” → Shen
“Alright. Finally, something to do.” → Alexander
Afterward, I separated from Alexander as I followed William toward a forest on the other side of the village. While going through the village, everyone seemed to stare with worry, fear, and despair everywhere around, as if thinking about what they should do if the monsters reach these places.
“Are there no adventurers in this village?” → Shen
I tried to start a conversation with William who seemed just as panic-stricken as the others.
“N-no… This is a rather remote village with a fortress pretty near these places. Normally there should be no demonic beasts strong enough to endanger the village… At least not of rank A.” → William
“But there are still rank A suddenly appearing at random?” → Shen
“I-I’m not sure myself. It never happened for Rank A monsters to appear so close to our village, not even B, rarely C.. Maybe at the more remote villages. But not this one.” → William
“… All I can say for now is, everything has a beginning.” → Shen
I found it quite suspicious for such strong monsters to suddenly appear in this village with a fortress nearby, but I quickly gave it no mind as we shortly arrived at the entrance inside the forest.
“F-founder Johan. Are you sure about not taking Sir Alexander with you?” → William
“And do what? Hold me back? I’m more than enough. Now go back and prepare some tea for when I’m done. Also, let the village know that there’s nothing to worry about.” → Shen
I shot out right inside the forest as I focused on my energy, feeling my powers shot up.
[AP: 1200 → 1300 → 1400]
In an instant, I reached the peak of Saint power-rank as a strong aura suddenly struck me.
A ferocious double-headed Tyrannosaurus Rex with brown skin and black cracks all over his body suddenly appeared from between the humongous trees. Inside the jet-black eyeholes of the two heads, red dots shone with malice and resentment as they stared down at me.
[Human… You rotten race… I will make you PAY!]
An ethereal voice resounded from inside the open jaws of the two heads, resounding with hate and contempt. With strong tremors after every step, the two-headed T-Rex shot out towards me. Although slow, one could tell just how deadly would be to be stuck between the jaws of a two-headed T-Rex.
“Hmm… I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but let me first test my powers for now.” → Shen
Just as one of the heads was about to bite me, I reached out with my two hands and blocked the strike with surprisingly quite the difficulty, making the monster stop only after leaving a humongous trail behind of around 20 m distance, uprooting huge trees and going through tough boulders. The monster was quite tall anyway, being even taller than William’s villa, but the fact that it took me a while until I stopped it made me raise an eyebrow as I held onto the head’s two jaws with both arms, locking it open.
This monster is stronger than what the rank says. Maybe is an A+? Or S-? What’s for sure is that this lizard is stronger than an A. → Shen
[Cursed human. Let go!]
The other head opened its jaws toward me and I was able to feel the elements of earth and darkness mixing together to form a fearful spell.
“Oh, now you guys know magic? You sure are filled with surprises.” → Shen
A brownish dark beam struck me in full and whipped the area behind me for quite a distance. Trees fell with rumbling sound as parts of their trunks disintegrated after the beam.
Feeling how his jaw was still unmoving, the double-headed T-Rex growled in fury.
“Me… What about me?” → Shen
I smiled amused as I felt that beam being more beneficial to me than harmful. Containing a lot of dark elements, all I had to do was to absorb the darkness and more than half of the beam’s power got reduced.
“Hey. Before we continue, where are your friends? Weren’t there 3?” → Shen
But just as I finished talking, a spike as huge as 2 of me put together struck me in full and sent me flying through 2 great trees in the vicinity.
[Rex. What took you so long?]
A hydra with the body of a lion, wings of a vulture, and two heads of a lion and vulture, swung its spiky tail in a threatening manner, being as tall as Rex and having the same eyes and dark cracks on its body.
[Do not dare mock me… Hydra… Org should be finishing the human… just about now-]
Rex growled just as threateningly but just then a loud roar resounded from where I was sent flying and then with a booming sound, a body just as huge as the former two, was sent flying through numerous trees, crashing on the tree right beside Hydra. Both beasts looked at the one that was sent flying, only to see a humongous body of a half-gorilla half-ogre with two heads, one of the before mentioned beings. Just like the other three, its body was filled with dark cracks.
The monster growled in pain as its chest was bent inwards with a fist imprint on it.
Right after, a lightning-fast object was sent flying toward the Hydra who jumped to the side attempting to dodge, only to feel a stabbing pain on one of its wings. When it looked back, it saw the spike it sent flying just a few moments ago, now returned through its own wing, forming a bloody hole and rendering the wing useless.
[Who are you?!]
Hydra roared with a mix of fear and fury. From through the cloud of dust that rose after sending the gorilla flying, I stepped outside the bushes and appeared with a small hole inside the shirt at the stomach area.
“Whew. Quite ferocious there. Striking at vital points so sneakily when you’re this powerful. Aren’t you a wary one?” → Shen
I asked with a wild smile on my face. I intentionally lowered my AP to 1100, reaching Grandmaster and preparing for combat.
“Let’s play, shall we?” → Shen
I took a fighting stance as my aura suddenly boomed with a dark shine.
“It seems I struck your friend there a little bit too hard. Just for you two, I lowered my power so you won’t die from one strike.” → Shen
Hearing my mocking tone, the two monsters rushed toward me while cursing loudly.
[You cursed humans! You call us monsters, but you never look at yourselves!]
Hydra shot out in the air and with a loud roar from its open beak, it formed humongous blades of wind, slashing and cutting everything in front.
“Okay, just what the hell are you on about-“ → Shen
I tried to ask while dodging, but right after another beam of dark earthy element struck me from the side, making me block it with a barrier of darkness by reaching out with one hand.
[Thinking of the living as tools…. using your own kin as toys to dissect… You disregard Mother Nature and spit on Her face to satisfy your desires…]
As one head was shooting the beam, the other one growled in contempt.
“Just hold on. What do you-“ → Shen
[Spiteful creatures. May you burn in the depths of Hell!]
Hydra shot downwards toward me, the vulture head preparing to bite my head off. But just as it was about to take a bite, my irritated fist landed on the Hydra from atop, burying one of its heads in the ground.
“I. said. HOLD ON!” → Shen
I shouted in rage as I disappeared and reappeared under the T-Rex, grabbing the lower Jaw from both heads and strongly shook them once to make the T-Rex fall and lose consciousness from the shock of having their jaws dislocated.
“QUIET!” → Shen
The half gorilla half-ogre from before appeared behind me and was ready to hammer me on the ground with both fists raised, only to have another dent appear on its body, this time in its stomach, being sent right back flying with blood spitting out from both heads’ mouths.
“Goddamnit! My powers reacted to my emotions again…” → Shen
I looked with some dissatisfaction at my AP that was now 1600 once again, without me really wanting for it to reach such levels.
Hydra finally released the vulture’s head from under the ground; however, the head was already done for like half of the body was now incapacitated. I slowly walked toward the Hydra of which Lion’s head was still awake and stepped in front of it.
“So if one head is down, half the body stops working? Then that means is a matter of time until you’ll die for having half the organs shut down.” → Shen
The lion head said nothing as the one that talked till now being the vulture. However, it still growled something.
[Kill me… Human…]
“Huh?” → Shen
I was left dumbfounded as I was unable to understand why a demonic beast would give up that fast. Normally, such strong monsters won’t show their weak side no matter what. But this time, this lion was asking for his death without even trying for a last struggle.
“What are you saying, Hydra?” → Shen
[I am no Hydra… I’m Rau, the king of the forest… I won’t accept the name you humans bestowed upon me….]
The lion growled weakly as its two red shiny dots stared at me with indignation and hate. With a frown, I stared back at him and infused some energy in Rau so he could have more power to talk.
[Are you going to “repair me”… then “break me” again… human…?]
His tone was hateful as he started scratching the ground with its only working claw and forming deep claw-marks on the earth in contempt.
With a neutral tone, I answered while continuing to infuse my energy inside Rau, trying to keep it alive for as long as possible.
“Wrong. I need you to give me more information. Your companions said something about dissecting and whatnot. Mind explaining?” → Shen
[I have nothing… to explain… Just kill me.]
Feeling its stubbornness, I stopped infusing energy inside the half-lion and stepped closer toward Rau. I grabbed a hold of his mane and raised his head, locking eyes with him.
“Listen up, Rau. I don’t need your trust. I only need your cooperation. If you explain to me what happened for you to hate humans this much, then I might be able to do something. At best, I could even make whoever turned you into a hydra to pay for this. That’s why I’ll ask once again. What happened for you to hate humans that much to even leave out the other races?” → Shen
[…In that case, human… You better listen well… for I’ll speak once… about the wrongdoings of your shrewd and disgraceful race…]
“Give it your best, Lion King Rau.” → Shen
Afterward, the news I heard from Rau made me stare in space, shock being written all over my face.
The ground was trembling while huge boulders and blocks of earth started to levitate everywhere around me. The clouds began to swirl while the humongous trees to shake violently from the wild wind that ruffled my clothes and hair, together with everything around.
[AP: 1600 → 1700 → 1800 → 1900 → 1980 → 2030 …]