Carlyle began his explanation matter-of-factly, “There exists a race of people who excel at controlling Dark Power, and Darkness refers to their descendants, y’see.” He then paused for a moment and continued, “…Ah, if anyone has any questions, you’re welcome to ask whenever.”
“Then I’ll ask right now,” I said, throwing him a question, “What is Dark Power?“
“I don’t really understand it too well myself, but it’s said to be derived from the primordial power source of the spells we use. As such, Dark Power supposedly makes use of some powerful secret arts that we don’t know about. Oh, how scary.” Carlyle chuckled, then went right back to the topic, “Then, a bunch of heroes defeated Darkness’ primogenitors and founded this kingdom. To make a long story short, royalty and a lot of high-ranking nobles are those heroes’ descendants.”
“Why were Darkness’ primogenitors defeated?”
“Y’see, together with the King of Darkness, they tried destroying the world.”
“Destroy the world? But they were humans too, right? Is there any point in doing that?”
“They had a doctrine: ‘Return everything to the chaos of Darkness‘ as they put it. A world submerged in primordial Darkness was the world and era they wished to bring about.” Carlyle then briefly paused. “But the thing is, like you mentioned earlier, they were all humans. It was only natural that they didn’t want to die, so none of them really gave a damn about their doctrine. Not until that man—the King of Darkness—showed up, that is.”
“The King… of Darkness?”
“Yup. The King revived their ancient doctrine, incited the others by saying that destruction was their one true calling, and set out to bring ruin to the world,” Carlyle said. “Hiding his face behind the Mask of Darkness, he wielded the Cursed Sword Dáinsleif with his body forged of steel. Records say that he was peerless in strength.”
A masked, sword-wielding man—
Everything that happened just a few days ago flashed into my mind.
“…Was he the man I fought at the academy?”
“While it’s true that he inherited the King’s equipment, that man was the Son of Darkness, but they’re both the respective leaders of their generation. The first leader is the King of Darkness, and every other leader thereafter is called the Son of Darkness. That’s pretty much the gist of it.” Carlyle fell into thought for a brief moment and continued, “There’s a reason only the first leader is called the King of Darkness: it’s because he hasn’t died yet.”
“He isn’t dead? Isn’t he ancient?”
“He’s been sealed. Apparently, he was too powerful, and no one could kill him. Our ancestors had to make do with sealing him away,” Carlyle said, taking out a rectangular object from his clothes and placing it on the table. “And the key to his seal is this Seal of Darkness.”
“HEY, HEY, HEY! ARE YOU REALLY JUST STROLLING AROUND WITH THAT THING?! ARE YOU EVEN ALLOWED TO?!” Firvus, who had been silently listening, raised his voice in abject shock.
“Hahahaha!” Carlyle laughed. “The academy has their hands full with the Kingdom Festival and the previous disturbance, so they can’t lock this thing away, even if they want to. I’m keeping it with me until things settle down. Aren’t you relieved that I’m the one holding onto it?”
“Well, I guess so, but…” Firvus trailed off, his face still half in doubt.
Ignoring him, Carlyle continued, “The Seal of Darkness isn’t the only thing they need. This seal is one of five ritual items, and parts of the King of Darkness were sealed inside each one. Darkness’ goal is to collect all five ritual items and reawaken the King of Darkness, after which they’ll destroy the world,” he said. “We successfully managed to drive back Darkness this time around. However, they’ve been scheming about in every corner of the Kingdom for quite a while now… All-out war is inevitable. We’ll get wrapped up in a battle for the world’s survival, whether we like it or not.” Carlyle looked at me. “Albert, we’re pinning our hopes on your Magic Arrow. I want you to lend us your power.”
Then, Carlyle looked at Laura. “Laura, I want you to support Albert in his endeavors. He needs your cheerfulness and strong sense of morals.”
“Understood! I’ll do my very best!”
Carlyle nodded and opened up a box on the table. “Albert, Laura, take these with you,” he said, taking two rings from the box. “Y’see, these rings nullify poison.”
“…Poison?” I raised my eyebrows in response. He kind of just dropped a bombshell.
“Not only does it resist poison, but it also defends against a wide variety of ailments and the like. They were quite expensive, you know. Don’t go off and sell them in secret, alright?” Carlyle flashed a smile, but he immediately made a solemn face thereafter. “I don’t know how seriously you two take the threat of Darkness, but now that we’ve come face-to-face with the Son of Darkness, it’s best to be on the safe side.”
“Understood,” I said, putting my ring on my left index finger.
“U-Um!” Laura began speaking. “I-I-Is it really alright for me to have something so… expensive?!“
“Of course it is, Laura. Also—I want you to reevaluate yourself. You play a much bigger role in the grand scheme of things than you think. You’re standing at the forefront of it all as well, so I’m expecting great things from you.”
“…T-Thank you very much for the kind words!” Laura placed her ring on her left pinky finger.
Carlyle took a good look at us, then wrapped up the conversation. “Our battle with Darkness will only grow fiercer from here on out. I have very high hopes for the both of you. Let’s pull out all the stops to uphold the peace of this country, alright?”
I replied with a strong nod.
I’m a noble of the Kingdom, and nobles are duty-bound to protect their country. I had no objections.
This was for my country—as well as for the citizens who call this country home.
I’ll do absolutely everything in my power to help.
“Albert! Let’s both give it our best effort!”
—this was to protect her smile.
“You got that right,” I said, giving her a smile.
A little while after the Kingdom Festival ended, Laura and I ended up seeing off a student.
“…Thank you. I’ll be fine on my own from here,” a girl said, stopping at the school entrance and turning to face us.
Her name was Liz.
When Laura and I couldn’t see each other very often, she grew close to Laura.
And in fear of failing her test, she signed a Dark Contract with Sarles, accidentally injuring Laura with the very power she obtained.
It was decided that Liz be expelled.
The academy’s reason was that she cheated on her test.
Needless to say, that was just a cover-up.
In actuality, the Kingdom likely felt nervous about leaving someone contaminated by Dark Power in the academy, resulting in their decision.
“Take care, Liz…” Laura said solemnly.
“Yeah, you too, Laura,” she replied. “I’m really sorry. I ended up injuring you…”
“It’s alright! Don’t worry about it! I’m totally fine! Couldn’t be better, in fact!” Laura said. She smiled ear-to-ear, more cheerfully than she usually did.
“…You really are nice, Laura.” Liz then looked at me. “Thank you for saving me back then, Albert. If it weren’t for you, Laura would’ve been—”
“And I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way. Don’t dwell on it.”
“Yeah…” Liz nodded, her expression inscrutable. She looked back at Laura. “Hey, Laura.”
“It’s true that I approached you on Sarles’ orders, but… I’m, um, really glad I got to talk with you.”
“Me too! I’m super happy I got to talk with you!”
I’m sure Laura meant that. She wasn’t the type to reply with whatever during a conversation.
Laura must deeply cherish the time she spent with Liz.
“I wish I got to know you sooner. I regret not doing so… Someone as openhearted as you would’ve rebuked me for considering Sarles’ offer.”
“Surely not… I don’t think I’d rebuke you…”
I then cut in, “She’d tear you off a strip.”
“Huh?!” Laura reacted in shock.
“She’d also give you an earful and lecture you about it.”
“HUUUUH?!” Laura shook her hands back and forth. “I-I wouldn’t! W-W-W-What he really means is that I’d give you emotional support! That’s all!”
“Hahaha, I know. I’m just kidding.”
In response to my cheerful tone, Laura squinted her eyes. “I didn’t know you could tell jokes, Albert.”
It’s pretty embarrassing when my unsociable personality is pointed out in front of me like that. I don’t really recall ever telling a joke to Laura, come to think of it.
“But I’m a bit happy.” Laura smiled.
Liz then called out to her, “Helloo? I’m still here, you know?”
“AH, I’m sorry!”
“Hehe, I’m glad to see you two get along so well.” Liz squinted her eyes as she looked at us, as if she’d seen something dazzling. “Well, the third wheel is gonna make herself scarce now.”
“Huuh!? W-W-W-W-W-What do you mean by that?!”
“Hahaha! I didn’t mean any harm, so don’t get so flustered! But I’d best be on my way now. My time here has come to an end,” Liz said, looking up at the school building. “My dreams were dashed, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve come to terms with it. I can’t deny that I wasn’t up to par here. I can prove useful for the village just by being any old magician, so I’ll give it my all there.”
“Liz…” Laura gave her a sad look.
Liz gave Laura a pat on the shoulder. “I told you, I’ll be fine. Just keep me in the back of your mind and cheer me on, Laura.”
“I’ll cheer you on with all my heart, Liz!”
“Ah, isn’t this the part where you rebuke me, Laura?”
“Yup. Laura’ll rebuke you with every fiber of her being.”
“A-A-A-Albert?! You too, Liz?! I won’t do anything of the sort, alright? I’ll cheer you on, alright?!”
After getting a good laugh, I told Liz what I needed to tell her before she left, “Liz, I’ve succumbed to my own weakness, too. I still regret it to this very day. Some people mock me for it. However—” Laura and Flin flashed through my mind, “—there’re people who believe in me, too, and that alone gives me the strength to push forward. I reckon there’ll be times where the bitter memories you made here will weigh you down, but keep your head up high and keep forging through. I guarantee there’ll be people who’ll reach out to you in the future.”
Liz stared at me in surprise, but before long, she chuckled and said, “You say some surprisingly nice things, huh, Albert?” Then, she continued, “I’ll do my best. I’ll engrave your words right here!” she proclaimed, patting her chest with her finger. “Well, I’m gonna get going now. Thanks for seeing me off!”
Liz turned her back to us and left the academy campus.
Laura watched her go and muttered in a dispirited tone, “Liz got scarred because of Darkness… I want to make it so that this never happens again.”
Carlyle spoke of Darkness’ schemes, but I never thought they’d already extended their reach to the academy, the heart of the Kingdom. I need to brace myself for what’s to come…
Yesterday’s second chap. This was longer than I thought, so posted a bit late. This marks the end of book 5, and book 6 is the last arc. The web novel is on hiatus right now, and it unfortunately doesn’t seem like it’ll be updated any time soon. I have a chunk of the next recreator chap done already, so I’ll start on that now, thanks for reading.