Dawn of the New World Novel: Toki no Negaiby Sara Yajima
Long ago, the Giant Kharlan Tree, the essence of balance and order in the world, withered and died. By the will of the heavens, the world was cleaved in two.
Many years later, the Chosen of Regeneration planted a new World Tree to take the place of the withered Giant Kharlan Tree.
The birth of the New World Tree also brought about the unification of Sylvarant and Tethe'alla. The two words were now reborn as one.
The world was at the dawn of a bright new era. Or so it seemed…
The girl panted as she ran. There had been an uproar from behind her.
(Nobody’s following me. They’re all probably after Lloyd.)
That was what the girl told herself. If it were not true, she would nearly dropped that which she held in her hands: a bright red orb with a crest. She meant to prepare herself for that, but her heart was beating too fast.
She had joined the others at the meeting in Palmacosta, and managed to steal it away. That Lloyd Irving was planning to attack the same area was a coincidence.
The girl knew that Lloyd was revered by many as a hero of the world regeneration. Yet those of her own company regarded him a man who ought to be despised. Looking up, she saw the sign of a bar that she recognized. Inside, it was completely dark.
(They managed to escape...)
She heard that the Palmacosta Wine served there had grown poorer in quality since the climates had become unstable. Were it not for the current circumstances, it would have been a good time for men to come and drink.
The girl pressed her back against the wall of the bar. Her body was hot from running, and the coolness was a welcome relief. She could hear the ocean waves beneath her feet.
(What should I do now...?)
Before anything, she needed to get away. When she covered her eyes against her hands.
"There she is!"
Suddenly she heard men's voices. From the sound of their footsteps, there seemed to be ten of them.
"Seize her. I'll follow Lloyd."
The girl opened her blue eyes wide, and raced towards the lighthouse.
Scorching hot deserts were blanketed with snow.
Bountiful lakes dried up and withered.
Forests burned to ash, as glaciers melted into the sea.
Emil Castagnier sat on his bed in utter boredom. He reached for his fishing rod, as if remembering something. "Aw, why did the Vanguard meeting have to be today? I wonder if Thomas joined them, too..."
Thomas was his neighbor, a fisherman of a good nature. He'd treated Emil, an only child, like he was his own brother. That day, they had promised to go fishing together.
(Thomas hates the Tethe'allans and the Church of Martel, so he probably did go.)
Palmacosta had set a curfew upon its younger residents. It wasn't likely that they could go fishing. Unable to leave or see his friends, Emil spent the day within his house. If he ate dinner too early, there would be nothing else to do.
“Hmm, maybe I’ll sleep early tonight,” he gave a large yawn, when something red flickered in the corner of his eye.
It was from outside the window. He rose up to open it.
“Why is the sky so red…?”
In the darkness, he saw the townspeople running. Among them were others who wailed and screamed.
Somewhere farther off, he heard an explosion. As Emil tried to lean outwards with his hands on the window, he heard a violent rapping on the front door of his house.
“Reysol! Reysol, what are you doing?!”
(Somebody’s calling for Dad…)
“Reysol, you have to escape! Go any slower and Lloyd will kill you! The Vanguard meeting was attacked. That’s not all! Lloyd involved everyone else wants to kill us all, too!” Emil heard “Lloyd”, which surprised him.
“Lana! Bring Emil here!” This time, it was his father who shouted. Soon enough, he heard the footsteps of his mother running up the stairs.
(Lloyd? Did they mean Lloyd Irving? A servant of Colette, the Chosen of Regeneration? Why is he...?)
"Emil, come here!"
When Lana, who burst into his room, grabbed him by the arm, Emil could no longer think.
"This way! Hurry!"
"Y-yes," following her husband, Lana nearly tripped over her skirt.
Docked at the port was a burning steamboat. To its left, within flames that seemed to scorch the heavens, they saw a lighthouse. There was no end to the screams and bellows. It was terrible to behold. Emil's legs froze.
"Emil, hurry! We must get away or we'll all be killed by Lloyd!" After Reysol urged his dearest son, his mouth remained open. Emil noticed a shadow appearing on the steps leading to the lighthouse.
"Who did you say is going to kill you?"
"Lloyd Irving!" His father's eyes were wide with fear. Emil looked up at the man surrounded in fire.
(It's Lloyd! His red clothes, his spiky hair...)
Emil had seen Lloyd once before, when he visited the city along with the Chosen of Regeneration. The Lloyd that he was seeing now was eerily calm. The hero looked was as if he was filled with a quiet anger.
Lloyd slowly crossed his arms, and drew his swords. "The people of Palmacosta have aided the Vanguard and undermined the authority of the Church of Martel and the Chosen." The blades gave off an eerie glow. "The punishment for this crime is death." He leapt, and struck Lana as he landed.
When Emil rushed towards his mother, Reysol grabbed and shoved him back. "Emil, run! Get away from here!"
As Lloyd watched father and son, a light smile crossed his face.
Just as Emil turned around, he heard his father's cry. And he could feel a presence strong enough to tear the skies just behind him.
Fortunately for the girl, the men had divided into two squads. The others were ordered to follow Lloyd.
"Wait!" Nonetheless, she was chased into an alley with a dead end. Four men in uniforms slowly closed the distance towards her. When she felt the wall on her back, she knew that there was no way to escape.
And, without thinking, she placed her forehead against the jewel in her hands—Ratatosk's core. "Help me. Help me, Ratatosk!"
A dazzling light surrounded the girl. Somehow, she felt the core's radiance had entered her. Yet her awareness of it was interrupted there.
"Are you all right?" came another voice.
When she came to, the girl realized that she was lying on the stone pavement.
(I remember...a bright light...)
She felt something strange on the left side of her forehead. The red light reflected on her palms, as if they were grasping it. The light flickered again and again, almost like it was breathing.
Timidly raising her eyes, she saw a boy with long white clothes staring back. And behind him, the uniformed men were also lying on the pavement.
"Are you the one who saved me?"
The boy didn't answer. Though he had asked her if she was alright, he himself looked indifferent.
Then there came a thin howl.
"That's Tenebrae's howl," the girl said as she stood up, fixing the ornaments in her hair. The discomfort on her forehead had largely disappeared.
"I have to go." Suddenly, the boy had nervously turned around. It was as if he no longer had concern for the girl anymore.
"Wait! What's your name?" the girl hurriedly call out, but the boy disappeared into the darkness without a reply.
He didn't know why he was walking. But he had to go. So he continued walking, towards the smoking lighthouse. He paid no attention to the burning buildings, or the raining sparks, or the crackling sounds they made.
Someone was calling him—Words that weren't words were urging him on.
After climbing down the stairs, he stopped. There were two people on the ground, surrounded by swirling smoke. Without expression, the boy kneeled there.
The man was no longer breathing. But the woman opened her eyes when she felt him. And, most unexpectedly, reached out a trembling hand. "Emil, you came back."
"Oh, dear. I can't even see your face. I'm not going to last much longer. But you, you have to live."
Her left hand found the boy's knee. "You have to run before Lloyd comes back. Go to Luin. To your Aunt Flora. Hurry."
Her pale fingers slipped. She moved no more, and the boy gently reached his hand to her.
The boy realized who he was.
It was a howl that broke his sleep one early morning.
"Nn..." Emil Castagnier strained his ears in bed.
He heard it clearly this time. Emil suddenly rose.
"That howl...I feel like I've heard it before."
Yet he could not remember from where he'd heard it. Thinking it may just be his imagination, he left his room and descended to the lower floor. Though it was his room, it contained only a plain bed and minimal furniture. However, to have a room at all after suddenly coming to live with his aunt and uncle would surely be something to be grateful for.
His aunt Flora was in the kitchen, stirring a soup pot. His uncle Alba had already left.
"Good morning, Aunt Flora."
Emil's and Flora's bodies froze for a moment.
Concealing her displeasure, she glared at Emil. "Monsters have been going down into the lakebed since dawn!"
(So those are monsters' voices...)
"Why are you apologizing?"
When he was asked, Emil couldn't answer. "Uh...um..."
Despicable child, Flora called him, "Always so indecisive. You're hardly like Lana at all. You must take after Reysol."
Emil first came to live with his relatives six months ago. Before Lana had never taken her son to Luin. Maybe it was consideration for her younger sister, who couldn't bear children, or maybe it was her tense relationship with her brother in law, given his violent temper. Now, there was no way of knowing.
"I'm sorry." Receiving his soup from Flora, Emil took some hardened bread, and uneasily ate his breakfast.
Upon leaving the house, Emil sighed in relief.
Alba may have told him to keep silent, but there was nothing to do in the house anyhow. Flora would ask him to help around, but she would also scold him heavily small mistakes—misaligned plates, bookcases with some dust left. In some instances, he would also be blamed for the bad weather. It didn't take long for him to realize that it wasn't his actions that they despised, but himself.
Fortunately, Alba was out patrolling, and though Emil managed to go out without being seen by Flora, there was nowhere in particular for him to go. Young children rushed past him. They spoke to each other in excited voices.
(It must be nice to have friends. I'd want one, too...)
He heard the howl once more.
"There's that howl again...It sounds like it's coming from the fountain plaza."
Emil headed for the plaza, passing several signboards on the way. They were there because some time ago, the city was invaded by monsters. Luin was a city known for withstanding many crises. Monsters appear at present, but the city watch had long since learned how to take care of such matters.
When Emil arrived at the fountain plaza, he slightly knit his eyebrows. This was because a statue of Lloyd Irving stood in a place where it would easily grab others' attention. The statue had its swords in its arms, as if preparing to charge at its enemy. As the city's residents pass it, they would always pause to pay their respects.
When Emil first beheld this spectacle, he was bewildered.
(Why are they doing that to a statue of Lloyd?! He attacked Palmacosta...he killed my parents...!)
Surprisingly, the people of Luin did not believe that the attack on Palmacosta was Lloyd's doing, regardless of Emil's status as a witness. They strongly consider Lloyd as a hero because of the many lives some time ago.
(I can't stay quiet...)
"Lloyd..." He glared, biting his lip. Soon enough, he heard a very mean voice from behind him.
"Hey, Emil, we saw that!"
"Bow to Lloyd the Great!" It was the twins, Dida and Moll. Whenever they see Emil, they corner him like prey.
"I already did,” Emil said.
"No you didn't!" they replied in matching voices.
(What now...? I didn't think they would see me.)
"You don't like Lloyd the Great, do you?"
"That's why you're trying to destroy our city! Because Lloyd restored it to its former beauty!"
"What are you talking about?"
Don't act dumb, the twins said, standing on either side of Emil so he wouldn't escape.
"Ever since you came here, Lake Sinoa's dried up and there're more monsters!"
"You're planning on getting your monster friends to attack the town, aren't you?!"
"Of course not!" Emil shook his head frantically.
"Okay, then prove it!"
"Swear your allegiance to Lloyd the Great right now!"
"If you do that, then we'll believe you!"
The twins nodded in agreement. "Come on, let's hear it!"
(Swear my allegiance? They can't be serious! But...if I refuse, they'll...)
Emil reluctantly faced Lloyd's statue, his head bowed. "I swear allegiance...to Lloyd the Great."
"We can't hear you!"
"Say it a little louder!" Dida and Moll jeered.
"I swear allegiance to Lloyd the Great!"
Dida was indignant at Emil's half shameless outcry. "Hey! Are you trying to make a fool out of Lloyd the Great or something?! Have you forgotten that Lloyd is the hero who saved our town?!"
"But...still..." Emil desperately tried to explain. "I've said it before...that he attacked Palmacosta. He killed both of my parents..."
"And who's gonna believe you?" Moll asked.
"It's true...Lloyd killed my parents and I'll never swear allegiance to that murderer!"
"We heard that!"
"So that's how you really feel!"
The twins were no longer smirking.
Emil slowly stepped back. "No...That's not what I meant to say."
"Shut up, you monster!"
"We'll teach you a lesson!"
Emil was roughly pushed back. "Waah..!"
He collided against a man who was walking by, before landing on his bottom. Flustered, he looked up, and saw a face that was far from amused. His hair was red, and grew to his waist, and through his glasses, his face had a very cold expression.
(Ah, what should I do...?)
Upon reaching for Emil, the man addressed Dida and Moll. "...Get lost."
"Who the hell are you?!"
"I said go!"
With a cry from deep in their throats, the twins ran away as fast as they could.
"Uh... I, um..." When Emil finally stood up and timidly spoke to the man, he saw the latter had gasped. Additionally, there was a growing glint in his eyes.
"You! You are..."
"Yes?" He didn't understand. He wanted him to repeat what he said.
(What is it?)
The man continued to stare at the silent Emil, until, suddenly, the sparks in his eyes disappeared. "Never mind. You know, you should stand up for yourself."
Once the man had walked away, Emil was able to take a breath. Yet his heart was beating violently.
"I was too scared to even thank him for that. Maybe that's why I haven't been able to make any friends."
(I wish I had friends. But I guess, I guess that'll never happen.)
You know, you should stand up for yourself, he recalled those words in his mind.
" 'Stand up for myself.' He's right. I should thank him for helping me out the way he did. That's what I'll do!"
(You just have to say, "thank you". That's it.)
Clenching his fists, Emil ran.
He found the man after crossing the bridge. He was standing before a statue of Raine Sage. The city had a statue not only of Lloyd, but of others who played an active role in the World Regeneration. Emil first thought of him as a tourist who visited for the statues, but he quickly dismissed it. It would be strange for a tourist to visit when there were monsters in the city, and usually tourists themselves would look more like they were enjoying themselves.
"What is it?" The man had noticed Emil's presence and looked over his shoulder. As expected, he still wasn't smiling.
(Maybe this was a bad idea.)
"If you've got nothing to say, then I've got something to ask you."
"O-okay!" Emil squeaked.
"So they said that your name is Emil." When Emil nodded, the man asked, "Well, Emil, have you seen a girl around here with a red jewel on her forehead?"
Surprised at his question, Emil stammered. Naturally, he hadn't seen such a girl. "Uh, I, uh...no, sir."
"What are you so nervous about?"
The man heaved a sigh in exasperation. "Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality."
"They're words a human with a few screws loose said long ago. When you refused to swear allegiance to Lloyd, didn't you feel courage welling up inside of you?"
Wondering if it's true, Emil wanted to tilt his head.
"Those who would grovel and beg, or run away at the first sight of another's anger are dogs. Or even worse," the man scathingly declared, and looked into Emil's face. "Are you a dog? Or are you really a man?"
The man continued, having expected that he would receive no answer, "Just try to do your best to be a man, Emil," he said, before quickly walking away. Though his words were stern, Emil wondrously felt no contempt or pity in them.
"Courage...The magic that turns dreams into reality." Courage, Emil reflected on the man's words. "I'm not a monster. I need to stand up like a human being!"
Having left the plaza and arriving at the mayor's house, there came the howl again.
"It sounds like it's coming from the lakebed." Emil listened carefully. Indeed, it was coming from Lake Sinoa. "What should I do? I want to know what it is, but I'd be leaving town to go down there. Aunt Flora will get mad if I leave without permission."
There came another cry, this time sounding impatient. It was as if it were trying to speak to him.
"Why do I feel like monsters are calling me?" Dazedly, Emil began walking towards the bridge at the entrance of the city. Before long, he sighted the men of the city watch. They were familiar faces, as they lived in the same vicinity.
(Oh no...I can't let them see me!)
Emil was just about to give up leaving the city.
"Alba! What is it? Is something wrong?!" a man's voice came. And crossing the bridge from the other side was his uncle.
"Tch, it's you," Alba clicked his tongue at his nephew in displeasure. "Get the hell out of here, you!"
"Little nuisance. Thanks to your little grudge against Lloyd the Great, there are rumors that
our family's secretly supporting the Vanguard. Go home and keep your mouth shut! When I get home, so help me..." Alba raised his weapon threateningly, "Just the sight of you puts the whole town in distress!"
The other man interfered, calming him down. "Forget about the Vanguard-loving brat, Alba. Did something happen?"
Alba pointed to the lake, hastily explaining, "Monsters I've never seen before showed up in Lake Sinoa's lakebed! Several members of the city watch are down!"
"I'm going to gather reinforcements. Go tell the mayor what happened!"
Both men no longer took notice of Emil. Thrown into panic, they ran off.
(It's gotten quiet all of a sudden...)
It was Emil's chance to see how things were.
The howl came at a peculiar timing, as if its owner were watching him.
"That howl again...If I go now...I could make it down to the lakebed...but...everyone will get mad at me..."
Hesitantly, he hung his head, and remembered the man's words from before.
Those who would grovel and beg, or run away at the first sight of another's anger are dogs. Or even worse.
"...I'll go. I'm not a dog. I'm a human being." Emil finally raised his head.
How long had it been since the lake dried up? People have told Emil that it was dry since he arrived, but he didn't know the specifics. This was the first time he left Luin since he arrived. Emil's legs began to weaken with guilt.
(What should I do? I made it this far, but...)
There wasn't a single drop of water on the lakebed. The moss that had grown underwater had all dried up, and grass stood in its place. Neglected as the water level got lower, there was a wrecked boat on the earth. Additionally, there was an eerie dark hole that would've been invisible under the water.
Emil strained his ears, but could hear nothing. But when he heaved a sigh, his vision suddenly darkened. When he lifted his head, a giant bear-like monster was looking at him.
For a moment, Emil wondered if this was the monster who'd been howling.
(No...this isn't the one...)
He immediately drew his sword. It was a plain thing that his uncle gave him, but it's better than nothing. Yet he hadn't swung it at all.
"I...I don't know how to use it!...!"
When the monster gave a loud roar, Emil frantically thrust his sword. As expected, he was knocked away, and fell onto his back.
"I'll die if this keeps up...I wanna go back...!"
The monster's eyes shone.
"Watch out!" As Emil thought it was over, something leaped out from the side of the lake. It was a girl wielding spinners, knocking the giant monster down. After landing safely onto the lakebed, the girl stretched her hand to Emil. It was the second time today; how pathetic of him.
"...Oh." As Emil said his thanks, he noticed that she was rather pretty. Her blue eyes were especially pretty. She had long hair, adorned with white ornaments. The girl was about to stay something to him when her expression grew stern. The monster had stood up again, and turned to them.
"It's not over yet!” the girl asked without looking back to him. “Are you gonna fight with me or run?"
"Come on. You're a man! Speak up!"
Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality, Emil recalled the man's words again. They're words a human with a few screws loose said long ago. When you refused to swear allegiance to Lloyd, didn't you feel courage welling up inside of you?
Emil rushed to retrieve the sword that the monster knocked out of him.
Though he said he would fight, he couldn't move around or adapt to the situation. He'd done the same as before, he merely swung his sword. The monster extended its long arms towards Emil again. The last time this happened, the sword was knocked out of his hands.
"Stop it! No!"
The girl beside him leaped. "Crescent Dance!" Her spinners struck the monster repeatedly, until she managed to bring it down.
Growling, the monster writhed on the dry lakebed.
Awestruck by her arte, Emil forgot to land the finishing blow.
"Haa!" The spinners sliced across the monster's throat, and were sheathed before the monster grew still.
When the monster stopped breathing, Marta Lualdi turned to face the boy who'd sighed, "It's pretty dangerous here, so you should probably get going." When she looked at him, she recoiled in shock. "Hey, it's you!"
"Huh? Wh-what do you mean?"
The slender build, the blond hair, the bright green eyes—
"You don't...you don't remember me, do you?" Placing a hand on her chest, she peered into his eyes, "Maybe I'm wrong? But you look just like him."
(He was from that night...)
The girl was remembering the night Palmacosta was attacked, an event now known as the Blood Purge.
(He was...the person who saved me, right?)
"Wh-what are you talking about?" the boy tilted his head curiously.
It's nothing, Marta replied. She knew her memory wasn't at fault, but there's nothing she could do if he couldn't remember. There was no time for her to remain idle. "I'm sorry. Anyway, you should leave here as soon as you can, okay?"
"Uh, wait a minute!" As she was leaving, the boy called after her.
"Yes, what is it? I'm in a hurry."
"Uh...I wanted to thank you for saving me. My name's Emil. So...um...what's your name?"
"I'm Marta. Is that it?"
"I-if it's dangerous here...then maybe you should leave too..."
(What a sweet boy!)
Her cheeks flared, "If things get dangerous...will you save me again?"
"Mm...but you were the one who was kind enough to s-save me."
"Ahaha. You don't remember, do you?" She watched as the boy scratched his head in confusion. "I'm sorry to confuse you. But I really have to get going. Take care of yourself, Emil!"
The girl called Marta started to leave for a second time. Her bangs swayed, revealing her forehead. There was a red object etched on it, shaped like wings., and glittered like glass.
"A red jewel on her forehead...!"
Have you seen a girl around here with a red jewel on her forehead? the man had asked him. Emil wondered if Marta was the girl that the man had been looking for.
(I should probably...let him know...)
He memorized where she went—the dark hole that seemed to be a cave entrance—but he climbed onto the bank without examining it further. As he ran, he remembered Alba telling Flora about a cave he discovered after the lake had dried up.
(Did that girl...go in there?)
When he returned to the city, nothing had changed. The twins would catch him if he returned to the plaza. He felt bummed upon thinking that, but thankfully, he recognized the man's figure standing at window in the mayor's house. He was speaking with the mayor himself about something.
Arriving at the entrance, he slightly opened the door and peeked in. The man saw Emil immediately.
"Emil, do you already know Richter?" Surprised by their acquaintance, the mayor looked at the both of them.
Emil entered the house, remembering that the man was named Richter.
"I asked him earlier if he knew of Marta's whereabouts."
So it was that girl, after all.
"I see," the man quickly nodded.
"What is it?" Richter stared at Emil through his glasses.
"Well, um, the girl with the red jewel on her forehead, I..."
"You saw Marta?!" Richter grabbed Emil's shoulders.
"Yes. Well you see..."
"Just calm down and try to explain what you saw, Emil," the mayor gently pressed the disoriented Emil. He knew how the city was treating Emil, and felt that, as its leader, it was his responsibility to exhibit the greatest compassion.
"Lake Sinoa...where the monsters come out. Just before..."
When Richter interrupted him, Emil hung his head.
"Mayor, I'd like to take him with me," Richter pulled the boy to his side. "Can I count on you to take me to where you saw Marta?"
"Y-yes..." Of course he wouldn't refuse. He went to Richter to tell him about Marta in the first place. Emil nodded. When he saw this, Richter decided that there was no longer a need for him to be there, and went outside.
"He certainly is determined," the mayor expectantly knit his brows. "Take him to where you saw the girl. Just be careful of monsters, all right?" With that, he guided Emil outside.
"I'm ready now. I'm sorry to keep you waiting." When Emil left, he found Richter waiting a short distance away.
"You apologize too much. Of course if you want to become a dog, I won't stop you."
"I'm sor...oh!" It was too late to stop himself. "Sorry..."
Richter sighed in exasperation, "Stop apologizing. Anyway, I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier."
"Richter..." Just as Emil was about to relax, he was harshly addressed again.
"What are you waiting for? Hurry up and take me to where you saw Marta."
"Y-yeah!" Emil began to walk. They descended to the lakebed, and approached the cave's entrance. But standing in front of it were Alba and his companions. Upon recognizing Emil, his face flushed with anger.
"Emil! You came back again?! What's wrong with you, you demonic little brat?!"
The others spoke loudly, so as Emil would hear.
"Hmph! A friend of the Vanguard, indeed."
"He may be your nephew, but you sure took in a real pest."
"I'm...I'm sorry," as Emil continued to apologize to the city watch, Richter, who had been silent, began to speak.
"The mayor's given his permission for Emil to accompany me. Step aside."
"The mayor? But..." Alba wondered how his nephew knew this very unpleasant man.
"Move!" When Richter yelled, the men moved both left and right, opening a path.
"W-w-wait! There are monsters in there."
"I'm telling you it's dangerous! You can go if you want, but leave him here with us!"
"Didn't you just call him a demonic little brat?"
"Tch..." Annoyed, Alba held his tongue.
"Emil, what do you want to do?"
When Emil hesitated, Alba interrupted. "Emil! You stay with us!"
Looking at this, Richter decided that remaining here any further would be a waste of his time. "Make up your mind. Even dogs can think for themselves." As he said that, he quickly made his way into the cave.
(That girl Marta had said something to me... "Come on. You're a man! Speak up!")
"Who the hell does he think he is?!" Alba snapped as Richter disappeared into the cave. "Come on, let's go." Alba tried to drag his nephew towards the city. But Emil would not move.
"I'm going with him."
As he ran into the cave, he realized that this was the first time he stood up to his uncle. He can never take it back, but he strongly believed that was a good thing.
As he was walking in the dim light, he turned around. No one had followed him. Relieved, he descended the stairs in front of him. As he he did, he wondered why there would be a place like this at the bottom of a lake.
Unexpectedly, Richter had waited.
When Richter caught a glimpse of Emil, he bluntly replied, "Let's go."
"Aren't you coming with me?"
"Don't get in my way. You're responsible for protecting yourself. I'll bail you out if things get too tough."
"Okay!" His spirits raised, Emil responded loudly. Then he heard his voice echo.
(Still...why would anyone build a cave here?)
Because of the glistening crystal pillars that lined the walls, Emil was able to advance without losing sight of Richter. The cave itself seemed to be part of a ruin.
"Um...why are you looking for Marta, Richter?" Emil asked earnestly, trying to keep in step with him.
"Is that something you need to know in order to live?" Richter asked back, adjusting his glasses.
"Um, no...I was just wondering."
"I have no need to satisfy your idle curiosity."
After being flatly refused, Emil realized that he'd been out of turn. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize so excessively."
"Uh..." He'd done it again, he thought, and slumped his back.
Seeing this, Richter crossed his arms and softened his voice, "I am often accused of being short with people. I don't intend to change my ways, but it doesn't mean I have anything against you."
"Thank you!" Emil exclaimed, his body straightening.
"That's not something you need to thank me for."
His shoulders slumped again.
With a short sigh, Richter continued. "We must express ourselves to convey our feelings to others. However, I feel emotions lose their strength once they're put into words. So I prefer to speak only what is absolutely necessary. That's all. This is the first time I've ever had to explain this much to anyone." Then he walked on, showing no impatience.
(I can't tell if Richter's a nice guy or not...)
Emil then continued follow the man's back, guided by the pillars' light.
A large door stood in front of them. Engraved upon it as was a crest he had never seen.
"Master Richter!" a high pitched voice echoed. Emil was quick to react.
"Wh-what was that?" Emil thought that the voice sounded female.
"Probably just a monster. Don't worry about it."
"Of course I'm going to worry..."
(He said it's a monster. But why would it say "Master Richter"?)
"Then you can wait here."
"Wh-what about you?"
Richter approached the door before looking back at Emil. "There's a monster in there. Probably a strong one. Wait here until I take it out."
"You'll just get in the way. Stay here."
At the stern command, he could no longer protest. "Okay..."
When Richter placed his hand over the crest, it glowed. The door opened without a sound. He went inside. When left behind, Emil let out a sigh. There's no reason for him to defy Alba further. What would happen if monsters suddenly came out?
"I'm just...not cut out for this sort of thing..."
When his knees fell to the ground, he heard a scream. It was different from the previous voice.
"Was that Marta?!" Emil stood up once more. There was nothing strange about her being here. "What should I do? What can I do?"
He recalled Marta's blush. If things get dangerous, will you save me again?
"I don't know anything about her..." he shook his head. He indeed had no memory of her. "I may not know, but...I can't just ignore it."
His hand trembled as he touched the door. Holding his breath, he quickly entered through. And he nearly cried out.
It was Marta, after all. But even stranger was that Richter was aiming his sword at her. "Now, hand over that Ratatosk's core on your forehead."
"...No," Marta shook her head.
(Ratatosk's core? What are they talking about?)
"Then I'll just have to destroy it along with you." Richter lunged at Marta with his sword raised.
"Stop...stop it, please!"
Without realizing it, Emil's feet pushed hard on the ground. He charged several steps ahead. "Richter, what are you doing?"
Marta's face changed upon recognizing Emil.
"I thought I told you to wait on the other side of the door," Richter scowled with annoyance.
"This...this is why you were looking for her? So you could kill her?!"
"Because she is trying to awaken Ratatosk, the demon lord."
"Demon lord?" Emil's mind went blank. Demon lords only existed in children's books. "Richter, what are you talking about?"
"I agree, it's quite a foolish name," Richter gave a cynical smirk. "But "demon lord" is the most appropriate term to describe what he is. If Ratatosk awakens, the world will be destroyed."
"No, you're wrong!" Marta cried. "He's the lord of all monsters. He won't destroy the world!"
"I'm not interested in semantics." Emil watched with dread as Richter prepared his sword.
(I don't know what's happening, but if I leave things like this...!)
Emil quickly shoved Richter with his shoulder.
"Agh…!" His side struck, the young man lost his balance and fell down. Emil continued to stand before him. "What are you doing, Emil?! Step aside!"
"Move!" Richter revealed his anger as he recovered. Emil's shoulders trembled.
"I'm not a dog! That's why I'm going to make my own decisions!"
"Emil..." Richter had a moment's opening. Marta turned around and opened the door behind her.
"Thank you!" She looked back to tell him, before rushing inside.
"I don't want to kill you. Move!"
Emil raised his shaking arms to block the way, and looked desperately at Richter's face. "I...I don't really understand what you two are talking about, but you can't do things like this! If you just talk this over—"
"I thought I told you not to get in my way." He fixed his glasses while looking down at Emil. "Aqua!” he called, “Show yourself!"
And from the darkness, a blue creature appeared. "You called, Master Richter?~"
(Ah! That's a monster! And it's floating!)
It had long blue hair and pale skin. Its clothes were white, and there were fish earrings on her fin-like ears. Her feet didn't touch the ground, as if it were natural. In fact, its feet didn't even seem at all human.
Richter looked to Aqua, and commanded her towards the shaking Emil, "Take care of the boy. Just..."
Don't overdo it, he added. Then he left them to follow Marta. Aqua quickly descended towards Emil.
"A talking monster?!"
"Who're you calling a monster, you human! I am a Centurion! Centurion Aqua!" she snapped with a frown. She raised an arm, "Now then, my cute little minion. Remove the boy from our presence!"
"Aah!" Emil let out a scream at the violent presence. Suddenly, a tortoise-like monster had appeared before him.
(This is Centurion Aqua's servant?")
"Aaaaah!" Without thought, Emil was thrown out of the room. "O-ouch..." He fell hard on his bottom, but rose up again to follow Marta and Richter, walking unsteadily. His back and feet hurt with each step he took. Naturally, he could not see Richter anywhere. "What was that? I won't be able to catch up with Richter with that thing in the way."
As he murmured to himself, he could see the door. It would seem that he had ventured very deep into the cave. Thinking that if those monsters were waiting for him he would be thrown out again, Emil reached out a hand towards the door.
Then he heard a voice.
"You must forge a pact."
This time, the voice was male. Then a four-legged creature was approaching Emil. Though it seemed like he walked, he was actually floating. It's entire body was black. It also looked like it wore a lapel and a tailcoat.
"Another talking monster?!"
But he was not a beast, he denied calmly.
"I, too, am a Centurion. Centurion Tenebrae."
"You could never defeat the monster on the other side of this door as you are now. Forge a pact to become a Knight of Ratatosk." His intelligent eyes twinkling, the Centurion continued, "then you will be able to accept Lord Ratatosk's power in battle."
"Wh-what do you mean?"
(Ratatosk...the demon lord? Wait, no...the lord of monsters?)
Unable to understand any of what was happening, Emil tilted his head.
"There is no time to explain. Lady Marta is in danger."
"But I mean, you're just a monster—a Centurion, I mean—and I...I don't know if—"
Suddenly, Tenebrae raised his head and howled.
"That howl. Were you the one calling me?" Emil was taken aback.
"Lady Marta was looking for you. You saved her life and she has chosen you to be a knight."
(I saved her life?)
Emil then remembered that Marta had said the same thing. Even though he was sure he had no such memory of it.
"Now forge the pact!" Tenebrae hastily urged Emil.
"I don't even know what you're talking about."
"Well then, I suppose we'll see how long you last against the monster by yourself." Quickly eyeing the door, Tenebrae turned his back on Emil.
Tenebrae's long tail swayed as if in mockery.
(What should I do? I can't help Marta if I don't defeat that monster, and I can't do that until I become a knight...But what does a knight even do?)
Emil closed his eyes shut, and told the black Centurion, "I-I'll make the pact."
"Understood," Tenebrae nodded, knowing that this would happen from the very beginning.
"Emil, I command you. Unleash the power within yourself."
Tenebrae's black form began to emit a strange glow as he gazed on Emil.
"Awaken, Hunter of Evil!"
Emil couldn't keep his eyes open from the brightness. But no, he realized, it wasn't the brightness. Something was engulfing him.
He bent forward to shield himself from the light, but he felt something gradually growing inside him.
It struggled in his body, and made Emil cry in near anger as it burst.
He leaned forward, having accepted the power——
(What is this feeling...?)
When Emil raised his head, he found himself wearing clothes he bore no memory of. The coat reached his knees. The scabbard that sheathed his sword also had a round pouch attached to it. A scarf wrapped his naked shoulders.
(These clothes match Tenebrae's...do knights really wear this?)
"Wait...is this magic?" he thoughtlessly asked as he looked down at his shoes, and Tenebrae didn't deny it.
Then, Centurion Aqua drifted into the room. She must have meant to check on Emil after he was thrown out. When she noticed Tenebrae, her eyes flashed. "Spiteful Tenebrae! What are you doing here?!"
(Oh, that's right, they're both Centurions...)
Emil thought them to be well-acquainted. Yet, Tenebrae did not address Aqua, and said, "Let's go."
Angered, Aqua yelled, "What! You wanna fight?! You're gonna regret this!"
At that moment, Emil wrinkled his brows, and closed his eyes tight.
"The only one who's gonna regret this is you."
He spoke roughly, arrogantly——
He opened his eyes again, now glimmering red. If Richter were here, maybe he would be see the crest of Ratatosk's core flickering in those fierce eyes.
"Now, come on!" Emil drew his sword, and lunged at Vortex, Aqua's new monster. Vortex—who was also female—evaded at a frightening speed, changing into a more liquid form. Emil struck the monster with all the strength of his sword arm. Undefended, he continued slashing.
How was this so? He knew nothing of fighting, but there was no doubt in his mind that he wouldn't lose.
"Demon Fang!" With a screech, Vortex used Torch Song to heal herself.
"That's not gonna work!" Emil watched the monster with cruel eyes, and delivered the finishing blow with impeccable timing.
After defeating Vortex, Emil kept still for a few moments, his face blank. His movements were clearly not his own. Yet, he was still himself.
"Wh-what just happened?" Emil shook his head in disbelief.
"Lord Ratatosk's power took hold of you," Tenebrae answered without regard.
"It felt like I became someone else."
"Yes. That was Lord Ratatosk's power."
"I'm not quite sure I understand." What was that surge of power? It was strong, with no fear or hesitation. It was him who fought with it, and felt that he was well out of his limits. He didn't even feel like himself as he was fighting.
"Anyway, what happened to Aqua?" he asked, directing his green eyes at Aqua. She had fallen to the ground, and wasn't moving. "I didn't even touch her!"
"Centurions themselves do not fight. They employ monster servants to battle in their place. If their monsters are defeated, the Centurion's power will also fade. Right now she is only unconscious."
"Oh, that's good.” Emil was relieved to hear that he posed no threat to her life. “I didn't want to hurt her."
"Come. We must go after Lady Marta!" Tenebrae urged, and they ran to the door. But it wouldn't budge.
"It...it won't open."
"Richter must have sealed it off."
"Then what should we do?"
Marta was in danger every moment they stalled. Yet Tenebrae remained cool. He raised his nose ever slightly.
"I feel a draft. There must be another passage somewhere," he informed Emil. "Perhaps you should use the Sorceror's Ring to examine the walls. That ring was given to you by Lord Ratatosk, as a symbol of your pact. Magical power dwells within it. There, on your finger."
He realized for the first time that he had been wearing a ring. "But I'm a human. Only elves and half-elves can use magic," Emil observed with a tilt of his head.
"Don't worry. That ring can be used by humans as well," Tenebrae responded promptly.
"R-really? I guess I'll try it out." Emil timidly pointed the ring towards various portions of the room. The wall on one side then moved.
"Th-the wall opened!" He looked back.
"This may lead to where we need to go. Let's proceed," Tenebrae pressed once more.
(It's dark in here, too...)
Emil entered the darkness with frightened footsteps.
"Somewhere along the way I got all new clothes." Afraid that the darkness might swallow him if he kept silent, he tried to start a conversation Tenebrae. "Are they really magic?"
"Along with the Sorceror's Ring, those clothes are a symbol of your pact with Lord Ratatosk."
And with that, their conversation ended.
"Ah, a wolf." Some time later, Tenebrae suddenly called out.
Flinching, Emil looked into the darkness. He could see one monster heading towards them, its eyes glimmering.
"It will do nicely. Let us forge a pact."
"Pact?" With that scary thing? Emil frowned. Tenebrae kept his distance from the wolf.
"Your power as a Knight of Ratatosk is granted to you by Lord Ratatosk himself. However, he is currently in a deep slumber. As a result, the power he grants you is very weak," he said.
"This is weak? No way." Emil shook his head, recalling his power from earlier.
"We Centurions share a bond with Lord Ratatosk. If power is restored to the Centurions, Lord Ratatosk's strength will return as well. We can accomplish this by forging pacts with monsters."
Emil then understood that he would become stronger if he forged the pact as Tenebrae says. "But how do I make a pact?"
"Like this." As he spoke, Tenebrae advanced towards the wolf and threw himself against it.
"What are you doing? Look, the wolf's really mad now!" Emil panicked. The monster approached them, its thick tongue stuck and drooling.
"In order to make a pact, you must first prove you are more powerful than your opponent. Ah, it approaches." Tenebrae pressed his nose against Emil's back. He seemed to be enjoying this.
(I...I can't...I'm scared...!)
The completely hesitant boy was shakily standing before the monster.
"Well, come here!"
But the moment he could see it, Ratatosk's power transformed Emil.
The wolf that had been barking bravely at first, eventually whimpered like a puppy as it was continually slashed at. It took no time to force it to the ground. Emil raised his left hand in the darkness, and a ring encircled the wolf. The pact was completed.
"Well done, Emil."
He could not believe that he'd actually forged a pact with a monster.
"Let us continue."
Emil began to walk again.
They seemed to be in a hidden passage. They quickly exited into the next room.
The smell of blood stung Emil's nose. Suffering within the room was Richter.
"Richter!" Emil rushed to the bloodied man to help him up. But he was so heavy that he wouldn't budge.
"Hang on! H-how did this—"
Thrusting his sword into the earth, Richter leaned against it, and groaned with pain. "I was careless. Lloyd—"
"Lloyd Irving, he—"
"Lloyd? You mean the servant of the Chosen of Regeneration?!"
As Richter answered, Emil wondered what in the world was going on.
"The core. He—" Richter spoke before collapsing again.
"It's all right. The attack missed his vital organs," said Tenebrae.
"So he'll survive?"
"Yes. Just leave him here and he will be fine. It is more important to go after Lady Marta."
Emil shook his head upon hearing this. "Leave him here? We can't do that! We need to at least tell someone!"
He reasoned that Marta would be safe as long as Richter remained here. But Tenebrae said, "There's no time. Now that Lloyd has appeared, time is of the essence. Lady Marta's life is in grave danger."
(What does that mean?)
As Emil kept silent, Tenebrae asked with exasperation, "After all, this man is the enemy. Didn't you come here to protect her?"
"I did, but I can't just leave him like this. Richter said some mean things, but he also helped me. I can't just abandon him now." Emil wouldn't just submit. "Go on ahead and find Marta. I'll follow you as soon as I can!"
"I believe you will regret this decision, but it is yours to make."
Tenebrae must have decided that they had no time to argue further. He went forth and disappeared, leaving Emil behind.
"I'll be back, Richter."
Emil thought of running back through the hidden passage when he remembered the sealed door. He held a hand to it, and, as he'd thought, was able to open it with ease. Within, he encountered Aqua, who had regained her consciousness. "A-Aqua!"
Aqua flinched, and bared her teeth.
"Aqua! You have to come with me!"
"You expect me to just go with you after what happened?"
As Aqua gestured to summon a monster for the third time, Emil quickly began to explain. "That doesn't matter right now! Richter's been hurt badly! Lloyd attacked him and—"
"What, Lloyd?!" Aqua's skin grew paler than it already was.
"I think he'll live, but I'm still worried. Hurry and help him!"
"You came back to tell me that?" Aqua scrutinized Emil from head to toe, "Hmm...You're not half bad. Nowhere near as cool as Master Richter, but still." She giggled.
(Nowhere near? Then doesn't that mean I'm not cool at all...?)
"Just come!" Emil beckoned, and they returned through the passage.
They reentered the room where Richter was in.
"Master Richter!" Aqua began to examine his body.
"Aqua, how is he?"
"He'll be fine."
Emil gave as sigh of relief.
"He took a sword to the back, but that's not the reason he collapsed. It's the wound from two years ago."
"If you weren't my enemy, I'd tell you. Anyway, leave Master Richter to me."
Centurion Aqua gently held Richter up, and both vanished into the darkness. Emil was on the verge of distress, as he couldn't even move Richter by himself, but then he considered that this wasn't the time to mope about it.
"All right! Time to find Marta! Lloyd's after her. I better hurry!"
There stood an altar, illuminating from its crest. And upon this altar was a jewel in slumber.
Emil ran into this room, and upon seeing Marta fighting, turned his eyes again, only to give a cry.
Marta had been fighting Lloyd Irving. After he'd defeated Richter, he came here, and ran into Marta.
For a moment, Emil thought that Lloyd looked just like his statue in Luin.
Marta jumped. Lloyd followed with no hesitation, and their blades met in the air with a sharp clang. As he landed, he turned to Emil, realizing that he was there.
"Who are you?" Lloyd kept his swords raised. The anger that Emil had harbored from seeing the statue every day came forth.
"Why did you kill them?" he asked with a rough tone.
"Emil!" Marta cried as she noticed him as well.
"My mother and my father, and all those people in Palmacosta... Why did you have to kill all of them?!" Emil raised his head.
"What...?" A gasp came from Marta's lips. But Lloyd gave a quiet sigh.
"Not again...with Palmacosta."
"What do you mean "again"?!" Emil shouted, drawing his sword. "I'll never forgive you for that!"
Lloyd's swords glimmered——
His footfalls echoed.
The young man in red approached the altar, and took the white jewel in his hands.
Then he was gone.
The sound of his footsteps grew distant.
Emil stirred, before observing, "I'm alive."
As he sat up, he found Marta fixing her hair, and feebly saying to him, "I guess he decided not to kill us."
Oh, Emil remembered; he and Marta had tried to face Lloyd together, but they had easily been defeated. Then Tenebrae, who'd been examining the altar, raised his voice.
"Lady Marta! Centurion Lumen's core is…!"
Marta bounded up.
"It's gone!" he said with grief.
"Centurion Lumen's core..."
They stared at the now empty altar.
"A-are you talking about a white jewel? I think that Lloyd took it with him," Emil explained to them. His consciousness was hazy, but he was certain that he saw Lloyd take the jewel before leaving.
"He took it?! Are you sure?!"
"Y-yeah. Was it important?"
Yes, Tenebrae replied. "Centurion Lumen's core is essential to our journey. Lady Marta, we must go after them."
"OK, but first..." Marta then cleared her throat, "Thank you so much, Emil. I really appreciate you saving me once again!" She looked at Emil with earnest eyes.
"Uh...I was pretty much useless."
"That isn't true!" Marta shook her head in refusal." You became a knight, a Knight of Ratatosk. That's why you were able to save me, right? I always thought that you would make a wonderful knight!" Marta placed her hands over her heart. "That's what I thought, ever since the first time we met."
It's okay, she said with a blush. "I guess that it just wasn't as memorable for you. But honestly I'm very grateful to you for saving me."
She's talking about that again, Emil thought. He still couldn't remember anything about it.
"Lady Marta, we must hurry." Tenebrae urged once more.
"Yes, you're right." Marta quickly ran to the exit. "Emil, would you help us? Just until we make it out of this place?"
(Marta is kind of a strange girl.)
Good grief, Emil thought as he left the altar with Marta.
"It appears the door has been sealed from the other side."
To Tenebrae’s observation, Marta angrily said, "Damn! This must be Lloyd's doing. I'm sure he did this to trap us in here! Uggh!"
Emil and the Centurion briefly exchanged looks, and Tenebrae lifted his nose.
"There is a draft. There must be another way out."
"I'll do it."
Emil used his Sorcerer's Ring like before, and found another hidden passage. "It opened!"
"Great! Now we can go search for Lloyd!" Marta smiled, jumping with joy.
"But I'm only able to pick up a small trace of Lumen. It may be too late to follow them."
"No..." Marta slumped her shoulders upon hearing this. Emil watched Marta's drastic mood changes.
"Is this Lumen's core really so valuable that you'd fight over it?" he asked.
"Oh, I guess a lot of this doesn't make sense to you."
Marta acknowledged with a nod, and explained as they walked the passage. "To put it simply, the Centurions' cores are the eggs of Centurions like Tenebrae. Lumen's core is the egg of Centurion Lumen."
"You might say that cores contain Centurions in hibernation," Tenebrae added.
"And the core on my forehead is Ratatosk's core, and it's—"
"Th-the demon lord's egg?!" Emil recoiled as Marta pulled her bangs away.
"I told you he's not a demon!" Marta pouted.
Light began to glow throughout the hidden path. They had resurfaced.
The grass was green and thick, and flowers bloomed in the sunlit areas. One could even hear the chirping of birds.
"Um...where are we?"
As Emil was looking around them, Marta nodded in contrast. "This is where the Tower of Mana used to be. Lloyd and his companions came here on their journey of world regeneration."
(The Tower of Mana was here...?)
What looked like the remains of the Tower were mostly buried under the rubble. It was impossible to imagine that it could be rebuilt as before.
"So it's a historical site for the Church of Martel," said Emil.
Marta replied, with a nod. "Right. No wonder there are hidden passages, and of course Lloyd would show up."
"Oh, so Lloyd's friends in the Church of Martel guided him."
"It's only a guess."
Tenebrae returned from examining all directions whilst floating above the debris. "I am unable to sense Lumen's presence. It appears that Lloyd has escaped."
"I guess we'll go back to Luin for now. We still have Emil to think about. That okay with you?"
Emil's face fell when he heard "Luin". He'd remembered Alba's threats.
(Aunt Flora and Uncle Alba must be pretty mad...what will they do once I get home?)
Marta likely mistook his heavy footfalls for fatigue. "Why don't we take a break here?" she suggested, as they had been on the move for quite a while.
Emil agreed. Marta sat on a rock that was conveniently under a tree's shade, while he sat on the grass.
"Tell me the rest of it. I want to know what's going on."
"All right, then." Swinging his tail, Tenebrae turned to face Emil. "How much do you know about the world before its Regeneration by the Chosen, Colette?"
"Not much..." he answered frankly. Thinking about it, he realized he had no memory of learning it in school.
"A brief explanation, then. Long ago, the Giant Tree that sustained our world withered, and the end of the world was upon us. The Goddess Martel and the Hero Mithos managed to prevent this destruction by dividing the world into two.
"But two years ago Colette the Chosen successfully reunited the two separated lands by sprouting the new World Tree to support the world." Centurion Tenebrae continued towards his main concern. "While the world was divided in two, Lord Ratatosk transformed into his core and became dormant."
"That's this core on my forehead—Ratatosk's core."
"So it is the demon lord Ratatosk's egg?!"
When Marta glared at him again, Emil only scratched his head.
"Lord Ratatosk is not a demon lord. He was a summon spirit of the Great Tree of old, and is the lord of all monsters."
"In order to awaken Ratatosk, we have to first awaken all of his servants, the Centurions, by hatching them. That's why we're on a journey looking for the Centurions' cores."
Emil thought up another question, "Why can't Ratatosk stay asleep?"
Marta answered, "If he's asleep, nature will be thrown off balance and destroy the world. For instance, Ratatosk's sleep is the reason why Lake Sinoa has dried up."
"He did that?"
"And without him around to oversee things, most monsters have cut ties with the Centurions they serve. So the monsters are running wild and causing the world's mana to fall out of balance."
Emil remembered the monsters at the lake. Though they'd just left the cave, it felt like a distant memory to him.
"Even while Lord Ratatosk is dormant, the Centurions are supposed to form ties with monsters and maintain order," Tenebrae spoke. "Yet, the Centurion of Water, Aqua, has allied with Richter, and is neglecting her duties. Which is precisely the reason why we have seen one water-related disaster after another." Absolutely deplorable, Tenebrae sighed with great intimidation. It seemed that he and Aqua got along far from well.
"If all this is true, then why do you have to fight?" Emil asked, but Tenebrae knit his brows.
"Lord Ratatosk is exceedingly powerful. Though they may not be as powerful as Ratatosk's core, Centurions' cores still possess remarkable powers."
"Some people are trying to get the cores for their own selfish reasons." Marta added.
"Lloyd and Richter are among those people. Lady Marta recovered Ratatosk's core from them."
"But somehow the core managed to attach itself to my forehead. To tell you the truth, it's a bit frustrating," Marta chuckled.
"Do you understand now?" Tenebrae finally asked.
"Y-yeah, I guess," Emil nodded hesitantly.
But I still can't believe Richter would do something like that, he thought in secret.
With that, they passed the debris and returned to Luin.
"I hope Aqua was able to treat Richter."
Marta would glance at Emil and find a blank face, and wouldn't respond. He had been thinking of Richter, wounded.
When they could see the city entrance, Emil unconsciously began looking for his uncle. There were members of the City Watch, but Alba was not among them.
"I'll drop out of sight since my presence may draw unwanted attention," said Tenebrae.
"Oh, hey! You're not one of the monsters that attacked the people in town, are you?" Emil asked as he recalled.
"How rude!" Tenebrae immediately denied. "Of course not. Those monsters were lured to the village by Lumen's core."
"When Centurions are in their core state, they're unable to control their powers. This results in the disruption of the mana balance and throws nature into chaos. They can also drive humans who summon monsters into madness."
Marta nodded, "That's why I don't want to give the core to Lloyd or Richter."
"I guess Centurions' cores are nothing but trouble," Emil said.
"Again, rude," Tenebrae scolded before vanishing.
When they returned to Luin, Emil took one look at his surroundings. Nothing seems to have changed. Even if his uncle watching him from somewhere, he wouldn't see anything that wasn't normal.
As Emil expressed his relief, Marta reservedly asked him, "So this is where you live, Emil?"
"Well, you spoke about your parents...with Lloyd..."
"...Oh, right. I used to live in Palmacosta, but I'm now with my aunt and uncle. My aunt and my mom were sisters."
(I was saved in Palmacosta. He moved here, with his remaining relatives.)
Marta understood. "It's good you found another home. All right, why don't we go to your house for now?"
Emil was startled. There was no way he could introduce Marta to his aunt and uncle.
(This is bad...I wasn't even thinking of going back.)
"Oh, um...we should first go tell the mayor what happened with Richter."
"Okay. Maybe we can ask him about Lloyd, too. Let's go."
Without suspecting anything, Marta walked with a bounce, her hair swaying. "Yeah."
I don't want her to see me being yelled at by my aunt and uncle, Emil thought as he followed.
Little did he know that he had taken his first steps away from his everyday life.
"Lady Marta! We've been looking for you!"
Suddenly, seven or eight men emerged from behind the mayor's house and surrounded them. Their uniforms were all too familiar.
(The Vanguard! But...why?!)
Startled, Emil looked to Marta.
"Hawk." She uttered the name of their leader, dressed in combat clothing.
"Is he a friend?" Emil asked.
The man called Hawk had hair spiking on two sides of his head, a long face, and a beard growing over his sharp chin. He faced Marta and said, "Commander Brute says that if you return Ratatosk's core, all will be forgiven, and you will be welcomed back into the Vanguard."
"You're a member of the Vanguard?!" Emil panicked.
(The guy even called her "Lady" Marta...)
She may not just be a member, but a very important one. Tenebrae had mentioned that Marta had stolen the core away, but they must have thought that mentioning the Vanguard would make for a more complicated story.
Marta glared directly at Hawk. "You can tell Commander Brute that what you did—what all of you did—isn't something I can forget."
"Whatever do you mean?" Hawk raised his brows and cocked his head.
"Don't act dumb. I'm not giving up Ratatosk's core."
Hawk's eyes slanted just as Marta was speaking. "Then we will show you no mercy! Men, seize Lady Marta!"
"Yes, sir!" The men charged at Marta.
Tenebrae appeared. "Lady Marta, Emil! We must leave this place at once!"
"You're right. Let's go!"
Marta pointed with her spinner. But with the Vanguard troops blocking his path, Emil could not move.
"Emil, hurry!" Tugging on his arm, they broke through them.
(How did I get wrapped up in this mess?!)
"Who was that Hawk guy?!" He drew his sword as they ran.
"Oh, him? He's one of the division leaders!" Marta called back.
Emil wondered how the Hawk was able to deploy soldiers in the city, and the thought frightened him. After being driven away over and over, they were only able to infiltrate after bringing enough reinforcements.
(If things continue like this...!)
But they mustn't fight here. I don't want anybody I know to find out I have Ratatosk's power.
They hurried towards the fountain plaza.
Hawk was ahead of the soldiers. But unknown to him, a larger shadow was approaching.
"Get them! Move!" Hawk slowly lowered his arm. "Wh...what...?!" His eyes wide, he looked over his shoulder to see a large man clad in armor. With his giant lance, the man then cast Hawk away.
"Hawk!" Marta called out. But more men came, trapping the Vanguard within the fountain plaza, and attacked their soldiers. The men fell one by one.
"Y-you...You're from the Church of Martel!"
The man in armor took a step forward at Marta's voice. "I am Magnar, Commandant of the Church of Martel."
The Commandant of the Church? Since when did they have one? Things grew more and more confusing in Emil's head.
"By the orders of Lloyd the Great, I have come to take the demon lord Ratatosk and the Centurion's core!"
Marta bit on her lip. "You're all the same."
"Hand it over and I will guarantee that none of you will be harmed. However, if you refuse, this town will meet the same fate as Palmacosta," Magnar said hoarsely, facing the still statue.
"Same as Palmacosta? What does he mean?"
"What, boy?" He mocked Emil. "You don't know? The foolish Vanguard planned to use Ratatosk's core to start a rebellion in order to destroy the Church of Martel and the Chosen."
Emil's shoulders trembled. Marta hung her head, "Lloyd killed all of those innocent people to steal Ratatosk's core, and to quell the rebellion."
"That's..." Emil's voice came from his strangled throat, "That's what my parents died for?!" Bitter tears came from his green eyes. Crying would not bring his family back, but his emotions were on the brink of overflowing.
"My servant! Go!" Tenebrae summoned the monster he'd made a pact with. The wolf appeared in an instant, and called for its companions with a howl. They boldly charged towards the knights.
"Lady Marta, Emil! We must leave town, now!" At Tenebrae’s instruction, Emil and Marta ran from Magnar.
Though the Vanguard and the knights continued to give chase, they managed to escape the city.
"What should we do? If we leave, the town will be destroyed," said Marta. As they entered a thin copse, she looked back in dread.
Then a hoarse voice reached them from the plaza. "Foolish, barbarous Sylvaranti! Listen well!"
They stopped and turned.
"I am Commandant Magnar, of the glorious Martel Knights. We have come here to arrest the vile Vanguard for their crimes: blasphemy against the Church and inciting rebellions and discontentment across the world. However, we have also recently received reports from Lloyd the Great stating that the people of Luin have been engaged in sinful cooperation with the Vanguard."
They silently exchanged looks. "Therefore, this whole town, along with the Vanguard, now face charges of treason against the Chosen! But I will grant one final opportunity to redeem yourselves."
The tone of Magnar's voice changed. "A girl named Marta is hiding in this city. Bring her to me. Do so, and Lloyd the Great may very well forgive your crimes."
They could hear the city erupting into chaos. Readying himself, Emil looked to Marta. "Marta, hand them the core on your forehead."
Marta shook her head. "But...I can't."
"Why not?!" Emil's temper flared. "If you, the Vanguard, hadn't attempted a rebellion, Palmacosta never would've been destroyed in the first place!"
Marta's face warped into as sad expression. Emil then turned away, and tried to improve the mood.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. But if we don't do something, Luin will be destroyed." His uncle's face drifted into his mind, red with rage. "And if that happens, everyone will blame me since I'm the one who brought you here."
Marta gave a sigh.
"You're right. I'm truly sorry about what happened in Palmacosta." She turned on her heels.
"Where are you—"
"I'll give them Ratatosk's core. I'm sorry, Tenebrae."
Tenebrae, who'd been staring closely at Emil, lifted his gaze.
She was sadly returning to the city, and Emil could not stop her. If he did, he would be blamed.
Tenebrae looked back up at Emil.
"Emil, Knight of Ratatosk. You just sent Lady Marta to her death," he informed coldly.
"Lord Ratatosk's core on her forehead requires energy from her body. The core cannot be separated from her before Lord Ratatosk awakens. Removing it beforehand will surely cause he death."
(She'll die if the core is removed?!)
"We have to tell her—"
"She already knows." Tenebrae readily nodded. "She intends to die for this town and for you. For your petty desire to protect yourself. I just wanted you to know the consequences of your words."
Unable to remain still, Emil began to run.
" I...I'm going to stop Marta!"
"You'll be ostracized by the people in town."
"I'll still stop her!"
At that strong tone, Tenebrae answered, "Well, then. I shall go with you," before following.
The people who noticed Marta opened the pathway for her all the way to the fountain plaza. Magnar stood confidently before Lloyd's statue.
"I'm here now. Are you satisfied?"
As she stared at the commandant with upturned eyes, his lips emerged from beneath his moustache.
(This...is what you wanted, right, Emil?)
Marta remembered what he said to her.
If you, the Vanguard, hadn't attempted a rebellion, Palmacosta never would've been destroyed in the first place!
Nothing saddened her more than seeing Emil filled with hate. She truly felt that she would prefer to die to than see Emil like that, because of what she’d done to him.
Yet it was naive to think that everything will change if Ratatosk's core were taken out of the picture.
"Tell us where Ratatosk's core and the Centurions' cores are," said Magnar.
"I don't have a Centurion's core, but Ratatosk's core is right here." She pointed at her forehead with her gloved finger. "If you want it that badly, you'll have to take it with my head."
"What a marvelous idea. I think I will. Seize her, men!"
Two of the knights bring Marta to the ground.
(I don't want to die. I don’t want to go where I can never see you again, Emil. But this...this is for the best...)
Meanwhile, Magnar made an unexpected announcement. "All right, we no longer have any need for this town. Hand down the divine punishment they deserve!"
Marta struggled, lifting her face. "No, wait a minute! You said that you'd—"
"The orders of Lloyd the Great are absolute!" The commandant scowled at the people surrounding them. "All right men, the time has come! Pillage! Kill! Show them the divine punishment of the Goddess Martel!"
"Yes, sir!" As the knights simultaneously drew their weapons, screams rose across the town.
There were those killed indiscriminately, those with their belongings stolen and their houses set on fire—the people's faces were frozen with fear, and everything was in chaos.
When Emil rushed into a city, he could already see a mountain of corpses.
He reached the plaza's stairs, and cried out.
(Marta! Thank goodness I made it in time...!)
He found her at the base of the Lloyd statue, and a moment later, there was an explosion.
"Waaah!" With a sound that threatened to tear his ears, he Emil was thrown down the stairs.
For a while, he remained face-down on the ground, unable to move.
His anger welled. Something moved inside Emil.
"——Didn't you hear what I said?" His eyes still closed, Emil slowly stood up.
"I said stop, you miserable swine!"
He swiftly opened his eyes red, and bearing the crest of Ratatosk. He kicked at the men who were pinning Marta down. He stepped onto one of them, and grabbed his sheath. He pointed this at Magnar. "I'll teach you the true meaning of divine punishment!" he yelled.
As if to protect their commandant, the knights charged at once. Emil tirelessly defeated them, snarling at Magnar when he was the only one left.
But he did not forget his true goal.
"Stand up, Marta."
"Emil..." Marta timidly looked at Emil's face as she supported herself on his outstretched hand.
He seemed great different from how he usually was, and she could only be surprised.
(This is...a Knight of Ratatosk...?)
Back at the Sinoa lakebed, she had to help him up after a weak monster attacked him. He still couldn't stand up for himself back then, but now they've changed places—or something more.
Helping Marta to a safer spot, Emil looked once more the Magnar. Magnar had also been dismayed at Emil's transformation, and, trembling, he silently gripped his lance.
"Now then. Time for your punishment. You better pray to Martel one last time." Emil drew his sword down, and launched, "Pray to her for a painless death!"
Before his sword could strike Magnar, the Wolves appeared. They surrounded Magnar as Emil's Demon Fang bounded. At the same time, Marta's spinner crashed violently against the lance.
"Rrggh...The ones who oppose Martel are those who ought to fear death!"
Magnar attacked with Dragon Fang, but Emil was already high above him.
"Havoc Strike!" Aiming for Magnar's unprotected head, he relentlessly came down on him.
"Gaaah..!" He stagged and hovered, yet Magnar did not fall. His teeth grit, Emil continued with his attacks.
"It's over!" The Devil's Maw burst as flames from the ground.
"Uwaaaaah!" Even his large body was blown away. He crashed into a stone bench, and the battle was finished.
"I...I don't understand. Who are you!" the man groaned, his body aslant.
"The question is who the hell are you!" Without a breath, Emil through his foot down onto Magnar's chest. "Well? Let's see your divine punishment now. Go ahead. Show it to me!"
Emil began to hit the man, again and again.
"Are you listening?!" Emil had no intention of stopping, and continued with more force.
Marta watched the display of bloodlust.
(If this keeps up, he'll die!)
"Emil!” she desperately cried out. “That's enough Emil, stop it!"
At that moment, Emil grew still. It's as if another reality had come over him——
"Ah..." He turned, his green eyes meeting Marta's blue ones, and glancing at Tenebrae at her side.
"Urgh!" Magnar coughed violently.
"...What...what did I...?"
Seeing the fearful eyes of the townspeople around them, Emil panicked.
(What happened? Why is everyone...?)
The people who had long considered him a demon fled from him. But the twins who took each opportunity to torment him—Dida and Moll—remained, but this time, with terror fixed upon their faces.
What's going to happen from here? What's going to happen to him now?
When Emil stopped, frozen in shock, footsteps came from behind him.
"Both the Vanguard and the Martel Knights have left town."
It was Marta. “The mayor wants to talk to you. Will you come?”
Vacantly thinking that the reason it everything was quiet was because everybody else had left, Emil meekly nodded.
Arriving at the mayor's house, they encountered Alba and Flora speaking to each other.
When his aunt saw him, all color drained from her face. "Emil..."
" A-Aunt Flora, I..."
Alba stood between them, as if protecting his wife from his own nephew. "Get away from us, you monster!"
Emil stopped in alarm.
"How could you?!"
Marta protested, but Emil replied, "...It's okay."
(I guess this means...I don't have a home anymore.)
Emil silently opened the door to the mayor's house.
"Emil, thank you for coming."
The mayor seemed to try as best as he can not to see the changed Emil in a different light.
"I have a favor to ask of you."
Emil responded unexpectedly with relief. "Wh-what sort of favor?" he asked.
"I want you to go find Lloyd for me."
"Is this... is this your way of telling me to leave?" Emil asked back.
But the mayor immediately shook his head. "No. I simply cannot believe what just happened here." His face darkened. "The Lloyd that I know would never allow this kind of slaughter and looting, even on orders from the Church."
"I didn't believe what you said about Palmacosta until today. But it seems that the same thing almost happened to our town."
The mayor looked out the window, glancing at the wounded outside.
"I'm just not sure what to believe anymore." he said sorrowfully.
"Mayor, it doesn't take much for people to change."
"That may be so," the mayor agreed. "Which is exactly why I want you to investigate this. Why Lloyd changed like he did, and why he's looking for Ratatosk and the Centurions' cores."
"So this is how you plan to protect Emil from the fear of the townspeople?" Marta asked.
The mayor offered his apology. "Forgive my incompetence, Emil. But I also believe this is for your own good."
(The mayor has never said terrible things to me...He saw me as a normal person.)
Giving it little thought, Emil accepted. It's not like he had a reason to return anymore.
"I'll look for Lloyd. And then I will avenge my parents."
"I understand. I won't try to stop you."
The mayor gave a sigh as revenge was brought up. "Emil, our town may be full of people who fear you, but this is still your home. I know it may sound hard to believe now, but once things calm down, I want you to come back."
"I'm sorry I caused so much trouble."
"Emil..." The mayor called to him as Emil turned around. "Thank you for saving Luin."
He thought of giving some sort of reply, but he never looked back.
Emil was all alone.
He'd showed them that part of him. Even Marta's face was pale at the sight of it.
(This is fine. I've been alone since Mom and Dad died.)
So he wouldn't scare the townspeople any more, he jogged to the entrance with his eyes hidden.
He turned to see Marta panting, waving her hand in the air. Emil squinted his eyes as though blinded by radiance.
"Tenebrae and I are going with you."
"Why?" In surprise, Emil stared fixedly at her face.
"The whole point of our journey is to find the Centurions' cores and wake up Ratatosk. So Lloyd is our common enemy."
As Marta spoke, Tenebrae appeared out of thin air. "Since we share the same objective, it would be in our best interest to work together."
When Emil faltered, Marta continued. "You also made a pact with Ratatosk as a knight, right? And Ratatosk is stuck on me."
"Yeah, I know."
"That means you have to protect me."
Emil questioningly looked to Tenebrae.
"As I told you before, Lady Marta had been looking for you. She wanted the boy who saved her back in Palmacosta, you, to be a Knight of Ratatosk. We implore you, Emil."
Tenebrae brought his forepaws together in a plea.
Marta did a quick sweep of the city with her eyes. "It's partly my fault that things ended up the way they did. Let us go with you."
"I really don't remember meeting you before. Are you okay with that?"
"It's okay, because I remember," she beamed. "And you’re brave, so I feel like I can count on you."
"You think I'm brave...? I'm nothing like that." Emil shook his head again.
"No, you really are. You already saved me several times since we met again,” Marta replied, almost firmly. “And you wouldn't have done that if you didn't have courage. That's why I want to go with you. We can start off as friends. Right?"
He had completely forgotten that he had wished for friends not too long ago.
"Of course...I don't mind being more than friends." Marta's face went rose colored as she fidgeted.
Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality.
Emil could hear Richter's voice.
"It's just like he said."
"What?" Marta tilted her head.
"Oh, it's nothing."
Tenebrae, who'd been waiting for some time, looked at them with impatience. "Why don't we get going?"
He may not completely understand what happened, but he knew that he had been freed from a life with no exit.
"R-right. Okay, let's go!"
Translated by Sebz