“The dark coloured crystal — huh?”
While looking at the crystal held out in front of me I repeated that name unconsciously.
The crystal filled with dark red seemed like a lump of blood.
For some reason, when I looked at the crystal I felt severe aversion and yet I couldn’t keep my eyes off it.
“To be honest, there isn’t much I know about this crystal.
……However, I can tell you to some extent what kind of effect that crystal has”
Monica who placed the crystal on a table folded her hands in front of her modest chest.
Her facial expression, which usually was quite lacking, warped into a bitter one so that even I, who was unfamiliar with her, could see it.
──However, it was just for an instant, then Monica’s expression was as blank as it was a while ago.
It was like that change in her expression was just an illusion.
It’s not like I didn’t notice it. Sonia, who didn’t mention anything about Monica’s short change in expression, reached out towards the table.
The crystal which gave off this eerie colour was back in Sonia’s possession.
The crystal still emitted some weak magical power on her palm.
“I understood the gist of your business here. I don’t know where you found this, but the animals and demonic beasts in that area’s vicinity became more aggressive, right? Furthermore, these animals are strangely big and above all…… they possessed magical power.
……Otherwise — No, that’s it”
It seems like she was about to say something but instead Monica closed her eyes and shook her head, ending her words there.
The continuation of those words worried me, but when she completely guessed the reason for our coming here it was clear we wouldn’t hear anything more.
“Yeah, that’s it. As expected of Monica-chan.
However, this crystal is related to those violent outbreaks?”
“Yes, that’s right. Its body grows, the epidermis and body hair…… Even the blood and internal organs become black, furthermore, that evil magical power coiling around it – One could say that the crystal caused those changes in these individuals, one might call abnormal.”
With Monica’s words, Sonia handed me the crystal.
Let’s take a look, is what I’d like to say, however — honestly, I felt aversion towards that crystal.
I don’t know the origins of that aversion but I simply didn’t like to touch it.
Well then, what should I do? When I was thinking that I noticed Cheryl staring towards me.
Our eyes meet and then a brief period of silence broke out.
“……Do you want to take a look?”
Apparently, Cheryl seemed to be curious about this crystal. Cheryl gave me a simple nod.
That thing didn’t seem to be very safe, but — Well, I didn’t notice anything immediately just after touching it, so it I should be fine handing it over …… right?
When I held it towards her, Cheryl took the muddy, dark crystal into her hands.
Having the origin of that repulsive feeling leave my hand I slightly exhaled.
……Fumu, Monica as well as Sonia and Cheryl — Didn’t they get the same feeling from that thing?
Cheryl, who received the crystal, held it up against the light, like Monica did, and changed the angle she held it in while observing — slowly and carefully.
Seeing Cheryl who felt interested in that crystal, my expression relaxed unintentionally.
“……Well then, let’s answer what you are all interested in.
First of all, as I said earlier, that crystal’s name is “Dark coloured Crystal” and is the cause for the animals’ ferocious behaviour. You got all that, right?”
I took my eyes of Cheryl and fixed them on Monica.
“That crystal’s effect is to harden the body and amplify magical power to be concrete. Depending on the individual, it’ll make them grow huge.
As you know, it is very rare for a non-humanoid animal to be able to harness magical power. At this point, you can see that this crystal is a material beyond one’s wildest imaginations.”
I glanced at Cheryl observing the crystal as Monica continues.
“However, from my personal view, the most frightening part about the “Dark coloured crystals” is — that it changes the host’s personality. No, one should call it rewrite rather than change.”
Monica exhaled slightly while showing apparent sorrow in her eyes.
When Monica mentioned the word rewrite I remembered the animals which became aggressive.
“Those who ingested the crystal will take on the same behaviour regardless of their individual differences, no matter if they were animals or demonic beasts.
It’s not to defend its territory against intruders, nor to counterattack, nor out of hunger — they just start to attack living things indiscriminately.
It’s nothing else. Just unchecked violence. Even if their opponent is stronger than themselves those crazed animals, even young ones, start to attack regardless of the other side’s numbers.”
Monica talking about the terrors of that stone made me remember this unease I felt back then — namely, the lack of animal-like behaviour.
Violence for violence’s sake, is it? Looks like my choice wasn’t wrong.
Needless to say, those animals were abnormal.
It’s the first time I encountered such pure murderous intent with no reason behind it.
“Animals corrupted by the crystal only think about spreading their murderous intent around them. If one leaves them alone its impact on the ecosystem won’t be small. Of course, people will get hurt as well. ……I don’t really recommend it, but there’s no other effective method other than exterminating them to bring peace to the area.”
“Hmm, it’s like that after all, huh?……Thank you, Monica-chan”
In response to Monica’s words, Sonia let her thumb slide along her cheek.
Both of them didn’t have very pleasant looks on their face. It was mentioned that Monica was doing biological research as a hobby, apparently.
However, I feel like there’s more to that expression Monica showed.
Before she hesitated to say something, like something she wasn’t able to talk about — that’s how it felt.
“What is it?……Aah, you can speak comfortably. Sonia’s friends are mine as well.”
As I worried about those words she said earlier I unintentionally raised my voice.
Though I didn’t dislike using honorifics for girls who were younger than the me in my previous life, it still felt a little weird.
Let’s say I’m grateful for that offer.
“Then, don’t mind if I do.
……Earlier you were about to say something, right? If it isn’t anything difficult for you to say I’d like to inquire about that.
Of course, if you don’t want to talk I won’t force you”
Even though I changed my tone my serious attitude didn’t. I stared directly into my opposite’s still youthful eyes.
Monica’s deadpan expression distorted again. First, it turned bitter, then sad.
“……Telling you is useless. It’s useless, because it’s just too hard to believe.
Particularly for us of — the elven race”
Monica grabbed her arm and trembled slightly.
Not wanting to talk — it seems to be slightly different than that.
Rather it might be the opposite.
From what it seems, the thing Monica kept silent about is considerably heavy.
Even though it wasn’t long since I met that girl, but if she’s a friend of a friend I want to lend her my strength as much as I can.
……That’s why that way of speaking is reserved for their elders, right?
“There’s no problem then”
I broke my expression and smiled at her.
Surprise mixed into Monica’s expression.
I showed Monica, who finally wore a girlish expression, a grin with my canine teeth exposed.
“If you’re a friend of Sonia, I’ll believe you no matter how outlandish it might be. Can’t you just throw off some of that burden you carry?
I can’t tell you the details, but even though I’m like an elf I’m not one. So there’s no problem regarding that”
I’ve been keeping a serious attitude until now, so I tried joking around a little to relieve the tension.
I kind of thought the girl needed that.
That idea of mine seemed to work as Monica laughed — for the first time.
“Ahaha, what’s with this? That’s”
Her original facial features had a certain youthfulness to them and, probably because of the contrast to her usual deadpan face she showed every day, that smile possessed a wonderfully splendid cuteness.
Looks like what I said was very funny as Monica laughed with one hand in front of her mouth.
Even though we, Sonia included, knew what I meant with “not an elf”, but this reaction is certainly quite normal.
Recalling my own body’s absurdity I vowed to never talk about my real nature in public carelessly.
After having laughed for a while, Monica fixed her eyes on me still with tears in them.
……Well, let’s keep silent about this teary, emotional breakdown.
“Yeah, weird….. But it feels like it’s been such a long time since I laughed that much. I calmed down a little.
──Let’s talk. The “fact” — my father uncovered was the cause for his expulsion form the academic world.”
Her expression was blank again — However, Monica raised her face with firm resolution.
Monica, who emphasized the word “fact”, now wore a much more dignified expression than before.
“Please, try to believe me. Though you probably won’t be able to believe it — please try.”
Those words were directed to all of us.
Though I just met Monica, I felt like what she’s about to tell us won’t be a lie.
Cheryl looked towards Monica like she usually did.
Sonia — smiled and nodded firmly.
Monica, who took in their gazes, now looked into my eyes.
I nodded resolutely.
“Thank you, everyone.
Well then, I’ll tell you. This crystal, has two more characteristics hidden in it.
–In this country, what is it that makes the world turn?”
That voice which was as balanced as a flat road started to shake, like it was tumbling down the mountain path of resolution.
Monica put her hand on her chest as if to suppress the beating of her heart and opened her mouth.
“Apart from the ones I mentioned earlier, this crystal has two more characteristics hidden in it.
──The first of these characteristics is “Residual”. Cheryl, could you lend me the crystal?”
“……Yes, got it”
Cheryl, who had the crystal and looked at it from different angles, handed it to Monica.
Monica held the crystal in her fingers so that everybody could see them again and extended her arm forward.
“What is, Residual?”
“If that crystal enters someone’s body it will cause similar symptoms to what I mentioned before.
However, even if it enters someone’s body the crystal won’t get absorbed by it.”
Not understanding what Monica said I frowned reflexively.
The light in the talented woman’s eyes changed to a dignified one as she continued.
“That might have been a little confusing.……In other words, the crystal will stay inside the body basically.
In the study, it is said that the crystal was mainly ingested through the mouth. If it’s food it’ll get digested and absorbed as nutrition by the body. If it can’t be digested……it will be discharged as a foreign substance from the body in one way or another.
This crystal, however, neither gets digested nor ejected out of the body.
However, inside the corpse of a host who showed similar symptoms to the ones mentioned earlier — that crystal was detected even after the host got killed.
As long as one doesn’t completely destroy the crystal, it will remain inside no matter what”
Monica let out a small sigh.
……Looks like the real show starts from now on.
I noticed that her atmosphere changed.
“If it was only that, then it would just have been some special material, but — the crystal grows.
Through some method, it finds nourishment inside the host’s body. And it will always come out bigger than it was before the host took it in, sooner or later the crystal will find its next host. My father said that it would enlarge the host’s body in its process of growing, but for now, that doesn’t matter.
──And now to the true terror of that crystal.……It’s the fact I was trying to conceal and over which the researchers banished my father”
Monica dropped the crystal she held in her fingers on the table and closed her eyes.
Even though her eyes were closed they were reminiscent of slight hesitation.
However, she already made up her mind.
As if shaking off something her eyelids opened.
“Do you know a monster called — Tarisberg?”
What emerged from Monica’s mouth — was the name of a monster no one among the elves wouldn’t know.
“Wha……Tarisberg, you said!?”
It was amazing how the atmosphere in this room changed instantly.
Sonia loudly repeated that name and even Cheryl had her eyes wide open.
In this space which instantly reflected the tension, I chewed on that name.
I was reborn as an elf roughly twenty years ago and even I knew the name as well.
–Tarisberg. It’s because that’s the name of the monster which made Alma known as a hero.
Tarisberg is said to be a big beast which suddenly appeared in the elven country after I died. To be exact, one should call them big beasts instead.
Where it originated from was never discovered — this demonic beast which suddenly “appeared” was an existence, one could call the natural enemies to the elves.
Originally, elves didn’t use personal combat as much…… as for martial arts, though it slowly got more known, it was still a rare, distant existence.
I also noticed as I grew up as an elf, but it’s hard for an elven body to build up the necessary muscular strength which is the basis for martial arts. Additionally, because their affinity to magic is very strong, elves prefer long distance attacks centred on magic and the bow in a fight.
Alma’s name getting known to such a degree and martial arts becoming part of physical education regardless of these matters, has something to do with a certain characteristic that monster had.
──It invalidated processed magical power such as magic and sorcery.
That’s what made Tarisberg the natural enemy of the elves.
Tarisberg is not a name given to an individual, it’s a generic name given to giant beasts with the same characteristic.
Thus, the elves didn’t have a counter measure against these huge beasts.
Magic didn’t work and weapons such as swords and bows couldn’t even put a scratch on their tough bodies.
If one had enough magical power in them one could use body strengthening magic.
However, that also needed a certain degree of refinement and body strengthening which constantly consumed magical power wasn’t compatible with magic and sorcery attacks so there were only few who learned it.
Moreover, that gigantic beast had a ferocity bordering madness, indiscriminately attacking any creature it came across.
With no way to confront it, the elves’ corpses, including their so-called heroes, started to pile up and at that time someone from a foreign country appeared — Alma Shijima.
Alma singlehandedly defeated that magic resistant beast and saved the elven country.
Thus, Alma received the title of hero and martial arts got taught–
It is said that the monster called Tarisberg became the most frightening thing to elves.
The name which came out of Monica’s mouth was something like that.
A terror-inducing monster with no equal. That’s what the name Tarisberg means.
“Could you give us an explanation in which way Tarisberg is related to this crystal?”
“Yes. That was my intention.
……Earlier I said that this crystal would gradually grow bigger while changing its hosts, right?
Then, one might think it would just keep growing endlessly, but that isn’t the case.
The result of the crystal finishing its growth — that’s how it relates to Tarisberg.”
I crossed my arms and closed my eyes.
……Listening up to here one can certainly guess the continuation of those words without listening to the end.
What happens when the crystal stops its growth — when it’s complete, so to speak?
“It can’t be……!”
Sonia half stood up from her chair, leaned over and drew closer to Monica.
She seemed to have guessed it as well but spoke hoping for her guess to be wrong.
“Yes, Tarisberg is the result. Whether it changes the host into Tarisberg or the crystal itself becomes Tarisberg isn’t known yet, because it’s such a unique creature –but the fact remains that Tarisberg will appear none the less.”
Sonia probably also understood that those words were meant to deny that possibility.
Having heard Monica’s words, Sonia dropped down on her chair with her face, having lost its usual composure.
Seeing her friend Sonia in that state, Monica’s face twisted into a sorrowful expression.
There was still something difficult to say.
“……And, this is difficult to say, but– I have never seen such a big crystal.
I don’t know what’s happening in the mountains of Natosha, but if there are many crystals which have grown that large — a Tarisberg outbreak won’t be far off”
After Monica squeezed out those words she looked down.
Sonia muttered with a pessimistic smile on her lips.
“Haha……In Natosha……I see……”
It hasn’t been a long time since I met Sonia.
Still, from her usual self, I was unable to imagine her making such a frail expression.
……I don’t have any particular feelings about it, but to elves, the name Tarisberg is something absolutely terrifying after all.
When I looked, Cheryl also seemed slightly uneasy.
When scolding their children elves seemed to tell them they’ll get eaten by Tarisberg — Looks like Chester scolded Cheryl like that as well, huh?
When I patted Cheryl to relieve her tension she returned to normal.
I entered the conversation while smiling.
“I see. Got it. –So, can you predict when the outbreak will happen?”
“It’s hard to say, in a few days? However, it’s possible for me to judge how far along it is to some extent.……Looking at this crystal, that time isn’t too far……”
Monica and Sonia grew gloomier over that fact.
Fumu……Good grief, preconceptions are terrible things.
The scar Tarisberg left behind was unexpectedly big to the extent that masters like Sonia were afraid of it.
“Then, let’s return to Natosha at once. You said there isn’t much time left, right?”
I was reflected in Monica’s and Sonia’s eyes when I casually said that.
Their eyes became round with surprise.
“I heard that this Tarisberg thing will indiscriminately attack people. It’s only been a few days that I was in that town’s care, but I can’t just abandon it so easily, now could I?”
“Can’t abandon it……you say, that’s, it’s impossible. Even if we go back we’ll only return to see them getting killed before our eyes.……the corpses will only increase”
With the smell of tears mixed together with her shaking voice, Sonia cast her eyes down.
However, I lacked knowledge about Tarisberg, so it was only natural to ask.
Sonia’s eyes turned sharp.
“Why……you say, because it’s like that!? How should one fight a monster immune to magical attacks– Ah……?”
In an instant, her voice strengthened and her eyes sharpened.
Watching her with the corners of my mouth raised I saw Sonia having a blank expression float on her face as if she noticed something.
Magic doesn’t work and sorcery will naturally fail.
Both arrows and swords break confronted with that tough body.
A big monster against which you can’t depend on anything you know. The more there are the more troublesome it’ll be. It’s definitely an elf’s natural enemy.
But the only thing I have — is this fist.
“Isn’t it fine? No matter the enemy this is the only thing I can swing.
I think I’m quite suitable. My fighting technique is the Shijima style, same as Alma”
In contrast to Sonia, I raised the corners of my mouth and showed my fist.
A huge beast against neither magic nor sorcery nor weapons work, fine.
It was a narrow-minded thought to only take people as opponents to aim to become the strongest.
“I’ll undertake a Giant Beast Extermination. What, this is part of my martial arts training as well”
When I was young I did a lot of foolish things, defeating demonic beasts with my bare hands is much better.
If it’s that legendary monster there won’t be a shortage of opponents.
“Slava-kun, you’re–……Thank you”
Swallowing several words, Sonia took my hand and strongly clutched it.
From that strong force I felt something.
It’s something I want to do. I don’t ask for anything in return but — no matter how many times one gets reborn the feeling of being relied upon isn’t bad.
“Umu. If I can hear your words of gratitude, that’s enough to make it worth doing.
……Well then let’s hurry back to Natosha, shall we? There isn’t much time, right?”
“Yes. Whether they scattered at the same time or someone was actively distributing them, usually, the crystal’s growth is roughly the same depending on the region. If there is a crystal of this size, then the appearance of Tarisberg should be near.”
While squeezing Sonia’s hand and looking into Monica’s eyes, she gave me information after thinking for a while.
The fact that she changed her expression from not far to near had some meaning to it.
“So, it’s necessary to hurry up, as I thought. Though I just returned to Alfareia, let’s depart.
Monica. The things we talked about were really helpful.”
“……No. It’s me who should thank you.
Please take care of Sonia.”
When I stood up and expressed my intention to leave, Cheryl stood up at the same time.
I shook hands with Monica, who closed her eyes.
……Once more, our destination is Natosha.
Let’s take a look at that Tarisberg with my own eyes.
“Alright, shall we go?”
After we parted with Monica, I put my hand on the door.
……This dark coloured crystal turns into Tarisberg, huh?
Looks like the era I was sent into for my second life is rather complicated.
That’s why it’s fun.
Oh heavens, please throw more hardships at me.
Feeling like my resumed martial arts training will become a steep path, the corners of my mouth slightly curved upwards.