Gran was so shocked, he forgot the stinging pain on his cheek. The face of the woman in front of him was so twisted in abject disgust and hatred, he almost forgot who she was.
Suddenly, he remembered the time that a monster he had killed that he dedicated to Alice. Gran had done it in a desperate attempt to win her favour, despite her recently becoming engaged to Albert, telling her of his heroic deeds in fighting a huge and ugly monster with ten tentacles, controlled by a heretical mage.
“Well, Gran! You truly are a knight blessed by the way of the sword if you can defeat such a strong monster!”
“No, it was nothing special. I am still inexperienced, after all… Once I get stronger, I’ll be able to defeat whatever enemies you may one day face, no matter who they are.”
“But… I feel sorry for the monster as well. I know that there was no other way, but it’s so sad, that it was being manipulated by a bad person like that…”
With those words, despite Gran priding himself on being a man only valuing strength in battle, he had been deeply impressed. This girl whose merciful hearts extends even to the most base and vile of monsters, what a noble and gentle spirit she must be.
She must be the Empire’s… No, the world’s most virtuous noblewoman. It only made sense that Albert would have had eyes for her from the beginning, enough to make her his wife, but Gran swore to stay loyal to and love her forever, all the same.
…But, so enamoured as he was by her words, he lost sight of reality. When Alice expressed pity for that monster, she didn’t actually care for it at all, she simply said what she thought would touch his heart the most.
A human being is a creature that will say anything in order to leave a favourable impression of themselves. Even though Gran grew up in the conspiratorial and cutthroat whirlpool of aristocratic life, he forgot all of that as he truly and selfishly wanted to believe in the ideal in front of him.
“If you take away your figure, all that’s left is that thick, musclebound head of yours! Oh, why did I ever even think of keeping you around at all!? If people realize that I was on close terms with a disgusting monster such as you, what will they think of me, you fool!?”
“Eh… Ah… Ehh…? Alice… What are you saying…?”
As Gran stared in disbelief, Alice’s face that was contorted in anger and contempt began to chip, her thick layer of makeup to maintain the illusion of youth cracking under the strain.
He never thought that something like this would happen. When he first changed into this form that represented the overflowing power coursing through his body, in his mind, his idealized Alice would be gentle and kind, understanding why he had taken on this shape.
Even if his body may change, his chivalrous loyalty to Alice would not and, after she would wish him good fortune in the battles ahead, they would exchange a lover’s kiss… For Gran, who wholeheartedly believed that would become reality, with the way Alice regarded him now, it was like the sky had come crashing down around his ears.
“What, why are you looking at me with such a stupid face? Don’t tell me that you haven’t even looked at yourself in a mirror? You’re so disgusting that I’m about to vomit! How dare you even think to make me look at you!?”
Although Alice poured insults on Gran, despite his monstrous and frightening form, a cold sweat began to pour over her body, dealing even further damage to that overstrained powdered makeup.
In her current state of mind, the only thing that kept her from scrambling away and fleeing was her overwhelming pride. In order to gain the attention of both the beautiful and powerful, Alice had worn the mask of the gentle and kind girl as she rubbed shoulders with the greedy and the villainous, but despite coming into contact with some of the worst men in the Empire, she had never set eyes upon such an ugly monstrosity as this.
Although she might have been able to smooth over these insults using her weak hypnosis magic, she wouldn’t take back the words she had said. This was the first time Alice exposed her true self to one of her many men, all because of how truly revolted she was by Gran’s current form.
A normal person would have tried to placate the overwhelming strength in front of them, but even putting aside that she was a woman who mercilessly oppressed her elder sister, she had also planned to ship off her two nieces to the fattest and ugliest aristocrats she could find. Alice was hardly someone you could call normal by any means.
“Guards! GUAAAAAAAAAARDS! Get rid of this beast!! You! Get out of my sight right this instant! Can’t you hear what I’m saying to you!?”
In order to save her own life, all common sense dictated that she shouldn’t anger this monster. But, that was something that Alice’s pride couldn’t allow, taking back her own words now would be no better than grovelling and begging for her life at Gran’s feet, someone who had never been anything more than a mere accessory in her eyes.
Without even a notion that she was putting herself in real danger, Alice continued to berate the Grandmaster, whilst Gran felt everything his life had been for leading up to that point collapsing as he heard her words.
“Alice would never say something like this… I’m sure… There must be some mistake…”
As Alice screamed at him, Gran muttered in a small voice to himself, blotting out the reality in front of him. In his mind, everything he had done up until now had been for Alice’s sake, but suddenly it was like dust in the wind.
His oath of fealty to Albert, who he swore to protect till the day he died. Those former friends who once worked hard side by side now turned rivals in love. Hee also remembered the tears and lamentations of his ex-fiancée who now married another man in the Duchy, after he cast her aside to pursue Alice.
Desperate to escape the reality that he had thrown everything away in pursuit of a love that had never been real, Gran looked for any way he could avoid facing the truth, eventually hitting upon insanity.
“That’s right… This must be some sort of conspiracy… Otherwise, the kind and gentle Alice would never say such things…!”
“Haa…? What on earth are you talking about…?”
Even though Alice didn’t have a shred of her false kindness worn on her face anymore, Gran flashed her a handsome smile.
“It will be okay, Alice. As your loyal knight, I shall defend you from all who seek to degrade you.”
Convincing himself with the delusion that someone unseen was manipulating Alice, Gran was sure this was the truth.
Just then, not just his right arm, but his whole body began to quiver with countless limbs, tearing away all his clothing as he grew. All that remained was his handsome face that was a complete mismatch with the ugly body below his neck, which only added to the grotesque image.
Alice’s pride slipped away as she realized just what unspeakable thing she had awoken with the words she couldn’t take back. As she was frozen to the spot in fear in a growing puddle of her own urine, mucus and tears began to run down her face, with a foul smell beginning to waft from her nether regions.
Not paying attention to the disgusting and miserable state of the woman he adored, Gran’s countless arms stretched towards Alice, taking her into his own body.
Those fingers that touched Alice didn’t grab her but instead began to fuse with and crawl under her skin. It was hard to imagine that she was the Empress with everything below Alice’s waist was swallowed up by Gran’s body as she wailed desperately, becoming one with that abhorrent looking knight much more literally than she ever had done before.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!? YOU SCUM! LET ME GOOOOOOOOOOO!?”
“Don’t worry, it’ll all be okay soon, Alice. This is the only way that I can keep you safe.”
Alice’s terrified screams didn’t reach Gran’s ears, as he was settled on his new reality. Obviously completely out of his mind, he began to make his way towards the balcony to depart, but that was when he heard voices from the corridor outside the room.
“Princess, wasn’t that a scream just now…!?”
“Where was the room that Empress Alice was staying in!?”
“R-Right over there. She should be talking with the master right now…”
BANG! And, just like that, the door to the room was kicked down by Lumiliana who had already drawn her magic sword, followed by Philia and the members of Gran’s household.
“HIIIIIII!? I-Is that the master!?”
“…Damn it! Please leave this place to us! Everyone else needs to evacuate the mansion right away!”
Following Philia’s orders, the Wolff family servants fled the room. As Lumiliana locked eyes with Gran, her hands gripping Clarent tightly, Alice’s expression lit up as she saw a ray of hope.
“Aaah! You came to rescue me!? Please, save me! Even if we aren’t connected by blood, we’re still family after all!? Now, quickly!”
She had been connected by blood with Shirley, yet had cast her down with obvious joy all the same. As Alice said something so intensely hypocritical, Philia glared at her.
If she was being honest with herself, she wanted nothing more than to leave this wretched woman to her fate and simply say that there was nothing she could have done, but as long as the magic called《Sense Lie》existed, that would be difficult. In addition, the folly of both Albert and Alice was effective in undermining Imperial authority. If it came to light that she had abandoned the Empress to die, it could affect her legitimacy in the future, so she reluctantly whispered to Lumiliana to do her best not to harm Alice.
“Grandmaster Wolff… Do you understand just what it is that you are doing?”
“What? I am simply trying to protect my beloved Alice. What crime could there possibly be in that?”
“No, I don’t care what you intend to do with that woman.”
“Wait just a moment!? What is that supposed to mean!?”
Alice who had slipped back into her persona as the innocent woman as she called for help just a moment ago suddenly yelled in indignation, but Philia ignored that enraged expression as she continued.
“The former head of the Wolff family told me all about it. The story of the blade growing from that arm of yours, as well as what it’s capable of.”
To the one who taught me how to make a wreath of cosmos flowers.
After Philia had received a letter from Shirley that had been addressed to her like that, the contents she read had explained the circumstances of the old head of the Wolff family, Gran’s grandfather, who wished to live out his days outside of the Empire. Once she found out where he currently was, she had rushed to talk with him.
Although he may have left that life behind, he had still intended to take the abominable secret of his former house to his grave, the man who had grown disgruntled with the aristocratic life and, after breaking off his ties to his family, had become an adventurer on the edges of the Empire’s territory.
But, after hearing of what his grandson had done, he had told Philia everything. The nature of the magic sword that had been passed down the Wolff line for generations, as well as its true name.
“It absorbs the magical energies of monsters slain on the edge of its blade, giving semi-permanent enhancements to the magical and physical prowess of its wielder, if only in small amounts. Even if it is a strong ability, it doesn’t count for much on its own, it can’t exponentially increase one’s magical power in such a short time.”
The magical power of the monster cannot simply convert into magical power for the wielder. The nature of the sword is as follows: Using 90% of the defeated monster’s magical energy as fuel, it will harmonize the remaining energy into the magical path of the person who wields it. The fact that the bearer itself can gradually attain more power is the true value of the House of Wolff’s heirloom sword.
“But, the sword will also work if you cut down a target that doesn’t necessarily need their magical energy to be harmonized in order to be observed, such as another person… As the current family head, you should know all too well that tragedy from the past…!”
Long ago, there was an incident where a foolish Prince ended up using this devilish blade.
The Prince’s reckless pursuit of strength led to him personally executing death row prisoners using that demonic sword as an experiment, but he soon realized that the amount of magical energy he gained was far more potent than the amount he would gain when he would cut down a monster.
However, the reduction in magical energy gained from defeating monsters also acted as a limiter. In small amounts, it was possible to absorb external magical power into the wielder’s body with no side-effects.
But as he ignored that and killed more and more people, the magical blade wasn’t able to regulate the overwhelming amount of magical energy that was flowing into its wielder and something then happened that not even the blade’s original forger could have predicted.
The Prince, who couldn’t control the excessive amount of magical power and vengeful souls he had absorbed, lost his mind and turned into a monster, creating as many monsters from his own body as people he had killed, these monsters covered with countless limbs terrorizing the Imperial capital as they ran amok.
In the end, the Prince was defeated and the sword entrusted to the head of the House of Wolff from back then by the Emperor himself, so that such a thing could never happen again, but right now it seemed like the tragedy was doomed to repeat itself at the hands of the current head of the Wolff family.
“Not just in the Empire, but the Kingdom as well, there are reports of monsters that are covered in the limbs of people. Along with that figure of yours, there’s only one conclusion.”
Philia’s sky blue eyes burned with righteous fury as she glared at Gran.
“Gran Wolff, for the crime of using《The Refining Blade of Power Dáinsleif》to murder citizens of the Empire, I shall bring you to justice.”