Campione!:Volume 4 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - Of Witches, and the King of Swords
Naples (Napoli, in Italian) is one of the most prominent metropolises in Italy, and the harbor is a famous sightseeing spot.
The phrase "See Naples and die" was coined, from the sheer beauty of the ancient city.
Even when seen from afar, the view of the city was still as impressive.
The rays of sunlight fell upon the glimmering azure Bay of Naples, and on that stood one of the numerous historical structures, the Santa Lucia port.
It could be said that the night scenery there was among the three greatest in the world. If you were to look eastward, you would be able to see Mount Vesuvius, the volcano ten kilometers away.
"Hm, looking at it this far away, it looks like quite a beautiful town, but once you get close, you realize that the streets are dirty and strewn with rubbish, the walls vandalized, the constant traffic congestion, the people happy-go-lucky and the daily life simply chaotic, no matter how much you try to butter it up, it is still an environment unfit for human habitation."
"Ara, Karen, although you are absolutely right, that isn't something you should say to a resident of this city!"
"I apologize if my words offend you, Madam. Honesty and frankness are both part of my nature, hence I often let slip my true feelings by accident."
Known as Spaccanapoli, this was one of the older streets in Naples.
The center of the city, close by Garibaldi Square and the nearby cathedral was bustling with activity, overflowing with the friendly atmosphere of a traditional commercial and working-class neighborhood. In a decrepit corner of that lay Diana Milito's ancient bookstore.
"-- M-Madam? Did you hear that, Lily? This little girl dared to call me 'Madam'... Say something for me!"
"Karen, when addressing a... young lady like Diana, shouldn't there be a better way?"
Naples, the birthplace of pizza, was also a university town.
It was in the year 1224, the era of the Syrian Kingdom, when the University of Naples was established. The university has lasted through the ages till the present times. Perhaps one of the reasons would be the environment, as there were a surprising number of old bookstores in the area.
There was a street next to Piazza Bellini that was well known for having many old bookstores.
In the building known as the 'House of Milito', the three witches had gathered there.
Somehow, no matter which country, one could feel the same sort of atmosphere in these ancient bookstores.
Within the cleanly designed store, were a collection of a myriad of old books, tomes and other texts, and it gave off a very peculiar atmosphere.
"When Liliana-sama is not being sincere, she will look elsewhere, and will not engage in eye contact... Like how she was earlier."
"What!? Lily, is that true...?"
"Not a single bit! Karen, don't say things without any basis or proof behind them!"
"Ara, weren't you rather concerned about that the other day? -- Wondering about Diana-sama's actual age? Did you not say this last time, although she had dressed younger than her own age, she still could not conceal the crow's feet around the corner of her eyes?"
"I didn't say that! Definitely not to that extent!"
"Now, now, you let the cat out of the bag, Lily. How cruel of you girls!"
The owner of the shop, Diana Milito, was a witch that resided in Naples. Age unknown, a baby-faced young female and liked to dress herself in fluttery dresses with plenty of frills, which, strangely, did not look out of place on her.
Liliana was only seven years old the first time she met Diana, who was already a young woman then.
From that time, till now, roughly nine years later, she still bore the same smile, and her youthful appearance had not changed at all.
Be that as it may, the passage of time had not left her untouched, as shown recently by her crow's feet wrinkles, or the fact that her skin had not seemed as glamorous as before.
How old was she, exactly? It is probably best not to think too much about that.
Liliana hurriedly changed the topic of conversation.
"More importantly, Sir Salvatore is running late, and that is worrying."
"... Hmph! Lily, using such a topic to feign innocence. Being a Campione, how could anything bad possibly happen to our lord?"
Diana replied, sulking.
You're already way past your prime, please act more like your age - although Liliana really wanted to say that, she still resisted the temptation. No, it would be a very perilous thing to say.
"Naturally, that was not what I meant. What I was referring to was our lord's mental and psychological issues, because he is lazy and carefree, there are things he has to overcome himself."
Between them, only Liliana had directly met with the [King of Swords] before.
Upon hearing her words, Diana also showed a worried expression, and Karen nodded as though she had a sudden epiphany.
"In other words, do you mean to say that Sir Salvatore is that kind of person? ... ... If you discount the fact that he holds the power of the [King], personality wise, you would be hard-pressed to find something positive about him?"
"I often hear that he is a sloppy and forthright person."
Liliana took out her blue cellphone.
The problem was, Salvatore Doni did not carry these kinds of electronic devices with him when he went out.
It was said that even if he did bring one, he would lose it unknowingly, somehow. As a preventive measure, this time round he had an assistant, who would be of immense help in such situations.
After several rings, the person on the other end finally answered the call.
"This is Kranjcar... What is the current situation with our lord?"
"I'm sorry for being late. Though I managed to bring him in to Naples, the King stopped by Garibaldi Square for some gelato. Could you drop by to pick us up? I'll pass the burde- sorry, pass him over to you."
Although he seemed somewhat tired, he still spoke with a very harsh tone.
"That's fine, I'll be making my way over now. I'll meet up with you later then... ... Our lord has already arrived, I'll be going to pick him up right away. Diana, bring Karen with you to the underground first, this way it'll be faster."
After hanging up the phone, Liliana continued explaining the current situation to her comrades.
After hanging the 'Closed for business today' sign at the door, the three witches made their way outside, onto the streets of Naples.
Liliana soon split up with the other two and headed straight for Garibaldi Square.
Liliana Kranjcar was both a witch and a knight.
Her rival, Erica Blandelli, in a broader sense, was also a witch, but was probably closer to a [Female Magician].
There was a very thin line between being a [Witch] and a magician.
This had been defined by the sacred miko and priestesses of old.
Their knowledge and magic had been directly imparted from the witches of the previous generation.
Diana Milito, a witch of the [Bronze Black Cross] living in Naples, was also the person who had taught Liliana the arts of the witch. And Karen, who also had training in the same type of magic, was currently staying at Liliana's side for further education.
After bidding farewell with her companions, Liliana passed along Corso Umberto, gradually going towards Garibaldi Square.
The statue of the hero of the revolution, Giuseppe Garibaldi, watched over the station square.
As expected, the place was fully packed, but she had an idea where to go to find him.
That was because, from the crowds, she had heard two very familiar voices.
"Answer me, Salvatore Doni, although it was only just now that were you licking that gelato, when on earth did you go and buy this?"
"It's not good to worry about the little things, Andrea. Look up and enjoy the sky."
An eye-catching duo were discussing something.
One of them had black hair, wore silver framed glasses, and had an intellectual, somewhat neurotic look. On his slender face between his brows, a deep crease had formed.
The other person was a blond hunk with a seemingly carefree attitude.
"Look, the sun is pretty good today. And listen here, summer is in full bloom now. We're currently in Naples. The city of the shining sun and sea. This is the place for yachts, beaches, beer, barbeque and men and women of all ages to have fun - everything essential about summer! In a situation like this, there is only one thing I intend to accomplish here. Yes, that's right, it is to have a vacation!"
In his hand, was a bottle of limoncello.
It seemed like a very cooling and refreshing drink, the label on the bottle was imprinted with many drops of water. The blond man was sucking on his straw as he made his declaration.
To further add on, he was wearing an aloha shirt with flower patterns, indeed, he was dressed very casually.
Liliana called out towards him.
Without a doubt, this was Salvatore Doni, the strongest knight of Italy, the [King of Swords], one of the godslayers, a Campione.
"Ah, long time no see, erm... Kranjcar, was it?"
"She is Liliana Kranjcar, my king."
Facing the Campione who was happily greeting her, the bespectacled youth respectfully added.
His attitude and words had suddenly become very polite and business-like, reverting to an expressionless poker face, in contrast to before Liliana had called out to them, it could be described as an 'instantaneous reversal'.
His name is Andrea Rivera.
For Salvatore Doni, he was sometimes an aide, other times, a secretary, but most importantly, a manager.
Covering all types of tasks and errands, the youth known as [The King's Butler].
"Ah-, is that so. Sorry, I can only remember the names of people I have met five times, you're probably around three times? I can't really remember your full name-"
Facing the smiling [King], Liliana did a military style salute.
In actual fact she had met him six times, but she kept that to herself. It would be bad to be fooled by his personality. He was a true monster - even if all the magicians in the world were to join forces against him, he still would be able to obtain victory, the immortal king of swords.
"Then, Liliana Kranjcar, I will now leave the king to you. If you don't mind, I will take my leave now to settle other pressing matters."
"That would not be a problem. You have my thanks, Sir Andrea."
Liliana replied, expressing her gratitude.
Without Andrea Rivera, Salvatore Doni would be a mere warrior, unable to function as a leader of the magic world. This is why he had been granted the title of [The King's Butler].
"With that, my king, Liliana will be taking over from now on, please listen carefully to her instructions and act like a true king should. This, I sincerely ask of you."
Rivera made a request, in a respectful manner.
Upon hearing this, he, who was one of the seven devil kings in existence, frowned.
"I already know that. It's not like I'll be purposely making trouble for her, you simply worry too much."
"Forgive me, that is merely one of my responsibilities - if you will allow me to say this, I am worried that you might suddenly leave halfway due to your capricious nature, and as such, I have instructed Kranjcar to contact me immediately should such a situation arise. It would be my good fortune if you would bear that in mind."
If you run away, I won't be held responsible for what happens afterwards... His words seem to imply that.
Liliana agreed silently.
Rivera and Salvatore Doni were friends, even before the latter had obtained the power of a [King]. Even if one were to disregard that, he was still able to criticize the devil king directly without fear, this fortitude and diligence of his were to be admired, which is how he had obtained this role.
"I know, I know. Conversely, about the assignment I gave you, carry it out properly."
To his concerned butler, Salvatore Doni gestured with his hand for him to leave. Wordlessly, Rivera bowed, and promptly left, vanishing into the crowds.
"Where is Sir Andrea going?"
"Earlier, I had requested him to run some mundane errands... Alright then. Shall we go to finish things on your side?"
Doni answered Liliana's question with an air of boredom.
Finishing the rest of the limoncello, he picked up his suitcase which was resting on the ground.
It was a sleek black case that seemed like it could store something very large.
His title, the [King of Swords], might have something to do with the size of that suitcase.
"But, I just can't get excited over this - I heard that it was because that there might be danger that you asked for my help, but still..."
Doni complained lazily.
When all's said and done, compared to Dejanstahl Voban, he was much more manageable. His capriciousness, could possibly be said to be part of the fearsomeness of the [King].
He was a resident of the battlefield. Somehow, that was the best way to describe him.
To the magicians of Italy who knew that fact all too well, they treated his normal behavior and personality as simply a fashion fad of his generation.
"As I thought, without an enemy before my eyes, I just can't get fired up, don't you agree? We should get a few gods, demons, monsters or whatever, doesn't matter if they're friendly, and have a battle royale to spice things up -"
"My lord... As I suspect that the incident this time might have something to do with a god, or perhaps a dragon-like being, I believe that this will live up to your expectations."
Liliana said, conveying the facts concisely and simply.
If it were possible, she would have liked to obtain more accurate and reliable information before releasing the details, but there was no helping it.
Anyway, it was already enough that the king had been brought to Naples. The most important thing right now would be to prevent him from taking any unnecessary actions.
Hearing the news, Salvatore Doni's attitude changed immediately.
"Would you care to explain further, Liliana Kranjcar?"
Her full name that was not remembered no matter what she did, was clearly said this time.
His lips slightly twisting to one side in a grin, his previous slovenly attitude like that of a young boy had all but vanished. Salvatore Doni smiled gleefully, leaking out his true nature as a warrior.
Originally, Naples was a colonial city of the ancient Greeks.
The remnants of stone pits where slaves were once made by the people of old to work in. Then, the remnants of the sewage systems, water tanks built by the Romans of later generations. And after that, the remnants of underground warehouses that were used to store food, provisions, and liquor.
The traces of these constructs could still be found in present times, beneath the older streets.
Napoli Sotterranea - also otherwise known as [Underneath Naples].
"... ... Although these underground ruins have already become a sightseeing attraction, this specific part of the underground is not open to the public, as it has been sealed and hidden by the witches of Naples."
Liliana remarked, leading the way.
The district of Santa Lucia.
Facing the Bay of Naples, it consists of the Santa Lucia harbor, Castel dell'Ovo and other sightseeing spots.
They entered an old clothing store in the district, and greeted the middle-aged woman running the store.
Even if you wanted to compliment it, the clothing sold in the messy shop could not be described as 'decent'. The fat lady, who looked perfectly suited to the store and was in fact Diana's subordinate, wordlessly brought them to the back of the shop.
The interior of the store - was a place that only witches have been.
It was an entrance to the underground ruins below.
Unexpectedly, there was a square hole right in the middle of the bare ground. Stairs, carved from stone, extended into the depths below, and Liliana, who could see perfectly fine in pitch darkness, descended down the stairs without so much as a torchlight.
"... ... The [Snake] number the most, after that would be the [Cow]."
Doni, following behind Liliana, murmured to himself.
The pathway of the ruins was like an abandoned mine, long and narrow.
This place had used to be a quarry, dating back to the BC era, thus it would be very similar to an abandoned mine. However, the many drawings carved upon the walls, suggested something else.
These were simple, primitive stick drawings, and it would not be hard to believe if someone said that these were carved by people from the Stone Age.
As Doni had said, there were many drawings that resembled snakes on the walls.
Some were depicted with very long, curling bodies, or multiple heads, and a few even had bat-like wings.
Other animals that were drawn included cows, birds, pigs and lions.
Someone with a magical background would instantly recognize these to be the likeness of goddesses of the land, and probably were carved after the coming of the Roman Empire.
"In the past, this was the location of a secret underground temple... ..."
Liliana softly whispered, not wanting to disturb the tranquility of these sacred grounds.
Even since a certain patriarchal monotheistic religion became the official religion, the holy miko who possessed divine power were branded as [Witches], persecuted and hunted down.
And thus they fled to the underground, in order to preserve their wisdom and knowledge, they built this underground temple to pass on their teachings and arts.
These drawings portrayed the beliefs of the witches, symbolizing the gods.
"Incidentally, snakes seem to be like the guardian deities of witches, why is that so?"
Being asked this question out of the blue, Liliana hesitated for a moment.
In the ancient times, the miko who served the great goddesses of the land were the ones who became the first [Witches].
With the influx of Christianity and the decline of the traditional beliefs in Europe, the originally sacred miko were suppressed and boycotted, and were slowly regarded as heretical and to be feared.
The great goddesses of the land in those days, usually were those that ruled over the domains of life and death.
Athena, Ishtar, Isis, Tiamat, Cybele, to name a few. The goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, was also originally a powerful great goddess of the land.
The sacred animal that represented the cycle of life and death, the snake.
And thus, the snake became the symbol of the goddesses of the land, the guardian spirit of the witches.
Though Liliana had some qualms about the reliability of the details on the occult in this kind of place, she decided to leave that matter aside for the moment.
"To explain that would consume a large amount of time. I will give you an explanation later, so please kindly wait in the meantime."
"Hahaha, sorry, sorry. I should have learnt that before, but I totally forgot all about it."
Doni's carefree attitude showed that he had no intention of reflecting on his actions.
Although Campiones and magicians seemed to be similar beings, they were in actual fact, totally different existences.
Liliana once again deeply felt how true that statement was. Kusanagi Godou, who Erica Blandelli was enthusiastically chasing after, prior to becoming a Campione, had completely zero knowledge of the magical arts, a civilian.
"Then, the place your companions are currently hiding out at... 'Heraion', was it called?"
"Yes. A few months ago, the Gorgoneion that was discovered was the emblem of Medusa and Athena. And then, the Heraion is the emblem of the goddess Hera. Legends spoke of the goddess' hair being woven from snakes, and possessing the eyes of a female cow - these traits all point towards her being a goddess of the land."
In Greek mythology, Hera was the wife of Zeus.
However, she had originated from the Peloponnesian Peninsula as a guardian goddess of the earth.
After the area was conquered by the Indo-European sky god worshipping people, Hera was forced to submit herself to Zeus.
Before long, the two of them had arrived at the underground temple.
A pair of witches stood beside a pillar of pure black - Diana Milito and Karen Jankulovski were waiting there.
"It is my honor to meet you, Sir Salvatore. For accepting our request, you have my deepest gratitude - "
"That's not important, let's go straight to the main topic. This is the rumored 'Heraion', isn't it?"
Doni quickly cut her off, inspecting the pillar.
It looked like it was made from obsidian.
From the ground, the pillar stretched upwards, like a growing tree.
On the surface, there were many drawings of serpents, although it seemed clumsily carved onto the rock, one could not help but feel drawn towards it.
Approximately two meters tall, this was the Heraion.
"Alright, I'm feeling a rather incredible divine force from this."
"Yes. This was once discovered in Greece, and then painstakingly transported to this place, centuries ago, by the witches of Naples - our ancestors."
She was completely serious now, a deep contrast with her previous behavior exhibited back in her bookstore; after all, she was a branch leader of Naples, in the [Bronze-Black Cross].
"It was spring this year - when we discovered the Gorgoneion in Calabria, when it began to react in resonance. Initially, the magical force was not yet so powerful and we could contain it by erecting the [Seclusion] barrier, but now..."
Recently, they have not been able to fully control it.
With a deep sigh, Diana finished her explanation, with Doni happily nodding his head.
"How nostalgic, the Gorgoneion? I was busy slacking off then - "
"... ... Slacking off, did you say?"
"Yep. I was still recovering from my wounds from that last great battle with Godou then, so since I wasn't going to take care of it, didn't you have no choice but to explain matters to him, requesting his aid to clean things up?"
To Liliana who was asking him with a reprimanding tone, Doni replied, blinking his eyes.
This youth with absolutely no sense of responsibility, had found a rivalry in another Campione, the boy who had gained immense power in just a day. Liliana, once again, felt the reality sink in.
Salvatore Doni is a warrior, through and through.
Whether it was joy, friendship, anger, love or pain, he could feel all these emotions on the battlefield. No matter how carefree or generous he seemed - this was not the true Salvatore Doni.
A place where he could truly be himself, could only be the battlefield - while facing the strongest enemies.
Thus, he deeply loved the few enemies he had, befriending them, while polishing his blade in order to defeat them.
Although she and Erica were both considered to be prodigal magicians, there was an insurmountable wall between them and him. Liliana had no choice but to accept this fact.
In the past, Salvatore Doni had been labeled as someone who could not keep up with his peers.
However, that was only because he was someone that normal standards did not apply to.
His talents and capabilities were well beyond the comprehension of normal people, completely disregarding his studies in the magical arts and focusing on martial prowess, the genius who beheaded a god with just his blade.
The innate nature of the [King of Swords].
Of course, his carefree and happy-go-lucky attitude could also be part of his innate nature...
"When I heard that the goddess was Athena, the first thought I had was 'Crap'! I'd have been really happy if I were the one to have fought with her, how regrettable... if I take the Heraion with me, Hera might show up, eh?"
"No, although I am hoping that the probability of that happening is low..."
Diana answered with a troubled expression. It would not be easy to bring out the pillar.
First you would have to excavate it out of the ground, and then transport it.
Manpower and machinery were needed, and then if during the process, the Heraion reacted in a negative manner, it could very well turn into a dangerous situation.
"Come to think of it, you mentioned something about a dragon earlier, what was that about?"
Doni suddenly asked, and the three witches looked at each other, unsure of what to say.
(... ... Do we have to explain that as well?)
(... ... We have to. From the conversation earlier, you can tell that Sir Salvatore's knowledge of magic is of the same level as a trainee magician.)
(Fine, fine, and Karen, please don't say anything weird.)
The above was conveyed purely through eye contact.
As a Campione possessing tremendous powers and receiving the admiration of many, it was unbecoming that he had the knowledge of an outsider.
To grab the attention of everyone, Liliana coughed softly.
"From our deductions, dragons are a transformation of serpents, to put it more extremely, if you combine parts of birds, lizards, horses and lions with a snake, you would get a dragon."
"Eh- Is that so? Somehow it seems really far-fetched."
"That's not the case, when the holy miko fell and were branded as [Witch], the incarnation of the earth goddesses changed with the times and slowly became the [Dragon], the embodiment of ferocity and strength."
Liliana suddenly recalled the rumors about the feats performed by Salvatore Doni.
"By the way, Sir Salvatore, you probably should have authorities that are related to the power of the dragon, am I right?"
"Did I? Although I don't remember fighting a dragon before."
"Of course, although not in a direct confrontation, related to the dragon is - in other words, the hero with the power of water-based divine spirits and sacred beasts, have you not defeated him?"
The first god that was slain by Doni was the Celtic god king, Nuadha.
From Nuadha, he obtained the authority of demonic swords, and after that, he defeated the heretical god summoned by Marquis Voban, gaining the power of the dragon - the authority of the immortality of steel.
To the dragon slayers who have long since regarded dragons and snakes to be their target of conquest, channeled the properties of these beasts into their own power.
Doni nodded in acceptance to that reason.
"... ... I see. Well, I understand your point now."
"You understand? That is good to hear."
"No, I didn't understand what you were trying to say at all. But I've made it this far without knowing anything, so the meaning probably isn't that important, that's what I understood. It's fine, it's fine."
"... ... M-My lord, if you are fine with it, then I guess there is no problem."
Liliana finally understood that this person's head worked in a completely different way.
Although with his sloppy and reckless way of thinking, he had still made it through so many crises, definitely something that the average man could not accomplish, this was one of the reasons why he was so highly regarded.
"Then, what should we do about this Heraion? It is too big for me to bring it home like what Godou did."
The height that protruded above the ground was roughly two meters, meaning that it might be longer.
Doni looked at the Heraion that was a lot bit taller than him, smiled, and then suggested,
"If we hack it into two pieces, then slowly cut it into smaller sized pieces that can fit into my hand, I could put it in my luggage and bring it home... ... could that work?"
"Cut the Heraion into pieces!? This is a very important, sacred artifact!"
"Is, isn't that going a little too far?"
Diana could not help but shout out loud, even the usually calm Karen had trouble keeping a composed face.
Forget the Gorgoneion, the Heraion is a sacred item to the European witches, even if he were a [King], it was impertinent of him to make such a suggestion. Liliana continued,
"Sir Salvatore, it is as Diana said! Furthermore, no matter how powerful your demonic swords are, they could never cut apart the earth goddess' artifact!"
"No, I think it is very possible to cut apart, because right now I don't have the feeling that it can't be cut apart, that's why I can do it."
Doni softly remarked, gazing intently at the Heraion.
He really intends to do it! Liliana, convinced of that, cried out,
"That would not be good. As of now, the Heraion has stored up a huge amount of earthen and water magical power, although it is currently suppressed by the barrier that has been erected, should you use your authority now, the situation will quickly escalate out of control! In the worst case, the collected energy might be released in an explosion, completely annihilating Naples, which is why we should proceed with caution!"
"But, just simply sitting here and waiting for something to happen is simply too boring."
"That is why we had wanted to consult the king's, your opinion on the matter. After all, if gods are involved, you would be Italy's most knowledgeable specialist... ... Besides cutting it up into small pieces, do you have any other suggestions?"
"Hmm... ... if that's the case - "
After being severely reprimanded by Liliana, Doni sank into deep thought, and quickly shook his head.
"Nope, can't think of anything. Not at all."
"My lord! Please think about it more seriously!"
One's pace could not help but to be disrupted when dealing with this king.
Liliana was angered and frustrated to the point where she was almost shouting, literally breaking out in cold sweat. If one were to speak to Marquis Voban in the same way, they would be instantly executed.
Doni still had that carefree smile on his face, ignoring the verbal disrespect.
"Well, what I wanted to say was that everyone is tired. For now, let's head back and have a good rest as it's already getting late, maybe we'll manage to think of something good tomorrow!"
There were no reasons to object to his order.
To keep staying in front of the Heraion would be a waste of time, thus the three witches, along with the [King of Swords], begun to head back, but... ...
On the way back, Doni did not stop smiling to himself.
From his expression, Liliana could not help but feel a sense of dread, and silently steadied her determination for what might come tomorrow.
That night, Salvatore Doni stayed in an inn that they had arranged for him.
Liliana and Karen were both staying over at Diana's house. With that, the day's clamor and activities have long ended - or so it should have been.
It was half past twelve, midnight, when the lonesome figure of Liliana could be seen travelling on the streets of Naples.
They had come here before during the day, the coastal main street of Santa Lucia district.
This time was not considered very late during summer in these big cities of Europe, hence there were still quite a few signs of human activity. To carousers and partygoers, this would be their favorite time of the day to head out.
Although Naples did not have a low crime rate, this was one of the safer districts to be (On the older streets, there were high chances of running into pickpockets and robbers).
Liliana did not go out at night often.
Although she had full confidence in her abilities, it just didn't feel right to her.
... ... With an unease she could not get rid of, Liliana walked into a cafe that operated at night, ordered a few sandwiches to satisfy her hunger and a coffee to keep her awake, and continued on her way.
She broke into a run, there was a place she had to reach as soon as possible.
At any rate - the young women on the streets caused her to knit her brows in disapproval whenever she passed them by.
The amount of skin exposed, wasn't it a little too much?
Camisoles, tank tops were fine. Even if it was summer, being so daring as to expose their midriffs and bra straps, Liliana could not approve of that.
Incidentally, Liliana was dressed plainly.
A loose fitting blue shirt matched with black suit pants, though it gave her a clean, beautiful look, somehow it gave the impression that she was an unfashionable person.
Finally arriving at her destination, the place she had decided that she had to return to during the evening.
The old clothing store run by the fat witch. Because she had an uneasy feeling, she decided to stand guard overnight.
(If it's that guy, it's likely that he will come here...)
(No doubt, better to be safe than sorry...)
After explaining the reason for her unease to her comrades, that was how they replied.
Trust between people was something that was nurtured through normal, daily actions. Having learnt that lesson, she blew a whistle.
A short while passed before a thin, frail stray cat slowly strode up to her.
Before dinner, she had bound the cat by means of a magical contract, and had it watch over the store for her, reporting any suspicious activity.
She placed the palm of her hand on top of the cat, and extracted the cat's memories.
"... ... It's as we expected, such a headache."
What they thought would happen, had happened, and Liliana walked towards the old bookstore.
The doors were made from old wood, and the lock in the doorknob could be opened if you had the necessary skill. As he probably could not use [Unlock] magic, some sort of lock-picking skills must have been employed.
"That guy, why does he always have these kind of weird skills!"
She shouted angrily, and pushed open the door.
The familiar fat lady was lying on the floor, unconscious.
Liliana quickened her pace and reached the underground complex of the Heraion after a few minutes of running. There, she saw the king, who seemed to be in a pretty happy mood.
" - Sir Salvatore!"
"Hm? Kranjcar? Why are you here?"
"Of course, because you were acting strange earlier, that's why I have come here on purpose!"
"... ... Wh, what?"
In the deepest part of the underground ruins, she once again met with the devil king, Salvatore Doni.
"I'm begging you, please don't pull these kinds of stunts! Could you have thought that you would peremptorily do everything by yourself before we nag and chastise you, did you!?"
"You're really impressive, to have managed to predict my actions to this extent... ... Not bad."
In the face of the female knight's interrogation, Doni could only reply in a soft voice, his expression stiff.
He seemed to be repentant about it. Although they had already expected this to happen, he really was a useless member of society.
Liliana really wanted to let out a deep sigh at their lack of options.
To prevent the manifestation of the [Heretical God] was what she wanted to discuss with the godslaying devil king, which was a perfectly natural human thing to do, but her partner wasn't really human anymore.
Italy's [King of Swords] was such a man, like a ticking bomb of shenanigans that could go off at any moment.
Residing in the nearby Balkan peninsula was the [Marquis], dangerous like a wild beast.
The [Kings] residing in America and China were too far away for them to have any relations with.
England's [Black Prince], was famous for having a terrible personality and being a ruffian.
Alexandria's [Queen] had not been heard of for centuries and has been living in seclusion as a hermit.
Lastly, the [King] of Japan that came to Italy occasionally... ... With an upright character, a youth who had somewhat good prospects for the future, but did not have an eye for women. In conclusion, he was definitely no good.
"It can't be helped. Besides using a sword, there's no other way around this."
While smiling, Doni grabbed his usual black case with his hands.
Until now, the case had been hanging off his shoulders, inseparable from his body. He flipped open the cover, and retrieved the weapon inside, and then threw the scabbard onto the floor.
A blade of pure steel.
Unlike the magic swords used by Liliana and Erica, nor was it the work of a master swordsmith.
It looked just like some mass manufactured product, besides being a sword, there was nothing special about it. Nevertheless, the steel was of a quality enough to match that of the strongest magic swords on earth.
... ... Liliana and the others would never walk around like that, carrying the sword wherever they went, as they could directly summon the magic swords out of thin air.
The reason Doni did not do so, was mainly because he was poor at the magical arts, he could not, even if it was a basic spell like this, he simply couldn't cast it.
In spite of that, he was emitting a tremendous amount of magical energy. Liliana sucked in her breath.
"M-My lord, could you possibly be thinking of using your sword!?"
"Ah, no. I didn't draw my blade to kill you or anything like that, don't worry about it... Listen, you know in those historical Japanese movies, there's this 'mineuchi' thing, right? I was wondering if I could do the same now."
"There's no way I can believe that will happen!"
Liliana, who had quite a fair bit of knowledge on Japanese culture, wished that Doni would not take those sword fighting scenes in those old Japanese movies so seriously and attempt to mimic them, but she was more worried about the stance he had taken.
- Relaxing half his body, his sword was left hanging loose from his right hand.
The knights who have seen Salvatore Doni in action would all know this fact, that his combat stance was simply unbelievably shocking. There was no special skill or technique involved. A stance that prepared for neither offense nor defense.
A completely natural and relaxed stance, free, unfettered and flexible. A stance that could adapt to anything in response, and then cut down everything in its path.
As there were no humans that could be a match for him, thus this stance, meant for adaptability, was what he had learnt to use, in his numerous conflicts with gods, demons, devil kings and monsters - The extraordinarily powerful foes that logic did not apply to.
"Since you won't let me use the 'mineuchi', you'll have to suffer the consequences. Are you ready?"
Doni said with a carefree tone.
Liliana instantly employed the summoning magics, and her weapon materialized.
There were no thoughts behind her actions, merely the instinct of a knight, spontaneous actions in response to a battle.
Il Maestro - with the title of [Artisan], the magic sword with historical origins.
The blade was gently curved, it was an elegant silver saber. As Liliana grabbed the weapon and took a stance, Doni moved forward towards her. His speed was neither fast, nor slow.
A neutral stance, as though he were stepping into a friend's house.
At the same time the sword in his right hand drew an arc as it slashed at Il Maestro.
Liliana did not move out of the way.
On the contrary, she aimed to lock her blade with Doni's, and reach a stalemate. Entangling their blades together, sealing the opponent's techniques and movements.
But she was not able to parry Doni's light blow.
Conversely, Il Maestro was easily sent flying out of her hand, disarming her.
It had been a blow from his empty left hand that did it.
And again, in that neutral stance, yet another blow landed on the region of her solar plexus. It seemed like a light blow, yet she felt such a great impact on her body, leaving her gasping for breath, unable to summon any of her strength.
Liliana was breathing hard, bending over at her knees. Compared to her, his strength was in a completely different dimension, she could neither defend nor attack.
"... .... Well, that's how it is. If you try and get in my way again, I'll let you experience firsthand my forty-eight killing techniques, capable of causing anyone to fall in a dream-like trance and fainting, or my fifty-two submission techniques that would serve you a full course of having all your joints in your arms and legs broken, be more obedient from now on!"
After saying that cheerily, he turned around and walked to the Heraion.
Liliana, who could not even stand up properly at this point, much less stop him. Furthermore, his right hand was still glowing with a silver light.
She felt the Goosebumps rise on her skin. The [King of Swords] was channeling all of his strength and power.
Doni's right hand was no longer a human hand of flesh and blood.
It was a radiant silver-white metal arm, as if made by a genius master craftsman, a work of artistic splendor.
"I will make this oath now. I, I will not allow anything that cannot be cut to exist in this world. For this sword of mine, is the invincible blade that cuts down all without fail!"
Doni made an arrogant proclamation - No, perhaps it was more like the soul of the language surging forth.
Turning the strength of his words into a tremendous amount of magical energy, focusing that into his sword of steel, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind magical sword of vast power, and with that, the [King] swung his sword right at the black pillar.
The Heraion was sliced apart - into two clean halves.
The silver arm that transformed the sword of steel, which was then able to cut any being on this earth with no exception. This was the [Ripping Arm of Silver], the authority obtained from the god Nuadha.
Even if it were a rusty sword or a swiss army knife, could also be turned into an unrivaled magical sword.
It was an extremely simple authority. A single sword that could split the earth and the seas. It was a simple and yet immensely powerful ability.
Liliana witnessed it with her own eyes.
From the halves of the Heraion, burst forth a massive amount of magical energy in the form of a lava-like substance.
The brilliantly glowing green magma flowed across the ground, overflowing with magical energy, and then suddenly, a surge of magical power shot towards the ceiling from the floor of the underground ruins, like a volcanic eruption.
Humans - magicians and various other kinds, the race of the intelligent and cunning, named them as [Heretical Gods].
What gave birth to these supernatural existences?
No one really knows the truth behind this, what they can only do is come up with theories, this was the only results after much racking of their brains.
Even the gods who were named as such were unable to answer this question themselves, though it is no fault of theirs.
Before the [Heretical Gods] had realized, they were already roaming through the lands, establishing themselves as an independent existence. They could not even remember the process of their birth.
"... ... For what purpose have I been brought into this world for? Even if I ask myself that, I don't know the answer. Whether I should be sad or happy about this, I don't know that either."
The god who had just obtained a physical form asked rhetorically, with a bitter smile.
A smile that gave off a feeling of frustration.
Not knowing, that in itself was interesting. There was no need to worry over that.
Wanting to find out their reason for existence, trying to find their genuine selves - fretting over such delicate woes, it was not the style that was becoming of a hero from the ancient times.
That being said, that fundamental essence of a god would be [Myth].
Besides that, the lands of the people who spread these myths, or the unexplainable incidents that happened on these lands, between these factors, there must be some kind of link.
A glance at the immediate surroundings.
Although the area had been shrouded in the darkness of the night, this was no problem to the eyes of a god.
This was a mountain, probably a volcano, not much greenery could be seen, probably due to the higher composition of metal of the earth, and there were red volcanic rocks everywhere.
- Mount Vesuvius.
He did not know the name that the humans have given it, and he continued to survey the land before him.
The place he was at was about halfway up the mountain, from there he could see that the sea, and also a city in which humans lived was not too far off. To the eyes of an archer, this was nothing.
"... ... Ho. This seems interesting."
In a corner of the city, near the coast, there was an explosion of magical energy.
The essence of earth and water, in the form of emerald light was surging out.
Like a volcanic eruption - the instant he thought of that, he finally realized why he had manifested.
The essence of earth, of the land. Perhaps it was the snake of the mother of the land, the mystical force that belonged to the Queen of the earth.
And what was he currently standing on? A mountain of fire, earth and metal.
Who was he? A hero. Steel within his hands, a flame burning within him, a defender of the land.
"The essence of the earth, the spirits of steel, are they calling for me? If that's the case, then what comes next, would be that."
He released the divine energy stored in his body.
The emerald energies reacted with his own divine energies, refining it into a tremendous, massive body of life force.
The idea of a serpent served as a foundation for that giant body.
It had a length that surpassed the sea serpent that he had once defeated in his legend, causing the civilians that looked up at the sky to scream in terror.
After that came huge bat-like wings sprouting from its back.
From the body, four short limbs, like those of a lizard.
The shape of the head resembled the crocodile's, and within the gaping maw, there were many razor-sharp, blade like teeth - it was the birth of a dragon.
In the skies above the coastal city, the gargantuan dragon spread its wings, and circled around slowly.
The god smiled in satisfaction.
The creation of a worthy enemy from the essence of the land, for a hero that was also known as a war god, was this not a joyous occasion?
At any rate, as long as there was an enemy he had to defeat, it was fine. As long as there was an obstacle to be overcome, he would be satisfied.
If there were damsels in distress as well, that would be even better, but having an enemy was more important, because without that, there wouldn't be any distress at all. Then there would be no point in being a hero!
Blood burning with excitement, he rushed ahead, but quickly came to a halt.
"Ah, that's right - I ought to declare my name."
As a hero of bravery and beauty, it was only natural for him to do so.
If the sound of his name did not leave a deep impression on the humans, it would be a great blow to his pride.
After a while of careful consideration, and establishing that it would be more appropriate to refrain from that, he instantly fell to his knees in despair.
"I, I almost thought I was going to die..."
Liliana Kranjcar, who had finally escaped from that crisis, said to herself weakly.
After everything was bathed in the light from the Heraion, the ceiling had started to collapse due to the intense exposure to magical energies.
If this continues, I'll be buried alive!
The moment the earthquake-like tremors started to spread through the underground ruins, Liliana had leapt into action.
When even the large rocks begun falling on her head, Liliana instantly used the [Leap] magic. With the use of this spell, a distance of over a hundred meters could be covered in roughly ten seconds.
To onlookers, it would have seemed like teleportation.
Although, it was merely a high speed movement across a large distance, not a teleportation skill.
Through the gigantic hole in the ceiling that had been created by the energies from the Heraion, she escaped with [Leap] magic onto the surface above. Were she a tad bit slower, it would have been very likely that she would be trapped by the collapsing rocks.
- As of now, she was at the coastal end of Santa Lucia district.
This was no sandy beach, but a sparse outcrop of marble covered the area, serving as a breakwater of sorts. It was only a short walking distance back to the streets of Santa Lucia.
To get back to the old bookstore would take only about ten minutes.
After running through the entire underground ruins, getting back up here with [Leap], she had lost track of her bearings, and thus she surveyed the general area again.
Earlier, the stored magical energy of the Heraion had exploded.
The explosion leveling the city - she had feared this, but the harbor seemed to be largely unaffected, there were no real visible damage to the environment.
Liliana felt relieved.
Of course, the loss of the precious underground sanctuary was regrettable, the people living directly above it might have been affected, but it was still better than having the entire city blown sky high.
... ... Yes, although that was preferable, but...
Looking up, Liliana realized how wrong she was.
A dragon. A flying dragon.
In the skies above the harbor, a massive dragon, gliding freely through the skies with its wings spread out wide, haughtily looking at the world beneath it.
The wingspan was at least thirty meters long, and the scales were glinting with a faint emerald color.
Compared to the modern depiction of the dragon, its head and body were long like that of a snake. Maybe it looked a little weird, but that hardly seemed important at the moment.
The way the chimaera being known as a dragon was depicted changed depending on the time and place.
Ever since the olden days, Europe had many different stereotypes of the dragon.
Limbless dragons, wingless dragons, or conversely, dragons with overly long wings and limbs which resembled a Pegasus, but the modern dragon was the one depicted in fantasy movies and video games.
"As I thought, was it born when the Heraion was cut apart...?"
"Whoa—isn't it awesome? I really didn't think that a dragon would pop out of that pillar. It sure gave me a surprise."
While Liliana was staring dumbly at the dragon and murmuring to herself, a cheerful voice had said suddenly.
She wasn't surprised.
As she managed to escape unscathed herself, there was no doubt that he would make it out as well. Liliana turned her head, and found Salvatore Doni simply standing there leisurely, with not a scratch on him.
As expected of the one who possessed the authority, [Man of Steel].
Obtained from the Nordic hero Siegfried, it was an authority that allowed one to obtain a semi-immortal body that was tougher than steel, the cave-in earlier must have seemed like the pattering of raindrops to him.
"... ... My lord. Although this is not a hard thing to do, because your actions earlier have resulted in the birth of that dragon, please do control yourself in the future!"
"I know, it's fine. I'll take responsibility and beat down that guy!"
"Please don't do that! If you destroy the divine beast formed from the spiritual essence of the land, the spiritual veins in the entire region might dry up! It's too risky!"
Liliana shouted, while looking up at the dragon.
In oriental Chinese geomancy, it could also be referred to as the earth's vein, or dragon's vein.
The dragon was surely an embodiment of that kind of power.
Destroy it, and what would remain would be a barren land and a sea of death. That was a future predicted with the spirit sense of the witches, and had to be avoided at all costs.
- The sounds of flapping wings could be heard as the dragon approached the harbor.
As it was a creature that disregarded the laws of physics, it would not have mattered even if it did not have the necessary organs for flight.
The dragon continued to circle leisurely in the skies.
Two knights stood on the harbor of Santa Lucia, gazing up at it.
One of them was vigorously burning with fighting spirit, raring for a fight, while the other wore an expression of worry, wanting to prevent that from happening.
As if sensing Doni's fighting spirit, the emerald dragon, with an air of an emperor, looked down at the [King of Swords], and suddenly roared.
The thunderous roar of the dragon in the deep night caused the entirety of Naples to shake.
At the same time, from the gigantic dragon's body, radiated an intense amount of magical energy.
Could the dragon be capable of using spells of magical or divine nature!? Liliana felt a wave of fear wash over her, and then something changed within the sea - A wave. A gigantic wave was headed towards them.
The waves crashed against the harbor violently.
The rhythm of the surging water and sounds, began to rapidly increase in tempo.
What was only the soft, calm waves of the night, had turned into this state of fury in a mere ten seconds.
"Hmm, by just increasing the strength of the waves a little bit, what is it trying to do?"
"It's not 'little'! Please open your eyes and look at that!"
Liliana, in a state of panic, warned the perfectly calm Doni.
A genius in melee combat, a pure-blooded warrior, and in the realm of the Campiones, with the exception of the religious cult founder Luo Hao, he could be considered as the strongest. However, he had a weakness, or rather, a vice.
He was inept at judging and analyzing magical warfare.
That was because of his absolute resilience against offensive magic, a Campione that had a body tougher than steel, like a metal wall.
Even if he were to be subjected to an overwhelming magical assault, he would be able to endure it, and launch a counterattack with his sword.
It was not an ideal style to fight with, but he did not care much for these trifling details, only about whether he could immerse himself in battle.
- The force of the dragon's summoned wave had intensified even more within seconds.
From the sea came a feeling of the onset of a storm. The waves crashed non-stop against the harbor, and from the far distance, a tsunami approached menacingly, like an avalanche.
It was something that should not have been able to occur here, in this quiet inner bay, that gigantic wave that carried the wrath of nature.
"Hmph, against this wave, with my blade, I will - oh crap! I dropped it back in the underground area!! H, hold on a second! Let's settle this in a fair fight, ok!?"
As Liliana shouted at the [King] in desperation, Doni complained loudly.
They were immediately hit by the incoming tsunami, and swept away.
- Why, what did I do to deserve this!
Liliana was swallowed by the waves, cursing her own fate.
Her body still ached a little after that blow from Doni, but as she could not let herself drown like this, she started to swim towards the surface, ignoring the weight of her drenched clothes.
And suddenly, a huge emerald colored body had appeared beneath her, and dragged her upwards.
- After a few tens of seconds had passed.
Somehow, she was at what seemed to be the base of the neck of the dragon, flying far above the seas. Although Doni had been swallowed up by the tsunami as well, only she had been scooped out of the sea.
"W, were you the one who saved me?"
She murmured, asking him. No answer came from the dragon.
The dragon born from the Heraion, the artifact of the goddess of the land, most probably treated the witches who safeguarded the pillar as comrades, thus it had saved her.
Liliana breathed a sigh of relief.
At the same time, Liliana suddenly remembered about the [King], causing her to feel worried, but felt that he was probably fine.
That superman should not have drowned like this.
He would probably have casually swum towards some unknown shore, and then say something like 'Eeh - I thought I was going to die'.
The dragon was still circling around in the skies, but it had started to pick up its speed.
The view of the harbor slowly drew closer and closer, the most striking landmark being the Castel dell'Ovo.
It was a construction that was built on a piece of land in the middle of the sea, the official name being Castel dell'Ovo. The nickname that people had given it was [Egg Castle]. [If this egg breaks, then calamity will be brought down upon this castle and Naples!] was the prediction that people once had, which was the origin of the nickname.
In the medieval times, this structure was built for the purpose of observing the seas, had now become a popular tourist attraction.
Visitors could enjoy the view of the entire city of Naples from the roof of the building.
- The dragon landed on the road leading up to the Castel dell'Ovo from the city. The castle and the harbor were located on the land protruding outwards from the Santa Lucia district.
The dragon obediently let its passenger off on the ground.
Someway or the other, she had managed to make it back safely. Letting the sea breeze dry her clothes, she began to think about her next course of action -
It was at this moment when lightning flashed across the sky.
To be exact, it came from the sky to the east - perhaps from the area of Mount Vesuvius.
Alongside the sound of the thunder, the lightning took the form of a humanoid before her.
This was the visage of the most handsome man that Liliana had ever seen.
Golden hair that reminded you of the blazing sun, elegant and delicate brows. A robust, divinely body -
The white clothing and cloak he wore were clearly not from this age.
Without a doubt, at first sight, Liliana confirmed this fact.
Mankind's greatest disasters, gods that wandered the land, bringing destruction with them.
Although she had expected to meet one sometime in her life, she never thought it would be this soon -
It was an unexpected development, causing her heartbeat to accelerate, her throat becoming extremely dry.
This handsome man could kill her, Liliana Kranjcar, in an instant with ease, an existence beyond mortal comprehension.
Although in this aspect he was completely the same as Salvatore Doni, on the other hand, he gave off a very strong, intense aura that could be felt deeply by Liliana's heart.
It was mainly a mixed feeling of fear and admiration, but there was also something that felt strange about him.
Just the sight of the beautiful countenance of the god made her stop in her tracks, her mind blank.
However, only his appearance was similar to that of a human, merely borrowing their shape.
There was only one human here right now. Liliana quickly made up her mind.
She had no choice but to find out by herself what the god wanted.
"... ... What mythology or place are you a god of? If it's ok with you, will you kindly tell me your name?"
Upon hearing her respectful request, the beautiful young god smiled.
"Well asked, young lady. My name, my identity, I have been worried whether I should tell you that - as I thought, it would be better that I should grace you with my name. I am Perseus. Remember it well."
As though he had some issues on the inside, he gave his name after a while.
The dragon behind Liliana growled in a low tone.
It was a warning of the danger looming ahead, from the meeting of a sworn, bitter enemy, and the unavoidable battle that was to come.
Translator’s notes & references
- Mineuchi refers to striking with the back of the blade
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