"...And that is Ais." Kisuke guessed.
"Yes," Aria answered solemnly, "The Black Dragon didn't just manage to control Ais, but almost fused with her at that time."
Kisuke's frown grew deeper, "Fuse?"
Aria also put on a more serious face, "Yes. Fuse. Using its second ability to control, it also can attach itself to someone and fuse with him or her. However, although she was very weak at that time, she's still our child who inherited both mine and my husband's talent and latent potential. Because of that, aside from being our weakness, Ais also became the perfect target for the Black Dragon."
"I see." Kisuke nodded as he finally got some more clues regarding the Black Dragon's ability. "But it's clear that she's doing fine now and the Black Dragon is still around with one of its eyes busted."
Aria's expression then became gentle again. "That's because, with the help of my husband, I sacrificed myself and took her place."
Kisuke's eyes widened once he heard her last sentence and immediately reassessed the surroundings to confirm some things. A few minutes later, Kisuke was able to gather more information based on Aria's statement, and Aria herself stayed quiet during those times. 'I see... I didn't notice it immediately since this isn't a normal space and my senses are restricted in here, but the one I'm talking with is just a remnant soul.'
Kisuke faced Aria again and said, "So you're just a remnant." to confirm this.
"And you're also a remnant from the time before you lost your complete self."
Kisuke stopped for a moment to arrange his thoughts and muttered, "But where does the thousand-year stasis fits?... Ah, so that's how it is." He then started piecing the story from the information Yoruichi has gathered for him.
"Hmm? What did you get?"
"The move that the Zeus and Hera Familias made fifteen years ago was to extract Ais from the Black Dragon and it was also at that time that you substituted her position."
"Correct~." Aria confirmed his guesses, "Without everyone's help, we couldn't have saved Ais. But still, to think it would take a millennium just to figure out how to extract my darling daughter, I don't know how I could thank Zeus and Hera."
There's nothing wrong with what Aria said, but somehow, Kisuke was bothered by something and suddenly asked, "Could you have defeated the Black Dragon if you didn't mind Ais?"
Aria's eyes widened at his question and smiled wryly. "I'm surprised that you could tell. Actually, my magic is the direct counter of its Decay magic and could have defeated it."
"But even then, my husband's and my choice is to save our daughter and we're truly thankful that everyone around us that time supported our decision. However, I also knew that because of that many more people who had nothing to do with it suffered and I still wonder to this day if we truly made the right choice."
Kisuke was wondering what that wry smile was about and asked, "It's just this?"
"...Come again?" Aria could help but ask.
Kisuke sighed and said, "That kind of worry is stupid. The Black Dragon is the world's problem and not just yours. Even though you have the power to defeat it, it's because you worked hard for it and would risk your life on a regular basis."
"Others would blame you? Of course, they would. But that's only because they took the security that you and your friends provided freely for granted without them doing much."
"However, you're probably the type of person that would still take their words to the heart and regret. But please remember this, if you're trapped in a choice that you would both regret, always go to the thing that you would regret less. Saving your daughter is not a mistake. It's just you choosing to be a parent rather than an Adventurer, which I find far more admirable."
Aria was dumbfounded for a few seconds before she started chuckling. "You're not a good person, aren't you?"
Kisuke only shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I never said I was one."
"However, you're most certainly a kind person, especially to those who are important to you, and I think if someone like you were to take care of my daughter, I could rest assured."
"Just so you know, Aria-san, I'm not a caretaker. I'm a Candy Store owner and sometimes, I'll do some part-time job as a doctor."
Aria then made a complicated expression, "Isn't a doctor a higher tier profession? And does a part-time doctor even exist?"
"In my book, yes. I'm a Candy Store owner and it's my calling~!"
"You're not the first one who told me that and I don't really care."
Aria couldn't help but sigh. However, her smile went back as she said, "Now then, onto my request~."
"I've said it earlier, I'm not a caretaker."
"I'm not asking you to do that."
With all seriousness, she said, "Please become Ais's hero."
And with the same seriousness, Kisuke immediately answered, "No."
"Eh? Why not? It's not caretaking."
"But that sounds a hundred times more troublesome than caretaking. What do you mean hero? I don't know how to do that and that's probably one of the farthest words from me. If my acquaintances and friends were to hear I became some hero, a few of them would laugh at my face while the others would cringe so much that they'll experience a chill in their spine."
"A-are they really your friends?"
"They're my friends because they knew me like that."
"..." Aria didn't know what to say about that so instead of digging there, she tried to persuade Kisuke, "Ehem, could you please consider my request?"
"No. This is just a big disadvantage for me." Kisuke once again rejected.
Aria immediately saw hope from his words, "So you'll do it in exchange for something that is worth the trouble?"
"..." Kisuke didn't speak immediately and looked towards the excited Aria, "I don't even know how you can provide something at your current state."
But for Aria, those words are the best answer she could hope for, "I have something, but I don't know if it's enough."
"..." Kisuke became curious at what she still has and asked, "What is it?"
However, Aria shook her head, "I won't give or tell what it is before you promise me that you'd do my request."
"That's just a scam then."
"It's not!" Aria protested, "It's just the only thing I can give. I want to make sure that you'll promise me first."
"...You do know that I may not necessarily fulfill the promise once I've received that something of yours, right?"
Aria nodded, "I know. And I don't even have a way to enforce it to you once you've received it. I can only gamble."
"But still better than me just being here, doing nothing."
"What do you mean nothing? You've been suppressing the Black Dragon's connection to your daughter, right? I think that's pretty important."
Smiling wryly once again, Aria said, "So you can tell. But even then, couldn't you at least consider?"
"..." Kisuke stayed silent again for a few seconds before deciding. "Fine. However, I have to decide how much I can do once I see and assess this thing you're offering."
With a bright smile, Aria almost jumped in happiness, but she remembered that she can't move from her spot, "That's fine~!"
When Aria was about to take out the thing she would give to Kisuke, he stopped her first to clear some confusion he had. "Wait. As I said, I'm not a hero, so what is this hero thing I'm supposed to do?"
"Hmm? Just save Ais when she's in trouble."
"That's it." While answering, Aria put both of her hands on her chest and a green light emerged from it. A sphere of green light then came to Aria's hand and she passed it to Kisuke for him to inspect.
It only took a few seconds for Kisuke to inspect what she just gave him and he was shocked. "T-this is..."
Still, with a bright smile, Aria said, "Yes. That's the only thing I could give you. The culmination of my magic and my whole life's hard work."
"...Dammit. You gave me something very heavy." Kisuke could only say such.
Author's and Editors' corner
Alexander: ...And this, dear children, was the beginning of the great hero, known as CANDYMAN.
28th00: I'm pretty sure that's a horror movie…
Alexander: Only for naughty children.
Goyya: I got this temptation to use that as his Alias… Begone, Devil!
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