At the front of Hà Giang Imperial Palace―――
Dos calls out to the person he spotted in the hall moments ago.
It’s a man in his twenties, an adventurer.
His name? Ars.
An adventurer from the Holy Kingdom, he’s to be Dos’ colleague in this “outside world.”
Speaking of which, there was that time not too long ago when Dos ended up dueling with another handsome adventurer over Una which he had told Earth.
That adventurer was Ars.
By the way, during that duel, Dos beat him black and blue, tied him up naked, and tossed him into a river. Still, after all that, they somehow continued to hang out.
Although, for Dos, this relationship always held a certain ulterior motive.
「….Ars, long time no see.」
「Oh, if it isn’t Dos. Been a while, hasn’t it?」
The man called Ars turns towards Dos.
「…since our Kraken subjugation a month ago?」
「Yeah. Almost died back then, for real.」
Shaking his head, Ars scratches his hair.
Dos poses a question to him.
「…skipping out on your escort mission?」
「No way. Just wanted to get some fresh air. The rest of the team’s still at the venue. A few minutes without me won’t hurt.」
「…still, work is work. …can’t slack off.」
「Always so hardheaded, you…」
The reason Dos followed him earlier was because Ars, too, was assigned the crucial task of guarding a VIP from the Holy Kingdom.
Apart from Orion, whom Dos protects, there are two other representatives from the Holy Kingdom.
Given that everyone in Ars’ party is an A-Rank powerhouse, it’s no wonder they were given such an important task.
Dos and Ars haven’t known each other for more than half a year, but Ars certainly respects him, in terms of both power and character.
As for his sister… well, somewhat.
After some light banter, the two decide to head back to the venue.
However, on their way back, Dos suddenly casts a stern glance towards the town below the castle.
Out of the blue, Dos looks intensely towards the town.
「Hm? What’s up, Dos?」
Keeping his gaze on the town, Dos speaks.
Ars frowns at the statement.
「Fighting? Come on, don’t joke. Who’d fight in the town right before the Continental Congress? If someone did that, the military police would come immediately, and at worst, they might just cut you down on the spot, you know that?」
Ars’ point stands.
Causing a ruckus now would result in more than just fines or detention. The town’s security is beefed up, easily ten times the usual.
Above all, the town, illuminated by moonlight, presents a “peaceful scene without a hint of battle.”
If there were a fight loud enough to reach them, they should surely see something amiss.
Yet, Ars sees nothing of the sort.
However, Dos doesn’t avert his gaze.
（…both of them, strong. …and I recognize the magical power from one of them.）
No matter how skillfully it’s hidden, Dos’ sensory abilities are hundreds of times sharper than a regular person’s.
In a town like this, he can easily perceive everything, and if he focuses, he can even discern details.
Even if there’s a “magical” concealment at play.
But that’s only when he’s fully concentrated.
In the middle of a mission, he can’t detect as accurately.
So, he immediately sends a thought transmission to several bird-type golem homunculi.
（…predict the fight’s location. …watch it. …share your vision with me.）
Upon receiving the instruction, the birds take off immediately.
This will suffice.
Now, he just has to share their vision and give them directives.
「…sorry, I was imagining things.」
Quickly regaining his composure, Dos turns back to Ars.
「R-Really? Well, as long as you’re okay…」
「…more importantly, we need to head back. …can’t keep our clients waiting.」
「Yeah, yeah, I got it.」
With that, changing the topic swiftly, Dos heads back to the venue with Ars, feeling an odd sensation in his chest all the while.
In the shadowed backstreets of Hà Giang Empire’s castle town―――
In a maze-like slum where few people pass, Wald leans against a wall.
Bright blood streams from his forehead.
「Keh… he’s strong…」
Wald wipes away the blood that drips from his brow.
「It was good to split up from Beldi, but I never expected him to be this strong… Seriously, it’s electrifying.」
On his bloodied face, there’s no trace of panic or impatience, just a smirk.
In the inn earlier, Wald had instantly gauged his opponent’s strength.
And if his opponent’s words were to be believed, the target was him and Beldi, not Farley.
So, he drew her away and made himself the target.
He launched a proactive attack, ensuring all attention was on him.
His strategy worked. The masked man chased after him.
「…What’s wrong? Not running anymore?」
A voice calls out.
From the direction he’s facing.
In the moonlight, a priest with a mask emerges from the shadows.
The same man who attacked Wald and Beldi.
From their earlier confrontations, Wald has concluded that this man is the only assailant.
Beldi and Farley are probably safe.
「Well, at this point, we’re far enough that no one will interfere.」
「…True, we’ve come quite far out. Good grief, I had planned to finish things at that inn. I misjudged.」
「That’s what I wanted to say…」
Even as they converse, Wald senses a strange unease.
（But it’s weird. Despite the commotion we caused, not a single person is alarmed…）
Even during their escape from the inn, despite numerous battles, nobody seemed concerned about them.
It was as if this “anomaly” was just “part of an ordinary day.”
（But if this is the work of the enemy…）
Only one person capable of such mental interference magic comes to Wald’s mind.
A woman so ordinary he can barely recall her bespectacled face.
With a feeling close to conviction, Wald asks,
「―――’Witch of Reynolds’…are you her subordinate?」
The masked man’s slight reaction is all the confirmation Wald needs.
Chuckling, Wald grins.
「So, she’s behind this… I can think of plenty of reasons, but if I’m dealing with her people, there’s no need to hold back…!!」
A massive surge of magical power emits from Wald’s body.
His form starts to change into something monstrous.
As the wave of magical power subsides, there stands Wald.
But he’s different.
Wings sprout from his back, horns jut from his forehead, and his bare upper body is covered in rough scales.
A fusion of man and dragon―――a Dragonoid.
It’s a magic unique to the “Dragon Slayer,” usable only by the Nored family, one of the Three Great Noble Families of Borhelic Kingdom.
The ability allows one to seal the magic and soul of a slain dragon within oneself and wield it at will.
The Dragonoid Form is its zenith, weaponizing the sealed dragon’s soul and magic.
While it’s not meant for humans, if I’m up against the Witch of Reynolds’ minions, it is a different story.
Considering that she put out an international warrant for me and Beldi, and thinking about what happened with Eclair, there’s no need for restraint or hesitation.
I’ll just crush him with all I have.
「It’s been a while since I’ve taken this form… Now, let’s continue our battle.」
Every word Wald speaks exudes overwhelming magical pressure, causing cracks in nearby buildings.
But the man before him remains unfazed, speaking,
「’Dragon Soul Consumption’… The abhorrent power of the Nored family…」
The man calmly raises the greatsword in his right hand, gleaming in the moonlight.
「――――But that isn’t a monopoly you folks hold.」
「What did you say…?」
Wald stares at the man in surprise.
With a roar, an immense wave of magical power emanates from the masked man—Rugios.
A sinister, bone-chilling sound.
And then, Wald witnesses something unbelievable.
「…!? What, what is this form—!?」
The moment Wald’s face shows shock―――
「I told you. That ‘power’ isn’t exclusive to you.」
A swift slicing sound.
By the time Wald realizes, Rugios’ greatsword has pierced through him.
Under the moonlit sky, Wald’s bright blood splatters.
At the Hà Giang Imperial Dining Hall―――
「Dos, you’re back!」
Una, with an ever-increasing mound of food before her, notices Dos.
Is she… still eating?
Dos wishes she’d be a little more on guard.
「…un, I’m back. …everything, okay?」
「Yes, everything’s fine. After all, I’m here.」
And with that, Una continues.
「Thanks to you asking those bird-types and the Wraiths to keep watch, I could focus solely on guarding Orion. Made my life a lot easier.」
Dos’s mouth drops open in surprise at Una’s words.
「…..Una, could you repeat that?」
「Huh? Nom… because you had the bird-types and Wraiths watch our surroundings, I could concentrate on guarding Orion. It was quite easy…」
It wasn’t a misunderstanding.
What could she mean?
「…sis, you notice that?」
「Omnom….? Of course. Why wouldn’t I? Gulp」
Una, cheeks bulging with food like a squirrel, nods.
My sister was doing her job properly.
The very same Una who, lured by food and sweets, nearly abandoned her mission countless times, had noticed the bird-types and Wraiths, which I had strategically positioned without trace.
She even realized I was the one who placed them.
This can’t be real…
「You know, I have this feeling you’re mocking me. Am I just imagining it?」
「………………………….You’re imagining it」
「That was a long pause. But, alright.」
As she speaks, food bits adorn her lips, her tone lacks any hint of tension. I thought she didn’t notice.
If only she’d show her capabilities more in her daily demeanor…
Then she’d truly be the dignified, cool beauty she appears to be…
That’s what Dos thinks, at least.
By the way, Una continues eating until the hall’s mealtime ends.
Dos apologizes to Orion for making her wait.
Orion just laughs and forgives him.
In the Hà Giang Empire’s guest chamber―――
「Ah, welcome back, Rugios.」
A woman with an ordinary appearance wearing glasses—Léna-Lloyd—waves at Rugios with a glass of wine in her hand.
Her cheeks are slightly flushed, possibly from the alcohol.
「Your clothes are all tattered… Did you use ‘that’ after a long time?
Rugios nods, bowing his head.
「I apologize, Lady Léna. The Dragon Slayer and the World Piercer both got away.」
「Hmm, is that so?」
Léna-Lloyd takes another sip from her glass, looking uninterested.
She exhales with an aroma of alcohol.
「However, I managed to seriously wound the Dragon Slayer. Even if he uses the Dragon Soul Consumption, he won’t be able to return to the battlefield—at least not during the Continental Congress.」
Léna-Lloyd nods at Rugios’s statement.
「I see, I see. So… who got in your way?」
With a drunken expression, Léna-Lloyd asks.
Her voice holds a mix of curiosity and anticipation.
She’s fully aware of Rugios’ abilities, as well as those of Wald and Beldi.
Given that, the number of beings who could intervene in a battle with Rugios and successfully escape with a wounded Wald is quite limited.
Keeping his head bowed, Rugios responds.
「’Thunder Slash’ Aoba Kirishima and―――」
He pauses for a moment.
Hearing this, Léna-Lloyd grins.
「I see, I see. So Rias has finally been caught in our web. Hmm, so the ‘Thunder Slash’ is on her side. This might mean that ‘Silver Demon’ and ‘Yasha’ are suspicious too.」
Léna-Lloyd mumbles, mostly to herself, piecing together her thoughts.
「If she’s aiding Wald now, she must really need the ‘Dragon Slayer’ for her plans… Or maybe it’s just insurance? Hmm, makes sense. I’m starting to see the bigger picture.」
She nods in understanding. Rugios poses a question.
「What should we do? If you command it, I will immediately go to subdue them.」
He’d allowed Wald and the others to escape once.
Rugios tries to gauge the expression on his master’s face.
But Léna-Lloyd, sipping her wine, simply shakes her head.
「No, that’s alright. Just leave them be.」
Puhaa, she exhales. The scent of alcohol strong.
「She probably won’t be able to do anything until the main event tomorrow. She’ll likely act on the first, maybe the second or third day. You can rest until then, Rugios.」
Léna-Lloyd waves her hand dismissively. However, Rugios, with a solemn face, replies.
「No. I failed to finish off the target. I’ll head off to deal with the others on the list.」
「Oh? So serious. Alright then, I leave it to you.」
After a moment’s pause, she continues.
「But you can let go of Beldi. Just leave her.」
「She can’t fully harness the power of the God-Killing Spearr. It’s more convenient for us if an inept person like her possesses it, rather than someone troublesome who can draw out its power. Plus, I’ve realized she’s probably not aligned with Rias. There’s no need to eliminate her. Remove her from the list.」
「Hmm. Anyway, the real game begins after tomorrow. Let’s give it our best.」
Rugios replies without changing his expression, making Léna-Lloyd chuckle.
It wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more spirited, you know?
「Alright, I’ve decided! I’ll go to bed early tonight. Make sure I don’t doze off during tomorrow’s meeting.」
「Please… stay awake during the meeting, Lady Léna…」
Rugios pleads with a hint of emotion in his voice.
Outside a farmhouse on the outskirts of the Hà Giang Empire―――
Wald’s consciousness slowly awakens.
His body throbs with pain.
How did I end up here?
He can tell by the feeling that he’s been laid down on a bed or something similar.
He tries to recall what happened just moments before.
I was sure I was battling one of the minions of that witch.
But since that man took “that form,” the situation became almost one-sided…
He struggles to move his body, but it doesn’t cooperate.
Even the dragon soul in the body is not working well either.
And where exactly is this place?
「―――You seem to be awake.」
A voice comes from the side.
Hearing this, Wald finally realizes someone is beside him.
He looks to the side.
There’s a woman seated on a wooden chair.
She’s dressed in a tight, secretary-like outfit, appearing to be in her early twenties.
Behind her, a young man in Eastern robes leans against the wall, watching.
「It’s been a while, Wald. …Or maybe I should say ‘nice to meet you’?」
「…Who are you?」
The woman in front of him seems to know him, but Wald has no memory of her.
She sports a cat-like grin.
However, her smile seems tinged with sadness.
「My name is Rias. Rias Aurora. I used to be the secretary of Lord Eclair in the Borhelic Kingdom」
I’ve never heard that name before.
It feels like I know this woman.
Have we met somewhere in the past?
「For now, let’s take care of your wounds. We can talk after that―――」
Gently, Rias begins to heal Wald with healing magic.
The night continues to deepen.
And the next day, the Continental Congress is set to commence.
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