In the grand hall of the Hà Giang Empire―――
The first to notice the anomaly is Léna-Lloyd, who’s enjoying her dinner at the imperial palace.
With an appearance one could call ordinary, she sits quietly in a corner of the hall, unnoticed by anyone, savoring her meal in solitude.
Eating alone is the best.
It’s peaceful, calming. No one’s there to comment on manners, and I can eat at my own pace.
It’s all pros, no cons.
It’s not because I don’t have anyone to eat with or has few friends.
I can’t help but roll my eyes at the men and women laughing around me.
It’s all in her head.
Hmm, why does the food taste a tad salty all of a sudden?
No, it’s just her imagination.
As these thoughts circulate, she continues to munch on her food.
「Munch, munch… this aura is…」
She sets down her knife and fork, looking out at the town spread out below the castle’s windows.
Her eyes narrow intently.
A sharp, focused expression replaces her previously lax demeanor.
If it wasn’t for the food crumbs around her mouth, she’d look quite serious.
「Huh… looks like that Rugios managed to take down the ‘Icy Flame’. But this aura… ‘Holy Ark’, and also ‘Gale’? Oh my…」
Léna-Lloyd crosses her arms, deep in thought.
「This is… an unexpected turn of events…」
Scratching her head, a troubled expression appears on Léna-Lloyd’s face.
From her pocket, she takes out a communication magic stone and tries connecting it somewhere.
「Hmm, I wonder if it’ll connect properly…」
Her quiet, mundane mutterings went unheard by everyone in the hall.
Inside the Pig Merchant Association room in the town below the castle―――
Dos and Orion face off against a masked man—Rugios.
Amid the electric tension, Dos’s gaze shifts to the weapon held by the masked man.
（That greatsword, I’ve seen it somewhere…）
He recognizes the greatsword the man holds.
『…Gijie, can you hear me?』
『Response: Communication is functioning normally.』
Dos sends a thought transmission to Gijie.
Unlike the barrier-protected Imperial Castle, he can directly communicate with Gijie through the Fafnir Dungeon while in the town, without using a communication magic stone.
『…identify that man’s weapon.』
Gijie receives the visuals and magical energy readings Dos perceives in real-time.
Using this information, Dos asks Gijie to check if Elibel’s records mention a similar weapon.
『Understood. Search completed. Based on the appearance and the magical energy wave you sensed, the weapon corresponds to one in the database.』
After a brief pause, Gijie reveals the weapon’s identity.
『It is determined to be the ‘Dragon Sword, Ascalon’. It’s concluded to be a weapon imbued with the ‘Dungeon Destruction’ granted by my dear mother.』
Just as Dos thought.
When he received a memory transmission of Elibel’s research from his father, Earth, he had been informed about six weapons she was searching for.
Weapons that were granted an extraordinary power called “Dungeon Destruction” by Elibel.
Among them was the Sacred Sword Leviathan owned by Dragon Slayer, the Magic Swords Gram and Tyrfing, the treasured sword Futsunomitama, the treasure Vajra, and the Dragon Sword Ascalon, which the man before him held.
He had orders to retrieve these weapons as a top priority.
They were not just remnants of Elibel, but a direct threat to the dungeons.
Though these weapons had the Dungeon Destruction attribute, their sheer power alone was already extraordinary.
But so far, only the Leviathan possessed by the Dragon Slayer had been retrieved.
The whereabouts of the others were still unknown.
Or more accurately, there’s a high possibility that the emperor of this empire possesses one.
A while back, when Dos’s newly made brother―――whom Dos was thrilled to have by the way―――Rasetsu served as the dungeon lord for a day in Fafnir, an adventurer who was probably Emperor Kagrias had a weapon that might be the Magic Sword Gram.
Yet, they were still uncertain.
『…one more reason to fight.』
Dos determines to defeat the man before him and reclaim Ascalon.
His mission is clear.
「…I’ll take the front, Orion. Support me.」
Once he confirms Orion moving behind him, Dos lunges at the masked man—Rugios.
He releases a spell called “Wind Palm” as he leaps.
It’s a close-range wind magic that Dos specializes in, which also inspired his moniker.
He throws a fist wrapped in a highly condensed mini-tornado.
Its furious wind is genuinely a “gale.”
However, Rugios deflects it with the flat of his greatsword.
A sharp, grating sound resonates through the room.
Ascalon, Rugios’s blade, withstands Dos’s Wind Palm without a scratch, a testament to its formidable durability.
Their respective forces clash, creating a standoff.
「This wind power… and your appearance… You’re the ‘Gale’ from the Holy Kingdom, aren’t you?」
Rugios remarks, eyes fixed on Dos.
In response, Dos intensifies the magical energy in his fist.
The wind surrounding it becomes even fiercer, and he unleashes its full power at point-blank range.
A loud roar follows as a tremendous gust assaults Rugios.
Caught off guard by the mighty wind, Rugios gets blown away.
Seizing this chance, Dos sets off in pursuit.
He detonates the “wind” he’d prepared under his feet in a specified direction, propelling him forward to close the distance with the airborne Rugios.
Even Rugios is shocked by this.
The surprise delays his judgment for a moment.
Dos doesn’t miss that opportunity.
「…’Wind Palm Barrage!’」
An enhanced version of Wind Palm.
A series of punches cloaked in layers of highly compressed air.
It’s a Dos original, combining the martial technique “Piercing Strike” he learned from Ann, wind magic, and his unique footwork.
It delivers both external and internal shockwaves for destruction.
Despite being intended for one-on-one combat, the power is at a King-class.
Dos’s fist lands squarely on Rugios’s exposed chest, making a sickening sound of crunching flesh and bone.
Slammed by the density of a mini-hurricane, Rugios crashes into the wall.
The impact is so tremendous that it cracks the walls, ceiling, and floor around him.
But Dos doesn’t stop there.
「….’Wind Palm Assault!’」
A rapid sequence of wind-empowered punches.
Each time Dos lands a punch, shockwaves spread, causing more cracks and destruction in the walls and ceiling.
A storm of overwhelming brutality.
Orion feels a shiver from the incredible wave of magical energy, but at the same time, she finds it reassuring.
「This is Dos at his most serious… It’s incredible. There’s no room for me to support him…」
Yet, Dos doesn’t look relaxed.
（…I can’t let up my assault. This guy is definitely stronger than me. If I give him even a slight break, he’ll turn the tide instantly!）
Indeed, Dos has accurately assessed Rugios’s strength.
The man in front of him is undoubtedly more powerful.
He must maintain the pressure. He recalls the corpse he saw earlier—it was supposed to be a skilled mercenary, known as Hwan Lott of Ice and Flame.
He must be fatigued from that fight.
This is my only chance!
And so, he keeps pounding his fists.
―――I’ll finish this now!
That’s what Dos thinks.
But in that instant, his eyes meet Rugios’s.
A chill runs down his spine.
A ferocious aura.
For a moment, Dos’s fists slow down.
Rugios doesn’t miss that.
He snatches Dos’s fist out of the air.
「———Is it over?」
A flat, emotionless tone.
（…! was that bloodlust just a feint?!… this is bad.）
A large sword held in the man’s other hand approaches Dos.
He can’t dodge it effectively with one arm restrained.
「Dos! ‘Cross of Holy Light, repel the approaching malice!’」
Simultaneously, a glowing cross about one meter in diameter appears between Dos and the sword.
It deflects Rugios’s sword.
In an instant, Dos directs wind magic at himself, freeing his restrained hand and putting distance between him and Rugios.
「’Holy Cross, restrain the one who stands before me!’」
Another chant from Orion.
A massive cross appears behind Rugios.
「Holy magic. A ‘Crucifix of the Holy Child,’ huh…」
Orion’s chant was supposed to crucify and bind the enemy, but Rugios simply glances at it, unimpressed.
He swings his sword.
With a sound like shattering glass, the cross is destroyed.
「I don’t believe in gods, unfortunately.」
「…I feel the same.」
The voice comes from behind the shattered cross.
Or, to be precise, from Dos, who had been hiding behind it.
（―――So, the flashy cross and the holy box were distractions…）
It was a decent improvisation. If the cross restrained the enemy, fine; if not, it would divert attention so Dos could launch a surprise attack.
But now that Rugios knows, it’s disappointing.
He swings his large sword at Dos emerging from behind the cross.
And the moment he makes the swing—Dos’s body wavers and disappears.
There’s a THUD! as a fist slams into a body.
Looking, it’s Dos, who sneaked up from a blind spot, now landing a punch.
（…So this was another distraction, huh?）
Whether it’s due to Dos’s wind magic or perhaps light refraction by Orion, in either case, a trick had been played to deceive the senses.
「Impressive. Seems I might’ve underestimated you.」
BOOM! Rugios crashes into a wall.
Yet, he quickly regains his posture, eyes locked onto the two figures before him.
A smirk plays at his lips.
For the first time, an emotion shows on Rugios’s face.
A chilling, thin smile.
That’s what Rugios thinks.
The two might not be as powerful as yesterday’s “Dragon Slayer” or the recently defeated “Ice Flame”.
But they excel in combining their strengths, drawing out each other’s potential.
Although… it doesn’t seem to be a perfect trust between them.
If anything, the Holy Ark seems to have unilateral trust in Gale, while Gale’s alliance appears more calculated.
But for now, such matters are irrelevant.
This promises to be more fun than the Dragon Slayer from yesterday.
Perhaps it’s time to unveil my real power.
The prowess of Rugios Tranjetta, the “Witch’s Knight”.
「―――Ascalon, release your power.」
At Rugios’s command, the greatsword he wields starts to glow.
「The flow of magic is getting stronger… What’s going on?」
「…this is bad!」
The moment Ascalon glows, Dos is in motion.
He knows the characteristics of Ascalon from his data.
Before Ascalon’s light can intensify, Dos directs his wind palm not at Rugios, but at Ascalon itself.
「…not letting you!」
「Oh? You knew of this sword’s power.」
As the sword, hit on its side by Dos’s wind palm, starts losing its light.
Dragon Sword Ascalon, its ability is―――
「…I won’t let you transform into the ‘Dragonoid Form’.」
「Ah, spot on, Gale.」
With a sly grin, Rugios laughs.
Yes, the power of the Dragon Sword Ascalon.
The same power as the “Dragon Slayer” ability, once held by Wald, that troubled Earth in the past.
It’s a cheating power that can seal the souls and magic of dragons it cuts into the blade, adding to its wielder’s might.
Originally crafted by Wald’s ancestors after researching how to share their unique ability with others.
A forbidden blade enhanced with the “Dungeon Destruction” cheat by Rias, passed down to Elibel.
That is the Dragon Sword Ascalon.
（…if he releases the dragon souls stored within, we stand no chance.）
Immediately, Dos directs Orion.
「…Orion, can you seal that sword’s magic?」
Hesitating briefly, Orion behind Dos nods.
Her holy magic excels at binding and sealing.
「I can. But I can only seal its magic, not its ability to be used…」
Immediately, Orion begins her chant, while Dos relentlessly attacks Rugios!
「’Holy chains of radiant light! Bind its magic and return it to its original form!’」
Chains of light emerge from beneath Rugios’s feet.
「Holy binding magic?! I told you it won’t work!」
Rugios dodges swiftly, but that’s okay.
The target isn’t him.
It’s his weapon!
The chains of light wrap around Dragon Sword Ascalon.
「I see, trying not to let me use Ascalon’s power… A wise choice.
With the sword in hand, Rugios deflects Dos’s punch and immediately retaliates with a swift kick.
「You see, even without Ascalon, I am still powerful. ‘Thorns of Wind, slice them apart!’」
Dos is out of position.
Almost instantly, wind-formed thorns shred through Dos’s body.
Dos is sent flying and rolls to Orion’s feet.
「Dos, just hang on. I’ll cast a healing spell…」
But as Orion moves closer, Dos stops her with his hand.
「…don’t come closer. Because―――」
I might not be able to protect you.
While Orion certainly seems to have decent combat skills, she is still someone Dos needs to guard.
The place where she is now allows him to react instantly to protect her if something happens.
If she gets any closer, it would actually make her harder to defend.
Why? Because that masked man had said, “You too have been ordered by my master to be killed.”
For whatever reason, this man is also targeting Orion.
So, they must cooperate and be cautious not to let her get into danger.
Balancing between keeping her dignity and eliminating the enemy in front of him is why Dos has always taken the lead, continually attacking.
There were reasons for that.
However, what to do in this situation?
He’s too strong. I’m not sure if I can win even wearing my usual battle gear made from Papa’s skin.
Una’s presence is still far away. At this rate, it will take about five more minutes for reinforcements.
There’s not enough time.
…What to do?
The two stare each other down from a careful distance.
The one to break the silence, or rather, to speak first, is the masked man.
He clicks his tongue lightly.
「―――I’d like to continue this, but it’s about time to wrap things up…」
Rugios pulls out a stone the size of a ping pong ball from his pocket.
It’s… a communication magic stone.
「I’ve received a message. Sorry, but I’ll be making my exit. Besides, now that the barrier I set up is broken, we would get too much attention if we continued.」
「…do you think I’ll just let you go?」
In response to Dos’s provocation, Rugios only smirks.
「Don’t act tough. Neither of us can go all out right now. I’m telling you straightforwardly that I’m withdrawing. Accept it.―――’Sand and dust, conceal my form!’」
Dust whirls around them.
Just as Dos and the others wince for a moment, the man exits through a broken window.
Immediately, Dos activates his magic detection, attempting to track the man.
He could probably catch up if he went full speed now, but that would mean leaving Orion unguarded.
On the surface, he’s an adventurer from the Holy Kingdom and Orion’s bodyguard.
He can’t leave her alone.
He can’t prioritize the dungeon over her, as it might indirectly harm the dungeon itself.
Dos looks at Orion, then activates his magic detection again to check their surroundings.
It’ll probably be just a few more seconds before the guards arrive…
「He got away…」
「…yes, Orion. The town guards will be here soon. …Let’s leave this to them.」
After some hesitation, Orion nods.
「But… can we wait just a bit?」
「I want to offer prayers… at least for those who died here.」
Saying that, Orion walks over to offer prayers for the fallen knights guarding Sir Schwein and the company members.
Dos wonders what good praying for the dead might do, but he doesn’t voice this thought. It doesn’t matter, anyway.
Shortly after, the town guards arrive, clearly shocked at the devastation.
From their reactions, Dos silently sighs, sensing this will become quite the ordeal.
The guards approach, likely to escort them for questioning.
As Dos wonders how best to explain the situation, a voice rings in his head.
『―――Dos, sir. The analysis is complete. We have successfully devised effective tactics against both Ascalon and the masked man.』
At Gijie’s report, Dos hides a smirk.
While it’s frustrating that he escaped this time, Dos is certain they’ll catch him next time.
Allowing a second encounter is the man’s biggest miscalculation.
With this in mind, Dos heads to the guard station with Orion.
After thorough questioning, it’s only when the surroundings are deeply veiled in night that he’s able to reunite with Una.
Even as a golem homunculus, Dos feels quite drained.
If this is how the first day went, the future seems daunting.
Upon returning to the Imperial Castle and reporting to Elibel, Dos falls into sleep as if he’s collapsed into mud.
And thus, the first day of the Continental Congress concludes.
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