In the deep layers of Earth’s dungeon―――
The day dawns after a tumultuous turn of events.
Yesterday was tough…
Well, the main cause was my mother.
Because she suddenly appeared in the dungeon.
Sure, Gwyve mentioned something about it, but you’d normally expect someone to come in from the entrance.
But she was right in front of me? That was unexpected…
By the way, I wonder if Una and Dos are okay?
Their connection seemed to have cut off suddenly during the Continental Congress.
But maybe Gijie and Elibel handled it? They said something about it, so I guess they’re fine?
I should ask later.
For now, I’m hungry. Time for breakfast.
I dig around and eat some magic stones.
Crunch, crunch, gulp. So delicious, really delicious.
Once I’m full, it’s time to get moving.
…But what should I do?
Maybe it’s because of what happened yesterday, but I’m not feeling motivated.
What should I do?
―――If, in a hundred years, you become stronger—so much so that even I acknowledge your strength…
I remember the words Jibru said.
I responded with “Yes” to that.
To become stronger…
I kinda said it in the heat of the moment. Teehee.
But hey, I think I did well, considering my usual self.
I said it without any stimulants.
Don’t you think I tried hard?
What? You don’t? Tsk.
I grip my fist tightly.
How to become stronger… Hmm. I can’t think of a concrete way.
How do earth dragons become stronger in the first place?
No, I can’t even picture dragons training.
I always saw them as strong beings from the start.
Hmm, in my case, I only have “alchemy” and “gluttony.”
If I use “alchemy” for armamentization, I could become stronger quickly, but it’s sort of like doping… and there’s a backlash. It’s only a temporary enhancement.
It’s not a fundamental solution.
So, should I use “gluttony” and consume weapons or monsters to absorb their abilities and magic?
But there aren’t legendary weapons conveniently lying around.
The only weapon I’ve eaten so far is just one Leviathan.
Eating a monster while it’s alive… that’s rough.
By the way, my “gluttony” doesn’t work on things I create with “alchemy.”
For instance, if I eat a real Leviathan, I can absorb its power. But if I eat a fake one that I made with “alchemy,” I can’t.
I can give, but I can’t take back.
I mean, I have no intention of eating Una or the golems.
Also, it doesn’t work on dead monsters.
If I want their powers, I need to eat them alive.
I tried eating an earthworm monster once and gave up halfway. It tasted too bad.
For some reason, monsters just don’t agree with my palate.
Minerals and the dried meat and fruit Una brought as gifts tasted good. But live monsters taste terrible. Why?
So, what should I do…
Right. For now, I’ll head there.
Deep within the dungeon, in Elibel’s laboratory―――
『―――So, how can I become stronger? Oh, preferably the easy way. I hate pain. Also, I’d rather not go through any kind of human experiment or dissection to achieve it.』
「…Your questions have gotten slightly better since last time. They’re still garbage at the core, though.」
I’m visiting Elibel’s lab.
Elipedia is the go-to when in doubt. Wisdom comes with age, just like the shell on a turtle. A granny’s bag of knowledge.
It’s best to ask the experts about these things.
I feel like that bespectacled boy who relies on a certain cat-shaped robot.
Huh? That’s lame? Say whatever you want.
I depend on those who can be trusted.
Otherwise, I’ll be living with my mother a hundred years from now.
「You really think there’s an easy way to become stronger? You really take life for granted. Were you really once a working adult? It’s harder to believe you ever had a job… It’s more believable that a dragon suddenly gained the reasoning of a useless human.」
Hey, I just want to live my life easily and carefree.
Elibel operates a device on her desk and then looks at me.
Hmm…? That’s not a device. Is it a communication magic stone?
Was she communicating with Una or Dos?
I can’t think of anyone else she’d contact.
『Were you talking to Una?』
「No, this is… well, never mind. We’ll talk about it later. For now, let’s discuss making you stronger.」
Huh? Did she sidestep something?
『Oh, okay. But you can do it, right? You have that evolution magic stone, don’t you?』
Elibel once created a cheat-like magic stone called the “Evolution Magic Stone.”
Its effect is to dramatically enhance a monster’s abilities in exchange for a 10% chance of death.
Thanks to that stone, Ann evolved from a Killer Ant to a Disaster-Class Imperial Ant, Pururu became a Gluttony Hell Slime, and Elibel herself became an Ark Skeleton.
If I use that stone, wouldn’t I quickly become stronger?
As for the mortality rate, Elibel has developed some countermeasures.
I feel like I can handle it now.
「…Just to be clear, the ‘Evolution Magic Stone’ won’t work on you, okay?」
「Of course. There’s a limit to the ‘Evolution Magic Stone.’ There’s a cap to which monsters can evolve. And how can a Dragon King species, which is already at the pinnacle, evolve any further?」
Elibel explains rapidly.
『Eh…? Wait, so I can’t evolve into something?』
Above the Dragon King species… something godlike?
But then, Jibru was nicknamed the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King…
「Hmm… I won’t lie that I’m interested in what comes after the Dragon King species. But you, by your species nature, have already surpassed the limits of the ‘Evolution Magic Stone.’ This applies to other Dragon King species as well, like the Celestial Dragon and the Holy Dragon. The stone affects species ranging from advanced-class to General-class.」
I see, so if you’re naturally high-powered, you can’t use it.
And also, Elibel says,
「Even if I could modify it to work on Dragon King species, the ‘Gluttony’ ability possessed by earth dragons might interfere, making evolution impossible.」
So, I couldn’t have used it from the beginning?
By the way, Elibel adds,
「If a creature consumes the ‘Evolution Magic Stone’ more than once, it won’t have any effect. In fact, they’d die. But that kind of risk is to be expected.」
Hmm… I thought it was a good idea.
I guess I’ll have to think of another way.
「Even if you live a normal life, you’d become ridiculously strong after a hundred years. Well… if you really want to become stronger, why don’t you ask Ann?」
Why’s that now?
「You might not know this, but she’s getting stronger by the day. Plus, she’s recently learned some combat techniques. Maybe you should try learning some too?」
Oh, like that one. The one used by Ragin, the armored knight who thrashed me in Fáfnir’s dungeon.
He called it “Piercing Strike.”
Just thinking about it pisses me off.
But the one who I should be angry at is no longer in this world.
In the end, Ann killed him and inherited his magical sword.
『She’s really training hard, huh?』
「Well, Ann is a rare kind among monsters. Most monsters don’t actively seek to become stronger. Let alone an ant like Ann using combat techniques. It’s probably just her in this world… and she’s doing it all for you.」
I didn’t catch the last bit, but Elibel just brushed it off, saying it was nothing.
Hmm, it’s true that you don’t see ants jogging or working out.
Who the heck taught Ann these techniques?
Lately, Ann’s been talking to him a lot lately. I wonder if that’s related.
『Man, combat techniques, huh… I don’t even know what it’d take to convince Jibru.』
Elibel nods in agreement to my muttering.
「True, the promise with Jibru is pretty vague… What counts as you ‘becoming strong’? It’s all up to her personal judgment. I guess we forgot to clarify that part. But even if you were to fully mature, I can’t really picture you as ‘strong’.」
Hey, that’s rude.
I’d like to think I’m decently strong if I use the right potion.
I’ve always worked hard to protect myself.
Created golems, dungeons… Wait, now that I think about it, while I’ve put in the effort to enhance my surroundings, have I ever tried to improve myself?
Nah, training and working hard isn’t really my style.
「Maybe you should watch Ann and the others train? It might give you some ideas.」
『Yeah, maybe I’ll give it a shot.』
「Ann and Pururun are probably at the training ground right now.」
『They’re back at it already, after everything yesterday?』
「After what happened, it’s no surprise. I’ll handle the communication with Una and Dos. You should occasionally watch your subordinates train. It’s part of your duty as their leader.」
Well, can’t argue with that.
Guess I’ll go watch.
I mean, I’ve got a century. It’ll probably work out.
And surely, right now, there isn’t a monster or human on Jibru’s level attacking. At least, that’s what I think.
―――Even if you do nothing, calamities and nuisances are drawn to you. Just like they were to me once.
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of Jibru’s words.
No, no, no, surely nothing will happen this soon after yesterday.
It’s not a sign, right?
…Right? I’m sure it’ll be fine.
With that unnerving sense of unease, I head to the training ground.
But you know… bad feelings tend to come true.
A few hours later, I’d learn that the hard way.
At the entrance of the Yuguru Great Forest Dungeon―――
Amid the pouring rain, a man walks through the Yuguru Great Forest, unfazed without an umbrella.
He heads straight for a particular dungeon located at the forest’s entrance.
After walking for a while, he spots a cave, crowded with a multitude of people.
It’s a teleportation dungeon that has formed in the Yuguru Great Forest.
That’s its entrance.
「…What’s with this shabby-looking entrance? Can the sage really be in a place like this?」
The man is in his twenties with golden hair and blue eyes.
He’s unarmed, casually dressed, with hands shoved in his pants pockets.
Rain-soaked hair clings to his skin, exuding an indefinable allure.
Any woman around would likely be instantly charmed by him.
However, his expression is stern.
For someone blessed with such impeccable features, the deep furrow in his brow seems to mar his beauty.
Yet, even that might add to his allure.
「And there are so many people swarming like ants… how annoying.」
The people crowding the dungeon entrance remind him of worker ants busily carrying their food.
He can’t quite understand why they’d willingly enter such a gloomy den.
Come to think of it, I encountered that peculiar Imperial Ant around here.
A high-ranking queen kind, with a mantle made of the despicable Earth Dragon’s hide.
I didn’t care much then, but it felt as if she possessed some quality magic.
In a few more years, she might become a Calamity-class entity.
Well, that doesn’t matter now.
What occupies his mind at the moment is the sage rumored to have created the dungeon in front of him.
「Well then, time to get going…」
The man starts to walk, but he doesn’t head towards the dungeon’s entrance.
I wouldn’t willingly go to a place swarming with people like that. It’s beneath me.
But just because they’re in the way doesn’t mean I’ll kill every human there.
Such lowly creatures don’t even qualify for hunting. To do so would be an act that would lower my own dignity.
With each step, the man’s body seems to melt into the rain.
And then――――――with a soft ‘plop’, his body vanishes.
Just like raindrops soaking into the ground.
Inside the dungeon, a droplet falls.
The droplet gradually moves, shaping into a human figure.
It’s the same golden-haired man from above.
「Hmm, the magical power here isn’t half bad…」
He continues to walk at a leisurely pace.
A certain witch told him about the sage’s dungeon.
She said the sage is lurking deep inside, having revived from death.
Not too shabby.
If the person has mastered magic up to the Soul King-class, they might pose a slight challenge to him.
Yet, to him, it’s merely a way to kill time.
Just an appetizer before the main event.
「Well then… Let’s see how entertaining you can be, Dungeon of the Sage.」
Grinning, the man――Celestial Dragon Yamu, smirks.
『―――Detecting intruder’s magic. Proceeding with analysis.』
The dungeon’s guardian, a black orb, immediately senses the intruder.
The curtain rises on the second day of the Continental Congress.
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