Inside the Zeroth Magic Research Institute―――
Bathed in moonlight filtering through the open ceiling.
Spotlighted as if on a stage stand two women.
One is Elibel.
With her long silver hair flowing, she’s a woman with an otherworldly beauty.
But also, a bit eccentric.
Next to her, another woman with black-rimmed glasses.
Compared to Elibel, she’s noticeably less striking — pretty much average-looking. Yet she bears a plain smile.
Her name? Léna-Lloyd Reynolds.
Known to many as the “Witch”.
She’s one of the few outside of the dungeon who knows about Elibel’s resurrection.
Of course, Elibel only became sure of this just moments ago.
Somehow, this ordinary-looking woman knew not only about her revival but that she was in the dungeon.
Still, Elibel isn’t surprised.
Because ever since she’s known her, that’s just how Léna has been.
Somehow always privy to unknown information.
Always ahead of the curve.
Always in the know.
And she never hides it.
Ask her, and she’ll tell. Don’t ask, and she’ll remain silent.
To Elibel, Léna-Lloyd has always been this way.
Facing an on-guard Elibel,
「Heyyy Eli, I’ve missed you!」
Léna-Lloyd calls out to Elibel with a carefree tone.
Elibel sighs at the dramatic greeting.
「…Sigh, I would’ve been happier not seeing you.」
「What!? That’s harsh! Why?」
「Because I hate you.」
「That’s even worse!」
Léna-Lloyd twists and shouts with feigned tears in her eyes.
「But… why are you still alive? It’s been about two hundred years since then… You don’t seem undead, and your magical power isn’t disturbed… You’re just like a normal person…」
「Heh, want to know the secret to my youth? Well, plenty of sleep, fruits before bed, and a bit of wine. I’d recommend purple strawberries right now.」
「That’s not what I’m asking!」
「Oh… not that? Oh, right, I didn’t tell you, Eli. Hehe, I’m kinda immortal, so I don’t die easily. The world whispers to me, ‘Stay alive!’」
She strikes a pose, “Heh, that’s settled,” Léna-Lloyd proclaims.
What is she even saying?
Elibel rubs her temples.
This woman really is something else.
Feels just like talking to that idiot.
「Whatever… I wouldn’t be surprised if you lived for a hundred or even a thousand years. It’s just like you to pull something like that.」
「Why!? I just told you something huge! Act more surprised!」
Léna-Lloyd dramatically overreacts. But to Elibel, it’s just another “Léna thing”.
In many ways, Léna is even more of an exception than Elibel.
Otherwise, she wouldn’t have the title of “Witch”.
「How did you even get here? Aren’t you supposed to be in the middle of the Continental Congress?」
Elibel inquires, readying her staff.
The Zeroth Magic Research Institute is situated in a corner of the Ford Desert. There’s a considerable distance from the Hà Giang Empire, where the congress should be taking place.
Léna-Lloyd represents the Borherick Kingdom there.
Surely, she might get some time off, but not enough to travel such a distance in mere minutes.
Yet, Léna-Lloyd nonchalantly replies, “Oh, is that all?”
「It’s not that hard, right? It’s the same way you’re here now.」
Elibel examines Léna more closely.
Indeed, the flow of her magic is different.
「…You’re not a golem, are you?」
「The fundamental principle is the same, but if we’re being exact, it’s slightly different. This body employs a water magic formula — or to be more precise, it’s an adaptation of the Celestial Dragon technique. What’s most convenient about this technique is its ability to share information even from distant locations through recognition synchronization. It somewhat resembles the network of ants. But, the latter is likely much superior in terms of accuracy and scale.」
Rubbing her own body, Léna-Lloyd says,
So, at this very moment, Léna-Lloyd is in the Hà Giang Empire, enjoying dinner, and talking to Elibel.
It might be more accurate to say that she in the Hà Giang Empire is a “window” for contacting a distant place.
「I’ve never seen such a technique…」
「Well, I didn’t really let you read much about the ‘Description of the Dragon King Species’, Eli. Besides, that’s not something you can figure out on your own.」
「I see, but the real question is, why did you stir up the Celestial Dragon, the true Dragon King species, in our dungeon?」
Magical power overflows from Elibel’s vessel body.
Depending on the answer, a confrontation here might be implied.
Yet, Léna-Lloyd remains calm.
「It’s for you, Eli. I don’t lie… at least not often.」
Léna-Lloyd’s playful response only increases Elibel’s irritation.
「…The dungeon could’ve collapsed, you know? Why would you do such a thing?」
「Huh? You could handle it, couldn’t you, Eli?」
Léna-Lloyd speaks as if it’s no big deal.
「Don’t mess with me. If Jibru hadn’t arrived, we might’ve all been annihilated.」
「What? That’s a joke, right? You didn’t even use your ‘trump card’.」
At that remark, Elibel’s expression distorts.
How does she know?
「Well, you probably saved it for Rias. But you have to know when to use your cards. Otherwise, ‘you might’ve been annihilated’.」
「…Are you lecturing me?」
「Mmm, just an old man’s grumbling. If you don’t want to hear it, just ignore it.」
Stretching, Léna-Lloyd stands up.
「Okay, okay, I got it. Let’s go over everything step by step. We have a long night ahead.」
Saying that, she retrieves a box from the corner of the desk.
Inside are a bottle of liquor and wine glasses.
「Want a drink? It’s a good brand. I asked Rugios to place it here beforehand.」
「I pity the subordinate you made fetch that for such a trivial thing…」
Elibel’s voice drips with sarcasm, and for some reason, it feels like a chorus of boos from the skeleton army and Berg can be heard, but it’s ignored.
No one else is here but the two of them.
Léna-Lloyd pours wine into two glasses.
The red liquid reflects the moonlight, shimmering with a captivating hue.
After taking a sip of the ruby liquid, Léna-Lloyd begins to speak.
「I think… the Continental Congress tomorrow will be interrupted.」
Elibel sways the content of her glass, though she never brings it to her lips, asking Léna-Lloyd for clarification.
「―――Rias will probably make her move tomorrow.」
That single statement is enough to strip the expression from Elibel’s face.
「What did you just say…?」
「You’ve been chasing her for a long time, right? But you never caught her. Rias has always been good at running. But I think she won’t be running anymore. Tomorrow, she’ll definitely act.」
「Why do you—」
How do you know? Elibel stops before finishing the sentence, realizing it’s Léna-Lloyd she’s talking to.
In the first place, Léna says.
「Do you even know Rias’s objective, Eli?」
「…I don’t. Maybe she’s obsessed with the dungeon.」
「Mmm, that’s not exactly it.」
Pointing her finger upward, Léna declares,
「Her goal isn’t just a powerful dungeon. It’s what lies ‘beyond’.」
「The… beyond of the dungeon?」
「Yes. For her, a strong dungeon is just a tool for her real objective. Well, preparing for that has taken her hundreds of years though.」
「Her goal is to resurrect the last of the Dragon King species— the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus.」
Elibel raises an eyebrow at that.
The ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus.
She’s heard the name before.
It’s said to be on par with the Earth Dragon, Celestial Dragon, and Holy Dragon as one of the Dragon King species.
But that’s about all she knows.
She’s clueless about what kind of dragon it is, or what kind of power it holds.
Information about the Dragon King species is scarce, except for Jibru. And among those, the info on the “Death Dragon” Ouronus is especially limited.
Léna-Lloyd must’ve realized this.
Nodding, she says,
「Right, right. Eli, you don’t know about Ouronus. Let me put it simply.」
Taking a breath, Léna-Lloyd continues,
「Death Dragon’ Ouronus— unlike the other three species, it’s a dragon that awakened its power as a Dragon King species on its own… and was the head of the original followers of the ‘Divine Catastrophe Dragon King’ Jibru. A thousand years ago, it rebelled against her and was sealed away as the most wicked of dragons.」
「Jibru’s… head follower you say?」
「Yes. Well, I don’t know why she’s so obsessed with that dragon. But her goal of resurrecting the Death Dragon is certain.」
Léna-Lloyd raises her wine glass towards the moonlight above.
In the glass, the reflected moon is very beautiful.
「That’s why it had to be done. Eli, your dungeon became too powerful. If it’s not vented, it will be used as a vessel. A vessel for Rias’s revival of the Death Dragon.」
Léna-Lloyd looks straight into Elibel’s eyes.
All traces of her playful demeanor are gone.
「Eli, will you join forces with me? I know a lot, but I don’t have much in terms of allies. I don’t have many friends. I had Rugios take out a few, but Rias has many powerful pawns. Even I’d have a hard time taking them head-on.」
Léna-Lloyd reaches out a hand.
「We absolutely must prevent the resurrection of the Death Dragon.」
Because, she says,
「If the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus truly returns— this world will collapse.」
At an unknown location―――
In the midst of the moonlight, a woman stands up.
She’s dressed in a snug, secretary-like outfit with cat-like eyes.
Her name? Rias Aurora.
Nearby, several men and women wait.
They all seem determined, their gazes fixed on her.
With everyone’s attention on her, she looks up at the star-filled sky and declares,
「…Let’s make our move tomorrow.」
The first to respond is a tall man.
With a closely shaved haircut and wearing a disheveled yukata.
His name is Lau Lan Fan.
Known as the adventurer with the title “Yasha.”
「…Are we really going through with it?」
「Of course. We’ve finally reached this point.」
「Yeah… We’re fully prepared. We can’t stop now.」
「Yes, you’re right. Finally… we can resurrect the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus.」
Rias turns to a nearby ally, asking,
「How many of our comrades… How many allies have been taken down?」
「Two of them. ‘Ice Flame’ and ‘Sound Sealer’ were defeated. Probably by the witch’s minions… perhaps Rugios.」
Answering is a young man with black hair and sharp eyes that spark like lightning.
His name is Aoba Kirishima.
「We expected some attacks from the opposition, but losing those two still hurts. Especially Hwan, who had strong ties with merchant guilds in many countries. Losing that connection hurts.」
「Isn’t that a non-issue? Besides, we’ve got that ‘Dragon Slayer’ guy on our side now, right? He should be a significant force」
「Not at all. What’s important is the ‘power’ he possesses. I don’t have high expectations of him as a combat asset.」
「Yeah, honestly, as long as the four of us and senior Rias are around, we’re good in terms of combat power.」
A man dressed like a clown with a white mask nods in agreement.
「No badmouthing our allies, Aoba. And you too, Joker.」
A woman in a white priestess outfit beside them cautions the two.
「But it’s the truth, right」
「Even so, I won’t tolerate belittling remarks about our allies. Want to be punished?」
「Tsk, my bad.」
The two promptly apologize as they sense a murderous aura emanating from the priestess.
Rias then faces everyone and speaks.
「Regardless, we begin our operation tomorrow. Everyone, take your positions.」
They all nod in understanding, exchange brief greetings, and leave.
Once they’re gone, Rias pulls out a magic stone from her pocket, about the size of a fist.
It’s a pitch-black stone that seems to swallow everything.
She lovingly strokes it.
「Finally, tomorrow… Our long-held dream… our mutual desire will come true.」
Looking up at the moon, she murmurs as if singing,
「Oh… I want to see you. I long to meet you… Finally… I’ll finally be able to meet you…」
Her whisper fades, swallowed by the vast starry sky.
At an unknown location―――
「Are you okay?」
「I’m fine. But I have to admit, I didn’t expect Yamu to be so powerful. I ended up using more strength than I anticipated.」
「That’s because you always underestimate him. He’s one of the few dragons who have truly awakened as a Dragon King.」
「Indeed. Time really flies…」
「So, what will you do now?」
「Do? About what?」
「About the Death Dragon Ouronus. You know that Rias is trying to resurrect him. We can’t just let it happen… Although, Yamu seems to want that.」
「Yamu had a good relationship with him… But don’t worry. I will handle both Ouronus and Rias. I can’t burden my dear Earth and his companions.」
「You’re pushing yourself too hard. You’re already preserving your life by shrinking your body. If you keep using your power like this―――」
「It’s okay. I finally have something worth protecting. I want to do something motherly, even if… it means being disliked by him.」
「Are you still bothered by what Yamu said? What happened back then couldn’t be helped. It wasn’t just your fault―――」
「Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that I let them die as a result.」
「Fine… If you’re that determined, I won’t stop you.」
「Thank you, Gwyve…」
「But next time, I’m coming with you. That’s non-negotiable. I won’t leave you alone again. If Ouronus does return, I’ll be the one to stop him.」
「I’m causing you so much trouble.」
「It’s fine. It’s a promise, after all…」
The next day…
The third day of the Continental Congress.
A tumultuous day begins, swallowing all schemes and emotions.
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