A long time ago―――
Amidst the warmth of sunlight filtering through the trees, a lone girl sits in the shade, engrossed in her book.
She has flowing silver hair and crimson eyes.
Her beauty is so captivating, one feels like they might be drawn into her gaze forever.
The surroundings are empty, with no one in sight, and she seems unconcerned by this solitude.
She doesn’t mind the dirt on her hands, nor the grass sticking to her clothes. She’s wholly absorbed in her reading.
This scene alone would make a magnificent painting.
In fact, one might wonder if there exists an artist skilled enough to capture the girl’s mesmerizing beauty.
Her appearance and aura seem otherworldly.
『Ah, Miss Elibel. So this is where you’ve been hiding. You shouldn’t be reading out here. The lord might scold you.』
The girl looks up to see a woman in her twenties, dressed in a yellow robe.
Warm, cat-like eyes fixate on the girl.
『Hmm, but the weather’s so nice today. I wanted to read outside.』
『You should read indoors.』
『Because the book might get damaged. The sun can wear out the pages.』
Ah, that’s a good point.
In this era, paper is precious, and books are treasures.
They impart knowledge, a priceless treasure that doesn’t weigh you down.
If the book could be damaged, there’s no better reason to move indoors.
『Alright, I’ll go back to my room to read.』
『Good. I’ll prepare some tea for you. How about a pie with purple strawberries for a snack?』
The girl shakes her head,
『No thanks. Grandma always says not to snack while reading.』
She makes a face, thinking of a plain-looking woman who always scolds her.
The woman smiles, extending her hand,
『Let’s read together. It’ll be fun.』
The girl takes her hand, then suddenly exclaims,
『Oh, can you teach me a new spell?』
『Eh, again? Didn’t you just master the ‘Thousand Ice Pillars’?』
『That doesn’t count. I want to learn so many more spells. In this world, I want to learn more magic that can be useful to others.』
『Alright… After reading, we’ll study magic. How about we dive into a combined magic of wind and water? It’s about time you move on to more advanced spells.』
『Yay! Let’s start here…』
『No, Miss Elibel. Combining elements has a vast range of effects. We need to go somewhere we can see its full extent.』
『Okay, let’s go.』
As soon as she agreed to teach, the girl lit up with a brilliant smile.
The woman couldn’t help but chuckle at this.
After all, the girl was undeniably a prodigy in magic.
For her, hearing one thing means understanding a hundred.
So, there isn’t much the woman can teach the girl anymore.
Even with her title as the Chief Advisor Magician of the Löwenherz House, she can’t quench the girl’s thirst for knowledge.
In the warm sunlight, the two, hand in hand, began to walk.
『Shall we return to the mansion, Miss Elibel?』
This story took place over two hundred years ago.
It’s a tale of a girl and the ‘dead person’.
Deep within the dungeon, in Elibel’s laboratory―――
「I… had a bad dream.」
Elibel scratches her head, the flame in her eye sockets flickering with irritation.
In essence, as an undead, sleep is unnecessary for her.
Therefore, she never dreams.
However, occasionally, she shuts off her consciousness temporarily to regulate the magical power and circuits within her body.
In a way, this could be considered the equivalent of sleep for the undead.
This time, however, it’s an intentional sleep that occurs when her consciousness transfers from her vessel back to her main body.
When transitioning her consciousness between her main body and the vessel, there’s a slight time lag.
She uses that time to finely adjust the magic and mental state of each form.
Yet, dreaming after becoming undead is a first for her.
Elibel wakes up from the brief sleep with a sigh.
Glancing to the side, she spots the vessel golem she had been using until now.
Though its role is complete, it now reverts back to its drawing mannequin form.
「This is becoming quite the hassle…」
She mutters, scratching her bald, exposed head.
The content of her conversation with Léna-Lloyd earlier is on her mind.
Just moments ago, she met Léna-Lloyd in her former research facility, the Zeroth Magic Research Institute.
The topics they discussed were so extraordinary that even someone as wise as Elibel found them hard to believe.
「The Death Dragon Ouronus…」
It’s the last of the Dragon King species.
Once the head follower of the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King Jibru, the dragon betrayed her and was in turn sealed away.
And its resurrection is said to be the ultimate goal of Elibel’s nemesis, Rias, as Léna-Lloyd revealed.
Elibel recalls the conversation they had earlier―――
Just a few minutes ago, inside the Zeroth Magic Research Institute―――
「…The world is… collapsing?」
Facing Elibel, who’s making a skeptical face, Léna-Lloyd casually nods.
「It’s not exactly ‘collapsing’ in a literal sense. More like… the common sense of the current world is getting overturned. Though… maybe it’s actually a proper collapse.」
Chin resting on her hand, Léna-Lloyd mutters in a vague manner.
「Hmm, how should I put it? Oh, Elibel, you’re undead now, right?」
The conversation takes a sudden unexpected turn.
「Huh? What’s that out of the blue?」
「You know how when people die and you leave the body, it becomes undead, like zombies or skeletons?」
「Of course I know. Are you mocking me?」
Everyone in this world knows that.
Besides, Elibel herself is one of the undead, so there’s no need to point it out.
As Léna-Lloyd continues, she nods in agreement.
「So, do you know why a ‘body left alone becomes undead’?」
For a moment, Elibel is stunned, but she quickly regains her composure to answer.
「It’s because the magic and soul inside the body transform, right? Living beings, including humans, consist of the ‘body’, ‘magic’, and ‘soul’. And the magic that fills the world comes in two types: positive and negative. Of these two, the living form their magic through positive magic.」
「When one dies, the body starts absorbing negative magical energy. This is called ‘reversal’, which leads to the phenomenon known as undeath. Is that good enough?」
Magic particles are the smallest components of the magical power flowing in this world.
Positive magic forms the living, while negative forms the dead.
However, there’s no difference between the two when it comes to the composition of magic techniques.
For instance, when Elibel uses the “Thousand Ice Pillars” spell, there’s no difference whether she uses positive or negative magic.
It’s like using wind power or fire power to generate electricity to turn a propeller, a common knowledge in this world.
Elibel tilts her head, wondering why Léna-Lloyd would ask such an obvious question.
「Exactly. So, do you know who created this ‘negative magic’?」
This time, Elibel truly doesn’t understand.
But the words that follow are more than enough to astonish her.
「The entity that created the negative magic and brought the phenomenon of undeath to this world… That’s the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus.」
「What did you just say…?」
Elibel’s eyes widen, disbelief evident on her face.
Even if it’s a Dragon King species, can a single dragon truly interfere with the laws of the world?
Seeing her reaction, Léna-Lloyd, seemingly pleased, continues,
「Hard to believe, right? But it’s true. I’m not sure how you see it, Elibel, but an awakened Dragon King species is that extraordinary. To be precise, it’s the ‘Earth Dragon’ Jibru and the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus. These two are completely in a league of their own.」
“Unique, or more like, in a separate category?” Léna-Lloyd poses with a finger raised.
「By the way, the direction of the ‘power’ of the ‘Earth Dragon’ Jibru is inward, towards itself, while the ‘Death Dragon’ Ouronus’ is outward, towards the world.」
Léna-Lloyd’s voice deepens slightly,
「A thousand years ago, with a single release of his power, Ouronus introduced a new common sense, the undeath, to this world. If there’s a ‘next time’, I can’t say what might happen. That’s what I mean by the world collapsing. Even I don’t understand the true nature of the ‘Death Dragon’s’ power. It’s not straightforward… That’s why it’s… terrifying.」
Looking straight into Elibel’s eyes, Léna-Lloyd continues,
「So, Elibel, I’m asking again, I need your help. I know you harbor resentment towards Rias. I’m sorry to use that, but I want you to join me.」
Elibel just stares at the hand she offers――――
And now, at Elibel’s lab―――
Elibel scratches her head, trying to make sense of the information brought to her by Léna-Lloyd.
Stretching, her gaze settles on the brilliantly colored sphere projecting an image.
It displays the inside of a dungeon, and the view from the entrance of each surface dungeon.
The bright morning sun shines in the frame.
「It’s already morning…」
More time has passed than she realized.
「Good morning, Miss Elibel.」
Turning to the voice, she spots Berg, who has just entered through the door.
It seems he has noticed her return.
「From the looks of it, your discussion with Miss Léna-Lloyd seemed quite troublesome.」
Elibel recalls the events.
She had informed only Berg and Gijie about her destination and purpose when she left yesterday.
「Well, honestly, the content of our discussion is something I can only half-believe…」
Berg is surprised to see Elibel sighing deeply.
The Elibel, known for her love of troublesome matters, irregularities, and her perverse affection for young boys and girls, is genuinely exasperated.
The fact that she sighs earnestly makes Berg shudder inside.
It’s more than enough for him to gauge the gravity of the situation.
Elibel then shares the content of her discussion with Léna-Lloyd to Berg and Gijie using thought and memory transmission.
「…This… truly is hard to believe…」
Even for Berg, it’s a hard story to swallow.
The existence of the Death Dragon, the beginning of negative magic, and Rias’s plans to resurrect it.
「But still… I felt like that old hag was hiding something else…」
Only Elibel, who knows Léna-Lloyd well, can say this.
Yes, the old hag wasn’t lying.
However, it doesn’t feel like she told “everything”.
What she’s hiding remains unknown.
But knowing the old hag, it’s certainly nothing good.
Given her mannerisms, there’s a high possibility she was aware of Rias’s intentions all along and chose to ignore it.
Trusting her easily is not an option.
With all this in mind, Elibel decided to keep Léna-Lloyd’s proposal on hold for now.
Léna-Lloyd likely expected this response, casually saying, “Okay, that’s fine.”
But, as she left, she added,
『However, I can’t wait too long. I don’t have much time… let’s say, by noon tomorrow at the latest. Have your answer by then.』
That implies that after that time, Rias might make a move.
Elibel must establish a countermeasure and strengthen the dungeon’s defenses by then.
「…I don’t know what that old hag is up to, but I’m going to do things my way. I’ll knock some sense into that idiot Rias. She betrayed me and stole the results of my research… I’ll make sure she pays for that.」
For now, it’s best to discuss with Earth and the others.
The issues of Una’s Continental Congress, the aftermath of yesterday’s Celestial Dragon event, Earth’s upcoming training, and improvements to the dungeon – there’s a mountain of topics to cover.
But, the information from Léna-Lloyd, especially about the “Death Dragon” and its “resurrection method”, crucial to the dungeon’s survival, should be shared.
Dressed in her gray robe, Elibel stands.
「Let’s go, Berg. I might not know the old hag’s intentions, but I can’t let Rias use this dungeon as she pleases.」
「Yes, Miss Elibel.」
The two pass through a teleportation gate.
All to protect this dungeon.
Their voices carried an unprecedented seriousness.
And a few minutes later…
Coming across the shameless dragon, who’s lazing around and drooling in his sleep, Elibel couldn’t resist giving him a kick. It was inevitable.
The third day of the Continental Congress―――the curtain rises.
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