At the Hà Giang Imperial Dining Hall―――
「Wow, so that kind of play is popular in the Holy Kingdom right now? I had no idea.」
「That’s right. I learned from others that it’s apparently based on a group from the Magic City called ‘Black Fang Something’.」
「Nufufu, that play was super popular in the Seldland too.」
Una, Dos, Orion, Sir Schwein, and Léna-Lloyd, who joined midway, are enjoying their breakfast, laughing and chatting amicably.
To an onlooker, it would seem as if representatives from different countries are deepening their ties.
At least… on the surface.
While eating his breakfast, Dos receives a thought transmission.
Naturally, the sender is Léna-Lloyd.
Even amidst their lively chat, the two are secretly communicating through thought.
『Oh, before we get to the main point… I wanted to apologize. Two days ago, someone from my side caused some trouble. Sorry about that.』
Recalling the events of two days ago with a hint of annoyance, Dos remembers the day of the Continental Congress.
What comes to mind is…
『…are you referring to the masked man at the Pig Merchant Association?』
The man who attacked the Pig Merchant Association and killed the renowned mercenary “Ice Flame” Hwan Lott.
Dressed in priest-like attire, a tall figure with half of his face covered by a mask.
A formidable opponent who wields the “Dragon Sword Ascalon” and who could not be defeated even with Orion’s assistance.
『Yes, exactly. His name is Rugios Tranjetta, and he’s my knight. Oh, by the way, he’s 38 this year. Looks younger, doesn’t he?』
…Turns out he’s older than he looks.
Well, to Dos, who’s turning three this year, most people would appear as old men or old women.
By the way, Orion seems to be turning twenty this year.
Anyway, that’s besides the point.
Dos recalls the fierce battle from the first day.
He wasn’t at his full strength, but that man’s power was still frightening.
If things went south, he might have died.
『I didn’t expect that to happen. I intended for him to finish off ‘Ice Flame’ quickly and leave, but you guys showed up. I was sure I had cast a spell to mask the surroundings from your perception..』
Why didn’t it work? Léna-Lloyd wonders, but Dos wouldn’t have an answer to that.
『…don’t worry about it.』
『Huh? I was prepared for you to be quite upset…』
She seems genuinely surprised.
『I thought you’d be out for revenge based on that incident.』
『…let’s get to the main point.』
『Yes, you’re right.』
Instead of beating around the bush, Dos steers the conversation back on track.
As far as he’s concerned, the previous issue is water under the bridge.
With the battle data against Dos, Gijie has already measured Rugios’s magic power and combat patterns.
The “Dragon Sword Ascalon” is a blade Elibel had researched previously.
Even outside of the dungeon, through Dos as a “medium,” Gijie can deploy barriers and weakening spells.
In other words, they’ve already “prepared a countermeasure.”
If they were to fight again, Dos firmly believes he’d win, especially with Gijie’s support.
He is, after all, the proud son of Earth.
He won’t be defeated a second time.
That is also a matter of pride for Dos.
Perhaps sensing Dos’s determination, Léna-Lloyd gets to the point.
『…Alright. The main thing I wanted to talk about — I’d like you to inform Eli about Rias Aurora’s accomplices.』
The tone of their thought transmission grows more serious.
『As I mentioned earlier, our primary concern is her — Rias Aurora, but there are others we should be wary of』
she says, sipping her milk.
『Besides Rias, we mainly need to be cautious of three people.』
Fewer than expected.
Or perhaps it’s surprising that three people would agree to such a ridiculous plan of reviving the Death Dragon.
Léna-Lloyd names them:
『Thunder Slash』Aoba Kirishima
『Yasha』Lau Lan Fan
And a mysterious man known as 『Joker.』
『From my investigation, these three are core members amongst Rias’s comrades.』
『Yes, I figured you’d know ‘Thunder Slash’.』
Dos has heard about “Thunder Slash” before.
Rather, it might be more accurate to say that Dos, who was once an adventurer, had heard about that reputation to an annoying extent.
『Thunder Slash』Aoba Kirishima
He’s a top-notch adventurer from the great eastern nation of Wano Country.
His rank? S.
A black-haired youth in his late teens, he’s said to be a prodigy who reached S-Rank at the youngest age in his country.
Some odd rumors have reached Dos’s ears too.
Rumor has it, his strength is far beyond that of any human.
Rumor has it, he speaks languages never heard before.
Rumor has it, he can see through people’s truths.
Rumor has it, he possesses multiple “sacred weapons”.
And rumor even has it, he’s a lolicon.
While the truth of these rumors is unclear, most of them sang praises of his strength.
It’s obvious that he’d be a huge pain if he were an enemy.
If a fight were to break out, Dos would prefer to have Gijie analyze him first.
He must be a formidable foe to warrant such caution.
As for the other two, “Yasha” and “Joker”, Dos hadn’t heard of them.
Just as he was pondering this, Léna-Lloyd provided some info.
『”Yasha” Lau Lanfan is also an adventurer from the same country as “Thunder Slash”. He’s a huge man, sturdy as a rock. A hero in his country for taking down a disaster-designated species all by himself. He’s about as famous as “Dragon Slayer” from the Borhelic Kingdom or “Silver Demon” from the Hà Giang Empire.』
Is that so?
Dos chastised himself for his ignorance.
However, even Léna-Lloyd only knew the name of the third man, “Joker”.
『…are there any others?』
『Mmm, there are a few who seem to fit the bill, but there’s no solid proof.』
She glanced briefly towards Orion.
Dos didn’t miss it.
『Er… Well, there’s no solid proof, but it’s highly likely.』
『Wait… You’re calm about this? Aren’t you supposed to be more concerned? Isn’t she someone you’re supposed to be guarding? Don’t you care?』
Léna-Lloyd was taken aback by Dos’s lack of reaction.
『…if Orion turns out to be an enemy, I’ll just kill her. If not, I’ll keep guarding her』
『Wow… You sure know where your priorities are…』
To Léna-Lloyd, Dos’s detached manner seemed rather unexpected.
But to Dos, his father Earth, the dungeon, and his companions were everything.
Everyone else was just part of the backdrop.
Simply put, they didn’t matter.
Dos only measured others by one metric: friend or foe to the dungeon?
Beneficial or harmful?
That goes for the woman in front of him and for Orion.
For instance, if Orion became an enemy right now, Dos wouldn’t hesitate to take her head off.
That’s just who Dos is.
That’s his mindset.
It’s what makes him who he is.
『…I have a question.』
『What is it?』
『…why didn’t you approach us on the first day?』
It wasn’t strange for Dos to think this.
From her tone, she likely knew about Una and Dos from the start.
She could have approached them way earlier.
Why did she wait until now?
『Ah… um… well, you see…』
However, her reply was beyond Dos’s expectations.
『…You know how… um… talking to strangers is really, really nerve-wracking?』
For a moment, his thoughts froze.
What was she talking about?
『No, seriously! Talking to strangers is so stressful! In meetings, I have a script, and if someone asks something unexpected, I can just stay silent or pretend to sleep. But starting a conversation with someone I don’t know is terrifying! It took me fifteen years to be able to comfortably speak to Rugios, whom I mentioned earlier!』
Léna-Lloyd speaks in a rapid-fire manner.
However, Léna-Lloyd’s tone at this moment is not like the somewhat scripted tone from earlier.
Dos felt that the real Léna-Lloyd was showing.
Isn’t she taking too long to open up…?
Dos can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for Rugios, someone he’s met only once.
Although Rugios looked formidable, it seemed he had his fair share of challenges.
Especially because of her.
Come to think of it, Dos senses something familiar in her.
A similarity he’s seen in both Elibel and his sister, Una.
『…but now you’re talking to me.』
『Because you’re related to Eli. So, I’ve been discreetly watching you for the last two or three days. Before we met, I spent an hour mentally preparing. Look, I’m really pushing myself here. My heart’s racing.』
In these two days, Dos finally connects the dots about the strange presences and looks he’s felt.
That makes sense now.
She definitely knows Elibel.
She’s definitely a weirdo.
『Anyway, I’ve said what I needed to say. Please pass my message to Eli, okay?』
Perhaps overwhelmed, Léna-Lloyd stands up, plate in hand.
「Well, I’ll be taking my leave now. Thanks to all of you, breakfast was delightful.」
Her voice returns to its earlier theatrical timbre.
However, Dos doesn’t miss the subtle twitch in her cheeks.
She’s probably more flustered than she lets on.
As she prepares to leave, Léna-Lloyd glances back at Dos for just a moment.
『Oh, one last thing,』
“What could it be now?” Dos wonders.
Taking a deep breath, she says,
『―――Please… look after Eli for me. She can be quite reckless. I hope someone like you will support her.』
With that, she walks away.
Dos watches her retreating form, pondering.
He had initially assumed she was self-absorbed and uninterested in others.
Observing her now, and thinking of the pig munching on ham nearby, Dos reflects, “Looks can be deceiving.”
「It’s been an eventful breakfast.」
Fifteen minutes later, after Una and Sir Schwein finish their breakfast, Dos and the group get ready to move on.
Yes, appearances can be deceptive.
But the true depth of that phrase’s meaning, Dos would come to realize, lay just a little way down the road.
In the Hà Giang Empire’s office―――
Simultaneously, Kagrias, the emperor of the Hà Giang Empire, is going over documents while having his breakfast.
Even during the Continental Congress, such daily tasks never cease.
Piles of documents are spread out on his desk.
Of course, all these are documents that the emperor himself must approve.
Kagrias stamps them with a speed that makes it seem his hand is trembling.
In between, Kagrias takes bites of his breakfast.
「Man… this is good… I bet it’d taste even better if I weren’t working. Oh, how I wish I was in the dungeon right now…」
As he munches on a sandwich, Kagrias’s thoughts wander to the dungeon.
His breakfast consists of a sandwich, tea, and sliced fruits.
This is manageable with one hand even while working, and above all, Kagrias loves sandwiches.
Especially the ones filled with meat.
Moreover, having a bite in the midst of a dungeon break would be a meal more magnificent for Kagrias than any lavish feast.
「Well, once the Continental Congress is over, I’ll have some free time. Finally, I can dive into Fáfnir. Or maybe I should ask the Prime Minister and head to the Yuguru Great Forest…」
His daydreams expand.
It’d be good to confront the irregular armored warrior he spotted the last time he dived into Fáfnir.
Or to wreak havoc in the newly formed teleportation dungeon in the Yuguru Great Forest.
Ah, dungeons truly are wonderful.
Just the thought accelerates his stamping speed by twenty percent.
By the time he finishes his simple breakfast and the mountain of paperwork, there’s an unexpected knock on the door.
「…Who is it?」
Kagrias is suspicious.
No one is supposed to come here at this time.
The Prime Minister should only retrieve documents just before the Continental Congress.
The person behind the door remains silent.
The door opens without a word.
Kagrias is on high alert.
He reaches for the magic sword “Gram” kept beside him.
Ready to strike at any moment.
Then, he sees the face of the entrant.
Upon recognizing the person, Kagrias’s guard drops.
「…Oh, it’s you. What do you want? The Continental Congress isn’t for a while, right?」
The figure doesn’t respond.
Instead, they slowly open their mouth.
For a moment, Kagrias can’t understand what was said.
Because the figure had uttered:
Immediately after, fresh blood splatters in the air.
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