Wald stands a little away from the heart of the Imperial Capital, in the outskirts.
He’s atop a hill that rests in a slightly open area.
From atop the hill, the sights of the Imperial Capital are quite clear.
「…Did something happen in the capital?」
Shielding his eyes with his hand, he looks out, feeling an odd stir in the atmosphere of the capital.
Even from this distant hill, the anomaly is palpable.
（…Especially towards the Imperial Castle… this magic… my master? No, there seems to be a murkiness to the magic. Well, it’s my master, so I assume he’s safe.）
Wald doesn’t possess high magic-sensing abilities.
In terms of sensing, even Beldi would be better.
Nevertheless, feeling something from this distance indicates something significant must have occurred in the Imperial Capital.
He glances sideways at the woman walking beside him.
「Well, we may not know what happened, but it’s fortunate that our actions remain unobstructed.」
Walking beside him, dressed in secretary-esque attire, with eyes that remind one of a cat, is Rias Aurora.
The reason why Wald is with her, is due to a request from Rias.
In gratitude for healing his wounds, she asked him to serve as her bodyguard for the day.
He would have liked to rush to Beldi and Farley right away, but he couldn’t neglect the life-saver, and accepted the request, hoping to possibly get information about the Witch’s Knight or Léna-Lloyd from her.
「Well, yeah. By the way, you said your name is Rias, right? What kind of magic do you use? It seems no one has approached us so far, huh?」
「…I’m using perception-blocking magic. Unless a mage is highly skilled in magic sensing, they won’t notice us.」
Rias responds with a somewhat lonely demeanor.
Every so often, during their conversation, she shows this sort of reaction.
Curiously, Wald wonders.
He’s almost sure this is their first meeting, yet she seems to know him.
Has he met her somewhere before?
He can’t recall. It’s as if a mist covers his memories.
「Hmm. But, was there a point in me guarding you? With such convenient magic, you could go anywhere alone, right?」
「It’s not such a convenient magic. Besides, I’m a very frail woman.」
「Is that so? Well, let’s leave it at that. I owe you for healing my wounds, anyway. I’ll accompany you for today.」
「Yes, I appreciate it. Who knows, scary undead or Earth Dragons might attack us.」
「Heh… that actually sounds fun… a worthy fight.」
Grinning, Wald smiles broadly.
Earth Dragons, huh.
He once fought an Earth Dragon in the Eld Desert.
He lost, but it was fun.
Wald has always wanted to challenge that dungeon again.
Wald suddenly ponders.
Hmm…? Speaking of which, from whom did I learn about the Earth Dragon in the Eld Desert?
No, he knew about the Earth Dragon from someone else even before that.
Who was it…?
He can’t remember.
Shaking his head, as if to clear away these stray thoughts, Wald poses a question.
「So, why did we come all the way to this remote place? Don’t you think it’s about time you told me the reason?」
Upon hearing this, Rias turns around.
「Yes, it’s fine. Wald, you were once the owner of the Sacred Sword Leviathan, weren’t you?」
「Eh? Oh, yes, I was.」
Caught off guard by the sudden change in topic, Wald tilts his head slightly.
「So, you are also aware of the ‘Dungeon Destruction’ function endowed upon the sacred sword?」
「Oh, of course. But… how do you know about it?」
Only Wald, his master Linwu, Beldi, and the now-deceased Eclair knew about the Sacred Sword’s Dungeon Destruction function.
Probably, not many would know about the ‘Dungeon Destruction’ function itself.
But, Rias’s answer goes beyond Wald’s imagination.
「Of course I know about it. After all―――I was the one who modified the Sacred Sword.」
「It’s not just the Sacred Sword Leviathan. You probably don’t know, but there are other weapons endowed with ‘Dungeon Destruction’. One of them is the Magic Sword Gram, held by the Emperor of Hà Giang Empire, and another is Dragon Sword Ascalon, wielded by Witch’s Knight Rugios who attacked you. There are others, but there should be six in total.」
Wald is stunned for a moment.
But Rias continues without minding.
「Well, the theory itself was not mine, but created by ‘her’, who was once my apprentice and my master… It was tough. I had to incite her, help her build the theory, search for suitable weapons, and together we modified the sacred weapons… Ah, those were fulfilling times… Being swayed by her, exploring magic together was a lot of fun.」
Rias speaks with a hint of nostalgia.
Then suddenly, as if remembering something, she looks at Wald.
「Oh, right. The reason for moving away from the Imperial Capital. It’s simple. I didn’t want you to get caught up in ‘that’ and get killed.」
「What do you mean?」
「It’s a simple matter.」
With a smile, Rias chuckles.
That smile sends a chill down Wald’s spine.
And his intuition was right.
She said something unbelievable.
「Now, I am going to execute ‘Dungeon Destruction’ against ‘Fáfnir’. Inevitably, the Imperial Capital will get involved. That’s why we evacuated to here.」
She said it was a very simple reason.
―――There exists a thing called the Eight Great Dungeons.
It refers to eight mighty dungeons present in this world.
Even though centuries have passed since their emergence, none of these eight dungeons have been conquered.
So, is “Dungeon Destruction” effective against these dungeons?
In response to this question, Elibel answered.
―――All eight great dungeons are such that Dungeon Destruction cannot be used against them.
The first reason is, in the case of dungeons like the one created by Elibel, which belongs to the teleportation category, the effect of destruction is limited to only a part of it.
And the second reason is, by destroying a dungeon, humans would incur some kind of loss.
The prime example would be the Golden Dungeon “Fáfnir” owned by the Hà Giang Empire.
It could be said that the empire rose to power with the immense wealth produced from Fáfnir.
If Dungeon Destruction were to be used against Fáfnir, inevitably, the imperial capital built atop it would also get involved.
This would result in an unprecedented disaster.
Only an utter fool or a madman would use Dungeon Destruction on such a dungeon.
However, on the flip side.
If one doesn’t take into consideration the damage humans would sustain.
If one doesn’t consider what would happen to the Hà Giang Empire upon destruction.
Fáfnir is a dungeon where Dungeon Destruction would work.
Yes, Rias’s target wasn’t Earth’s dungeon.
It was Fáfnir, which had become stronger after reaching a turning point.
「It was quite a struggle… That witch is not someone who can be easily fooled. I had to muddle the information, misdirect her… But finally, that’s over. Nearly all the influential and powerful individuals of this continent, including her, are gathered in this imperial capital. Everything is going as planned… What I’ve longed for is about to begin…」
She had planned for this moment when influential figures from all over the continent would gather for the Continental Congress.
To sweep away all the obstacles.
To fulfill her ardent wish, with a boundless malice that defies sanity.
With a stunned expression, Wald is still met with a smile from Rias.
It’s a smile tinged with ecstasy.
「Now, Wald, let’s witness it together, the moment the world changes.」
With arms wide open, Rias declares loudly.
「It’s the beginning―――of the feast.」
Meanwhile, within the first layer of Fáfnir’s dungeon―――
Two adventurers are making their way through the dungeon.
Lau and Suiren.
Dressed in kimonos, the traditional attire of Wano Country, they move silently through the eerie quiet of the dungeon.
They stroll leisurely, without a hint of caution.
After all, this is just the first layer.
Unless faced with an extreme irregularity, progressing deeper is a breeze.
The occasional dungeon monsters that appear are dispatched with ease.
Soon enough, they reach their intended destination.
It’s located about halfway into the first layer.
「This place should do…」
Lau mutters, drawing a sword from his scabbard.
The blade is about a meter long.
In the hands of Lau, whose size resembles that of a bear, the sword almost looks like a small side arm.
It’s a ceremonial sword adorned with dazzling decorations.
The sword is named―――-Treasured Sword “Futsunomitama”.
It’s one of the seven swords endowed with the “Dungeon Destruction” feature.
Suiren glares at Lau as he carelessly unsheathes the sword.
「Hey, Lau, don’t handle it so recklessly. That’s Aoba’s, remember?」
「I got it, I got it. Shall we begin then―――?」
Lau raises the sword high, simultaneously unlocking the function ingrained within.
He’s about to unleash a taboo against the dungeon―――
With all his might, Lau swings the sword down.
His face is twisted in ecstasy.
It’s the beginning of the feast.
He’s going to destroy Fáfnir.
The ensuing unprecedented disaster will unfold.
Overwhelming destruction will engulf everything.
He imagines the people of the Imperial Capital dying amidst the hellish scene.
And amidst it all, the Death Dragon Ouronus will resurrect.
The tip of the treasured sword Futsunomitama plunges into the ground.
The “Dungeon Destruction” feature within the sword activates.
An intense light floods the dungeon.
Tremendous magical power.
Immediately after, Fáfnir experiences―――
―――that doesn’t happen.
The intense light fades, and the dungeon falls into eerie silence.
Lau is dumbfounded.
Next to him, Suiren, who was watching the proceedings, also wears a bewildered expression.
「Hey, what the hell is going on?! Why didn’t the ‘Dungeon Destruction’ activate?!」
He swings the sword again.
「‘Shatter,’ Futsunomitama! …Damn it, what’s happening?! Don’t tell me Aoba already used the ‘Dungeon Destruction’ feature?!」
The possibility that the Dungeon Destruction didn’t activate.
It suggests that it might have already been used once.
The “Dungeon Destruction” feature requires a century-long interval once activated, reverting the sword to a mere weapon in the meantime.
It’s only natural for Lau to suspect this possibility.
However, a little farther away, a young girl―――Suiren is calmly assessing the situation.
「It doesn’t seem like it didn’t activate… but what’s going on? It’s like the Dungeon Destruction was obstructed… no, ‘neutralized’ by some force…」
She mumbles, her disjointed thoughts spilling out as a monologue.
「――――Wow, amazing. It really happened just as Elibel predicted」
A voice rings out.
「Huh? Who’s there?」
「Lau…? What happened? Did a monster appear?」
Lau looks towards the source of the voice.
Suiren, on the other hand, seems unable to grasp his actions.
「Hmm… So, you can ‘hear’ my voice…」
The voice seems slightly intrigued.
With heightened caution, Lau continues to search for the source of the voice.
What he finds is a young girl, about ten years old.
A beautiful girl with white clothes, white hair, and white skin.
Yet, her eyes, revealed by golden hairpins, are the only part of her that’s caramel-colored, making her appear even more exotic.
「Who the hell are you…」
His voice is tinged with caution.
It’s peculiar for someone to speak up at this moment.
Being wary is the only logical response.
Yet, the girl responds with an air of nonchalance.
「NO, don’t try to destroy Fal’s home.」
With those words, the girl―the Pathless―named Tsumugi smiles sweetly.
September 2023 Patron: GoatBeards