At the first layer of Fafnir’s dungeon―――
The battle is over, and silence returns to the dungeon.
「Haa… Haa… Ugh… Ehh…!」
Tsumugi can’t help but fall to her knees.
She wraps her arms around herself, trying desperately to suppress the shaking and nausea coming from within.
Her first battle.
The first time she’s ever taken a life.
The immense pressure from the combat hits Tsumugi the moment the tension of the battle fades.
「…You did well, Tsumugi…」
Gently, Fafnir strokes Tsumugi’s head.
With a ticklish feeling, Tsumugi closes her eyes.
「Yes… I did my best… Fal…」
She leans into Fal, allowing herself to cry for a moment.
The impact of her first battle took a greater toll on the young girl’s psyche than anticipated.
「But… was it okay?」
「What do you mean?」
「I mean… Fal’s body…」
Fafnir’s body is in a state of absolute rest to prolong his life.
Even if this form is temporary, it’s undoubtedly putting a significant strain on him.
「Oh, that. Don’t worry about it. Besides, most of the magic used to create this body came from your master’s energy.」
But considering the vast amount of magic needed to create such a body, I wonder how much magic Earth, that young earth dragon, actually has.
Especially since Earth seemed completely fine after having so much magic drawn from him.
「What about the dungeon core? Is it okay?」
「…Yes, of course. It agreed as well.」
Thump. Fafnir lightly taps his chest.
That’s only half true.
Honestly, convincing the dungeon core was a real challenge.
Not about the defense of the dungeon, but the idea of Fafnir, the dungeon master himself, going to the front lines.
For the dungeon core, it was an unthinkable act.
After all, to help Tsumugi, Fafnir could have just summoned monsters on the spot.
Or perhaps used Tsumugi’s magical corridor to create a makeshift teleportation gate to send powerful monsters or minions from within the dungeon.
But Fafnir desperately wanted to help Tsumugi with his own hands.
Even if it was foolish, even if it would shorten his own life, he believed it was the most sincere gesture he could show Tsumugi as a friend.
In the face of Fafnir’s sheer determination, the dungeon core finally relented.
However, it did warn, “Don’t ever pull something this reckless again.”
「Hmm, she fell asleep…」
Cradling Tsumugi close, Fafnir looks at his hand.
Bits of the adventurer he had just crushed cling to his fingers.
By any measure, it’s a real “flesh fragment.”
The faint remnants of magic, the clinging residues of a soul— they unmistakably belong to a human.
There’s no mistaking it.
Picking up a battered sword carelessly placed beside him.
「It’s definitely the real thing…」
It’s the legendary sword Futsunomitama, a name he’s heard through the wind.
Although seeing it in person for the first time, even in its worn state, it still radiates a unique “presence” as a weapon.
What would have happened if Tsumugi wasn’t there?
The thought sends shivers down his spine.
「…Mmm… What’s wrong, Fal?」
「No… it’s nothing. Rest, Tsumugi.」
I’m probably overthinking it.
With that thought, Fafnir shifts his focus.
To what lies ahead.
They’ve halted the enemy’s “Dungeon Destruction” attempt.
But it’s unlikely to be the end.
Should the enemy possess multiple “Dungeon Destruction” weapons, they wouldn’t miss this opportunity.
From what he heard from Elibel, there are six weapons embedded with “Dungeon Destruction”.
One of them, the Sacred Sword Leviathan, is with them.
Plus, now they have another: the legendary sword Futsunomitama.
That leaves the magic sword Gram, wielded by Emperor Kagrias.
And the mysterious man whom Una and Dos encountered held the dragon sword Ascalon.
The whereabouts of two weapons imbued with “Dungeon Destruction”, the magic sword Tyrfing and the treasured Vajra, remain unknown.
However, planning for the worst, they should assume the enemy can still trigger “Dungeon Destruction” four more times.
First and foremost, they need to restore Tsumugi’s strength.
If a second or third wave attacks, Tsumugi’s “Dungeon Alteration” might be their only defense.
———I’m sorry, Tsumugi…
Even now, he still relies on this young girl.
While mentally apologizing, until the limit approaches his temporary body, Fafnir continues to gently transfer his magic into Tsumugi.
Turning the clock back a bit, in a corner of the imperial outskirts―――
「Please, don’t glare at me like that, Wald. It’s quite scary.」
Rias stands on a small hill alongside Wald.
But the atmosphere surrounding the two of them is markedly contrasting.
Rias, carefree as always, contrasts sharply with Wald, who isn’t hiding his hostile vibe at all.
「…Rias, I’m sorry, but could you say that again? I think my ears are playing tricks on me.」
In the tense atmosphere, Wald questions Rias, unable to believe what she’s just mentioned.
Rias calmly responds.
「Sure, it’s no problem. I said that I’m about to trigger a ‘Dungeon Destruction’ on Fafnir. It would be problematic if we got caught in it, so I’ve come this far to evacuate.」
It seems he hadn’t misheard.
「What… what are you thinking? Destroy Fafnir? Do you realize how many casualties that would cause?」
The atmosphere around her says it all.
She’s genuinely intent on destroying Fafnir.
She’s talking about causing a massive disaster, potentially affecting the tens of thousands of people living in the capital.
While Wald is stunned to learn that there are other weapons imbued with “Dungeon Destruction” and even more shocked that she is the one behind it— honestly, he can barely believe it— what’s more bewildering is her open declaration of wanting to destroy Fafnir. He just can’t understand her mindset.
「Yes, many will likely die. After all, Fafnir is built right beneath the imperial capital. The damage would be cascading.」
“But”, she says,
「―――But, so what? Is there a problem with that?」
Her smile is unwavering.
With an unbelievably resolute face, she makes her proclamation.
For the first time,
Wald is at a loss for words.
He’s genuinely thrown into chaos.
He doesn’t understand.
What on earth is this woman saying?
「Hmm? Why are you making that face, Wald?」
Rias speaks as if Wald’s concerns are the odd ones out.
What kind of face am I making right now?
Wald wonders, feeling a slick sweat forming on his back.
Then, with a tone laced with concern, Rias addresses him.
「Wald… I understand how you feel. Being told something like this all of a sudden must be bewildering. But there’s no other way. The dungeon has reached a turning point and transformed into something far more magnificent than before. That’s why… it has to be destroyed. Many people will die, but unless it’s destroyed, ‘he’ can’t be revived. There are just too many nations, people, and things on this continent that deserve annihilation. ‘He’ will return, setting things right in the process.」
She speaks with utter conviction, like she’s the only sane one here.
Moreover, her declarations sound utterly preposterous.
Their conversation isn’t even meshing together.
It’s as if she doesn’t even intend to have a dialogue.
All Wald hears is a monologue.
「I’m sorry, but… could you say it in proper human language? I genuinely can’t understand a word you’re saying.」
Wald manages to choke out the words.
Simultaneously, he draws the two swords hanging at his waist.
Though his thoughts remain scattered, one thing is clear: he has to stop her.
He can’t stand idly by if there’s a chance the imperial capital will be destroyed.
He hadn’t thought she could be this dangerous when they spoke just yesterday.
In fact, trusting her so easily now seems a big mistake.
This woman is “dangerous.”
Every instinct in Wald is sounding the alarm.
「Please, Wald, don’t be so hostile. It’s terrifying. After all, didn’t you do something similar in the Eld Desert? What’s so surprising now?」
The Eld Desert large-scale subjugation campaign comes to mind.
During that operation, Wald had utilized the “Dungeon Destruction” ability of the Sacred Sword Leviathan to breach deep into the dungeon and launch a surprise attack.
The outcome? A tragic defeat. His friend, Eclair, died, and they were exiled from their nation.
Still, Wald’s frustration bubbles to the surface.
「The circumstances then were different!」
That strategy had been possible because the Eld Desert was uninhabited.
Even Wald, recognized as a battle maniac by himself and others, finds the idea of committing mass murder on the scale of destroying Fafnir, which would engulf the entire imperial capital, to be sheer madness.
Yet, Rias looks at Wald as if he’s a child throwing a tantrum.
She then pulls out a pocket watch-like object from her coat, checking the time.
「…sigh… Fine. Let’s discuss this step by step. Fortunately, we still have time.」
With that, she glances in the direction of the capital, turning her back to Wald, completely defenseless.
「Wald. How familiar are you with the existence known as the Dragon King species?」
An abrupt, seemingly random question.
Yet, Wald dutifully responds.
「…The pinnacle of dragon species, right? Earth Dragon, Celestial Dragon, Holy Dragon, and… was it Death Dragon? What does that have to do with now?」
Being a former head of the Nored family, which bears the title “Dragon Slayer,” Wald’s knowledge about dragons surpasses most.
Naturally, he’s well-versed about the Dragon King species.
And, he’s fought one of them, the Earth Dragon, before.
Although the Earth Dragon he encountered in the Eld Desert was just a juvenile, its combat prowess was nothing short of spectacular.
It was an exhilarating battle.
Wald may not have agreed with the dragon’s ideals, but given the chance, he’d relish another fight with it.
「It’s relevant. Because—one of them, the Death Dragon Ouronus, his revival is my goal.」
「…What did you just say?」
Wald furrows his brows.
The Death Dragon Ouronus.
Not just a species, but a singular, unique Dragon King.
References to it are found only in very old texts.
As a result, its abilities and appearance remain shrouded in mystery.
Still, its mysterious nature earns it a spot amongst the Dragon King species.
Due to the limited information, all Wald really knows about it is its name.
「You don’t seem to know much about the Death Dragon either.」
Silently, Wald nods.
「Well then, let’s delve into some ancient history, shall we? About the Death Dragon, and also the Earth Dragon.」
「The Death Dragon and… the Earth Dragon…?」
Echoing her words, Wald murmurs. Rias nods and continues.
「Yes, indeed. I’m sure, once you hear this story, you’ll want to help me.」
With that, Rias begins her tale.
「More than a thousand years ago, all the continents, including this one, Faudo, were united as one. On this single, vast continent, there stood an equally massive dungeon. The name of that dungeon was—!?」
She stops abruptly, eyes widening in shock.
Wald senses it too.
――—A surge of magical energy.
Suddenly, countless ice shards rain down from the sky.
「―――What the hell is this!?」
「This spell… It’s…」
Both of them dodge on instinct.
Ice shards pierce the ground, sending up a swirling white mist.
「Thousand Ice Pillar… A spell you taught me.」
A voice emerges from the haze.
「…Always move to a location where you can oversee the full range of an area-of-effect spell… That’s another thing you taught me…」
An Arc Skeleton reveals itself.
「―――When targeting Fáfnir, there are seven places where you can overlook the destruction of the entire city. Among them, the spot closest to the capital and most likely to be your favorite was here… I’m relieved you haven’t changed. Thanks to that… I’ve finally caught up with you.」
The gray-robed Arc Skeleton billows, with a six-armed giant looming behind it.
At their feet is a teleportation circle, glowing eerily blue.
「Well, well… What have we here?」
The smoke clears.
And Rias, unfazed, gazes upon her uninvited guests—recognizing the face of a former master and disciple.
「―――It’s been a while… Two hundred years, to be precise.」
The skeleton says, blue flames of passion burning intensely within its eye sockets.
「…Who are you?」
But the Arc Skeleton doesn’t even seem to notice him.
All it sees is the woman standing before it.
An overwhelming surge of magical power and murderous intent emanates from the bony sage.
Despite having lost all flesh, reduced only to bones, its obsession with the woman in front of it remains undiminished.
「―――I’ve longed to see you… Rias!!」
「…It’s been some time, hasn’t it, Elibel my lady?」
After a span of two hundred years, Elibel and Rias finally confront each other.
―――Once upon a time, in a certain place, there was a vast dungeon.
―――Within this dungeon, countless monsters roamed.
―――Beasts bearing the title of kings, mists that sang of fantasies, a red dragon that could heal anything, a blue dragon controlling all nature, a soaring white wyvern, and a prideful black ant. Each of them possessed incredible strength.
―――Yet, towering above them all, there were two dragons.
―――One was a brown dragon with the power to swallow everything and to sweep it all away. The other, a black dragon, had the might to destroy everything and also the strength to save it.
―――For a long, long time, these two dragons, hand in hand, protected something deep within the dungeon, fighting alongside the other monsters.
―――But one day, one of the dragons voiced a desire.
―――It expressed its longing to see the “outside” of the dungeon.
―――To witness the endless vistas stretching beyond.
―――The confined world of the dungeon.
―――And so, that dragon harbored a deep yearning for the outside world.
―――The other dragon objected immediately.
―――It declared such a wish forbidden, insisting that their duty was to protect the dungeon. Leaving the dungeon would betray that mission.
―――A small disagreement blossomed, widening the rift between the two dragons.
―――Then, the day came when they clashed in combat.
―――The two dragons, once allies, tried to kill each other.
―――After an endless battle, the brown dragon emerged victorious.
―――But it couldn’t bring itself to kill the black dragon, its longtime companion.
―――Instead, the brown dragon chose to seal the black dragon away.
―――It sealed the black dragon’s body within the dungeon and its soul outside, ensuring it would never awaken again.
―――Gazing upon the resting form of the black dragon, the brown dragon wept.
―――The blue dragon, who had been especially close to the black one, collapsed in tears, and all the other monsters mourned as well.
―――This is how two dragons, once the best of friends, were torn apart.
―――The black dragon, forever asleep, still prays in its dreams.
―――Hoping to awaken from this slumber and see the outside world one day.
―――And that prayer? It continues even now, after a thousand years.
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