On the rooftop of the Imperial Castle―――
Even though I thought about starting a conversation, I wonder what I should start with.
Even though we only parted a few hours ago, it feels like a long time has passed.
Looking at Elibel, the flames in her eye sockets sway with an apparent hint of regret.
『Ah, first off, sorry about dragging Berg into this.』
It was totally unintentional.
Looking further, there’s a man who seems to be an enemy, embedded in the outer wall.
He’s definitely knocked out.
Well, it makes sense. He took a full-on charge from me in my fully-armored state.
That’s not so surprising.
Sorry about that, Berg.
And also, sorry to the bear whose name I don’t even know.
But since he looked like an enemy, I guess it worked out.
It’d be better if he stays down.
「Really? That’s the first thing you’re gonna say?」
Elibel says with a slightly exasperated expression.
And then, scratching her head, she looks at me again.
「…So, why are you here?」
She asks bluntly, staring intently at me.
She gives a little nod, as if understanding something.
What’s she thinking?
「That body… it’s a golem, isn’t it? When did you even make that? Plus, there’s an irregularity in its magic. …You used that white powder, didn’t you? After I told you not to use so much…」
Wow, she’s sharp.
She’s seen right through it.
Her observational and analytical skills are as amazing as ever.
While scratching her scalp-less head, Elibel looks at me.
I take a step closer.
Elibel takes a step back in response.
「You usually stays hidden away and hardly ever comes out, why are you out here? Especially in the capital during the Continental Congress, with so many people around. Do you understand what this means? Haven’t you forgotten what you are? You’re an “Earth Dragon”, a prime resource for humans.」
…Honestly, I kind of forgot about that.
But I can’t worry about that now.
「Fortunately or unfortunately, due to this mist barrier, most of the inhabitants of the capital are unconscious. But there are skilled adventurers and knights who aren’t. Do you know what will happen if they find you? Actually, they probably already know you’re here. Especially in this Imperial Castle where guards for the Continental Congress participants are gathered. They’re all elites. Do you think you can take them all on? It’s impossible. You, a living Earth Dragon, have been exposed to humans. From now on, what will happen to you———」
Elibel talks non-stop, her words tumbling over each other. I cut her off.
『Why did you leave without saying anything?』
Elibel falls silent.
She avoids my gaze, taking a step back.
「Look, whatever I do is my business. I don’t need your permission for every little thing. And besides, now’s not the time to———」
『Just answer the question.』
「Look who’s talking, Mr. Shut-In Dragon.」
Even though I speak with a lot of magical energy and anger, Elibel doesn’t back down.
In fact, she stares me down with defiance.
She can be so infuriating sometimes.
「Listen. You remember, right? Even though I’m tied to you, I’m essentially a Dungeon Advisor. You hired me for that. So scolding me for things outside the dungeon is really none of your business. Plus———」
『Why didn’t you come to us for help?』
With that single sentence, I interrupt her again.
That’s all I wanted to know.
Elibel looks at me, her expression blank.
It’s almost like she’s thinking, ‘What are you talking about?’
Well, more accurately, the flames in her eye sockets flicker in that questioning way.
『Why didn’t you ask us for help with this situation?』
There’s a moment of silence.
And then, Elibel bursts into laughter.
「HAHAHA! Are you serious? Me? Relying on you? That’s the funniest joke you’ve ever made! AHAHAHAHA!」
Her bones rattle with her amusement.
After her laughter subsides, Elibel looks straight at me.
「Are you mocking me?」
Magic and killing intent radiate from Elibel, sending a tingling sensation over my armor.
But I’m not scared.
「Thinking I would rely on someone like you… You must really think lowly of me.」
『I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just… How do I put it…』
Scratching my armored head with a rustling sound, I struggle to find the right words.
The clinking and clanking of armor fills the silence.
Hmm, how should I put this?
If I really had to say it out loud…
『Yeah, well… I guess I was… sad?』
『When I saw you struggling and didn’t realize it, that hurt. And the fact you didn’t come to us with it… I was just… a little sad.』
In my current state, after having ingested a white powder which reverses my mentality, my link to my subordinates grows stronger.
Just like when I instantly knew the status of everyone when Wald destroyed the dungeon.
Or the instant I recognized Tsumugi in Fafnir as one of my own.
That’s why I understand.
Right now, I can feel Elibel’s emotions and magical energy flowing into me through our shared bond.
Without this heightened state, I wouldn’t have sensed it.
Sigh… Seriously, I’m always too slow.
I’m always one step behind.
Really, it’s frustrating.
『I thought I ‘knew’… Especially when things get tough like this, you act behind our backs.』
At my words, Elibel visibly flinches.
「’Knew’? What are you saying? That you ‘knew’ me?」
Her voice trembles.
『Yeah, I knew you didn’t want to drag us into this. I truly ‘understood’.』
Well, the fact that Joker intruded into Fafnir rendered my understanding meaningless.
Even I, normally so composed, was furious about it.
Looking at Elibel, she’s visibly shaking.
Her skeletal hand tightens, making a creaking sound.
She then pushes out the words with force,
「What the hell do you think you know about me? Don’t mess with me!」
Elibel’s voice rises in exasperation.
Her flaming eye sockets shake as if saying, “Don’t act like you know!”
「I’ll apologize for leaving without saying anything! But this is my problem! Mine and Berg’s! It’s unfinished business from two hundred years ago! We have to deal with it on our own! It’s not your place to just show up without knowing anything!」
Thud! Elibel smacks the ground with the tip of the staff she’s holding.
Emotions pour out from Elibel like a dam has just been released.
It seems that something said has deeply upset her.
It’s really getting on her nerves.
But even so―――
「That woman, I told you what she did to me, right? It’s not just about destroying the dungeon or deceiving Berg to prevent me from becoming immortal! She’s done so many unforgivable things! Even my sister Luriel was tricked by her! I was put to sleep for more than two centuries! Betrayed at every turn! To think that the person who taught me magic was her, and that I trusted someone like that, it boils my blood!」
『You don’t have guts right now, do you?』
「It’s just a figure of speech!」
Of course it is.
「Don’t make fun of me, seriously!」
『But it did lighten the mood a bit, didn’t it?』
Elibel lets out another deep sigh.
I’d like to think my clever joke has taken the edge off her anger.
「But what I can’t forgive the most… It’s not that… It’s not just that…」
As she lowers her head, the flames in her eyes flicker,
「Even after being betrayed in every possible way… deep down, I still ‘believe’ in her. And that’s what I can’t forgive.」
That’s Elibel’s true feelings.
That’s the emotion that flows into me.
Elibel’s confusion, doubt, and anxiety.
In the end, Elibel is too kind and gentle.
Despite the betrayals, and everything that’s happened.
She hasn’t fully accepted Rias as an “enemy.”
Even with all the battle preparations, even with the exchanges of blows.
Even when she truly intended to kill, right at that last moment.
Deep down, she still believed in Rias.
That’s why she hesitated.
That’s why she paid the price.
Just like me, always being a step behind.
She allowed the opponent to act until this happened.
「Yes… I couldn’t bring myself to fully hate Rias… Deep down, I was holding back. Even before this mist barrier appeared, there were plenty of opportunities to kill her. I could’ve done it ‘easily.’ But in the end, right when I was about to deal the finishing blow, my resolve… it wavered.」
Elibel mutters with a hint of self-derision, “I’m too soft.”
「Well, even that damned old hag warned me about it. The timing to play a card, how to use the trump card… If I’d gotten that right, if I hadn’t hesitated, none of this would’ve happened… but―――」
『―――It’s pointless, all those ‘what ifs’.』
Once again, I interrupt Elibel’s words.
Such ‘what if’ scenarios have no meaning.
Moreover, you’re not the type to say such things.
You seem pretty beaten down.
『Elibel, let me say one thing.』
Just hear me out.
『You’re a lot more gullible than you think, you know?』
Elibel looks genuinely surprised, as if she hadn’t expected to hear that at all.
『I’m probably not the best person to say this, but you’re way too soft on those close to you』
On the other hand, she’s ruthless towards enemies.
『Is it about drawing lines? You’re clear about that. That’s why once you consider someone an ally, you’re all too sweet to them. No matter if they’re crooks or idiots. Ah, I’m not badmouthing. In fact, I’m praising you. I’m glad for it.』
Because she’s soft towards her own, Elibel left without a word.
She didn’t want to drag us into it.
She wanted to protect us.
『But that’s why I wish you’d talked to us.』
『I wish you’d shared with us when you were troubled, when you were in pain.』
「Why would you…?」
Elibel’s voice cracks as she asks,
「Why do you care about me that much?」
Is that all?
『Didn’t you say it once?』
Taking a step closer to Elibel, who this time doesn’t back away.
『―――in what world does a superior abandon their subordinate?』
Once, a line Elibel told me.
Well, considering the situation back then, it wasn’t exactly the most refined thing to say.
Yet, that statement was true.
There’s no reason not to care.
No reason to abandon.
Even if one’s selfish, even if one betrays.
And yet―――a superior shouldn’t be able to abandon their subordinate. Ever.
Taking another step forward.
Before I realize it, Elibel stands right in front of me.
We’re close enough that our hands could touch if extended.
Our eyes meet.
Neither of us looks away.
「…You’re such an idiot…」
『Call me what you want. I’ll say it again and again, Elibel.』
Taking a deep breath, I say,
『Lean on me.』
I extend my hand towards Elibel.
『Depend on me. Depend on us. Don’t put on a brave face alone. Show us your weakness. If you’re suffering, share it with us. Let’s support each other and move forward, bit by bit. There’s only so much one can do alone. So, involve us. Rely on us.』
With a faint smile, Elibel chuckles,
「Were you even listening? I said I didn’t want to involve you, remember?」
『Yeah, you did say that.』
「So, you’re saying you’d help me anyway? You’d get hurt for me?」
『Yeah, that’s how it is.』
There’s a brief pause before Elibel sighs deeply, as if giving in.
「You really are an idiot…」
『I’m fine with being an idiot. If that’s what it takes to save you.』
And then, Elibel says,
『What is it?』
As the flame in her eye sockets flickers,
「…Sorry, this is tough for me. Can you help?」
She extends her hand.
A pure white, bone-only palm.
To avoid causing her any harm, I gently place the tip of my finger over Elibel’s.
A smirk forms on neither of our faces, yet it’s clearly present.
Elibel rattles her bones, clearly amused.
I can’t help but laugh.
Suddenly, something feels amiss.
The magical corridor between Elibel and me—it’s getting stronger.
Elibel’s magical energy starts flowing into me.
Similarly, my magic is pouring into her.
「Fufu, quite the cliché development, isn’t it? Being honest with each other strengthens our link…」
『True, but I don’t mind it.』
Elibel’s eye sockets gleam, and she nods, her fiery gaze flickering with joy.
『Alright, Elibel, let’s go. Time to knock some sense into that foolish former mentor of yours.』
「Yes, indeed. She deserves a proper lesson.」
Saying so, we gaze up at the floating altar.
A loud shout pierces the air.
Looking in the direction of the voice, the large man I’d hit earlier stands there.
Blood drips from his head, and even though he’s wobbly, the fighting spirit emanating from him is undiminished.
「―――Man, that was something! How long was I out? Isn’t this fantastic?! To think there are guys as strong as this around!」
With a genuinely pleased, wicked grin, the massive man approaches us.
Seriously? No matter how accidental it was, he was hit while I was in amor mode.
Looking around, I see Berg’s still out cold.
What on earth?
Does this mean he’s stronger than the battle-ready Berg?
Is this guy even human?
Between Wald the Dragon Slayer and this, the people of this world seem to be unusually overpowered.
「Speaking of which.」
「That old hag mentioned it. Lau Lan Fan, known as ‘Yasha’, is an adventurer with an abnormal resilience. He even wore out and defeated creatures designated as disasters due to his endurance」
So he specializes in defense.
Kinda like Fafnir.
At the very least, he’s strong enough to take my charge and still come at me.
In that case, I might as well use my claws―――
「Hold on, Earth.」
The moment I’m about to get ready, Elibel stops me with her hand.
『What is it?』
「I’ll handle it.」
『Are you sure? This guy seems pretty strong.』
If it was my actual body, even with Armamentization, even I would have a hard time against him.
But given my current state, there’s no way I’d self-destruct, and I have some hidden tricks, so I can manage.
However, for Elibel, who’s an Arc Skeleton, it might be a bit much.
「It’s fine. After all, thanks to you―――」
The moment she said that,
「―――I’m finally ready.」
Elibel’s magic power swells up explosively.
A pure, white light envelops Elibel.
It’s just for an instant.
The light settles.
Both I and the massive man in front of me are taken aback.
And for a good reason.
The figure standing there isn’t the Elibel I knew.
It wasn’t an Arc Skeleton.
Long silver hair.
Skin whiter than snow.
Mesmerizing, glowing red eyes.
A beauty that captivates all who see her.
And the overwhelming rush of magical power.
Standing there was Elibel as she looked “in life.”
「Phew… Being ‘alive’ again after so long takes some getting used to.」
She scratches her head, fingers running through her long silver hair, a motion so elegant it’s like a painting come to life.
『E-Elibel… is that you?』
「Obviously. Who else would it be?」
『But… that appearance…』
Oh, and she nods.
「This is my trump card. A technique that pushes the Sanctuary Interference to its limits. Let’s call it… ‘Sanctuary Breach.’」
Is it a technique that restores Elibel to her original form?
I don’t have all the details.
But it’s clear to me that it’s an incredibly powerful technique.
Elibel stretches lightly, as if preparing.
「This technique has a time limit. So, let’s finish this quickly, shall we?」
A buzzing sensation of Elibel’s magic power transmits through the corridor.
At the same time, my magic is being drained at an alarming rate.
I wonder if my main body is okay? I hope it doesn’t wither away…
Seeing this, Lau Lan Fan breaks into a sinister grin.
「Haha! Oioioi! What’s this? Didn’t know Arc Skeleton had such a trump card! This is exciting! I can’t get enough of this! Now, let’s begin―――」
「Enough of your chatter.」
With a single glance,
Elibel quietly swings her staff horizontally.
Lau Lan Fan utters in confusion.
A chill in the air.
And then, in the next moment…
The sound of everything freezing resonates quietly.
It’s just a blink of an eye.
A silver-white world.
Everything in front of Elibel is frozen solid.
『Whoa… So cold.』
My breath comes out white.
Even in my armored state, the cold stings my skin.
What happened to the enemy?
I look over and see an ice statue standing there.
With an expression that suggests he had no idea what hit him, “Yasha” Lau Lan Fan is frozen solid.
Elibel walks up to the frozen figure.
She lightly taps the ice statue with her staff.
With a crisp sound, the ice shatters and falls apart.
It was such an anticlimactic end.
The pinnacle of a magician.
Elibel Von Löwenherz the Sage.
This is her true strength.
The full might of Elibel in her prime.
「Well, I guess that’s enough of a warm-up.」
She rolls her shoulders, checking her condition, and then approaches me.
You’re scaring me, Ms Sage.
I mean, look at the frost forming on my armor.
It’s okay because this is a golem, but if it was the usual me, the frost would probably bond with my skin or something.
As I think about that, suddenly, I’m lifted into the air.
This floating sensation is a new experience for me.
Whoa, maintaining balance is harder than I thought.
I look at Elibel.
She grins, a hint of mischief in her smile.
「Well, let’s go, Earth. You’ll… help me, right?」
But there’s a slight hint of anxiety in her expression.
So, I smile back.
I won’t let her feel anxious.
『Alright, let’s get going.』
I lift my gaze upward.
From a floating black altar in the sky, an intense aura of magical power wafts down.
Most likely, that’s where she is.
And the “entity” she’s trying to resurrect.
But there’s nothing to be afraid of.
After all, Elibel relied on me.
She showed her vulnerability and leaned on me.
That’s why I feel so empowered.
Let’s move forward, Elibel.
To settle everything from your past.
―――Let’s begin our final battle.
Sub29: Hey there! If you enjoy the content and want to stay updated with all the latest, make sure to follow my channel on WhatsApp! Click here to follow
October 2023 Patron: GoatBeards