Let’s listen to a story.
Of a woman named Rias Aurora.
She was born over a thousand years ago.
At that time, the king of the country she lived in accomplished the unprecedented feat of conquering the entire continent.
But, even with the continent unified and peace prevailing, not all issues simply vanish.
Orphans of war are born, and those marginalized by society gather in one place to form slums.
And Rias was born into one of those slums.
She doesn’t know her real parents.
The ones who raised her had died at some point she can’t recall.
Surrounded by people more beast than human, Rias did whatever it took to survive.
She’d catch rats to stave off hunger.
She’d dig through trash heaps, rejoicing whenever she found moldy bread.
She quenched her thirst with muddy water.
She deceived people, stealing their money and valuables.
With no knowledge of the true value of things, what she stole often got bought off her for a pittance.
Living was a daily battle.
It was a life at the very bottom.
She never questioned that life.
She never even had the time to ponder it.
For what felt like an eternity, she lived that life all by herself.
But when she turned twelve, something happened.
It was the worst day of her life.
She had let her guard down.
As usual, while scavenging through trash looking for food, a group of men approached her.
Unable to escape, she was captured.
The men tried to assault her.
They tore off her ragged clothes, hit her, and were about to commit an unspeakable act.
Even as a child, she could imagine what they will do to her.
Thinking about what would happen to her next, she cried.
Why does this always happen to me?
Why am I so unfortunate?
Despairing, crying, and screaming, she cursed this world.
And then, a miracle – no, a tragedy – occurred.
A massive “something” fell from the sky.
The ground shook violently.
A deafening explosion echoed.
Buildings around them crumbled.
And then, she heard the sound of something being crushed.
Rias isn’t sure what just happened.
However, when she comes to, she realizes that all the men who attacked her are dead.
They’re torn apart, buried under rubble.
In a twist of luck, their bodies acted as cushions, saving her from the same fate.
“Serves them right.”
She feels not a shred of sympathy for the dead men.
They deserved it.
Pushing their remains aside, Rias looks around.
Black smoke rises everywhere.
Bits of bodies jut out from the debris.
The scent of burning flesh fills the air.
Her familiar slum is nowhere to be seen.
What on earth just happened?
And right before her questioning eyes, something massive begins to rise.
What… is that?
It’s colossal, towering over her.
It has sharp fangs and is covered in hard scales.
The dragon opens its massive maw.
From its mouth, something is released.
A blinding light engulfs her.
Her consciousness fades.
「―――Ah, you’re awake?」
A voice says.
「Ah, don’t move. Your body shouldn’t move yet. Due to the ‘Reversal’, your body and soul aren’t fully aligned.」
What does that mean?
She doesn’t understand, but she realizes one thing: this boy saved her.
「Why the question mark? Well, I guess I kind of got you dragged into this. It’s my responsibility.」
Saying so, the boy chuckles.
Despite his appearance, his gestures somehow feel childish.
For some reason, Rias’s heart races.
「Seriously, my sister is so reckless. I mean, sure, that king was pretty strong for a human. But there was no need to split the whole continent. There are plenty of other humans living on the surface, like this girl here. Sigh, I wish she’d think about the mess I have to clean up.」
「Who… are you?」
「Oh, right, I haven’t introduced myself yet. My name is Ouronus.」
He smiles brightly,
「―――I’m a dragon.」
Casually, the boy reveals his true identity.
This was the first encounter between “The First Dead,” Rias, and “The Death Dragon,” Ouronus.
Fast forward to the present―――
After Earth and Elibel headed to the black altar, Léna-Lloyd lets out a deep sigh.
Her body feels heavy.
It’s the backlash from nearly exhausting her magical energy.
She thinks that if someone were to attack her now, she’d be completely helpless, but she remains surprisingly relaxed despite the dire situation.
A shadow approaches from behind her.
「It seems Miss Elibel has departed.」
She turns around.
Standing there is a large man, carrying a sword nearly as tall as him.
Half of his face is covered by a white mask, and he’s dressed like a priest, but with a flashy twist.
「Hey, Rugios. Sorry for making you face ‘Thunder Slash’. It must’ve been tough.」
Rugios looks worn out.
Tattered parts of his clothing show through, some stained with blood. His left arm looks as charred as burnt wood.
Considering he emerged nearly unscathed after battling Wald, it’s evident just how formidable an opponent “Thunder Slash” must be.
「Well, yeah. But he backed off on his own, so it turned out okay.」
「He backed off?」
「Yes. He said, ‘With the Death Dragon resurrected, it’s a waste of time to continue. Tell the witch this: I’ll be visiting you soon. I want to hear everything you know. And for the love of everything, Suiren, stay away from me.’」
「That’s so… wait, that last bit isn’t really a message, right?」
With genuine disinterest, Léna-Lloyd remarks.
For her, even the ‘Thunder Slash’ is just that.
Seeing his master’s nonchalant attitude, Rugios can’t help but chuckle.
「More than that…」
He then shifts his gaze upwards.
Above the black altar, a white film-like sphere expands.
It’s probably the barrier set up by the White Wyvernn, Gwyve.
The surge of magical power emanating from it is immense.
Inside that barrier, two of the cataclysmic dragons, the ones spoken of in prophecies, are battling.
「The clash between Death Dragon Ouronus and the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King… The magnitude of their magical power is truly astounding.」
Honestly, he’d prefer to escape right now, but as Léna-Lloyd’s knight, he can’t voice such a sentiment while she remains.
Sweat beads form on his brow.
While Rugios possesses extraordinary strength, it’s still within the realm of “human.” The battle of these two dragons, beings of a cataclysmic scale, is beyond his capacity to intervene.
「Want to run away, do you?」
Perhaps sensing his unease, Léna-Lloyd asks.
Rugios, trying to put on a brave face, shakes his head.
「Just so you know, there’s nowhere to run.」
Léna-Lloyd, without missing a beat, says that.
「There’s no safe place left on this continent. Even if you fled this continent, as long as you’re in this ‘world,’ there’s absolutely no refuge. Both Jibru and Ouronus are entities that ensure that.」
That’s precisely why Gwyve works so hard to minimize the damage they cause.
If not for that barrier, the capital would probably have been obliterated by now.
「…That’s… quite the predicament. However…」
With that said, he gazes at the scene stretching out below him.
A once grand imperial palace now reduced to rubble, the scars of destruction everywhere in sight.
「The imperial capital… It’s done for, isn’t it?」
How many lives must have been lost in all this?
As Rugios looks over what can only be described as a hellish scene, a mix of indescribable emotions wells up inside him.
He is the witch’s knight
Bound by the witch’s command, he’s responsible for taking countless lives.
Still, he hasn’t entirely abandoned his humanity, feeling sorrow for the deaths of commoners who never asked for war.
To someone like him, this scene is beyond distressing.
「Hey, that area’s fine too. Orion’s on it. Despite how it looks, there are hardly any “dead” there.」
「Orion… You mean the saint of the ‘Holy Ark’, Orion Karla?」
「Yeah. It seems she activated the ‘Holy Ark’ just as the Joker’s mist appeared. Her presence disappeared, so it’s almost certain. Maybe it was an order from the Pope… or perhaps from Harsha. That overly affectionate Holy Dragon can be unexpectedly shrewd, you know…」
「What do you mean?」
「Well, it seems the Holy Kingdom saw ‘this happening’ coming and chose Orion as their representative. All to best mitigate the damage caused by the Dragon King. If the ‘Holy Ark’ activates, no matter the injury, no one dies. That’s the kind of power it has.」
Léna-Lloyd spits out in pure disdain.
Upon hearing this, Rugios tilts his head in confusion.
Such devastation, yet no casualties?
It’s hard to believe.
Rugios then activates his magical sense in full concentration.
His expression soon shifts.
Signs of souls, signs of magical presence — and there’s a lot of them.
Regardless of the severity of their injuries, it’s clear that most are still “alive.”
Relief washes over him, but questions bubble up as well.
What exactly is the power of the “Holy Ark”?
Truth be told, he doesn’t know much about Orion Karla.
She was on his hit list once, but he never succeeded in that mission. Even when they met in person, she didn’t seem all that powerful. At most, he had felt that she possessed an immense amount of magical power.
「Orion’s ability… the ‘Holy Ark’, what does it actually do?」
After a pause, Léna-Lloyd answers.
「…It’s a really messed-up ability. It exploits heroes even in death, a cruel and terrible power. That’s why I don’t like her. Despite being blind, she sees the world’s cruel realities, yet she chooses to shut her eyes. Knowing that, she still chooses to wield that power. She’s truly detestable…」
“More importantly,” she says.
「You should try to recover some strength as well. I think… the conclusion will come soon.」
Léna-Lloyd had predicted the end would come in just a few minutes.
Dragon against dragon, and then… a battle between the sage and the dead.
Above the imperial capital, on the Black Altar―――
「The end… you say…」
With a sigh, and a hint of self-mockery, Rias laughs.
She discards her staff. It hits the ground with a dry clang.
Then, she slowly spreads her arms out.
What’s she planning?
「If you wish to kill me, feel free. I won’t resist.」
For a moment, Elibel can’t comprehend Rias’s actions.
But immediately, her expression morphs into fury.
「You joking with me?」
「I’m not joking. Just… I’ve simply lost interest.」
She replies with hollow eyes.
「Lost interest? What do you mean?」
「Yes, indeed. Because my goal has been achieved. The Death Dragon Ouronus has been resurrected. Ah, my efforts have been rewarded. I’ve worked for a thousand years just to see him. That’s why, GUHO–!?」
Rias can’t finish her sentence.
Because Elibel smacks her hard with her staff.
「Stop screwing around!」
Rias looks genuinely puzzled.
「I said stop it! How much more do you need to annoy me before you’re satisfied? ‘Lost interest,’ you say? Stop joking around! Just because some sis-con jerk forgot about you, you lose that light in your eyes like some prey? Was your love just that shallow!?」
Elibel abruptly grabs the front of Rias’s cloth, pulling her close to her face.
「Stand up! Act like you always do, with that smug look, that arrogant smile, like you know everything! Where’s the confident you that feels she can see through anything and anyone? Where has THAT version of you gone!」
「I want to defeat THAT version of you! Not this pathetic, self-pitying mess you’ve become! Forget about that damn dragon and return to the version of you I want to take down! Come back and let me beat the crap out of you!」
It’s a wild demand, really.
Why provoke someone you intend to kill?
But something in Elibel’s passionate plea seems to resonate.
There’s a spark in Rias’s eyes, a fire that had been absent.
Rias starts, grabbing Elibel’s collar in the same way she did her.
「What the hell do you know about me?!」
「You don’t know love! You’ve never truly cared for someone! How could someone like you ever understand how I feel?」
It’s a side of Rias, Elibel had never seen, an emotional outburst unlike her usual demeanor.
But this felt more genuine than any of Rias’s previous masks.
Elibel managed to draw out her true emotions.
「For a thousand years! For a thousand years, I lived only for Ouronus!」
Rias exclaims, raw emotion evident in her voice.
「I deceived everyone who cared for me, Joker, Mýrus, and so many others! I sacrificed everything, even manipulated my own thoughts! All to see him! And someone like you, a crazed heiress who blows up an entire venue over a bad blind date, has no right to judge me!」
Rias’s emotion surges, and she punches Elibel with all her might.
Yet, Elibel doesn’t dodge.
Elibel’s cheek swells instantly, and blood trickles from her lips.
But Elibel just…
「Finally, you’re looking at me. That’s more like it!」
As if in retaliation, she delivers a sharp slap in return.
Rias’s neck snaps sharply to the side.
Wait, did that just break?
「~~~~! That hurts, you know! I’m the one who hammered the basics of magic into you! Show some respect, you stupid, ungrateful student!」
「After deceiving people all the time, now you’re playing the mentor card? Look at you, with that childish figure!」
「And what’s with you, swinging around those oversized boobs? Not like anyone’s gonna touch them!」
「Shut up! Forever-heartbroken witch!」
「Shutup! Perverted sage!」
「Thousand-year-old little old lady!」
「What did you say!?」
「Come right at me!」
Is this a grade school brawl?
Amid the shouting, the two continue their slap fight.
It’s a laughably low-level scuffle, lacking any real strategy. Just two hysterical women grappling and grabbing.
Tugging clothes, scratching skin, pinching, punching, hurling insults.
A disgraceful, ugly, and all too common fight.
I can’t bring myself to intervene.
And I feel I shouldn’t.
Eventually, both of them drop to their knees, exhausted.
They’re glaring at each other.
Both of them are beaten up badly.
Their eyes and cheeks are swollen, blood trickles from their noses, and their mouths hang open, dripping with blood.
A girl shouldn’t look like that…
Elibel mutters softly.
「Why… why didn’t you talk to me?」
「I never really cared about what kind of disaster would happen if the Death Dragon or that one came back to life… It might be meaningful for research, but still, to me, it’s just that.」
「You could’ve just told me in one sentence…」
「I too, for so long… couldn’t say ‘that one sentence.’ So, I became blind to everything. Causing trouble for everyone, getting them involved, going in circles…」
「Not long before I came here, some idiot shut-in told me, ‘It’s okay to be a bother. Even then, rely on me.’ That’s what he told me…」
「It hit me. I truly was blind. No, I was just pretending to see. Pretending to understand, acting as if I considered others, but in the end, I’d just drag them in and lash out. Don’t you think I’m a hopelessly stupid woman?」
「Yet, ‘he’ never abandoned me. He reached out to me. And having received so much, I finally realized. Just one word… asking for ‘help’… How hard and how easy that was.」
「Probably, that’s all it was. Just that. And perhaps, we’d have reached a different outcome by now…」
In the end, perhaps that’s what Elibel wanted to convey.
Elibel had said,
No matter how much she resented, no matter how much she despised, she couldn’t truly hate Rias from the bottom of her heart.
Even if her research results, like dungeon destruction or staff of teleportation, were stolen.
Even if Berg was deceived and she was put to sleep for nearly two hundred years.
Even if there were various tragedies I don’t know about.
Yet, probably at the very end, Elibel would have tried to forgive Rias.
She would beat her up, maybe even torture her.
Painfully torment her and vent all her frustrations.
But that’s where it would end.
In the end, she’d extend her hand, trying to return to their previous relationship.
No, Elibel probably wanted to go back.
To that time’s relationship.
Master and disciple.
To the carefree relationship from two hundred years ago.
That’s why she took such a roundabout approach multiple times.
「….Won’t you come back, Rias?」
She reaches out her hand.
It’s Elibel’s wish.
Rias stares intently at that hand, one that carries all of Elibel’s hopes.
And then, she smiles faintly.
「Well, yeah, maybe that’s a good idea.」
Rias stands up, slowly extending her hand before declaring,
She picks up the fallen staff.
「It’s… too late now.」
They blurted out all their true feelings, exposed all their guts to each other, and still the answer Rias chose was—rejection.
Elibel says with a resigned tone.
She too rises to her feet. She probably anticipated Rias’s response.
They both take a few steps back, each raising their staffs defensively.
「You do understand, right? Challenging the present me to a duel of magic is different than challenging who I was just moments ago.」
This is Elibel’s final warning.
She’s regained the power she once had, a Soul King-class.
I don’t know exactly how powerful Rias is, but unless she’s on the level of a Soul King-class or higher, there’s no chance she could defeat Elibel.
That’s the reality she’s pointing out.
「I get it. But isn’t it a bit too convenient? After all I’ve done, unforgivable acts, to be forgiven by you, of all people, the one who should hate me the most? I just can’t accept that. So———」
A surge of magical energy emanates from Rias
It’s impressive, a tremendous force.
But still, it doesn’t seem to reach the level of Elibel’s current power.
「Goodbye, Miss Elibel, ‘War God’s Wind Blade’!」
「Yes, farewell, Rias. ‘Thousand Ice Pillars’!」
Both of their spells activate simultaneously.
From Rias’s staff emerges a massive blade of wind.
From Elibel’s staff, countless ice spears, numbering in the billions.
The sounds of clashing magic fill the air.
The wind blade slashes through the icy rain.
The resulting spectacle is breathtakingly magical.
The shattered ice reflects light, creating a sparkling rainbow against the backdrop of their battle.
The balance lasted only a moment.
Moments later, Rias’s magic was overpowered.
Billions of icy spears crushed Rias’s wind blade to a pulp.
The rain of ice spears doesn’t let up.
One after another, they pierce through Rias.
Blood pours from the pierced areas, immediately freezing over.
Amidst this, I witness something astonishing.
The girl, pierced by icy spears and on the brink of death, still smiles.
Her lips move ever so slightly,
And then―――Rias shatters into pieces, dead.
―――Truly… you are formidable, Miss Elibel…
Witnessing her most potent spell shattered, Rias still managed to smile.
Her body pierced by the ice spears.
Excruciating pain coursing through her.
Yet, even as she lost consciousness, even moments before death, she never looked away from Elibel.
―――”Thousand Ice Pillars”… The first spell I taught you, my lady.
She could’ve used far more powerful magic, befitting of a Soul King-class, given her current abilities.
Yet she deliberately chose that particular spell. Contemplating her intentions, Rias smiles.
It’s probably her way of paying respects.
It’s as if she’s saying, “Look how well I can use it now.”
“I’ve long surpassed you.”
What a truly, unbearably sweet disciple.
So sweet it makes me nauseous, yet utterly heartwarming.
I feel my body growing cold.
My consciousness fading.
So this is… true death.
I didn’t have time to experience this a thousand years ago…
Will I meet everyone once I die?
Those I’ve met and parted with countless times over a millennium.
Mýrus, Luriel, Eclair, and Joker.
Me, who deceived and used all of them.
If there’s a hell, I’ll surely end up there…
In her dimming consciousness, she feels something odd.
From her right hand.
Looking, a black mist gathers around her hand.
Protecting her, even if just a little.
Wishing to always be with her.
Seeing the mist, Rias smiles faintly.
「You’re quite the fool, aren’t you? I’m the worst woman, having betrayed you. Yet, you still… You still wish to be with me?」
The black mist doesn’t respond.
But it thickens around Rias, as if to say that’s its answer.
「We both have our complications, don’t we?」
Rias and Joker, their feelings began as fabrications.
In a world full of lies, they believed in love within themselves, were betrayed, and met their end.
Maybe there’s no salvation.
Maybe their life was unrewarded.
But still, the love and existence they yearned for was their very own choice.
Then, as long as they wish for it, that feeling is “real.”
Even if it began as a “fake,” if there’s a will for it to be “real”…
「It’s quite the joke… After a thousand years, this is all I’ve achieved…」
But it’s not bad.
Greed has no end.
She gently touches the black mist enveloping her.
With apparent satisfaction, the black mist vanishes.
After gazing at it lovingly, Rias’s consciousness fades entirely.
Who was that whisper meant for?
Now, no one will ever know.
Turning into fragments of ice, Rias’s body gradually disappears.
Lastly, for some reason, together with the black mist that gathered around her.
Blown by the wind, melding together, they slowly, ever so slowly, disappear.
The dust has settled.
The age-old feud between Elibel and Rias comes to a conclusion here.
Elibel just silently watches.
What should I say?
I can’t find the perfect words.
Head lowered, Elibel walks towards me.
「It’s not over yet.」
「We have to take care of the aftermath. The Death Dragon Ouronus. Unless we deal with him, it’s not truly over. Yes, there’s still so much to do. So, Earth, sorry to ask, but can you help me a little more—」
Gently, I pull Elibel into an embrace.
Her warmth can be felt through my metal skin.
『Don’t push yourself.』
「What are you talking about? I’m not pushing myself. Who do you think I am?」
『Right… My bad. But I’m pretty tired. How about we rest a bit before we do anything else?』
When I suggest this, Elibel leans into me.
「Well, if it’s like that, I guess I have no choice. I’ll stay with you, geez.」
「…….Thank you, and sorry.」
Her faint, raspy whisper… I pretend not to hear.
She sits on the ground, surrendering her body to the moment.
Let’s rest for a bit.
Just a little while.
For the brief moment it takes for Elibel to wipe away her tears.
Within the barrier stretched across the sky, Jibru and Ouronus continue their fierce battle.
「――Ahahahahaha! Isn’t this fun? It’s SO enjoyable, sis! Ahahahaha!」
A young boy with a form reminiscent of a fusion between a dragon and a human, Ouronus, laughs with a bloodied face contorted in pleasure.
Scales peel from his hands, and half of his three pairs of wings are torn, presenting a pitiable sight.
Yet, the grin never leaves Ouronus’s face.
「It’s incredibly fun, sis. I can feel it. The magic from your inflicted wounds seeps into me. Through this pain, I sense our connection. It’s absolutely… exhilarating!!」
Spreading his arms wide, he declares,
「Sis… I love you!!」
At the same moment, he releases a mass of dark magic.
It morphs into a giant scythe-like shape, lunging at Jibru.
But Jibru parries it with her arm, following up with a swift counter, slashing with her claws.
With a wet sound, Ouronus’s left arm is crushed.
「It hurts! It HURTS! Sis, you’ve wounded me. Oh, ohhh! The scars from you are engraved on me! Sis, sis!」
His eyes, dyed in ecstasy, display his twisted joy.
Despite being on the verge of death, Ouronus seems unfazed.
Jibru involuntarily takes a step back, overwhelmed by the sheer madness before her.
Without a doubt, she currently holds the advantage in their duel.
The wounds inflicted and the magic consumed are clearly greater on Ouronus’s side.
Yet, the one growing anxious is Jibru.
Because, despite her clear advantage, she feels “cornered.”
「…This is getting troublesome…」
If this duel continues as is, Jibru will undoubtedly best Ouronus.
However, the moment she does—her “defeat” is sealed.
Without question, Jibru is the strongest dragon in this world.
Her position is unshakable… with just one exception.
And that is the Death Dragon, Ouronus.
A dragon described as the absolute worst, the polar opposite of Jibru.
「Ahaha! Big sis. SIS, SIS, SIS, SIS, SIS, SIS, SIS!」
For Jibru, who embodies “Gluttony” to its extreme, Ouronus is likely the one being in this world with the potential to defeat her.
A “natural enemy,” if you will.
That is exactly what the Death Dragon Ouronus is.
The intense battle between these two pinnacle Dragon Kings intensifies even more.
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