Above the imperial capital, atop a black altar―――
As soon as they fall, my gaze immediately directed at them.
『Jibru… Gwyve…? 』
Descending from above is a tattered Jibru.
And—only the severed head of Gwyve remains.
Are they… dead?
Perhaps it’s the inversion of my mental state, but despite witnessing this gruesome spectacle, I oddly feel calm.
『……is that you, Earth?』
A voice suddenly resonates inside my head.
Wait a minute, was that Gwyve’s voice?
『Gwyve!? You’re still alive?』
To put it mildly, he sure looks dead.
『Barely… as long… as my ‘head’ remains, I won’t die. But, I can’t deny… I’m close to death…』
Although faint, I definitely sense magical energy emanating from him.
Just as he said, he seems to be hanging on by a thread.
For now, I’m relieved. I look towards Elibel to cast healing magic.
「Earth, I hate to say it, but we don’t have time to worry about that right now.」
Something is descending from above.
With a crash, they land.
These are strange black creatures.
Creatures not even known to the Elipedia.
『What are these things?』
「At the very least, they don’t seem to be friendly.」
Elibel prepares her staff, taking a defensive stance. Her readiness is reassuring.
Meanwhile, I awkwardly position myself behind her.
「…Pant… pant… my dear Earth…」
『Jibru!? Have you come to?』
The massive head of Jibru turns to face us.
Admittedly, I find myself feeling a small amount of admiration for the black altar which, despite its fading state, still supports such weight.
But then again, the altar seems to be disintegrating beneath us, as if saying, “No more, I can’t take it…” Hang in there a little longer. Here, I’ll supply more magic.
「Run… Don’t… fight them. They are—」
Before she could even finish, a black mosnter lunges at us.
Elibel swings her staff horizontally.
All the monsters in front of us, including the one that lunged, have their magical circuits go haywire, causing them to self-destruct.
This is due to the “Sanctuary Interference”, a magical technique that “dominates” and “interferes” with the monster’s magic.
No matter the monster, if you take control of its magic and its magical circuit, it’s powerless.
This spell is seriously overpowered.
『Did we get them?』
But Elibel shakes her head.
「…How can this be?」
Elibel’s voice rises in disbelief.
Astonishingly, the black monsters regenerate their bodies within seconds, returning to their original state.
But that shouldn’t have been possible.
「The ‘Sanctuary Interference’ should have worked perfectly…」
Elibel fixes her gaze on the black monsters and swings her staff horizontally once more.
The Sanctuary Interference is activated.
But the result is the same.
The monsters explode but quickly return to their original form.
「…Is it magical healing? No. As long as my ‘Sanctuary Interference’ is active, they shouldn’t be able to use magic. Maybe their natural regeneration is advanced? Is there some special spell embedded? Or―――」
Muttering her thoughts aloud, Elibel is interrupted by a voice from above.
「―――Who are you?」
Looking up, a massive blob of flesh floats in the air.
A pulsating black mass of flesh.
It’s hard to describe it as anything else.
「You look quite different from earlier, Death Dragon Ouronus.」
「Answer my question. Who are you? And who gave you permission to stay around my fallen sister?」
「I don’t care anymore. Get away from my sister. Better yet, disappear. You’re an eyesore. DIE.」
Without waiting for an answer, the already swollen body of Ouronus expands even more.
With disgusting squelching noises, the body inflates.
And then, blood erupts from all over his body.
The rain of blood pours down upon the altar.
For a split second, I thought the blood might have spurted out because the body couldn’t endure its swelling, but I was wrong.
That naive thought is instantly refuted by the sight that follows.
From the raining blood, creatures similar to the ones before keep materializing.
Insect-like monsters. Four-legged beastly creatures.
Various sizes and types of monsters continuously form, surrounding us in their formation.
In a matter of seconds, their number surpasses a hundred.
『What the hell is this…? An ability to spawn monsters?』
「Jumping to that conclusion might be a bit premature. Something about these creatures… they don’t feel ‘alive’ to me.」
Elibel says, a clear look of disgust on her face.
I have to agree with her.
I can’t sense a “soul” or any life essence from these creatures.
They’re different from the dead.
The only way to describe these monsters is “bizarre.”
『But for now, we have to deal with them. Luckily, Ouronus just hovers and doesn’t seem to be attacking.』
「…Right. Well then—let’s go!」
Elibel seems to ponder for a moment, then nods decisively.
『I’ll give instructions through thought transmission during the battle. Make sure to follow my lead, okay?』
Elibel hops onto my back.
Come to think of it, this is the first time we’re fighting together like this.
It’s different from back-to-back combat, but it feels good in its own way.
Seems like there’s no time to dwell on such thoughts.
It’s time for battle!
The first thing that attacks us is a creature that looks like a snake but has insect-like segments.
Its mouth gapes open so wide, it looks like it’s going to swallow us whole.
『Earth, dodge to the right!』
Where we stood just moments before, the snake-like creature passes by.
As it moves past, Elibel hits it with her wind magic.
With a scream, the snake monster is blown away.
But that moment of relief is short-lived. From the left and right, crab-like creatures and mantis-like monsters approach.
We leap into the air to dodge them.
But above, there are winged creatures that resemble cows and flashy insect-like monsters, numbering more than twenty.
There are flying ones too!?
『Earth, use your Breath! Sweep them from above!』
I release my Breath to annihilate them.
But the outcome is the same as when Elibel attacked.
In just a few seconds, the monsters would regenerate.
「This is never-ending…」
Elibel murmurs and positions her staff horizontally.
「―――’Tempest of Tyrannical Storm’」
What she summons is a tornado that swallows everything.
The Pope-class wind magic, “Tempest of Tyrannical Storms”.
A vortex of destruction exceeding instantaneous wind speeds of 120 meters per second.
The surrounding monsters are sucked into the tornado one after the other.
「’Triple Water Dragon’」
On top of the tornado, she activates another spell.
It merges with the wind, creating countless blades of water and wind, slicing through every last monster.
『Elibel! If this goes on―――』
They’ll just regenerate―――I start to say, but…
『Shut up! Just watch! HAAAAAAAAAH!』
Elibel raises her staff.
Suddenly, around her, “earth” begins to form.
The earth mixes with the wind and water, creating mud.
Elibel focuses the mud, now mixed with bits of monster flesh, into one spot.
An unsettling meatball takes shape.
She further transforms it with alchemy into metal.
A massive iron ball materializes.
Whimpers escape from the monsters.
I see, by restraining them this way, it doesn’t matter how much they regenerate.
『Not yet… Compress!』
Elibel tightens her grip.
Immediately, transparent hands appear, wrapping around the iron ball.
It shrinks with a crushing sound, compressing the monsters within.
I wonder, how much pressure is she applying?
Incredibly, the iron ball, which was nearly ten meters in diameter, has been compressed down to the size of a softball.
「Here, take back… ‘Alchemic Cannonball’!」
With a swift motion, Elibel points her staff towards Ouronus.
In response, the compressed iron ball is launched at Ouronus at a tremendous speed.
The iron ball pierces through Ouronus, continuing its flight beyond the horizon.
Elibel’s really stealing the show here. Maybe I’m not even needed?
「Heh… For a human, you’re pretty good.」
Ouronus’ voice carries a hint of newfound interest.
Elibel snorts in amusement.
「If you have time to send these weaklings after me, why not come down yourself? Instead of floating around like a fluffy dandelion, why don’t you hurry up and get blown away?」
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Why the heck is she provoking him like that?
「HAHAHAHAHAHA! You dare to challenge ME? For a human, that’s bold! You’re riding high, aren’t you? Oh, you’re so annoying! Annoying, annoying, annoying, annoying, ANNOYING!!! DIEEEEEEEE」
With a scream, new monsters emerge.
「Aberrations! Kill that smug human and his dragon mount! Rip them to shreds, crush them to pulp and kill them alllllllllllllllll!!」
「Hah! Such limited vocabulary! …But wait, so they’re called ‘aberrations’? Interesting choice of words.」
Elibel steps up to confront them… and, wait, me too?
Hold up, he thinks I’m a dragon mount?
Technically, I’m the main one here.
I mean, I’m your nephew…
Well, not that I’m gonna point that out.
Especially not with his weird confession about wanting kids with his own sister. It’s best not to mention that.
『Earth, dodge to the right!』
『…Huh? Oh, yeah!』
I need to focus.
I quickly glance at Jibru lying there.
Her body is torn and battered.
It’s clear she fought these aberrations too.
This world’s pinnacle, the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King, Jibru lost to them.
Which means these aberrations possess some incredible power.
But what is it?
『I know. I’m receiving battle memories from Jibru right now.』
Oh, right… she’s always one step ahead.
Wait, now I’m getting them too.
Jibru’s memories from her fight… what the heck is this!?
If this is true…
『I see… that explains a lot』
While I’m visibly shaken, Elibel remains remarkably composed.
『Earth, I need to test something. Please follow my instructions.』
『You don’t have to ask. It’s probably safer than me acting on my own. Honestly, I just want to run away right now!』
『Appreciate your honesty. So, from now on, I need you to keep moving. Keep running until you’re ragged!』
『―――Damn it! I hate getting hurt, but challenge accepted! Let’s do this!』
If this is true, there’s nowhere to run anyway.
Even though the sensations are shared, this body is just a vessel. I can damage it as much as I want!
With that battle cry, I start running.
The intensity of the battle keeps ramping up.
―――Yet, we weren’t the only ones fighting.
Below, the fangs of Uronus had pierced the sprawling imperial capital.
At the same time, in the imperial castle―――
Emperor Kagrias, with a face twisted in pain, walks through the castle.
By his side are several knights, including the elderly demon Linwu.
「Damn it! How are the evacuations of the citizens and representatives going…guh…!」
「Calm down, Kagrias! At this rate, your wounds will reopen.」
A young knight rushes up to report the current situation.
「Sir, representatives from various countries are currently taking shelter in the underground barrier. Also, our knights and the adventurers’ guild are working hard in the town below the castle. You two should also evacuate to the barrier quickly———」
「Silence! In a crisis for our country, why should I be the only one in a safe place, idly standing by! Tell me, where are the delays in evacuation?!」
The sheer force of his spirit makes the young knight stagger back in fear.
For a green knight, Kagrias’s presence is simply overwhelming.
「I am the emperor. Even if I’m hurt, I cannot turn my back on my people….!」
The emperor is the symbol of the nation’s power.
How can he, with all his strength, be the only one to run away?
That’s why he’s the king.
Even if he usually skips work to dive into dungeons, he does what must be done.
That’s why he has ruled as the emperor.
Another knight steps forward to replace the young, overwhelmed one, reporting on the situation.
「Your majesty, in the courtyard, there are people who didn’t manage to escape—」
But he couldn’t finish his sentence.
Before he could, three monstrous creatures burst through the window glass next to him.
Indeed, it wasn’t just the black altar that received the rain of Ouronus’s blood.
This blood rain had been pouring all over the imperial capital.
It transforms into aberrations, becoming a calamity that indiscriminately spreads malice.
「What are these monsters? Where the hell did they come from?」
「Your Majesty! Step back! We’ll handle this– Gahh!」
A young knight, trying to step forward, is killed.
「Tch! The rest of you, back off! Only Linwu and I can handle these!」
The emperor, who had faced and battled the Fafnir many times, instantly gauges the threat level of these adversaries.
He concludes that, at the very least, these enemies possess the power of beings of King-class.
And there are three of them. The guarding knights won’t stand a chance.
He draws the magic sword, Gram, hanging at his side.
「Even though I’m not at full strength, can’t be picky now. Linwu, do you have any idea what these creatures are?」
「I’m sorry, I don’t. However…」
Linwu looks up at the sky, his gaze fixed on the black altar and the massive black mass of flesh.
「That thing’s probably involved, no doubt about it.」
「Probably… Well, doesn’t matter. We kill these things and figure it out later!」
「Right you are!」
With wicked grins, both the emperor and Linwu ready themselves.
Despite their weakened states, they charge towards the aberrations.
Meanwhile, near the courtyard of the imperial castle―――
「Hiieeiiiiiiii!! What are these demons?! Y-you all! Run for your lives! Buhiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!」
An ugly pig squeals, frozen in fear before a monstrous caterpillar-like creature. There’s a noticeable stain between his legs.
His name is Sir Schwein, one of the nobles who attended the Continental Congress.
Despite the rest of the attendees having already fled, why is he still left behind?
He had prioritized the evacuation of other representatives and those who couldn’t fight into the protective barrier, lending a hand.
Because of that, he ended up getting left behind.
The only reason he’s still here is that he played the role of a rear guard, ensuring the injured maids could escape.
He’s a kind-hearted pig.
「Step back, Sir Schwein! We’ll hold this thing off! The life you saved is now here to repay the favor!」
「That’s right! If something happens to you, what would we tell the lady of the house or the kids in the orphanage? Leave this to us and run! Don’t worry, we’ll catch up in no time」
The two knights with him keep spouting what feel like death flags.
「What are you even saying?! You’re my servants! You can’t just die on me! You must live! Survive with me, and let’s see those children’s smiles once more! That’s an order! Nuhoooo!」
He won’t let them die.
They must survive with him!
He orders his knights with conviction.
「「―――we- we are entirely at your service, Sir Schwein!」」
The two knights, wiping away their tears, are deeply moved.
Despite their looks, it’s truly a beautiful master-servant relationship.
However, the giant caterpillar-like creature in front of them doesn’t care about any of that. As if to say, “I don’t give a damn! In fact, you’re annoying!” it lunges at the trio.
The power dynamic is clear.
The three of them should have easily become minced meat…
But just as the creature is about to crash into them, several men appear from behind and strike it.
The creature is blown away, crashing into a wall.
Who on earth?
Turning around, they see…
「YEEHAAAWWW! CLEAN HIT!!」
「Bro, you’re amazing! Get lost, you damn caterpillar!」
「Yeehaw! There are survivors here too! Let’s get them to safety…!?」
「Hehehe… Use this, it’s a healing potion. It’ll make things better…!?」
There, stands a band of adventurers that look straight out of a post-apocalyptic flick. There’s a guy with a Mohawk, a heavily tattooed chubby man, a shorty with buck teeth, a fellow sporting a crew cut with an eyepatch, and another dude with some wicked sunglasses.
They are the unfortunate adventurers of the Magic City Endymion. Tasked with being the bodyguards for the guild master, they were summoned to the castle. However, because of their, let’s say, unique appearance, they spent the entirety of the Continental Congress cooped up in a waiting room, playing Uno.
They go by the name… “Black Fang Hyena.”
They’re an A-Rank adventurer party from the Magic City Endymion.
Recognized for their daily volunteer work and accomplishments, they’ve managed to achieve this esteemed rank.
The reason they’re here? Same as the pig’s.
They’ve been helping with the evacuation, always being at the forefront.
And when they heard the pig’s cry of distress, they rushed over without hesitation.
「Fu. Fu-hyu, fu-hyu…. Who exactly are you people?」
「We’re the ‘Black Fang Hyena.’ Just a humble band of adventurers…」
The Mohawk guy (who’s married, by the way) smirks menacingly, that grin making his fearsome face look even more dangerous.
「We’ll lend ya a hand… Sir Schwein. We’ve heard rumors about you all the way in the magic city」
「Yeah! Someone like you shouldn’t die here!」
Saying this, Mohawk (again, married) and Mr. Sunglasses (who has a girlfriend) step forward as if to shield Sir Schwein.
「…Thank you. I’m in your debt.」
「No big deal… We gotta help each other out in times of need…」
Their expressions show sheer surprise, depicted by the “!?” floating above their heads, as they ready their weapons.
Despite their looks screaming ‘villains,’ these guys are heroes.
They protect the weak and crush the wicked.
That’s the pride of adventurers, after all.
And that’s why Mohawk (yes, still married) shouts out loud!
「Alright, boys! Let’s get ’em!」
These end-of-the-world adventurers brandish their weapons, challenging the aberration beings before them.
They seem to be saying, “Bring it on, you weird wormy thing!” as they charge forth.
Well, to an outsider, it looks like an ugly pig and some dystopian folks are just bullying a massive caterpillar…
Meanwhile, in the imperial castle courtyard―――
「Yes, I understand.」
Standing before them are eight aberrations.
The monsters, licking their lips with a sinister laugh, slowly approach them.
Yet, even faced with such threats, the unwavering spirit of the non-human siblings doesn’t diminish in the slightest.
「….Berg, we have to protect him.」
Hidden behind them by the magic of Dos and Una is Berg, who remains unconscious.
With their connection to the dungeon severed, keeping him here is their best safety precaution.
Harnessing the wind in his fist, Dos strikes the advancing creature.
Furthermore, the water whip conjured by Una binds the monsters.
While it doesn’t completely immobilize them, as support, it’s more than enough.
「…nice one, Una.」
Demonstrating impeccable teamwork, the duo fights valiantly against the monsters.
Their mission is to protect Berg, an utmost command from their father.
However, amidst the fight, Dos also wonders to himself,
「（Mmm, I wonder if Orion is safe…）」
Such a thought would be unlike the Dos of the past, but he immediately refocuses on the battle before him.
Even more aberrations flock to their location.
Meanwhile, at the site of Fafnir’s lid, a certain one-eyed female adventurer and a queen of the black ants―――
Ann and Beldi stand back-to-back.
「Haa… Haa… You still got fight left in you, Black Ant?」
『Who are you asking? From what I see, you’re the one who looks more wobbly, aren’t you?』
「Don’t kid me. Anyway, neither of us wants to die facing these goons, right?」
『…Indeed, I agree on that.』
In front of them stands an army of over twenty aberrations.
Yet, whether the monsters instinctively sense the power of Ann and Beldi and are wary, they don’t immediately attack.
Beldi clicks her tongue in annoyance.
「You handle the ones from the back. I’ll hunt those in the front.」
They don’t tell each other to “protect” or “guard.”
That’s a word reserved only for comrades.
Ann nods in agreement.
『Very well. I’ll move first.』
Facing a common enemy, the one-eyed adventurer and the black ant queen join forces.
To any onlooker, this alliance would surely seem bizarre and out of place.
Elsewhere, a certain witch and her knight―――
They are faced with an overwhelming horde of aberrations. The number is so vast that it’s almost ridiculous to even try counting.
Yet, even with this impending threat, the witch’s expression remains unflinching.
「Well then, good luck to you, Rugios~」
she says with a casual wave, lounging leisurely.
The knight, drawing his sword with a mix of determination and slight irritation, replies,
「Sigh… I understand. But given the sheer number we’re up against, I can’t guarantee I can fend them all off.」
「What are you talking about? You’re the knight I chose.」
「Oh, for the love of…! You always bring that up at the most convenient times! Fine! I’ll give it a shot!」
Throughout the imperial capital, these aberrations overrun every corner.
Even as the mist clears, the nightmare seems to persist, as if mocking those below.
But still, the people continue to resist.
They’ll keep fighting until the very last moment.
The time for a resolution is drawing near.
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