But really, what should I ask first?
I look at the two beautiful women, no, two “creatures” kneeling before me.
Their current forms are probably just temporary.
Just like the Celestial Dragon and Holy Dragon.
They seem to be suppressing their power to maintain a human form.
The two are followers of the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King Jibru.
One has horns like a cow and blue skin, and a beauty so extraordinary it doesn’t seem human, named Kshathra.
The other is over two meters tall with an outstanding figure, her eyes hidden by hair even longer than Tsumugi’s, not revealing any expression, named Gulfan.
The two of them don’t move a muscle, heads bowed down.
But they seem restless.
I can really feel that they’re eagerly waiting for my words.
What’s with this attitude?
Is it because I’m Jibru’s son?
Like how important people’s secretaries and maids would pay respect to their boss’s children?
But they are neither secretaries nor maids.
They are Jibru’s followers, Stellar Vein monsters———like actual monsters.
When they’re this close, I can feel their magical power, and it’s overwhelming.
This feeling… there’s no doubt, they’re as powerful as the Celestial Dragon.
Or maybe even more so…
Definitely Evil God-class. Oioi, give me a break.
The officially recognized Evil God-class includes only three, including Jibru herself.
The Divine Catastrophe Dragon King Jibru, the Dream Mist Joker, and some incomprehensible monster called Emperor Beast Agil.
But that’s according to human.
Just because humans haven’t confirmed it, beings like the Celestial Dragon Yamu and the Holy Dragon Harsha Lude, and the Death Dragon Ouronus lying there, clearly had the power of Evil God-class.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more, but to encounter them so easily…
Is this some kind of Evil God-class clearance sale?
I glance over at Jibru.
No, what’s with that nod?
What, are you telling me to say something?
…What should I say?
The tension from the battle has faded, and now my mind is just a mess.
I try to think of something to ask, but nothing comes to mind.
「Um, Lord Earth…?」
『Wha-What is it?』
I stumbled over my words.
But the other party doesn’t seem to mind.
That’s a relief.
「It’s an honor to meet you. I never imagined the day would come when I would meet the offspring of Lord Jibru…」
Because I didn’t start talking, they spoke up.
They seem quite excited.
Gulfan is quiet, but I can see her flushed cheeks through her long hair.
「From what Lord Jibru has told us, you are even more than we imagined. That overflowing magical power. Your dignified appearance, even as a young dragon. There’s no doubt, you carry the blood of the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King. Yes, you are the one who reigns supreme above us.」
Jibru’s followers praise me, even when my vessel in tattered state.
They’re looking at me with such sparkling eyes.
But why don’t I feel praised at all?
Is it because this body of mine is fake?
The real me is still buried deep underground.
Oh, now that I think about it, was I the only one who stayed holed up in the dungeon?
Well, that’s for later.
Anyway, I have to say something.
『Er, so… um…』
「―――So, what brings Jibru’s followers here now? I mean, if you had been here from the start, the fight would have been a lot easier, don’t you think?」
And with me in confusion, Elibel asks them for me.
Her blunt way of speaking is something else.
But right now, I’m thankful for it.
She’s saying what I want to say in my place.
The horned blue-skinned woman―Kshathra―stares at Elibel.
Then she tilts her head.
Oh, were you there? That kind of gesture.
It’s like she hadn’t seen Elibel until now.
「You are… the ‘Sage’ they call you, no? Your name was… Elibel Löwenherz, if I recall?」
「Oh? You know about me?」
「Yes, I’ve heard a lot about you from ‘her’.」
“But,” Kshathra continues.
「―――To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that the sage would only be of this level…」
「What did you say?」
A vein pops on Elibel’s forehead.
「To think you’re the human who defeated Lord Ouronus, even with the aid of Lord Earth and Lord Jibru. I had high expectations for how much you could be… but you were far less than I imagined. She had overestimated you quite a bit, it seems.」
Kshathra says this with a heavy sigh.
Elibel’s temples twitch.
「Oh, don’t take it the wrong way. By human standards, you’re quite strong. To wield Soul King-class magic with a human body is commendable. You should be proud… Yes, it was wrong of us to compare you to us, the followers of the Stellar Vein. My apologies.」
With that, she bows her head.
It’s a clear case of talking down to us.
Every bit of their behavior seems to mock us.
It’s like they’re asking for a fight,
But then again, there’s no way she’d fall for such cheap provocation―――
「…Well, that’s fine with me. You must really want to experience my magic firsthand, don’t you?」
She took the bait.
The sage bit so easily.
Right. She has surprisingly low tolerance for provocation.
「I find it a little hard to forgive too… It’s my exclusive right to tease Eli, after all!」
And over here, the plain witch is burning with a strange sense of rivalry.
「Hm? Who is this plain-looking woman? I didn’t notice her because she has such a lack of presence.」
「Like you should talk, you old hag. I’m the one speaking right now.」
But she’s brought to her knees by the ruthless words.
Sitting cross-legged, drawing a circle with her finger. It’s kind of pitiful.
But seriously, the fight just ended, and what’s with this explosive atmosphere?
How did it come to this?
「Sigh… Kshathra, stop it.」
With a sigh, Jibru restrains Kshathra.
「But, Lord Jibru, I was just―――」
「‘Stop it,’―――I said. Did you not hear me?」
Her voice is icy cold.
It’s a completely different side than what she shows to me usually.
This is Jibru, the ruler of the dungeon.
At her command, Kshathra quickly lowers her head.
「―――I’m, I’m so sorry…」
「Do not worry. However, if you repeat the same mistake, I will take your head. Understand?」
Saying this, she looks back at me.
I swallow hard.
「I apologize, Earth. My followers have been rude. Let me explain in their place.」
But her voice has returned to its usual warmth.
That’s a relief.
「They weren’t late. I commanded them to wait in the dungeon until this battle was over.」
『Huh? Why would you―――?』
Like Elibel said earlier, if these two had joined the fight, they would have been a significant force.
「It’s a matter of ‘compatibility,’ you might say. I know their powers best. While they are incredibly strong, they were not the best match for Ouronus.」
Ouronus’s abilities―――”Annihilation” and “Aberration.”
An intrinsic art of destruction pushed to the ultimate extreme.
It’s the polar opposite of the power of “Gluttony,” which can enhance oneself to the limit.
I think in front of that power, most beings wouldn’t just have a problem with compatibility.
「I was the most suitable to face Ouronus. Above all… I didn’t want to leave it to anyone else. I felt it was my duty, my ‘sin,’ to defeat that child with my own hands… Although, in the end, I had to rely on you all.」
Jibru says this and looks at us.
She looks at me, at Elibel, at Léna-Lloyd, one after the other.
And then, she bows her head.
Kshathra and Gulfan are stunned.
The sight of Jibru bowing her head must have been that shocking.
「I want to thank you again, Earth, and everyone. Without your strength, I couldn’t have stopped Ouronus. My gratitude is beyond words…」
Kshathra looks like she wants to say something, but Gulfan, standing next to her, gives her a look that keeps her quiet.
After a while, Jibru raises her face.
「Now, Gulfan, please proceed.」
The woman with the long white hair―Gulfan―extends her hand toward the fallen Ouronus.
White bandage-like material begins to wrap around Ouronus, quickly turning into a cocoon.
Actually, it looks more like a mummy all wrapped up.
Gulfan is holding the wrapped Ouronus in her arms.
『Could it be that the sealing is finished just like that?』
「No, this is only a temporary measure. We will take him back to the Stellar Vein Dungeon and apply a more permanent and powerful seal there. We’ll ensure that this child never awakens again…」
Perhaps it’s because they’re siblings?
There’s a hint of sadness and loneliness in Jibru’s voice.
Next, Kshathra extends her hand towards the empty air, and a teleportation gate quickly appears.
「Then, Earth. Let’s meet again. It may be a while, but I hope to find you stronger the next time we meet.」
「We take our leave, Lord Earth.」
With that, Jibru and her followers disappear into the light of the gate.
Once I’m sure they’re completely gone, I let out a sigh.
That was exhausting.
「…It’s over, isn’t it?」
『Yeah, it’s over…』
Elibel stretches with a “hmm.”
「Shall we head back?」
『Yeah, let’s go. Back to our dungeon.』
I signal Gijie, and a teleportation gate opens immediately.
The pale blue light envelops us.
「Then, Eli, I’ll come over to play soon, okay? Make sure you wait for me」
Léna-Lloyd waves her hand enerically, clearly looking forward to it like an excited grade-schooler.
Elibel makes a sour face and turns away.
I can’t help but laugh at her reaction.
「What’s so funny?!」
I get kicked.
Ow, that hurts!
While we’re both making a racket, the light grows brighter.
「You two are such good friends. Well then, Eli, Earth, see you later―」
The scenery around us fades away.
And then, we leave the imperial capital behind us.
My vision goes dark, and when it clears, my original body lies in front of me.
I immediately switch my consciousness.
I move my body slowly.
It’s okay, everything functions properly.
There’s no sign of the drug’s backlash… yet.
I let out a deep sigh.
So, I’m really back, huh?
Looking at the bare earthen walls and the light from the magic stones, I truly feel the return to my dungeon―my home.
I casually dig into the ground and pull out a magic stone.
Ah, that’s good.
This is it, this is the stuff.
「Haah… It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve been back here…」
Saying this, Elibel plops down next to me, as if it’s her usual spot.
You’re making it your regular seat, aren’t you?
「Ah, right. Since we’re back, there’s something we should say, isn’t there?」
『Ah, that’s right.』
We’re home now.
So, we have to say the words that start it all.
Elibel and I look at each other and smile.
With all the feelings in the world, we’re about to say it.
The long, long battle is finally over.
It’s not just Earth who feels relieved that the fight is over.
The citizens living in the imperial capital on the surface are also beginning to realize that the battle has come to an end.
Unseen monsters swarmed from the skies, with blue-white light accompanying Killer Ants, Golems, and other creatures pouring out, and Dragon Kings clashing. What seemed like a nightmare for the humans has finally ceased.
But the scars are deep.
Many have died, the town is devastated, and leaders from various nations are in a panic.
Everyone is driven by uncertainty.
Wondering what will become of them now.
Yet, among them, there are those with the strength to move forward.
For example, in the imperial castle corridors―――
Emperor Kagrias stares at the spot where the armored warrior disappeared.
After the mysterious creatures vanished as if they were never there, the armored warrior also left, as if his role was finished, through a teleportation gate that appeared out of nowhere.
He initially wanted to stop him.
But he immediately asked himself, what would be the point of stopping him, and in the end, he could only silently watch as the warrior left.
「…Haah, that guy was strong…」
The monsters that appeared out of nowhere.
The spirit to face them without flinching.
Not just brute strength, but refined martial skills.
Magic control as delicate as threading a needle.
All of it was top-notch.
That power was undoubtedly King-class… no, it reached Disaster-class.
That’s how overwhelming the armored warrior’s power was.
「I hadn’t thought he was holding back at that time…」
Previously, Kagrias had fought the armored warrior in the great dungeon of Fafnir.
But it was interrupted by the Prime Minister’s interference, and the battle ended inconclusively.
At that time, he thought he had the upper hand.
It meant the warrior had become even stronger since then.
An unbelievable monster.
A deep smile spreads across his face, and his body trembles.
The emotion welling up is not fear———it’s joy.
Battle with the strong.
The joy of meeting a worthy opponent who can fully test his strength.
For the emperor, who is called a dungeon fanatic, there is no greater delight.
Ah, it’s the best.
Until now, he had been aiming for the monsters known as the “Four Minerals,” said to reside in the deepest parts of Fafnir.
But now he’s found an opponent even greater than them.
He’s certain of it.
That creature is the one he should challenge.
「That monster is my prey… I won’t let anyone else have it.」
The urge to storm into that dungeon―Fafnir―and cross swords right this moment is overwhelming.
But that has to wait.
I am the emperor of this nation, and right now, my country is more exhausted than ever before.
Still, my duties remain unchanged.
To lead my people as their emperor.
And to dive into dungeons and battle whenever I find the time.
That’s all there is to it.
「Haah… Really, can’t someone else do the emperor’s job for me…」
Muttering a complaint unbefitting an emperor, Kagrias heads toward the barrier where representatives for the Continental Congress are waiting, accompanied by Linwu and a few knights.
After that, he would be bombarded with a slew of issues that could knock someone out: the clash of Dragon King species outside the castle, the confirmation of a new Earth Dragon, the destruction of the Fafnir lid, the catastrophic state of the city, the extension of the Continental Congress, and agreements and reparations with various nations. He and his equally pale-faced Prime Minister would end up canned in the office for months, but that’s a story for another time.
Meanwhile, in the imperial castle corridor―――
In the aftermath of the fierce battle with the aberrations, Sir Schwein and the Black Fang Hyena walked slowly through the hallway.
The castle’s interior bore the claw marks of the aberrations, a pitiable sight to behold.
The town below likely faced a similar fate.
However, specifically speaking about the members of the Black Hyena, their post-apocalyptic appearance blended quite well with the surroundings, but pointing that out would be in poor taste.
Every now and then, they would try to assist the injured they found along the way, only to be met with fear, yet they would still administer treatment.
After repeating this cycle of scaring and then being thanked, they finally managed to start treating their own injuries.
Incidentally, their medic was Glasses.
He could handle General-class healing magic quite skillfully, unbeknownst to many.
「By the way, Boss.」
Suddenly, the mohawked leader, Sub, speaks up.
「Hmm? What’s up?」
「Do you know anything about that girl and the slime? How did you come to know them?」
That girl and the slime―――they had swooped in heroically when we were ambushed by a caterpillar-like monster and nearly met our end.
Together, they fought on, and unbelievably, they defeated that fearsome creature without a scratch.
To be precise, the slime devoured the weakened beast.
Sub had never seen such a powerful slime before.
Slimes are typically synonymous with weak monsters.
Tiny creatures that even a child armed with a stick could defeat.
But very rarely, extremely rarely, an abnormal slime appears.
That outrageous magical power and combat ability were the hallmarks of such an anomaly.
Hundreds of years ago, there was the legendary Disaster-class slime that swallowed a whole town.
It was comparable to that, a truly abnormal specimen.
As for the girl, we had encountered her during a dungeon survey request from the Magic City Endymion. My memory is fuzzy, but I’m sure it was that girl.
I’ve explained the circumstances properly to the pig―no, to Sir Schwein.
「…I guess you can see it that way.」
After a moment’s hesitation, Sir Schwein begins to speak.
「It was just before we came here. We used the teleportation gate in the Add Mountain Range on our way to the magic city. …I’m ashamed to admit it, but during that time, my wife and I got lost… in the mountains.」
「Got lost, in the Add Mountains?!」
Eh, yes, Sir Schwein, looking embarrassed, touches his forehead.
But Sub’s astonishment is understandable.
The Add Mountains are a snowy wasteland covered in snow all year round.
Every year, many get lost, and some lose their lives.
How they survived is a mystery, and Sub waits for the next words.
「Honestly, my wife and I were prepared to die at one point. But then, during our time of need, that girl and the slime appeared out of nowhere. And they kindly showed us the way」
I remember that time as if it were yesterday.
In the freezing blizzard, my wife and I huddled together, shivering.
In that moment, we heard faint footsteps.
Then the girl and the slime appeared.
A scene so out of place compared to the snowy landscape, it felt like a hallucination at death’s door.
―――Wow, even monsters can get lost, huh? Hey Mr. Orc, the cave is that way.
―――But an orc and an elf together? That’s a first.
―――If I help a monster, Dad will definitely praise me.
Looking back, I don’t think they even recognized us as humans, but let’s leave that aside.
Remembering those times, Sir Schwein smiles, a smile that’s somewhat unsettling.
「This makes it twice… that I’ve been saved by that girl and the slime. It’s made me reevaluate my views on monsters and demons..」
Monsters and demons have intelligence and will.
But because of this, humans and monsters have been at odds.
Five hundred years ago, the Great Human-Demon War was triggered by the Demon King.
Two hundred years ago, the Holy Demon War was started by those who inherited the Demon King’s will.
The wars ended thanks to a hero five hundred years ago and a sage two hundred years ago.
It’s common knowledge that monsters and demons are beings that can never coexist with humans.
「If we change our way of thinking just a little, reach out a hand, maybe we can understand each other… Nuffufufu…」
Though his words might invite suspicion, with him it’s not the case.
He means what he says.
Most demons disappeared during the great wars, but like Linwu, some were recognized by the emperor and became retainers of the empire.
We can understand each other.
That’s why he’s been trying so hard.
Like recognizing the rights of demi-humans—werewolves, elves, orcs—who were shunned by human society, and creating a city where they can all live together.
Like releasing demon children from slavery and pouring love into them at the orphanage he runs, without discrimination.
Of course, there are many in the world who criticize him.
Called a demi-human fanatic, a disgrace to the human race, a pig, a spy for the demons.
He’s received countless unfounded insults.
But still, he believes.
In the longstanding feud between humans and demons.
Yet, he believes―――we are beings that can understand each other.
We can join hands and live together, understanding one another.
「There’s still so much to do… Nufufufu…」
Thinking of his elven wife and the children at the orphanage waiting for him, Sir Schwein’s smile deepens.
Believing in the future that must exist.
Meanwhile, at the site of the Fafnir lid―――
Amid the rubble and ruin.
The World Piercer―Beldi Raven, looks up into the sky from within the shadows.
The situation is dire.
Her gear, minimal from the start, is now even more ragged.
Her body is soaked in blood from her wounds, forming pools on the ground.
To put it mildly, she’s severely injured.
Using her companion, the crimson spear, as a makeshift staff.
Despite such wounds, she hasn’t lost consciousness—perhaps it’s the pride of an S-Rank adventurer, or maybe it’s the power of her newly awakened left eye…
Well, it doesn’t matter.
Silence reigns, a world quiet as if the previous life-and-death struggle were a lie.
The Aberrations vanished into thin air.
As they disappeared, so did the mysterious black ant, and the girl in the white dress who had appeared midway, stepping into the light of a teleportation gate.
All Beldi could do was witness the scene, unable to intervene.
Even if her body had allowed it, would she have raised a hand against the black ant at that moment?
The answer is no.
Such a resolution is not what she desires.
Right before disappearing, the black ant seemed to say something to her, but now, it didn’t matter.
「It’s time to start training from scratch again…」
A strange sensation is budding within her.
In that battle, she laid bare all her emotions and fought alongside that black ant, the enemy she should despise, back-to-back.
「What is this feeling, I wonder?」
She can’t find the answer to what this peculiar sensation nesting in her chest is.
But Beldi starts to move her feet slowly.
Forward, always forward.
She needs to gain strength.
She must develop a heart that matches the power of this left eye—otherwise, she will never be able to conquer that black ant.
She can’t remember how many times she’s nearly died, but the harvest is worth it.
There’s room to grow. She can still become stronger.
Together with her partner, the crimson spear, she will go even further―――.
「Hah… In the end, I’m always going to be an adventurer.」
She mutters with a hint of self-derision.
To fight, to challenge, to adventure.
A path dirty and bloodied with thorns.
But this is indeed her way of life, she realizes.
She clenches her fist as she looks at the spot where the black ant and the girl vanished.
「Keep your head clean, black ant. I will definitely conquer your dungeon.」
With renewed determination and her companion, the crimson spear, in hand, she begins to walk again.
Her steps show no hesitation.
「…Wait, I feel like I’m forgetting something…」
What was it?
Before the battle started, why was she running around the imperial capital?
She can’t remember.
Well, it’s probably fine.
If she forgot, it can’t be that important.
With that thought, she hurries back to her friend Farley.
―――It would be a full day later before she remembered about Wald and found him in a suburban area, beaten up and wrapped up like a mummy.
The answers derived from the same battle do not always align.
Some continue on the path they’ve always known.
Others dream of something greater.
And some desire an even more perilous path of thorns.
Whether their paths will cross again is unknown.
Yet―――they will not stop walking.
Because they believe that at the end of their prayers―――there will be the outcome they desire.
Guided by them, people are slowly but surely starting to walk toward reconstruction.
At the Holy Land, “Dragon Mountains”―――
「Tch, so in the end, I didn’t even get to join in the feast… Boring.」
「With those serious injuries, it can’t be helped. You should be grateful to Lord Jibru for not taking your life.」
「Hmph… I wanted to settle the score with Ouronus myself…」
「You’re still regretting something that happened a thousand years ago? But that was Ouronus’ own doing. He chose to erase his memories―――」
「Shut it, Harsha. You weren’t there at that time, at that place, so don’t talk as if you know it all…!」
「If we’re talking about being there, you were there and still couldn’t stop Lord Jibru and Ouronus, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound like you’re in any position to talk, does it, Yamu?」
「Don’t release so much magical power. You’re scaring the followers. Besides… is that anger directed at me? Or perhaps at yourself, eh? ‘Former’ fourth floor guardian of the Stellar Vein, Yamu?」
「Keep thinking that past ranks will get you somewhere, eh? ‘Former’ sixth floor guardian of the Stellar Vein, Harsha Lude?」
「Haah… Let’s stop this. It’s over and done with. We should be discussing what comes next.」
「What’s next…? Are you talking about Agil? Or something to do with the Stellar Vein?」
「Both. You may not think much of it, but the fact that Lord Jibru was defeated is heavier than you imagine. Even if she was in a state where she didn’t have long to live, even if she fought after ‘using over half her strength’ in battle with you.」
「The pinnacle has been shaken. The world will become turbulent. The fact that Gulfan and Kshathra have come forward is proof enough. Heal your wounds quickly. In your current state, you can’t even properly protect your own son.」
「Ha! You’re telling me to hand him over to a future ‘mate’ candidate like you did? That’s laughable.」
「I-I never approved Elja’s engagement!! That’s just something everyone around has been saying! I don’t accept it, I absolutely do not!! Elja is someone I’ll take care of for life!!」
「Is that so? But you know that the safest place is that dungeon, that’s why you entrusted Elja there, isn’t it?」
「…Because if I don’t, Elja won’t call me ‘Papa.’」
「Nothing. Don’t worry about it.」
「…Well, whatever. More importantly, Harsha. How much do you know?」
「Don’t play dumb. About him… Jibru’s son, Earth.」
「Even by my standards, that’s ‘abnormal.’ Magical power, growth rate, even his soul, everything is off the charts. You’ve seen it too, right? He ‘burned through’ my power’s crystal? A power that even a disaster-class monster would need to consume years of magical energy to activate just once, and he did it in just a few minutes. And that’s from a young dragon just a few years old. That means he already has a dragon king’s worth of magical power, even if he can’t fully handle it yet.」
「That’s not all. His followers are abnormal too. A deteriorated but still the highest peak of human sorcery, a Gluttony Hell Slime, only one of which has ever been confirmed in history, and the pinnacle is that queen of the black ants. I can’t believe all this is just a coincidence.」
「What are you trying to say, Yamu?」
「Who is his father?」
「You know it, don’t you, Harsha? The true identity of Earth’s father. With whom did Jibru mate?」
「It’s ‘⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛.’ I won’t say it twice.」
「…Are you serious?」
「Whether you believe my words or not, that’s up to you.」
「……Ha, hahaha, HAHAHAHAHA!! So that’s how it is! That’s the deal, huh! Ha, hilarious, truly hilarious! That damned guy, always fooling around… even with his own son, huh!! He really hasn’t changed one bit! Not since a thousand years ago!!! After all that tragedy, he still hasn’t learned his lesson!」
「Where do you think you’re going?」
「Relax, I’m just going home. But next time, I’ll definitely be at the feast. I’ve decided that now.」
「Is that so.」
「You gonna try to stop me now, Harsha?」
「I won’t stop you, I have no right. All I can do is watch over the future from this Holy Land.」
「Is that so? Heh, things are getting interesting… Ah, great, just great. Next time for sure, I’ll kill you, Jibru! You’re the only one I absolutely can’t forgive…!」
One battle ripples out to those who were outside of it.
It spreads like ripples over the surface of the water.
With a great swell to engulf everything.
This leads a lethargic earth dragon, who desires nothing but to sleep and indulge in laziness, back to the battlefield.
But that story is yet to come.
Sub29: I’ve not been feeling well recently and need a bit more time to recuperate. So the chapter released may not be on schedule. I appreciate your understanding if there’s a delay.
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