So, I’ve come back to the dungeon once again.
I release my vessel and return to my original body.
Phew, that’s refreshing.
Indeed, there’s nothing like being back in my own skin.
By the way, I dig into the ground and pluck out a magic stone.
Crunch, crunch, crunch… gulp.
I keep devouring more and more magic stones.
Yep, I’m full now.
『Well, time to sleep…』
「Don’t you dare sleep, you idiot!」
I’m smacked hard from behind.
『…Elibel, that hurts.』
「It’s supposed to hurt, I hit you! And it really does hurt! You’ve gotten ridiculously hard lately…」
Well, I did shed my skin recently. Thanks to that, my scales have gotten quite tougher.
But even after shedding, my size hasn’t changed much.
Why is that?
「Great, now I have to make it again.」
Elibel grumbles as she takes off the gloves she was wearing.
Those were made just to punch me. What a waste of talent, right?
Oh, the material is from my scales and skin.
「Don’t even think about escaping from reality the moment you get back, you fool.」
Tch, she noticed.
『I can’t help it. Things have been confusing lately.』
「I’m confused too, don’t act like you’re the only one suffering.」
That’s some harsh feedback. It’s painful to hear.
But she’s right, of course.
『So, you came to me because you’ve checked in with Elja?』
「Yes, more or less.」
Elibel immediately restrained that sister in the middle layer and contacted Elja upon returning.
It was to verify whether her information was correct.
「That sister is definitely from the Holy Kingdom. She seemed to know Elja too. However, Elja wasn’t informed about any mission-related stuff.」
So, this is Harsha’s doing on his own.
No, judging by the way Léna-Lloyd spoke, Jibru seems to be involved too.
What are those guys thinking, searching for someone reincarnated…
『What happened to that sister?』
「She’s alive and detained within the middle layer’s barrier. Officially, we can’t kill her since she’s a person from the Holy Kingdom… I opposed it, but Ann and the others were against that.」
Well, Ann would oppose, given her position.
She doesn’t have good feelings towards humans either.
But that sister’s existence is a bit troubling, considering she had communicated with the Holy Dragon.
Also, killing her carelessly might complicate things with the Holy Kingdom… or rather, with the Holy Dragon.
Especially since Harsha is a true Dragon King species, just like the Celestial Dragon Yamu, who has awakened his power.
If possible, I’d like to avoid hostility and build a peaceful relationship.
「Also, we’ve detained Rugios there. He’s a proper human, related to that old hag, so it’ll take some time for everyone to be convinced」
After that, Rugios followed us too.
「I will protect you all with my life, as I was ordered by Lady Léna」he said.
Such a serious guy.
「…Ann really gave me an earful. ‘Why are you bringing humans here without permission?’ she was furious.」
Elibel glances at me briefly.
『What is it?』
「No, it’s nothing. I was just thinking how truly blessed you are.」
Huh? What does she mean?
Elibel scratches her head, her long silver hair rustling.
「We still haven’t caught any leads on that old hag and Aoba. Gijie’s analyzing the traces left in the lab, but it seems rather difficult.」
「Well, I can’t imagine that old hag dying easily, and she wouldn’t leak anything about us either, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ll use the Wraiths to gather information outside too.」
Despite her words, she’s probably worried about Léna-Lloyd.
She’s really soft when it comes to her friends and family.
She raises an incredulous voice in response to my gaze.
『No, it’s nothing.』
「Is that so.」
After finishing her other reports, Elibel leaves.
She’s probably going to hole up in the lab with Gijie and the skeletons.
And then there’s just me, alone in the room.
So, what to do now?
There’s a mountain of things to do.
And a mountain of concerns as well.
―――But I just can’t seem to find the motivation to do any of it.
Probably because I’m still not ready to face it.
The reality―――the existence of Aoba.
A person with the same name and face as my former self, right in front of me.
It felt unbearably creepy.
I felt sick to my stomach and threw up.
To be honest, I have no lingering attachments to my previous life.
I’m satisfied with my life now, and I have my subordinates.
I never wanted to go back.
Yet now, my past has reappeared before me.
Why show up after all this time.
I like who I am now, I like my life now, so why… why now…
―――Overcome it, it should be a piece of cake for you, right?
Somewhere, it felt like I heard that voice.
Don’t say such irresponsible things…
For a while, I brooded alone in my room.
Elibel was visiting the middle layer.
More precisely, the restraining barrier located there.
She speaks to the person sitting there.
「I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stay there a bit longer.」
「That’s fine. I understand that I am an anomaly to the dungeon.」
The man sitting before her is large, his face half-covered by a mask, dressed like a priest.
He is Léna-Lloyd’s knight, Rugios Tranjetta.
His arms were confiscated, and he sits in the barrier, stripped of everything.
「We’ll also be keeping Ascalon. It has a ‘Dungeon Destruction’ incorporated into it.」
「That was given to me when I became a knight, by Lady Léna. If you trace it back, it belongs to you. I have no regrets.」
「You’re taking it quite well.」
「That’s just how I am. Besides, Lady Léna told me to protect you and that Earth Dragon. So, I will fulfill my duty.」
Elibel sighs without meaning to.
Why is someone as earnest as him serving as a knight to that woman?
She tilts her head at the thought.
「Why would someone like you serve as a knight to that old hag?」
The words just slip out.
「Does it bother you?」
「Well, considering her personality…」
「Haha, yes, that’s true.」
Elibel half-expects him to get angry, but surprisingly, Rugios just smiles.
「…Lady Léna, fundamentally, is a hopeless and worthless person.」
「Her combat skills and knowledge are indeed formidable, but she’s also incredibly shy, acts on whims, cries at the first sign of trouble, whines when things get too bothersome, follows around anyone she takes a liking to like a stalker, and dumps all her messes and work on me.」
Elibel is rendered speechless by such a scathing assessment.
But, is he wrong?
That is indeed the kind of person she is; Elibel herself knows that all too well.
「But… being with her is never dull. She truly is an interesting person. The view from her side is always fresh to me, and never boring.」
Elibel finds herself oddly convinced by his words.
Because she has someone like that too.
A hopeless fool that she just can’t leave alone.
To be honest, Elibel had her suspicions about him.
She thought there might be some ulterior motive to him being her knight, but it seems she was wrong.
He genuinely is Léna-Lloyd’s knight.
（Despite being an eternal loner, she’s managed to find quite the companion…）
She might not realize it, but a smile is playing on her lips.
「Well then, I’ll be going. Oh, and if anything comes up, let me know. You can reach me through the communication magic stone over there.」
Elibel turns on her heel to leave but then voices a question that had been nagging at her.
「Ah, by the way, I wanted to ask you something.」
「What would that be?」
「Why do you wear that mask? Ah, no, if you don’t want to answer, that’s fine.」
Rugios’s face is half-covered by a flat white mask.
To an outsider, it’s quite eerie.
It doesn’t seem to be hiding any burns or severe scars.
And Elibel doesn’t sense any particular magical effect from it.
So, what’s it for?
It’s something that suddenly piques her curiosity.
「Oh, this? Because it looks cool.」
For a moment, she thinks she’s misheard.
「No, I mean it. It looks cool. Lady Léna also praised this mask. She said it shows good taste.」
「Is that so…」
Ah, of course. This is definitely her knight…
Elibel finds herself strangely satisfied with the explanation.
Meanwhile, at that very moment―――
Léna-Lloyd is being led down a long corridor, fully restrained.
Her vision is sealed off, her ears and mouth plugged, making her almost entirely reliant on her remaining senses to walk. Yet, from the slight exposure of her skin and her sense of smell, she deduces she’s likely in the depths of some dungeon.
（It feels strangely nostalgic…）
It’s a sentiment akin to homesickness.
She can’t see, but Léna-Lloyd likely knows this place.
Then, her march comes to a halt.
The restraints are removed.
Her vision clears.
She finds herself in what could be described in one word as a throne room.
Far ahead—though quite a distance away—a grand chair adorned with solemn decorations is stationed, with a red carpet stretched from it to where she stands.
On both sides of the lengthy hall, armored knights stand at attention at regular intervals, and above, chandeliers laden with light magic stones float against the ceiling.
（It’s like something out of a game…）
Such thoughts are likely because she’s a reincarnated soul.
（Well, not that I’ve played a game in hundreds of years…）
A quick glance back reveals the heads of her captors bowed, as if to apologize for the indignity they’ve caused.
（…I hate it when people bow their heads like that…）
It only adds to her tension, surrounded by strangers, though she may recognize a few.
Still, the reunion with “them” after so long is inevitably nerve-wracking.
（I wish Aoba was here… It’s disheartening to be alone.）
Léna-Lloyd harbors such thoughts toward those who brought her here forcibly.
If even one familiar face were present, it would greatly ease her mental burden.
Otherwise, she sweats profusely from her back and underarms.
（Where could he be… Oh, maybe getting medical treatment. That’s right, Rugios did chop off his arms…）
A rather skewed sentiment crosses her mind, indicative of her unusual sense of values.
She looks again toward the throne.
The overwhelming presence seated there.
Seeing it, Léna-Lloyd narrows her eyes.
「It was you after all.」
She had suspected as much.
The teleportation spell along with the vines used for restraint were signature to someone she knew well.
She approaches the throne.
No one stops her, because to them, she’s a “former comrade,” and during the great war, she was the human who contributed most to their victory.
Some weep at the reunion.
One bares his fangs, his tail wagging furiously, clearly expressing his emotions.
Another, with scaly hands, breathes a small flame while clasping them together.
Yet another nods deeply, his six arms crossed, while another still flutters his wings, watching Léna-Lloyd’s return.
Indeed, there wasn’t a single human present.
They are what one might call “demons,” gathered in one place.
Facing the one who leads them from the throne, she speaks.
It’s been five hundred years since they last met.
「It’s been a long time… Agil.」
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