「…what does that mean?」
Dos tilts his head, puzzled by the meaning of Pororo’s request.
「It’s exactly as the words imply. ‘Emperor Beast’ Agil Dakar Reynolds. Also known as ‘Demon King’ Agil, the worst monster that once sparked a war between demons and humans. We want you to help us subdue it.」
Dos has heard of the Emperor Beast before.
It’s one of the three Evil God-class beings officially registered at the guild.
That means, in terms of threat level, it’s on par with Jibru.
Well, it’s the first time Dos has heard the Emperor Beast referred to as a Demon King…
「We must refuse. There’s no need to even tell our father.」
Without mercy, the two of them reject Pororo’s request.
Of course. They want nothing to do with such a monster.
Pororo, perhaps not expecting an immediate answer, lets out a foolish sound.
After all, their leader, the Holy Dragon Harsha Lude, is not publicly acknowledged but is one of the few true Dragon Kings who has awakened a rare “power.”
Surely, that power must be of Evil God-class.
Without borrowing the hands of Earth and the others, couldn’t he handle it by himself?
Perhaps sensing their gaze, Pororo raises both hands in surrender.
「…Alright. Let’s start from the beginning then.」
「Just… please don’t speak of what I’m about to tell you carelessly, okay? The only ones who know about this are me, Lord Harsha close aides, the Pope, and Orion who’s here. In other words, it’s a crucial secret for our Holy Kingdom.」
Dos and Una nod.
They have no intention of changing their decision, but more information never hurts.
Might as well hear him out.
「First, let’s talk about the Emperor Beast and the hero.」
The content he spoke of was almost identical to what Léna-Lloyd had told Earth and Elibel at the Zeroth Magic Research Institute.
The divine calamity class monster, the Demon King Agil, who once tried to dominate the surface world, and the battle with the hero Cadias, who obtained power beyond humans.
And that Agil, defeated by the hero, was not dead but sealed within the Eight Great Dungeons.
Because the main forces of the Demon King’s army were sealed in the dungeons, the surface world fell into the hands of humans, bringing peace.
Pororo explained it all objectively, clearly, and politely.
「And now, to the main point… The seal on the dungeon was broken a month ago.」
「…how do you know?」
「Back then—well, five hundred years ago from now. The one who actually sealed the ‘Emperor Beast’ in the dungeon wasn’t the hero, but his comrade, ‘the White Saintess.’」
Naturally, Una and the others’ gaze shifts to Orion.
She, too, is a woman called a Saintess.
「The ‘White Saintess’ had set up a mechanism to notify us when the seal was broken. And a month ago, we were informed that the seal had been broken by someone.」
「…who did it?」
Pororo reveals the name.
At that name, Dos’s eyes widen in shock.
Una, too, is shaken and accidentally drops the sweets she’s holding.
…But abiding by the three-second rule, she quickly pops them back into her mouth.
「You know her, don’t you?」
Elibel’s former teacher, the one who resurrected the Death Dragon Ouronus, causing tremendous damage not only to the continent but also to their dungeons—the worst of the dead.
They never thought they’d hear that name again.
「She’s the one who broke the seal on the dungeon. No, to be precise, she rigged it so that it could be broken.」
「A month ago… during the death dragon incident in the imperial capital?」
「Yes. It seems she was in contact not only with the Aoba but also with the demons. Coordinating with the resurrection of the death dragon, she planned to break the seal on the dungeon, release Agil and the demons, and join forces to kill Jibru and her followers. She had meticulously planned, even keeping the aftermath of the death dragon’s revival in mind… Well, it seems she failed, though.」
Indeed, she failed.
There was one miscalculation—Ouronus, the death dragon, had forgotten about her. This single critical error, along with Jibru and Earth’s cooperation, led to the downfall of her plans.
「…but how did you come by this information?」
Setting aside the seal, how did they find out about the contact with the demons?
「It’s obvious, isn’t it? We asked ‘the person’ herself.」
What does that mean?
Rias is supposed to be dead.
Once dead, she shouldn’t be able to be resurrected again.
Could it be… she’s still alive?
「No, Rias is dead. There’s no doubt about that.」
As if anticipating the doubt, Pororo responds.
「I can’t give details, but it’s thanks to Orion’s abilities. With her powers, we’ve been able to uncover everything about Rias.」
Dos turns his gaze, and Orion looks down uncomfortably.
Though blind, she seems to sense the gazes and emotions directed at her.
「By the way, we don’t know about Orion’s powers either. What kind of abilities does she have?」
They know she’s powerful from the battle in the imperial capital.
But the origin of her powers—what made her the so-called “Holy Ark”—remains unknown.
「Sorry, but I can’t answer that question. Her ability ‘Holy Ark’ is of the utmost secrecy to us. It’s not something we can discuss lightly.」
「Expecting us to trust you without explanation is quite something, isn’t it?」
「I understand what you’re saying. There are things that won’t sit right with you. But even so, I need you to understand.」
「What an assumption—」
Dos stops Una as she attempts to stand.
『—! Dos, why—』
『—let’s get angry after we’ve heard everything.』
They finish their thought transmission conversation, and Una sits back down.
She turns to Pororo, urging him to continue the story.
「Sorry. Anyway, thanks to Rias, the seal on the dungeon has been broken, and they could start moving at any time. In fact, it’s far more likely they’re already on the move.」
「…what’s their goal?」
「…why did Agil and the demons, team up with Rias?」
Was it to eliminate Jibru, a common enemy?
Or did he have some other purpose of his own?
「…I don’t know Agil’s exact intentions. But I’ve heard they’re heading for Lord Harsha… for the ‘Holy Land.’」
「The Holy Land…」
The dwelling place of the Holy Dragon and its follower, located in the mountain range just beyond here———the heartland of the Holy God Church.
What could they hope to achieve by targeting such a place?
「It seems that during the war five hundred years ago, Agil was also aiming for this land. So, the likelihood that they’re targeting it again is high.」
The greatest obstacle they would face is the Holy Dragon Harsha Lude and its follower.
And with Earth and his follower joining them, their defense would indeed be impregnable.
「…why? Why does Agil aim for the Holy Land?」
What exactly is in the Holy Land?
Is it something like a holy sword or a divine artifact, sealed away in its depths?
「…Sorry, I don’t know that either.」
「…and it’s where you live?」
「Yes. However, there’s a place deep within the Holy Land where only Lord Harsha is allowed to enter. Maybe there’s ‘something’ there.」
「Sigh… It seems we’re in the dark about a lot of things. And yet you have the nerve to ask for our help.」
「I can’t argue with that logic…」
Una looks exasperated, and Pororo scratches his head in a troubled manner.
He’s probably just following orders from above.
It seems like a universal truth that the young are always running errands for their elders.
「…and what’s in it for us if we help?」
「Lord Harsha has offered a permanent covenant with the Holy Land as a reward. Plus, we’re willing to provide as many magic stones and ores produced in the Holy Land as you want.」
A permanent covenant with the awakened Dragon King species and their follower.
In times of crisis, we could borrow their formidable strength.
And the export of various magic stones and ores.
As much as we desire.
Certainly, those are tempting terms.
———If one were to think from a “human” perspective.
But Dos dismisses the proposal outright.
There’s no need to consult Earth or the dungeons.
Pororo’s face shows his shock.
Does he even understand?
A covenant with the Holy Land is already in place.
With Elja, his daughter, infatuated with Earth and staying in the dungeons, the people of the Holy Land—especially that doting Holy Dragon—will hardly interfere with the dungeons.
Of course, nothing is absolute.
After all, agreements among monsters are at best verbal promises.
It’s up to the individuals to honor them.
They can be broken at any time, depending on their mood.
While the proud and honorable Heleb might be an exception, it’s dubious how long that doting Holy Dragon will keep his word.
And the magic stones and ores are out of the question.
The magic stones mined from the deep layers of the dungeon are of higher purity than those from the Holy Land.
There’s no need to accept them from outside when we can manage on our own.
In short, the rewards Pororo has offered hold no merit for the dungeon.
As a negotiation, it’s amateurish. Almost like a plea.
「There are other rewards on offer! Please listen.」
Perhaps rattled by the quick rejection, Pororo rattles off other terms to the two of them.
But none of those are particularly beneficial for the dungeon either.
「…it’s unfortunate, but I don’t think we can accept this.」
「N-No, this can’t be….」
Pororo looks devastated.
He obviously hadn’t anticipated being turned down.
Why would he think that?
He’s too naive. Didn’t he realize that when he was first told by his superiors?
No, he probably didn’t think at all.
Come to think of it, he was the type of dragon who would charge into the dungeon led by his emotions.
Maybe he’s not good at “thinking” things through.
Ironically, this shallow thinking is very much like Elja.
「Um, Dos. I beg of you as well. Please… won’t you reconsider?」
Orion pleads as well.
She bows her head desperately, turning a prayerful posture toward them.
For a moment, their earnest appeal tugs at his heartstrings.
Yet, contrary to his emotions, Dos’s thoughts are ice cold.
So, this is why she was called.
If profit won’t sway us, then appeal to our emotions.
「…indeed, Orion is important.」
「…but, that’s separate from this.」
「…we can’t put the dungeon in danger.」
She’s owed kindness and gratitude.
He feels indebted because of it.
But Earth and the dungeon—his follower—come first.
That’s Dos’s final decision.
「This is just…」
Orion collapses to her knees.
「…I will relay the message to the dungeon, contact you later.」
「That’s right. Ultimately, the decision is up to our father…」
Saying this, Una and Dos rise from their seats.
Pororo apologizes, still looking down.
「it’s fine, but don’t get your hopes up.」
Pororo bows to them both.
He probably already senses the conclusion.
「I’m really… truly sorry.」
He bows again and again, repeating his apologies to them.
But Dos and the others have yet to realize.
The true meaning behind Pororo’s apologies…
And with that, Una and the others’ meeting concludes.
Meanwhile, deep in the Eld Desert’s Deep Forest―――
「Yay! Daddy, faster, faster!」
『Alright, let’s speed up then!』
In the Deep Forest, I’m running around with Pururu and Tres on my back.
Eh, what am I doing?
Just a change of pace!
I was gardening alone to clear my head, but then Tres and Pururu showed up and were like, “Let’s go for a walk together?” So, before I knew it, this happened.
It’s not bad, though.
The cool sensation of Pururu perched on my head feels nice.
…Yeah, I get what you’re saying.
I get it, but so what!
That’s right! It’s escapism! What’s wrong with that!
I need some healing after all this chaos!
I want to be healed by Pururu, Tres, and forest bathing!
Well, the deep forest is more like the Sea of Decay from Nausicaä, but still, the forest atmosphere is nice.
The magic power is surging.
Lately, the trees have been growing more and more.
『Oh, there’s Gonzo, and Taran too.』
Looking toward the source of the sound, I spot Taran and Gonzo.
They must have been in the middle of a meal.
Half-eaten fruits are scattered around them.
Ah, those huge fruits are delicious.
The seeds inside turn into magic stones, and eating them overflows you with magical power.
「Hey, Gonzo, Taran, come play with us!」
「Yeah, right now I’m on a walk with Daddy and Pururu.」
「Yeah, of course. You’re in too, right Taran?」
「Kishi kishi kishi!」
「Ahaha, it’s all good, no one’s gonna take anything.」
Hmm, Tres seems to naturally communicate with these guys.
Is it the innocence of a child? Tres can converse with almost all the monsters, including Pururu.
When it comes to communicating with monsters, she’s definitely the best out of the four golem homunculi, no question.
「Is that okay with you, Dad?」
『Huh? What is?』
「Come on, listen properly. We’re all going to play a game together! Let’s play hide and seek!」
『Hmm, yeah, I don’t mind.』
Pururu, acting all ‘listen to me!’ bops me on the head with her little hands. Seriously lovely.
It’s so soothing.
I could let her do that forever.
「Yay! Then, Dad, you’re ‘it’ first. It’s decided!」
Wait, no one mentioned that.
With a little hop, Pururu jumps off my head. Oh…
「When you say ‘ready,’ that’s the signal to start, okay?」
Without waiting for my reply, Tres and the others scatter and vanish into the forest.
…Isn’t this usually decided by rock-paper-scissors?
Well, a change is as good as a rest.
After a while, I hear the signal, ‘ready.’
Okay then, instead of shouting back, I’ll give them a little surprise…
I look up.
I take a deep breath.
Yeah, I’m gearing up for a breath attack.
Fufu, using a breath attack as the starting signal is bound to surprise everyone.
There’s no one up there, so it’s safe.
Plus, there’s a special barrier on the surface.
It’s a magic-absorbing barrier.
Even if I unleash a full-power breath attack, the barrier will absorb the magic and redirect it back into the dungeon.
This is a recent addition, a nifty new feature.
No magic leaks to the surface, so it won’t bother the Accurate Crows or the White Wyverns, and it also replenishes the dungeon’s magical energy. Two birds with one stone.
I’ve fired off breath attacks here for testing multiple times, so there’s no risk of Elibel getting mad at me.
And, letting out a big roar is a great way to relieve stress.
So with that reasoning—full power breath, fire away.
A colossal wave of magical power bursts out as a vortex of destruction.
Whew, that clears the mind.
The breath continues upward—then…
———It hits something and explodes.
The blackened something barely resembles a human shape.
Could it be an adventurer?
Did someone actually jump into the hole at that exact moment?
Talk about bad luck.
Yeah, it’s not my fault, definitely not my fault.
The one who jumped in without looking is to blame.
「O-oh… long time no see, Lord… Ea-rth… ack…」
Saying that, the charred figure passes out.
…Wait, was that someone I know!?
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