Currently, we’re all gathered in a grand hall located in the depths.
I have summoned all my subordinates.
Starting with Ann, Pururu, Tres, Rasetsu and Gonzo, along with Fafnir’s followers and the four chiefs of the forest are here. Fafnir himself is absent because he’s receiving treatment.
Hearing that Fafnir can’t join, Tsumugi looks disappointed as she drinks her berry juice, cutely blowing bubbles through her straw.
Okay, everyone’s here.
『Sorry for calling you all of a sudden, but we’ve found ourselves in an urgent situation.』
My words cause a stir among everyone.
『Lord Earth, what has happened? And who is that person…?』
Ann asks, casting a wary glance at Kshathra sitting next to me.
She’s already in a battle stance, one hand on her great sword.
The rest of the subordinates seem to feel the same.
Ugh, this is giving me a stomachache.
『Her name is Kshathra. She is one of Jibru’s followers』
This causes a murmur, as only Elibel has met Kshathra in the imperial capital before.
By the way, Kshathraa has been looking down, not moving since a while ago.
Occasionally, she mutters, “I can’t go back…” and “This me, pretending to be an envoy…”
It seems she’s come with a messenger’s mindset and is now unsettled by the sudden turn of events.
Well, it’s better she doesn’t speak carelessly and start a quarrel with Ann.
Let’s keep it this way for a while.
『Then, Elibel will explain the details.』
Yes, so, Elibel, please explain.
The ultimate hand-off.
『Could you at least try to explain it yourself?』That accusatory gaze hurts.
No, I can’t. Even greetings at such gatherings give me a stomachache.
Please, go ahead.
Huh? Did she just click her tongue?
「Yes, yes. Since I’ve been nominated, I’ll explain.」
With an air of resignation, Elibel operates the terminal and explains about the visual magic stone that Kshathra brought.
The stone was not a one-time use item, so she plays Jibru’s footage again, adding comments here and there.
「―――That’s the situation. It’s become a serious nuisance for us.」
「Fo-fo-fo, the name Demon King Agil brings back memories.」
『You know of him, Othel?』
「Yes, back when we were still ‘alive,’ it had been only about a hundred years since the demon king was sealed.」
I remember now, Robun and the others lived more than four hundred years ago.
Since Agil was sealed five hundred years ago, his name must have still been notorious back then.
Robun nods nostalgically, arms crossed.
「It’s nostalgic, yes. Back then, there were still remnants of the demon race around, and oh, that’s when I met the lady knight Emilia―――」
「And now for the information from Una and Dos」
「Are you skipping over my story, Elibel?!」
『Elibel, please continue.』
Yeah, because nobody wants to hear the old stories of someone who’s life is already complete, seriously irrelevant.
So, next up is the request brought by Una and Dos from Harsha.
After that, we received a message from Una and Dos, informing us of what happened in the holy city.
The request from Harsha, to help in the subjugation of Demon King Agil…
…The timing is just too perfect.
To call it a coincidence would be too much of a stretch.
It would be better to assume they were in cahoots from the start.
As Elibel wraps up her explanation, the room gets progressively noisier.
As soon as she’s done, Ann raises her hand first.
『There’s a lot I want to say, but first off, if what Jibru and Harsha are saying is true, why would the Emperor Beast—Demon King Agil—aim for this dungeon? Isn’t their target the ‘Holy Land’? Why do they need to attack our dungeon?』
It’s a valid question, I think.
That was my initial thought as well.
「As for that… Elja.」
Prompted by Elibel, Elja stands up.
「It’s likely because of… my father’s ability.」
『Ability, you say?』
Ann looks at Elja, who flinches reflexively.
『Ah, Elja, Ann’s not angry, so go on.』
『…You don’t have to be that scared…』
Ann looks a bit deflated.
Elja clears her throat lightly and starts over.
「As you all know, the Holy Dragon possesses a unique magic called ‘Purification’. However, my father has another, a spell only he can use.」
Elja gestures with two fingers extended.
「―――’Holy Barrier’. That’s the name of my father’s other unique spell. As the name suggests, it’s a barrier-creating ability, but its strength is tremendous. It can create a barrier so powerful that not even an Evil God-class could break it.」
Wow, that’s impressive.
“But,” Elja continues.
「Of course, it’s not all-powerful. It consumes an enormous amount of physical and magical energy, leaving him immobile after casting. And once it’s activated, it cannot be undone until the magic is completely drained.」
「How long would that last?」
「Probably around half a year, I would guess.」
That’s way too long.
Well, if it’s a Dragon King species that has awakened, that might be feasible.
「So if that ‘Holy Barrier’ were activated, Agil wouldn’t be able to attack the Holy Land for at least half a year… But how does that connect to our dungeon?」
Robun’s question prompts nods from several others.
「The barrier isn’t perfect; there’s a ‘loophole’, which is the instantaneous movement through teleportation spells. However, this only applies if there’s a fixed teleportation coordinate inside the barrier.」
Originally, if there’s a fixed teleportation gate within the barrier, it could be bypassed.
It’s a significant vulnerability, but if all such gates were destroyed before activation, there would be no issue.
『Teleportation gate… Oh!』
Ann suddenly exclaims as if realizing something.
『Wait a minute. There’s a teleportation gate to the Holy Land in the deep layers, right? ―――You don’t suppose…』
Yes, Agil is aiming for the Holy Land.
But Harsha’s barrier stands in the way to the Holy Land.
The only method is to move using a fixed coordinate teleportation spell.
Currently, there is a fixed teleportation gate in the Holy Land.
Yes—our dungeon is connected to that very teleportation gate.
They should be getting the picture by now.
The reason why the Demon King’s army would invade this dungeon.
They intend to use the teleportation gate set up in our dungeon as a foothold to invade the Holy Land if Harsha activates the “Holy Barrier.”
「But that raises another question, doesn’t it? Where did this information leak from? Only a few of us in the dungeon and some in the Holy Land should know that the Holy Land is connected to this dungeon.」
It’s hard to imagine the leak came from within the dungeon.
「Could there be a traitor among the Holy Dragons…!」
「That’s jumping to conclusions, Elja. Someone with exceptional magical perception—like a Joker-class—could have noticed the magical connection between the Holy Land and this dungeon. Besides, Rias was looking for a powerful dungeon and was well-versed in teleportation spells, right?」
The ‘Dream Mist’ Joker, huh?
That’s right, he used a fog barrier as well.
Elja sighs in relief.
For a moment, she seems ashamed of having doubted one of her own, her face etched with regret.
「…Well, that’s not entirely impossible either.」Elibel mutters under her breath.
「Nothing. Let’s get back on topic.」
Elibel claps her hands to refocus everyone’s attention.
『But if that’s the case, can’t we just close the teleportation gate? Then they’d have no reason to target this place, right?』
「That’s true, but…」
Elibel scratches her long silver hair thoughtfully.
「The teleportation gate that connects to the Holy Land is special. It takes a long time to deactivate.」
「…Half a year.」
The duration is nearly the same as that of Harsha’s barrier.
It was made sturdy to prevent it from being destroyed accidentally—like in one of Harsha’s fits—which has now turned into a disadvantage.
『But I still don’t understand. Why can’t they just wait half a year then invade? After half a year, the barrier will be lifted, and Harsha will be neutralized, right? What’s the rush? What is in the Holy Land?』
Silence falls over everyone at that question.
If only we knew, it wouldn’t be so hard.
「…There’s a ‘gate’ in the Holy Land.」
Kshathra, who had been silent up until now, speaks up.
Everyone’s gaze shifts to her.
She lifts her head.
Her eyes meet mine, filled with resolve.
「I’ll tell you, Lord Earth. There is an entrance to our Stellar Vein Dungeon there. That’s why it’s called the Holy Land.」
「I see. So that’s why Agil is after the Holy Land—the gate that’s there.」
The audience ends, and she was escorted to a guest room.
There, Léna-Lloyd sips her tea with elegance.
She had thought she’d be restrained and thrown into a dungeon cell, but she’s receiving quite the generous hospitality.
However, a bracelet that seals her magic and lowers her physical abilities has been fitted onto her.
Really, it’s cruel to treat such an innocent woman this way.
「But you guys never learn, do you…? You made the same mistake five hundred years ago…」
The muscular man with the head of a lion sitting across from her is quite the sight.
Despite his intimidating look, he’s rocking a black tailcoat, looking every bit the butler.
His name is Zahak.
He’s the top commander of the Demon King’s forces.
「The situation is different from that time」
Zahak counters Léna-Lloyd’s words.
「True, Rias’s death has put a kink in our plans. However, the battles with the Celestial Dragon Yamu and the Death Dragon Ouronuss have drained the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King’s strength like never before. On top of that, the quality of her followers is nothing compared to their heyday.」
「Yeah, I figured as much when I heard that little calf was playing guardian of the seventh floor…」
But wow, this tea is delicious.
I think I’ll have another cup.
「The window we have now, while her wounds are still healing, is our greatest and last chance. If we miss this opportunity, there won’t be another one for us. In half a year, Jibru’s wounds will heal. That’s why we were overjoyed to hear about that pesky barrier and the teleportation gate that passes through it…」
「Why didn’t you guys just set up a teleportation gate beforehand without Harsha noticing?」
「If only it were that simple. All of us significant followers were locked up in the dungeon with Lord Agil. It’s been a month since the seal was lifted, and we’ve been busy verifying the information brought by Rias and taking various actions―――」
Yeah, yeah, whatever.
Can we skip to the part where I get to go back to Eli?
Oh, these pastries are pretty good too.
「…Are you even listening seriously?」
「Of course, I am. Right, tea is best enjoyed plain, without honey or anything. It’s all about savoring the natural flavors, right?」
「What are you even talking about?!」
「Oh, did you change your hairstyle? Zahak, you’re surprisingly fashionable, aren’t you?」
「That’s not what we’re discussing! And for your information, my hairstyle hasn’t changed in five hundred years! As always, you’re so nonchalant, aren’t you?」
「Well, I’ve already met with Agil, so my business here is done. I really want to go home now.」
「I’m sorry, but we have no intention of letting you go… Let me ask you once more. Won’t you cooperate with us? Weren’t we allies who fought side by side? Will you not join us again―――」
「Nah. Right now, Eli is more important to me than Agil.」
Before Zahak can finish, Léna-Lloyd dismissively cuts off his proposal.
For her now, it’s not the Demon King’s army that matters, but her precious friend.
「…That person is more important to you than us?」
Without hesitation, Léna-Lloyd nods.
Watching her, Zahak’s face takes on a complicated expression.
「…I see, even someone as solitary, shy, and flawed as you can make new acquaintances other than us over five hundred years.」
The barbs of words pierce her heart.
What a harsh thing to say.
「Well, fine. But you will stay put here quietly until everything is over, won’t you?」
「You’re not going to kill me? Wouldn’t that be better for the future?」
Léna-Lloyd says this, and Zahak makes a face that’s truly disgusted.
「Kill you? Please don’t even joke about such things. I would prefer you not to equate us with humans or that Jibru.」
「What’s with that look?」
「Nothing, really. Just thinking how some things never change—Agil, you, all of it.」
「Is that so?」
「Got it. I’ll stay quiet here. I won’t interfere with your plans. Do your best, okay?」
「We intended to, without your encouragement.」
With that, Zahak leaves the room.
The room falls silent.
Alone in the guest room, Léna-Lloyd mutters to herself.
「Agil and Zahak really haven’t changed a bit… That same naivety is what tripped them up five hundred years ago…」
Looking up at the ceiling, Léna-Lloyd lets out a sigh.
「…And do Agil really understand? Just how troublesome and powerful that dungeon is. Or do you have some kind of ‘trump card’ that can break through it…?」
No one is there to answer her questions.
She reaches again for her tea and snacks.
The tea, once delightful, has completely cooled.
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