『The entrance to the Stellar Vein Dungeon?』
I mutter, parroting what Kshathra had said.
「Yes. There is a gate in the holy land, the only entrance to the dungeon we dwell in from the surface」
A gate, huh.
The entrance to the Stellar Vein Dungeon.
So, does that mean Agil’s target isn’t so much the holy land but beyond it?
It could be the Stellar Vein Dungeon where Jibru and the others live, or maybe Jibru herself, though I’m not sure since she’s weakened…
…Hey, wait, isn’t this completely collateral damage?
I mean, I’ve got nothing to do with this.
Or rather, I’m being dragged into this unreasonably.
Isn’t that just awful? It’s the same thing every time.
「So, you’re saying Agil’s target is either Jibru or the Stellar Vein Dungeon?」
Elibel asks, propping her cheek with her hand.
She taps the table with her fingers, seemingly irritated.
Kshathra frowns unpleasantly, as if her story has been interrupted.
「Be silent, former human. I was speaking with Lord Earth―――」
She stammers, cut off mid-sentence.
The reason is simple.
Ann’s and Rasetu’s weapons are poised at her throat.
The event is so sudden that Kshathra’s eyes widen in shock.
She must have been completely off guard.
It takes her a few seconds to comprehend her situation.
「What—!? What is the meaning of this!?」
She says with a voice full of anger, looking at Ann.
『How about you watch how you speak?』
「Apologize to Elibel… Indeed.」
「―――Wh-What are you…」
Kshathra is flustered.
Had she not noticed?
That all my subordinates had been silently brewing anger around her.
『You involve us in your selfish affairs and then have the audacity to behave like this? That’s a bit too much to overlook.』
Ann says, emitting a murderous aura.
“Hyu!’, Elja flinches and trembles with teary eyes, making a small sound.
Yeah, I get it. Even though it’s not directed at me, Ann’s murderous intent is super scary.
But I understand why Ann is angry.
Kshathra looks down on everyone except me, even though she involved us in her mess.
『Lord Earth, I have a suggestion.』
『What is it?』
『A teleportation gate has been set up in the depths, leading to the holy land. Why not install a direct teleportation gate on the surface to guide the Demon Lord’s army there?』
Kshathra screams as if in agony.
But Ann ignores her and goes on.
『As it stands, we have no intention or reason to be hostile toward the Demon King’s army. If they have no intention of being hostile toward us, then that’s the best course of action.』
「You would betray us—Lord Jibru with such disrespect!」
『It’s not a betrayal at all. Besides, it was you who involved us. Remember the Death Dragon incident in the imperial capital? If we trace it back, weren’t you the root cause? After all the trouble you’ve caused us, you still want to drag us into more of your messes. How selfish can you be?』
『And above all, your prideless attitude of asking for help only when you’re in danger, never lending a hand when we’re in a tight spot. It’s disgusting.』
She’s probably referring to the times with the Dragon Slayer, Fafnir, and the Celestial Dragon.
In any of those events, things could have turned out much worse.
In the case of the Celestial Dragon, Jibru did help us, but that was almost accidental.
Had we not been lucky, the dungeon might have completely collapsed.
But Jibru has mostly remained non-interventionist, no matter what happened to us.
So, if we take the same stance, there should be no complaints.
Don’t involve us without our consent.
Handle your own problems.
Ann’s words seemed to speak for everyone present.
「…Indeed, that might be the best option.」
Elibel crosses her arms, clearly in agreement.
Looking around, it seems like everyone present here is pretty much share the sentiment.
Of course, I feel the same way.
So, sorry Jibru, but I’m going to have to decline your request.
I’m over it, no more favors.
『―――Ann, Rasetsu, lower your weapons.』
I command, and they comply.
Now, it’s about time to send Kshathra back where she came from.
She should just go back to the dungeon and do her best to protect Jibru.
Kshathra looks at me with pleading eyes, but sorry, I’m not your problem.
『Let’s prepare for the defense against Agil’s forces. Everyone, hurry up with the preparations.』
What did I just say?
『L-Lord Earth? What did you just say?』
Ann asks, her face a picture of bewilderment.
Everyone else looks just as confused, staring at me.
Yeah, something’s off.
What did I just say?
『We need to prepare for defense against the Demon King’s army. Jibru is a handful, but Agil and his cronies aren’t our allies. They’ll come at us with the intention to annihilate.』
Who’s talking right now?
Wait, that was me?
「How do you know all this?」
Elibel challenges me.
I mean, I don’t know, I really don’t.
『Just think back for a moment.』
Think back to what?
「Haa? And what’s with you? Your vibe is different from a moment ago…」
『Don’t worry about that. Ah, that’s right, the thing is, Jibru once talked about Emperor Beast back in the imperial capital. What she said was―――』
Wait, that’s not me. But… who has been talking……. since―――
My consciousness fades away.
After I finish explaining, Elibel glares at me.
「…Why have you kept such important information to yourself until now?」
『Sorry, my bad. Honestly, I was overwhelmed back then. I thought the credibility of the information was weak, so I totally forgot about it.』
『Lord Earth, in that case…』
『Yeah. I hate to play into Jibru’s hands, but let’s fight this time. I need everyone’s help.』
If we pull this off, we can definitely use it as a favor to Jibru, to Harsha.
I’ll make sure to lend it to her at a high interest.
And it’s a good chance to repay our debt to Agil.
『…If Lord Earth desires it, then we have no objections.』
They say, all bowing their heads (except for Elibel).
『I appreciate it―――So, Kshathra.』
Kshathra jumps, startled.
『Jibru has given us an order. You’ll cooperate too, right?』
「Yes, of course.」
『Then, for starters, you’re going to tell us everything you know about Agil, the Demon King’s army, Jibru’s current followers, and the Stellar Vein Dungeon. No detail is too small, I want to hear it all.』
『Talk. …Got it?』
「Y-Yes! Understood, Lord Earth.」
She smiles warmly, and in return, she’s met with a smile.
I’ve managed to learn what I wanted to know, at least to a certain extent.
…Alright. Time to get moving.
It’s okay, I haven’t been dragged into anything.
This was always part of the plan.
It’s just happening a bit sooner than expected.
So, all I have to do is minimize the damage as much as possible.
Let’s get ready for the battle against the Demon King’s army.
After that, it’s Jibru and Harsha. And Yamu… I have this feeling that they’re going to get involved somehow.
What a pain.
Well, nothing to do but go through with it.
And with that, the meeting comes to an end, and we all disperse.
『…What do you think, Elibel?』
「What else can we do? Now that it’s come to this, we have to face it head-on… Sigh…」
Elibel responds, her hands cradling her head, her voice heavy with fatigue.
The information from Kshathra. And Earth’s conjectures.
It’s unbelievable, but Elibel’s intuition and intellect are telling her that it’s correct.
It’s the kind of news that gives you a headache.
Jibru, Agil, the Stellar Vein Dungeon—every last bit of it is a mess.
『No, I mean about Lord Earth. What happened to him? He changed so suddenly…』
『Could he have used that white powder again?』
Ann knows about the white powder―――the Earth Dragon’s Spine.
She knows it can reverse Earth’s mentality.
「Maybe. He might have taken it beforehand, and that’s why he suddenly became clear-headed. What he said made sense, too.」
「Yes. So make sure you tell the others, too. Once the effect wears off, he’ll be back to normal, so there’s no need to worry.」
『Understood. Anyway, if Lord Earth is going to fight, then all we can do is follow.』
They seem to accept the idea of a personality reversal caused by the white powder, which should help reduce confusions.
But inside, Elibel is denying that idea.
After all, Earth has already acquired resistance to the white powder―the Earth Dragon’s spine powder―through “Gluttony.”
Therefore, his personality shouldn’t be changing so frequently.
Yet despite this, his character has flipped numerous times during the events involving Fafnir and the Death Dragon. Initially, she thought it was due to individual differences in resistance.
But she was wrong.
「Two souls, huh…」
「Nothing, just talking to myself.」
That was careless; I let my thoughts slip out.
It’s something Léna-Lloyd had mentioned at the Zeroth Magic Research Institute.
―――Earth has two distinct souls.
The original Earth Dragon’s soul and the soul of the reincarnated human, Earth.
Both souls exist within Earth’s body, intertwined with each other.
It’s a phenomenon that shouldn’t be possible.
But if the reversal effects of the Earth Dragon’s Spine acted as a switch, causing the two souls to exchange dominance, then everything that has happened so far makes sense.
I don’t know which personality is which, though.
And there’s the matter of the information Earth mentioned.
Where on Earth did he get such information?
And why lie about hearing it from Jibru?
During the battle in the imperial capital, Elibel was always by Earth’s side.
That’s why she knows there was no chance for Jibru to pass any information to Earth.
So, where did the information come from?
It’s possible that Earth “knew it all along.”
There’s just too much we don’t understand.
About Jibru, about Agil, the Stellar Vein Dungeon―――and even Earth himself.
For Elibel, who is called a sage, these are all uncharted territories.
「…Tch, just my luck that the old hag isn’t here when I need her the most.」
Léna-Lloyd might have known something, but her whereabouts remain unknown.
「Really, this is such a hassle…」
Muttering to herself, Elibel heads back to her laboratory.
But did she realize?
Did she notice the fierce smile that had crept onto her face?
The joy of the unknown, the thrill of discovery—it’s an irresistible part of her nature.
Even in this situation, she finds herself unwittingly sneering with delight.
For now, let’s focus on finding a way to bring back that fool and on fortifying the dungeon’s defenses.
―――The Demon King’s army will march on Earth’s dungeon in just eight days.
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