―――The scene shifts to a different location than the dungeon.
Located northeast of Earth’s dungeon are the mineral veins.
Eld Mine of the Borhelic Kingdom, the largest mineral producing site on the continent.
It was once a mine whose veins were known far and wide, with none unaware of it.
The magic stones produced here were of exceptionally high purity and quality, exported throughout the continent… no, the entire world. Moreover, the cycle of magic stone production was extremely short, resulting in massive yields.
Thanks to the enormous wealth this brought, the kingdom rose to become one of the foremost nations on the continent.
However, that is now a tale of the past.
Around three years ago, production had started dropping drastically for unknown reasons, and the Eld Mine was gradually transforming into an abandoned mine.
Furthermore, the sudden death of Prime Minister Eclair, who oversaw the mine, spurred this on. As a result, the Eld Mine is currently in an almost closed state.
And now entering with echoing steps are three men.
The three are nonchalantly striding through the mine, occasionally touching the walls and ground as if confirming something.
「Yeah… there’s no doubt about it. Just as Rias said」
Says the man with the appearance of a small boy among the three as he touches the ground―――the Emperor Beast Agil.
「The Stellar Veins have been rewritten. This place was originally meant to serve as a ‘boil’ to discharge magic power accumulated in the planet, but now it seems to have reverted to its normal state.」
「Can you tell where the new ‘boil’ is located?」
Asks the sharp-eyed blond man―――the Celestial Dragon Yamu.
「Can’t say the exact position. But first of all, no doubt it’s at her son’s location. Jibru reworked the Stellar Veins – the planet’s magic flow – in order to give birth to and raise him.」
Stellar Vein – they literally refer to the flow of magic power circulating this planet.
The Stellar Vein Dungeon where Jibru and her follower reside originally came into being when a certain dragon created it to regulate this flow of power.
「Damn… messin’ around with the Stellar Veins for her own convenience…」
Yamu spits out irritably.
「Well, I guess Jibru had to borrow the power of the Stellar Veins in order to give birth at all. Especially to a child with him. It must’ve taken a considerable amount of energy. Though we’re the ones paying for her self-indulgence, so I wanna tell her to screw off… Anyways,」
Agil stops and looks towards the third man―――Aoba.
「What’s with the grim face?」
「Don’t make a face like that. This battle is for our sake as well as yours. When it’s over, your wish will come true. You can meet your fellow countrymen again… I promise you that.」
「Yes… I know,」
Aoba’s voice quivers.
Flitting through his mind are his dead companions.
Lau Lan Fan, Suiren… they died, everyone died.
The self-reproach tormenting Aoba for having caused their deaths with his own selfishness.
Agil directs a frosty gaze at such an Aoba.
（It’s progressing faster than I expected, the divergence of mind and body. But it can’t be helped for an existence that’s impossible from the start…）
Anyway, for now there’s this.
Agil takes out the item he had been carrying on his back.
The weapon Harlot stole from the empire―――the magic sword Gram.
「Anyway let’s get started quickly. The dungeon battle will probably wrap up soon too,」
「You sure you good? Your subordinates and all?」
「It’s fine. And…」
Agil pauses his words there.
「―――Looks like Mulder admirably accomplished his mission.」
He smiles sinisterly, his gaze fixed somewhere not here.
Earth’s Dungeon Depths―――
『It looks like things have been settled in most areas』
「Seems that way.」
I say as Elibel and I observe the situation in each area displayed on the monitors.
Looking at the results, despite struggling, nearly every area succeeded in defending with far less damage than anticipated.
『All that’s left is Elja’s area』
「Yes… oh, wait, it’s from Elja,」
Elibel picks up a communication magic stone.
From Elja? I wonder what’s going on.
「I see… it’s okay, don’t hesitate to use it this time」
She says to Elja before cutting off the magic stone communication.
「Elja asked permission to use that new technique」
That new technique…?
Come to think of it, Elja had been going in and out of Elibel’s lab pretty often lately.
『Ah right… it was ‘Draconic Transformation’ wasn’t it?』
An ability to compress Elja’s power as the Holy Dragon into a humanoid form – that’s Draconic Transformation.
It’s a technique they apparently developed so she can exert her full power even inside the dungeon.
「You remembered well」
『Well, I was going in and out of the lab a bunch too. But wasn’t Draconic Transformation prohibited from use? During the surface battle, remember?』
「Things were still in the early stages back then. We didn’t want the enemy finding out about it. And there was no situation where we needed to use it either… But now there’s no issue.」
Glancing at the monitor, I see Elja undergoing transformation.
Even through the screen I can sense the tremendous magic power.
With this much, the reinforcements should be fine.
The other Holy Dragons seem to be struggling against the Demon King’s army too after all…
Things are going smoothly. Extremely smoothly.
But what is this inexplicable sense of discomfort?
It feels like I’m overlooking something major…
『Hey Elibel, just to confirm, the enemy can’t use teleportation magic inside the dungeon right?』
「That’s right. Anti-teleportation magic is constantly in effect against them inside the dungeon. That’s why during Pururu’s battle earlier, they attempted escape through firepower instead of teleporting, remember?」
That old man from the demon tribe who appeared during my fight with Wald.
He suddenly appeared and disappeared using some kind of technique.
To guard against that kind of technique, we’ve always prepared countermeasures against teleportation magic and dungeon destruction technique.
But still, what is this unease…
『―――The demon have various unique spells. The Eye, divination to determine directions, personal teleports. Curses and hexes we’re skilled at too… Though using those would kill me.』
The demon’s words from earlier suddenly flash through my mind.
Ah… Oh no. No no no no no no!
This is bad!
If my guess is right―――
『Elja! Stop attacking immediately and withdraw!!』
「Hey, what’s going on all of a sudden, Earth!」
I send a thought transmission to Elja while ignoring Elibel’s confusion.
…No good! It’s not getting through! That damn demon! He must’ve prepared something when Elja activated Draconic Transformation!
The communication magic stone won’t connect either – damn!
『Elibel, teleport Elja away right now! Otherwise something irreversible will happen!』
『Just hurry! Open a teleportation gate!』
Noticing my abnormal state, Elibel immediately starts operating the terminal to open a teleportation gate.
But Elja had already commenced attacking.
No good, there’s no time―!
Sixth Area, Middle Layer, Earth’s Dungeon―――
Having activated Draconic Transformation, Elja launches an attack at Mulder.
Her speed now is incomparable to earlier.
Exceeding the speed of sound, she drives the rapier in her hand forward.
And―――the outcome is decided in an instant.
Elja cries out in surprise at the result.
「What’s… wrong…? So surprised… Gaha…」
Blood spills from Mulder’s mouth.
It trickles down Elja’s cheek.
In a flash―――Elja’s slender sword has pierced through Mulder’s chest.
「What are… What are you really thinking!?」
She no longer has any idea what’s going on.
Despite all the taunting, forcing her to exert her full power, he offers no resistance whatsoever as her blade pierces his heart.
There’s no way she can believe this is the behavior of a sane person.
「Of course… it’s about the demons. For that reason… I must fulfill my duty… that’s all…」
Mulder tightly grips Elja’s arm.
「This is… what I must do.」
「What are you…」
In that moment, the light of a teleportation gate appears at Elja’s feet.
「This is… a teleportation gate!?」
「Oh… so someone… noticed after all… but it’s too late!」
Just before Elja gets teleported, a black aura envelops her body.
『Elja! Are you okay!?』
I immediately approach Elja after forcibly teleporting her to the surveillance room.
「Oh, Master Earth? What exactly is going… Gwaaaaaaaahhh!?」
Elja grasps her chest in sudden agony.
An ominous black aura oozes from her body.
「This is… a curse!?」
Elibel quickly realizes.
『Haa…haa… Can everyone…in the depths of the dungeon… hear me…?』
A voice echoes through the surveillance room.
It’s Mulder’s voice coming through the monitor.
『I imagine… Lady Elja… is there with you… isn’t she…?』
Mulder’s agonized figure grasping his chest appears onscreen.
『I’ve cursed her. A secret demon tribe technique – Demonfire Chains of Grudge. The black magical power will never fade, slowly eroding her away…』
As he speaks, the black aura coils around Elja as if alive.
Wherever it touches, her skin gradually blackens.
「Ngh… A curse like this, I’ll purify it immediately―――」
Elja promptly attempts purification.
Intense light envelops her―yet the black aura remains, clinging to her body.
「Wha… Why isn’t it… Gwaaaaahhh!?」
Another intense pain assails Elja.
『If you’re trying purification, it’s futile. Even if I’m only a captain-class… calamity-class monster, the curse I unleash at the cost of my life cannot be cleansed by the Holy Dragon’s purification… gaha…!』
As he continues explaining, Mulder’s face grows increasingly pale, his life fading from both chest wound and backlash of the curse.
「Was this… what you wanted? Killing me… in exchange for your life… guh!」
Elja groans painfully.
No, you’re mistaken Elja.
That wasn’t his goal.
「Could his aim be…!」
It seems Elibel has realized.
『Let me teach you something good… The only one who can break this curse… is the Holy Dragon Harsha Lude…』
Mulder grins sinisterly through the monitor.
I knew it…
The awakened Dragon King.
An Evil God-class monster. If it’s Harsha Lude’s purification ability, even a calamity-class curse can be erased.
But that requires one prerequisite.
「Fa… Father has already activated『Holy Barrier』. He can no longer undo it until his magic power runs out…」
That’s right – Harsha’s inherent technique, 『Holy Barrier』.
An impenetrable barrier that blocks all intrusions, but with the critical weakness of being unable to undo it once activated until his own magic power runs dry.
Yet as if seeing through our thoughts, Mulder shakes his head.
『Fufu… Even if ‘Holy Barrier’ has been activated… it can still be undone before fully stabilizing. There’s hardly any time left… but he can still make it to undo the barrier, yes…』
While I’m curious how he knows something like that, in short – if we inform Harsha now and he undoes the barrier, Elja can be saved.
But at the same time, that means discarding the greatest defensive card for the Holy Land – the Stellar Vein Dungeon. Forcibly releasing the barrier and then purifying Elja’s curse, Harsha likely won’t have the strength remaining to recreate the barrier afterwards.
『I could have… defeated you alone, Lady Elja… However, seeing ahead to the deeper layer… was impossible…』
He states bluntly.
With his outstanding observational skills, he likely realized that even breaking through this area, we who await in the depths are beyond him.
Let alone in his current state with the other captain-class demons defeated.
In that case, what’s the optimal course of action?
That’s what he chose to carry out. But how much resolve is needed to make that choice at the cost of one’s own life?
『…With your unenhanced state, you cannot withstand my curse and will quickly perish… But with your current strengthening from Draconic Transformation… you may survive a few more hours. Now then… my role… is at its… end…』
That dragon’s doting on his daughter is common knowledge.
In that case, Harsha will surely make the choice.
His daughter’s life over duty.
『The rest… is up to Lord Agil… He will surely… fulfill our aspirations…』
With a satisfied look, Mulder’s final actions are to straighten his askew glasses.
『Farewell… daughter of the Guardian Holy Dragon… I pray… my curse on you… will be lifted…』
Thud. Like a cut thread, Mulder collapses and dies.
At the innermost sanctum upon an altar, he lays coiled like a snake, focusing his consciousness solely on maintaining the barrier.
Should anyone attempt to interfere, even his follower, he will ruthlessly slaughter without hesitation – such is his agitated mental state.
Yet his expression shifts.
He – Harsha Lude the Holy Dragon – immediately notices the change.
The sole existence he permits his consciousness to perceive despite needing to focus solely on the barrier.
The daughter he loves more than any other.
「It can’t be… Elja!!」
Meanwhile, at Eld Mine―――
「Now then, Harsha, which will you choose? Your duty, or your daughter’s life…? Although you likely determined the answer long ago. Otherwise you wouldn’t have had a child.」
Agil smiles while Yamu scowls openly at him.
「Don’t like your methods… Taking his kid hostage…」
His tone drips disgust.
Perhaps a sentiment shared by another parent.
Agil laughs wryly.
「Don’t say it like that. I’ve got no choice either. I’ll use whatever means necessary. That’s why this is the next move.」
He thrusts the magic sword Gram into the ground.
「Now then, release the magic sealed within you, magic sword Gram… The technique, ‘Dungeon Destruction’.」
As Agil mutters, Gram begins glowing brightly.
A tremendous earthquake strikes.
The surrounding walls and ceiling start crumbling as the area shakes violently.
Bwoosh! From cracked earth, something like steam erupts out.
It’s the same dense magical power made visible when Rasetsu appeared.
「Success… I’ve rewritten part of the Stellar Veins…」
The Stellar Vein Dungeon was created to manage the Stellar Veins.
Thus its structure is deeply intertwined with them.
Agil used the [Dungeon Destruction] function embedded within Gram to interfere with it.
「I could only access 10% or less of the whole, but that’s plenty. Now then, let’s help ourselves to this tremendous magic power.」
Opening his mouth, Agil inhales the overflowing energy.
―――Throb – his body pulses greatly.
The mighty magic power surging into him rages within like a living being.
「―――Gh… What an absurd force… But without this much power, I cannot activate the technique I intend to use.」
Somehow enduring the sensation of being torn apart, Agil stands firm.
This magic cannot be unleashed without that degree of power.
「I ought to be grateful… to her – Sage Elibel Löwenherz.」
Bringing his hands together, countless complex magical circles unfold around Agil.
「The technique she discovered is truly our gospel…」
Their number continues expanding, light enveloping him to blindness.
「It’s time I regain my full power from my peak. And with that power, I shall seize the Holy Land… and the Stellar Vein Dungeon. I will return this world… to how it should be!」
He announces the name.
Of that technique.
「―――Forbidden Technique: Sanctuary Breach」
Together with Eld Mine’s collapse, an enormous beast takes form.
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