Sub29: changed Intimidating Bull → Intimidating Ox
Léna-Lloyd holds a knife to Baal’s neck.
「Fufufu, you’re making quite an expression there, Yamu. Yes, that’s the face I wanted to see! Hahahahaha!」
The witch is really getting into it. Her expression is one of delight.
Her dialogue is completely that of a villain.
In contrast, Yamu grits his teeth in frustration.
His hand twitches slightly, as if to move―――
「Whoa there, don’t move now! If you move, Baal’s life will be over! And I’ll rob you of your chastity as well! I have friends who won’t hesitate when it comes to that, you know… I really do have friends like that! They’re not just imaginary, actual friends! They exist, okay!?」
Yamu didn’t understand why she emphasized that point, but given the current situation, it was a trivial matter.
「Uu… Papa… I’m sorry…」
Baal trembles violently.
Yamu couldn’t move.
Leaving him here, thinking he’d be safe, had now come back to haunt him.
「But why the hell are you here anyway? You should have been under house arrest in Agil’s dungeon!」
「Fufufu, why do you think? It’s because―――」
「I rescued Lady Léna.」
Interrupting Léna-Lloyd just as she was about to explain with a dramatic pause, a deep male voice rings out.
With half his face covered by a mask and wielding a greatsword, it was the Witch’s Knight, Rugios Tranjetta.
His body was covered in wounds, and his left arm in particular was gruesomely burnt.
「With the help of Sage Elibel and Pathless, I was able to go directly to the dungeon over there and rescue her. …There was some combat involved, but I did succeed in rescuing Lady Léna unharmed.」
「Hey, Rugios, that was my line!」
「Lady Léna, please show some composure. …And please don’t hit me, it hurts and I feel like I might pass out…」
Watching Léna-Lloyd and Rugios’ exchange, Yamu’s expression was one of disbelief.
「Don’t tell me… you connected the dungeons directly…!」
Connecting one dungeon directly to another.
It sounded simple in theory, but he understood well just how difficult it really was.
Moreover, when it came to one of the eight great dungeons, the Emperor Beast’s dungeon…
it was even more so.
（Earth’s retainer Pathless should have been able to do it… But I can’t believe even her “Dungeon Alteration” could intervene in Agil’s dungeon.）
If it were possible at all, only a being on an even higher order could have done it.
Pathless’ “source” so to speak.
「Don’t tell me…」
And then Yamu realized.
The retainers of this dungeon were all growing at an impossibly quick rate.
Which meant it was possible Pathless had evolved and become her original form as a monster―the Dream Mist.
But if that were true… it would be troublesome.
If Pathless had really become a Dream Mist, not only would her “Dungeon Alteration” be enhanced, but she might be able to use “that”.
The Dream Mist he knew―Joker, while not possessing great combat ability among the Stellar Vein’s followers, was valued more for his “special trait”. Which was why he had been assigned guardianship of the outermost first layer of the Stellar Vein.
But right now, the issue was the situation at hand.
「But the dungeon should have been guarded by Anri…」
Yamu stares sharply at Rugios.
Causing the knight to break into a cold sweat under the immense pressure.
Anri, captain of the Demon King’s army.
She was a plain woman much like Léna-Lloyd, but contrary to appearances, possessed fighting ability second only to Spenta in the Demon King’s army.
It was hard to believe she could have been defeated so easily.
「Yes, she was strong. But the fact that we stand here is the answer… We also had some unexpected reinforcements.」
「Yes, the ‘Silver Demon’ Linwu Sousei. Thanks to his assistance, we were able to make it back here.」
At the unexpected name, Yamu looks surprised.
Though of course, I don’t know why he attacked the dungeon, Rugios adds.
But Yamu could guess to some extent.
Linwu was formerly a captain of the Demon King’s army. He likely came to settle things.
「Well, finding Young Lord Baal along the way was a stroke of luck. Anyway, this is the end for you, Yamu. If you don’t want Young Lord horribly wounded, surrender!」
「Why are you even doing this anyway? Didn’t you like Earth and Eli too? So why?」
Yamu doesn’t answer.
Instead, he looks away guiltily.
Seeing his attitude, Léna-Lloyd guesses at a certain possibility.
「Could it be… something related to the Stellar Vein Dungeon… no, Jibru?」
「…………What if it is?」
It was as good as openly admitting it.
At his reaction, Léna-Lloyd’s expression changes.
「Wait, seriously? Ugh, you’re still hung up on this after hundreds of years? You and Agil both…
「Shut it! You’ve got no right to say that to me」
「Haah… really, honestly…」
Léna-Lloyd heaves a sigh.
「…What is it?」
「you’re surprisingly kind, you know?」
「What do you mean?」
「Ah… I see. You’re still regretting it after all this time. That’s why you’re conflicted now, isn’t it?
You’re really an idiot… both you and Agil…」
「Wha, what are you saying…!」
Ignoring Yamu’s displeased expression, Léna-Lloyd lowers the knife in her hand.
She releases Baal from his restraints and pushes him towards Rugios.
「Rugios, put up a barrier and ‘protect’ Young Lord Baal.」
「Huh? Uh… eh!?」
Paying no mind to the bewildered Rugios and Baal, Léna-Lloyd approaches Yamu.
「What are you planning?」
The two were now only meters apart.
Léna-Lloyd says in exasperation,
「Obviously, I’m going to fight you and take you down.」
「Are you serious?」
「Then I’ll stop Agil too. At first I thought it’d be fine if I could just protect Eli, but I changed my mind. I’ve decided that I have to stop you two… here.」
「You probably won’t stop no matter what I say, right? In that case, I’ll make you stop by force. Because… I can’t stand to lose friends staking their lives on foolish things.」
「You think you can do that!? Don’t get cocky, witch!」
But Léna-Lloyd’s expression doesn’t change.
「I can do it. Despite appearances, I’m strong, you know? Especially…」
Her mouth curves into a grin.
「―――When my friends’ lives are at stake!」
An enormous amount of magical power erupts from Léna-Lloyd.
Yamu also unleashes his magical power in response.
The dungeon is oppressed by the stormy, swirling magical energies.
「―――’Thousand Ice Pillars’!!」
The storm of ice and claws of light collide!
A tremendous explosion occurs.
The battle between Celestial Dragon Yamu and the Witch Léna-Lloyd has begun.
Meanwhile, in the Ford Desert―――
「…Léna. So you came after all…」
Gazing at the countless magical circles spreading overhead, Agil murmurs.
Agil’s magical perception was broad.
He could sense Léna-Lloyd’s presence from far away after she had appeared.
His subordinate Zahak, waiting at his feet, asks,
「How shall we proceed?」
「Leave it to Yamu. With just her coming alone, the battle situation won’t change. More importantly―――」
Bang! A sound like something bouncing off rings out.
The barrier erected right in front of Agil and Zahak.
A crack had appeared on it.
「A familiar face…」
Agil looks at the one responsible.
No, more accurately, not a person.
「It’s been a while, Agil. And you, Zahak.」
It was a woman with pale blue skin and twisted horns like an ox.
The current guardian of the star stream’s seventh layer―――Kshathra the Intimidating Ox.
「Let me ask just in case. What have you come here for?」
「Of course, to defeat you for Lord Jibru’s sake. I cannot permit any more insolence as the current floor’s guardian.」
Kshathra states resolutely. In response, Agil shrugs with a “give me a break”.
「Impossible. You can’t beat me.」
「Are you looking down on me? If so―――」
Cutting Kshathra off, Agil states,
「It’s just a fact. Between you and me, our ranks as monsters are different.」
At Agil’s words, Kshathra’s gaze fills with anger.
But Agil remains composed.
「Won’t you withdraw? I’ll overlook it if you do so now.」
「I see, then there’s no helping it. Zahak.」
Called by Agil, Zahak steps forward.
「You can take her on.」
Hearing that, Kshathra’s expression grows even more severe.
「Throwing away your subordinate so heartlessly? What a master you are.」
「Well now, I wonder about that?」
Kshathra didn’t understand what Agil was saying.
She was after all an Evil God-class monster.
One of the most powerful even among them.
She had never fought them, but believed that if she were to fight Holy Dragon Harsha for example, she could win. Such was the extent of her power.
Zahak was surely strong as well.
But she had been superior to him five hundred years ago, and even now she could feel her magical power was greater.
Just what was Agil thinking?
「Now that I think about it, this will be the first time I fight you, Lady Kshathra.」
Zahak removes his coat, undoing the buttons.
His honed physique is revealed.
But more than that, it was “abnormal”.
Because his entire body was covered in bruise-like marks, as if constricted by snakes.
「What are those scars?」
「Oh, these? It’s simple. This is my power―the Black Serpent.」
Zozozozozozo! An ominous miasma leaks out from Zahak.
Kshathra involuntarily widens her eyes.
The scars covering Zahak’s body rose up, transforming into an enormous black serpent over a hundred meters long. It had an ominous appearance that could only be described as sinister. It constantly exuded miasma, polluting the surrounding air.
The black serpent that appeared “swallowed up” Zahak’s body in one gulp.
Then, after swallowing him, the serpent’s eyes glowed eerily.
「This is my true form. What do you think… hideous, isn’t it?」
Zahak mutters self-deprecatingly.
Sensing the searing magical power, Kshathra shudders.
Certainly, this was strong.
Perhaps it possessed power on par with an evil god.
But that was the same for her!
Kshathra’s body twists.
Swelling out, her body balloons massively in an instant.
Enormous magical power gushes out as sand swirls.
What emerged from the sandstorm was a giant six-legged ox.
「A form befitting your name Kshathra the Intimidating Ox.」
The giant serpent and ox roar at each other.
Then, baring fangs and horn, Kshathra and Zahak collide!
Meanwhile, in the sixth area of the middle layer―――
While evading Cadias’ attacks, I was worrying about what to do.
I said I would explain, but where should I even start…
「Tch, so troublesome…」
『If only you’d listen properly, I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of dodging like this.』
Cadias’ slashes were sharp.
I couldn’t help but be impressed.
After all, Cadias’ body was “my former body”.
Not to brag, but my previous self wasn’t very athletic.
Rather, I was clumsy and would often trip up others during sports days.
I sincerely praised Cadias for becoming this strong with my body.
It surely hadn’t been easy.
Through grueling training soaked in blood and sweat, he had gained this level of strength.
My somewhat chubby body.
My body that would get winded just going up and down stairs.
Was now a fine, slender macho.
…Yeah, it’s a strange feeling.
It’s like being shown an old photo album, kind of uncomfortable.
I say it’s how I normally feel, not “my” emotions, but I guess it mixes in a bit.
『Alright, for now let’s continue the story from the magic research institute.』
「What do you mean?」
『Back then, thanks to you guys interrupting, I couldn’t finish the story properly. So let’s continue where we left off.』
Back then, Léna-Lloyd had been shocked when she heard my previous name.
In other words, she hadn’t known.
That the hero Cadias’ soul had reincarnated into this world using my body.
And that the soul that had been my human self along with Cadias’ knowledge and experience had reincarnated into this earth dragon’s body.
My usual self didn’t inherit the hero Cadias’ memories.
They were passed on to me―the earth dragon… to protect me.
『Cadias, why do you think the “hero” came to exist in the first place?』
「What’s with the sudden question… Isn’t it obvious, to defeat the Demon King―――Gah!」
Cadias swings his sword.
Enormous lightning is generated from the blade.
Dangerously close. I barely dodge.
The dungeon wall is smashed.
What insane power.
And his accumulating magical power is rapidly growing.
『That’s right. But… you’re wrong. To be precise, that was just a “side benefit”.』
『To be accurate, you―the “Hero Cadias”―were an experimental sample for Jibru.』
Léna-Lloyd had said it.
That heroes were beings granted power by the Stellar Vein to defeat the Demon King.
But then, who granted it?
Obviously, it was Jibru.
Five hundred years ago, Jibru had been trying to figure out what to do about the traitor Agil.
That’s when she came up with a certain experiment.
Granting the Stellar Vein’s power… no, that wasn’t it.
What she carried out was an experiment in “soul reincarnation enhancement” using the Stellar Vein.
Taking a soul that had already died and mixing it with the Stellar Vein’s magical power, then implanting it into a specific target.
The target implanted with it would gain the knowledge, experience, and tremendous power of the dead soul.
Aside from exceptions like Ouronus and Rasetsu, the quickest way to strengthen a body is with magical power, and the quickest way to strengthen a soul is with another soul.
The Hero Cadias was an experimental subject for this.
Jibru found a suitable candidate, arbitrarily granted him power and a soul, and observed the results.
And the experiment succeeded.
Cadias, who had been a mere villager, gained explosive power and transformed into the hero.
Then Jibru subtly guided Cadias, had him gather companions, and succeeded in defeating Agil and the Demon King’s army then sealing them away.
With the enemy gone and valuable data obtained, it must have been a smashing success for her.
And then, the real test came for Jibru.
『Jibru’s reason for doing such a thing. It was to save her stillborn child. For that purpose, she created you… the hero. To resurrect her child and grant it life once more in this world.』
And the experiment―no, the “reincarnation” succeeded.
The soul of Jibru’s child that died and was preserved.
It was given the hero’s magical power, knowledge, and experience, and further coated with the surface of another soul, allowing Jibru’s stillborn child to be reborn into this world once more.
That was the earth dragon soul―in other words, “me”.
And the empty shell that was the hero’s soul gained my former fleshly body, achieving reincarnation.
This was the truth of “my” birth.
The hero’s truth.
That’s why “I” am loved by Jibru.
And that’s why―I am also the one Jibru opposes the most.
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