So, I immediately send a thought transmission to Elibel.
Come on, Elipedia!
Help me out!
I send the thought transmission again.
…Still no response.
No, I don’t even get the sense that the thought transmission is reaching her.
Even if Elibel can’t use magic, the dungeon – or rather Gijie acting as an intermediary – should be delivering my message to her…
The functions of most of the dungeon in this area have been destroyed, but the bare minimum like teleporting out and communication should still be working fine.
That’s when I notice something off.
Some kind of barrier has been erected over the entire Ford Desert.
…Could this be the cause? Yeah, probably.
But who in the world― of course, it has to be the Emperor Beast Agil.
『Damn! Using a barrier to obstruct our communication, what a sneaky tactic!』
Well, it makes sense he would easily anticipate us trying to coordinate with the dungeon.
In other words, he simply outmaneuvered us.
―――In reality, it was meant as a precaution to avoid destroying the continent in the war, but of course I don’t know that.
『Getting outside the barrier…impossible. The desert itself is so huge, and I doubt Agil plans to let me escape that far… 』
What should I do?
That moment of contemplation was a fatal mistake.
「Having the leisure to think about other things in the midst of battle?」
Before I knew it, the massive antlers growing from the sides of the deer’s head were right in front of me.
I couldn’t get my defense up in time.
A dull impact. Then searing pain.
The blow sends me tumbling through the sand―and then everything goes black.
『What is that guy doing….』
I look over at my partner rolling in the sand and sigh.
In the midst of this mortal combat, there’s not a shred of tension in him.
From the look of it, he was probably thinking about something else and got caught off guard.
It’s plain as day to me.
After all, he’s “me.”
I narrowly avoid one of Agil’s approaching heads.
But the attack doesn’t end there.
The lion-like head bristles its mane and shoots out needles.
『―――Tch! Lightning Formation Wall!』
The power of lightning gained by devouring Cadias.
I unleash it, creating a wall of lightning before me.
All the countless needles Agil fired are incinerated.
「Daydreaming shows how relaxed you are, Cadias!」
『Don’t call me by that name! I’m Earth, not Cadias!』
「What’s the difference? You, Cadias, and I are all beings used by her!」
The lion head roars.
A “Roar” – destructive soundwaves that shake the atmosphere.
Crap! The roar is disturbing my magical power…!
My covering of electrical armor is being stripped away.
This is bad, if he presses the attack now―――
But Agil stops his attack and looks at me.
「It’s not too late. Won’t you join me? If you do, I swear I won’t lay a hand on your dungeon.」
『A transparent lie. If you really thought that, why didn’t you say so from the start? Join forces with us? Hah, as if you had any intention like that.』
「I see. Then die.」
I counter with my own roar.
But Agil’s power is clearly superior.
I’m being overpowered…!
I’m blasted back.
Rolling across the ground.
「You don’t understand, do you? Even though you’re her son― you should be able to comprehend our feelings…」
The lion head closes in.
「Sacrificing her subordinates’ lives to preserve the soul of her dead son」
Armamentization: Speed Form!
Somehow I manage to dodge in that instant.
More rain of needles from his mane.
Unfurl my defenses― gah, too slow!
「Involving all the living creatures on the surface in calamity in order to revive that son」
Agil’s fierce assault continues.
Not just the lion head.
Another head approaches. A horse-like one.
With a shriek, it fires bullets of air from its nostrils.
「And even that son she loves, she intends to use him from here on.」
The blows land directly.
My armored skin peels away.
I feel like I’m about to lose consciousness.
But I endure.
I grit my teeth and bear the pain.
「Why do you protect such a being? What possible benefit is there for you? She is… she is the evil of this world! Both her and the Stellar Vein Dungeon! She doesn’t care one bit about the creatures living on the surface!」
『Haa…haa… You sure do talk a lot when I just listen, Agil. That cold, stoic mask of yours is cracking, huh?』
「My long-held desire is right within reach. It’s only natural I’d get emotional, especially in front of you.」
The multiple eyes staring at me say this.
No, to be precise, they’re not looking at me.
They’re looking at the “Soul of Cadias” inside me.
「Five hundred years ago… I was sealed away by you… by the hero and his companions. But strangely, I held no hatred toward you. You were fighting purely for the sake of the humans living on this continent. Your determination moved even me, your enemy…」
However, Agil continues.
「That’s why your end was so hard to accept. Everything taken from you, your power returned to the Stellar Vein, your soul and body, everything stolen away and erased from this world. What I felt was rage. Endless rage toward her for betraying us, making us fight, taking everything away…!」
Passion distorts Agil’s face.
He’s barely holding it in, gritting his teeth to swallow down the emotion.
「Let me ask you again! Why do you protect her!? Knowing everything, why do you stand against me!? What drives you to keep fighting!?」
The attack stops.
He must be waiting to hear my answer.
Come to think of it, why am I desperately fighting like this?
Because I was attacked?
Because the dungeon was assaulted?
Well yeah, there’s that.
And I can understand Agil’s circumstances too.
Originally Agil was the only outsider among the subordinates of the Stellar Vein.
Born and raised on the surface, a foreign being taken in by the Stellar Vein.
So he likely felt their betrayal even more strongly than the others.
A thousand years ago, Jibru did just that.
That’s why he left the Stellar Vein, built up the Demon King’s Army, and tried to oppose her.
Even after being sealed, those feelings remained.
I know why he’s trying to destroy us.
And that destroying Jibru and the Stellar Vein isn’t enough.
That’s why he’s attacking us now.
I can comprehend it.
But that doesn’t matter to me right now.
Try actually being the one attacked and see how you feel!
“I see, is that so?” As if I could just accept that.
But I doubt such reasons would satisfy him.
Most of all, Agil sees through me.
That I have reasons for fighting beyond self-defense.
He wants to know what those are.
Even knowing everything, he wants to know why I defend Jibru.
Well… there’s really only one reason for that.
Or rather, how can you not realize it?
Oh I see, it’s so obvious you don’t even notice.
Why I protect Jibru.
Agil waits for my answer.
So I tell him.
『It’s because I’m―Jibru’s child.』
Agil’s expression goes blank.
He doesn’t understand. His face says as much.
『Huh? Is it really that hard to grasp?』
It’s normal, isn’t it?
She’s my mother.
I’m her child.
We’re parent and child.
It’s such an obvious, clichéd, simple, normal reason.
That’s the only reason I fight.
「I don’t…understand. Familial emotions with her? There’s no way she has such things. Surely you comprehend her objectives? Yet you spout such nonsense?」
『I see, so you don’t get it. Then I’ll explain it to you, Agil.』
I once again don my armor of lightning.
『When a kid does something bad, the parent scolds them and sets them right. Tells them they shouldn’t do that.』
Swing my lightning claws.
『When the kid does something good, the parent praises them. Tells them “Amazing, good job.” Pats their head, holds their hand, takes joy in it like it was their own accomplishment.』
Unleash a breath of lightning spears.
『There’s no calculative emotions or self-interest there.
Then shouldn’t the opposite be the same?』
『When the parent does something wrong, it’s the child’s role to correct them and set them straight. It’s not a one-way relationship. The arrows point both ways – that’s what makes it parent and child. So―――』
Without breaking eye contact.
『―――stopping Jibru isn’t your role. It’s my…my duty as her child.』
『If you try to interfere with that, I won’t hold back. Don’t butt into someone else’s family quarrel!』
I unleash my power.
Fire a breath attack.
But Agil narrowly avoids it at the last moment.
The breath flies far back and explodes.
「I see, so that’s your reason for fighting… I understand now.」
「But your mother has involved too many outsiders. To you it may seem like a family quarrel, but to those of us caught up in it, sitting by silently would be beyond foolish, don’t you think?」
『Well, you have a point…』
『That’s why I have no intention of stopping. I’ll kill you, kill Jibru, and take the Stellar Vein for myself.」
『I see… Of course you’ll try.』
Even understanding each other, we won’t back down.
Both Agil and I are long past our limits.
「Then what will you do? Your long-awaited partner lies defeated over there. Léna’s got her hands full with just one head. Do you have some way to overturn this hopeless situation?」
Agil unleashes his power again.
An intense, electrifying pressure.
The overwhelming difference in strength, a hopeless battle― that’s what he’s thinking, no doubt.
『Oh, of course I do.』
I’m about to overturn all that.
「What did you say…?」
Because the preparations are complete now.
From the moment my partner was sent here.
『Let me explain something, Agil. Dungeons have tactics like this too, you know?』
The instant I say that ― Thump.
The earth pulses.
The beats grow faster and faster.
The ground rumbles.
The continent shakes.
「W-what’s this shaking…? What’s happening?」
Agil heightens his vigilance.
But it’s too late.
In response to his question,
「「「「―――Yes, understood, dad.」」」」
I hear Tsumugi’s voice ring out from all directions.
And in the next moment, black miasma spews out from the areas where the mid-layer dungeons were located.
「This is…could it be!?」
Looks like you’ve realized.
『But it’s not over yet.』
This black miasma isn’t limited to the Ford Desert.
It’s across the entire continent.
In Yuguru Great Forest.
In Eld Desert.
In Add Mountain Range.
In Borhelic Kingdom.
In Holy Kingdom of Harshalud.
In Hà Giang Empire.
On the entire continent, this black miasma is spreading.
『Our dungeons established entrances in the east, west, south, and north of the continent.』
And the Fáfnir that Tsumugi connected for us lies close to the continent’s center.
You could say our dungeons have taken root throughout the continent.
And Tsumugi’s ability is [Dungeon Alteration].
Using an evolution magic stone, she evolved into the Divine Calamity monster “Dream Mist”, enhancing her powers even further.
So what would happen if she used that power to its fullest?
Releasing an Earth Dragon with its colossal magical power into the surface, and using it as a medium to invoke [Dungeon Alteration] across the continent – what phenomenons would occur?
And with Elibel and Gijie performing intricate calculations to maximize the range and power of the effect – what would be the result?
This is the―answer.
Countless magic circles appear across the Ford Desert.
It doesn’t matter that Agil has enveloped the desert in a barrier.
Because our range stretches far wider, covering the entire continent.
『Let me teach you, Agil―』
Gigantic golems appear.
The terrain, everything begins transforming.
I can see Agil swallow his breath.
That’s right, this is the enhanced version of [Dungeon Alteration Magic]. The ultimate version.
The true power of Dream Mist Joker, lauded as a monster of the Divine Calamity, and now a guardian of the depths.
Its name is―Great Invasion.
The dungeon expands, spreads, consumes, trampling everything – God King-class magic.
『From this moment, this place, this continent is―――』
Spreading my arms wide, I proclaim loudly.
『―――my belly (my dungeon)!』
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