He yearned for a “self”.
From the moment he was born in this dungeon, he wanted an unshakable “self” or “authenticity” that was no one and nothing else.
But for him, a mist monster who led astray, confused, and misguided, that desire greatly deviated from his own “essence”. It was an act of self-harm that made him painfully aware of his “false” self for wanting such a thing.
Even so, that feeling grew larger within him day after day.
The yearning only increased, never satisfied.
Just the repetitive days of dutifully repelling intruders and protecting the dungeon.
His will was irrelevant in this – he simply did as he was told, day after day.
This made him no different than a tool.
He had no meaning on his own. He could easily be replaced by anyone or anything else.
Could this really be called living?
Could he really say he was “authentic”?
He despaired and resented.
The labyrinth that created him, the siblings who looked down on his powerlessness, and most of all – his helpless self who could say nothing back.
He hated everything around him.
The one who reached out to him then was a woman.
She gave him a name, gave him a reason for being.
He was overjoyed.
He never thought being needed by someone could make him so happy.
From then on, his life began to change.
He grew close with the black dragon who had brought her to this dungeon, and with the new slime who had wandered in. He made friends. Conversations were born. He began to laugh more.
He was grateful to her.
Of course, he realized her kindness was backed by ulterior motives.
What she sought was his power and abilities, not him as an individual.
Her interest was fixed on the black dragon at his side, not him.
Even so, it was enough.
Aware of this, he continued to remain by her side.
The yearning only increased, but it was satisfied.
Thanks to her, he had obtained the unshakable “self” he desired.
Even if the original feeling began from falsehood, it had become his own authentic “self”.
And so – Dream Mist, First Guardian of the Stellar Veins, Joker, would deceive the world and play the fool.
All for the sake of the one woman he revered―――
The battle with the Evil God-class monster “Emperor Beast” Agil had ended, and calm had returned to the dungeon.
…Well, it was still too early to say that, but at least the fighting was over for now.
In the middle layer areas, drawing mannequin-type golems and Ann’s antlings were swiftly carrying out repair work. If this continued, the outer structure would likely return to its original dungeon state within a month or so. The re-preparation of traps and detailed repairs would come after that.
Key followers like Ann and Pururu seemed to be resting in each area, exhausted from the fierce battles.
It had been one battle after another. Though wounds and mana could be restored to some extent with magic stones, the mental fatigue would probably linger. I want them to rest and recover their spirits properly.
Now then, as for me in this situation―――
「Whaaat? You can’t return back?」
Hearing my explanation, Elibel’s mouth falls open.
By the way, we’re currently in Elibel’s research lab.
With the effects of the “Sanctuary Breach” spell having ended, my size returned to normal, so I used a teleportation gate to come to Elibel’s lab.
And for some reason, Baal, Yamu the Celestial Dragon’s son, is sitting on Elibel’s lap.
In his human child form, Baal is only about the size of a first grader, fitting snugly on Elibel’s lap.
Elibel gently strokes Baal’s golden hair, as if licking him all over.
Baal looks quite comfortable, eyes narrowed.
Huh? What? What’s going on here?
Just what happened in the short dozen or so minutes since I arrived?
『Um, Elibel, about that kid on your lap―――』
「It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.」
「Don’t. Worry. About it.」
Nevermind then. Let’s move the conversation along.
Baal seems harmless compared to his father Yamu.
「So what do you mean you can’t return back? Didn’t the effects of Sanctuary Breach wear off properly for you?」（stroke stroke）
The way you’re petting him seems kind of indecent…
Baal’s cheeks are red.
『No, not that, I mean the other me can’t—』
「The other you?」
『Yeah, he can’t undo the possession for some reason.』
In the previous battle, I split my soul and fought alongside my other self.
Using the “Sanctuary Breach” stored in the Vajra that Elibel prepared, I forcefully matured into an adult body. My other self possessed the adult earth dragon golem I had made before, and absorbed the lightning power of Hero Cadias to battle Agil.
But the problem occurred after that.
He can’t change back.
My other self said he couldn’t undo the possession.
『I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.』
「Hmm… I see.」
By the way, my other self isn’t here right now.
He’s waiting in the training grounds.
Unlike me who forcibly enlarged my body with “Sanctuary Breach”, he’s gigantic by default.
He can’t move freely within the dungeon.
Well, we can still converse through thought transmission if anything comes up, so it’s not too inconvenient.
「So in other words, your very “soul” has completely separated, I suppose…」
While petting Baal, Elibel shares her thoughts.
「That old hag said it before, didn’t she? That you have two souls mixed together.」
She did say something like that.
My soul as a human when I was on Earth, and the soul of a dragon, Jibru’s true child.
The merging of those two created my current existence, apparently.
But to be accurate, they weren’t really mixed at all.
I had been covering over the dragon soul, so it just looked like the two were blended. …That nonsense witch.
「…Each person has one soul. Given the contradictory state, this outcome isn’t that strange.」
As she fiddles with the terminal, twirling her hair around her finger, light appears from the teleportation gate and a plain woman – or rather, Léna-Lloyd – steps out.
「Eliiii!! What kind of gossip is spreading for you to summon meeee!?」
And then she tries to do a flying tackle hug towards Elibel, only to get punched into the wall with a horrible cracking sound coming from somewhere around her neck.
Ah, little Baal looks frightened.
「Owww… Eli, if it’s not me this would be a pretty bad injury, you know…」
Cracking her neck noisily, Léna-Lloyd stands up as if nothing had happened.
Yep, she’s casually given up being human alright, this plain witch.
「So, what’s up? Why’d you call me out all of a sudden? I’m pretty busy, you know.」
「What part of you is busy? Right now you’re just a jobless, homeless NEET, aren’t you?」
Léna-Lloyd takes a direct blow!
「…Hey, I’ve got stuff to do, like gathering intel on Agil and collecting leads from a thousand years ago.」
「Uh-huh. So, how does he look from your eyes?」
「Huh, ignoring me!? Eli, I feel like I was saying something pretty important, you know!?」
「I’ve no time to entertain an old hag’s delusions.」（stroke stroke）
「Ugh, fine. So what’s up with Earth over there? Looks like his “soul” split apart or something… Also, why’s Baal here?」
I blink in surprise for a moment.
「…As expected, you can tell just by looking, huh?」
「Well, yeah. Like I said before, my eyes can see “souls”. I understood right when I got here. Earth’s soul color has changed from before. …So yeah, why is Baal here?」
Léna-Lloyd’s expression turns serious, unlike her silly attitude earlier.
「As expected. So is there a way to fix this?」（stroke strpke）
「There is and there isn’t, I guess.」
『That’s quite an ambiguous way to put it…』
「Well, cases like this rarely happen after all. Oh, but Eli might know some similar examples, don’t you think?」
Elibel tilts her head.
「Don’t you remember? That disaster, back when Eli was still alive. That absurdly massive ox monster that appeared on the western coast of the Borhelic Kingdom.」
Reminded of that, Elibel hugs Baal tightly for some reason.
…Is hugging necessary right now?
「Ah, right. I remember. That freakishly huge ox monster on the beach I headed to, wanting to vent my frustration from a failed blind date by slaughtering those arrogant couples. It took ten Soul King-class spells just to damage it a little – left an impression on me.」
…Lots I could poke holes in there, but let’s skip over it for now.
An ox monster, huh…
Come to think of it, Kshathra was a ridiculously large ox monster too.
「Now what was its name again… That’s right―――」
「Ri, Riguld…. is his name.」
Our gazes focus on the voice’s owner.
Feeling our stares on him, the boy shrinks back briefly.
「Eh, Baal, you know about it…? Haa, haa~」（stroke stroke）
「Ah, yes… I heard it from Papa before… hyan!」
As Elibel strokes his back, Baal arches his spine with a shiver.
Yeah, you should probably stop that soon…
「I-It’s rare for Papa to praise someone, so I r-remembered it. Um, he said ‘For a human to defeat that guy, she ain’t half bad.’」
After talking so much, Baal lets out a big breath, seemingly tired.
「Soooo cuuuute! Good job remembering all that, Baal!」（stroke stroke stroke stroke）
「Hyaa, stahp. Elibel, no more. Feels weird… nn…」
Hey, cut that out already, you pervy sage.
I forcibly peel (struggling) Baal off Elibel and set him on my head.
In that moment—
「GRAAAAAH EARTH YOU BASTAAAAAAAAARD!!!」
Crap, Elibel has gone full demon mode. Super scary.
But I gotta ignore it to move the conversation along.
『Wait, what’s going on? How did Yamu know about the monster Elibel defeated when she was alive?』
「Well obviously, they were old buddies. Him knowing makes total sense, right?」
As I desperately peel off Elibel trying to claw her way up my body, I listen to Léna-Lloyd’s explanation.
Hold on a sec, what did she just say?
「The ox monster Eli defeated 200 years ago was an old comrade of Yamu’s. In other words, a follower of the Stellar Vein – ‘Abyss’ Riguld, the former Third Guardian.」
「GRAAAAAH EARTH YOU BASTAAAAAAAAARD!!!」
「Wahhhhh! I’m scared! Elibel scawy!」(zap zap zap)
And oww, that hurts! Elibel, stop!
Don’t peel off my scales!
Baal, stop crying!
You’re making little sparks!
What is this chaotic situation!?
Can I really return to normal…?
The dispersed magical energy in the atmosphere gradually converges.
The previously scattered power slowly takes shape over a long period, bit by bit.
Someone is calling.
Someone is calling out.
Responding to that call, the mist finally takes a single form.
Garish clothing in red and white.
A clownish mask hiding his true face, matching well with the outfit.
The empty eyes visible through the mask look around.
After a while, he slowly clears his throat.
「…Huh? Where is this place?」
Sub29: Hey there! If you enjoy the content and want to stay updated with all the latest, make sure to follow my channel on WhatsApp! Click here to follow
January 2024 Patron: GoatBeards