Ann is dumbfounded by Mýrus’ statement, but soon comes to her senses.
『W-what do you mean this is the Stellar Vein Dungeon?!』
Mýrus had said earlier that this is a place where only souls can enter.
So is the Stellar Vein Dungeon different from a normal dungeon?
Do Jibru and Kshathra know about this place?
Where is the entrance to the Stellar Vein Dungeon located in the Holy Land?
Questions and confusion snowball for Ann as she comprehends less and less.
『Please calm down. I will explain everything in order』
Ann wonders who she thinks caused all this, but her comforting words help settle her nerves.
Sensing her increased composure, Mýrus resumes her explanation.
『To be more accurate, my previous statement was somewhat misleading. To be precise, this place is the ‘innermost part’ of the Stellar Vein Dungeon.』
『Yes. Dungeons exist to protect something in the first place.
So then―――what do you think the ‘Stellar Vein’ dungeon is protecting?』
Ann is silent, unsure how to respond.
『It protects this space. Or more precisely, first this space was created, and the Stellar Vein Dungeon was constructed around it to safeguard this place as the core of this planet.』
Ann gasps, shocked once again beyond measure.
『Ann, please hold out your hand』
Confused, Ann reflexively extends her hand.
As Mýrus grasps it, her warm magical power flows into Ann’s soul.
『What exactly are you doing?』
『I’m protecting you. No matter how deeply connected you are to me, in your current state if you directly looked upon ‘that,’ your soul would shatter.』
Ann briefly recalls the multitude of picture frames that had appeared earlier, but apparently she is referring to something else entirely.
Still firmly holding her hand, Mýrus points with her other hand to the empty space.
『Look over there, please.』
Ann gazes in the direction she indicates.
Suddenly, something that was not there before materializes.
『――――?! What on earth is that thing?!』
Ann yelps, her face distorting in renewed shock.
To put it simply in one phrase―――it is an enormous mummified dragon.
Larger than the Death Dragon Ouronus she had seen in the imperial capital, larger even than the Emperor Beast Agil she witnessed in the Ford Desert. This desiccated colossal dragon floats motionlessly in the void.
『Something so gigantic…when did it appear…?』
『When did it show up, you ask? It has been floating there the entire time.』
『Huh? But how could I miss something so huge…?』
Yet somehow she failed to notice it at all.
Could some kind of concealment magic have been placed on it?
Sensing Ann’s unspoken query, Mýrus shakes her head.
『No, your soul instinctively refused to acknowledge its existence in your field of vision. As I said, the moment you see that your soul would be crushed – so your instincts automatically blocked out any information about it.』
Ann mutters in disbelief at this explanation.
『I can’t believe it…just what exactly is that thing?』
『It is the one and only ‘object’ that exists in this soul realm. The nucleus of this planet…the first dragon who created this world. It has no name, so we simply call it the primordial dragon – the True Dragon.』
『The True Dragon…』
The True Dragon.
Though somewhat pretentious in name, the magical power emanating from that corpse certainly surpasses any magical creature I’ve encountered, Ann has to admit.
『We don’t know where it came from or how it was born. But with its immense power, this dragon created this planet, shaped this world, and brought forth life and living beings』
Her grip on Ann’s hand tightens, almost as if she fears something.
『And when the planet’s growth reached a certain point, the True Dragon voluntarily halted its own functions and broke down its physical form, assimilating with this planet』
『Yes. Whether it had exhausted its power or intended to do so from the beginning…we don’t know. But with the True Dragon assimilated into it, the planet became even more active – the planet overflowed with flora, transforming into a paradise brimming with all manners of creatures.』
『However, that was not the end of things.』
Mýrus’s gaze lingers on the desiccated corpse of the primordial dragon floating in the void.
『The physical body of the True Dragon, supposedly assimilated into the planet, slowly, slowly, over an unfathomably lengthy period of time…regained its original form. And its resurrected body reemerged here at the core of this planet.』
But there is more, she adds.
『The revived dragon corpse housed no soul – it remained a withered mummy-like husk. Still, even in death, that carcass possessed an astronomical concentration of magical power – enough to shred the soul of any who dared to behold it directly.
And the magical energy spilled from the corpse circulates through the planet, invigorating the entire planet even further. An energizing force benefitting all living things…in time, these currents of power became known as holy power – the ‘Stellar Veins’.』
Hearing this, Ann’s expression clouds over.
Another picture frame materializes before them, depicting massive quantities of magical energy erupting from the ground, so dense it is visible to the eye.
『What is this?』
『As you can see, it’s a ‘maelstrom of magical power.’ The Stellar Veins periodically accumulate and then discharge built up energy into the planet. You could liken it to a pressure release or heat dissipation of sorts…
Bathed in this magical tide, powerful beings emerge upon the surface – those called disaster and calamity class monsters nowadays.』
With a snap of her fingers, Mýrus changes the scene.
Giant roaming lions, deer, eagles, snakes and other titanic monsters now dominate the images.
『These are the creatures who gained the Stellar Veins’. But it’s not only monsters – humans, plants, all living things benefit from the Stellar Veins as well.』
Looking closely, Ann spots humans, vegetation and fish scattered among the footage too.
Colossal trees with roots embedded throughout entire mountain ranges, sea serpents mighty enough to summon tsunamis with a single thrash…
And humans also blessed with formidable strength march armies and clash against monsters similarly empowered.
『Then those gifted with such might seek even greater power – probing at the very holes where these magical tides emerge…the Stellar Veins themselves.』
The scene shifts again, displaying groups of monsters and humans attempting to penetrate the glowing openings dotting the land, only to be obliterated the next instant by tremendous blasts from within.
『T-those breaths just now…could it be…?』
Ann glances at Mýrus for confirmation.
『Yes…while the Stellar Veins and the True Dragon’s corpse will channel magical energy outward, they absolutely forbid any entry from outside. Though without soul or conscious will, defensive functions are ingrained to safeguard the primordial dragon’s remains at the planet’s core. Like an intricate maze barring access, it spawned guardians to patrol those paths as well.』
Now you must understand, Mýrus affirms.
『That is the ‘Stellar Vein Dungeon’ and its denizens – created specifically to protect the stellar interior, this place. In other words, we were manifested for that purpose.』
Another picture frame materializes, this time revealing a single earth dragon.
『…And this is?』
『The first guardian born to shield the Stellar Veins and True Dragon』
Ann scrutinizes the projected images of the earth dragon.
Its majestic, beautiful form reminds her of her own master, Earth.
That’s why she feels something is off.
『This is an earth dragon but…it’s not Jibru, right? It’s different.』
『Very perceptive. Yes, this is not Jibru. He is the one and only guardian born from the True Dragon – the first earth dragon. His name…is Zepar』
The name tugs at Ann’s memory.
But more than that, something about Mýrus’s wording bothers her.
『What do you mean by ‘one and only’?』
『Exactly as stated – of all the denizens of the Stellar Veins and True Dragon, he alone can be considered a true guardian』
Her explanation only furthers Ann’s skepticism.
『But doesn’t that contradict things? I understand dungeons spawn creatures. The principles make sense to me. Though on a different scale, if you replace the primordial dragon’s corpse with a ‘dungeon core,’ then yes, I can accept the Stellar Vein Dungeon as part of its ‘defense mechanisms’ gave rise to guardians of the Stellar Veins.
Yet now you claim only he was created? Didn’t you say you and Jibru were also born in the Stellar Veins and have safeguarded them all this time?』
She briefly wonders if he had originated from the surface, but no – the Stellar Vein Dungeon bars any external interference. There would be no monsters entering from outside.
So what does she mean?
『You’re right. We were ‘born’ in the Stellar Veins and have protected them until now. No doubt about it』
Ann cuts off as realization dawns on her.
There is a way, she realizes.
A method for dungeons – for dungeon cores – to bolster their ranks without personally spawning new beings.
A method Ann has witnessed time and again at her closest side.
『Could it be…?』
『Yes, we were ‘created.’ By the first earth dragon, the first Divine Catastrophe Dragon King Zepar and his ‘Alchemy’』
The process her own master, Earth, employs to fashion new allies.
In this way, Una, Dos, Tres, Rasetsu and more came into being.
Not only the humanoid ones – animal and monster forms like Gonzo too.
All manner of companions, molded through that power.
The forbidden power to generate life itself.
In the distant past, such feats had been accomplished through the Stellar Veins as well.
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