At the time when Earth, the Earth Dragon, was facing Heleb, Prime Minister Eclair found himself in an unfamiliar forest.
「Where is this place? I was supposed to be in the Eld Desert…」
Fog enveloped the surroundings, making it difficult to discern the scenery.
How did I get here?
Eclair tried to recall the recent events.
A vortex of light suddenly appeared in the dungeon, and the rear troops reported being attacked by a mysterious duo.
That’s all he remembered.
However, immediately afterward, the surroundings suddenly brightened.
When the startled Eclair looked down, he saw the magic circle used for teleportation glowing brightly…
「This place is called the ‘Equal Forest,’ milord.」
Just as he began to remember, a voice came from behind unexpectedly.
He turned around.
There stood Rias, a woman who’s supposedly to be his secretary.
「Rias? What’s going on? What about the military? What happened to the battle?」
No, more importantly, why was she in a place like this?
He had entrusted her with the affairs of the royal capital during the expedition.
Rias smiled and answered his questions.
「Well, nothing much. The national army retreated from the Eld Desert a long time ago.」
「The surviving soldiers are few. Most of them died in that ‘vortex of light.’ Even the units on the surface suffered significant casualties from the attacks by that duo and Accurate Crow. I wonder how many soldiers managed to survive unscatched.
Well, it seems Wald and Beldi survived. It’s hard to believe that they were able to survive being at the center of the vortex. It appears that the ‘Dragon Slayer’ and ‘World Piercer’ still have a role to play.」
Rias laughed, a sinister tone creeping into her voice.
Seeing that, Eclair shuddered.
It was not the expression of Rias he knew.
Who is this… person?
「…Who are you?」
Eclair blurted out without thinking.
But Rias placed a hand over her mouth and chuckled softly.
「You’re so cruel, milord. Have you forgotten about me already? It’s me, Rias, remember? Rias Aurora, your beloved secretary.」
「Stop playing around!」
Frustrated, Eclair snapped, but Rias continued to chuckle.
「Anyway, Lord Eclair, thank you for your efforts in defeating this disaster-designated species. You really moved just as I wanted you to. Including the failure of the expedition, of course.」
「What…! What do you mean!?」
「Didn’t you find it strange from the beginning? Even if a designated disaster species appeared, it was an outrageous move for the king to approve sending the army to the Eld Desert.
The timing of Repel Magic Stone supply was too perfect.
The fact that there was a magic tool capable of performing a super-large-scale teleportation technique in the magic city.
The fact that the soldiers felt no fear in the Eld Desert and acted as if nothing was amiss.
The fact that you didn’t question any of it.
Everything was full of holes, contradictions, and yet, everything worked too conveniently in your favor.」
「What are you saying?」
Eclair soon regained his composure.
Indeed, upon reflection, there were many oddities.
How easily the expedition request was approved, the lack of disturbance among the soldiers and adventurers upon reaching the Eld Desert, there were many strange points.
「If it was your usual self, you might have noticed these contradictions. But it seems like your mind has been worn out from daily financial adjustments due to the depletion of magic stones.」
Rias said, smiling slyly.
「Thank you very much, Lord Eclair. It’s truly fortunate that you’re an arrogant young man. You fell so easily into my ‘guidance’… Well, in the end, that old demon noticed and intervened…」
Rias spoke with a resentful tone only in the last part.
All the actions he had taken so far, all the unease they caused, came back to him one by one.
It was something he couldn’t believe, couldn’t accept.
No, he refused to believe it.
「…What are you saying? Guiding me… for what purpose?」
「Hmm? My purpose? Well… alright, I’ll tell you.」
Rias smiled sweetly as she revealed.
「My purpose is to complete the ‘Dungeon.’」
「To be precise, to create an even ‘stronger Dungeon.’ The Dungeon created in the Eld Desert was quite well-made, but it had a flaw that it could be easily conquered if sacred weapons like Leviathan, Tyrfing, and Gram were used.」
That’s why, Rias explained.
「To raise it into a more powerful Dungeon, I had you all work hard. With this incident, that Dungeon will surely be reborn into a stronger, magnificent Dungeon. Perhaps even surpassing the ‘Eight Great Dungeons’ in greatness…!」
Rias spoke with an ecstatic expression.
However, Eclair couldn’t understand the meaning behind her words at all.
He only felt a strange chill running down his spine.
「What do you mean? Strengthening the Dungeon? Nurturing it?… What are you talking about?」
「Oh, you don’t have to understand. There’s no need for you to comprehend. The only thing I want you to understand is that you… no, the Borhelic Kingdom is doomed.」
「The depletion of the vital industry, the magic stones, the extensive damage caused by reckless subjugations, the compensations to other countries. This kingdom is now nothing more than a pizza on the table now.」
Speaking with delight as if it amused her.
「Well, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying cutting up a tasteless pizza without any toppings. Hehe, the kingdom will descend into chaos. I feel relieved. The more I use this ‘guidance’ technique, the more exhausted I become. It ruins my skin as well」
In contrast to Rias, Eclair clenched his fist.
「It’s not over yet! There’s still hope! If we can just get the production of magic stones at the Eld Mine back on track…」
「Oh, that’s also impossible. It seems like someone somewhere tampered the ‘Stellar Vein.’ Magic stones can no longer be produced from the Eld Mine. Also, I’ll be taking this as part of my retirement package.」
Rias said, revealing the staff that Eclair had been holding.
When did she get hold of it?
It was the staff Eclair had used for the large-scale teleportation spell during this expedition.
It was called the 『Staff of Teleportation,』 a masterpiece of magic city technology.
「The divine staff ‘Caduceus.’ That’s the true name of this staff. I’ll be ‘retrieving’ this staff too. The researchers of the magical city claimed it as their research achievement, but in reality, they only unraveled the effects of this staff by chance. It’s quite amusing, isn’t it?」
「In short, that country is doomed no matter how hard they struggle. Why not seek asylum in the magic city while you still can?」
Rias suggested, but her words didn’t reach Eclair’s ears.
He simply stared at her in astonishment.
「…Who are you? No, what are you?」
「Hmm, if I had to say, I’m a ‘non-human.’ So, what will you do, Prime Minister? If you choose to seek asylum, I’ll gladly assist you. I’ve been greatly indebted to you after all. If possible, I don’t want you to die too.」
Rias replied, extending her hand towards Eclair.
「Now, Lord Eclair, let’s abandon this country and seek asylum quickly. You are too valuable to die. Come, take my hand.」
However, Eclair swatted her hand away, surprising Rias. She didn’t expect to be rejected. For a brief moment, her eyes, which had been filled with laughter until then, narrowed with a tinge of disappointment.
「Seek asylum? I will never do so! Return me to the kingdom immediately! There’s still time to save the country! There must be a way――――」
Before he could finish, Rias had severed his head.
In her right hand, which Eclair had swatted away, now held a sword.
「…What a shame, milord. If only you had obediently chosen to seek asylum, you would have survived…」
Rias mournfully gazed at Eclair’s rolling head.
「If you were to return to that country, you would have used various means at the cost of your own life to sustain its existence. But that won’t do… that country is destined to perish.」
The staff she held emitted a radiant light, the light of teleportation.
「Goodbye, Lord Eclair.」
In an instant, a flash of brilliance.
The next moment, Rias had vanished.
Immediately after, a pack of magical hounds sniffed the scent of blood and descended upon the scene.
The body of the once-renowned Prime Minister was devoured in an instant.
Meanwhile, in a certain cave―――――
「Ugh… Where am I?」
Wald woke up.
「This place… I remember… I was fighting that Earth Dragon… Guh.」
He then realized his situation.
Both of his arms were missing, and his entire body was covered in lacerations, tightly wrapped in bandages.
「Finally awake, you lazy bum,」a voice called out.
Wald looked towards the source of the voice.
It was Beldi.
She had bandages wrapped around her eye patch.
Upon closer inspection, severe burn marks could be seen in some places.
「You’ve been sleeping for nearly a week? I honestly thought you might just keep sleeping and die,」she said, adding, 「Well, you probably wouldn’t die even if you did.」
Did she save him?
As if understanding his question, Beldi spoke up.
「Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat. I lost consciousness during the battle with that guy, and when I woke up, I was here. I regained consciousness before you did. Let’s talk about what happened after that fight when that person returns.」
Beldi’s face, though battered, had a somewhat refreshed expression.
「You seem oddly refreshed… What happened?」
Beldi raggedly scratches her hair.
「It’s nothing, really… I just met an old acquaintance. It just brought back some memories, that’s all.」
「I see,」Wald replied.
I won’t ask what happened.
It’s not particularly important to Wald.
A moment of silence passed.
Amidst the crackling sound of the bonfire, Beldi was the one to break the silence.
「Wald…. Once my wounds have healed, I plan to gather strength for a while.」
「Are you going to train?」Wald asked.
「Yeah, I’ll train again. And then, I’ll build my strength and challenge that dungeon head-on… Not for revenge, but as an adventurer. I will conquer that dungeon and show them,」Beldi declared.
Saying that, Beldi looked at her own hands.
「She… my little sister,Paldi, admired me as an adventurer. It made me happy. But I couldn’t be honest about it… So, I’ll live as an adventurer until the end. Otherwise, I’ll disappoint my her.」
Gripping her hand tightly, Beldi renewed her determination.
「Hmm… Well, do as you please. But more importantly… Who was the person who saved us?… I have a really bad feeling about it,」
Wald said, as he started sweating nervously.
「It was me.」
a voice replied.
Wald looked towards the source of the voice.
There stood an elderly man with horns.
He couldn’t forget that person…
「It’s been a while, you foolish disciple. Seems like you’ve become quite dull. I’m relieved, though.」
The old man said with a smile.
Wald froze at that smile.
「It- It’s been a while, Master…」
「Yeah, you idiot disciple. For now, use ‘Dragon Soul Consumption’ and quickly heal those wounds,」
「Yes… Yes, sir.」
Following the orders, Wald used ‘Dragon Soul Consumption’ to regenerate his lost arms and heal the wounds all over his body.
「Alright, it’s healed. Ah, what a relief. Looks like you still have some stock left.」the master said cheerfully.
Wald didn’t say anything.
But in the next moment, he tried to escape.
「You won’t get away… You damn brat!!!」
In an instant, the master circled around and delivered a powerful punch to Wald’s head, causing him to slump to the ground.
The impact of the punch was tremendous, and Wald sank into the ground in an instant.
And the pursuit continued.
「Who gave you permission?! To use! The Dungeon Destruction Ability! Of the! Sacred Sword?! You damn! Idiot! Fool! Dolt! Worthless! Disciple!」
The old man’s punch landed on Wald with each shout.
For each blow, there was a sickening sound of flesh tearing, bones breaking, eyeballs popping out, and organs rupturing. Wald, who was once a person, had turned into nothing more than a mass of flesh.
Meanwhile, Beldi was preparing a meal while gazing in the direction of the day after tomorrow.
「I almost let you die there. Come on, heal yourself with ‘Dragon Soul Consumption.’」
The old man casually said, wiping the blood off his fists with a cloth.
Wald thought to himself that it was ridiculous for the old man to say that after what he had done, but he had no choice but to heal, as he would really die otherwise.
「Alright, let’s continue! Raaaahhh!」
And in the next moment, he was struck again.
In the end, Wald endured the old man’s punches until he exhausted his stock of Dragon Souls.
「…Master, wouldn’t it be better to stop now?」
Beldi intervened, having finished preparing the meal.
Wald glared resentfully at Beldi, thinking that she should have stopped him earlier, but she ignored his gaze.
「Well, if you say so. Then I’ll stop after one more punch.」
The old man said and delivered a powerful blow to Wald’s cheek.
Several of Wald’s teeth flew out, and he was impaled on the ceiling of the cave, spinning like a drill.
The appearance is like a delightful contemporary art.
His twitching movements indicated that he was probably still alive.
「Now then, Master. You said you would tell us when Wald wakes up, didn’t you?」
Beldi said, looking at the old man.
「Why were you there in the first place, Master? I thought you were conquering one of the Eight Great Dungeons, ‘Fáfnir’?」Beldi asked as she poured soup-like substance into bowls.
Fáfnir, one of the Eight Great Dungeons, appeared approximately four hundred years ago and is believed to be the most actively conquered dungeon among them. The reason is simple: Fáfnir contains a large number of treasure chests and magic stones. Adventurers flock to Fáfnir because of the significantly higher quantity of treasures compared to normal dungeons. It is also known for having high-level monsters and a high death rate among adventurers.
「Oh, that’s correct. But… things has become a bit complicated.」the old man said, sipping the soup with a wooden spoon while looking at Beldi.
「A ‘Dungeon Defiler’ appeared in Fáfnir,」he continued.
「What did you say?!」
Beldi’s one remaining eye widened in shock.
「Thanks to that, our conquest has been ruined. Currently, the guilds near Fáfnir have issued requests to exterminate the Dungeon Defiler, but the results have not been favorable… So, here’s the thing,」 the old man said, looking at both of them.
By the way, Wald had descended from the ceiling and was drinking the soup. He had cooled it considerably to soothe his missing teeth.
「You two can cooperate with me as part of your training. If the ‘Dungeon Defiler’ that can interfere with the Eight Great Dungeons is involved, it is undoubtedly at least a ‘Disaster-class,’ and it might even become a ‘Calamity-class’ if we’re not careful. I can’t handle it alone,」the old man explained, finishing his soup.
「As sparring partners for your training, it’s not a bad idea, don’t you agree?」
The old man looked at both of them.
Wald was the first to speak up.
「Hmm, well, what about you, Beldi?」
He looked at her as he asked the question.
「I swore to become stronger. There’s no reason for me to refuse.」
「Right, as long as I can fight a strong opponent, it’s not a problem. Besides, it’ll be my first time facing a Dungeon Defiler… I’m looking forward to it.」
But before that, Wald spoke up.
「Master, can we stop by Eclair’s place first? I fainted, and I don’t know what happened afterward. What about the military and everything?」
As soon as he said that, the expressions on both their faces darkened.
「Oh, right… We got the order mixed up. You idiotic disciple, I’ll tell you what happened after that. Including the current situation in the Borhelic Kingdom,」
the old man said and began to recount what happened to the military and the country after the extermination.
After hearing everything, Wald looked at the two of them as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
「What do you mean Eclair is dead? And… we are wanted criminals, now?」
Written on the parchment paper that Wald held in his hand was a concise statement:
Wald Nored and Beldi Raven.
The aforementioned individuals are considered to be guilty of high treason against the state and are classified as first-class wanted criminals.
Wald’s hand trembled as he read it.
It was like a slap in the face.
The Kingdom had placed the entire responsibility for this incident on the two person who were at the center of the extermination operation.
Moreover, the Kingdom itself was going to be divided and ruled by various countries in the future.
「In other words,」
The old man spoke up at that moment.
「Your place of refuge no longer exists in this country.」
The Dragon Slayer family, one of the three major noble families that had existed for over two hundred years. Even though it was just a figurehead, Wald was the current head of the family, and he was also a great hero in the Kingdom, one of the only three S-Rank adventurers. Yet, they were easily discarded.
There was only one person Wald knew who could come up with such a foolish plan.
「Heh… Lady Reynolds, the witch… she did it, huh? That’s something… It’s not something I can say as a matter of principle, but the three major noble families of Borhellic have fallen, huh…」
While trembling, Wald laughed.
A few days later, Wald and Beldi left the country.
By the way, here’s a scene featuring Beldi after that:
Beldi「…So, Master, I want to become stronger.」
Master「Indeed… Beldi, it’s difficult for me to say this when you’re so eager…」
Beldi「What is it?」
Master「That dungeon, it already got destroyed.」
Master「Hey, where do you think you’re going, Beldi! You still need to rest…! Come on, stay still!」
It seems there was such an exchange, or maybe not.