Sigh… It was all just a fuss over nothing.
We finally relaxed our guard once we confirmed that Wald and the others had left the dungeon.
It really just seemed like they were challenging the dungeon.
I wonder what they came for in the first place.
Elibel and Berg said they would look into it, so I’ll leave that to them.
Ann and the Four Chiefs were busy cleaning up the hastily prepared anti-dragon slaying dungeon.
If left as is, it would affect the other floors in various ways.
Especially the poison-related parts.
The Four Chiefs of the Forest, particularly Su the Snake and Taran the Spider, have a high resistance to poison, so they must be doing well.
Surprisingly, Ann also became resistant to poison.
Well, if we leave it to them, there should be no problem.
For now, I was sleepy, so I went to sleep.
Fade to black.
I slept well and my magic is fully recovered.
And, I molted again.
Lately, I often molt after sleeping when I’m tired.
Is it like that?
Like how children grow well when they play a lot and sleeps well.
Probably the same.
After all, I’ve only been an earth dragon for about two and a half years.
But… I feel like I’m living a very intense life, or rather, dragon life.
Well, maybe I just feel that way because of my dull previous life.
Even though all I want to do is sleep leisurely and laze around, for some reason, it feels like everything around me is getting noisy.
No, I should stop thinking about it.
It must be just my imagination.
Now, let’s eat a magic stone.
I’m hungry because I molted and… huh?
That’s when I noticed the changes in my body.
『…Don’t I seem to be getting lighter in color?』
The color of my skin and scales, which was earthy, seems to have lightened a bit.
It feels like a light brown close to white. Perhaps the expression caramel color fits better.
I didn’t notice it when I molted, but the color changed.
Until now, the color didn’t lighten when I molted.
What happened? Is it a cold?
I think even in Elibel’s records, not just earth dragons, but other dragons didn’t change color…
I should ask.
With that thought, I headed to Elibel’s lab.
At Elibel’s lab deep underground――――
「Oh, Earth, good morning. Well, it’s already afternoon.」
Elibel, holding a test tube filled with a creepy purple liquid, looks at me.
A skeleton wearing a lab coat is incredibly surreal.
When I suggested she try wearing this instead of her robe, she liked the scientist-like lab coat so much that she often wears it.
She liked it so much that she begged me to make her several.
She could make it herself, tho.
Oh, Berg is collapsed in the corner. Wait, he’s just sleeping.
She seems to have noticed my change immediately.
She looks as if she’s carefully observing my body.
I’m not embarassed, but please stop staring at me.
『There’s no way that’s it.』
Elibel chuckles. The sight of a skeleton laughing is truly eerie.
The blue flames in her eye sockets are wavering eerily.
…She’s really kidding, right?
Somehow, ever since we went out together, she’s been joking around a lot.
I wonder why?
『So, do you know why the color changed?』
Elibel, seeming willing to explain, puts the test tube she was holding on the desk.
「Color change. It’s not a rare phenomenon. But it’s the first time I’ve seen it happen to a dragon.」
「It’s just as it sounds. Generally, it refers to the ‘body color’ and ‘magical power’. In the growth process of monsters, they sometimes exhibit this phenomenon where their own magical power changes due to some external influence. This change in magical power is reflected on the body surface, causing the body color to change. That’s ‘color change.’ Most of them, referred to as ‘abnormal specimens’, have undergone a ‘color change’.」
Elibel explains fluently.
Miss Elipedia is amazing.
She’s quite knowledgeable.
By the way, I remember Una saying that she had hunted down a color variant Orc on a guild quest.
It was quite tough, and she was pleased that the reward for that time was higher than usual.
「By the way, you’ve seen a ‘color change’ before, haven’t you?」
Did something like that happen?
「You’ve seen it in Ann. I saw it in your memory, but her body color changed when she evolved into an Imperial Ant, didn’t it?」
『Oh, now that you mention it.』
Sure enough, when Ann ate the evolution magic stone and evolved, her body color changed from a grayish black to a complete black.
「That phenomenon was also due to the change in the quality of your magical power caused by external factors such as your own magical power and the evolution magic stone.」
『I see. But then, why did I undergo a ‘color change’?』
「Hmm, the most likely reason… could be stress?」
Isn’t this some lifestyle disease?
「I wonder if it was caused by them. It is said that dungeons are affected by the magical power of strong monsters or adventurers who invade them. The only classes I can think of that have enough magic to affect you, are “Dragon Slayer” and “Silver Demon”.」
Elibel said this casually.
「But don’t worry. ‘Color change’ is not a bad thing. Rather, it’s like a defensive instinct trying to become stronger. Isn’t it great? Even if you’re being lazy, the instincts of the earth dragon are enhancing you on their own.」
Does that mean you’re saying I’m usually lazy?
Even under my gaze, Elibel remained nonchalant.
「Now, I want to see how your magical power has changed, so give me your arm.」
『Eh, no way. You’re going to give me another injection, aren’t you? Like a doctor!』
I’m afraid of injections.
I don’t want any pain.
「Are you a child?! Ah right, you’re two years old, so you’re still a baby… Anyway, don’t be so selfish. Now, give me your arm―――Ah, Ann, you’re just in time. Help me hold him down!」
Why is she here now?!
Upon hearing that, I can’t help but turn around.
―――――There was no one there.
I was deceived!
A definite sensation of being stabbed in the arm. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!
I want to struggle, but I can’t muster the strength. This feeling of losing power――is this magic!?
When I looked carefully, a tiny magic circle was deployed at my feet.
「Fufufu, you can’t muster any strength, can you? It’s a newly developed magical power reduction formula. Gradually, without you realizing it, your magic and physical strength are drained. It’s wonderful. I’m using the Breakthrough ver. (works quickly & quite effective) especially for you. Be grateful.」
I’m not grateful at all!
If you’ve developed such an amazing formula, use it on the dungeon, not me!
Are you using me as an experimental subject?
I want to think it’s just my imagination.
The injection was over, and the blood collection finished in no time.
It was painful.
Well, if I eat a magic stone, the wound will heal immediately.
As I glared resentfully at Elibel, she was gazing at an image projected from the brilliantly colored sphere.
The image displayed some numbers and graphs.
At the very end, it showed “Final Floor Reached: 120”.
What is this?
『Elibel, what’s this image?』
「Well, I used the pseudo-dungeon core―――named Gijie, and simulated what would happen if I, as the commander of an army, challenged this dungeon. I tested whether I could conquer this dungeon with an army the same size as the one that Borhelic had.」
That’s impressive. It can simulate that?
『Oh, so what was the result?』
「Simply put, it’s impossible to conquer.」
Even with the wisdom of the sage, it was impossible.
「It would take too much time. …The logistics wouldn’t hold. Unlike us, adventurers don’t have a way to shortcut in this dungeon. No matter how hard they try, they’ll probably run out of breath around the hundredth floor, I guess.」
Indeed, you can do nothing without food.
Most of the monsters in the dungeon are golems, and there are almost no self-sustaining methods for humans in the dungeon.
Even if humans brought some method of self-sufficiency, we’d probably go crush it first.
My dungeon is that amazing.
Can I be reassured by this?
「Well, there are a few concerns, but we can get them fix gradually. The surface has been activated, and people’s comings and goings have improved, so it’s highly unlikely it would be destroyed immediately like before.」
The trade at the entrance has expanded considerably, and each country must have understood the convenience of this dungeon, or to be precise, the teleportation gates.
There won’t be any instant “dungeon destruction” anymore.
Well, even if it is used, I have prepared a “countermeasure”.
「We haven’t figured out the purpose of the Dragon Slayer and Silver Demon yet, but we will. Now that the interior of the dungeon is nearing completion, gathering information on the surface will be our top priority.」
『Gathering information on the surface, huh…』
In that case, it’s Una and Dos’ turn.
There are bird and cat types that can blend into the town, but it’s a bit unreliable.
…Should I increase the humanoid golems and homunculi soon?
I’ve shed my skin, and the materials are getting richer.
I was cautious before because I made too many animal types, but if the activities on the surface increase, Una and the others alone may not be enough.
I don’t want to go out.
As I was thinking, I noticed that Elibel was staring at me.
「By the way, Earth, don’t you feel like going out again? To get some fresh air―――」
I answered instantly.
「…Even using the vessel?」
I firmly refused.
There’s no reason for me to go outside!
If it’s about gathering information, Una and Dos can do it for me.
「Sigh… Well, fine. …If it comes down to it, I’ll just drag you out by force (whispering).」
『Eh, what did you say just now?』
I didn’t quite catch the last part, but I had the impression that she said something terrifying.
「It’s nothing. Now, Berg, wake up! It’s time to start the next experiment.」
「―――What!? Eh, Miss Elibel? The pervert who likes crab miso sauce is attacking me――」
「Don’t sleep talk! Wake up!」
Elibel slaps Berg’s cheeks, making a loud sound.
It seems painful.
Alright. I should retreat before I get caught up in the experiment.
I quickly left Elibel’s laboratory.
『Now, I should return to my bedroom…』
I should still have some of the skin I shed there, I can use it to make a younger brother or sister for Una and the others.
I wonder what type would be good?
Maybe I should ask them.
They should still be inside the dungeon at this time.
I try to send a thought transmission.
As I was about to do so, I noticed something.
There was an unfamiliar passage on the wall leading to my bedroom.
It’s large enough for even me to pass through comfortably.
『Huh? Did I make this passage?』
I stared at the passage.
I didn’t see this passage when I was heading to the laboratory earlier…
If not, someone like me would’ve noticed it already.
The construction of the passage itself is also completely different. Unlike the bare soil walls of the deeper layers, this passage is properly paved with stone bricks.
It’s too unnatural to have a passage so obviously different in design.
Could this be Elibel’s doing?
Is it a new trap or something? With the new magic circle earlier and now this suspicious passage, is she really that eager to use me as an experimental subject?
But, too bad.
I’m not stupid enough to fall for that same trick.
There’s no way I’d enter such a suspicious passage.
She really underestimates me――――Wait, what’s that?
That’s when I noticed “it” lying in the passage.
It’s a magic stone.
Magic stones were placed at regular intervals in the passage.
Furthermore, I could see a large pile of magic stones in a stone container further down the passage.
『Oh, lucky. I was just getting hungry.』
I picked up the magic stone closest to me and ate it.
Casually munching, crunching, swallowing.
Ah! I unwittingly ate it.
I looked around. …No reaction.
…Maybe one more is fine?
I stretched my leg a little and picked up the magic stone further inside.
…Maybe just one more is fine, I can probably still handle it.
Before I realized it, I had moved all the way to the pile of magic stones.
And the moment I reached out to the pile of magic stones――――
I felt dizzy.
My surrounding started to warp.
『Darn, I knew it! It was a trap all along――――』
My consciousness slowly sank.
I thought I heard a deflated voice.
What was that? Whose voice was it…?
My vision was gradually darkening.
Just before I completely lost consciousness, I thought I saw that white girl again.
I couldn’t make out her expression, but it seemed like her mouth was gaping open…
And then, I completely lost consciousness.
Chapter 5『Trade and Defense』End
Continuing to Chapter 6 『The Pathless Girl and Fáfnir’s Labyrinth』
I know it’s hard to believe, but… He’s the protagonist.
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