―――The Massacre at the Airén Pass.
If one were to discuss Robun, the “boy,” this episode would be the most fitting.
It’s a story that took place four hundred years ago.
The plot is a simple one.
A boy struggles to save a single girl.
His enemies are a large army of over a thousand monsters, his allies are but a handful of people, himself included.
There are no reinforcements.
And yet, the boy confronts them.
He possesses an exceptional talent as a mage.
And he has companions willing to fight alongside him.
A knight in somewhat shoddy armor, an elder who always jokes around but cares for his companions more than anyone, a small slime that has been with him since childhood,
And ――― his partner, the golden dragon who understood him best.
Along with his best friend, the boy fights.
In the end, he saves the girl.
He kills a large number of monsters and builds his victory atop their corpses.
Covered in blood, he sees the girl smiling at him, thanking him. The boy is certain.
He has done the right thing.
In this world, there are justice and evil, and they were doing the right thing ―― or so he thought.
And then ――― he was betrayed with ease.
He can’t remember what the reason was.
But he’s sure it was probably a mundane reason.
Before he knew it, he and his companions were surrounded and attacked by those he had once spent time with.
Betrayed and despairing, he found himself a dead man.
Then, he spent centuries as the floor master of a dungeon.
There were no humans coming up to his floor, but he could feel countless humans challenging the dungeon above him and dying.
As his position changed, so did his perspective.
The people he had wanted to protect so badly became his enemies.
The monsters he had despised and sought to kill became his allies.
What was right?
What was wrong?
Even after hundreds of years ―――― he finds no answer.
―――――― Are you a fool?
To him, to the him who couldn’t find an answer ――― the skeleton said so.
She gave an answer.
In the 90th floor of Fáfnir, 『The Death Lord’s Chamber』―――
Magma bubbles up from around Robun.
The temperature exceeds a thousand degrees.
The atmosphere trembles, and the overwhelming heat of magical power dominates the space.
Elibel coolly observes this scene.
「A combined attribute magic formula. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone capable of using it.」
「You don’t seem too surprised.」
「Well, the basic attributes of magic are four… But those are only the basics. The four major attributes are fire, water, earth, wind. While these four are independent, they do interfere with each other. For example, by mixing water with earth to control mud, you indirectly add the attribute of earth to water. Or you can cause atmospheric friction to add the attribute of fire to wind.」
But, Elibel continues.
「Actually, there are very few mages who can realize this. Everyone becomes obsessed with mastering their own single attribute. They don’t notice the new possibilities. In that regard, you pass with flying colors. You’re a splendid ‘mage.’」
With a round of applause, she sends a compliment.
That was, for Elibel, praise without exaggeration.
Despite what could have been taken as a demeaning remark, Robun, oddly enough, felt no anger welling up.
「You’re a strange one. Who are you really? Even in the face of my most powerful magic, I feel not a hint of disturbance in your magical power.」
「Didn’t I tell you? I am―――a ‘Sage’.」
Immediately following, a rush of magma, like a landslide, assaults Elibel.
An overwhelming amount of heat and mass.
Should she be swallowed up, Elibel would surely vaporize.
She constructs a barrier of ice around her.
The clash between the two causes a vast amount of steam to form, leading to a steam explosion.
「So, this is the end, then!」
He raises the large scythe in his hand.
As if in response, a large volume of magma, changing shape like a piece of melting candy, strikes toward a corner of the hall.
Even if her figure is hidden in the steam, it doesn’t matter to them.
Magic detection allows them to locate Elibel with precision.
Elibel deploys a defense made of wind and water in an instant.
A sudden tornado, akin to a whirlpool, protects her from the magma.
There is a loud rupture as the wall of water and wind is broken through.
The difference in the concentration of magical power is evident.
The difference between a Disaster-designated species and a General-class is starkly apparent.
「―――Heat Wind Wall!」
The moment the barrier is broken, Elibel deploys another one.
This time it’s a combined magic of fire and wind.
「Do you really think you can defend against my magic with such tactics!」
「I don’t intend to defend at all!」
In an instant, Robun notices.
The distortion of his opponent’s barrier.
―――Her magical power isn’t deployed evenly? What does that mean?
He understands the reason immediately.
The moment his magma hits her barrier, it shatters.
At the same time, the course of the magma he controls is significantly altered.
The irregular forces applied when breaking through the distorted barrier caused this.
「……So this was your aim!」
The magma greatly deviates from its original course, and Elibel easily slips through the opening.
「I would never face such a gigantic magic spell head-on. Even if I were my former self, my current self only has a General-class of magical power!」
As she lands, she activates her offensive magic.
「Thousand Ice Pillars!」
Ice projectiles are launched towards Robun.
Each one’s power isn’t substantial, but there are many of them.
He deploys a magma barrier in front of him to ward off the attack.
With a sizzling sound, all the ice pillars evaporate.
「Such an attack relying on numbers is pointless!」
While maintaining his barrier, he crafts new magma.
A fresh wave of magma assaults Elibel.
「Triple Water Snake―――!?」
She quickly constructs a counter-magic spell, but it isn’t enough.
Her magical power.
The magic she quickly constructed was at best, of an advanced-class.
Gushing water snakes are immediately broken through, rushing towards Elibel.
She can’t evade them all.
Burn marks appear on her white robe, and her right arm, made of bone, slightly blackens.
She quickly casts a wind magic spell on herself.
Using the resulting backlash, she swiftly breaks free from the vortex of magma.
She took some damage, but managed to avoid a direct hit.
She puts some distance between herself and Robun, catching her breath.
「Reached your limit?」
Robun dissolves his magma barrier and reappears.
「Your versatility and precision in spellcasting is truly the finest I’ve seen among all the mages I’ve encountered. However, that makes this all the more regrettable. If only you were of the same class as me, we could’ve had a much fairer fight…」
With a resounding boom, even more magma appears around Robun.
“Still creating more even now?” Elibel grumbles, an acidic note in her voice.
She had always known him to be a disaster-designated species, but his sheer volume of magical power was top-tier, even within that class.
「Now, show me. Show me all your strength. Show me more… more of the power that dismissed my lingering ‘softness’ as insignificant!」
His army of magma grows denser still.
This time, there’s no dodging it.
Even if she tried to set up a barrier or increase her speed to escape, the vortex of magma would swallow her faster.
“Really now…” Elibel sighs.
「I don’t care what you’re so fixated on, but…」
Elibel readies her staff.
Several magic circles materialize around her.
「―――Sorry, but I’m the one who’s going to win.」
Because she was ready.
The pale blue magic circles spread out instantaneously, not only around Elibel but covering the entire floor.
It was a pattern that even Robun, a Death Lord, had never seen before.
「――――What the!? What is this!?」
Ignoring Robun’s surprise, Elibel begins her “chanting.”
「―――’The law of the bright star separates Heaven and Earth,’ ‘Seven nights end, twelve gods rise a nation’」
In a magic battle where every moment counts, she chooses to take the time to chant.
Robun comprehends its meaning entirely.
In other words, her trump card.
They, who could cast magic without chanting, are now executing an extremely powerful spell that requires chanting.
「―――’The principle of the utmost heaven is to remain still,’ ‘The thought of the peripheral hell is inseparable’」
The glow of the deployed magic circles intensifies.
As if the circles were stars, they fill the entire floor with their radiance.
「So, this is your trump card…」
Then the course of action is clear.
He too must counter with an equally powerful spell.
Lava bubbles up and begins to gather around his body.
And thus, it takes the form of a giant creature.
An all-in-one defensive and offensive grand magic spell.
Robun’s trump card.
A spell that surpasses the Pope-class, reaching the King-class level.
「―――’With a new principle, I shall save the lamentations of this world」
Robun’s fist, now that of a giant, is unleashed upon Elibel.
If it lands, the destructive force would undoubtedly cause complete evaporation.
「―――My victory. Forbidden Spell ‘Sanctuary Interference’ Activate.」
Elibel snaps her fingers.
In that instant, the giant’s fist that had been heading towards Elibel vanishes.
Robun, witnessing something unbelievable, is at a loss for words.
And it’s not just that.
One after another, the lava armor cloaking him melts away and vanishes, as though it were ice.
「What is… this…?」
In a matter of seconds, Robun returns to his original form.
And then, he notices.
An indefinable sensation is swirling around within him, across the entire floor.
「It took quite some time to analyze. Well, it worked out somehow. You should have killed me before I’m done chanting. There is no way you can win now.」
Elibel says, scratching her hairless scalp.
「Kuh… Thousand Roaring Fireballs!」
Robun swiftly constructs a spell formation, intending to retaliate.
「Why!? Why won’t my magic activate!?」
Despite his attempts to activate his magic, nothing happens.
His magical corridor is functioning normally.
He can sense the flow of magical power.
Despite that, his magical power doesn’t manifest into the phenomenon of magic.
「It is activated, look.」
The moment Elibel says this, countless fireballs appear around him, and all of them explode.
Unable to dodge, he is bathed in the full brunt of the explosions.
「Guha… What the… What on earth did you do!?」
With his body now blackened and ragged, Robun questions Elibel.
「It’s nothing big… I simply analyzed your magical power and magic circuits, and rearranged your body’s mechanism to transfer the interference and control rights to me.」
「What… did you say…」
At those words, Robun is once again left speechless.
He simply can’t believe that his own magic and its activation could be controlled by another.
「Interference by compound attributes. It was impressive that you noticed that and constructed the spell, but its essence lies a step beyond.」
Elibel casually thrusts out her right hand.
With just that, Robun is blown away more than ten meters.
No, to be accurate, that’s not it.
Elibel’s magical power wasn’t what he felt.
He was blown backwards by his own accord.
――――Is this… my spell!?
He cast a spell on his own, then directed it towards himself.
It sounds absurd, but that is exactly what happened.
And what’s unbelievable is the fact that he could perceive it even though he doesn’t have a sense of having cast the spell himself.
Without paying any mind to his confusion, Elibel continues her explanation.
「The interference of attributes and magic doesn’t just stay within one’s own spells. Its essence is ‘interference with things other than oneself.’ Be it buildings, nature, or the enemy itself. I call this ‘Sanctuary Interference.’ In that regard, our Una might be closer to the essence of magic among us. Well, the water attribute does have the strongest power to interfere with others…」
Robun screams with all his might.
「Even if you wield great power, there’s no way you can interfere with a spell of mine that you just encountered, let alone seize control of it! This is impossible!」
That’s Robun’s adamant declaration.
What Elibel did was, in a way, akin to dissecting someone’s body into pieces, killing them, then stitching them back together and returning them to life.
Therefore, everything was at her whim.
How unimaginable that is.
How far it deviates from the norm.
Being a magician himself, Robun understood it well.
That’s why it was impossible for him to believe.
「What are you even saying?」
Elibel speaks as if it’s nothing at all.
「That’s why people call me a ‘Sage’, you know?」
Robun is speechless.
The sheer difference in their levels makes him forget even to cast his magic, leaving him standing stock-still.
No, to be exact, he can’t even cast any magic because Elibel has taken control of his magical power.
Then, “his own” magic is activated.
By his own magical power.
「Okay, it’s over.」
With a snap of her bone-thin fingers, Elibel signals the end.
Immediately after, hundreds of magic spells engulf Robun.
All of it is due to his own magical power going out of control ――― in other words, self-destruction.
「I really do get tired of this. In my lifetime, something of this level could have been improvised without any long-winded chanting or analysis…」
While looking at the badly beaten floor master, Elibel mutters this to herself.
「――――Ha-ha, this is total defeat, isn’t it?」
「Hmm, you’re still alive?」
Casually, Elibel turns her gaze to Robun.
His head is half-crushed, and the bones forming his body are in shambles.
Still, he is alive.
「Yeah, I’m alive. Maybe it’s because of my age. I’m actually tougher than I look.」
「Oh?… That’s interesting. Once this commotion is over, would you mind if I dissect you?」
「Wha-!? Dissect!? Can you, uh, spare me? I still have a mission as a floor master to―――」
Taken aback, Robun is at a loss for words.
What was he about to say?
Perhaps Elibel senses his confusion.
The flame within her eye socket flickers, her expression a hint of displeasure.
「What’s up with you? Even if you’re feeling a bit down on yourself, you’ve still got some pride in your role as a henchman, right?」
「I have no idea what burdens you carry, what motivated your transformation into the undead, or even why you chose to become a servant of the dungeon. Frankly, I neither know nor care about such things. They hold no interest for me.」
But, Elibel continues.
「You’ve lived up until now for valid reasons. There’s meaning in it. You have a role to play. Keep thinking. Keep worrying. Ponder, regret, reflect. That’s our duty, and in that lies our happiness.」
Keep thinking, keep worrying, keep suffering, even if the answers remain elusive, and still, you must press on.
Such is the obligation, the joy of those with heart and spirit.
That’s Elibel’s belief, her very core.
「Hah, you’re asking me to continue worrying even if I might never find the answers… You really are ruthless… My body is battered, and now even my spirit is worn down.」
At first, Robun had hoped that Elibel would be a protagonist who could shatter his old values.
But she wasn’t.
She wasn’t such an easy existence to pin down.
She was more of a devilish existence, pushing him to suffer more, to think more deeply.
「…Even so, I… I’m glad to have met you. It’s irritating to admit it in this state, but you really are… a fascinating person…」
A time from the distant past.
When he was still human, he and his companions made a decision.
Due to that, he was betrayed by those he trusted, he despaired, and yet he couldn’t entirely abandon his naivety.
What was right, what was wrong?
The answer is not clear.
There might not even be a correct answer.
In fact, there might not be an answer at all.
Even so, he will move forward.
―――Ah, be happy, Fal. These people will surely take care of you…
With that, Robun loses consciousness.
Observing him, Elibel murmurs,
「A fascinating person, huh…」
「…I wish that idiot would offer me some words of appreciation every once in a while.」
Looking up at the battered ceiling, such a thought unexpectedly crosses Elibel’s mind.
In the 90th floor of Fáfnir, 『The Death Lord’s Chamber』―――
―――WINNER Elibel Löwenherz.
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