In the office of the emperor of the Hà Giang Empire―――
「Ah~, I’m bored… I want to dive into a dungeon.」
Emperor Kagrias was grumbling whiile signing documents.
The Prime Minister’s check had already been completed, and all he had to do was sign the documents, but by any means it was not a little.
The stack of documents would easily reach nearly one meter high.
He had to sign all of them.
Only the sound of his pen scribbling echoed in the office.
Even though it was simple work, it was enough to break one’s spirit.
「Endure… Just one more month…」
Kagrias muttered to himself.
What kept his motivation alive was the large-scale expedition to “Fáfnir” scheduled for a month later.
This was a regular event in the Hà Giang Empiree, where the emperor led the imperial knights into the “Fáfnir” dungeon, obtained dungeon resources, and demonstrated their prestige to the citizens.
Of course, in order to prevent any unlikely situation where the emperor might be on the brink of death, they would prepare thoroughly, but as the emperor himself possessed exceptional strength, it didn’t mean much.
「I’ll go wild on the next expedition… Fufufu, next time, I’ll capture the ‘Four Mines’. I can’t wait, I’m really looking forward to it.」
Kagrias grinned like a child.
His mood was rising, and his signing hand was moving faster.
「When that’s over, next is the ‘Teleportation Dungeon’ in the Yuguru Great Forest. Ah~, I want to go already. Why do I only have one body! If I had three, I could leave the paperwork to my clones and dive into the dungeon as much as I want!」
If that were the case, all three would challenge the dungeon together, the Prime Minister Kelvin would probably retort if he were here.
To begin with, he had already pushed most of his miscellaneous duties onto Kelvin, but he didn’t realize it.
An emperor is always selfish.
「――――Oh no, you’re also a dungeon maniac. Whether it’s you or him, why do powerful people love battles?」
Suddenly, a voice came from behind.
His hand signing the documents flinched and stopped.
「…Who is it? Who dares to enter my office with dirty shoes?」
His tone instantly dropped to absolute zero, and the atmosphere in the room shifted.
Kagrias turned around.
Next to the window, there stood a beautiful woman.
She was perfectly dressed in a tight-fitting suit like a secretary, and she was smiling like a cat.。
「Nice to meet you, Emperor Kagrias Dir Hà Giang of the Hà Giang Empire. My name is Rias Aurora. I used to work as a secretary for Prime Minister Eclair of the Borhelic Kingdom. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.」
The woman placed her right hand over her heart and bowed.
It was the courtesy of Hà Giang Empire’s nobility.
Her elegant gesture was absolutely perfect.
He was almost mesmerized by her, but the emperor did not relax his stern gaze.
「…Eclair’s secretary, you say? Don’t joke around, woman. You are―――a ‘dead person’, aren’t you?」
Kagrias said with absolute conviction.
Rias’s shoulders twitched slightly, and her pasted-on smile disappeared.
However, within a moment, her expression returned to normal.
「…That’s impressive. In the past few decades, no one has identified me as a ‘dead person’. Should I call it insightful? As expected, you’re an amazing person.」
「Flattery won’t work. If you don’t want to be killed, state your business. I’ll listen to your request as a reward for managing to come here without being noticed.」
By the time he said that, a sword was already in his hand.
A double-edged sword with gold ornaments.
「…’The Magic Sword Gram’. So you’re the one who possesses it ‘now’.」
Rias looked at the magic sword he was holding as if looking at something nostalgic.
「You know this sword… Who are you, really?」
「I am just a ‘dead person’, as you said. The reason why I’m here today is to give an advice to you, Your Majesty.」
With her head bowed, Rias spoke.
She left no openings. From his point of view, this woman was quite skilled.
So, he became slightly interested.
「…I allow it. Speak.」
「I’ll make it quick. The large-scale expedition to Fafnir scheduled for next month… I want you to cancel, no, postpone it.」
Kagrias was taken aback by the unexpected request.
He couldn’t understand the other party’s intentions.
「Right now, that dungeon is about to experience a significant ‘transition’. I want to see what kind of outcome it will be.」
And then, she said.
「If you get caught up in the dungeon’s ‘transition’, even you won’t get away unscathed. Therefore, Your Majesty, if possible, it would be better to postpone the expedition for at least two months.」
「What are you talking about? What do you mean by ‘transition’?」
Kagrias could not understand what she was saying.
He prided himself on having considerable knowledge about dungeons, but even he had never heard of the word ‘transition’.
「’Transition’ means exactly what it sounds like. The dungeon is ‘mutating’. An event where it changes into a new dungeon, different from what it was before――――that is what a ‘transition’ is.」
The dungeon is reborn.
Could such a thing be possible?
Kagrias’ expression warped slightly.
「And the cause, I believe Your Majesty already knows?」
「What do you mean?」
The changes of dungeon.
He was aware of a monster that could cause a similar phenomenon.
And that monster had been in Fáfnir just a short while ago.
「Don’t tell me――――it’s the ‘Pathless’?」
「Exactly. The existence of that monster alerted ‘Fáfnir’. It thinks that if things continue as they are, it will be ‘consumed’ by that monster. Therefore, ‘Fáfnir’ is following its dungeon instinct and trying to be reborn. Into a stronger, more formidable dungeon that nothing can approach.」
Her tone of voice suggested that the dungeon itself had a will.
Kagrias could not believe this.
But considering that dungeons grow larger and stronger over a long period of time, it might not be unnatural.
After all, the dungeon core harbors a defense instinct similar to a will.
However, no one knows whether there is a dungeon core in Fáfnir.
After all, no one has ever reached the bottom.
Whether there’s a dungeon core or another “something”, nobody knows.
But can a single monster have such an effect on a dungeon?
Certainly, the ‘Pathless’ is an exceptional being that can attack the dungeon itself.
But even so, the story seemed to jump too far.
After all, Fáfnir is one of the “Eight Great Dungeons” that no one has been able to conquer for hundreds of years.
「…It’s a hard story to believe at first glance.」
「I suppose so. However, the ‘Pathless’ that appeared this time is a monster that could be considered a super abnormal, comparable to a ‘Calamity-class’. You just have to think that such a thing is possible.」
Rias spoke nonchalantly.
She seemed to be somewhat enjoying herself.
「And? Do you think I believe you?? The words of someone who I do not know?」
Kagrias glared at Rias.
Even when faced with a glare that would make an ordinary person faint, Rias remained calm.
She had enough composure to put both hands in front of her, pretending to be scared.
「But you understand, don’t you, Your Majesty? Whether my words are a lie or the truth. If it’s you who aren’t swayed by my guidance.」
Saying that, Rias looked at Kagrias.
Her deep, crimson eyes seemed to draw him in.
In those eyes, Kagrias saw himself reflected.
「―――I see. Indeed, you don’t seem to be lying.」
「Of course, I’m speaking the truth.」
Rias nodded with a grin.
It seemed that the emperor had been convinced.
With that, Rias slightly relaxed.
Kagrias also smiled.
「――――――But you don’t seem to be telling the ‘truth’ either」
There was a snap, and a sound like something breaking echoed in the office.
The next moment, Rias’ hairpin fell, and her neatly arranged hair came undone.
Looking at her hair that fell onto her shoulders, Rias finally realized what had happened to her.
A chill ran down her spine.
She looked at the man before her.
A king who completely overwhelmed everyone present was there, utterly different from a moment ago.
「Dead woman, surely there is no lie in your words. But they are thin. As thin as paper, like a facade. Until I can hear the words of you yourself hidden behind that facade, I am not inclined to believe your words.」
Kagrias brandished his sword, looking at Rias.
She took a step back.
A slight cold sweat appeared on her cheek.
The overwhelming pressure tingled on her skin.
Even for a dead person like her, it was a pressure that evoked the image of death.
Indeed, she might have been underestimating this man.
The man in front of her was undoubtedly a “monster”.
Perhaps only by speaking her true intentions would this man let Rias go.
While she could escape from here if she got serious, the risk was high.。
So, Rias decided to tell the truth.
「…….I don’t want you to die, Your Majesty.」
She said in a strangled voice.
「What did you say?」
「At least now, I can’t afford to have you die. I need you to judge that country — the ‘Witch of Reynolds’ — at the Continental Congress six months from now.」
Sweating, Rias continued.
「At present, on this continent, you may be the only one who possesses the power to confront that witch. If something were to happen to you, it would be very inconvenient for me as well. Therefore, I beg you. Please stay away from Fáfnir until the ‘transition’ is over.」
「I see, so that’s your true intention…」
The emperor’s oppressive presence vanished.
Rias let out a deep sigh.
An unpleasant sweat trickled down her back.
「Is your business concluded? Then, leave at once. Consider it a reward for the interesting information you shared. I will not question what happened here.」
「Is that so? Then, I shall respectfully take my leave.」
She didn’t get a clear response, but it couldn’t be helped.
Any further and she might genuinely get killed.
Rias’ figure warped.
As her figure slowyly distorting, Rias opened her mouth and spoke.
「Lastly, I’ll tell you this. The ‘transition’ will happen in about a month from now. It will probably last for about two weeks. It would be wise to prohibit adventurers from entering during that time.」
Leaving those words behind, Rias disappeared from the office as if she was never there to begin with.
After her presence completely vanished, Kagrias spoke.
「An inscrutable woman. To the very end, she would not reveal her core.」
Her words held no deception.
There was no deceit in what she said after he asked her to reveal her true intentions.
But she never exposed the core hidden within.
「Still, it was an incredibly intriguing tale.」
Fafnir, the dungeon, is being reborn.
If what that woman said is true, getting caught up in that change could even endanger his life, despite him being the greatest power of the Empire.
Hearing such a story, there’s no way he, being obsessed with dungeons, could simply stay quiet.
But at the same time, if he is to consider his people and country, he must remain still — this was also a fact.
A frustrating dilemma.
「Is there any other way I can get into the dungeon…」
Wonder if I can do it remotely.
Thinking of such an impossible strategy, the emperor began to sign the documents again.
July 2023 Patron: GoatBeards