Side Story 12
Several months have passed since Earth began the full-scale construction of middle layers. His subordinate, Ann, is busy asserting control over the vast Yuguru Great Forest.
Her role is to secure forces for the dungeon.
Her negotiation targets are primarily monsters that operate in herds.
Goblins, kobolds, orcs, ogres, killer ants, killer bees, and so forth.
Given the Yuguru Great Forest boasts the largest size on the continent, it harbors countless monsters leading tribal lives.
Elibel argues that these monsters could coexist even in the dungeon where Ann and others live.
By now, they are crafting floors with an environment identical to the forest in the middle tiers of the dungeon. Even Earth has gone as far as creating a vast forest underground in the Eld Desert to welcome them.
At the scale of such undertaking, Ann’s “Earth is amazing!” points surge dramatically.
These points, when accumulated, can be exchanged for “I love Earth” points, primarily within Ann’s heart.
Regardless, Ann’s job is to gather forces for the dungeon, but in reality, she rarely gets to shine.
Because Earth has already subdued the four top-tier races of Yuguru Great Forest through his negotiations (a mix of threats and persuasions).
Therefore, all Ann has to do is negotiate with the forest’s monsters, using these four races as her main axis.
She always has her antlings accompany them.
A unique network already exists between Ann and her antlings, allowing her to know everything they experience even while inside the dungeon.
So, if something happens to these four chiefs, a signal is instantly sent to Ann.
Furthermore, she can also send instructions to the antlings from within the dungeon.
Ann, the queen ant herself, usually only ventures outside in response to some significant anomaly (mostly involving Earth).
Well, officially that is the case. In truth, Ann simply doesn’t want to leave the dungeon where Earth resides. However, she would never utter such a thing in front of her antlings.
It is crucial for those in power to maintain their dignity.
Even though Ann constantly emits her “I love Earth” aura―and Earth is totally oblivious to it—she must maintain her “Queen Ant” persona in front of her antlings and the monsters of Yuguru Great Forest.
It is her duty as a leader.
She must work hard every day to realize her dream of idly spending her days with Earth in the dungeon.
『…Hmm, we have almost 70% control over the Yuguru Great Forest,』
Ann activates the visual magic stone she received from Elibel.
The brilliantly colored sphere projects a holographic image of the complete map of the Yuguru Great Forest.
The areas marked in red indicate territories under the influence of Ann, or rather, Earth.
As Ann says, the majority of the image is dyed red.
『Reporting from the western area, 35 orcs have joined us.』
『Reporting from the northern area, several dozen Acid Rabbits and Cob Pigs have been secured.』
『Reporting from the central area, district 13, Spider tribe leader Taran says, ‘I’m hungry.’』
『Reporting from the central area, district 2, Snake tribe leader Su reports potential flooding due to recent rains.』
『Understood. …Anyway, Taran’s report is not really a report… That spider…』
The reports are from the next-generation queens in waiting behind Ann.
Like ants, Ann periodically gives birth to next-generation queens.
They are the first generation, and there are four of them.
They’re new and their thought transmission is a bit clumsy compared to the antlings, but they will improve in time.
Compared to Ann, a high-rank queen, their magical power and reproductive abilities are somewhat lower, but their abilities are far superior to ordinary Killer Ants.
As Ann’s attendants, they support her devotedly with information processing and proxy calculations.
Their support is robust, but Ann has no intention of particularly restraining them.
Her ant instincts urge her to let them venture outside the dungeon and build their own nests freely.
Just as her own mother once did.
But Ann doesn’t think that way.
Because she herself spent her early days lazing around and hiding at her parent’s home, she has no intention of restricting their actions.
She won’t stop them if they want to leave, and if they wish to stay, they can do so indefinitely. While it might seem like she’s adopting a hands-off approach, that’s simply Ann’s way of thinking.
『By the way, Lady Ann?』
『Hm? What’s the matter?』
One of the next-generation queens in the back sends Ann a thought transmission.
『Shouldn’t we report to ‘Lord Earth,’ about our birth?』
『It’s fine (smiles).』
The next-generation queens are silenced by an unspoken pressure.
Indeed, the birth of the next generation queens has not yet been reported to Earth.
Ann has told Elibel and the other members, but she has deliberately refrained from informing Earth.
As an Imperial Ant, they are my responsbility.
There is no need to trouble Lord Earth with such affairs.
It is a mere trifle, and Ann does not want to bother him unnecessarily.
It is certainly not that she doesn’t want the queens of her own kind to approach Earth, or that she worries they might become his favorites over her, or that they might receive cuter names than her own.
She isn’t considering these things at all. She isn’t.
Even the tiny Ann inside her heart agrees, so there can be no doubt.
『Now then, most of the reports from each area have come in, so perhaps it’s time for a meal―――』
Just as Ann stands up, contemplating a break, a thought transmission is delivered to her via a private line rather than through the network of antlings.
『Lady Ann! It’s an emergency!』
A voice, rough yet clear as a bell, resonates within her mind.
The sender is Feru the Arc Fenrir, one of the Four Chiefs of the Yuguru Great Forest.
『Feru? What’s the matter?』
Among the Four Chiefs, Feru is the oldest and an exceptional leader who always manages to assess situations calmly.
It’s rare for him to be this distressed.
『A gigantic monster has appeared in the southern area! The monsters under us are suffering great losses one after another!』
『What is the type and number of the appearing monsters?』
『It’s a massive monster, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before! However, the magical power I’m sensing from it is definitely stronger than Su or myself…』
Su, the Venom Hydra, and Feru, the Arc Fenrir, are the leaders of the snake and dog tribes respectively.
If the monster is stronger than they are, it must be at least a King-class monster.
There are no monsters of a higher class than them in this forest, which means this monster must have come from outside.
Ann falls silent, deep in thought.
（ Has it been attracted by Earth’s magical power? Or maybe it was drawn in by the activation of magical power in the Yuguru Great Forest…）
She lacks sufficient data to make a judgement.
However, a few seconds later, the antlings transmit the situation in the southern area through the network.
Among the information, there is a description of the monster.
Ann retrieves matching monster data from Elibel’s records.
『This… could it be a Giant Lizard? That’s a King-class monster that rules the grasslands further west of the Yuguru Great Forest. Why is it here?』
The Giant Lizard is a King-class monster belonging to the dragon family.
Its combat ability may not reach the level of the Earth Dragon or the Mineral Dragon among the Earth-attribute dragons, but it’s undoubtedly a formidable creature within the top ten.
Indeed, it might be too much for Feru and the antlings to handle alone.
『 I understand, I will head there immediately. You guys stay and continue to give instructions to the antlings. Also, connect me to Elibel’s line—』
After giving several instructions to the remaining queens, Ann prepares for battle and, accompanied by the antlings, dives into the teleportation gate.
Fade to black.
Emerging from the cave, there are several Lesser Fenrirs.
『You’re Feru’s messengers?』
A member of the pack nods in affirmation.
『Understood. Please lead the way immediately.』
Ann mounts one of the Lesser Fenrirs, heading for the southern area where Feru and the Giant Lizard are likely to be.
After a while, droplets of water stick to her antennae.
It appears to be raining.
『It’s unusual to rain outside the rainy season. As long as it doesn’t affect the battle…』
In the rain, the power of acid weakens.
Ideally, she would like to settle the battle before it pours.
After moving for a while, the massive creature comes into sight.
Indeed, it’s definitely huge.
Due to its enormous size, the surrounding trees only reach up to its torso.
The body height alone is approximately fifty Melds. Including the tail, it might be close to a hundred Melds.
Accurate Crow’s Heleb was about ten Melds in size, which means this dragon is easily ten times that.
Because of its vast body, each movement of the Giant Lizard knocks down the surrounding trees.
It seems Feru and the other forest monsters are already engaged in battle.
Though there’s still some distance between them, Ann sends a thought transmission to Feru.
『Feru! Are you safe!?』
『――—!?! Is that you, Lady Ann!? I’m okay. I have a few minor injuries, but they won’t hinder the battle.』
『I see, I’m glad. The antlings have already reported the damage situation. I’ll take over the command from here—!!!??』
A murderous intent is sensed.
Looking up, she sees the gaze of the Giant Lizard directed at her.
Despite the significant distance between them, its colossal eyes quietly stare at Ann.
Unmasked hostility and apparent caution.
It seems that it has quickly identified the opponent it should be most wary of on this side.
Even while fighting the forest monsters, its gaze is clearly aimed at Ann.
『I see… That’s troublesome.』
It would have been beneficial if she could draw it over to her side, but it seems it’s not an opponent open to negotiations.
She doesn’t know why it came to this forest, but if it is going to be an enemy, she won’t show mercy.
『――――I will eliminate it. Everyone, follow my orders!』
「『「『「『「『「『Yes, Lady Ann!!!』」』」』」』」』」』
Verbally and through thought transmission, everyone pledges their agreement to Ann.
And then, magical power overflows from the forest monsters.
In the pouring rain, their battle begins.
July 2023 Patron: GoatBeards