Side Story 14
The sound of something being severed resonates.
Echoes bounce off the high walls, layering the sound, magnifying it.
Deep, deep underground.
In the darkness where only the faintest sunlight penetrates, he works with unexpected dexterity for his massive size, entirely engrossed in his task.
An occasional laugh leaks out, witch-like, a “Guehuehuehue…”
The sound is eerie, as if it’s resonating up from the depths of hell.
The sound of something heavy falling.
And then, immediately after, the sound of something being cut again.
He squints in delight, admiring the results of his work.
While grinning, he looks at a piece he brutally cut off.
『Hmmm… maybe if I prune the branches a bit more, the nutrients will reach the fruit better?』
He―well, Earth―has been pruning fruit trees in a forest that recently formed underground in the Eld Desert.
Around his feet are many branches from the fruit trees he’s cut down.
Also scattered around are countless silver-apple-like fruits.
Pruning the fruit trees.
It was honestly just a pastime, but he got surprisingly absorbed in it.
『Well, even without pruning, they fruit quite a lot. But if I cut back on the quantity and let the nutrients get around more, won’t they become tastier? Oh, right, I need to spread some fertilizer, too.』
What he scatters is crushed magic stone taken from deep within the earth.
Spreading this makes the fruit grow significantly better.
Indeed, where he scatters it, the trees and fruits grow quickly.
It’s like a TV fast-forward scene.
It’s too unnatural a sight, but Earth doesn’t seem to notice this.
『However, it’s great that magic stones make good fertilizer. Makes the work easier since you can just dig around and find them easily.』
Murmuring thus, he immerses himself in the pruning work again.
Today, his mind is at peace.
By the way, if someone who didn’t know saw this sight, they would think that the powerful evil dragon was conducting some twisted life magic experiment…
Fade to black.
―――At the same time, in the Yuguru Great Forest.
With a thunderous noise, the massive body of the Giant Lizard collapses.
The Giant Lizard is already at its last gasp.
Bitten by ants, it’s gasping, a situation so far from funny for the one involved, it’s practically a bad joke.
「…Looks like it’s over. It’s hard to tell because it’s turned into a black lump, but that’s definitely hopeless. Most of its body surface has been chewed off, its insides are a mess from the ants invading through its mouth… Oh, there’s one spot that’s intact. But with it in this condition, it can’t move its body or shoot its breath.」
Standing next to Ann, Elibel casually narrates the current state of the Giant Lizard.
Only a few minutes have passed since they activated the teleportation gates and started the attack.
That means it only took a few minutes to defeat a King-class monster.
Feru the Arc Fenrir is merely shuddering at the fact.
The overwhelming power of “numbers” against the “individual” that they as a “group” couldn’t defeat.
He recognizes the power of his master, who calmly performs this, and his own unworthiness.
How pathetic that he begged the queen for help, and he hasn’t been of any help at all.
『I apologize, Lady Ann… I…』
『What is it, Feru?』
『We were unable to… and had to rely on Lady Ann and her followers’ strength…』
『What are you saying? There’s absolutely nothing for you to be ashamed of.』
『You requested reinforcements, guided us to the scene, and rescued the injured. Each one of these actions was responded to quickly. There’s absolutely nothing for you to be ashamed of. Rather, you should be proud.』
I wanted to be your strength!
Feru’s eyes spoke volumes.
Even if he were a monster, the instincts of a dog were still strong.
He desired to be his master’s strength, to be acknowledged. His need for approval was profound.
『There’s no shame in lamenting your lack of power. I don’t know how many times I’ve bemoaned my own unworthiness. The problem is when we become paralyzed, unable to take the next step.』
『Yes. If we have time to despair over our weaknesses, we should use it to find a way to move forward, just like our Lord does.』
With these words, Ann thinks of the Earth Dragon they all hold in such high esteem.
Feru has only met him a few times, but the memory of his ridiculous magic power is well-etched in his mind.
『Yes, he always moves forward without fearing failure. His unyielding spirit always motivates me. Just recently, he created a vast forest in the underground of the Eld Desert.』
Feru was well aware of the Eld Desert, a barren land teeming with King-class monsters.
The audacity of creating a vast forest in such a place could only be described as a deed without fear of even godly reprisal.
Once again, Feru shuddered.
「No, Ann. He’s just reckless, that’s all―――」
『Elibel, please be quiet.』
With a charming silence, Elibel complied.
『So, Feru, if you feel inadequate, let’s become stronger together. And please, continue to lend me your strength, for our master, Lord Earth.』
『Yes, Lady Ann!』
Feru looked at Ann, his expression a mix of fear and awe.
Elibel thought that Feru’s gaze resembled the way Ann looked at Earth, with eyes sparkling in admiration of her beloved master.
「Like master, like servant…」
She was now certain that Ann, like Earth, had a unique way of attracting people.
She was a natural at speaking the words someone wanted to hear at exactly the right time, completely unaware.
And yet, she seemed to be utterly oblivious to the feelings of others.
The same could be said for Su of the Snake Tribe, and Mon of the Monkey Tribe, who also seemed somewhat infatuated with Ann.
Yet Ann seemed entirely oblivious.
She probably just thought, 「I’m happy everyone listens to me so well.」
Truly, an unfortunate pair of master and servant.
But, let’s not talk about Elibel’s own condition.
After her conversation with Feru, Ann turned her attention back to the Giant Lizard.
『Now, we should be able to converse. Even though I’m going to kill it and make meatballs, we should at least find out why it came here before it dies.』
「Ann, you’re really ruthless towards your enemies.」
Ann tilted her head in puzzlement.
『Is there a need to keep alive someone who’s disturbed Lord Earth’s territory?』
「Well, not really…」
Despite their occasional disagreements, the two of them got along quite well.
Ann sent a thought transmission to the Giant Lizard.
『Now, Giant Lizard, answer me. Why did you invade our territory?』
After a while, a low, feminine voice echoed in their heads.
『Is this thought transmission… yours?』
The murky yellow eyes of the Giant Lizard looked toward Ann.
The Giant Lizard appears to be a female.
『Yes, I am the one sending it. Answer me, Giant Lizard. Why have you invaded our territory?』
After blinking for a while, the Giant Lizard send her thought transmission.
『I have a request for you…』
『I will die soon. If possible, could you take my child under your wing?』
『What are you talking about?』
『I am pregnant. That’s what I am saying, I want to entrust my child to you.』
『Did you listen to me? I am asking you why you came here.』
「Ahh, Ann. Just hold on a second.」
Interrupting their conversation was Elibel.
「From what I saw, there was one spot on that thing that was completely unscathed, like a magical barrier had been erected there.」
The unscathed spot she had sensed earlier when checking the Giant Lizard’s condition with magic sense was right at its belly, specifically where its womb would be.
「Your ‘womb’ doesn’t give off any presence of a soul, could that be due to your spell?」
『I see… so you knew. Yes, I have cast a barrier over the egg in my belly with magic. I had to do this, because otherwise, I couldn’t deceive ‘That’ thing’s eyes.』
The Giant Lizard chuckled heavily.
『Speaking of which, I haven’t yet told you why I came here…』
After taking a breath, the Giant Lizard spoke.
『It’s simple. A being stronger than our tribe appeared in the grasslands. Consequently, we were driven out of our home. That’s all there is to it.』
『What did you say…!?』
Ann and Elibel were taken aback by her words.
The place where the Giant Lizard lived is a vast grassland to the west of the Yuguru Great Forest known as Harp Meadow.
This monster was supposed to be a King-class monster that reigned supreme over that area.
The idea that such a creature had been driven out of its home was hard to believe.
『What do you mean by ‘that thing’?』
The Giant Lizard had just mentioned a “stronger one.”
If it was a group, it would be expressed as “ones” or “herd.”
If taken literally, it means that it is a single entity.
『I… I don’t know.』
『I don’t know what ‘it’ is… We were toyed with, hunted, scattered and fled without understanding why… But yes, that figure was almost like――』
That was when it happened.
「―――Oh, I finally caught up, and you are about to die…」
A voice rang out.
The overwhelming murderous intent, and the powerful presence, filled the surroundings.
Despite the pouring rain, the birds of the Yuguru Great Forest took flight all at once.
A huge pressure appeared simultaneously.
『Guh… Wha… What is this…?』
The overwhelming pressure forced Feru to kneel on the ground.
His tribe was also on their knees.
The antlings that were swarming around the Giant Lizard also did the same.
「Wow, such a menacing aura.」
『Yes, it feels like quite a seasoned warrior.』
Only two people, Ann and Elibel, were still standing unaffected within the pressure.
「To think you could stand up to my ‘Dragon Pressure’… For lowly creatures, you’re in the better class.」
The voice seemed to be coming from nowhere.
When they searched for the source, they found a small water mass floating in the air.
It was a fist-sized water mass, but it was emanating an overwhelming presence.
The continuous rain, and the clouds, they all gathered into one spot and gradually formed a shape.
The rain stopped, and along with the light shining through here and there, the transparent figure of a long-bodied dragon appeared.
Its two pairs of wings, four in total, were shining brightly, reflecting the light, giving it a divine appearance.
Elibel was in awe at the sight.
「Well, well, what an unexpected guest we have.」
Elibel murmured in astonishment.
Her voice was slightly trembling.
『Elibel, do you know what that is?』
The knowledge within Ann.
It was something she had received from Elibel, yet among it, there was no information about a monster that resembled a dragon.
Slowly, Elibel opens her mouth.
「That is a ‘Celestial Dragon’. A type of Dragon King species, just like Earth.」
Ann is left speechless by Elibel’s words.
The Dragon King species.
The four dragon races that stand at the apex in this world.
One of them is the “Celestial Dragon”.
「So you know who I am.」
With a smirk, the Celestial Dragon contorts his mouth.
Despite such a simple movement, an overwhelming divinity is felt.
Yet, amidst that pressure, Ann tightens her grip on her sword.
She needs to question him.
Why, at this moment, at this timing, a Dragon King species equivalent to Earth― the Celestial Dragon―has appeared.
She needs to know the true intention behind this.
August 2023 Patron: GoatBeards