Side Story 22
Watching her brethren howling outside the dungeon, Elja shivers uncontrollably.
This is bad, this is really bad.
What’s really bad is the gaze coming from behind.
Her neck creaks like an unoiled, rusty spring as she turns to look back.
―――Not a demon or monster, but there was Ann, looking furious.
With a Hannya demon visible in the background, one could almost see the threatening sound effect “gogogogogo” in the air.
Terrifying, terrifying, terrifying, what is that? It’s so scary it feels like her gaze could kill. I mean, I’m a dragon, right? I’m strong, so why am I so scared? What should I do? Sweat won’t stop, body won’t stop shaking, my heart is in agony, what should I do, what should I do, what should I do―――
All this in just a fraction of a second.
I have to explain myself, or it’s the end. Literally.
『…What is it?』
Crap, I just peed a little.
My underwear is soaked. The armpit sweat is real.
Lady Ann is super scary.
「Ah-ah-ah-ah… Nice weather, isn’t it?」
What am I even saying?!
I’m so scared I can’t think straight.
『…Yes, it is nice weather.』
「Right, right!? It is, isn’t it! Yes, exactly!!」
Huh? Is she going along with the conversation? Maybe she’s not as mad as I thought?
Elja breathes a sigh of relief.
『So, would you care to explain why your brethren are floating in the sky on such a clear day?』
Nope, she’s definitely mad!
「Uh, um, that’s… uh…」
Crap, what should I say?
I don’t even understand what’s going on myself.
「Ha-ha-hi. Uh, uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh don’t really understand ei-ei-either.」
「Elja, try to calm down. We should assess the situation first. Ann, don’t scare her so much.」
The one throwing me a lifeline is surprisingly Elibel.
Ann looks away, seemingly embarrassed.
「I’ve turned on the communication function. Now our voices can reach him. He doesn’t seem to be in a rampage, so Elja, could you ask for more details about his situation? Earth, you’re okay with that, right?」
『Huh? Oh, yeah, that’s fine, I think?』
Earth nods solemnly, but he seems restless.
What’s up with him? Elibel tilts her head in confusion.
『…What’s the matter, Earth? You’re not getting cold feet, are you?』
Elibel sends a thought transmission to Earth, seemingly concerned despite her words.
But the answer she gets is beyond her expectations.
『No, it’s just that… my stomach has been hurting since earlier…』
『This morning, I ate the rest of the fruits Elja brought before as a dessert substitute… It seems they were a bit rotten. My stomach’s been rumbling ever since—ogh…』
『Come on, don’t joke like that. You, with your ‘gluttony’ trait, getting food poisoning?』
As she’s about to dismiss his claim, Elibel remembers.
That’s right, Earth is currently weakened due to the backlash from his Full Body Armamentization.
Perhaps his “Gluttony” trait is weakened as well.
『…If it gets too bad, don’t hold it in, just say so.』
Publicly soiling oneself in front of everyone is no laughing matter.
A different kind of tension grips Earth and Elibel, apart from the Holy Dragon’s visit.
「―――Pororo, what brings you here?」
While they communicate telepathically, Elja starts a conversation.
No, no, I must focus here first.
『Is that you, Elja!? Good, you sound fine!』
Hearing Elja’s voice, the Holy Dragon outside—Pororo—replies with a buoyant tone.
「I’m fine, but this has nothing to do with you. Now, please answer my question.」
『Ah, right. I’m sorry for barging in like this. But I just had to test the strength of this dragon named Earth that you’ve fallen for! I needed to see for myself the male dragon who surpassed other fiancé candidates to become your number one!』
Magical power erupts from Pororo’s body.
Something else threatens to spill from Earth.
『Lord Earth!? What’s happening to you!? Don’t tell me… you’re being overwhelmed by the Holy Dragon’s magical power!?』
Ann rushes over immediately, but Earth stops her with a hand gesture.
『No… it’s fine, Ann. This is nothing to worry about (my stomach).』
『Lord Earth…! To remain so composed even after witnessing such magical power… You truly are remarkable.』
Ann trembles as if overcome with emotion.
（No, Ann. He’s just got a stomachache.）
Elibel wants to say this but doesn’t.
Or rather, she can’t. Because of the mood.
「So you see, Pororo. Even with that level of magical power released, Master Earth is not disturbed in the slightest. ‘Testing’ him is presumptuous to the extreme. You should recognize the difference in our standing.」
The misguided Sweet Holy Dragon boasts, completely missing the point.
『Amazing! To not be perturbed by my magical power, the first since you and Baal! I want to meet him even more now! I insist on a duel!』
Pororo takes this as a challenge, smiling even more warlike now.
Dragons, generally speaking, often believe might makes right.
Pororo is no exception, a bloodthirsty young dragon through and through.
「A duel is preposterous! If you really wanted to meet Master Earth, you should have come through the entrance to the dungeon in the forest below!」
『Oh, that’s interesting. If that dungeon was created by Earth, I’m intrigued! Very well, I’ll take up that challenge!』
Elja subtly tries to steer Pororo to the middle layer dungeon, and he seems totally up for it.
It’s the exact same complaint in the same situation Ann had with Elja.
The end is pretty much in sight.
「Wait! Elja! You can’t do that!」
But Elibel quickly intervenes.
「Why not, Miss Elibel?」
「Because that… well, it will take time.」
Elja tilts her head in confusion.
If that Holy Dragon challenged the middle layers, it would take as long as it did for Elja.
That’s unacceptable. Unbearable (for Earth’s stomach).
「We can’t waste time on this. Isn’t that right, Earth?」
Earth nods solemnly to Elibel’s question.
His expression seems to be filled with incredible determination—at least, that’s how it appears to Elja.
But in reality, he’s just a guy literally struggling to hold it in.
Slowly, Earth steps forward and speaks into the brilliantly colored sphere.
『Pororo… was it? Can you go back for today?』
『That voice… could it be you’re Earth?』
『Then great! I want to duel—』
『I REFUSE! LEAVE NOW!!!!!!!』
The next moment, Earth’s roar, laden with anger, exerts an immense pressure.
It doesn’t just stay in the depths but also spreads to the Eld Desert.
『What…!?』「Dad’s scary!」「Pur…Pururuuu…」「…indeed.」「What kind of magical power is this…」「Fo-fo-fo, this is indeed tremendous…」
Everyone who directly received it tremble.
『Ah, my bad… I pushed too hard… ugh!?』
A massive rumble hits Earth’s stomach like a drum.
This is bad, way bad. It’s about to burst out!
『T-to feel such magical power even from a distance… Indeed, Elja wasn’t exaggerating at all…』
Pororo speaks with a hint of tension seeping into his voice.
『Just a bit more and the teleportation gate to the Holy Land will be ready… Then, we can meet whenever we wish. So… please go back for today. It’s better for both of us that way… ogh!!!』
Earth, with a different kind of tension leaking through, demands resolutely.
The deep rumble echoes through the surveillance room.
“Lord Earth is mad,” they think, but Elibel casts a cold glance.
That’s just the shameful sound of the Dragon Lord’s queasy stomach.
Why on earth is someone like that our leader?
However, this shame-faced dragon, when facing a crisis, seems to become verbose and active, even without having taken any white powder.
It seems the wild instincts within him are not yet dead.
But at this rate, his position in the dungeon will die.
『…You’re right, I’m at fault for showing up unannounced. I got it, I’ll back off for today. I’ll get in touch in a few days, and we’ll meet when it suits us both. Is that okay?』
『Yes… that’s fine… oh, and—』
Earth glances at Elja as he speaks.
『If you say you’re one of Elja’s fiancé candidates, then consider her situation too… When you showed up out of the blue, she was really troubled, do you realize that?』
Pororo is dumbfounded by Earth’s words.
Earth is in the midst of a battle with himself. He can’t afford to care about others.
His desperate plea seems to have struck a chord with the Holy Dragon.
『…Right, you’re correct. In my eagerness to be liked by her, I’ve been too self-centered… But—』
Pororo’s voice lowers.
The tone of Earth’s belly also lowers; it’s reaching a critical point.
Please go home quickly.
Or I won’t be able to hold on.
「What is it?」
『You like Earth, don’t you?』
「Of course I do.」
Elja asserts without hesitation.
『But I like you too. I love you many times more, many tens of times more than you love Earth.』
There’s no doubt in Pororo’s voice either.
Like Elja, who didn’t bend her feelings even in the direst of circumstances in the middle layers of the dungeon, maybe the Holy Dragon, being of the Dragon King species, is particularly straightforward with his emotions.
「Yeah, whatever. Do as you like.」
『You’re not telling me to give up?』
「No, my feelings are steadfast. For me, Earth is the one, and all other dragons are worthless. Besides… giving up would be the same as a Holy Dragon abandoning its pride.」
Elja whispers the last sentences, soft but clear.
Hearing this, Pororo laughs.
『That’s right. And that’s why my feelings won’t waver either. You are the one for me, the only dragon I’ve sworn to love. I respect your feelings. But this is something I cannot and will not give up on—I will become your number one.』
「―――!…That’s exactly why I dislike you, you’ve always been so suffocatingly straightforward…」
Turning away from the monitor, Elja mutters under her breath, restlessly twirling her hair with her fingers.
『―――I won’t lose.』
With that, the Holy Dragon Pororo returns to the Holy Land.
In hindsight, he might have been a rather reasonable dragon after all.
Anyway, the third Holy Dragon incident comes to a close.
―――It seemed like a close call.
『Phew—looks like he finally left. Earth, are you okay?』
『Yeah, just barely… ogh.』
『I’ll take care of the rest, so you better hurry on.』
『Sorry, Elibel. I’ll just quickly—』
And just as Earth is about to pivot on his heel.
「My love! Your declaration earlier was so splendid! And the way you considered my feelings…! I’ve fallen for you even more!」
With that, Elja wraps her arms around Earth with a smile blooming like a flower.
She hugs him tight.
Naturally, this squeezes Earth’s stomach.
He had completely let his guard down.
The tension released, and in an unguarded moment, she hugs tighter.
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