The Prelude of Collapse
The group slowly went down the mountain road.
That wasn’t unusual. For the city’s residents, it was a familiar sight.
Explorers returned alive from the labyrinth. It was a daily routine.
Even if veteran parties searched through a different area, they would usually be able to handle the exploration.
Quickly passing through the gate, Lulu, who was using a walking stick, collapsed.
She didn’t think about annoying passersby. She didn’t have the composure to.
Like caught fish, the other members also sat down, leaning against the wall of the building along the roadside.
“Seriously, I thought that we were going to die this time.”
Though Ria was the only person with a nonchalant attitude, her equipment was ragged.
She didn’t have any armor, just clothes. Holes were scattered here and there, tempting sights to the men.
They were spare clothes. These were the last ones.
Even though she could use genesis magic, her magical power was precious and the other members were exhausted.
She was saving her magical power for an emergency, so she turned out like this in the end.
Indeed, it was a miracle no one died.
Serge was laying on Rudolph’s back, asleep as though he were dead.
All of the warrior’s armor had deformed from acid and extreme heat. The mages used their magical power to their limits, exhausting it until they started burning their life force.
More than a month had already passed since the formation of the new Thunder’s Fangs.
The first agreed upon trial period had passed and their roles were firmly set. Everyone concluded it was fine to continue as they had been doing.
Then, from measuring just how much fighting strength they had, this was the result of just a little unreasonableness.
Until now, Thunder’s Fangs had went up to the thirty-sixth floor. The final floor they reached this time was the forty-ninth.
The King Hydra, that was an extreme demon Serge Identified.
There were also unreasonably amounts of Evil Spirit Knight groups.
The army of magical creatures were hell.
Things like the Flame Giants were nightmarish.
They defeated all of them. They didn’t run. They couldn’t run.
Defeating the King Hydra, they started to return, but were attacked en route.
“Thinking about it, the Dark Dragon might have been waiting in front of us.”
Shouldering Lulu, Ria spoke to Vargas.
“With its strength, it certainly could have been the gatekeeper.”
Leaning his back against the wall exhausted, Vargas responded.
The King Hydra was strong. It may have been on the Cyclops’ level, or possibly even stronger.
If there was a stronger demon than that, it could only be something like a Dragon. Rather, could a Dragon be stronger than that?
“Has Cell fought against a Dragon?”
Ria asked while changing the shoulder she lent out. Since elves had long lives, she believed they would also have a lot of experiences.
“Only a Sub-Dragon. Not a genuine Dragon.”
Ria had experienced slaughter if it was a Sub-Dragon. It was crushed though.
Ria thought. The town’s atmosphere was strange. One of the town’s leading parties came back in tatters. Wouldn’t people call out to greet them?
There was little traffic. Normally, squalid men would be roaming the streets, but there were very few people now.
Nevertheless, it was time to rest. No matter what happened, they couldn’t fight in their current state. Apart from herself, it would take many days for the other humans to recover.
“Alright everyone~, get up~. Time to go home~”
Apart from endurance and magical power, she really wanted to go take a bath.
Everyone moving in a manner similar to a group of zombies, Ria and the rest of the group returned to the inn.
Someone let out a strange voice. There was an abnormally large amount of people inside the inn.
The dining room on the first floor was completely filled. It was still before evening. The many patrons were talking without eating for some reason.
Could they even be called patrons to begin with?
She wanted to ask what the heck happened.
Surely a Dragon didn’t appear nearby of something? If so, she could agree.
Certainly, if that was how it was she would understand.
While reading to the hotel’s counter, Ria didn’t think that her prediction would prove right.
Her prediction was off the mark.
Off in a bad direction.
When she hesitatingly asked about it at the counter, the receptionist girl answered.
“It seems the Imperial Capital disappeared.”
Ria unintentionally let out a strange voice.
She didn’t understand what she meant.
If you spoke about the Imperial Capital, it was the Imperial Capital. The capital of the empire.
There was only one empire on the Dragon Bone Continent. The nation founded by the Saint Emperor Ryuke Shifaka, the empire in the center of the continent.
The empire had no name. Nameless, it was the only empire like that.
The population of the Imperial Capital was about three million people. The center of all main roads, of culture, of military affairs, and of magic.
She couldn’t understand.
Ria looked behind her. Her comrades were looking around uneasily. Around them, the other guests looked similarly uneasy.
They probably didn’t want to go outside. They wanted to gather where other people were.
She couldn’t understand.
Ria turned around.
“Take a bath, eat, sleep. But first is the bath!”
She announced toward her comrades with a triumphant look.
While she entered the bath, Ria thought.
The bath at this inn was meant for one person. Though she didn’t want to not enter with Maal unless it were impossible, as expected, this time neither of them were lively enough to frolic around.
It’s said that the Imperial Capital disappeared. It physically disappeared.
Physically. For example, something like a nuclear weapon.
Still, she thought it wasn’t possible. Naturally, the Imperial Capital was given impregnable magical defenses. Using Casalia’s royal castle’s magical defenses as a reference, it probably wouldn’t be affected even at the level of nuclear weapons.
It was attacked by a God Dragon. That was hard to believe. In the first place, under the ground near the Imperial Capital was the strongest Dragon named Dark Dragon Valis, along with the sleeping Golden Dragon.
Then did the Golden Dragon destroy the Imperial Capital from the inside?
Other than that, could the Imperial Capital have been annihilated like that?
To begin with, no one understood the extent of the God Dragons’ powers. The Golden Dragon had a contract with the Saint Emperor, it should have been protecting the Imperial Capital. Because of that, the Imperial Capital was able to avoid being overrun even during millenniums and had become the base for humanity.
The Imperial Capital disappeared.
Where did the Golden Dragon go?
For this millennium, the Imperial Capital disappeared?
There wasn’t enough information. Not enough by far.
Even if everyone was resting, she herself had recovered her endurance and magical power. She wanted to gather information.
Even if it was said to have disappeared, there were three million people living there. Some among those must have been a mage of Rufus’ caliber. The royal family should have been protected by unbelievable talismans. There must be survivors.
Where to start? She hadn’t asked who brought the information.
When Ria left the bathtub, she dried herself off quickly.
She produced clothes using genesis magic and quickly changed into them before leaving the bathroom.
As for Maal and Lulu, they had already collapsed on their beds and were fast asleep. They probably fell asleep before bathing.
Affixing only Nagasone Kotetsu at her waist this time, Ria left the room.
She went down the stairs and went to the table where a man who had become an acquaintance sat.
While drinking milk she requested, she heard his story. However, Ria didn’t get any of the information she was hoping for.
Still, she now knew that a caravan arrived from the Casalia area three days before bringing the news.
Obtaining news from Anise in Casalia that the Imperial Capital disappeared, the caravan came here.
Afterwards, caravans similarly came bearing the news. They didn’t have any detailed information, but it was a fact that the Imperial Capital had vanished.
So it was the truth.
If Anise was the source of the information, there was probably no mistaking the origin of the information. There was a means of communication by magic between the Royal Capital and the Imperial Capital.
There was no contact with the Imperial Capital. To confirm what happened, they dispatched Dragon Knights. With the speed of Dragons, a round trip… no, with a mage recovering it, it would arrive after no later than three days. From there the report would be sent by way of magic.
Confirming the current situation with the Royal Palace, the information became common talk between merchants and didn’t take much time to spread.
If you considered a merchant’s network, excluding the details, the most important parts will spread instantly.
… It might be best to return to Anise to find out the details.
However, what could she do even if she returned?
She was thinking about what she could do.
Thinking while laying down on the bed, she fell asleep.
It was just before sunrise when she awoke.
That was much later than she usually got up. Though she wasn’t tired, she was probably mentally fatigued.
With Nagasone Kotetsu in hand, she went out to the inn’s garden. Easily unsheathing the katana, the blade shined by the light of daybreak.
She brandished the katana and held that stance, unmoving.
Her heart moved. Her blood moved. Her lungs moved.
The surrounding air moved.
Air that touched the katana was sliced through.
Even so, she remained unmoving.
The blade of her katana stopped just before the ground in front of her.
She cut away her hesitation.
Right now, she could do something here. It was something only she could do.
She would meet with Dark Dragon Valis. She would calm down after that.
In the morning sun, Ria began to carefully practice her forms.