“The Snake Church’s mark is one that I designed.” (Eri)
I let out a dumbfounded voice at Eri’s words.
“Fancy, right?” (Eri)
“Uuh, hmm…fancy?” (Eugene)
A silver apple with a jet black ominous snake wrapped around it.
Honestly speaking, it feels more creepy than anything.
“So you don’t get the worth of this, Eugene~.” (Eri)
The Demon Lord laid down on the bed as if saying ‘good grief’.
It seems like I have soured her mood, but I have to ask what I want to know.
“I found the Snake Church’s mark on Floor 52 where we were exploring. In other words, I think they were on the same floor… That they had this must mean they worshiped you, right?” (Eugene)
“Hmm, the Snake Church originally worshiped the Great Demon Lord-sama that ruled the world 1,000 years ago, but the South Continent was technically ruled by me, the Fallen Angel Lord, Erinyes. I am cute after all☆.” (Eri)
The Demon Lord Eri winked as she posed. It is vexing, but she is without doubt cute.
Speaking of which, the target of worship for the Snake Church was the Great Demon Lord.
But because the effect of the Demon Lord Erinyes was outstanding in the South Continent, they were technically worshiping the Demon Lord.
“I felt a displeasing gaze on me when we were exploring Floor 52. I thought it was a monster at first, but it might have been the Snake Church…” (Eugene)
“Well, the Zenith Tower doesn’t reject anyone after all. That said, I wonder what they are doing…” (Eri)
“Maybe they are trying to undo your seal?” (Eugene)
“In that case, they can just come to the Sealed Underground Prison directly. There’s no need to go through the trouble of going up the Zenith Tower.” (Eri)
Am I just worrying too much?
I spoke one more worry of mine.
“Is there a chance that my contract with you has been leaked to others? It has at the very least been noticed by Principal Uther.” (Eugene)
I can only think of this being related to Eri if I am being targeted by the Snake Church.
“Geh! It has been discovered by that guy?! Uwacha… I was trying to stealthily bring you in though…” (Eri)
“…Are you saying that to the very person in question?” (Eugene)
“What? You are having a nice experience here, so it is fine, right~?” (Eri)
Eri was poking my cheek.
I can’t deny it.
“And so, about the contract between you and me that you are worrying about, it most likely hasn’t been noticed by anyone. Even the Destiny Goddess Illia who is observing the South Continent from the Divine Realm. If she did notice, she would have at least thrown one Angel. But there’s no response. She must be blind.” (Eri)
Eri laughs with a ‘kusukusu’.
Even a Goddess…hasn’t noticed?
It instead makes me question just what in the world is Principal Uther who noticed.
I really can’t see the limits of that person.
I thought I could get some information from Eri, but it seems like that didn’t erase the troubles.
The group that worships the Demon Lord may be scheming something…is what I thought, but am I overthinking here?
I am a bit relieved.
Well, this is not the main topic.
“I want to consult with you about something, Eri.” (Eugene)
“Hmm, okay, but…you get it, right?” (Eri)
Eri wrapped her arms around my neck with a sidelong glance, and her face approached mine.
This flow of events…if it were the usual, we would be going into bed, but…
“Today is not a ‘regular’ day, right?” (Eugene)
I stopped Eri with my hand.
I offer myself to Eri once every 7 days.
I had something I wanted to ask her today, so I came here at an irregular time.
“Eh? Eh?! Why?! Blueballing?! No way~.” (Eri)
My heart shook when Eri looked up at me with puppy eyes.
“……A-After I am done with my business, okay?” (Eugene)
“Yay~☆. Then, ask me anything.” (Eri)
Eri’s crying face disappeared in an instant and turned into a smile.
Kuuh…I am being played like a fiddle.
But I have to ask what I need to ask.
I begin at once.
“The monsters increased a tier in strength after getting through Floor 50. We will most likely hit a wall at this rate. Any ideas?” (Eugene)
“Hmmm…I see.” (Eri)
Eri placed a hand on her chin and fell into thought.
“What do you think about your strengths and weaknesses, Eugene?” (Eri)
Eri didn’t answer my question straight and threw me a question instead.
…Does that mean she is telling me to think about it myself?
My strength is…probably one vs one. I can use the Mana Sword where I borrow yours and Sumire’s mana, so I have confidence I wouldn’t lose even against a Calamity Designation monster.” (Eugene)
“Right. Then, what are your weaknesses?” (Eri)
“I have no means of attack against mid range and long range enemies. Also, my barrier magic and healing magic can only encompass one person in my vicinity. I can’t protect my comrades if we are surrounded by many. That’s my weakness, I guess.” (Eugene)
“You get it well.” (Eri)
Eri smiled, satisfied with my answer.
“Next is…I guess it is my own mana. The effective time of the Mana Sword is short. I have managed somehow right now, but there’s still unease if I were to get surrounded by monsters.” (Eugene)
“Fufu, that’s only with the fire mana of Sumire-chan, right? The Mana Sword with my mana should have been activated the whole time, you know.” (Eri)
“…Now that you mention it…” (Eugene)
When I was fighting Cerberus, the Dark Blade didn’t lose strength even when I cut the enemy.
My own stamina was the one that didn’t last long due to the activation of the Mana Sword.
“Is the property of Sumire’s mana and yours different…?” (Eugene)
“It is not the property, but the love, the love. It is because you and I love each other that the Mana Sword continues for long♡.” (Eri)
“Love…? Really?” (Eugene)
That sounds suspicious…
“Obviously! There’s no way the depth of our connection would lose to a clueless girl that came to this world just recently!” (Eri)
“Got it. So that means I have hung out longer with you.” (Eugene)
When push comes to shove, I will rely on the Dark Blade.
I personally think of it as my last trump card, so I am a bit apprehensive about using it too casually.
“And so, your weaknesses are that you can’t do long range attacks and that your barrier magic and healing magic have a short range. You can solve that easily, you know?” (Eri)
I myself have been doing trial and error recently.
For example; with long range, there’s a technique that allows you to shoot a sword wave in the Twin Heavenly Resonance Style.
It is called Wind Form: Swallow in Flight, but if I were to shoot that, the Fire Blade would disappear.
It ends up being only one shot because I am borrowing the mana of Sumire, so it is not practical.
How short my barrier and healing magic range is was an issue I tried to solve since the imperial school.
I have tried using a staff or changing the incantation, but it didn’t do anything.
It is apparently a property I was born with.
The effect of my healing and barrier magic are high though…
While I was thinking that…
“Eugene, try exploring solo.” (Eri)
“That’s right. That’s the best option with your abilities, Eugene. All your problems are solved with that.” (Eri)
“My abilities…” (Eugene)
I think about it.
“You should understand it yourself, right? You fought off Cerberus-chan all by yourself, you know? If there’s no one pulling your leg, there’s no way you would be having difficulties just because it is Floor 52.” (Eri)
She said something heartless with a sparkling smile on her face.
It is not like I don’t get what she is saying here though…
“But I only have White Mana. I can’t defeat monsters alone.” (Eugene)
“You don’t have to fight monsters at every instance. Your barrier magic can even block the miasma of the Sealed Underground Prison. You can just ignore it all.” (Eri)
I have thought of that method before.
The method of using barrier magic and the blindspots of the dungeon to avoid the monsters.
“That won’t do, Eri. Even if I ignore the monsters in the way, I have to fight the Floor Boss no matter what.” (Eugene)
That’s the rule of the Last Dungeon.
Cheating is not forgiven in the Zenith Tower that is a trial of the Gods.
I can’t just ignore all battles.
“I know that, too. You can just use my mana when the time comes where you have to fight the Floor Boss. Ignore the monsters of the normal floors; defeat the Floor Boss with my mana. See? Simple, right?” (Eri)
She says it so nonchalantly.
I doubt it will go so smoothly.
But I can’t think of a rebuttal.
“But Sumire…is a party member of mine.” (Eugene)
“Just have her be absent. In the first place, that Sumire girl is using her wiles too much on you. That goes the same for the Holy Maiden candidate called Sara. I don’t want to see Eugene going all lovestruck while surrounded by women.” (Eri)
“…..That’s your own personal opinion.” (Eugene)
“But it is true that you would be able to show more power if you were solo, Eugene.” (Eri)
Those eyes looking at me seem to be serious.
I would be able to show more power if I were alone, huh.
That certainly might have been a blindspot.
“I will take that as a reference. Thanks, Eri.” (Eugene)
I thanked Eri.
I was about to depart, but…
“Eugene, pay with your body.” (Eri)
I couldn’t escape from the Demon Lord.
I was pushed down then and there.
“…See ya, Eri. I will come again.” (Eugene)
After finishing, I stood up from the bed.
“Leaving already? You are so restless, Eugene.” (Eri)
But I don’t feel like taking it easy.
My body feels heavy, but I am beginning to see what I have to do.
(Let’s try exploring the dungeon alone next time…) (Eugene)
Of course, it is not like I am disbanding my party with Sumire.
But it is not bad to test out a variety of things.
I like training myself alone to begin with.
I should just think of this as a part of my training.
I have been rotting from being unable to go beyond Floor 9 just a few months ago, but I have obtained an attack mean now.
I felt my arm tingle just thinking about this.
Now then, just at the moment when I was thinking of going out of the underground prison to make preparations for my exploration…
“Hey, Eugene…” (Eri)
Eri called me.
“Do you know why one of the Last Dungeons, the Zenith Tower, was built?” (Eri)
She suddenly asked me this.
“A trial for the residents of the Mortal Realm. The ones who have overcome the Last Dungeon will get the right to live in the Divine Realm, and obtain eternal life…right?” (Eugene)
I told Eri the textbook answer, and she showed a meaningful smile.
“That’s the front. Do you know the reason why the Goddesses of the Divine Realm have gone out of their way to make such a gigantic dungeon for the residents of the Mortal Realm?” (Eri)
The reasoning of the Gods, huh.
I have not thought of it.
“The Sun Goddess, Althena-sama, who keeps the Goddesses together… That personage…wants to create a new God.” (Eri)
“…Create…a God?” (Eugene)
I tilted my head.
“A new God hasn’t been born since the last Divine Realm War 15 million years ago. The Divine Realm has been in decline this whole time… The Sun Goddess-sama wants to break that. That’s the Stairs to Heaven plan. And so, the tool for the sake of that is this Zenith Tower. By dangling the supreme bait of eternal life, she observes the guinea pigs that are going up…” (Eri)
What is the Demon Lord saying here?
The Stairs to Heaven plan?
And most of all, this supreme bait…
“Eri…just what is it…” (Eugene)
“Just kidding☆. That was a joke, a joke!” (Eri)
The meaningful expression of just now disappeared and she returned to her usual thoughtless smile.
“You can forget about what I said…for now. Get through something like the Floor 100 already. Don’t mind the method you use. You are straight-laced, so you are only thinking about breaking through from the front, but you will just get stuck immediately like that.” (Eri)
“…Got it.” (Eugene)
What Eri said just now bothered me, but I doubt she will tell me even if I asked her.
(For now, I should get to Floor 100, huh…) (Eugene)
I will become an A rank explorer if I get through that.
It is one of the highest titles of the South Continent.
I would say it is a good objective to have at present.
Of course, my final objective is the goal of Sumire, Floor 500.
The Demon Lord yawned and laid down.
I soon hear her ‘suuh suuh’.
A peaceful and beautiful sleeping face.
I really find it hard to believe she is a fearsome Demon Lord.
“Have a good sleep, Eri.” (Eugene)
I left the underground prison.
—The next day.
It seems like Sumire is taking the short term concentration course of the magic lessons, so she will be shutting herself in the academy for a while.
Her task is mana and magic control.
Sumire is doing her best in bettering herself.
I must not lose either.
(Alright, let’s go!) (Eugene)
I headed to the dungeon elevator in the Zenith Tower.
It has been a while since I have explored the dungeon alone.
My aim is to get through Floor 53.
Floor 50 to 60 is the Sea of Trees zone.
When I got down the dungeon elevator, what lay there was a dim scenery with overlapping trees, and the cries of monsters and insects going ‘kikikiki…’, ‘kyokyokyokyo…’.
There were no explorers even when I looked around.
(Now then…) (Eugene)
I am completely alone today.
I can’t borrow mana from Sumire.
That’s why I can’t fight against monsters.
(Barrier Magic: [Hide Location].) (Eugene)
The spell that even deceived the eyes of Cerberus.
No, I have my doubts about whether it actually deceived him…
Barrier magic that assimilates the surrounding scenery.
The chances of being discovered by monsters is pretty low if I don’t move.
But I can’t avoid moving if I am going to be exploring.
Because of that…
(Twin Heavenly Sword Style: Wood Form – [Shadow Rat].) (Eugene)
The movement method to erase my presence like a small animal.
It is apparently originally a technique for assassinations…
I use a combination of barrier magic and a technique of the Twin Heavenly Resonance Style, and decide to get through Floor 53.
I advance carefully in the dark sea of trees.
I passed by monsters countless times on the way, but they didn’t notice me.
(This is…) (Eugene)
Could it be possible?
As expected of Eri’s advice.
I should thank her next time.
I feel like she will tell me to pay with my body again.
(But it requires a fearsome degree of concentration…) (Eugene)
I am keeping the barrier up the whole time, and I can’t shut off the Twin Heavenly Resonance technique.
Even if there’s no battles, I can’t continue this for long.
I take a break every now and then, and find the stairs for the next floor in a day.
(1 floor a day is my limit…) (Eugene)
That’s how I felt.
But this served as proof that I can get through Floor 50 and up even by myself.
Let’s try to get as far as I can with this method from tomorrow on, too.
7th day of my solo exploration.
It will be Floor 59 today.
My solo exploration is going well.
(It will finally be Floor 60 next…) (Eugene)
Hmm, facing a boss alone is a bit…
It would be better to ask for the opinion of Sumire and Sara for this.
While I was thinking about that…
My name was called from behind.
I feel like those familiar voices had a small dose of anger in it.
When I looked back, Sumire and Sara came at me.
“Heya there, you two. It has been a whi—” (Eugene)
“Exploring on your own is so horrible. Are you throwing me away?!!!” (Sumire)
“Why are you exploring alone?! Have you gotten bored of me?!!” (Sara)
The two draw closer.
Looks like they saw me exploring alone through the Satellite System.
(Speaking of which, I did tell the two that I would be training alone, but I didn’t tell them the training method in detail…) (Eugene)
It seems like they have misunderstood that I have switched to being solo.
Or more like, this is the 1st Floor of the Zenith Tower.
In other words, there’s a lot of explorers gathered here.
It is most likely not my imagination that the eyes of the surrounding are turning terribly cold when two girls are going ‘throwing away’ and ‘bored’.
“Wait! Calm down, you two!” (Eugene)
I ended up taking a while to make them understand.