Inside the Scorching Heat
“… Self-destruction is a man’s romance.”
“? … Hajime?”
Hajime who suddenly muttered with a grin while the small beams poured from above, made Yue and Shia looked at him with dubious expressions. Shaking his head to tell them it was nothing, Hajime was supported by the two and somehow managed to jump and arrived at the edge of the middle island.
The surrounding magma had become more and more rampaging since the time Tio flew away, and there was no other foothold except the middle island. The middle island would also be swallowed in less than five minutes.
Yue swallowed the pouring down small beams using “Absolute Calamity” while Shia swung down Doryukken at the Ash Dragons, who became impatient and came to directly attack them, making them fell into the magma. Already ten of Ash Dragons were defeated.
The magma dome they saw in the beginning above the middle island had already disappeared, and they could see a jet-black building in exchange. Nearby the building was a disk floating a few centimeters above the ground. It might be the thing normally used to get out from the shortcut that allowed the ceiling to open earlier.
Leering at the Ash Dragons desperately trying to dodge the magma pillars gushing out and attacking them, Hajime’s party approached the jet-black building.
At a glance, it only looked like a tall building without any door, but a part of the wall had the same crests of the Seven Great Dungeons carved in. Standing before that part of wall, the wall soundlessly slid and the party entered the building. The party entered the building at the same time the magma flowed, swallowing the middle island. Once again, the door closed soundlessly and halted the magma from flowing inside within a hair’s breadth.
After watching the door for a while and seeing the door didn’t melt nor were there any magma flowing inside, Hajime’s party breathe sighs of relief. They had expected the dwelling to be built here and have prepared for such a case. Thus, the result was a relief.
“We are safe for the time being… Even so, for this room to even intercepted the vibration…”
“Nn… Hajime, over there.”
“A magic circle.”
As soon as he entered the room, Hajime was surprised from not feeling the major tremor. Responding to his mutter, Yue, who was by his side, pointed her finger. The thing she pointed at was a complex and exquisite magic formation. The magic array for Age of Gods Magic. The party nodded at each other and came into the formation.
Just like the time in «Orcus Great Dungeon», their memories flowed out without permission, tracking how they conquered the dungeon. Thus, after it was confirmed that they conquered it from subjugating all of the Magma Serpents, the Age of Gods magic was directly carved into their brains.
“… I see, this is Spatial Magic.”
“… The seed for instant movement.”
“Ahh, just like that guy who suddenly appeared from behind, right.”
Apparently, the Age of Gods Magic resided in «Guryuu-en Great Volcano» was “Spatial Magic.” Another magic that could interfere with an unexpected thing. As usual, the magic at the Age of Gods was far from being normal.
Yue was referring to Freed’s surprise attack. The very first surprise attack was likely to appear from above using the Spatial magic. Although she didn’t understand whether he teleported or just distorted the space to hide, it didn’t change the fact that it was troublesome. Even his second surprise attack would have hit Hajime if not for Shia’s “Decided Future,” derived from “Foresight.” A fine play.
At the same time Hajime’s party mastered the Spatial magic, the light from magic formation dimmed and shiiiing, a part of the wall opened and shining letters began to appear on the wall before them.
“I sincerely wish for the free will of the people in the future.”
– Naiz Guryuu-en
“… How simple.”
Upong seeing the message, that was the impression Hajime had. Seeing the surroundings, he noticed that the dwelling of the founder of «Guryuu-en Great Volcano» was quite dreary. The feeling where someone lived here just like in the dwelling of Orcus couldn’t be felt. It was truly a place with nothing but the magic formation.
“… It seems to be his own arrangement.”
“Looks like Naiz-san didn’t leave anything except the magic.”
“Now that I remember it, that Naiz appeared in Oscar’s note. He seemed to be a truly taciturn person.”
With Shia supporting Hajime’s left flank, Yue walked to the wall with fist size opening and took out the pendant from inside. It was similar to the proofs of conquering other dungeons, but the circular pendant had different designs. Yue quietly put in on Hajime’s neck.
“… Now that we have obtained both the magic and proof. Next is how we get out of here.”
“… Does Hajime have any idea?”
“Hajime-san must have an idea, right? The outside is probably had been completely filled with magma, you know?”
Although they told their worries, not a trace of uneasiness could be felt from Yue and Shia. While feeling glad from the two’s trust, Hajime told them his escape plan.
“Of course, we are going to swim inside the magma.”
“… Come again?”
The far too insufficient information was too difficult to understand, making Yue and Shia think, “Was his head severely damaged after all?” The two asked again with expressions worrying about Hajime’s head.
“I will explain it properly so please don’t look at me like that. Hmm, actually, I have prepared a submarine that can be used immediately after we get out of this building. It is something I created because I thought it was necessary for the «Meljeene, Bottom of the Sea Ruin». Honestly, I was a little worried whether it could endure the magma, but that small boat was okay after being cladded with Vajra, so I tried it myself. And as expected, it looks like it will be okay.”
“Ju-just when in the world did you make that…” Shia spoke in amazement, and amazement could also be seen in Yue’s eyes.
Actually, at the time Freed said he destroyed the keystone, Hajime had directly transferred the submarine from “Treasure Box” into the magma. He had thought of forcibly breaking through the ceiling along with Tio if it melted. But since it didn’t melt (using induction stone), he knew they would be able to escape even if the space was filled with magma.
However, because the scale of the tremor of the «Guryuu-en Great Volcano» was obviously a dangerous one, along with the things collapsing all over the place, they would likely to be incapable of escaping smoothly. Thus, with the time limit approaching for them to return to Ancadi, they didn’t have the time to leisurely looking for the escape route. As such, he decided to let Tio escaped before them. It was so that the “Serene Stone” would be brought back within the time limit.
“The escape route is of course the shortcut on the ceiling. Yue, I leave the barrier to you until we get into the boarding gate of the submarine. You can do it, right?”
“Nh… leave it to me.”
Nodding at Hajime’s words, Yue concentrated and created triple layers of “Divine Interruption.” The shining barrier covered Hajime’s group of three. The three nodded at each other and stood before the door. Afterwards, the door connected to the outside filled with boiling magma, opened.
Bang! A sound immediately rang out and the scorching torrent of magma flowed into the room. And although “Divine Interruption” indeed protected Hajime’s party from the magma, their views were instantly dyed in crimson. With unbelievable spectacle of seeing magma while being submerged, even though they were prepared, Hajime’s party still found themselves at a loss for words. And although there was a saying “the world is wide,” there probably have been no one but Hajime’s party who have experience such a spectacle.
“It is right outside. Let’s go!”
With Hajime’s instructions, the three slowly went outside. And although it was a closed room they didn’t know anything about, just like what Hajime said, upon reaching it with “Divine Interruption,” they immediately stood before a place they understood was the gate. While Yue adjusted the barrier, they arrived right in front of the hatch, and the three were finally able to board on the submarine. And instinctively, Hajime’s party were relaxed.
And at that moment,
A tremor far greater from the ones before now attacked the entire space. The magma suddenly began to flow into one direction with a tremendous momentum. The submarine was swept by the swift current. Inside it, Hajime’s party were as if they were inside a mixer as they keep spinning in all of directions.
“Hau!? It hurts!”
Each of them had their bodies thrown all over the wall and screamed. Yue immediately activated “Absolute Calamity,” used the small, black, swirling orb to pull them, and they somehow managed to get out of the shaker-like situation.
“P-Phew. Thank you, Yue.”
“Thank you very much, Yue-san.”
“Nn… more importantly.”
Yue moved the “Absolute Calamity” and carried Hajime to the place that seemed to be the control seat. Hajime supplied his magic power and tried to control the submarine inside the viscous and intensely flowing magma, but as he thought, the rudder could not be controlled.
“Tch, if it is an eruption then being thrown outside is a lucky thing.”
“… Is there something else?”
Hajime’s bitter expression made Yue tilted her head.
“Ah. I have installed a certain stone just like the one in Cross Bits to lose sight of directions inside the magma. I know the location of the shortcut in the ceiling from the Cross Bits going outside of the dungeon before they exploded, but… this flow is moving away from the exit.”
“Eh? Does it mean we are diving underground?”
“Yeah, well, rather than diving underground, it is more like it’s moving diagonally… Now then, I wonder where it’s connected to… Yue, Shia. We can’t return immediately after all. There’s nothing we can do except to go with the flow.”
Hajime’s resolute expression made Yue and Shia only relaxed their gaze and quietly drew close to him.
“… I will be by your side until the end. I don’t have any complain as long as that is fulfilled.”
“Fufu… Literally, even if it is inside the fire and the water, eh. Me, too, I will go “anywhere” as long as I can be together with the two of you!”
“… I see. I am the same.”
Hajime relaxed and returned a smile towards the two.
Hajime’s group of three were drawing close to each other inside the submarine while they were swept by the scorching torrent.
* * *
At the time Hajime’s party were swept by the magma underground into the unknown after being unable to escape from «Guryuu-en Great Volcano», a shadow was flying unsteadily above the brown, raging sand of «Guryuu-en Great Desert».
Needless to say, it was the “Dragonformed” Tio.
“Ugh… this is rather bad… for the love of, that was a nasty Breath… there’s no other way. Master, sorry about this.”
Having forcibly broken through, Tio was basked in a large amount of beam whose toxin ended up aggravating her wounds. As such, judging she would be collapsed before she arrived at Ancadi, Tio apologized to Hajime for taking out from “Treasure Box” and crunched the vial of the special potion, the Holy Water, without permission.
Although she had consumed a large amount of magic power from firing Breaths in succession, surpassing her body’s limit, and reinforcing her flight ability, she had now considerably recovered. Moreover, even though her wounds didn’t instantaneously healed, the toxin had been suppressed.
Afterwards, she flew for several hours and she could finally see Ancadi in her view. If she kept flying any more than this, the people on the watchtower would be able to see Tio’s current appearance. For a moment, Tio wondered whether or not to release her dragon form. However, thinking it would surely be necessary for her to be in her dragonformed while she travels with Hajime, since the Demon race man named Freed was likely to still be alive, she decided to come clean about it.
Also, her hidden town wasn’t something that could easily be found. Even if it was found by chance, the Ryuujin race would not go downed that easily. Besides, if it turned into the nightmare (persecution) just like five hundred years ago, Hajime would surely lend Tio his power if she asked for his help. After all, Hajime was sweet to his companion.
While thinking so, she was finally only several kilometers away from Ancadi. From what she could see, the watchtower was in a commotion. Thus, because it would be a hassle to be attacked due to a misunderstanding, Tio made a detour towards the entrance gate and landed slightly away from it.
Ancadi’s Soldiers moved towards Tio, who landed and created sand dust, with row formation. If one looked above the walls, many Soldiers were standing by with bow or magic array-carved staff in hand.
The sand dust was clearing away. The Soldiers could be heard gulping from nervousness. However, what appeared from the sand was a beautiful, gold-eyed, black-haired woman who looked extremely exhausted, making the soldiers looked at each other in bewilderment.
From among the confused Soldiers, a girl came out. It was a girl whose hair was black like Tio’s, Kaori. Behind her, the Soldiers and the Lord’s son, Viz, were telling her it was dangerous, but Kaori completely ignored them and she fiercely running towards the kneeling, panting Tio.
Having heard the report from the watchtower and knowing Tio was from Ryuujin race, Kaori had guessed Hajime was returning and ran in a hurry.
“Tio! Are you okay!?”
“Huh, Kaori… ugh, this one is rather okay. This one is just a little tired.”
Kaori’s expression changed when she saw Tio’s body covered in wounds, and looking very exhausted. She immediately knelt nearby Tio’s side, and hurriedly examined her condition. When she came to know there was an unknown toxin in Tio’s body, she instantly began to activate detoxification and recovery magic at the same time.
“How… for it to not be detoxified…”
However, even the Holy Water needed time to detoxify the beam’s toxin. Thus, Kaori’s magic was unable to immediately detoxify it. However, although Kaori’s face was distorted, Tio had considerably recovered thanks to the effect of the previously taken Holy Water, and Kaori’s extraordinary recovery magic. She said to Kaori, “There’s no need to worry, it will be detoxified soon,” with a smile as she patted Kaori’s head.
Guessing there was indeed nothing to worry about judging by Tio’s expression, Kaori relaxed and smiled in relief. Following that, she looked around the surrounding and her expression gradually turned into one of unease.
“Tio… um, what about Hajime-kun and the other two? Is it only you? Also, what was… that eruption…”
“Calm down, Kaori. This one will explain everything. But first, tell the soldiers behind thou to calm down and take this one to a place where we can have a talk.”
“Ah, nn, I will.”
Only now did Kaori noticed the confused Soldiers behind her, and thus she nodded powerfully even though her expression was one of unease. Tio’s expression that didn’t contain any grievance was also a factor that helped Kaori to calm down.
Kaori ran back towards Viz, the Soldiers, and Randzi who had come, too. Explaining the circumstance, she took Tio to a place where they could talk in peace.
* * *
“So, about Hajime-kun and the other two…”
“Hmm, they will surely return soon. After all, Master didn’t think of giving up. And although this one didn’t hear anything due to not having time for that, Master certainly had a plan to escape.”
Having heard what happened in «Guryuu-en Great Volcano», Kaori turned pale while clenching her fists tightly. The uneasiness she felt since the time she and the people of Ancadi saw the gigantic eruption swelt up.
Towards Kaori who clenched her fists and seemed like she would collapse at any time, Tio quietly put her own hands on top of Kaori’s. Afterwards, she watched Kaori with a powerful gaze.
“Kaori. This one hath a message from Master.”
“Mhm. Actually it is for both Kaori and Myuu… “I will meet you later,” Master said.”
Kaori had thought it would be something like “I will surely return” or “Don’t worry” kind of words to reassure Kaori and Myuu. However, the too nonchalant words as if he was saying “I am going to a convenience store now, so let’s meet later,” made Kaori openmoutedly dumbfounded.
Crossing her mind was Hajime’s figure who raised a fearless smile and said, “Such a thing is nothing if I become serious, you know?” It was a reassuring figure that would break through any kind of difficulty while smiling. While she was naturally imagining his figure, Kaori was smiling wryly because it was the most reassuring message rather than some kind of unskillful, tough words.
“I see, then it will be okay, huh.”
“Mhm, no matter how desperate the situation looks like, Master will surely return like nothing’s happened. It is something this one believes…”
“Un… Hajime will be okay. That’s why, I must do the things I can here.”
“That’s right. This one will, of course, help thou.”
Recalling how Hajime had missing in the Great Dungeon, Kaori thought Hajime would surely be okay, and like Tio, she believed in him while clenching her fists tightly. Kaori stood up, and she had a resolute look in her eyes to heal the weakened people, who had distributed with the powder from the large amount of “Serene Stone” that was passed on to Randzi’s group earlier.
Afterwards, they explained the situation to Myuu who was entrusted to the Lord’s daughter, Airi (14 y.o), in the palace. And although Myuu was going to cry because her Hajime papa didn’t return, Tio told her that Hajime’s daughter must not cry easily, so she endured it with puffed cheeks.
Although Myuu was someone from the Sea-dweller tribe, knowing she was a companion of a “God’s apostle”, Kaori, and after looking after her for a while, the people of the palace were knocked out by Myuu’s cuteness. Airi, who was prohibited from going out due to her still weakened state, was especially fond of Myuu.
Although there was still the situation about Tio being from the Ryuujin race, Randzie and the other didn’t make a big commotion about it because although they were still in doubt, it didn’t change the fact that she was the dukedom’s benefactor, risking her life to bring them the “Serene Stone.”
Kaori and the others healed the patients one after another, but Hajime’s group still haven’t returned even after two days passed, thus their expressions gradually darkened. Tio had searched for any trace of Hajime’s group along the route to «Guryuu-en Great Volcano» several times, but she was at a loss from not finding anything.
Then, after three days had passed since Tio’s return, Kaori made a suggestion to Myuu and Tio.
“I think there’s no more patient that needs treatment from me now. They only need to rest after this, so it won’t be a problem to leave it to the medical center’s staff members. That’s why… let’s go to look for Hajime-kun’s group.”
“Papa? We are going to meet papa?”
“Hmm, thou art right. This one hath also thought it was about the time to make a move.”
Myuu gladly leaned her body to Kaori’s words while Tio was agreeing with eager expression.
“But, I think we can’t take Myuu along to «Guryuu-en Great Volcano», after all.”
“Thou art correct. If not, there will be no meaning for Master to entrust Myuu to this place. Besides, the eruption from before made it hard to search for them safely.”
“Yeah. I think so, too. That’s why I thought of going to Elisen first to return Myuu-chan to her mama.”
“Fumu, it is indeed a good idea… Yup. Then, it will be better for thee to ride on this one’s back. If it is only until Elisen, this one doesth not even need a day. We will arrive at the evening if we move out in the morning.”
The advancing conversation made a large amount of flowers of “?” bloomed above Myuu’s head. After Kaori explained to Myuu in an easily understandable manner, Myuu made a sad expression because they were not going to meet Hajime. However, she also wanted to meet her mother. After the two told her they were going to wait for Hajime papa with her, Myuu somehow consented although in reluctance. How Myuu was balancing her real mother with her papa made Kaori and Tio could not help but making wry smiles.
The next day, while watched by the Lord who seemed to want to restrain them, and Viz with his feverish gaze, Kaori and Myuu got on dragonformed Tio’s back and flew to the west. From behind, the voice of gratitude and Kaori’s name were grandly resounding from the people.
Thinking about her dear person who was once again missing, Kaori vowed to find him again for sure, and she looked straight ahead.
Afterwards, they never thought they would too easily be reunited with him…