「…It’s become quite lonely here…」
Lilu mumbled quietly as she looked at the throng of people coming and going.
How many months had passed since Spina had vanished?
Her whereabouts remained unknown, and without even her purpose becoming clear, Aur had stopped searching for her.
The curse that he had cast on her was of the variety that would be lethal to her, should she try to remove it by force, it would not be possible for her to leak any of the dungeon’s secrets to outsiders. And she herself was not capable of traversing the dungeons, to begin with.
While it was a small loss to lose her skills and the effort spent on teaching her the art of sorcery, it was not as if she had a dedicated post in the dungeon, it would run fine without her.
Aur had explained this as he brought an end to the search for Spina, but to Lilu, it appeared as if Aur was holding back, perhaps out of concern of involving Spina in something.
During those few months, Aur’s army began to slowly swallow up small neighboring countries. Ellen and the others had traveled back to the surface after the defeat of the white elf country. Their relationship had always been about the defeat of the white elves, nothing more. And while slightly inferior in strength, Aur had obtained dozens of white elf troops, so militarily, this was not a problem for him.
However, Aur had casually released the women who he had valued. He had even sent Mio, who had begrudged their leaving, to go along with them. Mio had been troubled over the decision of whether she would go, but she ultimately followed Ellen. She too had been replaced by young women and imps who had been taught how to raise the livestock and beasts, so the that was not a problem. But to have so many familiar faces leave one after another had given Lilu a strong sense of sadness and inexpressible fretfulness.
They were growing in numbers. They had defeated several countries, their slaves and beasts had increased and many brainwashed girls had been added. But Aur did not remember every name, nor did he keep them by his side like he used to. By now, the majority of the elf and human women under Ceres had sworn their loyalty to Aur, but Lilu did not know any of their names.
Adventurers like Wikia, Nadja, Sharl, and Faro had their hands full with managing their new underlings, and Lilu rarely saw them. Even Logan was busy handling the new lesser demons that had arrived, as well as the guarding of the labyrinth.
It was just Lilu who continued to be by Aur’s side, and Mary who had clung to Aur ever since Spina had disappeared. It seemed as if Aur was growing more lonely as his power expanded and as his people increased in number. Lilu now embraced him from behind.
「What you are saying is foolish. We have more men and more work now. It is for this moment that I have summoned you. You must work harder.」
The old sorcerer ordered over his shoulder after peeling her arms from him.
「…As you command.」
The faithful familiar said reluctantly and relayed the order to his underlings who helped manage the labyrinth. The newly arrived succubi who had been used to seduce the men were now under Lilu’s command.
But there was something crucially different about them and Lilu. Of course, they did not disobey any of her orders, and they worked hard. However, they had no trust whatsoever in Aur, and Aur, in return, saw them as nothing more than laborers.
This was the true form of demons. It was Lilu who was abnormal, this sentimentality, her feelings towards Aur, none of it was typical of a demon.
Of course, demons could be individualistic, there were deviations in personalities. Until now, Lilu had thought these features of hers were merely a deviation.
However, she could no longer help but think that there was something fundamentally different about her and the other succubi. This unease that she had never felt, even when she lived in the demon world, became stronger and stronger with each passing day.
「Then Limu and Lalu will inspect the beasts on the third floor, Shiruke and Sulia will take the fourth floor, Lolika and Nanai the first, the patrolling of the second floor…」
It happened then, while Lilu was giving orders to her underlings.
Suddenly, the lights that illuminated the inner labyrinth began to blink red. A shrill, metallic sound like the warning siren for giant ants began to ring all around them. Lilu had heard this sound just once before.
She brought back the old memory. Yes, that was when she had met Yunis for the very first time.
Now it was used to signal the arrival of invaders into the fourth and fifth floors.
「Shia! Didn’t you say that there were no powerful adventurers recently!?」
「Well, none have passed through the third floor.」
One of the succubi said in a calm voice. There was not even a hint of panic in her expression.
What was important to her, was whether the valuable reward of magical energy would be properly paid to her. If Aur should die or the magic dry up, they would just as quickly return to their home in the demon world. That was their view of the situation.
Lilu closed her eyes. With magic, she questioned her underlings that had been patrolling the third floor on what was happening. The answer that she received was 『All clear』.
「Aur, invaders! But something is wrong. No one has gone through the third floor!」
Lilu hurriedly reported to Aur. He had happened to be in the central plaza. It appeared that he was accessing the dungeon core through the water in order to view the interior of the labyrinth.
「It appears to be so. This is no invasion by adventurers.」
Aur gazed in empty air as his face turned grave.
「The exterior of the fourth layer has been broken. It must be kobolds…」
The exterior was the outermost part of the labyrinth, the walls that held everything up. An especially thick and sturdy wall had been constructed in order to carry the weight of the labyrinth and to prevent an invasion. But it had been reached through a tunnel from the outside and was broken through by kobolds.
「Kobolds? Had their nest reached our wall by coincidence?」
Aur shook his head at Lilu’s question.
「Kobolds are fairies of the mines. While they are adept at digging tunnels, they do not nest so deep underground. This is clearly a deliberate manipulation.」
With a grim expression, Aur turned to Lilu and said:
「We are being invaded by another 『Demon Lord』.」
「Another… What will you do!? Should we send Wikia to intercept them?」
「No, the risk is too great. …Calm yourself, I had considered this possibility and know what measures to take.」
「You predicted it!?」
Aur frowned in visible irritation as Lily raised her voice in loud surprise.
「It would be foolish to think that what you are doing would not be done by others. Of course, I have considered that there would be others who are also building dungeons.」
As Aur took Lilu to the summoning chamber, he cast a short spell. The magic square began to glow, and as he summoned, the room filled with the echoing sound of numerous wings flapping.
「We will first send these out for reconnaissance.」
Aur had summoned a host of giant flies.
Giant flies were ordinary flies who had sprung from corpses and had eventually reached gigantic proportions through their proximity to the thick magical energy that existed here. Their purpose was to eat away the dead that lay scattered around and to return them into the soil. After that, they would become food for the monsters of the deep, such as goblins and kobolds. This was their main role in the labyrinth’s ecosystem.
But in situations, as the present one, their ability to cover wide areas, lower cost, and even more so, their mobility with being able to fly freely through the shadows, made them excellent scouts. Aur cast a spell of 『control』on one of them, then sent the flies towards the hold in the outer walls that the kobolds had broken through. There was no teleportation barrier present where the enemy had dug, so Aur was able to teleport there as long as he understood the structure of the area.
The flies instantly flew into the tunnel in search of corpses to feed on. Aur controlled one such fly through magic, which allowed him to share its vision.
「Lilu, stay aware of the enemies invasion from the central plaza and forward that information to Wikia and have them take up the defenses. There is no guarantee that the other walls won’t be broken.」
Aur gave Lilu the order, all the while he viewed a separate world through multiple eyes.
After he heard her answer and felt her presence fade away, Aur increased the depth of his immersion into the senses of the fly.
The world seen through the giant fly was much larger than what humans saw. Perhaps it was because the giant flies were still small, at 1 foot(approximately 30 cm), but more than that, the view that the multiple eyes could enable was close to a full 360 degrees. This view that allowed you to see everything around you could be confusing for those not accustomed to it, but once he was, he was capable of flying freely through the air in any direction.
As he dodged the attacks of the kobolds and continued through the tunnel, Aur discovered the expected, familiar pattern on the wall.
It was a magical seal to carry magical energy from the dragon vein into the central dungeon core. The master of this dungeon was no ordinary dragon or sorcerer who had dug into Aur’s labyrinth by accident.
But at the same time, this puzzled Aur. The dungeon core was the grand result of Aur’s research. He had long ago destroyed that research, it existed only in his mind. While he had explained a little of it to Lilu, he could not imagine that there was anyone else but him who could create a core.
Furthermore, there was no meaning to just collecting magical energy in the center. Humans and monsters would die after being hit by such concentrated magic, making it useless. Aur’s labyrinth existed due to the dungeon core that shut off the energy and allowed him to freely draw from it.
In any case, he had to find the center. Aur had the flies spread out. He had a vague idea of the direction of the center from where the seal lead, but there was no guarantee that the labyrinths paths lead according to those directions. If anything, if it was constructed as an imitation of Aur’s labyrinth, the paths were bound to get him lost.
There was only one effective way to handle such a labyrinth. The method used by the adventurers… In other words, the human wave tactic.
He would use the magic engorged flies as a type of barrier. Where the giant flies had scouted, a barrier would be raised, they would appear in the form of a map in the central plaza fountain, where Lilu waited. Lilu would look at this map and predict where the enemy would attack, she would contact Wikia through magic and take the necessary steps for defense.
Fortunately, the enemies hand was nothing impressive. It was just kobolds and goblins, and at most a few ogres that were sent, mainly the kinds of beasts that were on the first floor of Aur’s labyrinth.
Even so, they could not underestimate them as long as the invasion of the dungeon continued. No matter how superior they were in power, it would all be for nothing if the dungeon core were to be destroyed. The enemy was capable of digging tunnels with the kobolds, so they could not know where they would come from next, until right before they burst through.
On the brighter side, Aur had to merely destroy their enemies dungeon core to defeat them as well. Perhaps it was a charm or the sorcerer himself. Regardless of what it was, every dungeon had a nucleus of some sort without exception. Finding that and destroying it would be the most effective way of winning.
He continued to navigate the labyrinth and evade the enemy. If the controlled fly was killed, he would possess a different one. And while he flew, he was suddenly struck by a strange feeling. There was something familiar about the central area of the labyrinth.
Aur relied on that memory as he changed his course. It was in the direction that the tactician Cass, had once set a trap for Aur. He had thought that perhaps the digging up of the dragon vein was a coincidence, but if it was the same spot, it would prove that the dragon vein definitely passed through. The metal pipes that were used to draw the magical energy had been removed, but the place had likely been reused.
And there were not many people who knew of that place. Now that Cass and the soldiers were dead, it was only Aur and his own that knew of it. Aur’s conviction grew stronger as he went deeper inside. When he arrived, he was greeted by a gigantic slime that beat as if a heart.
As soon as it entered his vision, tentacles stretched out like arms from its surface, and Aur’s vision was disconnected. It had seemingly been forcefully severed.
Aur whispered bitterly as he returned to his own body.