「Attacking in full force would be the height of folly.」
Aur declared bluntly.
「Our enemies powers are unknown to us. And so we must by no means show our hand first. Advantages that we have are the dungeons defensive capabilities and the monsters that lurk within it. Attacking in full force as our first step would be like crushing all of those advantages into dust.」
It was not that he underestimated his foe, if anything, Aur was taking the utmost precautions by not sending out all of his men. That was the tactical direction that Aur had discussed.
「Even so, surely they are not an enemy that can be beaten by using your fighting force sparingly?」
Aur shook his head at Lilu’s question.
「There is no need to win in the first place. We need only not be defeated when they attack. We just need to take their 『core』.」
Saint Meria had died without leaving any information. But the fact that it happened gave Aur the sense of someone existing behind the scenes. It was not an organization or group that was behind her. It was a single cunning and strong-willed individual. Aur would be the victor if he could defeat that person.
「However, we do not even know where this 『core』 even is.」
Aur once again shook his head at Spina’s question.
「No, there is a very strong likelihood that the core is in the Melisande Grand Temple. 」
「…Could it really be in such an obvious location?」
「Well, let me ask you then. If such a thing were possible…would you think that it would be a good idea to move our dungeon core to a remote location that was outside of the labyrinth?」
Lilu and Spina were quickly convinced by these words. The dungeon core was quite literally Aur’s life. It had to be within the dungeon in order to store magic, but even if that were not the case, they would not think to place it somewhere else.
「Of course, placing it somewhere else would take us by surprise. But if that location was exposed, what then? They could not adequately protect it. And should there be a constant defense set in place, then it would be easily discovered. In the end, placing in the location where you could guard it to the fullest is the obvious choice. In any case, the mere existence of the 『core』 is kept secret.」
The same could be said of Aur considering the dungeon core. It was something that had been decided after much consideration, it could not be wrong.
「And so the problem is not so much military strength, but war potential. Such as, to what degree are they able to use these Departed Heroes and angels.」
Lafenice had not been attacked in several hundred years. There were no documents remaining that recorded their war potential, and there was no guarantee that things had not changed since then. But that it was indeed true was something that was confirmed every few decades during the replacement ceremony for the Saint.
For the Departed Heroes and angels would come to bless the new Saint. It was not a mere formality, it was also a feint towards the surrounding countries. Aur had himself witnessed this, and he knew for a certainty that it was no illusion but that they were real.
「Angels and Departed Heroes…can I not devour them?」
Spina said as her body shook and twisted.
「No, I doubt it. They are not made of magic, but the force.」
「…And just what is this force?」
Spina asked with an expression that suggested she thought that she could easily make a force-eating slime if she just knew what it was.
「Magic is a power that bends and twists logic, changing the world. The force is the exact opposite. It is a power that promotes logic and shapes the world…it is said that it is a power that makes what is obvious, possible.」
「Makes the obvious possible…you say.」
Spina could only dumbly repeat his words at the confused explanation, Aur nodded.
「I cannot use thaumaturgy myself, so my answers can only be vague. But it is like how something will drop to the ground, a child growing to adulthood and eventually dying. Magic defies such logic, things will float in the air, the elderly become young again.」
Spina understood as she saw a living example in front of her. But if so, what exactly did thaumaturgy do? Things that were obvious would happen by themselves, without the use of thaumaturgy. That was not an art, just a law.
「It is said, that while most magic exists underground, the force mostly exists in the air…in the sky. But I do not know the truth of it.」
「The sky… So is it due to thaumaturgy that the sun moves?」
「I doubt that thaumaturgy on that scale is in the reach of humans. …But the sun has often been regarded as a manifestation of God’s power from long ago. Perhaps that is why they say the sky is full of the force.」
As Aur thoughtfully began to talk in answer to Lilu’s question, there was something that was stuck in the corner of Spina’s mind. Something she was on the brink of remembering, but could not. She was overcome with a feeling of irritation.
「In any case, angels are not so different from demons. The real trouble will be from the Departed Heroes.”
Heroes were beings born to become Departed Heroes. Just as demons bind contracts with humans, collect souls and increase their power, angels would celebrate humans as Heroes, polishing their souls while they are alive so that they can ascend into Heaven as a Departed Hero once they died.
Demons choose quantity over quality, the angels choose quality over quantity. Small discrepancies aside, the truth was that both sides were preying on humans.
「Equal or superior fighting ability compared to Yunis…」
Lilu recalled the time Yunis had attacked the labyrinth vividly, and her body shivered. She did not want to even imagine multiple people who carried such strength.
「I do not know how many Departed Heroes they can deploy at once…but if they have more than five, we will surely be defeated.」
Aur could only pray that that was not the case.
「Are you prepared?」
Aur asked in the dark, narrow tunnel.
「I will follow you anywhere, master, until my body ceases to be.」
Lilu replied lightly and Spina heavily.
While he smiled wryly at their extreme reactions, Aur sat upright and raised his voice.
「This will likely be our last battle! All of you, go forth with caution! The enemy is drunk with joy and serenity, they are detestable servants of Heaven who sing of happiness and love. Sack, defile, trample them! Decorate the doors of their houses with their entrails, hang their heads and set fire to them!」
His voice was amplified with magic to echo throughout the tunnels, the barbaric demi-humans all shouted in unison. Goblins, kobolds, dwarves, and giants. Aur had brought all his underlings that were dependable for strength and were adept at digging.
「We go now…『Accelerate!』」
Aur drew in magic from Lilu and Spina and applied it. It strengthened the muscles of the demi-humans so that their movements were accelerated.
The tunnels could be dug at the same pace as a person walking. Pillars and beams were constructed, it stretched on. The dirt and sand were dug up and crushed and then immediately taken away by the imps.
The tunnel continued on until they reached the area below the Grand Temple. If they could draw a teleportation square there, Aur’s victory would be assured. There was no castle that would not fall if a pit was created right next to the main building.
「But, surely they would be taking some kind of precaution reagarding the underground?」
After all, their Saint had been abducted so recently. If they knew that Aur would be coming from underground, there were ways they could detect him. There was little doubt that the enemy had taken some sort of measure to protect the underground.
And that is exactly why Aur decided to attack from there.
『More than anything, it is safe,』 he said.
The enemy was likely to dig through the previous tunnel, or create a path from the side and attempt to spring an attack on them. If so, what they would be most wary of were the『open areas』. They would surely be cautious of the open area between the tunnel that was below the altar and the Grand Temple so that Aur would not be able to invade further in.
It was not realistic for them to guard a much wider area than that. As even this surface area had the issue of 『depth』. Regardless if you used magic or thaumaturgy, it would have little effect at such a deep level underground.
But where Aur was now digging was due to a different line of thinking. They were already positioned directly below the temple. From here they would dig upwards in a spiral, slowly ascending as they made for the temple.
It was a place that had been dug even before he had abducted the Saint, and there was already a square drawn. He had even dug another tunnel so that in the event of the abduction ending in failure, he would have a place to attack from.
Because the entrance had been carefully covered and deeply buried so that it would not be discovered, they could not go occupy it directly from here, but it was one room that Aur had prepared as an 『underground fortress』.
「Sorcerer! We are close to reaching the other side!」
Aur narrowed his eyebrows as the dwarf shouted.
「What? That is strange. We should still have one hundred yards left to the surface.」
Aur had to rely on estimates as he did not have a definite sense of distance and direction, but even he could not mistake a distance of one hundred yards.
「That is also true, but this is the sound of a thin wall being dug. It might be a natural cavern.」
It was not the most welcoming turn of events. If the dirt was tightly compacted in front of them, they could easily tunnel through and advance. But should there be a cave in between, they would have to make a detour or build stairs. Both would cause a huge loss in time and a detour would increase the risk of being caught in the enemies security measures.
「There is no harm in finding out. Do you hear any water?」
「Aye, there is none of that. Well, let us tear through it then.」
The thing that you needed to be the most careful of when digging underground was water…water veins. Especially in the current position where they were digging upwards, the excavation team would be annihilated.
But it was something much worse than a water vein that awaited them on the opposite side of where they dug.
The dwarves grimaced as the ceiling was crumbled and blinding light rained from up high. They had not even reached the surface, and yet the opening was filled with light.
And they were struck dumb when their eyes finally caught the true form of those lights.
While what they had dug into was indeed a cave, it was not a naturally made one. It was obvious at a glance by the lack of stalactites and weathered stone surfaces.
And in front of them, there awaited a countless host of angels.
A massacre then proceeded. The beautiful angels who were adorned in the light of nobility, with golden hair and the white wings of birds instantly began to flock around the demi-humans and slashed with the sword that they carried. The miners were no mere laborers. Each and every one was a warrior.
And yet there was no hope for they who were ill-equipped in order to dig the tunnels, to match the angels. And as the narrow tunnel did not allow their large numbers to be an advantage, they were all slashed to pieces.
『Immortal』gazed on this scene and sighed deeply. A towel was wrapped around his neck and he carried a pickaxe in his hand. His white clothes were covered in dirt.
「I suppose the first battle can be called an easy win. But I can hardly believe what our boss did. In what world does a Saint employ Departed Heroes for construction work?」
With the power of the Departed Heroes, such a cavern could be finished in a single day and night, do you not think?
He remembered her smile as she said this, and the 『Immortal』 chuckled grimly.