Completed ― Saving a Simple and Kind Viscountess Whose Engagement Was Broken and Sentenced to the Labyrinth Prison

Completed ― Saving a Simple and Kind Viscountess Whose Engagement Was Broken and Sentenced to the Labyrinth Prison

Chapter 1: A Repeated Nightmare

I’ve had thousands of these dreams in the last ten years.

I was born as the oldest son of Count Escobal, a noble family in the Astoria Empire, and had a normal childhood.

My parents are wonderful to me, and my younger sister, Noemi, is as beautiful as an angel.

Our servants are always keeping an eye on us.

A type of noble family can be found anywhere.

But… I had a dream on the night of my eighth birthday.

It was the Imperial Academy’s graduation party, which I attended as an 18-year-old.

On such an important day, Emilio de Astoria, the Crown Prince of the Empire, broke off his engagement to the Duke’s daughter, Lady Carina Oliveira.

Furthermore, the Crown Prince and his cronies, one by one, denounce their engagement to the Duchess and the other ladies, who appear around her.

The Baroness, held in the Crown Prince’s arms, watched the scene… “Aria Moreno,” who is being held by the Crown Prince, watches with a worried look and a giggle now and then.

As for me? I was only a bystander.

Just another bystander watching the scene as if it were a scene from a well-known novel.

The Emperor then appeared, this time to bring to despair all those involved in breaking off the Duke’s daughter’s engagement.

The Emperor declares

[Everyone who broke the engagement, including the Crown Prince, are to be sent to the Labyrinth Prison because it caused chaos in the Astoria Empire.]

“Labyrinth Prison”—the Astoria Empire’s harshest alternative to the death penalty.

The penalty is deportation to the deep, dark labyrinth that has existed beneath the empire since its inception.

The only way to be forgiven is to bring back the Tithona sword, which seals the legendary dragon Elensge, who is sealed in the labyrinth’s lowest level.

Despite the fact that there has been no one who has returned alive,

The Crown Prince and the other people who were sent to Labyrinth Prison were understandably upset. Some cried and begged, others screamed in confusion, and others just stood around in a daze.

Furthermore, there was only one “Tithona,” which was a requirement for pardon.

The Crown Prince and his men, on the other hand, have no choice but to accept the challenge.

—Into the labyrinth, with a 0% chance of survival.

As a result, no one has ever returned from the labyrinth.

And then I wake up.

After witnessing their demise. At first, I dismissed it as a nightmare and prayed childishly to the goddess Cebeles.

But then I started having the same dream on a daily basis.

Today, yesterday, and tomorrow

I became terrified and tried not to sleep at all in order to stop dreaming.

But I’m exhausted after two all-nighters and can’t stop sleeping.

Then I have the same dream over and over again.

I became accustomed to such a daily routine and simply watched it in vain.

But my curiosity got the best of me.

After all, this is a dream, and I’m curious what will happen if I defy the Emperor’s order.

That night, I immediately interrupted the breakup of an engagement in my dream.

And in a way that shows it.

And guess what?

The knights seized me and also threw me into the Labyrinth Prison with the Crown Prince and others.

And now I’m stuck in the labyrinth with everyone else.

…I deeply regretted having done this for the sake of idle curiosity.

Because…

“You! Please give me that food!”

“No! This is mine!”

“Shut up! Then die right here!”

“Only I can get the Tithona sword and leave the labyrinth!”

The struggle for food was taking place in the labyrinth… The struggle for survival was going on.

The Crown Prince, Duchess, and other sons and daughters fought and killed each other while wearing hideous distorted faces.

So I ran away desperately, hoping that the others would not take away my food… or kill me.

But it wasn’t just the crown prince and his men who attacked me.

There were demons and traps everywhere in this labyrinth.

“Help… help me…!”

Even though I’m dreaming, I back away in fear in front of a Hellhound, forgetting about the sword I was given before entering the labyrinth and fleeing.

I-I am eighteen years old in my dream, but only eight years old in reality!

But the Hellhound in front of me does not pause.

It has bared its fangs and is about to bite me…What?!

“huh?”

A woman wrapped her arms around me as if to protect me, and the Hellhound bit her thin neck.

And I know who she is.

She is the fiancée of Donato Hymes, the eldest son of the “Hymes” frontier count and one of the noblemen who had denounced their engagement with the ladies.

“Nadia Jest.”

“W-Why did you do that?”

I’m not sure why she shielded me, so I just asked, perplexed.

But she only smiles and wraps her arms around me.

The Hellhound bites her, rips her flesh apart, and even splatters blood on my body.

And then… Before I knew it, Hellhounds surrounded and attacked me in mass.

And, of course, I was shielded.

Huh… She tried to save me, but I’m going to perish as well.

That’s what I thought. But when I felt the sliver of warmth that remained in her, my eyes went black.

Chapter 2: To Resist The Nightmare

“Haa… Haa… Haa… Haaah…!”

I startle awake from my dream and leap out of bed.

My back is completely drenched in cold sweat.

“I… I… I’m…”

I was eaten to death by the Hellhounds in that labyrinth.

But more than that, I couldn’t forgive myself for being protected by her… by Lady Nadia.

“I… I killed her… I allowed her to die…!”

Even though it was only a dream, I was filled with guilt, despair, and rage at my own helplessness.

I could have saved her life if I had been stronger.

With this realization, I went to my house’s library and read through the illustrated books about Hellhounds.

I would not let her die this time.

I won’t let her die again.

In my dream that night, I faced the Hellhound once more.

But I’m not the same person I was in my dream the night before.

So.

“Take this!”

“What the heck, gah!”

I took advantage of Hellhound’s proclivity for moving quickly but only coming straight at me, and stabbed it calmly with my sword while waiting for it to strike.

In the dream, I am now eighteen years old. I am an adult and a strong man.

“Good! Now!”

I fled before the Hellhounds attacked, and this time I looked for her… Lady Nadia.

“Haa… Haa… Where has she gone…”

I’m frantically searching the labyrinth for her.

She shielded me in my dream the night before, so she must be nearby!

“Oh! She’s right there!”

She was charging at me, running as fast as she could get away from a Slime.

I see… She was running away from the slow-moving slime in my dream the night before and saved me…

Then it’s my turn to come to her aid!

“Nadia-san! Get behind me!”

“Huh?! Yes!”

I break in to protect her and slash at the slime’s slow attack with my sword.

The slime splits into two, and then two more appear, but I kill them all with my sword, one by one.

“Phew… It’s all right now… Huh?!”

“Thank you very much… I’m all right. Thank you very much…”

Lady Nadia was sobbing uncontrollably.

I was so taken by her that I couldn’t help but admire her.

Then I decided to go on a labyrinth adventure with Lady Nadia.

But…”

What?! Daaaaaaaaaaaamn!”

A powerful lizardman appeared out of nowhere and slaughtered me and Lady Nadia.

—○█○—

Since then, I have always worked with Lady Nadia in my dreams.

At the time, I had already abandoned the notion of being a mere bystander.

And the more I got to know her, the more I liked her personality, kindness, devotion, and many other things.

“I wonder how she is in real life…”

While practicing magic in my mansion’s garden, I whispered to myself.

She has long blue hair and blue eyes.A

well-defined nose bridge and pale cherry lips.

Her slightly nervous and frightened gestures, as well as her “Yaeba Teeth,” which show when she bashfully bows her head, make her so endearing.

“Hahaha.”

I couldn’t stop laughing when I remembered her appearance.

After all, it was only a dream, and in addition to the Crown Prince, who is real, there is Lady Nadia… There’s a possibility she is…

“Anyway, in this reality, I have to keep trying.”

In fact, I realized something while exploring the labyrinth in my dream—I can use the skills and abilities I learned in real life in my dreams.

I discovered this after learning magic.

My previous sword fighting was ineffective, and after failing to find a way to fight without superior weapons and armor, I decided to learn magic.

So I begged my parents to find me a magic tutor.

They helped me learn some offensive magic, even though it was still at the beginner level.

Furthermore, because I had mastered magic, I was able to use it in my dreams that day.

Following that, I worked hard to get stronger and stronger.

Unfortunately, I discovered that I lacked talent in swordsmanship, which made me a little depressed, but that didn’t stop the demons in the dream and those guys from not letting me and Nadia off the hook.

So I focused on my magical training.

In the real world, I concentrated on increasing my magical power, learning magic, and improving my basic physical strength, whereas in my dreams, I concentrated on gaining practical experience with magic.

I spent more than twice as much time as a normal person, including in my dreams, and I quickly grew stronger and stronger.

Then came my fifteenth year’s spring.

I was about to enter the Imperial Academy.

Chapter 3: Real Encounter

“Do your best, Ivan!”

“Imperial City is a big city, don’t be fooled!”

“Onii-chan! Good luck!”

Finally, my parents, my lovely sister, and all the servants came to see me off on the morning of my departure to Imperial City.

No, although our territory is in the middle of nowhere in the Empire, that doesn’t mean I’d be fooled, okay?!

“Hahaha…Anyway, I’m leaving.”

Everyone wishes me well, and I board the carriage they’ve prepared for me and travel to the Imperial City.

It takes about a month to get to Imperial City from the Count’s territory because it is truly in the middle of nowhere.

Despite its remote location, our Escobar counts are not frontier counts.

It has no diplomatic significance, let alone value, because it is just a piece of countryside on the outskirts of the empire.

So, in terms of treatment, it’s the same as the regular count family.

“Well, I like how laid-back this place is.”

My mouth drops open as I look out the window of the carriage.

I guess I won’t see this view again for a while.

“So… Shall we go ahead and do it?”

I quietly close my eyes and begin to hone the magic in my body.

I can gradually increase my magical power by repeating this every day.

I’ve been doing this since the day I discovered I could use magic.

As a result of this, I now have four times the magical power of an ordinary wizard. No, I believe I have five times the magical power of an average wizard.

Unfortunately, my magical abilities were mediocre, so the power of each of my attack spells was only mediocre as well.

“Well, skill and experience can cover that up.”

I learned that fact in my dreams, too.

You can gain as much experience as you want there.

“Oops, concentrate, concentrate…”

I gather my wits and rekindle the magic in my body.

I’m going to save Nadia, who will make a reappearance in my dreams today.

—○█○—

“Wow…!”

I’ve been away from my hometown for a month.

When I first arrived in Imperial City, I was taken aback by the sheer number of people and buildings.

“I wondered if I’d be able to last three years in a place like this.”

I expressed my concerns. The Imperial Academy is a school that all children from noble families in the Empire have to go to.

“Besides, even in my wildest dreams, I would have spent three years here.”

I muttered as if I were telling myself, after all, in a dream, it’s different from reality.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen it in my dreams because my dreams begin with the prince’s cancelation of his engagement at the graduation party.

“Anyway, when I get to the academy, I’ll have to unload.”

As I sit in the carriage, I think to myself.

After that…”

Maybe, just maybe, it was all a dream… Maybe that’s not the case…”

I say, slumping my shoulders.

Actually, Father has proposed an engagement to me several times before, but my feelings for Nadia are so strong that I have turned them all down.

That’s why, despite being a nobleman, I’m still without a fiancée at the age of fifteen.

“Hahaha… Nadia could never exist in real life…”

Even if what happened in my dream is true, she already has a fiancé.

even if they call off the engagement on graduation night.

My heart ached.

—○█○—

“So this is the Imperial Academy…”

I muttered to myself as I looked up at the school building, which is one of the most magnificent structures in the Imperial City.

I’m immediately overwhelmed, but I’ll get used to it once I’m here. I’m confident I will.

I resolve myself, grab my trunk case, and enter the compound.

“Humph… watch where you’re going, little shit!”

“P-Please excuse us…”

In front of me, I saw a nobleman walking arrogantly with a pretty big sword. Behind him, a young woman was apologizing.

“…That’s…”It can’t be.

But there was no way I could have been mistaken.

That gorgeous indigo-colored hair. Those indigo eyes were filled with compassion.

“A-ahhhhhhhhhh!”

I’m certain of it.

There’s no denying it.

“Aaahhh…!”

Nadia Jest, who has been the love of my life for seven years…!

The miracle of meeting her caused me to cry in public.

The thrill of finally meeting her in person.

After that…

“A-Are you okay?”

Before I knew it, Nadia was standing beside me with a worried expression on her face.

“Ah, ah… I-I’m sorry… I think I got a little dust in my eye…”

I smiled as I wiped my tears away with my sleeve, trying not to worry her….

No, I was so happy to see Nadia that I thought my face was going to burst.

“I-I understand… If that’s the case, I’m glad.”

Nadia gave a modest smile.

Her adorable smile was the same as it had been in the dream.

“T-That right, I am Ivan Escobal, the eldest son of Count Escobal, and a new student at the Imperial Academy.”I-I

, too, am a freshman… I’m Nadia Jest, the Viscount Jest family’s eldest daughter…”

Yes, I know you better than anyone else.

I am more aware of your kindness, bravery, strength, hard work, and dedication than anyone else on the planet.

So…

“Please look after me from now on.”

—I’m going to save you from everything.

Chapter 4: Unsuitable

We proceed to our respective classes after successfully completing the entrance ceremony.

Nadia and I are both in class B, while her fiancé, Donato Hymes, is in class A.

This distinguishes between royal children and other high-ranking nobles and the rest of us.

Though a count, I’m barely in B class, but it’s nice to be in the same class as Nadia.

Besides, I’m relieved she’s no longer with that Donato guy.

Because…

“Donato-sama, if you’ll excuse me. “

“Hmph.”

Donato is arrogant and bossy, and he always treats Nadia like property.

He exploited the fact that her family, the Viscounts of Jest, is part of the Counts of Hymes and thus cannot be disobeyed.

My gaze was fixed on Donato.

“Ah…”

Nadia appears to have noticed my gaze.

“…I’m sorry you witnessed something upsetting…”

“N-No… We’re starting the same class today, so please take good care of me.”

I used this greeting to divert her attention away from the topic at hand.

“Yes. Please look after me as well.”

She makes a deep bow as she says this.

Her appearance is so reserved that may mistake her for the Duke’s daughter, Lady Carina, the Crown Prince’s fiancée.

And may compare her to Lady Aria, the girl who will win the hearts of many sons, including the Crown Prince and his cronies, and, of course, Donato.

But I’m the only one who knows.

I know she’s a woman with more inner strength and tenderness than the beauty she displays on clothes.

“U-Um, what’s the matter?”

“Huh?N-Nothing. In any case, we should get to class as soon as possible.”

“Y-Yes.”

No, no. If I continue to adorn her, she’ll think I’m weird.

I’ll be in big trouble if Nadia hates me for that…

I tried to remain calm as I accompanied her into the classroom.

—○█○—

“Well, that’s all for today. Tomorrow, each of you should write and submit a class of your choice.”

The homeroom teacher informed us and then exited the classroom.

Except for compulsory subjects, each student at the Imperial Academy chooses classes based on his or her own characteristics.

This takes into account the roles that each house is expected to play within the empire.

In short, it makes no sense for a knight commander or military family member to learn magic, or for a court mage family member to learn swordplay.

on the grounds that

“Which course do you intend to take, Nadia-san?”

When I approach her seat, I casually inquire.

“Me? I’m thinking about taking a swordsmanship class, but…”

Nadia responded timidly, a puzzled expression on her face.

“Is that so? With all due respect, Nadia-san does not appear to be suited for swordsmanship…”

In fact, her swordsmanship proved useless in my dream.

Perhaps she is fatally lacking in swordsmanship talent.

“…I am aware of it.”

Nadia bites her lower lip in frustration at my words.

The main reason she decides to take swordsmanship classes in the first place is out of consideration for Donato’s family, the Hymes family.

Because that house’s territory is on the front lines with neighboring countries, military power is always present… They needed strenght.

This also applies to her as the fiancée, who will become a member of the Hymes family in the future.

In my dreams, Nadia told me these things.

She got engaged to Donato solely for the sake of the Jest Family, learned swordsmanship, which she was terrible at, and kept working hard.

But…

“…I don’t believe that learning something you’re not good at is ever beneficial to the family. Then I believe it is in the best interests of the house to have what it lacks.”

I won’t say what that means, but she’s told me everything in my dreams.

The bonds, the hardships, the pain.

Nonetheless, she has made every effort to progress.

“…Really, is that so?”

Nadia inquires, peering into my eyes after a few moments of thought.

As if clutching at me.

“Yes, I believe so. This, I believe, is also the quickest way for you to be recognized.”

“Ah…”

My words caused her eyes to widen.

Her lovely indigo eyes welled up with tears.

After that…

“I…!”

She burst out crying.

“I’m going to help you figure out what you’re good at and what you can do from now on… So let us consider it together.”

“Yes… yes…!”

Nadia bowed repeatedly to me with tears in her eyes before leaving the classroom.

I smiled as I looked at her.

Then, after she was out of sight.

“…those idiots.”

I muttered a few words, expressing my rage at Donato for pushing her to this point, as well as at the Hymes family, and the Jest family.

Chapter 5: I’m On Your Side

“Fuu…”

As usual, I awoke the next morning from my nightmare.

I’ve still not been able to achieve the outcome that will save her.

“However, I had some successes.”

After all, the most important thing was finally meeting Nadia in person.

In my previous dreams, I began by teaching her various skills, because she could only use a clumsy sword after being trapped in the labyrinth.

Last night, however, Nadia used magic.

However, she is not particularly gifted at magic, as that is not a talent that she deserves.

“Well, I can guide her through today’s class selections.”

I’m just wondering if she’ll really accept my option.

After all, “that” skill is not widely used in the Empire.

“However, I know better than anyone that her real talent is truly incredible…”

Because, despite the fact that she began using her ability after falling into the labyrinth, she always demonstrates it so well at the end of my dreams.

“Yes—I’m confident she’ll be able to escape if she can become strong enough to protect herself in the labyrinth.”

I mutter and clench my fists tightly, the edges of my mouth lifting up.

—○█○—

“Good morning, Nadia-san… Huh? What happened?!”

Her left cheek was red and swollen when I entered the classroom to greet Nadia in the morning.

W-What on earth…

“G-Good morning… I fell down a little and bumped into it, so please don’t worry about it…”

Nadia gives me a friendly smile.

But the sight of her is excruciatingly painful, and the smile she wears and the lies she tells not to worry me suffocate my heart…”

At this rate, things will only get worse. Let’s go to the infirmary right away.”

“I-Ivan-sama! I’m going to be fine!”

I take Nadia’s hand in mine and lead her out of the classroom, despite her rejection.

most likely to keep me out of it.

Then

“You! Whose girl are you touching?!”

A tall, powerfully built student from A class, along with a couple of noblemen, shouts loudly.

Of course, it was Nadia’s fiancé, Donato.

“Nadia-san is not a thing, so I think it would be inappropriate to use the word ‘whose’. So who are you to yell at me in public?”

“What! You’re just a class B!”

I see… That’s why you’re so rude to me… you think I’m beneath you.

This guy treats everyone the same way.

He has the best swordsmanship in the academy and is the eldest son of a border lord. He wasn’t aware of it until he was thrown into the labyrinth.

And then

“Calm down, Donato.”

“Y-Your Highness! He has the audacity to mock me!”

The one who is laughing and chiding is Emilio de Astoria, the Crown Prince of the Astoria Empire.

This person doesn’t know how to discipline his subordinates, but he takes advantage of them.

“And where are you from?”

“My name is Ivan, the eldest son of Count Escobal.”

“Uh…?”

As I said my name with my hand on my chest, the crown prince looked at me with interest.

Despite being in the countryside, our territory is larger than the Counts of the Hymes Frontier.

“She’s hurt, Your Royal Highness—I’d like to get her to the infirmary as soon as possible.”

“Oh, yes…”

When I said this with a respectful bow, the Crown Prince looked perplexed, possibly because he was embarrassed.

“Wait! You must consult me first. “

“If you want to talk, after I take her to the infirmary, I’ll listen to you as much as you want.”

I ignored Donato’s subsequent shouting and walked to the infirmary with the confused Nadia.

After that

“I’m so sorry, Ivan-sama!”

As soon as we arrived at the infirmary, Nadia bowed deeply and apologized.

“Why are you apologizing?”

“Because of me…my fiancée Donato-sama and Ivan-sama have fallen out…”

“You are not at fault—so please, no apologies.”

I purposefully ignore the word “fiancée” she just said, and try to appear as gentle as possible as I admonish her.

Besides

“I don’t mean to intrude, but is that left cheek related to that man?”

“No! No, it isn’t! This is entirely my fault!”

Nadia takes a deep breath and vehemently denies my words.

‘Sigh’… She’s always been this way.

Even in my dreams, when that assh*le called it quits on their engagement, she just blames herself and drives herself into a corner…

“Nadia-san…It’s just you and me here. So try not to be so hard on yourself. I would never tell anyone what you said because I don’t want you to get in trouble. I’m just… concerned about you.”

Yes… She had been suffering alone at the academy for three years because she had always been quiet and shy.

How heartbreaking it was to hear that from her, crying in my dreams.

“I don’t want to compel you to discuss it. But please keep this in mind. I’m on your side. “

“Ah…Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…!”

Nadia sobbed and covered her face with her hands….

I could only stare at her like that.

Chapter 6: Summoning Technique

“Sniffle… I apologize; I’m fine now…”

Nadia eventually regained her composure and bowed her head.

“I’m a classmate of yours—so you don’t have to apologize as much, okay?”

“Y-Yes, I’m sorry…”

“Look, you apologized again.”

“Ah…fufu.”

Nadia finally laughed after I pointed it out in a playful and intentional manner.

Yeah… As expected, she looks best when she smiles.

“Would you please wait a moment.”

I searched the infirmary for something to cool her left cheek and eyelid and found a clean medical cloth nearby.

I soak it in cold water, wring it out, and then drain it.

“Please take this.”

“T-Thank you very much…”

She presses a cold cloth against her left cheek and eyelid.

“Oh, come to think of it, Nadia-san, have you decided which class to take?”

“Yes, I have. I think I will choose the magic class. That way, I can be of assistance to…”

I tried to change the subject to make her feel better, but it ended up reminding her of the Hymes family and her parents’ house. I suppose I failed a little…

But, her expression isn’t as bleak, and that’s important, so let’s continue the conversation.

“Magic… Please excuse me, Nadia-san, but do you practice magic?”

“Yes, I do. But It’s really just simple magic. But it’s better than swordsmanship, which I’m not good at.”

“Hmm…”

Her words make me ponder.

Unfortunately, I also know that Nadia lacks talent in magic, though not as much as she does in swordsmanship.

So… how am I going to get her there?

“By the way, Nadia-san, do you like animals?”

“Yes! In fact, I’ve been caring for our horses since I was a kid!”

Nadia’s indigo eyes brightened, and she responded quickly.

Yes, I knew she was fond of animals.

“Then, for example, how about learning summoning art?”

“Summoning art…?”

“Yes.”

She inquires, and I smile and nod.

In my dream, she tried out the summoning art and was able to summon a magical beast with ease.

She quickly improved, and she was able to summon intermediate level magical beasts in no time.

If she had only spent the three years before being thrown into the labyrinth learning the summoning art properly, then…

“After all, learning something you enjoy will help you improve faster than learning something out of duty or mission, right? Among them are some adorable magical beasts…”

“I-I see!”

Good! Nadia has agreed!

Even in my dreams, she summons cute and fluffy magical beasts and heals them to her heart’s content!

“Moreover, the summoning art has many applications and few practitioners, so I believe it will be very useful if you can master it.”

“Y-Yes…!

The summoning art appears to have moved Nadia.

Just one more push.

“If Nadia-san decides to use the summoning art, I will learn it alongside her—Let us grow stronger together!”

“I feel encouraged if… if Ivan-sama is with me…”

Nadia’s cheeks are flushed as she looks at me.

I believe she will learn the summoning art at this point.

Then

“Ara? What’s the matter? “

Finally, the doctor from the infirmary arrives.

When she arrived, it was convenient for me.

“Actually, she has an injury on her left cheek—we’re cooling her down as first aid, but can you take care of her from here?”

“Yes, okay.”

The doctor in the infirmary smiled and nodded.

“Then, Nadia-san, I will also submit your elective classes to the doctor.”

“Y-Yes. Ivan-sama… I am grateful for everything you have done for me. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to thank you for your generosity.”

Nadia bows deeply and places her hand on her chest.

Hmm… “Anything,” you say?

“In that case, I have a request for Nadia-san, Is that all right?”

“Y-Yes! Anything!”

She leaned in closer to hear what I was going to say.

“Well, we’re classmates in the same class, and we don’t have much in common in terms of family status.”

“Y-Yes…”

“So I’d appreciate it if you’d address me as “Ivan” from now on.”

“T- That’s…!”

“I used to live in the countryside, so I don’t like to address my friends with honorific titles, nor do I like to be addressed by them—so please, by all means.”

I approach her with caution and insist that she do so.

I want to spend more time with her and get to know her better.

That is, as friends, because she’s still engaged to Donato.

Nadia thinks about it for a moment, then slowly opens her mouth.

“T-Then, Ivan-sama, please don’t address me as ‘san.’ If you agree, I will make an effort… I’ll do my best…”

“Really? Yes!”

Nadia was embarrassed, and I clenched my fists in joy.

“fufu…”

Nadia then beamed at me, just as she had in my dream.

“I appreciate it very much. Let’s see… “Nadia”

“Yes, I-I mean “Ivan”

It’s nice to have Nadia call me that in real life rather than in my dreams.

My heart is overflowing with joy.

“Well, I’m going back to class—Doctor, please look after her for me.”

“Yes, I’ll look after her.”

“Thank you so much, Ivan!”

I say goodbye to Nadia with a big smile and return to my classroom…

But…

“I’ve been expecting you.”

…Donato was standing in front of the classroom, waiting for me.

Chapter 7: A Private Execution Under the Name of a Match

“I’ve been expecting you.”

Donato was waiting for me in front of the classroom when I returned from the infirmary.

“…Oh, come to think of it, that’s right. So, what were you hoping to discuss?”

I ask, trying to sound casual.

I hope this enrages him to the point of doing something stupid.

“Of course! You’re the one who slandered me!”

“Heh…”

I made the motion of picking holes in my ears with my pinky finger, as if to provoke Donato, who was yelling at me.

Then…

“Ivan, as a son of a nobleman, you should have the decency to listen to what others have to say.”

For some reason, the Crown Prince and his cronies emerged from the room to chastise me.

If you’re going to talk about the son of a nobleman, I’d like you to discipline this fool.

“…And when did I slander you? Rather, I objected to your unsuitable behavior as “the son of a nobleman.” What is the nobility’s standard of decency if you call this a slander?”

I said to Donato, as if I were mocking the Crown Prince who had just reprimanded me.

Well, I know for a fact that the Crown Prince, Donato, and his cronies are too inept to notice such a thing.

“Hmm… This is a parallel line of reasoning—then how about we do it the aristocratic way and make our decision by crossing swords?”

“Oh! That is a fantastic idea, Your Highness!”

Donato is overjoyed at the Crown Prince’s blunder.

For Christ’s sake… Although I understand his insanity in breaking off an engagement at a graduation party and his hideous behavior after being trapped in the labyrinth, it turns out he has already lost his common sense.

Normally, one of his cronies, a future candidate for his retinue, would have objected, but if they adore the Crown Prince, there’s nothing we can do about it.

Regardless, this is a good thing.

“I understand. It’s fine with me.”

“You said it, Ivan—we’re now going to—”

“Oh, before that. I’m going to ask the teacher for an elective first, so wait a bit.”

I inform the Crown Prince, who is about to leave with Donato and his cronies.

I’ll have to report Nadia’s class before she changes her mind.

“You! I’ve had it with your behavior, not just toward me but also toward your highness! I’m going to kick your guts in!”

Donato was saying something, but I ignored him and went into the classroom to tell the teacher about Nadia and my elective class.

Now she should be able to learn the summoning art and be active.

“I apologize for keeping you waiting. So, let’s get started.”

“H-Huh…”

Donato and I picked up our wooden swords and faced each other as we marched to the academy’s training ground.

“We’ll now have a match between Donato and Ivan—whatever the outcome, neither side, as nobles, may hold grudges, Okay?”

“Oh!”

Donato responded angrily to the Crown Prince, who was in charge of the match.

But the Crown Prince’s tone of voice… He must have known from the start that I wouldn’t be able to beat Donato, so he deliberately set up the game this way—this is his personality.

“Ivan, what do you say?”

“…Yes.”

The Crown Prince pressed me to respond, which I did reluctantly.

Whatever happened to me now was done with my permission. I would not be able to speak about this after the match.

To tell you the truth, I’m not very good at sword fighting.

That is why, for the past seven years, I have been training in magic and only basic physical strength, so that I can fight in my dreams.

So, if it comes down to pure swordsmanship, I’m not going to be able to beat Donato.

If it were only about swordsmanship, that is.

“Then you both take a stand.”

Donato is in the upper stance, and I have my sword in the middle stance.

And…

“Begin!”

“Woooooooooooooo!”

Donato charged at me with all his might.

Donato’s swordsmanship is, in fact, among the best in the academy. His swordsmanship ability far outweighs mine.

So…

—Boom!

“Guh…?!”

I simply took this man’s sword and rolled to the ground.

“Hahaha! Where has your confidence gone?!”

Donato laughs as he looks down at me crawling on the ground.

Oh… That’s right.

Isn’t this Donato the type of guy who enjoys using violence against those who are weaker than him?

“Hello, hello?! What’s the problem?!”

“Guh!”

Donato raises the corner of his mouth and casually slams the wooden sword at me, who is lying on the ground.

There was no longer any swordplay or matches.

And the crown prince and his cronies did nothing to stop Donato’s antics, instead smirking as if they were watching an amusing spectacle.

They’re all scum, truly.

And then…

“Donato, I think it’s time. This is the end of the game.”

“Haa… Haa… what’s with you being so quiet?”

Donato kept hammering until his breath became trapped in his throat.

“You can’t blame Donato for this; it’s the fight you agreed to.”

“…”

The Crown Prince left the training ground with Donato and his cronies after looking at me, who did not move or respond.

At that time.

“Ahhh… Aaahhh!”

I heard a woman’s voice trembling, as if in despair.

‘Sigh’, I messed up…

If I had known this was going to happen, I would have put on a show.

“Ivan, Ivan!”

Nadia rushes to my side, her face creased with tears, and pulls me up into her arms.

“It’s… It’s my Because of me… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

Ugh… As expected, I’m feeling a lot of guilt.

So…

“I’ll be fine, Nadia.”

“Huh!? Ivan?!”

I sit up and open my eyes as if nothing is wrong.

“In fact, I’d cast a body-enhancing spell, so that guy’s attack didn’t work—furthermore, he completely missed my vital spots—though my uniform is in shambles.”

Nadia slumps as she realizes I cheated.

“I’m glad… I’m so glad…”

Nadia clenched up my ripped uniform and muttered over and over, shedding more tears.

Chapter 8: Chosen By

‘Groan’

The next morning, as usual, I awoke from my nightmare and felt the bruises from yesterday’s match with Donato.

Even though he had missed the vital spot and my bones were fine, I was bruised and in pain.

“Well, this pain has yielded an incomparable harvest.”

…In my dream last night, the initial breakup of the engagement took a dramatic turn.

In the past, if Donato had broken off the engagement, Nadia would have been devastated. She would have felt bad for her parents’ family and like she wasn’t good enough, but this time, she took it with a cold and disdainful look at Donato.

Above all else

“… Nadia chose me from the start…!”

This event in my dream makes me tremble with delight.

When I was thrown into a labyrinth, she was the first to approach me.

She chose to spend her time with me!

In other words, Nadia no longer loves Donato.

All that remains is for me to safeguard her.

“Besides, Nadia has grown in strength since I made Summoning Art her elective class.”

Surprisingly, Nadia was able to summon intermediate level magical beasts right away, and advanced level magical beasts like Ifrit near the end of my dream.”

If Nadia continues to train over the next three years, she may be able to summon even more powerful magical beasts.

“Yeah… We can definitely beat the labyrinth with this—and I’ll have a wonderful future with Nadia…!”

I clenched my fists tightly.

—○█○—

“Ivan-sama! A-Are you all right?”

Nadia approached me as soon as I entered the classroom, concerned about my health.

Her concern warmed my heart.

“Good morning, Nadia. Yes, I’m perfectly fine. But you’re still using honorifics.”

I pointed this out while pretending to be grumpy.

“T-That’s right… So, let’s see… I’m glad Ivan’s okay.”

…Aghh!

Despite the fact that I forced Nadia to call me by my name, her shy expression is far more lethal than Donato’s sword attacks.

In reality, I am happier than in my dreams.

“Are you all right, Nadia? Has that Donato person been bothering you since then?”

“Y-Yes. Actually, I haven’t seen him since I was admitted to the infirmary. “

“I see…”

It’s a relief to hear her words.

I was concerned that this moron had become involved with Nadia in some strange way.

But the way she speaks tells me otherwise.

I can tell, just like in the dream, that Donato is no longer on her mind.

Then

“Good morning!”

A female student enters the classroom.

Nadia and I both turned to look at her… ah, yes, it’s her.

The woman who led the Crown Prince and twelve others, including myself, into the labyrinth

—Aria Moreno, Baron Moreno’s daughter

She was apparently the illegitimate child of Baron Moreno, who took her in after her mother died.

In a way, I admire Baron Moreno’s lawful wife for welcoming such a woman into their home.

And how do I know that, you asked?

Because those idiots were gracious enough to inform me in my dream.

The Crown Prince and his friends liked this woman, which was a big difference from Lady Carina and her friends, who were always mean to her.

Did Aria, the girl who immediately draws scorn from the other ladies in our class, already make a mistake on her third day of school?

“…I get the impression that the other ladies are staring at her, Nadia…?”

“It appears to be the case…”

Nadia nodded as I gently whispered in her ear.

Nadia, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand why.

It’s not surprising given that she was treated in the infirmary just yesterday.

“Pardon me… What happened?”

I approached one of the ladies who was staring at Aria.

“… Don’t you know? She was having a pleasant conversation with the Crown Prince, who had a more appropriate companion in Lady Carina. They acted as if they were lovers.”

“I-I see…”

Hearing the words of the young lady with her eyebrows furrowed, Nadia and I lose our voices.

No way, it’s only the third day of school. How did that happen…

At that moment

“Please excuse me—does anyone here go by the name Aria-san?”

The classroom door opens, and a woman walks in, Carina Oliveira, daughter of the Dukes of Oliveira, and the Crown Prince’s fiancée.

Chapter 9: Not a Partner

“Please excuse me—does anyone here go by the name Aria-san?”

The classroom door opens, and a woman walks in, Carina Oliveira, daughter of the Dukes of Oliveira, and the Crown Prince’s fiancée.

“Yes, I’m the one…”

Aria, a woman, slowly raised her hand, as if she didn’t understand what was going on.

I held my laughter.

She’s always like this in my dreams.

She pretends she knows nothing, that she doesn’t understand, that she is a weak woman, and that the stupid men around her are protecting her.

I’ve seen her like that over 2,000 times now, and I’m sick of it.

“Arara, it’s you—you’re just an illegitimate daughter of a baron, and yet you’re staring at His Highness Emilio without regard for your position.”

Lady Carina laughs as she covers her mouth with a feather fan.

However, her eyes were not smiling at all, and she looked at the woman as if she was going to shoot her dead.

“I’m not flirting with him at all! I’m just making friends with Emilio-sama! “

“Friend? With Emilio, the man I’m engaged to?!”

Lady Carina pointed out that a woman called Aria… But my heart went out to her.

Y-Yes, I’ve also been speaking with Nadia, who has a fiancée… maybe it’s all right? Because it’s all Donato’s fault in the first place.

So Nadia and I are keeping an eye on the situation.

“Hmph… In any case, if you want to graduate successfully, you should be careful for the next three years—you thieving cat.”

Lady Carina exited the classroom with these words.

But, well, Lady Carina is correct.

For starters, she’s too unprincipled, staring not only at the Crown Prince but also at Donato and the other men, all of whom are high-ranking nobles.

…I’ve been so excited to finally meet Nadia in person for the past three days that I may have underestimated the status between us.

Yes, let us exercise caution from now on.

—○█○—

Two years have passed, and Nadia and I have continued to enjoy our school lives as friends while maintaining moderation.

Of course, Nadia’s summoning abilities have improved, and now that she is in her third year, she is so skilled that the academy’s teachers are astounded.

She can already summon three of the most powerful magical beasts at this time.

As a result, we have arrived at the end of the labyrinth in my dreams.

If things continue as they are, I am confident that we will complete the labyrinth before the graduation party.

Meanwhile, the crown prince and his four cronies, including Donato, have all fallen in love with Aria.

They are now constantly surrounding her.

Naturally, no one in the academy was pleased with the situation.

Lady Carina and the ladies with their fiance circling around Aria have become so angry that they have begun to blatantly bully her.

When the Crown Prince learns of it, the relationship between the cronies and their fiancé becomes even more strained, and the situation deteriorates dramatically.

Nadia’s relationship with that Donato person has come to an end. Rather, they no longer converse or even look at each other.

This was extremely convenient for me, but I was worried that Nadia would have to go through a lot because of it.

So I asked her once about it.

“Fufu, I guess that guy knows he can’t discuss this with his parents, and I haven’t heard anything from Oto-sama.”

Nadia did nothing but grin and smile.

She did, however, appear to express her dislike for Donato in her words, which made me happy.

My first goal was to keep Nadia from being involved in the Emperor’s sentence at the graduation party, and I even used my family name to help her in various ways, but she is still trapped in the labyrinth in my dreams—It appears that Nadia can’t avoid being trapped in the labyrinth.

Of course, we have another year until that day arrives.

So I’m just going to keep trying my best not to get Nadia involved.

“Ivan, because we’re having a leisurely cup of tea today, please focus on your conversation with me rather than your thoughts.”

Nadia, sitting across from me on the academy’s terrace, speaks up.

“Ah, haha… My apologies.”

I can’t stop laughing and apologizing to her.

Thanks to those two years, Nadia now only shows me her cute real face, just like she did in my dreams.

I can’t help but be grateful that she has so generously opened her heart to me.

“Fufu… Then tell me a funny story in exchange for my forgiveness… Eh?!”

Nadia’s face darkened just as she was about to tell me with a smile.

This expression had only one meaning.

“Hmph! Look who’s here! A woman with a fiancée named me engaging in an unprofessional love affair with such a weak man! You should be ashamed!”

Donato approaches us without our permission and yells at us, putting himself on the back burner.

He is still the same man who never matured.

“…Let’s go, Nadia.”

There’s no point in dealing with this piece of shit.

“Hmph, you’re still the same boring guy. Are you scared of me? coward! I guess it can’t be helped that I gave you a good beating when we first entered the school.”

Donato sneered at me, as if he was pleased with his victory.

Then…

“…Take that back.”

“Huh? What did you say?!”

“Ivan is not a coward! He’s a good man, kinder than anyone else, stronger than anyone else, and never arrogant like you!”

Nadia screams angrily at Donato, her shoulders shaking with rage.

She was always trying to keep her emotions in check, but to think she could be so upset for my sake!

“You!”

Donato is about to extend his hand to Nadia without hesitation.

Of course, that is not going to happen.

“Don’t!”

“What?!”

I grab Donato’s raised arm and tell him in a low voice.

“You! Let go of me… what?!”

Donato desperately tries to shake my hand off, but his face shows his surprise when he can’t.

I used my body enhancement magic and gripped Donato’s arm tightly.

“Ugh?!”

“…”

When I squeezed, Donato’s face contorted in pain.

This guy should now understand a little better.

From the beginning, he has never been my equal.

“We should get going, Nadia.”

I turn to her and smile.

“Ah… yes, fufu!”

Nadia responded with a bright smile, and we walked away from the terrace, leaving Donato behind.

Chapter 10: Your and My Wishes

That Donato person was no longer involved with me and Nadia by himself after the incident on the terrace.

I guess he realized it was a bad idea to mess with us.

Furthermore, his reputation at school has already plummeted. Donato will be held accountable for everything he does.

…Well, when the Crown Prince is around, he’s like a fox who uses the tiger’s strength to make a sarcastic remark.

And Lady Carina’s and the ladies’ relationships with their fiancéess (except Nadia) have deteriorated to the point where the mere sight of each other is enough to send angry shouts and screams echoing through the academy.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing and hearing, and I’m wondering if this is truly the Imperial Academy representing the Empire…

But in my dreams, everything is fine.

I couldn’t change the course of events from the engagement to the labyrinth, but the attack itself was a satisfying accomplishment.

“… I’m wondering if this nightmare is going to end tomorrow.”

I muttered to myself as I sat on a bench in the school courtyard, staring at the moon in the night sky.

Then.

“Ivan… What are you contemplating?”

Nadia was the one who appeared.

“Hahaha… No, I was thinking it would be the end of our three happy years together tomorrow.”

“…I suppose so…”

Nadia is sitting next to me, also gazing up at the moon.

“…Ivan has made it possible for me to enjoy my time at school. Thank you kindly.”

“I feel the same way…”

I told Nadia, looking at Nadia’s lonely, smiling profile,

“…What will Nadia do after graduation?”

I pose the obvious question to her.

She has only two options: either it will be everything I dreamed of, or she will end up being Donato’s wife without it.

“… Actually, I’ve been considering something.”

“Is there something you’re thinking about…”

“Yes…”

What Nadia is thinking about… I’ve never heard her talk about it in my dreams, at least.

That made me feel strangely uneasy.

“Fufu… So, Ivan, will you please lend me your support? I want it to be a success.”

Nadia gave me a friendly smile.

Her indigo eyes shone with determination. I was drawn in by their brilliance and absorbed into my heart.

“Yes—I would be delighted if my prayer could grant your wish.”

“Thank you.”

Nadia took my right hand in her delicate hands and squeezed it tightly.

It’s as if she refuses to let go.

But… Nadia and I are just friends.

I still can’t cross the line with Nadia, Donato’s fiancée, who is right in front of me.

Unless the events of my dream become a reality.

So I take a gentle step back from her hand.

At least until tomorrow, when we’ll see how it all comes to an end.

If my dream comes true, I will do everything in my power to save her, as I always have.

But what if the dream is just a dream, and we end up separated with nothing?

“Nadia… please give me one more day.”

“Ah…”

I bowed deeply and turned away from her reaching hands.

—○█○—

“Haha… Finally, this dream has come to an end…”

The morning of my graduation finally arrived, and I smiled as I awoke. Of course, I had a nightmare last night.

But, as of today, I will no longer be plagued by such dreams.

…No, they will haunt me for the rest of my life…

“That’s all right!”

I clap both cheeks and get up to shake off the sadness.

No matter if I cry or laugh, today is the last day at the academy.

I got dressed and exited the room.

“huh?”

“…Hmph…”

Donato was walking past my door, and he snorted as soon as he saw me.

Haha, this is probably the last time I’ll see his face.

I shake my head and finish my breakfast at the cafeteria before leaving the dorm and heading to the auditorium for the graduation ceremony.

Then…

“Good morning, Ivan.”

As usual, Nadia says it to me with a smile.

Hahaha… Normally, hearing her voice or seeing her face causes my heart to race, but the thought that this could be the last time causes my chest to tighten…

“Good morning, Nadia… did you get enough sleep last night?”

“Yes! I had a nice conversation with Ivan in the courtyard before going to bed, and I slept well.”

Nadia smiled brightly.

She is the sweetest girl I’ve ever met…

“Come on, let’s go to the graduation ceremony!”

“What!? Hey, wait!?”

She bolts, taking my hand in hers without hesitation.

But what if other students notice us this way?!

“We can’t hold hands in school, Nadia!”

“It’s all right, Fufu! It’s the last day of school anyway, and I’m not going to let anyone tell me what to do or not do! “

Nadia says it as if she’s holding it.

I feel guilty for causing her trouble, but at the touch of her soft hand and her smile, I wish with all my heart that this time could last forever.

Chapter 11: My Final Day with You

“This is ‘sob’ It truly is the end…”

Nadia is crying as she looks at the school building after the graduation ceremony.

There has been so much change in the last three years.

I met Nadia, who was supposed to exist only in my dreams, and in order to survive the labyrinth, she trained to become a summoner, and after repeated magical training, she now has about ten times the amount of magic power of an average wizard, and is able to use a variety of magic.

…On the other hand, the strength of my magic remains mediocre.

But after tens of thousands of dreams, I am far stronger than that.

Now… I have a chance to save her.

“Oh… Ivan, you’re thinking again.”

Nadia, who had been peering into my face before I knew it, was grumbling.

“Ah, haha… My apologies…”

I apologized to her with a wry smile.

Nadia knows everything there is to know about me, doesn’t she?

“Anyway, after this, there’ll be a graduation party…”

Nadia raises her head, a fidgety expression on her face.

“What’s the problem?”

“Y-You see! If you don’t mind, Ivan, I was hoping you could escort me…”

“…What?”

I couldn’t believe my ears when Nadia said that.

Because, in most cases, if you have a fiancée, he or she will either accompany you or you will attend alone.

Leaving her fiance for another man… I mean, if I escorted her, Nadia’s reputation would be ruined.

“…I know what you’re thinking, Ivan. But… But until I’m separated from you for the last time, I’d like to be by your side…”

Nadia bites her lower lip as tears stream down her cheeks.

Then, It’s impossible to avoid…

“…Then promise me this: “I forced you” to accompany me today because “I threatened you,” and Nadia couldn’t resist.”

“I-Ivan?!”

“If you don’t promise me this, I won’t even talk about escorting you.”

I say quietly to Nadia.

Of course, I’d be delighted to escort her.

But I’m afraid it will hurt her reputation…

“I see what you’re saying… all right.”

Nadia, who had been looking down for a while, accepted the offer reluctantly.

“Thank you very much… I’ll do my best to accompany you to the party tonight.”

“Yes… Please look after me♥.”

Nadia bowed deeply and looked up. Her face was wrinkled with tears, but she smiled brightly.

—○█○—

“Come on—let’s go.”

“Yes…”

I met Nadia in her school uniform in front of the dorm in the evening.

Because tonight’s party is a graduation party, there is no dress code and everyone is dressed in uniform.

We’ll ride in a carriage to the Imperial Hall in the heart of the Imperial City, where the party will be held.

Ministers and other important people, as well as the families of the sons and daughters who are graduating, will also be there.

Naturally, my and Nadia’s families will be present.

“Oto-sama and Oka-sama would be surprised to see us, Fufu.”

Nadia smiles mischievously as she looks out the carriage window.

“…Are you certain you do not mind? We still have time…”

“Yes, I’m certain—I’d like you to escort me.”

She raised an eyebrow and put her thin index finger to my lips.

I see… you’re ready for this…

“I apologize for the slip of the tongue.”

“Yes.”

I apologized sincerely, and Nadia nodded in satisfaction.

I’m not sure I can compete with her.

Then.

“Fufu, we’ve arrived.”

“Yes.”

The carriage arrives at the Imperial Hall and comes to a halt in front of the front door.

“Let’s go, Nadia.”

“Fufu, thank you very much.”

I step out first, take her slender hand in mine, and assist her out of the carriage.

The servant leads us into the hall.

“Wow!”

Nadia is taken aback by the glittering splendor of the hall.

Yeah… I’ve seen it a thousand times, so it’s nothing new to me.

“Ivan, this is incredible! A graduation party in this setting, with you!”

Nadia smiles cheerfully, her cheeks flushed.

Then

“Excuse me—Nadia, come over here for a moment.”

“Ah…”

A nobleman appears out of nowhere, grabs Nadia by the arm, and leads her away.

By the looks of him, he is probably her father, Viscount Jest.

“‘Sigh’… I should not have escorted Nadia.”

I mumble and bite my lower lip.

Nadia will be chastised by her father as a result of my actions. That was obvious to me from the start.

“Congratulations on your graduation, Ivan!”

“Ah, father and mother…”

My father and mother ran up to me and smiled as they congratulated me.

But they must have witnessed what we had just done, so why…?

“Well, Ivan is a nice guy!”

“Yes! I can’t believe you’re accompanying such a lovely lady!”

Yes, I see. They have no idea Nadia is Donato’s fiancée, do they?

“Actually, we’re both…”

I told them about Nadia, including the lie that I forced her to accompany me, despite the fact that she has a fiancée.

Despite this

“Hahaha, Ivan, you always say the funniest things.”

“Really—no woman who had been blackmailed would have smiled so brightly from the start.”

They laughed merrily because they didn’t believe any of my lies.

“Furthermore, don’t underestimate me. I may appear this way, but I am also a count.”

“Fufu. I’ve heard that her fiancé, Donato, has been neglecting Nadia-san. And that you’re supporting her.”

“W-When did you…”

I inquired, unsure of what was going on.

“That is the level of interest in the Imperial Academy.”

“The topic of conversation at the academy has recently come up at our tea parties—Mrs. Jest was with us at the time, and she was furious about it.”

“I-I see…”

I guess I was worried about something unnecessary.

But, under normal circumstances, my parents would naturally want to know what happened at the institute…Hm?!

“Ivan!”

Nadia sprints up to me and launches herself as hard as she can into my chest.

“N-Nadia… I mean, you’re with your father…”

“Fufu! Oto-sama actually told me! [Don’t worry about the engagement or the house; just go to the party and have as much fun as you can with Ivan]. I am looking forward to the party with Ivan!”

“I-I see…”

When I look up, Viscount Jest is looking at us with relaxed cheeks.

I…see.

I no longer have to be so modest anymore!

“Eh?!”

“Wahahaha! Nadia, Nadia, Nadia!”

“Fufu! Ivan, Ivan, Ivan!”

I pick up Nadia with a bright smile and spin her around like she’s dancing in the hall, despite the fact that the party hasn’t even begun.

Father, Mother, Viscount, and Viscountess Jest all smiled as they watched us.

Chapter 12: One Who Tells of Despair

“So here’s to celebrating what’s to come for you.”

“””””Cheers.”””””

The emperor’s speech kicks off the graduation ceremony.

If it happens as in my dream, it should happen when everyone is dancing and the mood is high.

That is, until then, I can have fun with Nadia.

“Fufu, this food is also delicious.”

“Really?”

Nadia hands me a caviar-topped cracker, which I pop into my mouth.

“! Delicious!”

“Fufu, Isn’t it?”

Nadia bursts out laughing at the sight of me.

It never occurred to me that I could have such a joyous graduation celebration.

Following that, I continued to enjoy food-related conversation with Nadia.

“Oh, the music…”

A song began to play in the hall, as if to invite everyone to dance.

“Would you like to dance with me, Nadia?”

“Yes… I’d be delighted.”

I knelt, took her slender hand in mine, and asked her to dance; she agreed with a slight blush on her cheeks.

We followed the other students to the center of the hall.

“All right, let’s go.”

“Yes!”

We all dance together.

It was a great time, and I loved Nadia so much that I wanted to whisk her away while we danced…

But the fun ended when the song ended.

“Ivan, would you like to dance again after a short break?”

“Sure, I’ll dance as many times as Nadia wants…”

“I’m so happy…”

Nadia leans against me, her eyes moist, satisfied with my response.

Until yesterday, I would have kept a safe distance from her and held back.

But I don’t have to wait any longer.

So.

“…”

“Can we just stay like this for a little while longer…?”

“Yes…”

Nadia’s fragile body was in my arms.

Her breath, her lovely indigo hair, and her thin white neck are all right next to me.

‘Sigh’, Nadia, I love you.

more than any other person in the world.

But it’s about time.

“Ladies and gentlemen!”

The Crown Prince cries out in the middle of the hall, clutching the lousy woman next to him.

Naturally, just like in the dream.

“I have someone here who, unfortunately, must be charged with a crime on this fine day! Step forward! Carina Oliveira!”

“…”

Lady Carina, who had been summoned, looked at the Crown Prince silently… She emerged and fixed her gaze on the lousy woman.

“For the past three years, you and the other ladies here have humiliated Aria at every opportunity—there is no doubt about it!”

“…Yes. I personally disciplined that unprincipled girl over there for committing lewd and indecent acts against His Highness Emilio and the other noblemen without regard to her rank!”

Lady Carina takes pride in saying it as if it were natural to her.

She is correct about the lousy woman, but Lady Carina is also very bad.

She has just lost her fiancé, the Crown Prince, so it’s understandable that she would be so harsh on her.

I can’t, however, forgive them for dragging Nadia into such a ridiculous bullying situation.

“Emilio… I…”

“Aria…”

The lousy woman clings pitifully to the Crown Prince, her shoulders shaking and her eyes welling up.

The crown prince cradles her in his arms, a worried expression on his face. What exactly is this farce?

And then

“You people! Is that what noble ladies do?! You should be ashamed!”

“That’s right! I doubt they have the same red blood as we do!”

“After all, that’s all they are!”

“…Hmph.”

Donato and the prince’s cronies line up shamelessly to protect the lousy woman, even though they are not summoned.

“Nadia Jest, please come forward as well!”

With great importance, Donato calls Nadia.

exactly as in the dream.

“You don’t have to listen to him, Nadia. Please remain by my side.”

“Fufu… No, I’m not sure what he’ll say, but I’m not going to run and hide.”

Nadia takes a step forward, chuckling.

“No! Please do not leave!”

In a last resort, I begged her.

by any means necessary to prevent that dream from becoming a reality

“If that’s the case, will you come with me, Ivan…?”

Nadia asked, her indigo eyes moistened.

All I could do in the end was listen to her words.

“Thank you…”

She smiles as she stands in front of Donato.

Donato’s face looked terrible as he looked back and forth between me and Nadia.

That’s probably why he despises us so much.

Because his pride as the son of a border count has been harmed, and because Nadia, his fiancée, is now with me.

And he let herself be carried away by that lousy woman.

That’s why I’m at ease with Donato’s lethal stare.

This is evidence that Nadia has chosen me.

…and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in the labyrinth as well.

All I have to do now is be determined.

The other cronies then called out the name of their fiancée, and here we are, the fiancées, including Nadia, and me, six in total.

There are six of them on the other side, including the Crown Prince, the lousy lady, Donato, and the cronies. As luck would have it, we’re tied.

And then

“I declare in the presence of so many witnesses! I call off my engagement to the wicked Carina Oliveira!”

“Donato Hymes, also break my engagement to Nadia Jest! “

“Me too. I can’t be with a woman with such an ugly heart.”

“Me too… I believe you should be a cheerful and kind girl like Aria.”

“…I don’t need to say anything else.”

When these idiots announced that they had called off their engagement, Lady Carina and the other fiancées were all shocked.

They probably never thought they would be the ones to break off the engagement in such a public place.

In my dreams, I saw this scene numerous times.

And it’s happening right in front of my eyes right now.

In the midst of all of that

“Ivan, my engagement is now broken off.”

“Yes…”

Nadia was the only one who showed me a long-awaited smile.

That;s right…

From this moment on, she belongs to no one.

At that moment

“How dare you do such a thing in my presence?!”

The horrifyingly low voice of the person who informed me and Nadia of our plight echoed down the hall.

Chapter 13: The Labyrinth Prison

“How dare you do such a thing in my presence?!”

The horrifyingly low voice of the person who informed me and Nadia of our plight echoed down the hall.

Of course, the voice belonged to the Astoria Empire’s current emperor, “Fluella de Astoria.”

“F-Father…?”

“Emilio, your marriage to Carina was arranged through my treaty with Lord Oliveira! And yet you’ve taken the liberty of doing this?!”

“…”

The emperor’s words made the crown prince shudder.

“As well as the other sons—you’ve done a fool’s deed by falling for this fool, Emilio—you should be ashamed!”

“”””…””””

Donato and his cronies also sagged and kept their mouths shut.

The other graduates and their families, as well as the nobles watching the scene, are probably under the impression that the Crown Prince and his cronies will be punished with house arrest at best, or deposed as successors at worst, and that will be the end of it.

However

“The same is true for you ladies—this is what happens when you don’t always keep the reins tight enough to prevent these idiots from doing stupid things! And what you’ve done is sneakily harass this woman who these idiots are having an affair with!”

“”””…””””

I guess they didn’t expect to be blamed as well.

Lady Carina and the others are frustratedly biting their lips.

“To make matters worse, a woman has a fiance while also falling in love with another man—what a disgrace!”

“With all due respect, your majesty, Lady Nadia is only interested in people like me because she is nice—She would never do something like that—”

“Shut up! You dare to speak against me, the Emperor?!”

The emperor, who didn’t think I’d even flinch and argue with him, flushes and yells at me.

But no matter what I did, the emperor would still throw us into the labyrinth. Then I’ll have to defend Nadia’s reputation a little.

“No, I respectfully submit—Ivan Escobar is completely behind this whole affair with Lady Nadia. Please do not misunderstand. “

“Uh!”

No matter how angry he may get, this emperor will not touch us here.

That has already happened to me in my dreams.

And

“This has nothing to do with Ivan! He’s been a good friend to me for three years! It’s entirely my fault!”

Just like in the dream, Nadia tried her hardest to defend me.

Really… She always puts herself second and always tries to save me.

“You, too, shut up! Whatever you say will not change your sins! I, therefore, declare! The Crown Prince and all those involved in breaking off the engagement are sentenced to Labyrinth Prison for causing chaos in the Astoria Empire!”

“”””””””””What?!””””””””””

The crown prince, his cronies, the lousy woman, and the ladies all fell silent as the emperor declared.

Everyone on the sidelines did as well.

because a person’s death is guaranteed if he or she is sentenced to Labyrinth Prison.

“F-Father, that’s too much! Please reconsider!

“Shut up! Do you think I don’t know what you’ve been doing for the past three years? I’m offended even by the fact that you’re my son! Naturally, before you serve your sentence, I’ll have you disinherited!”

“N-No, impossible…”

The crown prince… No, the former crown prince collapses to his knees with a stunned expression on his face.

“No, no, no!—It isn’t my fault! It isn’t my fault! It’s “that” woman’s fault. She ignored me, her fiancée!”

Donato, distraught, pointed at Nadia and attempted to grab her.

Of course, I’m not going to let that happen.

“Agghh?! “

“Did you forget what you did to Nadia? You’re the one who got her into this situation.”

“Guh-guh-guh…”

Donato groans as I knock him to the floor.

Then

“Ivan… ‘Sob’ I’m sorry… ‘Sob’ I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…‘Sob’”

Nadia apologizes to me repeatedly, tears streaming down her cheeks.

…I’ve seen her like this a thousand times, but I’ve never gotten used to it.

“Nadia… There is nothing wrong with you. If anything, it’s because I’ve been by your side…”

“No, it isn’t! I took advantage of your generosity… it’s-it’s because I’ve been by your side!”

Nadia’s cherry red lip cracks open due to overbiting, and blood flows.

But she just kept apologizing, her shoulders trembling.

No matter how many times I see it, it always makes my chest tighten…

“The sentence is scheduled for tomorrow at noon!—Until then, you must remain silent in the dungeon!”

We are taken away by knights in response to the emperor’s words.

“Ivan! Ivan! Ahhhh!”

my mother cries as she sees me being taken away.

My father bites his lower lip in frustration as he tries to calm my mother down.

If he tries to go against the emperor at this point, the family of Escobal will be ruined.

I felt sorry for them, but I smiled and assured them that everything would be fine.

“Keep going! Go, go, go!”

The twelve of us were then taken to the dungeon and placed in separate cells.

—○█○—

“Everyone, get in line!”

We were taken to the entrance of the labyrinth where no one had returned the next day at noon and lined up in front of it.

Since we were taken separately, I met Nadia only just now.

My heart ached as I noticed her slightly disheveled appearance.

“I’m going to give you your supplies now! Thank the Emperor for his kindness!”

The knights give us each a weapon, a suit of armor, a week’s worth of food, and a canteen of water.”

I accepted them, and with a practiced hand, I put on my armor, hung my sword from my waist, and carried a sack full of food and other items.

“Now enter the labyrinth one by one, Emilio de Astoria!”

“…”

Emilio, a haggard-looking former crown prince, was literally dragged into the labyrinth.

“Now for Donato Hymes!”

“Damn it…Damn it…Damn it…Damn it!”

Donato, like Emilio, is dragged into the labyrinth grumbling.

We were led into the labyrinth one by one.

Whether they cried or screamed, whether they clung to the floor or the walls, they were dragged by the knights.

And then

“Nadia… I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”

“I-Ivan…? Alright!”

I told Nadia, and she smiled back, but her face was crumpled with tears, and then I voluntarily fell into the labyrinth.

Chapter 14: Falling Together, (1)

• Nadia Jest’s point of view

I became engaged to Donato Hymes, the eldest son of the Hymes frontier count, when I was ten years old.

The marriage was arranged to strengthen the Hymes family’s relationship with the Viscounts of Jest and to keep the Hymes family in power in the empire.

It was what was known as a political marriage.

It was a natural marriage between two noble children, and I had no reservations about it.

But… Donato Hymes, the man I was engaged to, was, in retrospect, the worst kind of man.

“You! You’re just my fiance!”

“What are you doing! You’re such a moron!”

“You’re a total… Why did my father choose you to be my fiancée?!”

Donato hurled abusive words at me every time we saw each other at the table set up for us to deepen our relationship.

Violence was all too common.

But I can’t fight it; I just accept it.

Because if I told Oto-sama and Oka-sama, they would undoubtedly protest the Hymes family.

If we do that, it is obvious that the Hymes frontier count, who adores Donato, will wreck our house.

So… I’ll just have to accept it.

All that matters is that I serve Donato better.

That was what I thought.

Five years after my engagement to Donato, which was nothing but a pain, Donato and I attended the Imperial Academy according to the rules of the Empire.

Even though I had met Donato frequently before, we were never together at all hours.

But at Imperial Academy, I will live in a dorm with Donato and be with him all the time.

I had no choice but to put up with it.

And on my first day at Imperial Academy, I followed Donato into the auditorium while he yelled at me.

—I ran into Ivan.

But I was taken aback because Ivan was looking at me while crying for some reason.

Donato had already left me for the auditorium, so I ran up to Ivan and called out to him.

“A-Ah… I’m sorry… I think I got some dust in my eye…”

Ivan smiled as he wiped his tears away with the sleeve of his uniform.

I thought he was trying too hard, but I could tell he was happy, so I returned his smile.

…At that moment, I was impressed by Ivan’s smile.

He had been crying just moments before, but now he had the biggest smile on his face, as if he had met a long-lost relative.

We, along with the other new students, then finished the ceremony in the auditorium and went to our classrooms.

Fortunately, Donato was in A class, which was different from mine because he came from a border family.

My heart would have shattered if we had been in the same class.

…No, even if we had been in the same class, it would have been impossible in retrospect.

because Ivan was always looking for me.

He seemed to know everything about me, always giving me the words I desired, caring for me, cuddling me.

But seeing him lying on the floor after Donato had hit him with a wooden sword in a fight broke my heart.

As a result of me… It’s my fault… I’ve caused him to suffer so much!

Nonetheless, Ivan simply joked that he was fine and that everything was fine.

He wasn’t seriously hurt, but that didn’t mean he was unharmed.

But I was afraid that if I pressed him about it, I would betray his kindness, and all I could do was cry.

Ivan has always been by my side since then… No, I wanted to be by his side.

Ivan accepted me without hesitation, and I thoroughly enjoyed every waking day.

Especially since Donato had his sights set on that unprincipled baroness.

He suggested I take a summoning class, which seemed to fit perfectly with my love of creatures, and thanks to him, I was able to summon up to five of the six most powerful magical beasts by the time of the graduation ceremony.

Fufu… My summoning art teacher was enthusiastic about the idea of me becoming a teacher at the academy after graduation.

Ivan seemed pleased to see me in this state.

I was more than happy that he was happy.

I love him.

Chapter 15: Falling Together, (2)

• Nadia Jest’s point of view

Graduation Day has finally arrived.

I made my decision and asked Ivan to escort me to the graduation party.

I knew Donato would be there with the baroness, and more importantly, I wouldn’t be able to see Ivan starting tomorrow…

Of course, I considered refusing this unreasonable engagement.

I wrote down as much as I could about Donato’s actions at the academy and used it to try to get the engagement to end.

And I would use the summoning techniques I had learned at the institute to help the cause.

However, the process will take a long time.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from Ivan until that point.

Ivan refused my request several times because he was concerned about my reputation.

But, as I continued to ask him with tears in my eyes, he agreed on the condition that “Ivan” be the one to ask “Nadia.”

I know I shouldn’t have used his kindness against him by crying.

But I still wanted to go to the party with him.

Ivan and I went to the party’s venue, the Imperial Hall.

As soon as we stepped inside, Oto-sama grabbed my arm and yanked me away.

He was probably angry that I was with Ivan rather than Donato.

That’s what I assumed, but…

“Nadia… I’m sorry I got you involved with such a man. When I return to the estate, I will discuss the situation with His Excellency Hymes, and we will immediately terminate the engagement.”

“Eh?! Oto-sama will?!”

“Don’t worry about it. Donato’s actions at the academy are well known to me and His Excellency Hymes. So you simply enjoy the party to the fullest with “him”.”

I thought I was having a dream.

That I no longer have to suppress my emotions. I love Ivan… I don’t have to give up the man I love!

I was running before I knew it.

To him… To Ivan, the man I love the most.

“Ivan!”

For the first time, I jumped into his chest and rubbed my cheeks.

Oh, Ivan! Ivan, Ivan!

When I explain the situation to him, he picks me up, initially confused, and begins spinning me around in the middle of the hallway.

“Wahahaha! Nadia, Nadia, Nadia!”

“Fufu! Ivan, Ivan, Ivan!”

He was so happy, he had the biggest smile on his face.

Of course, I laughed just as hard as he did.

The party then began, following a few words from the Emperor.

Ivan and I, who no longer had to be shy, spent the entire time cuddling and dancing.

I never expected to have such a wonderful night with him…

I decided after reviewing Ivan’s profile.

I’ll tell him when the party is over.

I’ll tell him my feelings.

But my determination has been crushed in vain.

With the emperor’s condemnation, the crown prince and his cronies, including Donato and that baroness, Lady Carina, and others, unleashed a storm of indignation.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this.

More than anything, I felt terrible guilt for having gotten Ivan into this mess because of me, and I felt like I was going insane with my unforgiveness for being such a fool.

But there was nothing I could do at this point.

I couldn’t hear any voices around me, I couldn’t see anything but Ivan, and I found myself apologizing.

Over and over, over and over again.

Nonetheless, Ivan only consoles me and blames himself for the situation.

I’m really not worth it.

Then we’re all thrown into the dungeon separately.

Until our sentences are carried out at noon the next day.

—Hearing a slew of ugly people who never stop whining

Ivan would not have been sentenced if it hadn’t been for these people.

—I wanted to kill them right now.

—○█○—

We were led to the entrance of the labyrinth at noon.

The sentence is finally carried out.

“Enter the labyrinth, one by one, Emilio de Astoria!”

“…”

The ex-prince, looking exhausted, is dragged into the labyrinth.

“Donato Hymes!”

“Damn it…Damn it…Damn it…Damn it!”

As I watched Donato, like Emilio, fall into the labyrinth—hatred swirled in my heart.

—If only this man hadn’t existed.

Then, one by one, they were led into the labyrinth.

They were dragged, whether they cried or screamed, whether they clung to the ground or the walls.

And then it was Ivan’s turn.

“I’ll be waiting for you on the other side, Nadia.”

Ivan, unlike the others, simply smiled.

He didn’t want me to be concerned because he was about to fall into the labyrinth.

“I-Ivan…? Alright!”

In response to him, I try to smile even though I’m crying and send him off.

He then fell into the labyrinth.

“Next! Nadia Jest!”

“Yes.”

I wipe away my tears, straighten my back, and proceed to the labyrinth’s entrance.

just like he demonstrated to me.

Ivan… It was in this labyrinth that we ended up.

In this case, however, no one will interfere with us any longer.

So…

“Ivan, I love you…”

After confessing to the darkness, a confession that would never be heard, I followed his lead and voluntarily entered the labyrinth.

Chapter 16: Reunion in the Labyrinth

“Mmm…”

I wake up and sit up.

All around me are ceilings, walls, and floors made of stone bricks.

This is where those sentenced to the Labyrinth Prison, the Astoria Empire’s most severe punishment, end up.

—The Labyrinth of Eterna.

TL Potato tan: is it eternal? However, it has a silent L. (エテルナ)

This is a scene I’ve seen in my dreams thousands of times.

There’s nothing new in it anymore.

“So… is Nadia in the other room?”

I take familiar steps through the labyrinth.

After falling through the labyrinth, we are all placed in different rooms.

But we’re all on the first level.

“Oops.”

While daring to pass through the end of the corridor, I saw skeletal remains and broken skulls here and there.

Also, there’s a trap in the middle of the corridor that keeps intruders out of the maze.

Then I entered the room with the moon relief painted on it at the entrance.

I found her there.

“Suu… Suuu… Suuu…”

Nadia was sleeping and breathing in her sleep.

Naturally, I was the only one in the room with her at the time.

“Well, let’s take Nadia back to that room where I was before we ran into that idiot…”

I grumbled to myself. With that, I take Nadia and her rations, as well as other items on the floor, and return to where I came from.

In fact, if she remained in the room, that idiot Donato would attack her for her food.

I could kill him, but it’s more convenient to get the food when he’s carrying around his stuff. I’ll let him off the hook for now.

But

“…I didn’t get it because it was always a dream, but now it’s true…”

Her warmth on my back, her breathing, makes me realize how alone Nadia and I are in this labyrinth.

Despite the worst of circumstances, I was relieved.

When I returned to my room, I gently placed Nadia on the bed and left her to sleep.

I had to do what I had to do while she was sleeping.

So I take the contents of the bag out and double-check them.

“Well, as usual, the emperor is a petty man.

No matter how I calculate it, the food in my sack is insufficient to last me a week.

Perhaps he was upset with me because of my reaction to the conviction.

I double-checked Nadia’s luggage and discovered that it contained enough food for a week.

“Haha, I guess it was right for me to give my opinion on the spot first.”

Yes… In my dream, Nadia’s food supply had been reduced as a result of her efforts to protect me.

This also occurs when I prevent her from speaking out against the emperor.

So I was the first to speak up in this production to ensure that the hatred was directed at me.

And I was correct.

“Well, but Nadia will most likely try to offer me her food…”

Her guilt over my being trapped in this labyrinth causes her to be reserved until she can free herself.

She used to do the same thing to Donato.

“…I’d be happier if you smiled instead of that pointless concern…”

I said something like that out of the blue.

All I want is for Nadia to be happy.

Nadia — Huh? Is her shoulder trembling slightly?

“N-Nadia, um… Are you awake, by any chance?”

I timidly spoke to her as I looked at her.

But in my dreams, she was always asleep for another fifteen minutes or so, so she couldn’t be awake…

I assumed so, but…

“…Yes…”

Nadia responded by sitting up and shyly looking down.

Her face was bright red upon closer inspection.

“H-How long…?”

“Since Ivan entered this room with me on his back…”

‘Sigh’… So, almost from the start…

“Then why did you pretend to be asleep?”

“W-Well, you’d started checking your luggage and mine, so I figured it’d be best not to talk to you…”

“I-I see…”

Even if it was Nadia, one would be offended if someone suddenly went through their luggage.

And yet she is concerned about me, despite the fact that I have done so without her permission…

“I’m sorry. I was just making sure you had everything you needed to survive the labyrinth.”

“Please do not apologize—I know you did it for my sake.”

“Y-Yes… “

It’s a little embarrassing, but it’s comforting to know she has complete faith in me.

“In any case, Nadia’s supply was also adequate, so here you go.”

I then handed Nadia’s luggage over.

“So, let’s discuss what we’re going to do.”

“Of course, but before that…”

Then she approaches me and places her cheek against my chest.

“N-Nadia…?”

“Ivan… I’m so glad I got to see you again!”

Nadia’s shoulders shook, and she was relieved to see me again, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Chapter 17: I Can’t Help but Love You

“Nadia…”

With her cheek against my chest, I hold her gently.

But I need to act quickly.

Keeping that in mind

“Fufu… I can’t keep interrupting Ivan, can I?”

Nadia said, sadly smiling as she quietly walked away.

However, her concern for me causes me to feel guilty, but…

“Ah…”

“Allow me to feel your warmth once more—after all, we can still talk.”

“Yes…”

I hugged her again, enjoying her warmth and opening my mouth.

“So, about what we’re going to talk about… To survive this labyrinth, we must obtain the “Tithona,” which is located at the bottom level.”

I began to explain, whispering to Nadia in my chest.

The only way to be released from the Labyrinth Prison is to return “Tithona,” the legendary sword used by the first Emperor, which is said to be in the Eterna Labyrinth.

For the past ten years, I have conducted extensive research on this “Tithona.”

But, in the end, all I learned was that it was used by the first emperor, and that legend has it that he sewed the legendary dragon “Elensge” into the labyrinth with the sword to seal it.

“…And we have to go through twelve levels to get to the bottom of the labyrinth. Furthermore, there are numerous demons in this labyrinth, and their guardians await us at each level.”

“That’s…”

After hearing my explanation, Nadia was completely speechless.

“Ivan, how do you know so much about the labyrinth? I’ve heard of the Labyrinth Prison as a member of a noble family, but I’m not as familiar with it as you are… Of course, neither does Oto-sama, the Jest Family’s head.”

Nadia, you really hit a mark…

But I know from past experience that Nadia will ask me that question. I’m prepared with an explanation.

“Yes. In fact, I enjoy studying history and archaeological sites. This labyrinth, in particular, piqued my interest. So I’ve been looking into it since I was a kid.”

I’m not lying, of course, because I have thoroughly researched the labyrinth.

“So that’s why you’re so knowledgeable! That is incredible!”

“Ha-haha…”

Nadia’s indigo eyes sparkle as she looks at me.

I can’t help but smile bitterly at her because I’m sorry for deceiving her.

“A-All right, then, let’s get down to the floor—we were given enough food to last a week—we have to finish it before it’s all gone…”

“R-Right…”

We’ll starve if we don’t finish before we run out of food.

We must finish it within a month.

I clenched my fists in determination.

—○█○—

“I-I don’t see any other people around here…”

As we walked through the labyrinth, Nadia muttered.

“I suppose so—perhaps they’ve slipped to a lower level…”

I tell Nadia this, but the truth is that I’m simply avoiding them as we make our way through the labyrinth.

I’m sure ten of them are having a heated argument right now.

And then

“That’s…!”

A herd of hellhounds appears in front of us.

When I first arrived in this labyrinth in my dream, Nadia, who had protected me, and I were cruelly chewed to death by these monsters.

But I am not the same person I was back then.

I casually extended my right hand in front of me.

【Freshett】

A black iron cylinder appeared above the heads of the Hellhounds.

“Gawd?!”

“Gee…?!”

As the cylinder exploded, a bunch of small arrows made by magic fell on the Hellhounds and pierced them one by one.

“It’s all over.”

I respectfully bowed to Nadia, who stood in front of Hellhound’s lifeless body.

“T-This is incredible… Is this real magic? “

Nadia asked, a little excitedly, with a surprised expression on her face.

“Yes. This is my own magic, a hybrid of fire and earth.”

Yes, I, who can only use mediocre magic, created this one-of-a-kind magic with the skills I’ve honed through ingenuity and experience.

Normally, if you used more than one type of magic at the same time, you would quickly run out of magical power.

But my magic power, which I’ve been training to increase for ten years, and my unique magic recovery power, which lets me get it back quickly, have made this possible.

In my dreams, we had reached the lowest level of this labyrinth using this technology and Nadia’s summoning technique.

“As expected, you are an amazing person… a wonderful person with kindness and real strength.”

“That’s not true—It is Nadia who is really strong—It is you whom I have been aiming for, and it is you who have given me this strength.”

Yes, the way you attempted to save me that day, when I was helpless and trembling and couldn’t do anything, inspired me to be strong.

…I can’t help but love you.

“Ivan… I…”

Nadia’s eyes welled up with tears, and she was about to say something, when…

—BOOOOM!

We heard a strong wind noise.

It was

“At long last, I found you!”

Donato appeared, holding an oversized longsword in his hand. His face twisted into a hideous grin as he looked at us.

Chapter 18: Donato’s Last Words

“At long last, I found you!”

Donato appeared, holding an oversized longsword in his hand. His face twisted into a hideous grin as he looked at us.

Apparently, this is where we encounter him in real life.

“…What can we do for you, Donato-sama?”

Nadia asks Donato in hushed tones, not bothering to conceal her disgust.

“Hmph! Don’t you get it? Give me the food you have if you don’t want to die!”

Despite Donato’s arrogant remarks, Nadia and I frown.

As ever, this man doesn’t declare his folly.

“What are you on about? Why should we sacrifice our valuable food for you?”

“Why?! It’s self-evident! I am Donato Hymes, heir to the Hymes family! I will command the empire’s armies, and my life is more valuable than yours!”

Donato said this as if to say, (How come you don’t understand such a simple thing?)

I almost burst out laughing because the dialogue is exactly the same as in the dream.

More than that, he did bring his belongings with him.

“By the way, let me ask you a question: Where is that Lady Aria you so adore?”

Even though I’m aware of it, I asked Donato about it. Hahaha. The idiot is gnashing his teeth in frustration.

“From what I can tell, Lady Aria appears to have chosen someone else instead of you.”

“Sh-Shut up!”

Donato raises his voice when I hit the target.

Yes, that’s right. After all, the lousy woman you’ve been pining for chose him.

It’s that man, not you, who is one of the best in the Imperial Academy at the combat necessary to survive in this labyrinth.

“Haha, so you’re going to steal our food and use it to catch that lousy woman? —Congratulations, I suppose.”

“I told you to shut up!”

Donato, perhaps unable to stand my words, rushes forward with a long sword slung over his shoulder.

“Whoa!”

When I saw this, I grabbed Nadia in my arms and flew to the side.

“…it’s hideous—It’s truly unfortunate that such a man was my ex-fiance…”

“You can’t do anything about it. You were a child at the time, and you had no right to choose your fiancée…”

“But, Ivan, people grow up, and this person hasn’t changed since he was ten.”

Nadia continues to lash out at Donato.

That’s how much she’s held back in her heart.

“I’ll tell you something, Donato. We’ll let you go if you just leave without doing anything. But if you keep attacking us, I will have no mercy. Make amends with death in that case!”

“What a load of nonsense! Have you forgotten how I humiliated you?!”

…Was he referring to that time?

I was only willing to be beaten up on purpose so that Nadia’s heart would completely drift away from you.

“Haha.”

I can’t help but laugh when I think about it.

“You! What’s so amusing!”

“Of course it’s amusing—You’re no better than that man because you’re still stuck in the past.

“Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Donato looks at me, his face flushed and blue streaks on his brow, as if my words have offended him.

But… Your rage pales in comparison to mine.

You’ve never said a kind word to Nadia in the eight years you’ve been her fiancé, instead treating her roughly and trampling on her heart.

So.

“Nadia—this person appears to have no intention of backing down. Even though it was not what you wanted, I will now take the life of the man to whom you were once betrothed. So, could you please take your gaze away for a moment?”

Despite the fact that it is Donato, Nadia does not want to see her ex-fiancé die so tragically. No, I don’t want her to witness me murdering people.

The real me is an unsightly man who would go to any length to win Nadia.

nevertheless

“…No, I’m going to print everything Ivan does and has done in my eyes and heart. Let me share everything.”

Nadia smiles as she places her hand gently on her chest.

Her indigo eyes are filled with resolve and determination.

‘Sigh’… even in reality, you’re still the same.

I can’t believe you chose to spend eternity in hell with me…

“Hmph! You’re going to kill me?! That’s a big one! I’m going to crush you both like insects!”

As before, Donato rushes forward with his long sword on his shoulder.

This time, however, he also intends to side-swipe Nadia.

But

“Huh!? Gee… (Boom!) Gaaaa!”

After a moment of surprise and a scream, Donato’s right half of his body suddenly explodes with a loud roar.

Yes, I know Donato rushes forward through a predetermined spot.

So I began by casting a spell on the floor.

—Synthetic magic,【Landmine】

I placed fire magic in a circular thin container 30 cm in diameter, created by earth magic, and placed it on the floor, concealing it with water magic.

The power is not great, but it is sufficient to kill a human being.

“Ah, ah, ah…. Ahhhhhhh…”

Donato, covered in blood, rolls on the floor and screams muffledly.

The smell of human blood, which I couldn’t detect in my dream, smells strongly of iron.

Haha… I’ve done this hundreds of times and should be used to it, but…

“Ah, Nadia…”

“…Ivan…this isn’t just your transgression. I’ll bear it with you. I’ll bear it with you.”

She wraps her arms around me and repeats those words over and over.

That’s right… That’s something you’ve always done for me, even in my dreams.

Unlike previous dreams in which I was simply completing a task, I now feel her kindness… her warmth has saved my heart.

“It hurts… It hurts… It… hurts…it…”

Donato groaned as he crawled across the floor like a caterpillar, covered in blood, tears, and sand.

His voice, on the other hand, gets quieter and quieter over time, until he only moves his mouth without saying anything.

Following that

“Aa..aaaa…”

Donato takes his final breath.

“… Let’s go. “

“…Yes.”

After witnessing Donato’s final moments as the one who had killed him, I put the food from his pack into my own, and left the place with Nadia.

Chapter 19: The Meeting with the Former Crown Prince

“What do we do now, Ivan?”

Nadia asks as we walk through the maze of corridors.

“…Of course, we’re aiming for the labyrinth’s bottom layer. So let’s start by going down the stairs.”

“Yes…”

We walked to the stairwell without saying anything.

Killing the crown prince and the other sons and daughters and taking their food is also my priory, but I’m not in the mood right now.

Somethings coming

“Now it’s my turn.”

Nadia takes a step forward as she notices several Hellhounds and two slimes in front of us.

Following that

“Come.【Marbus】.”

In front of Nadia, a glowing magical circle appears, and a summoned beast in the shape of a lion leaps out.

“””””!?”””””

The Hellhounds shudder for a moment as they see the summoned beast, but they quickly surround the summoned beast.

Because it moves so slowly, the slime approaches slowly.

But

“Guoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

With a roar, the summoned beast slaughtered one hellhound after another with its sharp and powerful claws and fangs.

“Fufu… Good boy.”

“Grrr…”

After all of the demons were defeated, Nadia petted the summoned beast, which squinted its eyes in a happy way. It then vanished from the scene.

The summoned beast that Nadia summons remains enormous.

【Marbus】, the summons she summoned this time, is also a high-level summoner (summons?) and no Hellhound or Slime can compete with it.

(TL Potato-tan: Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.)

But still, in this labyrinth, even advanced summoners are only as good as the first to middle levels of the ladder.

“Did you see that, Ivan?”

“Yes… You are, as expected, powerful.”

Nadia looked at me with a slightly bemused expression, and I gave her my honest praise.

“…So, Ivan, please don’t keep it to yourself.”

“Yes…”

You’re really strong.

I’m sure being trapped in a place like this must be difficult for her as well.

I’ve experienced it many times in my dreams, but this is the first time for Nadia.

Despite this, she is always concerned about me…

Yeah, I still adore Nadia more than anyone else on the planet.

I’ll tell her how I feel when I rescue her from this labyrinth.

With this promise in mind, we walked forward once again.

—○█○—

“【Hollow Point】.”

I used fire magic to launch a high-speed projectile created by earth magic, and when it hit the lizardman in front of me between the eyes, his head exploded.

“Go.【Botis】.”

Nadia summoned a swarm of snakes-summons that attacked and bit the other lizardman all at once.

When it was all said and done, the Lizardman was left with nothing but his bones and the weapons and armor he wore.

“Fufu… Thank you, everyone.”

Nadia softly announced, and the swarm of snake monsters bowed and vanished from the scene.

But, seeing Lizardman’s cruel form, I can’t help but feel sorry for the person who received the summons known as 【Botis】

“Let’s go, let’s go~”

“Y-Yes.”

I quickly follow Nadia as she walks happily.

But if things continue like this, I’ll be separated from Nadia… The labyrinth is deep and wide… We must take care not to become separated.

This is why

“N-Nadia!”

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

I call out to her nervously, and she asks with a curious expression on her face.

“W-We don’t want to get lost in the labyrinth, and there’s still a chance that the ex-prince and his cronies will attack us like Donato!”

“Ah, you’re right…”

“And so, from now on…”

“Ah…♥”

I clasped her slender white fingers in mine and squeezed them together.

This way, we won’t fall apart so easily.

“Y-You are right—as Ivan stated, yes. You and I won’t be separated this way…”

“Yes…”

Nadia looks into my eyes, her cheeks flushed red, a debaucherous expression on her face.

How could I not be moved by the sight of her?!

“All right, then, let’s go.”

“Yes, fufu…”

Nadia and I walk through the labyrinth shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.

Following that

“I-Ivan! Nadia!”

A panicked voice calls our names from behind us.

‘Sigh’… It’s a little out of sync with the dream that we run into each other here.

Still, it’s within the error margin and won’t change how we plan to get through the labyrinth.

With a furrowed brow, I return the stare.

It was

“You guys are safe!”

With raised eyebrows, I turn around to see the former Crown Prince Emilio de Astoria, the lousy Aria Moreno, and the Minister of Finance’s daughter and Marquise of Torres, “Liliana Torres.”

Chapter 20: Nadia’s jealousy

“You guys are safe!”

With raised eyebrows, I turn around to see the former Crown Prince Emilio de Astoria, the lousy Aria Moreno, and the Minister of Finance’s daughter and Marquise of Torres, “Liliana Torres.”

Emilio, in particular, seems overjoyed to see me and Nadia.

“Let’s get going, Nadia.”

“Yes.”

I give Emilio and Nadia a quick glance before turning around and walking away, completely ignoring the three of them… But

“Wait! In this labyrinth, acting independently is dangerous! Let’s work together on this!”

“T-That’s right! We studied together at the academy!”

Emilio and the lousy woman rush up to us and plead desperately.

Of course, there was a reason for their behavior.

In short, Emilio and the lousy woman got into a fight with the three remaining cronies, Lady Carina, and the others, and were kicked out of the group.

This, however, is not surprising.

Because Emilio had been monopolizing the lousy woman and annoying his cronies long before the engagement was called off.

And Lady Carina and her friends would never allow the lousy woman to remain in the group.

When their lives are on the line, even the cronies can’t afford to be bullish.

They’ll come after her soon enough, though.

Such exchanges have occurred in my dreams.

“…With all due respect, we have no problems if we don’t work with you, and above all, neither Nadia nor I have ever been on good terms with you, even if you have trampled our dignity.”

“Ivan is right. His Highne— Emilio helped Donato structure the game and beat up Ivan on our second day of school. I will not forgive all of you.”

Following my words, Nadia cursed His Highne—Emilio in a quiet voice.

And just the thought of her being angry because it’s about me makes my heart beat faster.

Then

“Please wait.”

Lady Liliana, the group’s other surviving member, said to me without changing her expression.

“What is it?”

“You two have every right to be angry, but this is the Eterna Labyrinth, where no fallen sinner has ever returned in the empire’s long history—the most important thing to do is to survive.”

Lady Liliana speaks calmly, lifting the rims of her glasses with her fingers.

But what exactly is she on about?

I can’t help but tilt my head because the contradiction is so strong.

“If that’s the case, why are there only three of you? Why don’t you stay with Carina-sama and the others if you’re so adamant?”

“T-That’s…”

As Nadia pointed out, Lady Liliana was at a loss for words.

“Anyway, we’re the same as Lady Carina and the others—we will not collaborate with you—please respect our privacy.”

“Fufu…. Ivan, this is a waste of time. Let’s move on quickly.”

“Alright.”

Nadia and I smiled at each other and nodded. We didn’t pay attention to the three of them and kept going.

and probably giving us the death stare.

If you have the time, you should simply get rid of those who are impeding your progress.

While I’m thinking about that…

“? Is there a problem?”

I noticed Nadia looking into my eyes.

And she appeared to be in a bad mood.

I wondered if I had done anything rude to her…

“…Was Ivan thinking about Liliana-sama by any chance…?”

“U-Um, yeah…”

Nadia asks me this question unexpectedly, and I stutter.

But I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong.

“It’s true that Liliana-sama is a beautiful woman with an intellectual aura, but at this time…”

“Puh… Hahahahahaha!”

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Nadia like that.

“T-This is no laughing matter! We’re in a maze… wah♥?!”

“Hahaha, yeah, I was thinking about her—but it’s not what you’re thinking, and she wasn’t the only thing on my mind either.”

“Ah…”

I couldn’t help but hug Nadia and tell her so when she squawked at me.

“S-So, What exactly were you thinking? Please share your thoughts with me…”

Nadia’s energy was gone, and she was in my chest, demanding an answer. Her voice was almost muffled as she spoke.

“Yes, with pleasure.”

I spoke into her ear.

“I-I see… I mean… thank goodness…”

“I’m glad. It hurts the most that you misunderstood me.”

“Seriously…♥”

Nadia’s mouth is tense, but neither her eyes nor her tone appear to be angry.

On the contrary, her disposition is upbeat…

“H-How about we take a break? We’ve been wandering around the first level for quite some time.”

Nadia suggested, possibly embarrassed.

I took a look around to make sure we were in a secure location.

“Right. Then let’s finish our meal here.

“Yes!”

Nadia and I are standing next to each other, taking food from our luggage.

The majority of the food, however, is portable canned food, such as dried meat and cheese.

And then

“”Huh?””

Lady Liliana walks up to us all by herself with a dejected look on her face.

Chapter 21: Food Sharing Intentions

“…Can I help you?”

I said casually to Lady Liliana, who appeared in front of us.

“…Could you please add me to your group?”

Lady Liliana bowed deeply, her face filled with tears.

She is normally intelligent, calm, and self-disciplined, never revealing her emotions.

“What’s the matter with those two? They were just together a moment ago.”

“…We had a disagreement and then parted ways. Please! If I’m alone in a place like this, I’ll be killed by demons soon! No!Not only that, but if things continue as they are, the other might…”

Lady Liliana desperately clutches at my legs.

So, what should I do now?

To put it bluntly, there is no reason to include her.

No, in fact, it would be detrimental.

But

“…All right.”

“Eh? Really?!”

“Yes. However, in order to clear the labyrinth, you must follow my instructions. That is my condition. “

“I understand! Thank you very much!”

When Lady Liliana bows her head repeatedly as she expresses her gratitude, her face lights up with a smile I’ve never seen before.

On the other hand,

“…”

Nadia raised an eyebrow at me and Lady Liliana alternately, as if she was dissatisfied with my decision.

“N-Now that I’ve joined the two of you, why don’t we centrally manage all of our future needs?”

“? What exactly do you mean?”

I ask back involuntarily, pretending not to understand Lady Liliana’s words.

“Yes. Food and water, for example, are consumed in different amounts by different people, so there are variations. But if we manage them all together, we can keep track of how much water and food we have left for the three of us.

“I see what you mean now!”

I “fully” understood what she meant and clapped my hands.

“Then I’ll handle it myself, so could you please give me your water and food?”

“Yes, it’s right here.”

When I told her that, she quickly offered it to me.

“…I’m surprised. I didn’t expect you to hand over your food so quickly. “

“Fufu… To gain Ivan-sama’s trust, I have to show him everything.”

Lady Liliana smiled at me and reached out her hand to gently touch my chest.

“Please, Liliana-sama, don’t do that…”

“Fufu, I understand…”

Lady Liliana withdrew her hand as Nadia chastised her.

But her expression appears to mock Nadia.

—○█○—

“…In the labyrinth, one could only guess whether it was day or night.”

Perhaps five hours have passed since Lady Liliana joined us, but I don’t know what time it is.

Because of that, I had trouble deciding when to take a break, even in my dreams, because I didn’t know the exact time.

“Ivan-sama, I think it’s time for a break and something to eat.”

“Yes, I think so. It’s going to take a while, so let’s do it.”

We take a seat on the floor and pull food and water bottles from our luggage.

So far, Lady Liliana has been surprisingly helpful in our exploration.

According to what I’ve heard, she was once kidnapped by her father’s political enemies, the Marquise of Torres, and had to learn self-defense and magic to protect herself.

As a result, she is now a formidable master of ice magic and has played an important role in the demon battles thus far.

She’s probably strong enough to make it to the middle level of the labyrinth.

And I believe she is stronger than Donato, one of the academy’s best swordsmen.

“H-Huh…Nadia?”

“What?”

I spoke timidly to Nadia, who was clutching my arm, but she asked coldly and sullenly.

“W-Well, I mean… In this situation, I can’t distribute food well…”

“How about distributing the food with your left hand?” …

… Nadia appears to have no plans to break.

And she occasionally irritates Lady Liliana by sticking her tongue out.

Well, I adore the fact that she is envious.

I was right to include Lady Liliana in the group, even though I won’t see her again after today.

“I’ll then share the food with you—wait, that’s right. Yes, I understand that you prefer to eat your own food first. Don’t worry.”

“Huh?!”

Lady Liliana’s previously dull expression became grim as soon as I said that.

Chapter 22: The Marquess’s Love and Hate

“I’ll then share the food with you—wait, that’s right. Yes, I understand that you prefer to eat your own food first. Don’t worry.”

“Huh?!”

Lady Liliana’s previously dull expression became grim as soon as I said that.

“This one’s for Nadia.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Today’s rations include dried meat, cheese, and bread for Nadia.

I’d like to make soup with this bread, but I need to go to the lower levels to get pots and other tools…

We just have to hang in there until then.

“This is for Liliana-san. “

“T-Thank you…”

Lady Liliana’s mouth trembles as she stares at the food I’ve given her.

“Huh? You’re not going to eat it?”

Nadia asked Lady Liliana, who did not touch the food, with a curious expression on her face.

“O-Of course, I will eat it. But I think my stomach is a little upset…”

“Ara?… True, Liliana-sama, you do appear quite pale…”

“No? —If you don’t eat well, our future clearing of the labyrinth will be hampered.”

Nadia looks concerned about Lady Liliana’s refusal to eat.

I also encourage her to eat in a slightly more forceful tone of voice.

Then

—Growls

Lady Liliana’s stomach rumbled.

“You see, your body is honest. Because we’ve dealt with quite a lot of demons since you joined the group.

I took a piece of bread and placed it near Lady Liliana’s mouth, but then….

“N-No!”

“Ara…”

My hand was slapped, and the bread rolled across the cobblestone floor.

“…Liliana-san, do you recall what I told you when I invited you to the group?”

“…”

“…We don’t want you to drag us down by refusing to eat when it’s time. So, please follow my instructions.”

Lady Liliana looks down silently.

I know. You don’t want to eat, no matter how hungry you are, do you?

because her food has been tainted.

“(Sigh)… I’m done with you if you don’t follow my instructions. Please leave.”

After I tell her harshly, she hangs her head.

“Fu…fufu…”

“Liliana-sama?”

Nadia calls out to Lady Liliana, who giggles and shakes her shoulders.

“I thought you guys were dumber, but you noticed.”

“”…””

Nadia and I both looked up at Lady Liliana, who lifted the corner of her mouth.

Of course, I was aware.

I had added her to my group once in my dream in order to efficiently conquer the labyrinth.

As a result? Nadia and I were both lying on the floor at the time because the food we were served was tainted, while she looked down on us with an ugly face and declared…

[You should not have acted that way toward my Emilio-sama.]

I’ll never forget the regret I felt when I awoke from that dream…how my carelessness had caused Nadia to suffer from something as heinous as poison…

…I learned everything I could to protect my precious Nadia.”

“…So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to flee with your tail between your legs, clinging to your beloved Emilio in tears?”

“Huh?!”

Haha. When I hit the target, her eyes were wide open.

That’s right.

She’s always been in love with Emilio, not her fiance.

In another dream, when we were going through the poison, she was talking about it while casting ice spells on us.

[I’ve admired Emilio-sama since I first saw him at the palace as a young girl.

I was so irritated that I couldn’t sleep because he proposed to Carina first!

And that stupid girl Aria made a pass at Emilio-sama at the Imperial Academy!

Then I used that to my advantage, to incite the dumb b*tch to break off the engagement at the graduation party.

But I didn’t expect to end up in the Labyrinth Prison!

But getting rid of anyone who gets in my way here is no problem.

Fufu, I’ll be in this labyrinth with Emilio-sama forever.]

I felt sick when she said that and had a look of ecstasy on her face.

So, in this last reality, I don’t want to hear such unpleasant words.

“Liliana-sama—No, Liliana… Did you try to kill my precious Ivan for such a ridiculous reason?”

“”Huh?!””

Nadia’s chilling voice, released quietly, made both Lady Liliana and me gasp.

I’ve had a lot of nightmares, but I’ve only ever seen Nadia this enraged once.

This had never happened in my dreams when we confronted Lady Liliana…

“S-So what?! You deserved it because you were disrespectful to Emilio-sama! —Hm?!

“Enough of that!【Pulson】!”

A magical circle appeared in front of Lady Liliana, and a tuxedo-clad two-legged panther bowed reverently.

Chapter 23: Nadia’s Rage

“Enough of that!【Pulson】!”

A magical circle appeared in front of Lady Liliana, and a tuxedo-clad two-legged panther bowed reverently.

“Tsk!”

Lady Liliana jumps back and distances herself, realizing this is Nadia’s summon.

This quick movement demonstrated her ability.

However, this is only the norm among the academy’s female students.

“Ufufu…. I didn’t think you, who are so plain and unassuming, were such a master that you could summon such a beast.”

Lady Liliana says to her with a touch of cold sweat.

“Is that so? And I recently discovered that you are also an expert in ice magic, but I’m not particularly interested in you, but… you did something you should not have done.”

Nadia’s summon 【Pulson】 approaches Lady Liliana with leopard-like graceful movements the moment she says this.

“【Ice Needle】!!”

Lady Liliana extended both hands and released intermediate ice magic, causing several giant icicles to attack 【Pulson】.

But

“Eh? How fast?!”

【Pulson】 blew past them all and was right under Lady Liliana’s nose…

“Oh, that’s too bad…”

Pulson’s foot begins to freeze the moment Lady Liliana raises the corner of her mouth.

She appears to have used the advanced ice magic 【Frozen】 beforehand.

But still… I didn’t expect someone her age to be capable of advanced magic.

I suppose her magic ability is superior to mine.

That doesn’t mean she’s more powerful than us.

“What? H-How?!”

“Fufu…【Pulson】 isn’t the only one I summoned, you know.”

Before she knew it, a large snake over ten meters long had coiled itself around Lady Liliana’s feet and was climbing up her body.

“I nearly forgot to tell you. The fangs of that snake are poisonous.”

“Aah?!”

Venom drips from the snake’s fangs when it opens its mouth, which is larger than Lady Liliana’s head.

Her face contorts in horror as she sees this.

“You tried to poison Ivan. You can’t really complain if you’re killed by poison, can you? Ara? I suppose it’s no longer possible to have a conversation.”

Lady Liliana’s head is swallowed whole and slowly enters the snake’s body, as Nadia stares while smiling.

After the snake had swallowed everything, 【Pulson】 bowed reverently one last time and vanished from the scene alongside the snake.

“Fufu… Now I’m the same as Ivan.”

Nadia turns to face me and smiles.

When she says “the same as”, I assume she means that this is her first time killing someone.

But, I did not prevent her from killing.

To be honest, I didn’t want her to kill because she’s kind.

But Nadia and I are going to kill a lot more people.

I couldn’t save Nadia by only getting my hands dirty.

So

“I..van…”

“I’m with you, Nadia.”

“Yes…”

I and Nadia just hugged each other in this place where Lady Liliana’s blood is still present, as if we were making amends for our broken hearts.

—○█○—

“But still, this labyrinth is really quite large…”

Nadia and I were looking for the stairs that lead down to the next level after a brief rest, but we couldn’t find it.

But that’s all right.

When I checked every inch of this first level in my dream, the radius was 40 kilometers. In other words, it is large enough to encompass not only the imperial city itself, but also the surrounding settlements.

Furthermore, the circumference is curved, confirming that the labyrinth is cylindrical.

Seriously, whose hand built this labyrinth?

And who decided to use the “Labyrinth Prison” as punishment rather than the death penalty, as other countries do?

Even after thousands of labyrinthine attempts in my dream, I have yet to find the answer.

“Are you tired, Nadia?”

“Fufu… Naturally, I am. But we can’t take our time when we consider how much food we still have.”

I asked Nadia, who was walking next to me, and she smiled back.

So the next thing we need to consider is the food issue.

Even though we have access to Donato’s food, we only need three days to divide it between the two of us.

And we can’t eat Lady Liliana’s food because it’s tainted with poison, so the quickest way to survive is to steal food from Emilio and the other trapped people…

“? What’s the matter?”

“N-No… It’s nothing.”

Nadia, who has noticed my expresion, inquires, and I quickly turn my head away.

…I can’t let Nadia commit a robbery, even if it’s for survival, because I don’t want her to see me that way.

I suppose we could pretend to be looking for a staircase to the lower level and wait for them to attack… If that’s the case, Nadia won’t feel so bad… and she won’t be disappointed in me.

—I really don’t want Nadia to despise me.

Keeping this in mind, we continue our exploration, staying as close to the others as possible.

“That’s…!”

At the end of the corridor, I see the two former cronies hot on Emilio’s heels.

It’s Chico Marquez, the grandson of the head of the Magic Division, and Hernan Ledesma, the second son of and the Prime Minister and the Marquise of Ledesma.

Chapter 24: Two of his cronies were different.

Hernan Ledesma and Chico Marquez were outliers among Imperial Academy students.

First and foremost, Hernan was a man who had inherited his father’s character, dubbed “The Ice Prime Minister,” and he was a man who pursued only his own interests, even within the Academy.

Furthermore, he also inherited his father’s abilities, and he was a man who was good at organizing things behind the scenes and doing whatever he could to get things done.

Hernan’s only blunder was falling in love with that lousy woman.

The second, for better or worse, is that Chico is a brat.

He boasts that he is more talented at magic than any previous academy principal, and in fact, his magical power and the number of magic attributes at his disposal rank among the highest in the academy.

If he keeps growing at this rate, becoming a legendary wizard will not be a pipe dream.

However, because of his childish personality, he struggles to interact with others and is even more selfish than Donato.

He throws tantrums and rages from time to time, and he frequently attacks people with his magic.

Chico basically only listens to Aria.

And now, the two of them are now pushing Emilio into a corner.

“…I suppose it’s just another love affair.”

Nadia muttered to herself, raising an eyebrow as she observed the three of them.

Her indigo eyes glowed with disdain and contempt.

“Yes. But I think it’s because Emilio isn’t around that lousy woman. Anyway, let’s take a closer look and see what’s going on.”

Nadia and I get close enough to eavesdrop without being noticed.

“…Say it! Where did you take Aria?!”

“Will you please hurry up?!”

“I don’t know! I don’t know! She was gone before I realized it! You must believe me!”

Emilio desperately tries to explain to the two deep-sounding screams.

But more importantly, their luggage? Yes, they still have it.

“…What a fool! You know what happens to weak Aria when she’s alone in a labyrinth like this!”

“Haha, you know what would happen to you if Aria got hurt, don’t you?”

Hernan frowns and shakes his head, while Chico looks at him with a frightening look.

Emilio looked like he was about to cry as he looked at them alternately.

“Haa~, let’s leave this guy alone and search for Aria…”

“…Wait. Before that, we can’t just walk away from the guy who did this to us, can we?”

“Hahaha, you’re right.”

With those words, Hernan drew his saber, and Chico activated his 【Fireball】and 【Aqua Bullet】in his right and left hands, respectively.

It appears that they intend to kill Emilio here.

At that moment

—Clang

I purposefully kicked a pebble.

“Huh?! S-Show yourself!”

Emilio looks over here and asks quietly.

“Nadia… This is my fault. You should stay and hide here.”

“No, I’ll accompany you.”

I tried to persuade Nadia to wait for me because it was my fault and I didn’t want her to kill people if possible, but she apparently had no intention of doing so.

Furthermore, her eyes tell me she will not back down.

…Really, Nadia is surprisingly stubborn and unyielding.

“Hahaha.”

Of course, I love her in this way.

“OK, then let’s go together.”

“Yes!”

Nadia and I held hands and we walked out in front of those guys.

“…Oh, it’s you two.”

“You’re still alive, that’s for sure. What a pleasant surprise!”

Emilio lost interest the moment he saw us, whereas Chico looked at us with interest.

I suppose the only thing we shared was that we were still alive.

In the eyes of these two talented people, the unimpressive Nadia and I are probably insignificant

“Having said that… Didn’t you work as Emilio’s followers? What is the meaning of this?”

I dared ask them, even though I knew. — So they can show their true colors and Nadia won’t have to feel guilty.

“…I don’t recall ever serving such a fool from the start. First and foremost, Aria was not the right person for such a man.”

“That is absolutely true. I’m clearly superior to him.”

Regardless of what they say, I see no distinction between these two and Emilio.

They are both helpless fools who have fallen in love with that lousy woman.

“More than that. Do you have any food left?”

…this is it.

“Why do I have to answer you?”

“…Be careful what you say! You only answer to what is asked of you.”

“”…””

I keep my gaze fixed on Hernan’s arrogance.

Of course, Nadia, who is standing next to me, feels the same way.

“Hahaha, don’t be an idiot, Hernan. It would be so much easier to simply kill them and take it from their corpses.”

“…I suppose so. Let’s get some food before we deal with that moron.”

They both raised the corners of their mouths.

Chapter 25: 2 vs 2

“Get behind me, Nadia.”

“Yes…”

I stand in front of Nadia, shielding her from Hernan, who threatens us with the tip of his saber.

“Hahaha, what exactly is this?! Do you like the girl who called off her engagement to that muslebrain Donato?! You have poor taste.”

“…Well, it suits a talentless, inept noble like him.”

They both looked at us and made disparaging remarks.

“Pfft, haha…”

I laugh at them, as if mocking them.

“… What’s so funny?”

“Don’t you see what’s so funny? That’s because it’s you guys who are chasing after that ass-licking-lousy woman who puts yourselves on the line and says such things.”

“Huh?! What are you talking about?!”

“Take that back!”

Haha, let alone the brat Chico, Hernan also has a low boiling point.

If someone told them the truth, they’d be embarrassed and angry, right?

But I’m the one who should be angry.

I will never forgive them for insulting Nadia.

“There’s nothing to take back. Do you think you’ll get away with it if you say you’re going to kill us?”

I hold my hands when I say it quietly.

“All right… Let’s get started…”

“”Huh?!””

I used earth magic to create a bundle of long, thin metal cylinders.

“Eat this, 【Gatling】!”

Using my words as a signal, fire magic flung a large number of compressed magic bullets out of the bundle of cylinders.

“Hernan, behind me! 【Ankire】!”

“Alright!”

Chico, not to be outdone, summons a shield large enough to cover both of them and stop the bullets.

【Gatling】is good for attacking quickly, but it isn’t very powerful, so it can’t help but be blocked.

Nonetheless, it is more than capable of killing humans and lower-level demons.

Nevertheless

“It’s great that you’ve stopped them, but what will you do now? You’ll be minced meat the moment your magical shield runs out.”

“Sh*t! I never heard the small fry could use magic I’ve never seen before!”

The sound of bullets slamming into the magical shield from the rapidly spinning cylinders echoes throughout the labyrinth.

So, because I have ten times the magical power of a regular wizard, as well as a unique magic recovery power, I can keep releasing 【Gatling】 semi-permanently.

What about Chico, though?

“Sh*t! Normally, you should have exhausted your magic by now! Why are you not stopping your attacks?!”

“…What’s the plan?! — The shield will not last long if you do nothing!”

“I know! If you’re going to say that, do something while he’s attacking!”

Haha. Those two are diametrically at odds.

But I can see the outcome of whatever they try to do from now on…

“Hmm?”

Chico is gradually drawing his magical shield closer to the corridor wall.

He’ll most likely pull back around the bend and reposition himself.

Well, suit yourself.

More importantly,

“Can I have your back, Nadia?”

“Yes.”

Nadia replies softly.

That’s it!

Nadia and I are now on the same page!

“Haha! Let’s get this over with!”

I laugh hysterically as I take one step at a time toward Chico, who is gradually retreating.

Chico would most likely take advantage of this brief respite to launch a desperate attack.

But, in order to do so, the magical power that keeps the magic shield in place must be turned off; at that point, Chico’s entire body will be covered in beehive-like holes.

In other words, they’re doomed to perish.

nevertheless

“Haha.”

“?”

“Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”

Chico burst out laughing like a lunatic.

“…What’s funny.”

“Ahahaha! Of course it’s funny! You were certainly unexpected! I’ll admit it! However, you failed with your other partner!”

“Partner? Are you referring to Nadia?”

“You are correct ♪.”

I thought I heard Chico laughing.

“…It’s all over.”

Hernan’s low voice rang out from behind us.

…They are truly a bunch of idiots…

” … Gah?!”

“Fufu… You were right, It’s all over.”

Nadia’s giggle accompanied Hernan’s scream.

“What the hell happened…?! H-How did such a magical beast come to be…?!”

“【Grasha Labolas】, this summoned beast, has the ability to become invisible.”

Yeah…that’s exactly what I had hoped for.

Chico was hiding behind his shield when Hernan bypassed the passage and went behind us. That’s when he attacked.

Above all else

“Chico, you’ve always underestimated Nadia—just as you’re expected to become a high-level master wizard—Nadia is also an unrivaled master summoner in the empire.”

The fact that the magical shield obscured his vision when Nadia summoned the beast also contributed to the situation’s reversal.

Furthermore, the intense noise from my Gatling made it impossible to hear Nadia’s mumbling voice, which contributed to their defeat.

“So, now you can die without any worries.”

“Sh*t! Sh*t! Oh, sh*t, oh, sh*t, oh, sh*t, oh, sh*t, oh, sh*ttttttt!!”

Chico’s magical ability lasted about fifteen minutes.

“Ah!? Gi, gya, a, gagaga…!”

Chico’s magical power eventually ran out, and the countless bullets he was hit with all over his body literally turned him into minced meat.

Chapter 26: May Your Heart Heal

“Speaking of which, I don’t see the former crown prince…”

Nadia muttered as she rummaged through Hernan and Chico’s luggage for food.

“Oh, he fled on all fours right after the battle began…”

“R-Really?”

If Emilio had food, they would have already taken it out together, but the food had already been taken by the lousy woman.

It’s no longer worth it to kill him.

Instead, while he is barely surviving, he should beg forgiveness for getting Nadia into this mess.

In any case, he’ll die soon.

Even more importantly

“We now have enough food for two and a half weeks.”

It will take at least a month to reach the labyrinth’s lowest level.

Assuming that unexpected events may occur, we should have enough food for at least a week.

Above all, we can’t afford to let those guys catch up to us…

“Ivan…”

Nadia was looking at me with a concerned expression on her face.

“W-What’s the matter?”

“Are you worried about something?”

“What…?”

I was perplexed and did not understand the question.

“Because Ivan was wearing a grim expression…”

“Ah…”

Right, because I was thinking about those guys…

The worst of them, you know.

“I apologize. I’ve been contemplating the future. But don’t worry, I’ve got it all figured out now.”

I smiled to avoid worrying Nadia.

“Really? Are you sure you’re not overworking yourself because you’re worried about me?”

“Don’t worry; it’s not like that. I don’t feel at ease in this place, so let’s move on.”

To avoid further interrogation, I took Nadia’s hand in mine and left the place.

—○█○—

“Let’s take a break here.”

Two hours after the killing of Hernan and Chico.

I suggested it to Nadia after we came to a dead end in the corridor.

If we don’t take a rest soon, it will have an impact on our future labyrinthine strategies, and more importantly, we have already killed four graduates of the same Imperial Academy with whom we had fallen with.

Even I, who have done it thousands of times, was tired. So Nadia’s first time in the labyrinth, as well as her first time killing someone, must have been even more painful than mine.

And yet… Nadia has been acting tough the whole time. On the contrary, she’s been taking care of me.

“Nadia.”

I set my luggage down and opened my arms to call her name.

“Fufu… What’s the matter…?”

Nadia approached me, smiling, and I gently hugged her.

I gently hold her so that her heart can heal a little.

Then

“…Sniffle Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

I suppose it’s because she’s been through so much up to this point.

Nadia’s indigo eyes began to fill with tears.

“Hey, Nadia…Didn’t you tell me? “You should not keep everything to yourself.” Don’t keep it all to yourself.”

“….Sniffle”

“I share your sentiments. I don’t want Nadia to be isolated. You always put others ahead of yourself.”

Yes, you have always thought about, cared about, and tolerated others instead of yourself.

That is also for me.

“Nadia… I’d be more than happy to have you rely on me if you’re honest with me.”

That’s because I love you above all others.

Since the day I met you in my dream and you protected me, I’ve been thinking only of you.

This is why

“Aaaah…!… Ivan… Ivan…!”

“Nadia…”

I just held Nadia, who was repeatedly calling my name in my chest.

—○█○—

“Suu… Suu… Suu…”

I stroked her indigo hair gently while wrapping my arms around Nadia, who had fallen asleep after crying so hard.

It’s a shame that the dust from the labyrinth has dulled her hair.

We can get water at the second and fifth levels, so we’ll just have to be patient until then.

However

“…She’s really cute.”

As I stare at her sleeping face, I mutter to myself.

She’s so cute, so kind, so strong-willed, and now she’s the empire’s best summoner… So, what prompted the academy…? I mean, doesn’t the empire understand that?

To be honest, she’s much cuter than the lousy woman or Lady Carina.

Having said that

“…I don’t want anyone else to notice how adorable Nadia is…”

Ugh… This obliviousness irritates me, but I’m torn between wanting to keep her to myself and showing the world her brilliance.

At the very least, no one in this labyrinth is interested in Nadia right now, which is a good thing… So, to summarize…hm?.

“N-Nadia?”

“…”

Nadia, who was red up to her ears, was looking up at me before I knew it.

Chapter 27: Complicating Preferences

“…”

“…”

Nadia woke up, and now we’re a short distance away, eating dried meat in silence.

I can’t believe Nadia was awake and listening to my embarrassing mumbling…

But those were my true feelings: Nadia is more important to me than anyone else, she’s cuter than everyone else, and I want her all to myself.

Therefore, I have no regrets about it.

Besides, in this reality, I will definitely say to her what I couldn’t in my dream.

I clench my fists with determination.

This time, I absolutely will…

“N-Nadia…”

“…Ivan—May I ask you a question?”

“W-What is it…?”

Nadia looks me in the eyes. I asked her fearfully as I looked at her.

Maybe she wanted to question me about that mumbling…

“… Y-You as well… that…me…I…”

Nadia’s face is flushed as she struggles to form her words.

I’m expecting her to when…

“Ara? What a coincidence that we happened to meet here.”

The Duke’s daughter, Lady Carina, The Count Calderon’s daughter “Rita Calderon,” and The Marquise Pedrosa’s daughter “Laura-Pedrosa,” who had their engagement broken off, appeared.

“…I’m sorry?”

Nadia asked in hushed tones, glaring at the three of them who had interrupted her when she had the courage to ask me.

“Nothing, nothing at all. I just happened to see that insolent Aria-san around here…”

“She isn’t here.”

“I’m afraid so. But still…”

Lady Carina looked at me and Nadia alternately with a clear expression.

“Didn’t Nadia-san have a fiancée? I’m curious what he thinks of the two of you being together at the Institute when you still haven’t even broken your engagement.”

When Lady Carina says this, she snorts.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

Nadia gives her a stern look and tells her so.

Her words appeared to have enraged her.

“Do you not understand? — You let your fiancée swoon over that woman while ignoring my advice to punish that thieving cat!”

…I see.

Lady Carina was still bitter that Nadia had not joined her in her bullying of the lousy woman.

That explains Lady Carina’s rage in the dream.

“Sigh… So Carina-sama traveled all the way here to discuss such nonsense?”

“Did you hear what I was saying? I just happened to run into you guys while looking for that thieving ca—”

“—that’s a lie…”

I interrupted their conversation, which was deteriorating, and told her.

“….What do you mean by a lie?”

“It’s true that you were looking for Lady Aria, but weren’t you also looking for Nadia? Because Lady Aria can’t possibly be found anywhere near where we are.

Yes, the lousy woman must be far away from us now.

and very close to the first level’s exit.

I’m certain of it because the behavior pattern of that lousy woman has always been the same in the thousands of dreams I’ve had.

Besides, I was moving in such a way that I wouldn’t collide with her.

“…How could you have known that?”

“I’m under no obligation to respond.”

Lady Carina gave me a sharper look, and I responded without hesitation.

“So? Why would you tell us such a lie? — No, you were looking for Nadia?”

I dared to inquire as to why, but… Simply put, she was looking for Nadia because Lady Carina was envious of her.

To begin with, Carina Oliveira is of higher rank than any of the other people who have been thrown into the labyrinth.

more so than the crown prince, Emilio, or Donato, who was always arrogant and haughty.

And so forth. She is the only daughter of the Dukes of Oliveira, the Astraea Empire’s most powerful noble family.

Furthermore, she has been known throughout the empire as a talented girl since her childhood, so much so that rumors of her fame have spread not only among the nobility, but also among the general population.

But now she’s lost her fiancée to an unknown baroness.

Of course, Lady Carina has no feelings for Emilio.

She thinks that she is engaged to the useless crown prince because she is better than everyone else.

Despite this, her fiancée, who is inferior in every way to her, is in love with a woman who is also inferior in every way.

Because she is so high-minded, I can only imagine how her guts must have been boiling.

Then Nadia, who she thought was plain and dull and could do nothing but stare at Donato’s face, is now happily together with me in the academy.

A woman with less ability, status, and honor than she does.

(How can she be so happy while leaving me behind?! — She was betrayed by her fiancé just like me!)

With that kind of self-esteem, Lady Carina searched for Nadia.

to show her how low she could sink, just like that lousy woman.

She couldn’t touch Nadia at the academy because of her position as a duke’s daughter, which was notoriously insufficient.

And, unlike the lousy woman, she had no valid reason. On the contrary, such a move would have caused problems for the Dukes of Oliveira.

But now that she’s in the labyrinth, there’s no one to intervene or criticize her actions.

She doesn’t need to be restrained then.

She was born with her hidden personality.

—the love of cruelty to the weak

Chapter 28: S and M.

“Fufu…”

In response to my question, Lady Carina’s mouth turned up at the corner of her mouth.

“…What’s so funny?”

“Of course it’s funny. Because a mere country viscount and a mere scion of the House of Hymes both misunderstand.”

Lady Carina responds with a vulgar guffaw.

She is a far cry from the graciousness she demonstrated at the academy.

“Do Lady Rita and Laura-sama agree with Carina-sama?”

“”…””

Nadia asks with a sharp look, and both of them turn away and remain silent.

All of them are, of course, Lady Carina’s cronies.

A mere servant who is terrified of Lady Carina.

Taking a look at the three of them together

“Hahaha.”

I laughed.

“…What’s so funny?”

Lady Carina, rumored to be the most beautiful girl in school, asks with a frown on her face.

“No, because when I asked why you were looking for Nadia, you said something out of line. Is it possible that Lady Carina can’t hold a decent conversation?”

“Huh! What did you just say?!”

“Then answer me quickly —Why were you looking for Nadia?”

“Sigh, I see, fufufu…”

Lady Carina sighed and laughed with a disgustingly ugly expression, finally ready to show her true colors.

“Of course, it was because I wanted to punish the arrogant Nadia-san personally. I wanted her to understand her position.”

Lady Carina then pulled out… is that a horse whip?

“I don’t suppose you’re going to hit Nadia with that?”

“I am, indeed. It’s only natural that I’d discipline livestock, isn’t it~?”

Lady Carina says with a puzzled expression, as if it’s the obvious thing to do.

Her broken character has been amazing since she revealed her true nature.

“Do you believe we’re simply ignoring it? —You’re not good enough for us to begin with!”

Next, one of her cronies, Lady Rita, is about to cast a spell on Nadia.

“I won’t let you.【Wad Cutter】.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh?!”

I shot Lady Rita in the chest with a magic bullet before she could do so, and she collapsed to the floor.

“‘Sigh, worthless…”

“…She’s one of you, and yet you treat her with such coldness.”

“Rita isn’t one of us; she’s a piece of livestock. If she’s no longer useful to us, we’ll simply discard her.”

…Really, she hasn’t changed all that much from the Lady Carina of my dreams.

“Is Lady Laura going to challenge us next? If you want to be like Lady Rita, who is currently lying there.”

“Hi, hiiii…!”

Laura scrunched up her face in horror as she witnessed what had happened to Rita in front of her.

I wish she’d just back down, but… I don’t believe she will.

“What are you doing? —Go!”

“Y-Yeees!”

At Lady Carina’s insistence, Laura made up her mind, drew her dagger, and launched an attack on… She’s attacking Nadia, not me.

She most likely intends to take Nadia hostage because she appears weak, and I won’t be able to attack her if I take her hostage.

However

“【Faraii】.”

“What?!”

When Nadia says that, a magical circle of light appears in front of Lady Laura’s eyes, and a masked skeleton knight slowly emerges from the labyrinth.

“Ah…hhhhh…”

Laura’s entire body trembles at the sight of the hideous and strange figure.

“Isn’t he adorable, Laura-sama? My summoned beast…”

“No, I can’t… I can’t…”

Lady Laura hid her face in her hands, clutching her head.

At that moment

—Zig

“Huh!? Aaahhh!!? It hurts! It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!”

“Seriously, they’ll need to be killed if they don’t listen to their masters.”

Lady Carina, who had changed from a horse whip to a fleuret (foil) (fencing sword), stabbed the tip of the fleuret into Laura’s cowering back.

She twisted the fleurete’s blade, causing more pain.

“Gah! Please! Fuh… Stop… Stop..s-sto…”

After the fleuret went through her chest and she coughed up a lot of blood, Lady Laura died quickly.

“Sigh… I can’t believe I’ll have to deal with this…”

“Despite this, you’re in a good mood and smiling. Is this how you treat those who have been following you?”

“Don’t make me say the same thing over and over again. They’re livestock, and I have the right to treat them as such. A country Count like you wouldn’t understand.”

“…”

This scene is truly repulsive, no matter how many times I see it.

Then I’ll just destroy it like in the dream.

This sadistic, masochistic individual.

So

“All right, let’s do it.”

“Ufufu, sure.”

Carina raised her right hand as I raised mine.

Chapter 29: Pretending to Be Dead

“Oh, my, you are surprisingly good!”

The battle has been going on for three minutes.

Lady Carina is hiding behind a passageway in order to avoid my magic.

Despite everything

“As always, it’s troublesome…”

Carina Oliveira is a one-of-a-kind woman.

Not only does her personality have two sides, but so does her fighting style.

In close combat, she uses her fleuret to hunt her prey, while at medium and long range, she uses her specialized fire magic to burn everything to the ground.

I can’t tell you how many times she has cut me up and burned me in my dreams.

“But that was only until I was ten!”

So I’m getting serious…

“Nadia?”

“I’ll assist you as well, Ivan!”

Nadia peeks out from behind my back and clenches a small fist in front of her chest to demonstrate her spirit.

…Who is this lovely lady?!

I feel like I’m on top of the world just seeing her like this.

That’s something I can thank Lady Carina for.

But, I’m not going to forgive her for calling Nadia a piece of livestock and even attempting to seize it.

“Hahaha, Nadia, don’t worry, you can leave it to me this time.”

I pounded my chest.

“…Are you sure you’re not overdoing it? “

“Of course not.”

“I understand. But if something happens, I’ll be there.”

“Yes.”

Nadia finally believes me when she sees my smile and vigorously nods her head.

Then

“Can you really afford it?! 【Flaire Lance】.”

“Hm?!【Reactive Armor】!”

I repelled the flaming spear with two earth magic shields.

With this, I can prevent her powerful magic.

“Tsk! You really use perplexing magic!”

“Really? Maybe it’s because you’re just unremarkable?!”

“I’ll show you then!”

As I stir up trouble, I hear hysterical voices in the corridor’s shadows.

Her temper is truly that of an arrogant duchess.

“Well, I think it’s time to stop fooling around and get this over with.”

I mutter to myself as I walk slowly and carelessly toward the passageway’s shadows.

It’s almost as if I’m inviting her to take a shot at me.

I’ve already placed a rig in a certain spot just “in case”; all I need to do now is concentrate on what’s in front of me.

“You have a lot of guts!  —【Flare Storm】”

Oh, it’s the advanced fire magic 【Flare Storm】now… As expected, 【Reactive Armor】 is ineffective against this…

Well, that’s not a problem.

“【Liquid Nitrogen】.”

I made a large number of metallic cylindrical containers out of earth magic that were fully compressed and trapped with ice magic, and threw them into the 【Flare Storm】 one after the other.

Then

“What?!”

The containers ruptured and violently exploded.

The flames were extinguished in all directions at the same time.

“It’s then my turn. —【Napal Bomb】.”

I summon a metal container several times the size of the previous 【Liquid Nitrogen】 and fire it into the passage where Lady Carina is.

Following that,

—Doooooooooooooooooon!

The sound of the intense bombardment echoes throughout the labyrinth, and the explosion is incredible even when the 【Reactive Armor】 blocks it.

No, it was a little too strong.

“T-That’s incredible…”

Nadia mutters as she leans against my back.

“Nadia… I’d appreciate it if you could please close your eyes and cover your ears from now on.”

“Ah… Yes…”

Surprisingly, Nadia accepted it without hesitation.

I suppose she was aware of what I had done.

“All right, I’ll go check.”

I said this to Nadia, who covered her ears and walked to the corridor’s corner.

Following that,

“Well, I knew it would be like this…”

What had once been a human being turned to charcoal lay on the floor.

The human charcoal was holding a melted and crushed foil in her right hand (fencing sword).

“Exactly as in my dream… but the smell is unexpected.”

With these words, I turn away, but then…

“Die!”

Lady Rita, who was supposed to collapse, extends her hand to Nadia, who has closed her eyes, covered her ears, and raised the corner of her mouth.

… That’s right.

She pretended to be following Lady Carina, and she was going to kill her in her sleep, wasn’t she?

And now she’s coming after us because we killed Lady Carina.

to exact revenge on us for taking her away.

But

“I know that.”

“What?!”

—Slice!

Rita was ground meat in an instant.

I set up my synthesis magic 【Claymore】by the wall.

The explosion of fire magic scatters small metal particles generated by earth magic into the air, and the victim is reduced to a blob of flesh.

“Now then…”

I quickly take the food from the three people’s luggage and walk over to Nadia, taking her hand in mine.

“Nadia… I’ll guide you to another location. I’d appreciate it if you could keep your eyes closed for the time being.”

“I-I understand…”

I couldn’t help but relax as Nadia walked slowly, anxiously checking her feet.

Chapter 30: Selfish Thoughts

“That’s enough, Nadia.”

We had moved past the place where we had defeated Lady Carina and the others.

I eventually told Nadia to open her eyes.

“Y-Yes… Ivan, are you okay?”

“Of course. I’m not such a weakling, you know?”

“Yes, I am aware of that—I understand, but I’m concerned about you…”

Nadia says this while repeatedly peering into my face and confirming my safety.

Her thoughtfulness and concern warmed my heart.

And I swear once more.

I will definitely save Nadia and make her happy.

And I know I have to be present to ensure her happiness.

“I need to find the right opportunity…”

“What did you say, Ivan?”

“N-No, it’s nothing.”

Nadia overhears my muttering and asks what I said, which I quickly deny.

I can’t tell her about my dream.

“Well, we don’t have to worry about food for the next month thanks to the food that Lady Carina and the others left us.”

“! It turned out to be a blessing in disguise!”

It’s only been a few days, so there’s still enough food for the three of them.

In any case, we now have the bare minimum of food to clear the labyrinth…

So, what policy will we pursue from here on out? There were two patterns in my dream.

Either we leave the crown prince and the lousy woman behind and progress to the lower levels, or we get rid of them to alleviate any remaining concerns.

I don’t know what I think about Aits and others, but I don’t want Nadia to witness any more deaths of people she knows.

Furthermore, each option has advantages and disadvantages.

If we go to the labyrinth after killing them, we’ll have more food, but it’ll take longer to clear the labyrinth, and Nadia will have to get her hands dirty.

On the other hand, ignoring them shortens the time it takes to clear the labyrinth, but we know we’ll be in trouble later because of them.

…Well, in both cases, it’s the same.

If this is the case

“Nadia, today we’ll look for the stairs to the next level. Then we’ll get Tithona and get out of here.”

“Yes!”

Nadia cheerfully responded to my words.

Oh, Nadia… If you’re here, I’m willing to go to hell or become a devil.

At first, I had always hoped that only you would be saved.

For that, I was secondary, just as you were in your dream when you first fell into this labyrinth; I only wanted you to be saved.

But that is just self-gratification, which you do not want.

And I don’t want to lose your warmth…

So

Let us sort out the feelings that have remained at Imperial Academy and get out of this place together.

—○█○—

“Nadia, how are you doing? —Are you tired?”

I signal to Nadia, who is walking alongside me.

Nadia must be physically exhausted after walking for nearly half a day, even though I’m carrying all of the luggage.

“Fufu… Don’t worry, Ivan. Let’s move quickly.”

Nadia smiles at me as she says this.

I don’t want to put too much pressure on Nadia, but based on her complexion and steps, she doesn’t appear tired.

On the contrary, Nadia seems to be full of life.

… In that case, I’d better make the most of my time here.

“I understand. However, if you feel tired, please let me know—Pushing yourself too hard will make things more difficult for you later on.”

“Yes!”

So we keep going, deeper into the labyrinth.

Hellhounds, lizardmen, and other demons appear along the way, but they are no match for us.

“…Fufu…”

“? What’s the matter?”

As soon as we beat the slime hordes and start walking again, I ask Nadia why she is laughing.

“No… To be honest, I thought of myself as a plain, inconspicuous, and useless individual.”

“That is not true!! Nadia is the most amazing and beautiful woman I’ve ever met!!”

I couldn’t accept the words she was saying, so I denied them aloud.

“Fufu, listen to me. That was my self-evaluation… no, that’s what Donato kept telling me, and the other students didn’t even pay attention to me after I arrived at the academy.”

“…”

“But…When I first arrived at the academy, you were the only one who looked at me.”

Nadia looks at me with her clear indigo eyes as she says this.

“At the time, Ivan Escobal, the most wonderful person of all, saved me…”

“Nadia…”

No, Nadia…

I was the one who was rescued.

Even if it was only in a dream, you were willing to save me with your own body.

After that, whenever I saw you in my dreams, you were always caring and kind to me…

I would have been broken if I had continued to have the same nightmarish dream every day.

But… I couldn’t be me without you.

“…Fufu. I’m sorry, Ivan; don’t worry about it. This is just my selfish thought…”

Nadia smiles sadly as she turns to face forward.

I just smiled sadly back at her.

But a certain determination strikes me.

a determination to fulfill both her selfish and my selfish desires.

With our thoughts on each other, we move silently through the labyrinth.

Following that

“What a coincidence!”

Unexpectedly, we ran into each other.

I was the lousy woman and the last of the cronies.

—Sergio Diaz, the Imperial Knight Commander’s legitimate son.

Chapter 31: The Last Crony

Sergio Diaz

As the oldest son of Count Diaz, the current commander of the Imperial Knights of Astoria, he is well-known even in neighboring countries. In the future, he is expected to be the most powerful Knight Commander in history.

Even though Sergio Diaz is only 18 years old, his swordsmanship has advanced to the level of a master, and it goes without saying that Donato Hymes is nowhere near him… he is literally the strongest in the academy… No, the empire’s strongest.

You’d think a man with such a bright future would think twice about denouncing his own fiancée and jeopardizing his own reputation.

However, Sergio acted the same way as the Crown Prince.

He was devoted to Aria Moreno, ignored his fiancée, Laura Pedrosa, and was rude to the other students.

He is a man with no equal in swordsmanship, and no one dared to raise their opinion of him.

That is the entirety of this man’s behavior at the Imperial Academy.

“What are you doing here?”

“Of course, I’m trying to navigate the labyrinth. We have to get the Tithona or we’ll be stuck here forever.”

Sergio responds with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders.

But my thoughts were racing about this unexpected situation.

because this had never happened in my dreams before.

Of course, a dream is a dream, and it is not the same as reality.

However, the events leading up to the breakup of the engagement—the fact that we were thrown into the labyrinth—the layout of the labyrinth’s passageways, ceilings, walls, and floors—Donato’s attack—Lady Liliana’s attempted poisoning—our encounter with Hernan, Chico, Lady Carina, and the others—all of these things were almost identical to the events in the dreams.

I can’t believe there’s a new development here that I’ve never seen before…

“By the way, I’ve been keeping an eye on the others, and I’m amazed you guys have survived all this time.”

“…”

Emilio smiles at me, and I remain silent.

I see… Did he arrive ahead of us after seeing that?

“So, here’s my proposal… How about you join us and assist us in navigating the labyrinth until we find Tithona? I recognize your abilities.”

“Eh?! Sergio, what are you talking about?!”

Sergio’s words prompted the lousy woman who had been silently listening next to him to raise her voice.

Apparently, she had not heard about this matter.

I felt the same way.

“…What if I refuse?”

“Then everything is fine. I’ll give up and we’ll figure it out on our own.”

Sergio shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

“Ivan…”

Nadia gave me a worried look as we exchanged a few words.

“It’s all right, Nadia… So don’t worry.”

“Y-Yes…”

I smiled as I squeezed her small hand.

But… What should I do, though?

At least, in my dreams, this man has never offered collaboration with me.

Given that, this offer could be a ruse to catch us off guard.

…all right.

I made a decision and looked at Sergio.

This is when

“Uuuuuuuu…”

“”!?””

We hear a groan from further down the corridor, and Nadia and I turn to look.

It was…

“Uuuuuuuu…”

Emilio was swallowed whole by a slime that was one or two times his size, with only his face poking out.

…It appears Emilio has been preyed upon.

This is the end of the former Astoria Empire crown prince…

In the end, however, he sowed his own seed.

Nadia would not be in this situation if this man had not done what he did.

I look at Emilio with mixed feelings of pity and contempt.

“Aaaaaaahhh…. Sergio… Sergio… Why did you…”

“!?”

Sergio’s name was unexpectedly spoken, and I looked at him involuntarily.

“…”

Sergio, on the other hand, simply stared at Emilio without changing his expression.

“Sergioo~oh…. Sergio~oh…”

Emilio keeps calling Sergio’s name instead of Aria’s…

It’s dangerous, but let’s give it a shot.

“【Fireball】.”

I raised my right hand and fired a single fireball at Slime’s lower body.

Slime writhes in agony as the 20-centimeter-wide fireball strikes him.

Following that

“Now!”

I pulled Emilio from Slime’s burned body, which had shrunk to its original size.

“Aaaaahhha…”

But Emilio, who has already been digested inside the slime’s body, will not be able to survive.

“Emilio… Why are you being swallowed up by a mere slime? How could you have let such a monster get you?”

I spoke softly to him.

“A-Aaaaah…”

Emilio slowly pointed shakenly at Sergio with his right hand and quickly ran out of strength. Finally, he died.

Sergio’s mouth hung open in amusement at that moment.

Chapter 32: Non-Negotiable Desire

“Sergio… what’s the meaning of this?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

Sergio only smiled faintly and didn’t respond when I glared at him and asked him questions.

But… I pretty sure he was the one who fed Emilio to the slime.

“…I should not have asked you that question. Sergio, what motivated you to do this?”

“Oh, it’s self-evident, isn’t it? I don’t want to be friends with someone who is less capable than me.”

Sergio puts it bluntly.

But was that the reason?

I only got the impression that he was only the lousy woman’s puppet with no free will.

But Sergio, in front of me, was clearly acting on his own volition.

You can tell that by looking at his eyes.

“Hm… Ivan, right? Isn’t that the same with you?”

“…What?”

“I’ve found someone who understands, accepts, and supports me. I would go to any length for her. When I met Aria, I realized what she meant. No one has ever looked after me until now.”

Sergio gives me a cheerful smile.

I see…

Sergio, what Nadia was to me, Aria was to you. So that’s what this is all about.

“I was tired of being the son of the Knight Commander, of unwanted engagements, of being made servant to the incompetent crown prince there, of a child who was only good at magic, of a man who didn’t know his place as the eldest son of a frontier count, and of a colleague who pretended to be cool and thought he was brilliant.”

“…”

“…so I decided to call it quits. I encouraged that inept person.”

Huh?

What exactly did he just say?

“Then, predictably, he got carried away. Not only is he inept, but so are his followers. Aria now only sees me.

“Wait. So you’re saying that you encouraged Emilio to break off the engagement… Is that what you mean?”

“That’s correct! Of course, I also planned for the old man (emperor) to sentence us to the Labyrinth Prison!”

Sergio gleefully laughs as he explains, in high spirits.

He’s like an innocent child who has pulled off a successful prank.

“…But you ended up in the labyrinth, didn’t you? Not only that, but the woman you care so deeply about.”

“That I am aware of—but aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Forget what?”

“My name is Sergio Diaz!”

Sergio was praising himself with his hands in the air.

I suppose it’s the man’s self-esteem and ability, backed up by the exceptional talent he’s developed over the years, that have shaped him into this person.

He truly is unredeemable.

“So, now that I’ve addressed your questions, it’s your turn. Are you going to join us in conquering the labyrinth, or are you going to part way here?”

Sergio asked me again, and I caught myself looking at Nadia next to me.

She smiled and nodded as she looked at me.

Apparently, it seems that she shares a common feeling with me.

“I’ve made my decision, Sergio.”

“I knew you’d make the right choice! After all, you’re the only guy I’ve ever approved of !”

Sergio approached me with a smile on his face.

But

“You’ve got everything wrong. We do not accept you.”

I stop him with my right hand and tell him quietly.

“Hm?! Why?”

Sergio unexpectedly widened his eyes and asked in hushed tones.

Why? It’s obvious.

“You encouraged Emilio to make a fool of himself by breaking off the engagement for selfish reasons—and thus bringing Nadia into the picture, who had nothing to do with it.”

“What are you on about? It was Donato’s nonsense, not mine, that got her involved. You know that, right?”

“Yes, it was that idiot who got her into trouble—but if it hadn’t happened, Donato wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of breaking off the engagement in the first place.”

“That’s just a consequence.”

Sergio said, dismissively, in response to my words.

You’re right, it could just be a consequence.

But it’s the consequences that have gotten Nadia into this situation.

Then I will never forgive you.

“Sigh… It seems you haven’t changed your mind.”

“…”

“Then we have no choice—Let us settle this by offering whatever food you have on hand.

“What are you on about?”

“The food is necessary for Aria and me to successfully navigate the labyrinth—Then it is your responsibility to give it to us.”

Sergio says this without batting an eyelid.

The lousy woman nodded as if it were natural.

“I see—but this is something that Nadia and I need to survive—I’m not going to let you.”

“Well, then… I’ll take it by force!”

Sergio draws the sword from his waist with these words.

Chapter 33: Fighting the Genius

“Well, then… I’ll take it by force!”

Sergio draws the sword from his waist with these words.

This was bound to happen sooner or later.

So what does it matter?

I extended my hands to Sergio.

“Hey, I’m telling you, don’t even consider holding Aria hostage. If you do that, I’ll inflict so much pain on Nadia over there that she might as well die.”

“…You say the most stupid things!”

“Hm?!”

Sergio’s careless remark exacerbates my rage.

But the more this happens, the clearer and colder my mind becomes, like ice without impurities.

This sensation reminds me of being in a dream.

Return to the world of anguish, despair, and lamentation.

Sergio notices the change in me and moves away from me right away.

“Heh… I had no idea you were hiding such a talent…”

“We’ll see.”

Ignoring Sergio’s flippant remarks, I used earth magic to create a one-meter long, thin metal cylinder and injected several types of fire magic into it,

Following that

“【Vigilant】.”

When I chanted that, a powerful blue-white flame shot out from the back end of the cylinder with great force.

Of course, aimed at Sergio.

“Haha! That kind of intimidation will not work on me… What?!”

Sergio attempts to cut the 【Vigilant】with his sword, but he quickly pulls his sword and decides to flee.

But

“What?! Is it still coming after me?!”

The 【Vigilant】I fired was heading in the same direction Sergio was, as if it had its own will.

Yes, the 【Vigilant】generates magnetic force at its tip via earth magic, and it reacts to and tracks Sergio’s metal sword.

What are you going to do now, Sergio?

As long as you don’t let go of the sword, the【Vigilant】 will follow you semi-permanently, right?

Also, slashing its long, thin torso with the sword would send flames and a blast of wind at you right away.

As I am happy about the gimmick, I raise the corner of my mouth to look at Sergio.

Following that,

“Haha… This is unquestionably evil magic. It’s a shame you can do things like this.”

Sergio easily avoids the 【Vigilant】with a faint smile on his face.

But, despite repeated attempts, it continues to pursue him… What?!

Surprisingly, Sergio only severed the tip of the 【Vigilant】.

The magnetic part that reacts to Sergio’s sword is now destroyed.

After losing sight of its target, the 【Vigilant】wanders through the labyrinth’s corridors… only to collide with a wall and explode.

“… How did you know there was a tracking device at the tip?”

“It’s just a coincidence, haha. But, if it has eyes, shouldn’t they be in its head?”

Sergio asks for agreement in a playful tone.

But… After all, this is the Imperial Academy’s most powerful man.

I must keep an eye on everything, including his useless instincts.

Nevertheless

“So, what are your plans now?”

“So, what are my plans? It’s obvious. We’ll kill you and Nadia behind you by inflicting as much pain as we can, and then me and Aria will conquer the labyrinth.”

“Do you think you can do it, Sergio?”

When I say this, I raise the corner of my mouth.

“…What do you mean?”

“Do you think I was just watching you while you were on the run from the【Vigilant】?”

“… No, I don’t think so. Perhaps you have something on the floor just like you did when you killed Donato?”

So, just like when I killed Donato, I planted【Landmine】all over the floor.

If he attacks us nochantly, he will be blown up right away.

And I know Sergio is aware of my skills.

In my dream, the man himself told me that when Donato left Aria’s side to attack us, he followed Donato and the rest unnoticed.

“Tsk… Why are you not surprised? —After all the trouble I went through to expose your ruse.”

“Since you know that, you can’t even come close to us because you’ll have no choice but to attack us with your sword.”

Having said that, Sergio is capable of attacking from a distance.

After all, this man is not only the strongest in the academy in swordplay, but also in magic.

Only Sergio’s father, the Knight Commander, is aware of this.

This is also the truth Sergio revealed to me in my dream just before I died.

“Let’s give it a shot! 【Lightning Spear】!”

Sergio points his sword at me, and eight lightning-formed spears appear and attack at breakneck speed.

Worse, the lightning bolts emitted by the lightning spears cause the 【Landmine】to explode in rapid succession.

All of the traps I’ve placed on the floor have gone to waste.

“Tsk! 【Reactive Armor】!”

I erected the defensive wall I demonstrated during the fight with Lady Carina and blocked all the 【Lightning Spear】.

What about Sergio? Huh?!

“Haha! There’s a gap!”

He sprinted across the ground where the 【Reactive Armor】already exploded and came at me while I was blinded by the 【Reactive Armor】 (TL: It’s made of earth so he can’t see).

I won’t be able to defend myself against this man in hand-to-hand combat, no matter how well trained I am in my dreams.

If it comes down to it

—Tan

“Huhaaa…?!”

With a dry sound, Sergio’s right leg is blown clean off at the base.

Chapter 34: Good Luck

—Tan.

“Huhaaa…?!”

With a dry sound, Sergio’s right leg is blown clean off at the base.

It was, of course, my synthetic magic attack.

“Aaaaahhhh! How?! What happened to my right leg?!”

—Tan.

—Tan.

“Ah! Gii!”

Sergio loses his balance and falls to the ground with a thud. He is then hit with two dry blows in quick succession, which hurt him badly.

Sergio’s right arm, which is holding the sword, and left arm are both shredded and blown off, leaving him sprawled on the floor.

“Ahhhhh…!”

“Sergio… You were never my enemy from the start.”

Yeah. Sergio was already evaluated in a dream I had when I was ten years old.

I’ve never been defeated by this man since.

Sergio was hit by bullets fired from a cylinder less than a meter long behind my back.

—Synthetic magic, 【Carbine】.

Because of the speed with which the bullet is ejected from the cylinder, catching it with the naked eye is impossible.

He could avoid the line of fire if he saw the muzzle of the cylinder because of its direction and angle, but his attention was on the【Reactive Armor】 and my body, as well as 【Vigilant】and 【Landmine】, to see it.

“Kuah!… I… I’m stronger than everyone, and you can’t do this to me! unforgivable… unforgivable…! unforgivable…! Unforgivable…! unforgivable…”

Sergio’s face contorts in pain, but he continues to yell vindictively like a lunatic.

Sigh…that’s the type of guy he is.

He believes he is the only one at the top and that the rest of us are garbage.

even if it’s the emperor or his father, the knight commander.

“Well… There’s only one person you’d recognize.”

“Hiii?!”

I mutter as you turn my head to face her… the screaming lousy woman.”

“Huh!? Wait! Aria has absolutely nothing to do with this! “

“Nothing to do with this? —You’re having such a romantic notion that you’re only going to save the woman you love while laying your hands on Nadia, who has nothing to do with this?!”

And it is that lousy woman who is to blame for everything.

After all she’s done, she doesn’t deserve to live.

“You watch from your special place. Watch the woman you love, Aria Moreno, writhe in agony…”

“P-Please! Please help me!”

The lousy woman rushes up to me and grabs my leg.

Her eyes welled up with tears.

“No! I never intended to hurt you! I swear! Believe me!”

“…”

True, this lousy woman has no intention of directly harming us.

It’s the same in all the dreams I’ve had.

It’s just that the idiots who fell in love with her on their own became clever and began breaking off their engagements and causing harm to us on their own.

But

“You certainly didn’t try to do anything.”

“T-Then!”

“However, you were always directing them to do something.”

Yes, you spoke so eloquently in my dream.

Emilio and his cronies were having a good time dancing.

I recall her smiling sneeringly as she was held in the arms of another man, not Emilio or the others.

To Nadia, whose heart was broken…

I’ll never forget the humiliation she inflicted on Nadia.

“…Nadia, what do you want to do with this woman?

I dared to defer to Nadia’s decision.

Nadia was the one who had suffered the most as a result of this woman.

“Fufu… Yes, that’s right. To be honest, I don’t want to see her face anymore.”

“Huh!? Wai—

“But…”

Hearing Nadia’s words, she approached her and tried to beg her, but she continued.

“There is one thing I am “grateful” for about her, and I would be willing to let her go if she never appeared before us again.”

“…I understand.”

That was something I expected Nadia to say.

Besides, even if we let her live, it would not change the outcome.

“All right, then. Let’s go, Nadia…”

“Fufu…Yes…”

I take Nadia’s hand in mine and squeeze it tightly.

as if to symbolize our unbreakable bond.

Following that

“Oh, come to think of it, I almost forgot…”

Nadia whispered something to the lousy woman slumped on the floor.

“Huh?!”

“Fufu… Have a good day.”

And this time we walked away.

—Leaving Sergio and the lousy woman staring at us in hatred.

Chapter 35: Guardian of the First Level, Zadkiel

“Are you sure about this, Nadia?”

As Nadia walked alongside me, I inquired.

Of course, I’m the one who left the decision to her, and I can’t argue with her decision.

However, I wondered if Nadia would truly be able to forgive the lousy woman who had caused her so much humiliation…

“Yes. Besides, any more would be bullying the weak. Above all, she is the one who is currently humiliated.”

“W-Well, that’s…”

The lousy woman will have to fend for herself for at least the next week.

Sergio was there to protect her in the dream when we decided to ignore them and move on, but not in this reality.

“But…”

“?”

“…Fufu, I’m not sure she can “take it”.

As she says this, Nadia laughs.

I’m not sure what her expression means, but I don’t dare ask any more questions and proceed to the next level of stairs.

After two hours of walking

“I-Is this…?”

“Perhaps this is where the first level of the labyrinth ends.”

In front of the huge iron door that appeared, I told her while pretending not to know.

However, this is the entrance to the second level.

A staircase leads down to the lower levels, and “Zadokiel,” the guardian of the first level, awaits us beyond this door.

Despite the fact that many people had already reached the lower levels, Zadokiel always appeared in my dreams.

This means that Zadokiel and the other guardians could come back to life after a certain amount of time, even if they are defeated.

Well, they don’t pose much of a threat to us.

“let’s go in.”

“Yes.”

We’ll open the door and enter.

Inside, there was a beautiful woman covered in ivy.

But don’t be deceived.

This human-looking creature is the guardian of this place, Zadokiel.

And that’s not a human being.

“”?!””

Zadokiel suddenly opens her eyes and looks at us.

—turning to face the intruders

“It’s coming!”

I grab Nadia’s hand, clutch it tightly, and leap to the side.

Then something that looked like a tree root broke through the floor where we were standing.

“T-That’s…”

“Those are Zadokiel’s limbs.”

That’s because the ivy woman we’re seeing isn’t the real Zadokiel.

It’s just a demon who ambushes intruders and devours them by the roots of her tree.

But

“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.”

Saying that, I produced the synthetic magic 【Napal Bomb】 that burned Lady Carina down to size and threw it into the hole made by the roots of the tree that had just sprung up.

Then

“Gigi-gigi-gig…?!”

Zadokiel screams, and the female part of its body slowly starts to push through the ground.

The whole thing is now exposed and it looks like…

“I-Is that…?”

“Yes. This is the true identity of Zadokiel.”

Perhaps it is a mutation of a Trent, who was originally a tree monster.

The tree was so tall that it pierced the ceiling.

“All that remains is for us to topple the main body! 【Vigilant】!”

I summon six units of 【Vigilant】, a synthesis magic that pursued Sergio.

Zadokiel has no metal parts, so it lacks a tracking function, but with such a massive body, it doesn’t need one.

“Go!”

At my command, the six 【Vigilant】attack Zadokiel at the same time.

Zadokiel tries to strike them down with her tree-root limbs, but it’s a bad move.

“Gi?! Gigii…?!”

When the 【Vigilant】strikes the tree, it explodes, destroying not only the tree’s limbs but also spreading the flames to Zadokiel’s torso.

However, because Zadokiel is a tree demon and cannot move, she is forced to strike the 【Vigilant】down, even though she knows it will cause damage.

As it continues to be hit by my attacks, Zadokiel screams.

Its limbs and body are on fire.

Following that

“Gui…”

Zadokiel is finally silenced.

Phew… The guardian has finally been defeated…

Huh?!

Just as I returned my attention to Nadia.

“…”

Nadia, kneeling on the floor, looked at “her” sharply.

Above and beyond her

“Tsk… I blew it.”

The voice we’d only heard a few hours before.

And the woman Nadia allowed to escape.

“You lucky d*stard, you should have died quietly.”

—It was Aria Moreno.

Chapter 36: Those Who Share the Same Dream

Aria Moreno was an outcast at the Imperial Academy from the start.

To begin with, she was an unfortunate child who was a victim of a common aristocratic game as a dastard child of Baron Moreno. That is the general impression.

However, after her mother’s death, Aria joins the Moreno family and soon finds herself at the heart of the Moreno family.

Baron Moreno, who had previously abandoned her, accepted her into the family and began to care for her as if he had never abandoned her, even setting aside his legal children and his own wife.

Naturally, his wife and children were enraged and began to relentlessly bully Aria.

The bullying, however, came to an end one day.

Aria had been at the Moreno household for six months.

When the carriage in which the wife and children were riding was involved in an accident, they were killed.

Furthermore, one of the carriage’s wheels came off while it was moving, and several of Baron Moreno’s favorite swords, which were inside the carriage, flew out of their sheaths and pierced their bodies.

Aria was now Baron Moreno’s only family member, and she became more adored than ever.

According to residents of Baron Moreno’s domain, the two are so close that they are more like lovers than father and daughter.

The Crown Prince and other sons of influential aristocrats in this country fell in love with her when she entered the Imperial Academy.

Objectively speaking, Aria is a pretty girl, but not a stunningly beautiful one.

So, the other students at the academy didn’t understand why the Crown Prince and the other students liked her so much.

Looking back, I can’t help but tilt my head, knowing that I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

She goes out of her way to talk to and flirt with the children of powerful aristocrats, even if they are already engaged.

And I, who love Nadia more than anyone else, cannot comprehend Aria’s actions.

And Aria is always sheltered by the noble sons in my dreams, and when one dies, she becomes a parasite for the next man.

That’s how she was supposed to get through this labyrinth.

Despite this

“You lucky d*stard, you should have died quietly.”

This is the first time this woman has decided to take matters into her own hands.

“…What’s the matter with you? You’ve always been the one who has been shielded by other men.”

“That was correct, because I never got my hands dirty — really, they’re all useless.”

The lousy woman spoke those words as if she was about to vomit.

“Why did you do this after Nadia let you go? Besides, do you know what will happen to you after this?”

“Yes, I know. But more than that, you guys are in my way.”

“In your way?”

What is she on about?

Sure, I want to kill this b*tch, but we let her go once, so she doesn’t have to come all the way here to die.

And yet, she’s here.

She isn’t very good at what she does.

“Yes, you are getting in my way—you’re making it impossible for me to survive in this maze.”

“…You’ll never survive in the first place.”

Because that is exactly what happened in my dream, I said coldly to the lousy woman with strange expectations.

“No, the truth is that I survived—Sergio murders you, I murder Sergio at the bottom of the labyrinth, and I obtain the “Tithona.””

“What…?”

I gasped, not understanding what she was saying.

“Well, you won’t understand even if I tell you. Because I am the only one who knows, who dreams about it every night!”

“What?!”

I lost control of myself as I exclaimed out loud the outrageous words coming from the lousy woman’s mouth.

She dreamed about it? every night?!

It’s just like me!

“In the first place, you never make it down to that lower level in my dreams— so? Will you perish here?”

“Hm?! Nadia!”

“Y-Yes! 【Amon】”

Nadia summoned a beast while I was hiding behind my back.

“That is not right—in my dream, you were supposed to be trembling, unable to do anything, but in reality you’re using such a summoning art… Why is this the case?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about! You’re mixing up dreams and reality… Why don’t you wake up?!”

“Huh? My dreams are one-of-a-kind! Things will happen if I act like I do in my dreams!”

… After all, is this woman the same as me?

Just like me, if I do the same thing in my dreams, it will happen in real life.

“Through this, I was safely picked up by Baron Moreno. I got rid of his wife and child, and Emilio and the others. When I was nice to them, ufufu… They wagged their tails easily, so it was really, really easy~”

“…”

“…However, things have taken an unusual turn since the engagement was called off. If it had been true, you would have immediately burst into tears and watched the engagement fall apart like everyone else. And yet, here you are together. “

The lousy woman frowns and shakes her head.

“And then… I felt a disconnect between my dreams and reality.”

I see… I finally understand.

Was she the one who made Sergio, who should never have appeared in that location, appear?

“I tried to get Sergio and Donato to kill you, but you got them easily, didn’t you? Sigh, they’re completely useless.”

“…I see.”

“So I made the decision to kill you myself. So… could you please die?”

The lousy woman… Aria Moreno’s mouth hangs open like a crescent moon.

Chapter 37: Aria the Necromancer (1)

“So I made the decision to kill you myself. So… could you please die?”

The lousy woman… Aria Moreno’s mouth hangs open like a crescent moon.

However, in my dreams, I had the impression that this woman was always protected by someone else and never fought.

She was always pampered by Emilio and his cronies at the academy, and she never stood out for her grades or abilities.

If that’s the case, how is she going to defeat us?

“…Even after witnessing my brawl with Sergio, but I’m not giving you any leeway.”

“Fufu, you moron. That’s my line!”

With that, the lousy woman raises her hands and forms a magical circle.

But isn’t this…?

“Did you know…? I’m not only cute and brilliant, but I can do this as well! Come on! My sweet little darlings!”

The magic circle then turned black, and skeletal soldiers in armor appeared one by one.

“…I had no idea you were a necromancer…”

“What do you think? Do you find it surprising?”

I try to appear relaxed, but I’m still surprised on the inside.

The lousy woman then smiled pleasantly, as if she could see right through my thoughts.

“Then I’ll annihilate these skeletal soldiers. 【Battering Ram】”

I use earth magic to create a metal that is repeatedly compressed to form a cylinder, which is then inserted into a separate cylinder that I made.

All that remains is for it to be released.

“All right, here we go!”

With these words, the compressed cylinder is thrown out in an explosion of fire magic, hitting the skeleton soldier right away.

“””””!?””””

The bodies (bones) of all the skeleton soldiers in the line of fire are crushed, and the pillars are rammed into the innermost wall.

“Load the next round! Fire!”

As I kept making columns and throwing them out, one after the other, the skeleton soldiers were gone in a flash.

They can’t even dodge because they’re so crowded. I lifted the corner of my mouth as I considered… Huh?!

—Gashan!

“Don’t let your guard down, Ivan!”

“T-Thank you, Nadia.”

With its thick, strong arms, Nadia’s summoned beast Amon destroyed the skeleton soldiers that passed through my 【Battering Ram】.

Nadia is unquestionably dependable.

“Well… It seems that the skeleton soldiers are gone, but that’s not the end, is it?”

“…”

I tried to stir things up with a relaxed expression, and the lousy woman glared at me angrily.

But it was only for a moment before she returned to her sneering smile.

“Ufufufu! There’s no way there were only that many!”

True to her words, skeleton soldiers emerge from the black magic circle one after the other and approach us in the same manner…. What?! Is that…?

“Is that a lich?”

The Lich, an immortal demon who excels at magic, is casting spells behind the skeleton soldiers.

“【Reactive Armor】!【Battering Ram】!”

I set up a magical defense wall while destroying the skeleton soldiers.

I could wait until the lousy woman’s magical power runs out in a battle of wills, but I don’t have the time.

We need to hurry up and get away from them…

Then

“Oh, that’s right~ You can’t just sit around and wait for my magic to exhaust you, you know? Because my magic is limitless!”

“”What?!””

The unexpected words of the lousy woman who had just spoken to us caused Nadia and I to lose our voices.

Unlimited magical power?

“Ufufufu, incredible, isn’t it? But it’s true! Although, I can only summon skeleton soldiers, lichs, and skeleton dragons with my current power, I can keep summoning them until you die!”

“…”

Now we’re in big trouble.

Skeleton soldiers and lichs aren’t a problem, but if she can summon skeleton dragons, that’s a different story.

And if she has an infinite amount of magic power, there must be an infinite number of skeleton dragons.

Above all, in my dreams, I’ve never fought this woman.

“…As expected, if I were to knock her down, I would have to erase her all at once…”

Actually, I wanted to make her realize what she’d done thus far and then slowly kill her in despair.

“Sigh… I could keep doing this until you guys ran out of magic, but then I’d have no way of repaying you for what you said to me… What should I do?”

In a carefree tone, the lousy woman declared as she looked at me… no, she looked at Nadia.

And what did she mean when she said “repay you for what you said to me?”

“Fufu… Do you really mean “that”? It’s just a fact that you’re as narrow-minded and boring as I suspected.”

“Huh?! You really irritate me. What?! Why are you so taken with this man?! You’re the one who has bad taste!”

“Ara? You don’t have to tell me that. You have a collection of men, as if they were servants, and you think you’re really good at it. And because there isn’t a single decent man around you in sight, that’s vulgarity at its finest. fufu”

Nadia responds sarcastically to the face-distorting, agitated-lousy woman with a smile.

To be honest, she scares me more than the skeleton knights or the lichs in front of us.

“Well said! [Thank you for being a stepping stone to my happiness.] I’ll say it right back to you. I will destroy you and use you as a stepping stone out of this labyrinth for my own happiness!”

“Fufu. That’s too bad. Your wish will never be granted. Because…”

Nadia laughs and the corners of her mouth tighten into a grin.

“I’m going to crush you right here!”

Chapter 38: Aria the Necromancer (2)

“I’m going to crush you right here!”

Nadia laughs, and the corners of her mouth tighten into a grin.

“Fufu, what can a plain, boring woman like you do?! A useless woman like you, who can only hide behind a country count and be protected!”

“Take back what you just said!”

I couldn’t help but yell in response to the woman’s laughter.

You know nothing about Nadia!

“Fufu, don’t worry, Ivan…”

“But!”

“You know everything about me… You’re the only person who recognizes me for who I truly am. That’s why her words have no meaning for me.”

Nadia just stared at the lousy woman as she said this.

“Aria-san, you can only summon three types of demons? Isn’t your limitless magical power kind of a waste?”

“…Well, you’re right. Your summon appears to be reasonably powerful, but… it’s still neck and neck with the Skeleton Dragon at best!”

When the lousy woman lifts the edge of her mouth, she forms a large black magic circle with her hands.

A skeleton dragon emerges from it and its huge body scrapes the ceiling.

This is the guardian’s room, even though the ceiling is more than ten meters high.

” Fufufu, how do you like it?! Isn’t she lovely? And she’s a dragon, so she’s made of dragon bones.”

The lousy woman stroked the skeleton dragon’s body, and showed an entranced expression on her face.

But I don’t think I have anything admirable to say about her…

“I’m not interested —Better let’s get started.”

“Fufufu, all right.”

The skeleton dragon and Nadia’s summon, 【Amon】, clash as if on cue.

“Go! 【Amon】! “

“Dragon skeleton!—Destroy her!”

First, the skeleton dragon used its massive size to stomp down on the ground with its massive feet.

—Zuun!

With a ground-shaking sound, footprints appear where【Amon】was.

But

“Huh…?! I didn’t think you’d catch it!”

“Fufu. Amon is up to the task.”

Nadia smiles and pumps her chest slightly against the wide-eyed, lousy woman.

It may seem inappropriate to think her gesture was cute at this time, but… it was just so precious and adorable.

“Oh, I forgot… 【Battering Ram】.”

I kill the lich behind the skeleton soldiers who are still coming at me and casting magic.

But since the skeleton soldiers come out of the black magic circle like water when she commands the Skeleton Dragon, it looks like they are automatically called from the circle.

if this is the case

“I’ll put a stop to it! 【Mill Unit】.”

The black magic circle is surrounded by a thin iron plate created by earth magic and hardened with a large amount of soil between the thin iron plates.

It is a simple composite magic that can be completed by applying water magic to the soil.

But when it comes to defense, nothing is easier or more effective than this.

… The skeleton soldiers and the lich are now trapped. They will destroy themselves under their own pressure if they try to come out.

“Huh?! I simply need to create more magical circles!”

When the lousy woman realized what I was up to, she began to deploy black magic circles one after the other.

I block them with the 【Mill Unit】…. Huh?!

All of the black magic circles she cast seemed to belong to skeleton dragons!

I guess【Mill Unit】 can’t ward it off against such a huge number of skeleton dragons…

“Fufuhaahahaha! What are your plans now?! Because of your unnecessary actions, this room will be filled with skeleton dragons!”

The lousy woman triumphantly declared.

I’m sure I’ll cause Nadia problems, as she put it.

But

“Fufu… Regardless of how many of these skeleton dragons appear, the outcome will be the same. So I guess it’s time to call it a day.”

Nadia quickly draws a magic circle with her right index finger, lifting the edge of her mouth.

Does this mean…Is she finally going to summon it?

The Six Pillars of the Great Kingdom, the most powerful summons.

“Come on, 【Nebiros】!”

The magic circle is engulfed in flames the moment she announces the name.

A pale-faced man in military uniform slowly emerges from the circle.

“Did you summon me, Lord?”

“Would you please remove the skeleton dragons in front of you, as well as the magical circle through which they are exiting this room?”

“That’s not a problem. SNAP!”

【Nebiros】bows reverently, then snaps his fingers at the skeleton dragons in front of him.

At that moment

“Huh!? How?!”

The skeleton dragons and the black magic circle that called the spirits of the dead are no longer there.

“My Lord, it appears that she has linked this location directly to Hell. I’ve sealed it up so it won’t be connected again.

“Thank you very much, 【Nebiros】.”

“What a waste of words.”

With a bow to Nadia, Neviros completed his task and exited the room.

“A…Ah…

“Fufu… So what now that you can’t summon the spirits of the dead?”

Nadia smiled at the lousy woman who had lost her voice.

Chapter 39: The End of a Lousy Woman

“A…Ah…

“Fufu… So what now that you can’t summon the spirits of the dead?”

Nadia smiled at the lousy woman who had lost her voice.

But as expected, the beasts Nadia summons are of exceptional quality.

One of them, 【Nebiros】, is a major general of hell and the leader of all the spirits of the dead.

In the presence of 【Nebiros】, mortal users lose all abilities, and the spirits of the dead who were supposed to be their servants are devoured and transformed into spirits of the dead.

This time, it appears that only the lowest woman’s abilities were blocked, but Nadia could have turned her into a dead spirit if she had wanted to.

“Nadia… You’re an amazing woman after all.”

“Fufu, thank you very much. But only because you put me on the right path. My value… My potential.”

Nadia smiled broadly at me.

Then

“Aaah! N-No, no! I didn’t mean it that way; I was just trying to be mean to you; I never intended to hurt you!”

The lousy woman abruptly turns around and makes one inconsistent excuse after another in a loud voice.

In some ways, it’s amazing how quickly she changes after all those declarations…

But at the same time, she’s trying to get out of here, gradually closing the distance from the room’s exit while we keep our eyes on her.

We won’t miss it, for sure.

“【Mill Unit】.”

“What?!”

The lousy woman collapses to her knees the moment I block the doorway with the 【Mill Unit】.

She can no longer summon the spirits of the dead… Now, she’s nothing more than an insect waiting to die… but first, I have a question for her.

“Hey!”

“Hiii?!

The lousy woman lets out a slight shriek and backs away as soon as I call out to her.

“You told me earlier that you’ve been dreaming every night.”

“Y-Yes, that’s right, but…”

“Tell me more about your dreams.”

“Y-Yes…”

The lousy woman explained the details of her nightmare, her face twitching with fear.

She had had the same dream every day since Baron Moreno took her in.

She moved on to the next dream after completing her goal in the previous one.

From the day she entered the Imperial Academy, her dreams turned from a broken engagement to falling into a labyrinth.

“…S-So, in the dream, I discovered that I had the ability to summon dead spirits, and when I tried it, I was able to summon them normally. Besides, you see, I was a genius with boundless magical power.”

“That’s not important. So how did your dream end?”

“Y-Yes! Except for Sergio, everyone on the first level has been killed, and we’ve reached the bottom! Then, while attacking the second level, we ran into some other guys… I-I mean, criminals who have been sentenced to “Labyrinth Prison,” and we’re going to clear it together!”

“Who are these criminals?”

“A-A man by the name of Carlos and his men…”

Aria said, fearfully watching my reaction.

Carlos is the leader of the “Briganti Bandits” and a well-known figure in the Astoria Empire.

The empire has caught him and his men and put them in the dungeon.

He also appears in my dreams and is relentless in his pursuit of Nadia…

“Is there anything else?”

“U-Um…”

Then Aria told me about the people who kept appearing in her dreams.

They were all the same people who had appeared in my dream.

“T-That’s all…”

“…”

I close my mouth and think about Aria’s dream after hearing it.

I’ve been dreaming since I was eight years old. How did this woman see it as well…?

And while I was daydreaming about it, she was daydreaming about it in stages…

…Perhaps there are others who dream in the same way that I and this woman do.

But how in the world does this happen?

It’s impossible for just me to have a predictive dream, but maybe there’s another… no, I’m sure there’s another profound reason…

The next thing we know, that lousy woman has left us and is running for the exit of this room.

“Huh?! Ivan, she’s running away!”

“Well, leave her be.”

I had gotten all the information I needed from the lousy woman.

—I don’t need her anymore.

And then

“Fuhahahaha! You moron! My abilities are only restricted in that room, but I can use them once I leave!”

“…Don’t do it.”

“What do you mean? Are you stupid?! I’m not going to stop! I’ll die if I let you go down to the lower levels, and you’ll pay for everything you’ve done to me!”

I warn her in hushed tones, but she just keeps going.

…I warned her, didn’t I?

“Fuhahaha! You’re a real pain in the ass. And you still don’t get it, do you?!”

“Don’t get what?”

“Can you imagine what would happen if my skeleton dragons attacked the entire room?”

Aria’s mouth was raised in a grin.

“I’ll tell you right to your faces! Skeleton dragons! It’s coming out…eh?!”

—Boom!

With a single explosion, Aria Moreno was blown away from the waist up.

Chapter 40: United in the Labyrinth of Death and Despair

—Boom!

With a single explosion, Aria Moreno was blown away from the waist up.

I knew that she would not obey me and that she would run away.

So I set up a trap on the passage side of the room’s doorway.

【Claymore】, which detects magic.

I gave her one last chance to escape if she did nothing. But she tried to summon a skeleton dragon to retaliate against us.

As a result, her life is over.

“…In the end, the two of us slaughtered all of the classmates who had been thrown into the labyrinth…”

As I gaze up at the ceiling, I mutter to myself.

It makes no difference to me. I intended to do it from the start, and I am, of course, prepared and determined.

But… Nadia is not the type of woman who can pull this off.

Nonetheless, she took the initiative to get her hands dirty for my sake.

—I’m the one who forced her to do it.

“Yes… but I have no regrets—because I was able to defend you with my own power.”

Nadia looks me in the eyes and says as much.

There was no regret in her beautiful indigo eyes, only determination, resolve, and… guilt.

I…

“I’m sorry, Nadia… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…!”

“Huh?! Ivan, why are you apologizing?! Why do you look so sad…!”

I give her a tight hug and cry as I say I’m sorry, but Nadia gives me a tight hug back but won’t accept my apology.

Her indigo eyes were also filled with tears.

“I was happy to assist you! I was happy to be able to shield you! I was happy to be by your side! How can I deny my emotions?! Why do you try to take away my happiness?!”

“Ah…”

“I’m happy! Even if it means killing someone in this hellish labyrinth! As long as I’ve got you…!”

That’s right…

Even in my dreams, you always looked only at me. You always wanted only me.

And I’d do the same for you.

I would do anything for you. If you were here, I would have been happy, even if I had to lay down many corpses.

“Nadia… I’m so sorry.”

“Ivan, you’re still…?!

I apologized once more, and Nadia was about to say something when I tightly hugged her.

Tightly… so closely…

“I haven’t given much thought to your feelings—you’ve always shown me…”

“I-Ivan…”

Nadia returned my hug gently. Her angry expression softened into a smile.

“Nadia… Will you listen to me?”

“Y-Yes…”

Nadia’s body tensed up as I said this with determination.

“Do you remember what Aria Moreno said about the dream earlier…?

“Y-Yes… I couldn’t believe it…”

“…In fact, I had the same dream every single day.”

“Ivan!?”

I told Nadia about my dream in hushed tones.

Ten years ago, Every day since my eighth birthday, I’ve had the same dream.

The dream had always started with the engagement breaking up at the graduation party.

After that, Nadia and her friends were sentenced to the “Labyrinth Prison” and were thrown into this place.

I just stood there and observed Nadia and the others.

“….However, out of curiosity, I intervened in the dissolution of your engagement. And I ended up with you in this labyrinth.”

So… I was attacked by a hellhound and you covered for me and got chewed to death….

“After that, all I wanted to do was save you, so I kept trying to navigate this labyrinth in my dreams—dozens, hundreds, thousands of times…”

“…”

“I even worked on my own strength for it—one of them was the synthesis magic you saw, and I’ve also been training for a decade to increase the maximum capacity of my magic.”

“W-Why…what made you go so far? It’s just a dream, and you have no idea whether it’s real or not. Above all, after going through so much pain, you could have gone back to being a bystander…”

Nadia, who had been quietly listening to me up until now, asks me timidly.

What made me go so far…

There’s only one answer.

And… well, I’ll tell you.

I’m going to tell you about my resolve and my emotions.

“…In that dream, when I was first thrown into the labyrinth and you covered for me, your smile, as if you didn’t want to worry me, your kindness is still burning in my heart.”

“…”

“You might think it’s silly to discuss what happened in my dream. But I’ve been considering it ever since…”

So what made me go so far?

I take a deep breath after pausing.

“Because of you, Nadia… the woman I love!”

“Ah…”

Nadia’s eyes widened as she heard my confession.

Hahaha…I met her in a dream and immediately fell in love with her…That could be annoying for Nadia… I thought so, and I couldn’t stop laughing… Huh?!

“N-Nadia?”

“I-I believe what Ivan says! You’ve been watching out for me since the first day of school! You have taken care of me! You accepted me! You recognized me even when I wasn’t needed!”

Nadia wraps her arms around my neck, tightly hugging me, and expresses her feelings.

Above all… I can’t believe she took my words so seriously…

“Do you realize how much your presence has saved my life? How invested you are in me…!”

“That’s…”

“I can’t live without you now!! I love you more than anyone else in the world! and without you, I will…!”

“Ah…”

Nadia smiled as she responded to my confession, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Then I stroked her cheek gently.

“Nadia…♥!”

“Ivan…♥!”

For ten years, overcoming thousands of dreams and deaths, I was united in the labyrinth of death and despair with this humble, kind, lovely, hard-working, dedicated, and devoted Nadia, whom I love more than anyone else in the world.

Chapter 41: Together, Beyond the Labyrinth

“Nadia…”

After Nadia and I confirmed our feelings for each other, all we wanted was each other.

Over and over, with all of our feelings for one another.

She’s now sleeping in my arms.

“My love… My Nadia, whom I love above all others.”

“Soo… Sooo…”

Hahaha… Truly, she’s the loveliest of all.

Even now, she shows me her sleeping face, which is so vulnerable.

When I gently touch her cheek…

“Mmm… Ah…”

…It appears I woke her.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“Fufu… It’s wonderful to open your eyes and see the person you care about most there…”

Nadia smiles as she moves her face closer to mine.

“Mmmm… Mmmmm…”

Then she kissed me good morning kisses.

We kissed so many times yesterday, but the feeling of her lips on mine still fills my heart with feelings for her.

“Nadia…”

“Nn… ‘Suck,’ ‘Suck,’ Puhhh…”

For a while, I enjoyed Nadia’s lips.

“Nadia… What will transpire… I’m going to tell you about what happened in my dream.”

“Y-Yes…”

I told her everything about how I had cleared the labyrinth in my dream.

Of course, I don’t think she’d understand if I told her everything, so I just summarized the main points.

“T-Then…!”

“Yes… In my dream, I successfully navigated this labyrinth, and “Nadia” escaped safely.”

Nadia gave me a hopeful smile after hearing my explanation.

“Fufu! Ivan!”

“Nadia…!”

Nadia jumps into my chest and happily rubs her cheek.

I clutch Nadia in my arms, vowing to remember her warmth until the end of my days.

“So, let’s move on to the next level! We can’t afford to let those people “she” mentioned catch up with us!”

“Yes!”

I take Nadia’s hand in mine and hold a suitcase containing enough food for both of us to last a month.

“Let’s go!”

“Fufu! Yes!”

We took our first step onto the stairs leading to the next level.

—○█○—

From then on, we steadily cleared the labyrinth.

No one can stop me and Nadia with Emilio and his cronies, the lousy woman and the others (ladies) now gone.

Furthermore, the fact that we are traveling the shortest distance possible to avoid being apprehended by the criminals whom the emperor must have released is working well.

As a result, we’ve already progressed to the fifth level and haven’t encountered any of the later criminals.

That is the reason.

“Fufu! Ivan, look! There is a spring!”

Nadia is delighted to see the fountain in the fifth level’s center.

It’s been three days since we replenished our supplies at the spring on the second level, so we’re really grateful.

“Why don’t you take a bath, Nadia? There’s plenty of water here. Meanwhile, I’ll be in the next room.”

“Ah, then, u-um… Why don’t you take a bath with me…?”

With a red face, Nadia suggests this.

Of course, I have no reservations.

“Is that… all right?”

However, it is preferable to be certain.

“Yes…”

Nadia gives a shy nod.

on the grounds that

“Fufu… I’m a little embarrassed, as expected…”

“Yeah…”

In the spring, Nadia and I bathed together, leaning against each other.

Nadia’s indigo hair and clear white skin shone with drops of water, like a goddess of water purified by the spring water glistened in my eyes,

“If… If you stare at me too long, I…”

“I’m sorry… but Nadia is so beautiful…”

“I-I see…”

Nadia was so shy that she nuzzled her face against my chest, and I loved every movement and expression she made…

“Mmm… Mmm… fufu, seriously…”

“Nadia…”

For a brief moment, Nadia and I devoured each other.

—○█○—

“This is the final level. 【Harpoon】.”

I ejected four long cylinders created with earth magic at “Gabriel,” the guardian of the thirteenth level of Eterna’s labyrinth.

The 【Harpoon】sped across the ground, and when it reached the bottom of Gabriel in the air, it pointed its nose upward and rose.

“Kuk?!” BOOM!

Gabriel, unable to deal with the sudden movement, was hit by all of the 【Harpoon】’s bullets, causing his body to explode.

“Ivan! You did it!”

“Yes!”

With a big smile on my face, I give Nadia a high-five.

…There are only two more levels to go.

However, once we pass the fourteenth level, we only need to go to the altar dedicated to “Tithona” at the lowest level.

Notably, the path from the stairs to the altar on the lowest level is straight, with no demons or guards in the way.

So we only need to concentrate on the fourteenth level.

The rest is…

“…As long as “they” don’t catch up to us.”

So far, we’ve taken the shortest path through the labyrinth.

Based on that, we should have a three-day advantage over them.

But only if it’s the same as in my dream…

“Ivan… “

Nadia notices my worried expression.

Sigh… I really wish I could do something about this facetiousness of mine…

“It’s all right, Nadia. I assure you that everything is fine.”

“That isn’t what I’m worried about.”

I told her this to reassure her, but she denied it angrily.

“I’m concerned that you’re carrying everything on your own. Am I that untrustworthy?”

“Ah…”

I guess I made another mistake.

“I trust you more than anyone else—that is for certain.”

“If that’s the case, you should put more trust in me!”

“Yes…”

I pulled Nadia into a hug and kissed her cheek apologetically.

Chapter 42: The Two Worst Criminals

“Haa…haa…How’s it going over there, Nadia?”

“Yes, everything is settled here as well.”

We descended to the 14th level and immediately fought off the oncoming hordes of Cerberus.

The strength of the demons that appear is extraordinary, as expected from the level just before the lowest level.

“Ivan… I think that Zadokiel, the first-level guardian, is not even close to the strength of this Cerberus alone…”

“You’re right.”

When I think about it, the balance of the guardians’ arrangement seems strange.

I felt this in my dream as well, but it appears that they are adapting to the growth of those who enter this labyrinth.

It’s as if you’re being tested.

“Well, now isn’t the time to think about it. Anyway, let’s get to the guardian’s room as soon as possible.”

“Yes!”

Nadia and I make our way through the fourteenth level, kicking away demons that appear along the way.

“Fufu, seeing the skeleton dragon makes me happy…”

Nadia laughs as her summon smashes the skeleton dragon.

Hahaha… I was surprised by how much Nadia grew as she progressed through the labyrinth.

She has grown so much that she can now summon not only all six of the highest level magical beasts, but also three divine level magical beasts.

To be honest, her talent exceeded my expectations.

When I praised her ability.

[I’m stronger than I’ve ever been because of Ivan.]

I was so happy when she said that to me with a smile that I burst into tears and hugged her.

“? What’s the matter?”

“No, I was simply lost in thought.”

“Fufu, is that so?”

Nadia giggles and smiles as I scratch my head with a wry smile.

The atmosphere between her and me is very pleasant.

Untill

“Oh, aren’t there people over there?”

“…Yes, that’s them.”

“”Huh?!””

I had a bad feeling about this…

I never wanted to meet these criminals.

Carlos, the “Briganti Bandits” leader.

and…

The Astoria empire’s most heinous homicidal maniac.

Albert Grayman, The Butcher of the Full Moon

“【Mill Unit】!”

I quickly filled the passage with a large number of 【Mill Unit】.

“Let’s get out of here, Nadia!”

“Y-Yes!

I grabbed her hand and took off as fast as I could.

Along the way, I set up traps like 【Landmine】and 【Claymore】, and when we reached the end of the passageway, I finally let out a breath.

“Haa… Haa…. Are those people Ivan was talking about?”

“Yes…”

In my dreams, I met people I never wanted to meet.

First and foremost, Carlos is the leader of a gang of thieves well-known not only in the Astoria Empire but also in neighboring countries.

The banditry is so heinous that no one has survived in the towns and villages where they have attacked.

Furthermore, that man is the best magician in the Astoria Empire, and he has been testing his magic on the people he has attacked.

This comes as no surprise, because…

He is no longer human because he is an Elder Lich.

And the other man, Albert Grayman, has killed and eaten more human beings than any other man in Empire history.

There are three thousand of them.

That is exactly how it should be. This man has also lost his humanity.

“So… what are we going to do now?”

“Of course, continuing to run will only put us at a disadvantage. So…”

I raise my hands to the end of the corridor.

“Let’s end this here.”

With those words, I fired five 【Harpoon】shots.

I pointed them at the two criminals who appeared at the end of the passage.

“Oh! I’m not sure what this magic is, but it’s incredible!”

Carlos exclaims joyfully.

I suppose I should have expected such a reaction from a man obsessed with magic.

“Hmm… I wonder how that magic tastes…”

A man dressed in aristocratic attire… Grayman takes a step forward.

“Huh?”

He enlarged his mouth to a huge size and took five 【Harpoon】 shots into his mouth at once.

Nadia was speechless when she saw this.

Sigh… As one would expect from a member of the most advanced demon race, the Advan.

Their enormous mouths can swallow anything.

So, what do we do now?

To tell you the truth, I’ve never defeated two people in my dreams at the same time.

So from here on out, I’m in uncharted territory.

But… It’s the same on the other side.

In any case, I’m already prepared.

“Nadia… Can you take care of the Grayman for me?”

“Of course! I’ll make sure that mouthed-demon knows what he’s getting himself into!”

That’s right. Nadia’s summoning art, which was not fully developed in my dream, has now fully blossomed.

I couldn’t defeat them if I were alone, but…

“Nadia…”

“Ivan — we must live to see our future.”

Nadia and I clasped our hands.

“”!””

We started our own battle.

Chapter 43: The Bandit’s Demise

“Hey Carlos, I’m your partner.”

I smile as I stand in front of Carlos and tell him.

“Huh? How on earth did you know my name? Yeah, that’s right. After all, I’m well-known in this country.”

Carlos smiled and scratched his head as he said this.

“Yes, I am very familiar with you. After all, we’ve met hundreds of times.”

Haha… Yes, that’s right.

And every time, I’ve gone crazy with anger because you messed up with Nadia.

Only a year ago, I was able to defeat you in a one-on-one fight.

“However, you don’t smell rotten in real life.”

“Huh?! Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?

“Don’t you understand, Carlos the Elder Lich?”

I lifted the corner of my mouth, revealing Carlos’ true identity.

Carlos, who had been laughing, became solemn.

That being said, that’s also a phony expression.

“…Who in the world are you?”

“Me? I’m only a recent Imperial Academy graduate. I was sentenced to Labyrinth Prison, just like you. “

The only distinction between myself and Carlos is that I am a human and he is a demon.

Carlos, on the other hand, fell into the labyrinth because he wanted to.

“It doesn’t matter, I have to defeat you right now and go to Nadia.”

“Oh… You’re quite arrogant, aren’t you? Are you sure you’re not getting carried away because you can use that rare magic?”

“What if I am? What if then?”

“What if?! Let this misguided child experience despair! Old man! Don’t kill her! I’ll break her myself!”

“…You’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?!”

At Carlos’s words, Grayman shook his head with a wry smile.

In other words, Grayman agreed to take Nadia alive.

Haha, I got what I wanted.

Carlos is an Elder Lich, the empire’s most powerful wizard, but he is easy to deal with due to his short temper and the stupid bones in his body.

Besides, Carlos enjoys torturing people until they break.

At the very least, Nadia will not be killed right away.

“Well, let’s get started. Um? Is this the kind of magic you used?”

“Huh?!”

Carlos has no trouble using my synthetic magic 【Harpoon】.

…This guy is an expert at imitating others.

“All right, then, go f*ck yourself with your own magic!”

Carlos’ 【Harpoon】was then fired at me.

It would be simple to block 【Harpoon】myself, but Carlos could imitate my defensive magic.

So

“【Mill Unit】!”

I deployed a large number of 【Mill Unit】

in front of the incoming 【Harpoon】.

I can’t expect much defense, but I can still generate 【Mill Unit】 semi-permanently, and most importantly, I’ve shown Carlos this composite magic, so I don’t mind if he copies it.

“Oh, the magic that earlier sabotaged us. However, it cannot withstand the power of the 【Harpoon】—are you stupid?!”

“…”

I ignore Carlos’ words and begin working behind the scenes on the next synthesis magic while generating the 【Mill Unit】.

In my dream, I used this magic to kill Carlos.

If it was two against one, Grayman could see through my preparations and stop me.

But now, no one noticed my movements behind the 【Mill Unit】.

Following that,

—Doooooon!

“Guh!”

The blast of the 【Harpoon】 released by Carlos and its heat intensity destroyed all the 【Mill Unit】 that had been deployed, and I, who was in the background, also suffered.

It’s my turn now!

“Hahahahahaha! What’s the problem? You were speaking with such bravery, and now you’re dead. Huh?”

—Dong!

Because of the speed of the bullet, Carlos’ stomach exploded and his upper body flew through the air, and a tremendous gunshot echoed in the corridor.

—Synthetic magic, 【Railgun】.

A metal cylinder tightly squeezed with earth magic is electrified with lightning magic in the shape of a spiral helix, and a projectile ejected at super-high speed is created by repeatedly squeezing it with earth magic to withstand the speed.

This magic is my trump card, but it takes a long time to generate bullets and cylinders.

As for the bullets, I’ve been repeatedly compressing them since defeating the lousy woman, so I was able to prepare them in time.

I only needed to keep the cylinders until they were fired, so it’s not a problem if they break after firing.

It’s just… I didn’t want Carlos to copy my 【Reactive Armor】, so I didn’t use it, and as a result, I got quite burned by Carlos’s【Harpoon】.

My trump card, 【Railgun】, would have been blocked otherwise, so I had no choice.

I push my aching body up and slowly make my way to Carlos’ upper body.

“G… kiki, k-ko…”

Carlos, whose human mask had been removed, was shaking his skeletal jaw and letting out resentful clicking noises.

“Shut up. You’ve been beaten by me. Be quiet and die.”

—Screeching!

The bandit leader finally met his end when I crushed his skull with my right leg.

Chapter 44: The Binge Eater’s Demise

“Nadia…”

I look at Nadia immediately after stomping on Carlos’ skull.

Then

“Kuku… Well, this is troublesome.”

“Fufu, is that so?”

Grayman summons countless mouths and attacks Nadia, but her summon blocks all of his attacks, and the situation is nearly a stalemate.

—The summon, “Belzebub,” a beautiful female figure with two pairs of translucent wings on her back, flaps her wings and looks at Grayman with folded arms.

The figure was truly deserving of the title “Queen of Flies.”

“My Lord… This one is a little tricky. He looked unconcerned even after consuming my scale powder…”

Grayman appears to have consumed all of Belzebub’s attacks.

If this is the case, even Belzebub’s powerful and unrivaled attacks will be ineffective against Grayman.

Because there is nothing but void at the end of Grayman’s mouth.

Grayman himself mentioned it in my dreams.

He has been constantly hungry since his transformation into an Advan.

Grayman, like Carlos, has voluntarily entered this labyrinth.

He is not satisfied with just humans but also wishes to fill the belly of the void with demons.

“Nadia… I’ll join you.”

” Ivan, huh!? That injury?!”

“It’s not a big deal… but we need to focus on that guy now.”

I take a stand next to Nadia and look at Grayman.

I can’t move as much as I’d like because of Carlos’ 【Harpoon】, but I can’t talk about that right now.

There is no future for us if we do not defeat this man.

“Let’s go! 【Vigilant】!”

I make a few long cylinders and fire them at Grayman.

“I’ll cover you. My Lord’s beloved.”

Fortunately, 【Belzebub】 strengthened【Vigilant】with scale powder.

All that remains is to keep the attacks from getting caught in Grayman’s mouth. What?!

“Hmm… It’s not as delicious as that magic 【Harpoon】.”

Grayman appeared from the floor and devoured all of the 【Vigilant】 with his mouth at once.

D*mn… This guy is the worst…!

“… My Lord. I’m sorry to inform you, but I recommend 【Astaroth】to defeat this individual.”

“…I see. Thank you very much, 【Belzebub】.”

【Belzebub】nodded slowly and vanished from the scene when Nadia said this.

“N-Nadia… Are you sure you’re okay with summoning divine-class summons in a row…?”

“Yes… I can still do it.”

She smiles at me.

But she looks pale and breathes a little rough.

“Come! 【Astaroth】!”

A magical circle of light appears, and 【Astaroth】, one of the three divinely summoned beasts, appears straddling the dragon.

He is an aristocratic-looking mature man with three horns on his forehead and jet-black wings on his back.

This 【Astaroth】is the one who controls all the world’s boundaries.

“Are you calling me? My Lord?”

“Yes… Please help me to defeat him.”

“Yes, my lord. I see that he’s using his mouth to lure you to another world.”

“?! You understand?”

“Hoho, of course. I’m 【Astaroth】.”

As he said this, 【Astaroth】’s beloved dragon breathed a miasma-like flame from his mouth toward Grayman.

“Hou? Miasma breath is extremely rare. Let’s see how it tastes… Huh?! Kuku, sweet, sweet.”

Grayman swallows with his huge mouth, but suddenly a miasma-like substance attacks him.

Grayman barely avoids it, but the expression on his face has changed.

“You idiots… My mouth throws everything into a void.

“Hoho, this emptiness is just one world after all. Then there are boundaries between worlds.”

I see… Because 【Astaroth】controls the world’s boundary, he can connect our world to Grayman’s world, even if it’s in his belly.

Grayman’s advantage vanished as a result.

“Even so… I looked into your world of emptiness and saw some things filthy in the air.”

【Astaroth】frowned as he pinched his nose.

Apparently, it was very filthy.

“Dare you to deny what I ate?!”

It appears that 【Astaroth】’s words harmed Grayman’s self-esteem, and the normally calm and collected Grayman became agitated for the first time.

“All right. Then I’ll show you all the dirt you’ve been eating.”

“Huh?”

At the moment, Astaroth said that…

“Huh?! Blegggggggggh?!”

“What do you think? This is the filth within you.”

Grayman’s mouth began to spew out a variety of things in large quantities.

People of various ages, demons, weapons, protective equipment, construction debris, sediment, rocks, and… are those my 【Harpoon】and 【Vigilant】?

They all surrounded Grayman at the same time, and 【Harpoon】and 【Vigilant】were both activated.

—Dooooooooooooooooooooooon!

The area around Grayman is blown apart with a roar.

“Damn… 【Reactive Armor】!

To protect Nadia, I immediately construct a defensive wall.

“Are you all right?!”

“Yes… I’m more worried about… Thank goodness…”

Nadia gently stroked my cheek, tears welling up in her indigo eyes.

She tenderly caressed my burns.

“Well… it looks like it’s over.”

The labyrinth fell silent again, and Nadia and I peered out of the Reactive Armor in response to 【Astaroth】’s words.

Then there was a large mouth on the floor where Grayman had been.

“Did Grayman escape into the mouth?!”

“It seems so. But I must say this is a bad move. Because…”

As he said this, 【Astaroth】snapped his fingers, and Grayman’s mouth was forcibly closed at the same time.

“That mouth, in a sense, is the world’s boundary. Then you can’t go against my will.”

The massive mouth struggles to stay open, but it keeps closing.

Following that

The mouth completely closes, and the mouth itself vanishes from view.

Chapter 45: The Last Guardian

“My Lord, it’s done.”

【Astaroth】places his hand on his chest and bows reverently at these words.

“Thank you very much, 【Astaroth】.”

“Hoho, I’ll see you later.”

【Astaroth】smiles and disappears from the scene.

“Really… Nadia is incredible… After all, she can defeat Grayman. “

“Eh!? Ivan!”

Perhaps because I was so relieved, I wanted to fall to my knees due to the injuries I had received from the 【Harpoon】, but Nadia hurried to hold me back.

“haha…. I’m sorry…”

“You were truly reckless…!”

“But we were able to defeat the two criminals… Now all we have to do is defeat this level’s guardian, Michael…”

So… Nothing can now stand in our way.

I can now save Nadia…

“Anyway! Ivan’s wound treatment comes first!”

“Y-Yes…”

When I lay down on the spot, Nadia is cleaning my body with the most water.

Oh, that feels good…

With that in mind, when I closed my eyes… I just fell asleep.

—○█○—

“Mmm… “

“Have you woken up?”

When I opened my eyes, I saw Nadia’s worried expression on her face.

Ah… Nadia… My beloved Nadia…

“Ah…♥”

“Nadia… I will never, ever let you go… I will never leave your side again. I will not let you go…!”

“Ivan… Me too. I won’t let you go. I won’t ever let you go… I won’t ever leave you!”

I wrapped my arms around Nadia, and she wrapped her arms around me as well.

I never expected such a miracle to occur in the midst of such despair.

That allows me to continue dreaming…

“Nadia… Nadia… Nadia…”

“Hmm…Choo… “Ivan… Ivan!”

I was so happy that I asked for Nadia for a moment before making the final preparations.

Of course, to get to the lowest level.

“Let’s go, Nadia.”

“Yes!”

I hold Nadia’s hand tightly so that we don’t get separated, and we head for the room with the guardian in the shortest distance possible.

The demons we encountered on the way were nothing more than roadside stones in front of us.

And then

“Finally…”

“Yes…”

We’re standing in front of the Guardians’ room door.

“Michael,” the last guardian, is present.

“Michael uses light magic, which is no longer available on earth. And his attacks are powerful. But…”

I looked Nadia in the eyes.

“Michael is weaker than those two criminals…”

“Fufu… Then we have no reason to lose.”

“That’s right. So let’s get this done right away.”

“Yes!”

Nadia slowly opens the door with a big smile on her face.

There, sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the room, is an armored man with peacock feathers praying.

“Let’s go, Nadia!” 【Hauser】!”

I used earth magic to make a solid pedestal and a cylinder to mount on it, and then I fired fire magic into the cylinder.

Michael’s eyes widened when the bullet landed with a roar.

Then he drew the sword from his waist, recognized us as his enemies, and charged us from the pedestal.

“Come! 【Belzebub】!”

【Belzebub】, the divine-class summon, appears from the magical circle of light in response to Nadia’s summons.

She is nobler and more arrogant than all the others.

“My Lord, I’m going to clear my name right here!”

She’s probably upset that her attack didn’t work on Grayman. Belzebub bared her fangs and swooped down on Michael.

“Fufu, eat it.”

【Belzebub】smiles ferociously and sprays power scales over Michael’s head.

Because of the unprotected exposure, Michael’s skin sores and turns purple.

“My Lord’s beloved, be careful with the scales if you don’t want to die. Even a trace of it will kill you instantly.”

【Belzebub】 warns with a grin.

But of course, I avoid them at all costs.

Then I make a 15-meter-long slender cylinder and prepare a bullet, which is also compressed and created.

“Nadia…! Together…!”

“Yes…! 【Belzebub】!”

“Yes! My Lord!”

【Belzebub】sees through our intentions and immediately jumps back.

Because of 【Belzebub】’s scales, Michael was unable to move.

And then.

“”【Ultimation】””

Nadia and I chanted together, and a bullet shot out of the cylinder at breakneck speed.

“Huh?!”

—Taan.

At the same time as the projectile’s sound, a hole appears in Michael’s forehead and the back of his head explodes.

“Ivan! We finished!”

Nadia looks over at Michael, who is motionless on the floor, and hugs me with a big smile on her face.

Naturally, I am.

“Haha! We did it, Nadia!”

“Yes! Ivan!”

We were so happy that we twirled around the guardian’s room, enjoying ourselves.

“Fufu… My lord, I must depart.”

“【Belzebub】, thank you!”

【Belzebub】smiles and walks away from the scene with a fluttering hand gesture.

“Oh, we can’t keep going like this! Let’s go to the lowest level as soon as possible and get the Tithona!”

“Yes!”

We exited the guardian’s room and descended the stairs to the lowest level.

Chapter 46: The Last Despair

“This is it…”

Nadia and I have finally made it to the bottom of the Labyrinth of Eterna.

Ahead of us now is a single corridor leading to the altar.

“We’ve come this far, Ivan.”

A single tear spills from her indigo eyes and falls to the floor.

“Yes, all that’s left is to get out of here and be happy…”

“Yes… Yes!”

Nadia squeezed my hand tightly and nodded repeatedly.

“… let’s go.”

To get Nadia out of this labyrinth.

Step by step, we move forward, remembering what has happened up to this point.

…It had been a long time.

From the dream I had on my eighth birthday to now, thousands of times.

I’ve been killed numerous times, betrayed numerous times, and beaten numerous times… Still, I’ve been making small steps forward with the sole intention of saving Nadia.

And it will be realized in a short time.

And then

“Ah…”

A sword is stuck on the altar in front of us.

That is what we require to escape this labyrinth.

—The Heroic Sword “Tithona”.

It is said that the legendary dragon Elensge was sealed with this sword by the first emperor of the Astoria Empire.

“Nadia…”

“Y-Yes…”

We walk slowly to the altar and hold Tithona’s hilt together.

“Here we go…!”

Nadia and I both pulled out the Tithona at the same time.

“We did it, Ivan! We succeeded!”

“No, not yet. Look…”

I point to where the sword was inserted.

Darkness peered through the hole where the sword had been.

“Nadia… You will return to the surface world if you take Tithona and fall into this darkness.”

“I see! Then let’s move this pedestal out of the way so we can pass!”

Nadia smiled and placed her hand on the pedestal.

I put my hand on hers and we moved the pedestal together.

“Ivan… It has finally happened…”

“Yes, at long last…”

I then softly whisper my final words in Nadia’s ear.

“Eh? Ivan?!”

Nadia’s eyes widened.

I…

—Don.

Nadia was then engulfed in darkness.

“Ivan! Ivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”

From the darkness, Nadia’s voice cries out my name.

Tithona is held in her right hand.

… Only those with Tithona can pass through this darkness.

There is only one hero.

That was the final despair I felt in my dream.

But… It’s all right.

I was successful in saving Nadia.

And

“…Hey, thanks for your patience.”

When I turned around, there stood a massive red dragon.

The legendary dragon, “Elensge”, was sealed by the heroic sword Tithona.

Let’s get started.

—This is my final mission.

Chapter 47: My Beloved Person in the World

—Nadia Jeste’s Point of View—

A year has passed since I escaped the labyrinth of Eterna on my own.

I’m now in Eltold, a small town far from the Astoria Empire.

Through the labyrinth’s deep darkness, I’ve arrived on the other side of the sea from the Astoria Empire… the Kingdom of Ferris.

Fortunately, I had a summoning art, so while traveling back to the Astoria Empire, I earned money by accepting requests from the adventurer guilds in every town and city.

I considered taking a ship across the sea to the empire, but that would reveal my identity when I entered the country.

It would be that emperor’s plans if that happened. He’ll try to kill me and take Tithona from me.

And even if that’s the case, Tithona will never leave me, because…

“Hey, hey, is there anything tasty in this city?”

“Fufu… let’s find out.”

A young lady with white hair, brown skin, and red eyes.

Her name is “Tithona”

She is the embodiment of Tithona, the heroic sword I wielded as I escaped the labyrinth.

According to her story, the sword was created by the gods and given personality through a miracle.

She fought as the sword of “Alfonso de Astoria,” the first emperor of the Astorian Empire and the “Heroic Emperor,” and managed to seal the legendary dragon Elensge.

The first emperor then established the Empire of Astoria and safeguarded the labyrinth underneath the empire to ensure that the seal was never broken again.

When I told her how I had pulled out Tithona.

[What?! What was Al’s descendant(emperor) thinking? I’ll never forgive him!]

She was enraged and kicked the ground several times.

But I couldn’t understand why he (the Emperor) wanted Tithona at the risk of breaking Elensge’s seal.

Until  I fight alongside her.

—○█○—

“I guess that’s the end of today’s battle.”

We received a request from the guild in Ertold and slaughtered all the bandits we could find.

They numbered three hundred, but they were no match for me.

However, more than anything else…

“Heh! These small fries are no big deal!”

Tithona rubs her nose proudly while puffing out her chest.

But she’s absolutely right.

Tithona’s single swing is enough to sever the heads of all the bandits.

So… this is what Tithona is capable of.

The ability to simply destroy those whom the owner regards as enemies.

It does not require any skill on the part of the wielder.

All you have to do is wield it, and Tithona will handle the rest.

“The only person I’ve ever failed to kill was that idiot Elensge.”

“I-I see…”

I’m depressed on the way back to the hotel.

She claims that now that Tithona has been removed, Elensge’s seal has been broken and it is only a matter of time before he appears on the ground.

So I’ll have to seal Elensge again with this Tithona.

Apart from that… Ivan’s words, spoken as I was falling into darkness…

[In two years, on the day of the lunar eclipse in April, go travel to the city of “Carlitos”]

This coincided perfectly with Tithona’s prediction of Elensge’s resurrection date and location.

To put it another way. Ivan delegated this task to me.

“If you knew this was going to happen, why can’t we just be in this labyrinth together instead of saving me?!”

I’m choked up with regret that Ivan gave his life to save me.

What happiness does this world have without you…?!

My happiness is only next to Ivan!

“…Are you thinking about your boyfriend again, Nadia?”

“…”

Tithona inquired, concerned, as she noticed my tears.

It’s been over a year since that day, but I’ve never felt truly saved.

The truth is that I wanted to die many times after that day in pursuit of Ivan.

I wanted to go back into the labyrinth and slap Ivan.

But he put his life in danger to bring me back to Earth.

Because he put me in charge…

That is why I am traveling to Carlitos.

To fulfill my beloved’s wish.

—○█○—

Another year has passed since then.

Having returned safely to the Astoria Empire, I am now in Carlitos, the city of Ivan’s will.

“Nadia, the lunar eclipse will occur tomorrow night. Elensge will return.”

“Yes…”

“Come on, pull yourself together! We’ll lose if you don’t get your head in the game!”

Tithona’s shoulders are tense. Of course, I am fired up.

If Elensge shows up here, Ivan must have been killed by the dragon…

I’ll never forgive Elensge for taking someone I love away from me.

So… After I kill Elensge, I will kill the emperor of this country next. I have made up my mind to do so.

And finally, the night after the day, we arrived.

Tithona and I were waiting for the moon to be obscured.

“Are you ready, Nadia?”

“Of course… I’m going to kill Elensge.”

“…To be honest, I also misjudged the weight of Nadia’s love for her boyfriend…”

Tithona chuckles at that.

But my love for Ivan is beyond measure.

…I’ll prove it in the fight against Elensge…

“Huh?!”

It appeared with darkness.

Not the colossal dragon Elensge, but a young man and a young girl.

“Ah…”

Of course, I wouldn’t make a mistake.

“Ahhhhh…”

Because.

“Ivan, Ivan, Ivan!”

“I’m back, Nadia!”

—Because I love him more than anything else in the world.

Chapter 48: Two People, a Dragon, a Sword, and Happiness

“Nadia… I’m home.”

I say quietly to Nadia, who is standing in front of me with a little girl in tow.

… Yes, it’s Nadia.

Nadia Jest, the woman I love most in the world.

Then

“Ivan!”

Nadia jumps into my chest.

“Ivan!Ivan!Ivan!Ivan!Ivan!”

“I missed you, Nadia.”

I hugged Nadia tightly as she repeatedly called my name and whispered to her.

I haven’t smelled Nadia’s scent in a long time.

“Thank God… Ivan is still alive!”

“Yes… I’m still alive… In order to be happy with you…”

I hugged Nadia for a while as she sobbed like that.

“Muuu ~! Ivan!!! Who is this woman?! Even though you have a mistress like me! Are you having an affair?! Are you cheating on me?!

“Elle! Don’t talk nonsense! —Huh?!”

I sensed Nadia’s murderous intent, so I peeked over at her and…

“…Could you please explain what’s going on, Ivan?”

“Uh… Yes…”

A-Anyway, even though I came back alive, if I don’t explain it properly, I’m going to die here.

“Aaaaah?!”

I looked over and saw a little girl screaming and pointing at Elle.

“U-Uh, Nadia, who is that little girl?”

“Ah, yes, that’s Tithona.”

“Huh…?”

When she replied, I was taken aback.

Huh? I thought Tithona was a sword…?

“More importantly, Ivan. What’s wrong with that girl?”

“Hey you! Why are you hanging out with Nadia’s boyfriend?! And what’s the deal with the human form?!”

I was about to say something, but the girl cut me off and asked Elle, who is standing next to me.

“Well~, if you put it that way, it’s the same as you; I’m tied to Ivan, so it’d be something akin to a mate~!”

“Don’t say it in a misleading way!”

I quickly put a stop to Elle’s conversation with the girl.

“…Ivan?”

“Yes…”

I felt like we were going nowhere, so I ignored Elle and the other girl who were arguing and explained the situation to Nadia.

In my dream, I could only find the ending to save Nadia, and every time I was bitten to death by Elensge, who was left behind.

Then, in one of my dreams, when the burns Carlos had given me knocked me out on the last guardian level, I was able to think of an ending that would also allow me to escape the labyrinth.

The plan is to strike a deal with Elensge.

The reason why I found the path was because Elensge herself shouted when I was about to lose consciousness (in my dream).

[I don’t want another day filled with nothing but devastation!]

So I decided to have a conversation with Elensge.

And guess what? Elensge accepted my words.

For the rest of my life, or is it the life of a dragon? that we are together.

So I made a pact with Elensge.

From now on, we’re just going to enjoy the wonders of this world.

“…After that, El and I exited the labyrinth and returned to the surface.”

“So that’s what happened…”

After listening to my explanation, Nadia finally understood.

“When we made our pact, I also told Elle about Nadia…But, I guess Elle was excited at the time, so she might have missed it…”

“I see… Well, Elensge… El-san is a child, so it can’t be helped.”

Nadia responds with a smile.

“Ah! You! Get away from my Ivan!”

“What are you talking about! He’s Nadia’s boyfriend!”

“Fufu… El-san, you have a unique way of saying that.”

U-Ugh… I never imagined I’d be in this much trouble…

W-Whatever!

“Nadia, let’s run away together!”

“Ah…Fufu! Yes!”

“”Ah?! Wait for me!!””

I take Nadia’s hand and run through the streets of Carlitos.

When I turn around, my beloved Nadia is smiling at me.

El and Tithona, who are chasing us, seem to be having some fun, too.

I have no idea what the future holds for us once we have escaped the labyrinth of despair, because I no longer dream.

But there is one thing I am certain of.

—I will live happily ever after with Nadia, the person I love the most.

—○█○—

three days after the Astoria Empire’s lunar eclipse.

Fluella de Astoria, the “Cruel Emperor,” passed away.

The cause of death has yet to be determined.

People in Imperial City, on the other hand, speak in unison.

—That day, in the Imperial City night sky, they saw a man and a woman with a sword standing on top of a massive dragon.


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