72. I Don’t Care, So Let Me Go Home!
“Even so, I can’t see in front of me…”
I took a deep breath and exhaled, trying not to get too annoyed.
Hey… It’s me… Rururia… Just walking and breathing…
My Dragon was flying around me, with no annoyance and full of curiosity, and Kongoryu-sama was gracefully slithering through the air above.
…I envy their ability to fly.
I was only just having a meeting with my friends… Why… Why did I have to get attacked by that black object?
Why does a weak and ordinary girl like me have to walk through this pitch-black space down an invisible corridor?
It’s so troublesome. I’m tired of walking. There’s no end in sight, just more walking and trouble.
Can’t someone just break this corridor off in the middle and make it shorter or something?
…I felt someone looking down at me.
I’ll just ignore that.
I kept walking through this mysterious space, the sound of my footsteps echoing.
With nothing better to do, I turned my head in all directions to catch the sound of the echoes, but I just ended up more confused, so I stopped.
As I turned around, I saw a window in front of me.
White light swirled around it and was sucked in before reappearing again… Looking at it made me feel dizzy.
“…Please don’t stare at it too much. You’ll lose your ability to return.“
Kongoryu-sama’s voice snapped me out of my wandering thoughts, and I hurriedly looked down at my feet.
…I have this strange sense that I’m in danger…
I hesitated to take a step and felt something brush against the nape of my neck.
What the hell was that…?
“Hmmm, the phenomenon you’re currently experiencing… This was the area where matter faded in and out in this plane… Some of it just fully disappeared.“
A soundless impact radiated out from the window, but that appeared to be all for now.
If this was the phenomenon Kongoryu-sama had mentioned, it might radiate out to where we were.
Huh? I’m not sure I really understood the nuances of what he said…?
My Dragon flew overhead, coming closer to me as if he was worried about something.
…Huh? What’s wrong? You look unsteady. Are you okay? I’m the one who couldn’t fly away if things were to get dangerous here, so what do you have to complain about!?
I turned to glare and refused him when our eyes met.
…And then my Dragon seemed to understand something.
“…Waaah! Wha… Dragon! Hey! Your scales are rough! Stop rubbing me against me!”
The Dragon suddenly clung to me firmly.
No, no, no! You can’t do that! Even if you’re small… Even if you’re the size of a dog… If your scales were to rub up on my skin like that… Huh? It doesn’t hurt?
I peeled him off me and examined him. Sure enough, he was covered in the same old scales that I was used to stroking.
…They felt the same as when I usually touched them, but… Wait… Was something wrong?
When I touched him, it felt like I was just tracing a memory of touching him or something…
“…Don’t think too deeply about it. Or you won’t be able to maintain your shape.“
…My thoughts were pulled back to the present.
I immediately felt horrible.
…It’s okay, it’s okay. The outline of my fingers holding the Dragon was just a bit blurry… That’s all. I just hadn’t noticed.
…This place really was dangerous. I don’t know what would happen if I stayed here too long.
I can’t really explain why, but it’s dangerous.
I released my Dragon back into the air and turned to face Kongoryu-sama.
“Kongoryu-sama! Let’s hurry forward! Let’s take a shortcut! Please, let’s just go!”
“…My Lord… I see… Was that your instinct to flee… But you haven’t given up hope yet, have you? If you did, you might not be able to be awakened from this realm.“
I thought I had come up with a pretty good idea, but I was met with a very unwilling gaze and response from Kongoryu-sama… What did I do?
I turned away and kept walking, not wanting to keep getting stared at like that.
Since entering this black space, I felt like I’d been blown away somewhere. I felt so unkempt. I felt like I wasn’t really here.
I needed to rush to get out of here as fast as I could!
With my determination renewed, I looked back one more time at the depths of the corridor I was heading down.
…But humans quickly lose their motivation when they couldn’t see what they were striving for.
“…Kongoryu-sama, does this corridor move on its own?”
“I thought so…”
At being cut off and denied so vehemently, I lost some of my motivation…
But my instincts kept telling me, “It’s okay! Hurry and escape!”
I exhaled and gathered my strength, beginning to run at full speed.
Let my destination be close!
…A heavy gate, about the height of the Royal Palace main gate, stood in front of me.
“What… Was this it…?”
It took several hours of continuous running through the endless corridor to get here.
On the way, I doubted myself several times, but from overhead, I felt Kongoryu-sama staring at me, saying, “Are you sure you want to stop?” and I managed to push forward and kept running.
As a result, I was much more tired than a dignified lady should be.
I don’t care… I don’t care!
I made it, and that was all that mattered!
I tried to stifle my ragged breathing and looked up to see Kongoryu-sama floating above me.
How was I supposed to feel about this? He could have let me ride him, or something like that! Maybe I should have asked him!?
“…Don’t you know that I can read your thoughts? You just kept going on and on about how you’ve arrived. You’ve made it here, was what mattered.“
This world was all about momentum.
Even the gaze of this disappointed Dragon, even something like that, was the momentum that pushed me forward!
I just needed to concentrate on what’s in front of me. I’ve recovered more from breathing and looking around now.
I carefully observed the door, which was so tall I had to look up to see it.
…Hmmm, this gate appeared to be very heavy and made out of stone.
Closely, it appeared to be covered in carvings made by both people and Dragons… Just looking at the details made my eyes hurt.
Looking at it so intensely made it seem like it was coming closer or doubling in size, so I took a step back.
That instinct that had urged me to run forward was now nowhere to be found… I couldn’t rely on it forever.
“…Uhm… Was this really our destination, Kongoryu-sama?”
I caught my Dragon as he flew around me and stroked him to calm my nerves as I looked back at Kongoryu-sama.
…It was then I first noticed that the walls and window had vanished.
Spreading out left and right was that black space I had first seen. I looked down at the floor, knowing I mustn’t look at the blackness.
As I clutched my Dragon… Kongoryu-sama, who until then had been behind me, passed by to the front of the door, almost like a gatekeeper.
…The air had become tense.
“I cannot take humans beyond this point. It is a multilayered place of choices and futures.“
Kongoryu-sama’s familiar voice now sounded strange, like it overlapped on itself multiple times, echoing through space that shouldn’t exist.
As he stared at me from above, I trembled at the smallness of my own existence.
“You have a choice to make. Go forward or turn back.“
Kongoryu-sama looked at me directly as he asked. There was no ridicule or disbelief. He just asked me.
It appeared I had to make an important decision.
What did ‘a place of choices‘ even mean…? I don’t get it.
…It’s all so scary.
I want to run away.
I need time.
In my head, I thought, “What if I just ran away?” and I was at a loss for words.
My thoughts that had been flowing smoothly not long ago but were now tangled and confused. What am I doing, and what for…?
As I became lost, my body reacted on its own, taking a step back.
I shifted my leg back at the sound of my name being called. Without even realizing it, I had almost chosen to turn back.
Take a deep breath…
Just calm down.
…I’m not sure what to do, but I definitely don’t want to be forced into making a hasty choice.
Honestly, I wish I could talk to someone, as I’m not sure I understand any of this. I can’t keep up, and I don’t want to be forced into the wrong choice, but that’s not possible.
It was just me, my Dragon, and Kongoryu-sama here.
I must choose to go forward or not.
If I go forward, then it’s through that door… I don’t know what’s there or if I can even really go home.
But on the other hand, if I turned back, there won’t be an escape there.
…Hmmm? Ah… I think I have the answer.
I tried to wring the jumbled thoughts out of my head, leaving just a feeling of wanting to go home.
That’s what I told Kongoryu-sama.
“…I’ve made my choice. I want to go home where everyone I know was.”
My voice wavered a bit as I took a step forward… My footsteps echoed strangely.
His eyes seemed a bit friendlier as they squinted down at me.
Kongoryu-sama stroked his scales as he drew close to the gate. He let out a breath.
…But it was like a quiet roar.
The shapeless voice was quiet and deep as it radiated through the air.
The weight of that roar had me questioning my existence as it made my whole body shake.
As I tried to steady my body, I felt a slight vibration.
…Little by little, the gate began to open.
It indeed seemed to be a heavy door, and I bit my tongue as I watched it open, wishing desperately to leave and not be swallowed up by this place.
The slight gap opened steadily until, eventually, it was fully opened, the doors ground to a stop.
The silence filled the area.
It… It was okay to go through here, right…?
I should have been able to see beyond the door, but I couldn’t. I tried to shake off the concerned feelings I felt.
My feet will move back on their own if I let them. It’s only my willpower that kept me here.
Kongoryu-sama was coming towards me… Huh? Had he gotten smaller?
His body had been the width of a carriage, but now he was small enough for me to wrap my arms around.
“Kongoryu-sama, your body…”
“Don’t worry about it. My presence in this realm simply reduced a bit… I didn’t even plan on staying here this long.“
‘I didn’t mean to stay this long…‘
Was that because I pulled him here with my Dragon Crest?
I didn’t know how to return him, so I cast my eyes down, but I heard a sound around me.
Surprised, I turned to see Kongoryu-sama’s tiny face.
“I said don’t worry about it… This was unexpectedly enjoyable, spending time by your side.“
I was relieved to hear the happiness in Kongoryu-sama’s voice.
So he enjoyed being at my…
Huh? By my side…?
Does he mean he had been watching me for a while now!?
Well, I guess that’s how it’s always been since I got a Dragon Crest!
I thought about this and that in the Empire and the remote areas I’d been to, and I heard my Dragon excitedly squawk.
“Fufu. You seem to have relaxed a little.“
As he spoke, I felt my shoulders sag a little.
“Thank you, Kongoryu-sama.”
My Dragon, who had landed on my shoulder at some point, snuggled closer… Yep, I’ve calmed down more and more.
Beyond the door, I saw nothing but swirling darkness.
I was still confused by this situation, full of anxiety and fear as if I was standing on a cliff blindfolded.
I wanted to go forward…
I wanted to go back home to everyone!
So… Trembling step by trembling step…
I went through the door.
Meanwhile, in the other world…
Crown Prince: I have gotten permission from Headquarters to put these countermeasures into the National Budget.
Sara-chan: I’ve finished recruiting people and making preparations.
Solan-kun: …Well then, if we applied this theory…
Irene-sama: Hmmm, wouldn’t that cause an issue?
Chief Magician: Hey, do your best to keep that wedge in space stable…! And Li, you should take a break.
Knight Commander: …