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Chapter 230 Labyrinth’s Encroachment Part 5
Dino begrudgingly made his way forward.
Now he was face to face with Beretta and Zegion.
The three of them stared at each other for a moment.
“Well then, begin!”
Ramiris shouted gleefully, and the fight began.
Unlike Pico and Gracia, Dino had no particular love for battle.
Or more accurately, he found it to be too much trouble and mostly just hated it.
He was really only doing it for lack of alternatives. Dino could not wait to get this all over with.
However, his opponent would not allow it to be so easy.
He had thought that he’d lightly evaded Beretta’s unleashed fist, but the swinging arm ignored any notion of common sense and rammed into him.
It had twisted around like a snake, transforming freely.
(He looked like a human, but I was ignoring the truth!
Besides, wasn’t he supposed to have the body of a doll. He has completely assimilated with it.)
In just one moment of offensive and defensive battle, Dino had seen through what made Beretta dangerous.
He was almost a different person from when he had fought him before. He had beaten him easily that time, but things were clearly not going to be the same now.
(But really, this was too much growth for such a short amount of time…)
Not only Gabil and Gerudo but now even Beretta.
On top of all this, Zegion was still waiting nearby. The situation was now bad enough for Dino to want to give up.
It was probably because he was used to leisurely analyzing things that he did not immediately notice that the ground beneath his feet was turning into a swamp.
Oh, damn! He thought, but it was already too late. Dino’s feet had been sucked into the ground.
This was due to an earth element attack from Beretta.
“Hey. You didn’t have such abilities before, did you!?”
“Is that right? Well, I do now.”
Now the ground was up to his knees as he continued to sink, but that was not even the end of it.
The ground started to solidify, it had changed into a liquid metal.
It had become fetters that would be difficult to escape with strength alone. Dino was captured.
As Dino had only been cautious of Zegion, this growth from Beretta was completely unexpected.
He had planned to disable Beretta first and then take on Zegion, but it was clear that the situation would no longer allow it.
As he was thinking this, Zegion attacked.
The fists that shot out were as fast and sharp as ever.
Dino could not move his legs and had no way to dodge the attacks, he attempted a parry with his left arm.
It was a surprisingly light blow.
No, too light.
It was not a blow, but there was a pain that reached to the depths of his soul.
Dino screamed at the intense pain.
He was a spiritual life form, which meant that he, of course, had ‘Pain Immunity.’
But even then, Dino’s soul was howling out in pain as if to mock him.
“Yo-, you! You’re not Zegion!? You tricked me…”
“Hehe, you fool. It is your own fault for allowing yourself to be tricked.
Did you think that there was any merit in using normal attacks on someone who has raised their anti-damage resistance?
However, since you stayed cautious of Zegion’s attacks, it made it much easier for my own to get through.
Unexpected attacks tend to pack quite a punch, don’t they?”
Zegion, no… Apito, who had turned into Zegion through the use of his powers, answered with a laugh.
And with that, she transformed into a beautiful insect model devil.
It was very unlikely that the ‘Instant Death Effect’ would work, but the ‘Severe Pain Effect’ which was one rank lower, seemed to be potent.
Had Dino been able to foresee the attack and resist it, then he may have been able to curb the effect. But now that it had hit him once, the second time would be impossible to resist.
This was all due to Apito’s ability, Anaphylaxis Shock.
Now that Dino had been hit by it once, it was as if he had been robbed completely of his ability to resist it.
“That’s dirty! It was cowardly enough for you to attack as a pair, but now you would even do something so low as this!”
“Silence!! There is no such thing as fair play in warfare. You just need to win, if you lose then you die! That is the ironclad rule.”
Apito roared back as Dino shouted.
Her belief that victory meant everything did not allow Dino much room to protest.
Even Beretta seemed to be a little put off by Apito’s extreme logic.
Arnaud and the others that weren’t present would have probably brushed it off and said, ‘think of it as a kindness that she at least put it into words.’ But for those who were not used to being around Apito, this came as somewhat of a shock.
Generally, Apito was very quiet in front of Zegion.
But now that she was here to represent Zegion, she seemed to be very excited. There was really no one who could stop her now.
A sadistic smile cracked on her face as she raised her beautiful hand towards Dino.
“Wai-, let’s wait a moment!
Okay? Let’s calm down and talk?
You’ll understand if we talk! I think people can come to understand each other!”
“Ah, that may be true. Now, die!”
Dino’s suggestion was mixed with screaming; Apito gave him a benevolent smile.
And while wearing that smile, she stabbed once.
“Ouch!!! Wai-, I’m serious, just wait! This hurts! This really hurts you know!!”
Dino screamed through tear-filled eyes.
He wanted to run, but his feet were firmly imprisoned, it was impossible.
“Hooo ho ho ho! Not so cocky now, Dino?
What should I do? If you cry and say that you are sorry, I may just forgive you?”
Dino was screaming from the severe pain as Ramiris addressed him through her own laughter.
“Are you telling me, that I must betray Velda!?”
“Oh? Wasn’t that rather quick for you? That is exactly right!”
“Are you stupid? How could I ever do that!?”
“Hmph. Can’t you? Why not? I have a question for you, Dino. Why do you serve him?”
“You, why… Well, it’s because one can’t go against Veldanava, can one?”
“Dino, think carefully about it. Veldanava and Velda are different, did you not know?”
“Huh? Of course, that’s common knowledge…”
(Hmm? Common knowledge? No, wait… Velda is Veldanava, right?)
Dino felt a sense of unease with this conversation with Ramiris.
He felt a contradiction in his words, he had to stop and think.
“Well, never mind. In any case, since you did betray such a pure heart as mine, I must make you regret your actions for a while!
Now, finish him off! Beretta and Apito!”
Dino’s screams echoed.
Ultimately, Dino was not given any time to think slowly. He would be forced to suffer through Apito’s successive attacks.
Ramiris’ delighted laughter echoed in the control room.
Apparently torturing Dino had given her a great sense of relief.
She was now staring at the large screen and wearing an incredibly satisfied look on her face.
“Well, perhaps I’ll forgive him right about now.”
“Aren’t you going a little too far?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Dino is a lot tougher than you think.”
Benimaru sighed as he asked the question, but Ramiris just brushed it aside.
One of her main objectives had been to get revenge on Dino, so this was one thing that she would not back down on.
“But, I do wonder. This guy named Zero, do you think that he will really move like Rimuru said he would?”
“Judging by the way Velda had cut down Kazaream? I don’t doubt it.”
“I see, then Velda isn’t Veldanava after all.
Dino wasn’t aware of this either.
Can you believe that he thinks he is cunning and can’t be fooled by anyone?
What an idiot!”
“Ah, uhh… Well, yes.”
Benimaru realized there was a bit of himself in Ramiris’ words. He nodded back to her with a little regret.
He would try to shift the conversation to something else.
“In any case, Zegion never ceases to impress me. It was almost too easy.”
Had they seriously wanted to ambush them, they could have sent Zegion and the other labyrinth guards to press an attack without giving Zero a chance to encroach on the labyrinth.
Everyone in the control room had thought this.
And the reason that they had opted for a much more elaborate scheme instead, was because Rimuru had ordered it.
The current strategy was something that Benimaru and Ramiris had talked about and decided together, after hearing Rimuru’s predictions of Velda’s battle strategy for invading the labyrinth.
“Well, Zero encroached on the labyrinth and usurped its authority, just like Rimuru had predicted.”
“Of course. It is unthinkable that Rimuru’s predictions could be wrong.”
Shuna nodded proudly at Ramiris’ mutterings.
“The next prediction is about what move Zero will take.
After assimilating with the labyrinth, it should be quite difficult to maintain his sense of self, don’t you think? Something like that.”
“Yes. He isolated over half of the floors of my labyrinth. Who knows what will happen if he absorbs all of that!
To be honest, it’s one thing to slowly soak it in and encroach, but assimilating all at once will most likely make one lose their mind.”
“I see. And what did Lord Rimuru have to say?”
“In short, he said that Zero would surely encroach on the labyrinth. So Rimuru wants us to isolate parts of the labyrinth to make the bait easier to see.
When this happens, he wasn’t sure if Zero would be able to stay sane, but he believes it will have some effect on him.”
“And so we had Zegion attack as soon as the labyrinth had been isolated.
It wasn’t a matter of there being an effect or not. We would ensure that there was an effect.
Lord Rimuru was a little worried about having Zero and Zegion face each other, but Zegion seemed quite enthusiastic about it.”
“Yes, yes. Though Zegion ended up having an easier time with it than we had expected.”
“…I understand all of that. And so, what did Lord Rimuru say?”
Ramiris and Benimaru both helped to answer Shuna’s question, but they seemed reluctant to explain the most important part.
Perhaps she had felt annoyed by this because Shuna asked them again in a harsher tone.
“Yes. He said, ‘maybe we will be able to see his true nature.’”
“Indeed. Not so much Zero’s true nature, but Velda’s, I think.”
Ramiris and Benimaru answered.
In other words, once Zero had assimilated with the labyrinth, he would gain absolute superiority over any enemies that were inside.
And if this happened, was it not likely that he would not differentiate from friend or foe and launch attacks at them all? That was Rimuru’s prediction.
On top of that, with Benimaru’s strategy, Zegion had planted a sense of fear in Zero’s heart.
Zero would surely want power in order to defeat Zegion then.
The general outline of the plan Benimaru made was based on the assumption that it would prey on anything it saw, regardless of it being friend or foe.
“That’s why we made sure to have everyone retreat before Zero’s assimilation with the labyrinth reached one hundred percent. A Zero who was so consumed by fear and a thirst for power would attack Dino and the others without a doubt.”
“That’ it! By the way, he just passed ninety-eight percent, so it should be any moment now.”
“Is that so. Lord Rimuru was right, as expected. But then, what will happen if Zero is able to keep his sense of reasoning?”
“If that happens, we will just toss the entire isolated labyrinth into the ‘Infinite Loop’!”
Everyone in the control room found this answer very satisfying.
The only thing that could make this whole situation even better would be for Dino to be persuaded before Zero’s encroachment was completed.
But even then… Shuna noticed something. It didn’t seem like there was enough reason for Rimuru to have dismissed the initial plan to attack.
In the first place, if you could rid the place of invaders through an assault, then there was no reason to have Zero attack Dino.
(In that case, what was Lord Rimuru’s true purpose?)
She looked at the excited Ramiris and came to a certain conclusion.
(I see… He doesn’t want to have Dino killed…)
Rimuru and Dino had joked around and been friendly.
They had last separated as enemies, but perhaps Rimuru had still not wanted to kill Dino.
She wasn’t sure if it was because Ramiris had asked him, or if it was his own will, but Shuna was convinced that the truth was along those lines.
Well, it would explain Ramiris’ attitude quite a lot. She could now understand why they had gone out of their way for this more elaborate plan.
And so there was nothing left now, but to wait for the result.
What would Dino do? What would Zero?
(Regardless of which direction things will fall, everything would be in the palm of Lord Rimuru’s hand.)
Shuna nodded with satisfaction and moved her gaze back to the large screen.
In actuality, Rimuru had not been thinking so deeply when giving out the orders.
The only thing he had really ordered was to be wary of an encroachment of the labyrinth, which he had been able to predict through the finished ‘Aji Dahaka’ ability.
Also, he told them of his prediction for Zero’s movements and ordered them to reduce any casualties. That was all.
It was completely beyond any expectations of Rimuru, that Zegion would push Zero so far.
And one more thing.
Just like Shuna had noticed, it regarded the treatment of Dino.
For this, he had not said anything to Benimaru and consulted with Ramiris alone.
Ultimately, he had decided to leave everything to her.
Ramiris and Benimaru finished their explanations at about the same time that Zero was finishing his rapid assimilation with the labyrinth, after being driven frantic by his emotions.
“The assimilation rate is at ninety-nine percent! We should call everyone back right about now!”
Ramiris began shouting, Benimaru barked orders.
The attack unit, which had been given an explanation in advance, returned through teleportation after receiving the order.
Given that there was a high possibility that a completely assimilated Zero could prevent them from teleporting out, there had been a need for them to be able to ascertain the exact moment they should leave.
And their plan had succeeded.
“We have just now returned. Lady Ramiris.”
Beretta addressed her as a representative of those who had returned.
Everything had gone according to schedule.
“Good, well done!
Depending on how the enemy reacts, we plan to release the labyrinth into the ‘Infinite Loop.’
However, in the event that we fail to accomplish this, we will have to enter an all-out war.
I think that it goes without saying, that it will be incredibly dangerous to lure an enemy who has assimilated with an isolated space.
In the event that we are forced to attack once again, all of you must be prepared and standing by!”
Everyone understood and agreed with Benimaru’s words.
How would Zero react? What would Dino do in turn?
There was a need for them to be sure.
After all, depending on the results, there was a high likelihood an intense battle would erupt.
It was quite clear that there was not one person in the room who took the situation lightly.
“Also, it should be obvious without my having to say it, but in regards to Lord Rimuru being alive, that should remain strictly confidential.”
So saying, Benimaru finished his speech.
It was to be expected, but they could in no way count on Rimuru to help them, and he had no intention of asking.
He had accepted the order to defend the labyrinth as a supreme directive, and he would put his heart and soul into fulfilling it.
This feeling was something shared by everyone who was gathered there.
Just like Rimuru was searching for any movements by Velda, Velda was also probing for Rimuru.
This was Rimuru’s own decision and the reason that he did not return to the labyrinth.
Ciel had pointed out the possibility that they would wait for the moment when Rimuru would step foot in the labyrinth, and then isolate the entirety of it.
It would surely be possible with Velda’s abilities, she had said.
Ramiris’ ‘Labyrinth Creation’ was an ability with a high degree of freedom, but it required a connection to this world.
If that was severed, the labyrinth itself would drift off between the cracks of the dimensions.
Ciel had been convinced that there was no reason to believe that Velda could not do this if it was possible for Rimuru to.
And if it did to come to that, while it would be possible to escape, it would take a tremendous amount of time.
Returning after the world had been destroyed meant that you had still been defeated.
That was what Rimuru had said when explaining to Benimaru and the others.
Benimaru remembered those words now and nodded deeply.
(Don’t worry, Lord Rimuru. I will protect the labyrinth with my life!)
Determined, Benimaru moved his gaze back to the large screen.
And so did Ramiris.
(Dino, that idiot. Really, what was he doing at such a critical moment…)
The plan was already in its final stage.
Dino and the others had become a target in the trap to lure Zero out.
There is a possibility that that Zero will maintain his sanity and cooperate with Dino and the others.
There was also the possibility that Dino and the others would accept their fate and choose to become food for Zero.
The result that Ramiris desired, was nothing so boring as those possibilities.
(Let’s act like fools together again, experiment again. Okay? Dino…)
That was Ramiris’ wish.
She believed in the plan that Rimuru had devised.
She wished as if praying, that Dino would once again become their companion.