Sarah couldn’t guess what was going to happen next. But her Instincts told her someone was trying to engage the Earth Dragon. She knew it was strange since she couldn’t sense anyone nearby. But her Instinct rarely failed her.
That dragon’s huge… Are they going to use a monster of similar size to fight it? A beast tamer could do it. But I don’t see any gigantic monster around. Is it underground?
Sarah quickly glanced at the roots of the tree she was on. But the same ground stretched out down there.
I guess not. Maybe they’re going to use transportation magic? Nah… They say transportation magic doesn’t exist.
How, then, would they fight?
My hunch was wrong, then? That’s unusual, but I guess that’s the most logical conclusion.
The Earth Dragon advanced steadily, one step at a time. Sarah could feel the area around her shake.
I guess now’s the right time. We have to abandon Borderzard and get to a town with proper walls. Then we’ll dig a pitfall trap…
She jumped down to the ground without making a sound, then started running towards Borderzard.
She turned around and was hit by a shock wave. Wind turned her hood inside out, whipped her hair and robe around her.
And then she saw the Earth Dragon’s face burning.
The creature’s roar made the air tremble. But it only lasted for a short amount of time. Two giant fireballs fired in succession hit the dragon square in the face. Blaze of flames fountained into the air with each impact. The long necked-creature lurched backward, but the spells hit it at exactly the spot where it retreated, as though the caster knew its head would be there. Both shots hit their marks.
When the explosions stopped, the Earth Dragon collapsed on the ground, its charred head turned towards the sky. The earth shook, trees snapped, and a cloud of dust rose into the air.
「Is it… dead?」
No way. It can’t be. What was that spell just now? I heard firing spells in succession is difficult, but it was more than that. This one was more like a rapid-fire. Impossible. Are there more than one Mage around? Mages that strong? The fireballs were almost like the ones that Mage cast from on top of the wall.
Sarah doubted her eyes even more. Two more explosions. Flames climbed from the Earth Dragon, its entire body ablaze.
「Th-They can still cast spells?!」
She was hesitating whether to check the situation or not. The smell of burning flesh drifted towards her.
Then her ears picked a soft sound. Sarah’s hearing wasn’t anything special, but she learned how to analyze and isolate sounds after much training. Which is why despite the sound of trees burning and birds flying reverberating through the forest, she managed to catch the sound of its voice.
「The dragon… spoke?」
Sarah moved. She was about a hundred and fifty meters away from the monster. Concealing her presence, she advanced slower than usual as she did not want whoever fought the dragon to sense her. It was frustrating.
She took longer than normal, and by the time she reached the Earth Dragon, there wasn’t a single living soul around. The monster was dead, though its body still burned; its tentacles, especially, were flaring up.
「They’re not here…」Sarah muttered in surprise.
Whoever fought the dragon was here up until a while ago. But they completely disappeared. She came from the direction of Borderzard. If someone fled from the scene, she would’ve passed by them.
A chill ran down her spine. She had felt this sensation once before, back when they were investigating the disappearance of a Count’s daughter in Pond. Sarah, who concealed her presence, hitched a ride at the back of a merchant’s carriage to investigate outside. No one should have noticed her. But she thought otherwise.
A boy with black hair and eyes — much like her party member Selica Tanoue — approached the carriage she was on. It appeared as though he just stood there absentmindedly. But the moment she passed by him, she thought she saw his lips curve slightly. She froze. A second later, his face returned to the same blank expression, so she passed it off as just her imagination.
What if that boy actually saw me…?
It would mean that her ability to conceal her presence was not flawless. That he mocked her for not knowing that. Sarah felt uneasiness and fear. It was as if she was being manipulated by a mysterious being.
She turned her attention towards the Earth Dragon and noticed something. Its body almost entirely burned, one couldn’t normally take its scales — that could turn to gold — and skin. But there was one part that didn’t get that burned. Its throat.
An upside-down scale grew in that one spot called an Inverted Scale. It had been ripped off. The scale itself was just like any other. But behind it lay a Dragon Stone, an object that stored mana necessary to make dragons move. And that stone was gone.
「So they took the best loot they could get…」
It was said that a Dragon Stone as big as the tip of a pinky finger could be exchanged for a bag of gold coins. The one from the Earth Dragon was the size of a rugby ball. Sarah couldn’t even imagine how much it was worth.
They could sell the meat of the dragon, of course, and there were plenty of uses for its bones. The Adventures Guild would gladly collect them. Unfortunately someone already took the best spoils.
「Borderzard should be safe now… But I feel like we lost…」
Sarah turned her back on the Earth Dragon and made her way towards Borderzard. She needed to report back to her party members and think about what to do next.
Hikaru was relieved his strategy worked out fine. Surprisingly, he managed to take down the Earth Dragon without much effort.
Great job, Professor.
While Hikaru and Lavia were on their way to Borderzard, they tested the revolver’s new bullets. Five of them. They managed to store Lavia’s fire spell inside too. He was worried that five shots might not be enough, but it was apparent he had nothing to worry about.
First he fired at the head where its brain was. There was a possibility that it died in one shot. Hikaru already had three points on his “Snipe” Skill.
【Snipe】When attacking with a projectile without the target noticing, the attack will have a lethal buff. Max: 3.
Once fired, fire loses power fast. As such he couldn’t shoot at a distance. Instead he lay in wait on the Earth Dragon’s path, waited for it to get close, and fired at the right distance.
The creature screamed and raged. Hikaru couldn’t stay steady on his feet, but ten points on Throwing was nothing to sneeze at. Two more direct hits and the Earth Dragon collapsed. And since the monster didn’t notice him, his attacks had the Snipe buff.
Hikaru could still hear the creature’s heart beating, so he fired the last two shots into its body and burned it. With his Life Detection he saw the flicker of life slowly burn out from the monster.
『Est enim mori (So this is where I die)…』the Earth Dragon muttered.
Its face was charred black. The grumbling voice came from deep within its throat.
『Et occidi potius quam praesens draco (Killed not by drakon, but by a man…』
And it drew its last breath. Hikaru sensed someone approaching and quickly collected the Inverted Scale. The moment he found out he was going to fight a dragon, he looked up what valuable materials he could get.
He glanced at the direction where the person was coming from, but he couldn’t see them, perhaps because they had Stealth as well. Mana Detection made it clear where they were though.
Hikaru distanced himself from the mysterious individual and withdrew from the battlefield. They shouldn’t have seen his face. They were too far when the fight broke out and he had his hood on. Plus his Stealth was active.
That dragon mentioned a drakon… Drakons are gigantic snake-like creatures, like the one in the ruins of Poelnxinia. Are dragons and drakons enemies? It sure felt like it… Wait.
He suddenly realized something. He released a drakon some time ago. Dragons started becoming active recently. Are the two related? he wondered.
「I have no idea.」
Hikaru shook his head. No point in pondering something you know nothing about. All he had to do now was return to Borderzard, meet up with Lavia, and take Paula.
Lavia should be fine. The problem is Paula… I sure hope you don’t start stirring up trouble, Hikaru prayed.