Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
If Gouda ordered the Magic Corps to use Magic, the Church would burn them at the stake, the captain included.
The young Mage, however, dismissed the priest’s words. “Forget it, adjudicator! We don’t care about Lord Gouda’s orders. We will use Magic on our own will and give everything to protect him and the people! Lord Gouda is our king! Is it righteous to abandon him to save ourselves? Is that what God teaches? If it is, then screw that! We will gladly become enemies of the Church!”
“You fools!” The priest clicked his tongue in annoyance.
Gouda had two options. Order them to not use Magic even though he knew it was pointless, saving himself, or share the Magic Corps’s fate and become an enemy of the Church.
Gouda frowned even deeper than before and gritted his teeth. Gripping his sword tight, he opened his pursed lips. “Indeed. They’re fools. I disbanded them, but they grouped up, told them not to come with us, but followed us to the Forbidden Land. I ordered them to escape, but they stayed. Now they decided to oppose the Church, fully prepared to die.” Gouda fixed his gaze on the priest, and smiled a warrior’s smile. “Foolish subordinates fit for a foolish king.”
Gouda pulled his head back as far as he could and slammed his forehead into the priest’s face. He then drove the sole of his foot to the priest’s chest to push him away. The priest grunted.
A cheer erupted from the Magic Corps. They asked Gouda to give them orders, to which the captain responded, “If you want to use Magic that badly, then so be it! Use it to your heart’s content! Altaria’s soldiers, get ready with your Weinkeid. Nordis, Kudra! Steel yourselves. We’re going to take down that dragon even if it costs us our lives!”
“Fools, all of you!” Wiping the blood that flowed from his nose with his arm, the priest held up his scythe and leapt forward.
I quickly grabbed his collar from behind. “Don’t you forget about me!” I tossed him into the woods.
The priest hung in the air for a while before rolling on the ground. Then with a perfect stance, he rose back to his feet. I closed the gap in an instant, bringing my sword down. I knew he would block it with his scythe’s handle. I also expected him to move behind me to escape the impact. When I turned around and tried to slam my fist into the side of his face, my arm stopped.
“Damn it. The strings!” The string dug deeper into my arm, causing blood to spurt out.
“You really want me to play with you, huh? Fine. I’ll take you out first!”
The priest swung his scythe. Just before the blade touched my neck, I bent low, avoiding the scythe, then grabbed the string entwined around my arm and pulled the priest closer. Unraveling the string, the priest spun his weapon and thrust its tip at my stomach. As I leapt backwards to lessen the impact, a barrage of attacks struck me. He showed no mercy. He was out to kill me.
“You homicidal priest! Why would you charge at us in this situation?! Do you really wanna see all the people on the island wiped out?!”
I lunged into the priest’s body in one breath, tackling his slim body with my shoulder. I intended to break a few of his ribs, but he twisted his body to minimize the impact.
With a click of the tongue, I spun around and gave him a kick. He deftly caught the blow with his scythe’s handle, but the force sent him flying. He landed gracefully, brushing off the cuffs of his robe.
“If God so wishes,” he replied.
“God, eh? Cool story.” I grinned.
He called me an animal before, a cattle who didn’t think, and put all blame and responsibility for his actions on others, while he claimed he was acting on his beliefs.
Riiight. I think you had it backwards, my man.
A priest who put all the blame and reason for his actions on the Church and God had no right to criticize me for following my client’s orders as a mercenary. And right now I was acting on my own will. Whether Zero ordered me to or not didn’t matter.
“What’s so funny?” the priest asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I was just thinking how pathetic it is to be the Church’s pet animal!”
The priest’s scythe hissed sharply through the air. As if to push the weapon back along with its sound, I swung my sword upwards, whipping up dust in the process. Our blades clashed, and the priest’s scythe ricocheted wildly. I then grabbed him by the chest, pushed him down to the ground, and immediately mounted him, not allowing him a chance to get up.
Pressing a knife at his slender neck, I declared, “It’s over, priest. I won.”
“It’s not over yet!”
“It is. You don’t stand a chance at daytime.”
The fact that he could fight normally even without his vision was astonishing. He was no doubt more terrifying at night. I ripped his eye patch off, and sunlight pierced through the priest’s eyelids. He winced in pain.
“Chapter of Capture, Page Three: Etrach! Grant me power, for I am Zero!”
A familiar rumbling and tremor occured. Keeping my focus on the priest so he wouldn’t escape, I looked over at the road. The ground swelled rapidly, wrapping the dragon hovering at a lower altitude.
The result was not the usual square box, but an imposing furnace with a long chimney. It had the exact same shape as the one in the underground forge, but it was so big that it could enclose a huge dragon, and just looking up at it made me feel like I was going to break my neck.
Zero cast a follow-up spell. “Chapter of Hunting, Page Six: Flagis!”
It appeared as if the dragon was being roasted inside. For a moment flames spewed out of the chimney. Black smoke billowed towards the sky.
Gouda gave orders to the Magic Corps. “Nordis squad, cast Redaest! Make a hole below the furnace!”
“Sir!” Several troops simultaneously began chanting the spell. A tremendous roar echoed, and a gaping hole appeared at the bottom of the furnace, hot air leaking out. I squinted.
“Altaria squad, cast Wenkeid! Send in wind through the hole! We’re gonna increase the heat!”
A strong wind blew into the furnace, and bright red flames rose from the chimney.
It was then that I finally realized that Zero and the others were trying to burn the dragon in the furnace. But they were dealing with a dragon that lived in lava, which was basically molten rock.
The box of earth started glowing red from the heat. Slowly the chimney tilted, melted from the inside, then collapsed.
It didn’t take long for the dragon to fly out from the inside. Flapping wings scattered the pieces of the melted furnace everywhere. Following Gouda’s orders, the Magic Corps rushed into the woods.
The dragon glared at Zero with bloodshot eyes, molten rock dripping from its body. Zero, however, calmly cast her eyes downward. She was looking at the hollowed ground underneath the dragon.
“Nice and fragile.” She took a stance and began chanting. “Verdiga lum de Garg, O’ earth-shaking seedbed extending far and wide, crush the obstacle standing in my way!” Zero smiled. “This is the end, Black Dragon. Fall to the depths of the earth!” Her voice sounded somewhat cheerful, a voice that was certain of victory.
“Chapter of Harvest, Page Eight: Kudra! Grant me power, for I am Zero!”
The ground collapsed with a deafening rumble. It was almost like the earth was hollow underneath.
Memory stirred within me. “The underground lake!” I cried. “Located on the border between Nordis and Altaria!”
Gouda told us earlier that they dug through the underground tunnels of Nordis and came across a huge underground lake on the border with Altaria. We were right at the border at the moment, which meant the lake was right underneath.
The red-hot dragon’s body fell into the cold underground lake. Tremendous amount of steam surged upwards, pushing countless rocks into the air, which then rained back down.
I tossed the priest aside and ran towards Zero. “Get down, you idiot!”
Zero, however, neither ran away nor lay down. Calmly she turned to me and waved her hand gracefully. “I did it, Mercenary,” she said. “Am I not good?”
“Not the time for it! Are you blind or something?!”
I knocked away a rock falling towards Zero then lay down on the ground, covering her. Rocks dropped on my head and back. It hurt like hell. The Magic Corps had taken shelter from the falling rocks in the woods.
I squinted at the thick steam billowing out of the hole, peering down into the underground lake. The dragon, submerged up to its head, was flailing in the water. The rocks peeled away from its body, revealing its silvery white scales.
The subterranean lake was more than large and deep enough to swallow the dragon whole. The creature sank helplessly to the bottom of the lake, like a lizard that couldn’t swim.
A while later, the rocks stopped falling, the steam dissipated, and the sound of the dragon screeching and struggling stopped.
Complete silenced descended.
“We did it,” someone uttered. “We did it! We defeated the dragon!”
Everyone started cheering.