Without even needing me to voice the words, the four children silently dash forward in response to my hand signal.
They headed towards the firedrake.
I had everyone employ [Stealth Steps] but, as expected, even the firedrake would notice them once they approached its vicinity.
When the firedrake gave a wary growl, the four split into two groups.
Elemia and Beck went to the firedrake’s right and Miguel, dragging Donna along with him, headed towards the left.
As for me, I sprinted after the children and continue charging straight at the firedrake even when the four separate.
Naturally, the firedrake turns its attention to me, the one in front.
“∩ ∨ ―― 《Flashlight》!”
I compressed the duration of the spell to an instant and produced a high-intensity ∩ (light).
Of course, my eyes were shut and I had one hand covering them.
The blinded firedrake shrieked.
Using that opening, the four children slip past the firedrake and move to their predetermined positions.
Meanwhile, I slide under the dragon’s belly as I use [Psychokinesis] on the wire hook that Melby had taken out for me, sending it forward.
The hook passes beneath the dragon’s belly and twines around the torso of Beck, who was standing on the other side.
Beck had already taken a stance with his waist lowered and both arms thrust out at an angle ― the 《Mad Bull Stance》.
He wouldn’t be thrown off balance so easily because he had the [Toughness] skill as well, or so he said.
There is an added mechanism on the hook that wasn’t there the last time I used it, back when I slipped out of the Nest for Melby’s sake.
A reel is attached to the wire of the hook so it can be wound.
I wind the reel with [Psychokinesis] and succeed in slipping underneath the firedrake before it moves.
Then, I circled behind Beck.
With a four-symbol activation, earthen walls form around Beck’s lower body.
Because I went so far as to use four symbols to consolidate it, it shouldn’t collapse easily.
At the same time, Melby also made a request to the earth spirits asking them to strengthen the walls as much as possible.
I don’t know what happened exactly, but the exterior face of the walls dissolved into a toffee-like state and then hardened in the same way as a mineral.
At that moment, the firedrake finally turned this way.
Its eyes converge to focus on us.
Either its regeneration ability had kicked into action, or it never received a serious wound in the first place.
When I glanced back to check my rear flank, I saw that Elemia, Donna, and Miguel had already run through the cavern and their figures were now disappearing behind a bend.
That corner wasn’t directly in line with Beck and the firedrake, so they would be safe from attacks.
I retrieve some separation barrier fragments from the leather pouch at my waist that I used specifically to store them, and throw them at the firedrake’s head in succession.
I thought they would be repelled by its scales, but the fragments tore the firedrake’s hide to pieces.
The firedrake glares at me, its eyes burning with anger.
Then, it inhaled deeply.
“I’m alright! Wait, who’s Melby?”
I could hear the shrill voices of the fire spirits.
The emotion that dwelled within the voices was――delight, I suppose.
Right after the glint in the firedrake’s eyes sharpened, an intense radiance surged out from within its throat.
Practically the only thing that could be seen from directly in front was an explosion of light.
The ray of light was partially deflected upwards through Melby’s intervention, but even so, it remained on a direct course towards Beck’s torso.
Below the earthen walls, I lay face-down in Beck’s shadow as the super high-temperature ray passes by and directly engulfs Beck’s upper body.
Although I knew that this 《Mad Bull Stance》 would turn one’s upper body invincible through a godly power, this spectacle was still bad for the heart.
Even if his upper body was invincible, wouldn’t he still be harmed by the high heat of the breath attack since his lower half is regular flesh and bone?
With that thought in mind, I had tried to check on Beck before the dragon attacked and learned that “it would be fine as long as he took the blow with his upper body”.
The breath attack engulfed Beck’s upper body and continued to extend past us, mercilessly melting the cavern wall.
We were exposed to the breath attack for what seemed like an eternity, but then it stopped.
All that remained after the attack were us, the firedrake, the charred remains of the earthen walls, as well as the new red-hot cavity that had opened up behind us.
Furthermore, light from the outside could be seen within the cavity, although the simmering hot air that remained from the firedrake’s breath attack did made it a bit hazy.
With all my might, I cast [Earth Spirit Magic] and create minimal scaffoldings to stand on.
The cavity was still hot, but the emissaries of <Yatagarasu> should be able to run through it at least.
Elemia and Miguel, who was carrying Donna, returned from further inside the cavern.
“It’s done! Let’s go!”
Heeding my words without sparing time to even nod, the two advanced down the “path”.
“Fellow believer Beck, you should hurry too!”
I shouted out to the sole remaining person, Beck.
However, he didn’t respond to my call.
Instead, he just stared fixedly at the firedrake without even budging from his place before the earthen wall.
“ーGo on ahead, Fellow believer Orochi!”
“Huh!? What are you saying!”
“I will hold it back here! If I don’t, you guys won’t be able to get away!”
The firedrake once again inhales in preparation for a breath attack.
Seeing that, Beck breaks into a run towards the firedrake.
Upon noticing Beck approach, the firedrake interrupts its breath attack to stomps down on him.
I thought he had been crushed, but Beck employed the 《Mad Bull Stance》 once again and firmly caught the dragon’s foot.
“After all, I am Vajra Knight Dikreos Wawn’s son!
As if I could leave my comrades and turn my back on the ENEMY!!!”
Beck gives a warcry as he slowly forces back the dragon’s foot which he had stopped.
Despite its initial surprise, the firedrake repositioned its other legs and put even more force behind the foot crushing Beck.
Now would be the time to run away, but how could I do such a thing!
“Ah geez! What an unwelcome favour that is!”
I retrieved some separation barrier fragments from the leather bag that was hanging on my waist, and then threw them at the firedrake’s leg.
I was sure they would be repelled by its scales this time, but the fragments managed to easily pierce through its hide.
Really, just what are these fragments?
Incidentally, the stock of fragments that had diminished when I retrieved them from the leather bag was secretly replenished by Melby.
The firedrake groans viciously as it stumbles.
Meanwhile, Beck slipped out from underneath the dragon’s foot.
“What do you mean by an unwelcome favour, Fellow believer Orochi!
No matter how you look at it, it would be better to have Fellow believer Orochi survive rather than me!
<Yatagarasu> needs you more than me!”
“As if I care about that!
Life is not something you can just throw away so easily!
If you died, Mona, Pingu, Mitchell, Cat’s Eye, Mole, Dog, and the others, everyone… everyone would mourn for you!
Everyone! We’re all returning to the children’s room together!”
Cat’s Eye, Mole, and whatnot were the names given to the children in the Nest.
Most of the names, including mine, tended to relate to animals, as though Gazaine couldn’t be bothered to think up new names every time.
“I can’t do that!
Someone has to stay behind to hold back the firedrake!”
“That’s why I said I’ll do it!
Even in a one-on-one battle, I would be the one with the highest chance of survival!”
“You can’t be sure of that, right!?
No matter how strong you are, Fellow believer Orochi, you can’t guarantee that you won’t be done in by the firedrake!”
“Like I said―”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?”
The sudden shout caused Beck and I to flinch instinctively.
Somehow, I felt that even the firedrake, which had been extracting the fragments with its mouth, seemed to be surprised.
The one who interjected in our unsightly argument was neither Miguel nor Elemia――
“Donna! Why did you return―”
“I’m here too!”
When I turned around, a red-head and a head of silver ran past on either side of me.
Carried by the momentum from rushing back through the passage to the outside, Miguel strikes at the firedrake as Elema throws her knives.
“We’re going to stop it here!
Donna, go scold those two idiots!”
“O-oi, what are you saying?
Why did everyone return!?”
When I unintentionally flared up,
“Fellow believer Orochi and Fellow believer Beck, this way!”
Donna said that, grasping at the napes of Beck and my necks and pulling.
Of course, we could shake ourselves free if we became serious, but we couldn’t oppose Donna’s intensity. With her dog ears now erect instead of laying flat as they did normally, Beck and I were dragged further into the covers of the cavern.
Why didn’t you obey Orochi-kun’s decision when he was elected the leader by everyone!”
It seems she was greatly agitated, as she attached ‘-kun’ to our names instead of ‘Fellow believer’.
“B-but I’m the son of a Vajra Knight…”
I supported Orochi-kun’s strategy because it was a method where everyone could be saved!
I would definitely have opposed if Beck-kun needed to be sacrificed!”
Beck mumbled, his eyes darting around.
Having talked Beck down, Donna instantly turned to look in my direction.
I’m also to blame because I agreed, but I never heard that it would be this dangerous!
Didn’t you say you would immediately follow behind us!?”
“N-no, I did intend to properly follow after you guys….
But Beck, this guy……”
“Don’t lay the blame on others!
Because I can tell when I see it!
Orochi-kun, you thought you would fight the firedrake alone, confine it as long as possible, and take it down if you got lucky, didn’t you!?”
With her hitting the mark, I was at a loss for words just like Beck.
I didn’t think as far as taking it down, but I did think that the firedrake might be surprised and run away if I used one or two of my secret weapons.
“M-melby, does Donna possess [Fairy Eyes] or something?”
“There’s no way that’s it.
It’s girls’ intuition.”
So it’s a girl’s inherent ability.
Please include that in the status.
“Why do you have to do it alone, Orochi-kun!?
Why don’t you rely on us, Orochi-kun!?
Even I, even Elemia-chan, even Miguel-kun… even though we all want to help Orochi-kun, why don’t you direct us!?
Why didn’t you ask us to buy you time so you could dig with 《Tunnel》!?
Are we that unreliable!?”
“Ah, no, that is….”
Indeed, that might be the case.
Even without doing the tightrope act of inducing the firedrake’s breath attack to create a path, having the four earn time for me to dig with 《Tunnel》would have been a much safer way of escaping.
The reason I didn’t do that was because I was worried about the four fighting against the firedrake without me.
I certainly intended for all four of them to return alive, but on the other hand, I also doubted their strength.
This might be humiliating for them when they were fired up about their mission as emissaries and polished their fighting strength.
“Sigh… that’s right.
Thank you, Donna
It’s just like you said.”
Even as I was being scolded like this, Miguel and Elemia skilfully continued to evade the firedrake’s attacks.
Was if for <Yatagarasu>’s mission?
――No, it was for the sake of the companions they lived together with.
“Beck. I’m sorry.
It certainly seems like I didn’t try to count on your strength.
It was impolite to the 《Small Vajra》 who was able to withstand the breath attack and catch the dragon’s foot.”
“N-no, I should be sorry too……
Even though I know that what Fellow believer Orochi said was right…”
Donna watched over us apologising whilst nodding her head.
“So, we shouldn’t stay in hiding right now at least. Let’s go.”
Saying that, I have Melby take out the new arms I made in private.
It was a large shield made by layering many sheets of the duralumin excavated from the historic relics and compressing them.
With a height of 2 metres and a width of 1 metre, it was downright heavy and just as sturdy.
“Beck, use this shield.”
“This is― an amazing shield.”
I had staggered about with it when I handed it over, but Beck set it up without a care.
“B-but, this… where did you take this out from just now?”
“That… I’ll explain it later when we have time.
If he has that, not only could he stop the dragon’s trampling from just now, wouldn’t he even be able to stop its claws or fangs?”
“Y-yeah! Of course!”
Beck nodded, full of confidence.
It was only his upper body that was invincible, so I worried about whether his lower body would be crushed by the dragon’s body weight if he were to be trampled, but it seems like it didn’t turn out that way at all.
At the same time, Beck took care to avoid taking on the dragon’s claws directly.
In short, the arrangement was that he would remain unhurt if he was able to “stop the blow” but he’d take actual damage if he were slashed into pieces or pierced.
It seems that taking the breath attack was also considered “stopping the blow”, so he was fine even if the high heat blew against the lower half of his body.
There wasn’t any hot air radiating towards me as I lay below him either.
Why did it turn out like that?
Please ask the god who granted Beck his power.
“But don’t take it on directly even by mistake, okay?
Also, it hasn’t been strengthened by magic so it’ll melt like normal if it takes a breath attack.”
“It’s fine. Because I’ve been taught how to handle a shield by my father.”
“I see… seeing your father and the others… it’ll be good if you can see them again.”
“I wonder about that……
I have to forget about such things beyond working as an emissary.”
I’ll leave the defence to you, Beck.
But, just that is no good.
We have to attract its attention.
Donna made a salute-like action by reflex when she was called so suddenly.
It was probably a salute from the moon-dog tribe.
I don’t know where the vigour from just now went. Perhaps she felt refreshed after venting, but Donna returned to her usual obedient self.
“No, you’re older than me so just act normally.
Acid or gunpowder is fine, Donna, do you have anything that can attract that guy’s attention?”
“I do have some firecrackers made from dried Ususake Mushrooms…..”
“Eh? Usuake Mushrooms can turn into firecrackers?”
“Yeah. You didn’t know?
That’s why we cultivate so many in the Nest.”
I used it in the okonomiyaki as a substitute for katsuobushi.
Nebil was fond of it and told me to pile on lots, but I wonder if that’s really okay.”
“Fufu. It’s fine as long as you don’t eat too many.
Even if you overeat, the worse it gets is being unable to stop hiccupping.”
“No, that’s pretty terrible……
Wait, we’re not talking about that.
Donna, you stand behind Beck and throw the firecrackers to attract the firedrake’s attention.
Beck, protect Donna.
However, if that guy shows signs of unleashing a breath attack, take refuge behind me.”
“I got it.”
Elemia and Miguel were fighting the firedrake even as the two were nodding.
Elemia skilfully attracted the firedrake’s attention with her throwing knives and Miguel struck from behind the firedrake in that time.
“Take that! ……Owwwwww!”
Miguel jumped back, his hand dangling limply.
Despite hitting hard with his sturdy gauntlet, it seems the one who incurred damage was Miguel instead.
As for the firedrake, it appeared to only give a fleeting glance at Miguel before losing interest.
“Damn! If only I could use internal strength like grandpa……!”
So Miguel’s grandpa can use internal strength.
That’s amazing. I’d very much like to study under him.
For Miguel to be able to use [Qinggong] was plenty amazing though.
Elemia continues to throw knives and throwing needles, aiming at places without scales or the gap between scales like the base of its teeth or claws.
The firedrake appeared gloomy so it seems that it wasn’t ineffective, but she didn’t seem to be able to cause much damage.
When I tried using [Appraisal],
《Firedrake. Level: 11, HP: 4488/4539, MP: 451/712. 》
As far as it goes, there was some effect.
Compared to Miguel, whose blow didn’t get through at all, it could be said that she was putting up a good fight.
The firedrake let out an agitated cry and tried to catch Elemia with its teeth and claws, but by that time, Elemia had already retreated outside the firedrake’s attack range after leaving behind an afterimage created with [Darkness Magic].
That said, it wasn’t too far away.
If she distanced herself completely, the firedrake would prepare another breath attack, so she is steadily accumulating damage while maintaining a reasonable distance.
I see, so this is what Gazaine meant by calling her a “genuine prodigy”.
That said, Elemia was still unable to hide her nervousness before the firedrake that boasted an overwhelming offensive ability.
Observing her opponent’s attacks and countering with her own――even for just that, she put her life at stake each time.
Her fatigue was transferred to the firedrake so there was no chance of her tiring and becoming unable to move, but there was the possibility of the mental strain sapping at her attentiveness.
There, Donna threw her handmade firecrackers.
There was no physical damage, but it still seemed to surprise the young firedrake. Glaring at Donna, it charged towards her, creating tremendous vibrations as it moved.
Just before the dragon swung its foot down with all its strength, Beck managed to wedge himself in between the two and diverted the blow away with the large multi-layered duralumin shield.
The firedrake’s stance was greatly disturbed when its foot was sent in an unexpected direction.
A rumbling sound resounded in its stomach and its upper body crashed into the wall of the cavern.
In that interval――
Melby retrieved a gigantic coil that was 3 metres in height and roughly 50 centimetres in diameter from her dimension storage.
Underneath the coil was a cart that I had forcibly welded and attached.
Of course, both were artifacts from the historic remains.
On that coil, I scribbled a great number of ξ (Thunder) symbols.
I also wrote ∃ (erase) next to the ξ (thunder) but only the ξ were invoked first.
Magic symbols that weren’t invoked would lose their effect after ten seconds, but that was enough for now.
“Alright! Charging complete!”
“――Everybody, get away from that guy!”
I signaled to everyone with my voice, and to Melby with [Telepathy].
Beck and Donna might be put in danger so I told them to flee with my signals.
Elemia and Miguel were distanced from the firedrake.
We do something similar when invoking large-scale magic in the group fights in <Yatagarasu> so the four’s retreat was smooth.
“Understood! Here we go!”
Melby retrieved “something” from her dimension storage in conjunction with her reply.
After a brief moment, I invoked ∃ (erase).
The “something” Melby had retrieved vanished once it appeared by the mouth of the electrified coil.
No――it was discharged.
A terrifying sound and shock rushed through the inside of the cavern.
In one of the wings of the crying firedrake――a red-hot rail had pierced through.
The four children turned their head in my direction whilst gaping; I suppose they were unable to comprehend what had just happened.
Using ξ (thunder) to imbue the coil with an electric current, I create a magnetic field.
Then, I throw the magnetic rail into the proximity of that magnetic field.
The rail is attracted by the magnetic field.
The rail is set inside the magnetic field with that, so I cut off the electric current with ∃ (erase).
When I do that, the rail flies out of the coil at a great speed with the attractive force provided by the magnetic fieldー
ーRight, this is an improvised coil gun.
It was necessary to rescind the electric current the moment the attractive force was mounted onto the rail, but I was able to devise the timing comparatively easily thanks to a correction applied via [Discern].
It was easier than the Quick Time Event combo in fighting games.
By the way, although I used a rail, it wasn’t a rail gun but rather a coil gun in regards to the mechanism.
I saw a prototype of a coil gun in an online video in my previous life.
I only have a vague recollection of it, but the theory is simple.
This was done on the spot, without any experimenting within the Nest, but it looks like it went well somehow.
Growing red-hot from the friction caused by air resistance, the rail pins the firedrake’s wing to the wall of the cavern.
I never heard anything about it being this powerful!?”
Melby said in a flustered manner.
Ah, I see.
If she knew beforehand, Melby’s “investment” might be considered harming another.
Passing me the fragments was fine so I had thought this would be fine too.
Or, was that the reason I missed the firing target?
If that’s so, I might not be able to fire a second time.
In that case, I’ll pitch in with [Psychokinesis] after the rail leaves the magnetic field――
No, this isn’t the time to be thinking about this kind of thing.
“Hey! We’re fleeing at once!”
I call out to the stupefied children.
While the firedrake is unable to move, we hurriedly exit outside through the the tunnel.
Fortunately, the red-hot “path” had lowered in temperature, albeit only the surface, and was in the process of becoming the engraved rock that was the mark of the firedrake.
The four quickly started to move.
However, it was just a little bit late.
The firedrake gave an agony-filled cry and took a deep breath.
As though it had lost itself from the pain, an ominous noise came from its throat as it finished preparations for a breath attack at a much faster pace than before.
It doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to protect everyone if this place collapses!
“Tch…. I have no choice but to do it!”
I again pour an electric current into the coil and have Melby retrieve a rail――
It was at that moment.
I “listened carefully” this time, so I knew.
The fire spirits call out in shrill voices.
The direction they came from was―― diagonally below.
It’s the larger firedrake that was further inside!
“Oh fire spirits, save us from that menaceーー!? They’re not listening to my words!”
Melby, who tried to interfere with the incoming breath attack, screamed.
I also tried to ask the fire spirits, but the (large) firedrake’s breath attack drew closer to us without my request being grantedーー
The cavern was dyed in shimmery light.
The breath attack passed between us and the firedrake (small).
Seeing that breath attack, the firedrake (small) swallowed its breath, interrupting the breath attack it was about to release.
I also halted my preparations with the coil.
――That breath attack just now was a warning.
It was the larger firedrake telling us that it could kill us here.
Then, a low voice echoed through the cavern.
《――I’ll have you stop there, dear visitors.
Both you―and my child―never had any reason to quarrel from the start, right?》
The firedrake (small) emitted a “Grrr…..” in dissatisfaction, but it didn’t seem to have the intent to defy the larger one.
It pulled out the rail that was stuck in its wing with its mouth and tossed it towards the interior of the cavern provokingly.
The rail was still red-hot but, as expected of a firedrake, it didn’t seem to be harmed by the heat.
The hole opened in its wing also closed up in a twinkle.
《Now, dear visitors.
Although I am unable to give you a great reception, I do have a request.
Please enter our lair.》
Although it was polite, those words were a command.
We exchanged looks―― then nodded to one another.