[TL Note: This is the revised, updated version of chapter 168.]
It felt as though the dragon's harsh cry was reverberating even inside my body.
The dragon and I approached each other at breakneck speed; the distance between the dragon and I was closing quickly.
In an instant, it ripped through the darkness and the dragon revealed itself before my very eyes.
Its body appeared as though it were larger than five meters.
It currently wasn’t flying, but those giant, widely-spread wings…
As well as its teeth and its talons looked as big as my body…
Since it's close to me now, I can feel that overwhelming mana more clearly than before.
Its very existence was emitting a powerful intense pressure.
Just looking at it face-to-face made me lose my breath.
I repressed that intense pressure and told the holy sword.
Holy sword, focus on blocking the magic.
I heard the holy sword reply curtly, unlike usual, and blinked to the back of the dragon's head.
I simultaneously swung the soul sword, cutting the back of the dragon's head as I leaped past.
The sword was enveloped in aura, but the dragon hadn't sustained much damage.
My attack wasn't shallow.
It was just that the dragon's defense was excessively high.
Despite precisely-aimed strikes, it just made a scratch mark on the dragon's hide, rather than cutting through and causing the dragon to bleed.
I organized the outcome in my head.
It had nullified that simple sword strike.
It wasn't as if my aura was completely ineffective.
It was just that the damage inflicted was insignificant.
In order to land a serious attack, it must contain my aura's flames or I have to attempt an even stronger attack.
The former's consumption of my mana and mental strength is huge, and there's too much danger involved in the latter.
Next is the dragon's condition.
I could only observe it with my eyes for a split second, but I had seen everything that I needed to see.
The dragon's condition wasn't normal.
The dragon's four legs were extremely skinny.
Its muscles looked as if they had shrunk as well.
Its wings' webbing was torn to pieces.
I could easily figure out the reason for that.
It wasn't just the wings; the dragon's entire body was covered in scars.
They were all self-inflicted wounds from its talons.
As the leading expert on self-injury, I was sure those scars were definitely self-inflicted.
Those self-inflicted scars were different in their direction and location than normal self-inflicted scars.
To add to that, I didn't see the pupils of its eyes.
Its pupils were dyed in a cloudy white color.
No matter how I see it, it looks like it's not in the right state of mind.
If the dragon's mind is addled, it wouldn't be able to utilize its spells or mana, so I could understand why it was idiotically charging in like that.
Of course, I can't be positive that the dragon won’t use magic.
If it feels like it's in even a little bit in danger, it may start chaotically firing magic at random.
I formulated a plan until my Time Confinement ended.
I tried to predict the dragon's next move, one by one.
I postulated on every type of attack that I could imagine, and considered these situations while factoring in the dragon's speed.
Of course, most of my simulations’ results were negative.
However, it was a lot better than what I had thought before the battle.
Just by approaching the dragon this much, my chances of winning were a lot higher than they were before.
I have to end the fight in a short period of time in order to win.
The next thing I had to think about was whether or not I could use the Light Sword.
Could I use the Light Sword the moment that the Time Confinement ends?
I slowly examined my current condition.
Positioned in the air.
The direction of the attack.
My body is shaken up by my opponent's mana.
Kiri Kiri's warning on the mental strain on my brain.
The alarmingly close distance from the enemy.
Using the Light Sword right away is impossible.
I dismissed the Light Sword and pondered on my choice of attack I'll initiate as soon as my Time Confinement ends.
In that instant, the Time Confinement ended.
As soon as the effects of my Time Confinement were over, I used Blink to avoid the dragon's front legs.
I held onto the holy sword that had been in my left hand in my mouth.
I changed the Thousand Arms sheath that was attached to my waist into a dagger.
I blinked once again.
This time, I aimed for the dragon's neck and bashed into it by casting blink.
The powerful impact was accompanied by a heavy thud sound, as if I were crashing into a wall.
When I had used my blink tackle combo on the waiting room's wall, I had estimated the strength of the impact before using my blink.
I could ignore the impact and move my body.
I pierced the dragon’s skin and lodged the dagger in my left hand into the dragon's neck.
I had planned to get up close and pierce a tender region; my dagger ended up lodged about half-way into the dragon's neck.
[TL Note: Was translated as Poison Energy before. That's much too literal and should be translated as poison anyway.]
After the 12th floor, I had consistently practiced the skill; it came in handy here.
It wasn't a skill that was to be used as a finisher, but I had enhanced my sword with the skill and fought several opponents with it before. Therefore, the skill level itself was sufficiently high.
In addition to the poison, I had also added my blazing aura.
Compared to the dragon's huge body, a dagger was nothing more than a needle stuck into its body, but it was different when poison and fire were involved.
If they were to pass through its body, it could obstruct its flow of mana; a critical attack.
Both of the dragon's front legs flew towards me.
I used Blink twice and I once again moved to the back of its head.
I raised the soul sword with both hands and focused on my aura.
I couldn't recklessly use the Light Sword, but I could use imitations of the Light Sword as much as I wanted.
[TL Note: The ‘imitations’ refer to the techniques with those cringy names that the swordmasters created in an attempt to replicate the Light Sword.]
Amongst them, there was a technique with the grandiose name, Cutting the Sky or Falling Fire's Judgment or whatever.
Even amongst the many techniques, it was the sole technique that stressed explosive power to such a degree.
Since I couldn't sever the dragon's head in one strike, I decided that striking the back of its head was my best plan of action, so long as I can buy even a split second longer for my next attack.
The technique properly struck the back of its head, and the dragon and I were both shocked by the attack.
Due to the impact, my body momentarily floated into the air.
I focused for my next move.
It was hit with an attack of this severity, so the dragon will start considering the use of magic.
Now, I'd have to move differently based on the dragon's response.
Offensive magic, evasion magic, obstruction magic.
I have no idea how many types of magic the dragon can use.
I also have no idea what magic it uses.
I would just react based on the purpose of that magic, that's all.
And in order to respond to that magic, I would have to predict the dragon's intent.
In a situation where I don't know how many or what kind of cards my opponent has, I have to predict their next move.
What's worse, it wasn't even a human; it was a dragon.
I focused on the dragon's face and muscle movements.
Regardless of what kind of magic the dragon decides on, there will always be telltale signs of its intent.
No matter how tiny they are.
Along with that, I was also tense from the trembling of the ambient mana.
Even though I was close to a beginner at magic, I had to foresee the characteristics of the magical invocation no matter what.
It was unbelievably difficult, but it was something I had to do.
My focus and my thinking speed sped up faster than ever before.
Due to the acceleration of my thoughts, the world slowed down to a speed that could compare to Time Confinement; I tried to guess the dragon's next move.
Despite my attempts, the dragon did something completely preposterous that was outside the realm of my predictions.
The dragon didn't attack, evade, or even restrain me.
It just screamed in agony.
I was dumbfounded when I saw the marred dragon clearly exposing its blind spots.
I was locked in confusion and couldn't initiate my next attack.
* * * * * *
When I saw the dragon's overly straightforward movements and its dull pupils, I had assumed it, but the dragon had definitely lost its mind.
Contrary to my expectation, the dragon didn't get a hold of itself when danger was approaching, and even after encountering pain, it couldn’t formulate a countermeasure.
It just writhed in pain and chased me because I was in its sights.
It swung its human-sized talons and teeth at me with enough force behind its arms and legs that it seemed as though it could break through anything. But its behavior wasn't much different from a housecat chasing around a mosquito.
Although the dragon's close range attacks were backed by a fearsome strength, it wasn’t at a level that could threaten me.
Its front legs, as well as its teeth exhibited a simple attack pattern.
Anything that lay in its line of sight was in its aggro.
Its muscles would jerk in order to attack.
The dragon wasn't even aware of its own exposed blind spot and just mustered all its strength to move its body.
Because of that, no matter how strong or fast its attacks were, I could predict the course of its attacks in advance, and calmly avoid them.
It wasn't hard.
Pure strength can lead to different outcomes based on how you use it.
Based on how you use your strength, the result can differ; the results branch off into an infinite number of outcomes.
And far from using magic or mana, the dragon demonstrated an intellect worse than a neighborhood mutt's, so there was no way that it would be my match.
Henceforth, what was progressing wasn't a battle, but a one-sided hunt.
I dodged its attacks and whenever there was a gap, I would stab it with my soul sword.
I didn't really need to put myself in danger to get in a damaging strike.
My sword strikes were enveloped in poison and flames, so whenever I hit the mark, the dragon would cry out and worsen its own injuries by thrashing about.
Ultimately, the dragon couldn't bear the exhaustion created by its uncontrolled movements, plus the poison and the flames, and collapsed to the ground.
For a short while, the dragon was gasping intermittently, but eventually stopped moving completely.
I had such high expectations as I progressed through the 27th floor.
When I had first saw the dragon, it had demonstrated strength beyond my imagination.
However, it couldn't properly wield that strength and died like… this.
It was such a hollow ending that it was sad.
* * * * * *
Only when the matter came to an end was I able to properly examine the dragon.
At the time, the situation had felt seriously dangerous; the dragon had so wildly dashed in, so I hadn't been able to properly examine it.
However, the dragon's condition was a little strange, to say the least.
"Ahbooboo. Do you know a bit about dragons?"
[It's Ahoubuch, Warrior. If it's truly difficult for you to remember, please just call me the holy sword. Since becoming a holy sword, I have encountered a dragon about twice before, but to see one in that state, it's a first. Even for me.]
So that's how it is, huh.
The dragon's appearance certainly looked strange.
Despite it being my first time inspecting a dragon, it was so strange that I could easily discern that peculiarity.
Its body was far longer than a few meters, decorated with red spots as well as discolored black spots; sometimes, there were sections where the skin would be flaking off, revealing bone.
Of course, there were several wounds caused by my attacks, but even if we exclude those, the dragon had already been on the verge of death.
As its flesh burned, a foul stench emanated from the smoke coming from its body.
I had become used to the foul smell of poisoned and burnt corpses.
However, the foul stench that came from the dragon wasn't like that.
Was it because of the curse that I had seen on the murals?
In any case, the dragon hadn't been in its normal condition.
This did fit the stage's high difficulty.
Since it looked like the main process of this stage was to win over a guide, and reach the lowest floor, there was definitely more to this.
Rather than a battle like this, sometimes the stage focused on a different aspect. I believed that the 27th floor was also one of those stages, so there wasn't anything strange with the difficulty.
It just seemed a little empty.
That overwhelming presence that I had felt when I first came inside this room…
I had definitely felt like I might die, and in each moment I had strived to make the best decisions.
However, the dragon was worse than I had expected.
I think I knew why the clear condition message clearly specified that it was an earthworm.
It was too low-level to be called a dragon.
"Maybe I should've given it an elixir and fought it after it'd recovered a bit."
[Warrior. I don't believe that an elixir would be able to solve the problem that even the dragon hadn't been able to solve.]
That's what I think too.
I'm just saying that because I’m disappointed.
In any case, I defeated the dragon that had already been half dead. The only thing left to clear was to acquire the treasure.
The clear conditions clearly stated to defeat the earth dragon and acquire the earth dragon's treasure.
Yeah... it'll probably take a quite a bit of time to find it.
As always, the magic in the dungeon was anarchic.
So long as I couldn't use my mana to search my surroundings, I would have to go around and search for it manually.
The clearing I'm in right now is considerably vast. No. It looked ridiculously huge, and I also saw dark crossroads; who knows how far those crossroads would continue on for.
Perhaps I'll have to search the entire floor, including the room with the exit.
I didn't even know what exactly the earthworm's ‘treasure’ was.
The lowest floor was boundless.
Around the 11th floor or so, I had received a mission where I had to find a hidden treasure in an underground city.
It felt like I would be trapped inside that underground city forever. Needless to say, I had wandered around in there for a long time.
Ultimately though, I broke down a wall and found a secret room in a fit of anger.
If I have to find a hidden treasure again like that time...
I pondered briefly before explaining the situation to Seregia and the holy sword.
And I asked the holy sword if he could find something similar to a treasure with his magic.
[It would be difficult. I can't really do anything about the mana obstruction magic in this room. Also, Warrior.]
[Are you sure that that treasure is in the lowest floor? Based on what you said, Warrior, you don't know where the treasure is, right?]
After the holy sword spoke, I was momentarily silent.
What if the its treasure was outside?
That was actually a little better.
That's because I can just interrogate anyone who might have the treasure. Interrogate roughly, that is.
For example, that old guide lady.
However, if it were somewhere in the middle floor, the upper-middle floor, or the upper floor…
How would I find it?
I had been so focused on the dragon that I had completely forgotten about the treasure.
* * * * * *
First, I decided to search the lowest floor meticulously.
If I look for it and can't find it at all, I can just use the Order of Vigilance to look for corresponding information on the lowest floor, so there was no reason to be overly anxious.
Since the beginning, the Order of Vigilance was involved in helping with the rankers' clears.
I have to use them at times like this.
I took out a magical stone lantern from my inventory and slowly looked around the lowest floor.
There were talon scratch marks here and there on what remained of the walls and the floor.
They were from the dragon's talons, of course.
"Anyhow, why did the dragon become like that? Based on the murals, I know that it was afflicted with some sort of curse or poison. But is it possible for a dragon to lapse into such an incurable idiotic monster?"
The murals had also depicted a time when the dragon had been wise, governing the humans under its command.
If that's the case, then it means it suddenly changed like that after the battle with that black being.
[Aren't stories of frenzied dragons fairly common?]
A frenzied dragon?
"No, that's the first time I've heard about it. Please explain it to me."
[It's not a special story. It's a story commonly passed down orally. A dragon that had lived for thousands of years went insane due to a certain reason. Each person has their own theory, but if there's a common denominator, it's that the dragon didn't stop rampaging until it died. Most stories speak of an ancient empire that couldn't stop the dragon's rampage and fell or they speak of an entire race being wiped out.]
After hearing Seregia's explanation, I interpreted it as something that could happen occasionally; however, a dragon going mad was still uncommon.
"A mad dragon, huh... Then are there any stories of people successfully defeating a frenzied dragon?"
[No. There aren't any. As it destroyed everything in its sight, it would exhaust itself, weaken, and die. It’s a common ending.]
Weaken and die?
Then while it's running amok, you're basically saying that you have no other choice besides running away.
"Is that so? Then is this guy too weak to be called a dragon?"
"Well, that's because at its level, I would've stopped it regardless."
Seregia and the holy sword both expressed their doubt.
I played along.
"I mean, it was becoming a bit stale. When I realized that that guy was dumb, I didn't really feel like he was much of a threat to me anymore. That's why it felt a little empty."
[... From start to finish, I thought that it was very dangerous. In the first place, a dragon that isn't frenzied isn't a being that mere humans can mess with.]
[Hoo. Hoo. As expected, you're truly the warrior that I, the holy sword Ahoubuch, chose. I love you, Warrior.]
The holy sword once again said something that gave me goosebumps.
I ignored him and asked a question.
"Holy sword. Do you have any guesses as to why the dragon turned out like that?"
[There are a few causes that could make a dragon go crazy, but in this case, it's probably a curse. Considering how the dragon couldn't treat it, there are two possibilities.]
The holy sword started its explanation.
Unlike usual, Seregia and I quietly listened to the holy sword's explanation.
[First, there's a chance that it was the type of curse that was impossible to purge. I've heard about it before, but if it's the type of curse that parasitizes the host's mana, then the dragon's immense mana could have been used to poison it. If not, then it could be the type of curse that suppresses one's mana. In this case, other people need to treat you, but not just anyone can treat that kind of curse.]
Surprisingly, the holy sword had a broad knowledge of curses.
And come to think of it, I hadn't thought about learning magic from the holy sword.
I do need offensive spells, but after I possess the knowledge regarding seals and curses, my highest priority will be having a defense against them.
I'll try to learn it when I have the time.
[The other case is that it was a curse that the dragon itself couldn't treat.]
"Is that possible? Aren't dragons normally at the pinnacle of magic?"
Of course, it wasn't exactly information that I had personally witnessed.
It's normally like that.
[There are the gods.]
Ah. That's right.
I had forgotten about the gods.
[If the dragon's enemy drawn on the murals was an evil god, it's entirely possible.]
It was an interesting story.
The gods that were watching the Tutorial.
They were the gods that were watching me, even at this very moment.
If such gods existed, they would clearly make their presence known to the world.
In the 16th floor and 26th floor, there were people who had talked about the gods.
And I had also heard about the consequences of the gods’ intervention in those worlds.
The stories that the knight on the 16th floor had told me and the holy sword that the God of the Sky had gifted mankind on the 26th floor fit in perfectly.
If that's the case, there's a possibility that that dragon had attacked a god as well.
Since it was a matter that couldn't be found on Earth, I hadn't thought about the possibility of a god being the attacker.
And inside this Tutorial, the gods' range of activity was significantly limited.
All they could do was use messages to relay their feelings and intent to the challengers, and exhibit their power.
To me, the gods’ existence still seemed like a mirage in a far-off place; it felt as though they were unknown beings that I could never reach in my lifetime.
That’s something I need to change.
I have a goal.
As soon as I've achieved my goal, and if the gods deny it…
Then I'll have to try to convince them, or bend down to their will.
As absurd as I felt thinking about it, it was also a task that was just as hard.
However, it's a task I've promised myself to do, as well as something I had to do for my own sake.
Thus, in order to fulfill my goal, I can't just remain as an infinitesimally small existence before the gods.
[The God of Slowness is pleased.]
[The God of Adventure is rooting for you.]
[The God of Dueling is staying silent.]
[The God of Death is rubbing his eyelids.]
[The God of the Sky is feeling uncomfortable.]
[The God of Devotion feels sorry for you.]
[The God of Nature thinks you're foolish.]
The messages before my eyes passed by quickly.
Aside from the gods that I see often, there were even some gods that I had only seen a few times.
The total sum of those messages was 100.
[All the Gods of the Temple of a Hundred Gods are watching you.]
I won't be able to think to myself, jeez.
Most of the gods had negative reactions.
Those that expressed a positive reaction were only a small minority.
The God of Chaos for example, or the God of Amusement sent reactions. They were, for the most part, gods who enjoyed ridiculous situations.
Then there’s the God of Adventure and the God of Slowness.
Are these guys ok?
If you look at it a certain way, I had essentially promised to fight against the gods' will, yet they were cheering me on.
[The God of Adventure is clenching his fists.]
[The God of Slowness is embarrassed about someone.]
Subsequently, I couldn't help but giggle.
That old man sure doesn't change.
He really doesn't change.
* * * * * *
After about four hours had passed since I started searching the lowest floor, Seregia asked.
[I'm sorry, but Warrior. Could you please give more details on the explanation you were presented with? We're lacking too many clues. There won't be an end if we keep searching like this.]
After she asked, I revealed all the information that had been presented to me.
[Ultimately, we don't have any information regarding the dragon's treasure.]
"Yeah. That was all the guidance it gave me to find it."
[If there are so few clues, let's inversely use the lack of information as a clue.]
[One of the two conditions: if you defeat the dragon, you should be able to naturally find the dragon's treasure. If that's true, then the treasure should be close to the dragon's body. For example, it could be the dragon's corpse itself. Above all, it's a dragon's corpse.]
[A dragon heart! Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. I, the holy sword Ahoubuch, who received the blessing of a god, have figured out the answer. A dragon's most valuable treasure is a dragon's heart! It's a dragon heart. This earth-shattering reasoning! Wow... though I'm a holy sword, I'm so extraordinary, aren't I?]
"No. You just said out loud what Seregia had already figured out."
[No that's not it, Warrior. I figured it out first. I was just late because I sorted my thoughts first and then spoke. Really. Please trust me. If you deduct the time I took confirming my hypothesis, I had figured it out more than an hour ago. Miss Seregia? You also think that way, don't you, Miss Seregia?]
[First, please check if the treasure truly is the dragon heart. Warrior.]
Seregia sharply ignored the holy sword's remark.
Just like she said, I returned to the area with the dragon's corpse.
I approached the dragon’s belly as it lay unmoving on its side...
When I got closer, the corpse’s foul stench began to hit my nose...
I thought I had seen it all, yet even I felt as though I was going to vomit a little.
I felt nauseous.
My nose was congested with the foul stench.
When you think about my skills corresponding to my senses like Paralysis Resistance and Poison Resistance, it's really unbelievable.
The source of this foul smell is probably the curse that the dragon was afflicted with.
Rather than a simple foul odor, there's a high chance that the corpse is still afflicted with magic.
Whatever the case, at least in this instance, I was thankful that my sense of smell was impaired.
It was good to know that my sense of smell had been moderately paralyzed.
In the meantime, I drew the soul sword to gut it.
[The great holy sword, Sir Ahbooboo said that he wanted to cut through the dragon and gain the title of Dragon Slayer. Although the dragon's already dead, you should at least give him the opportunity now.]
In conclusion, use the holy sword instead of her to butcher the dragon.
I thought about it briefly, sheathed the soul sword, and drew the holy sword instead.
[Warrior! Please just wait a moment. Just a moment.]
The holy sword frantically tried to stop me, but I ignored him and stabbed the dragon's chest.
I ignored the holy sword's screams and continued butchering it.
The gutting took longer than I thought it would.
I had actually vomited twice and the holy sword whined over and over again. By the time that the holy sword started to beg, I was able to take out the heart from the dragon's chest.