Chapter 146 - Sea Dragon Aquilo (2)
"Look, I'm right," Randolph spoke grumpily while wearing a mithril alloy breastplate, gauntlets, and leggings, and carrying his falchions. He was fully armed as they were facing an opponent who the death knight couldn't even compare to.
"First a warlock and now a dragon... When I'm with Young Master, I can meet all types of existences."
"You don't have to apologize. As I said before, this is my choice, and I've always wanted to see a dragon at least once."
Randolph grinned and shook his head at Theodore's apology. For a warrior, facing death always raised a master's level. A person who turned away from it wasn't qualified to be a master.
Three days had passed, and it was time to visit Aquilo. The duo desperately prepared countermeasures. They armed themselves with the highest level of equipment on the island, as well as magic scrolls and consumables.
However, Theodore's brilliant mind was well aware of the odds.
'Even if we fight 10 times, it would be lucky if we won once.'
Despite everything the two people had done, their odds of victory didn't exceed 1%. Gluttony had given him information about 'Dragon Words' and prepared a secret destruction word, but there was no guarantee it would work properly.
If possible, it was best not to fight. Theodore realized this again and gulped.
"Well, don't be too nervous." At that moment, Randolph knocked on his shoulder and said, "Isn't a dragon famous for its fickleness? There is no point worrying about things with no answers. So, just think about it after we meet her."
"...Surprisingly, you can sometimes say good words."
"What are you saying?!" Randolph, who had given him good advice, raised his voice.
On the other hand, Theodore suppressed his anxieties. The vicious being had an 'unpredictable' nature, so it was impossible to guess her actions. He had been preparing for the last three days, and now, he would have to face her head on.
Theodore opened his mouth with a faint smile. "Then let's try it once."
Randolph laughed at his aggressive words. "Okay, let's go!"
With more intense speculation and determination than ever, the two men left the inn.
* * *
The Sea God Festival.
It was a festival held once a year on the Pirate Archipelago. Even the rulers who separated the islands into four zones didn't dare set a schedule, and Theodore quickly guessed the reason.
'It is probably on Aquilo's whim.'
The four rulers were all a smokescreen. The true owner of the Pirate Archipelago was Sea Dragon Aquilo, and the four rulers were peasants who managed the islands according to her commands. It was just his guess, but this Sea God Festival might've been decided three days ago. Shortly after talking to Theodore, she had prepared a place to lure him in.
He was convinced after seeing this bustling scene.
"Hey! You bastard, where are you looking?"
"Don't make such a fuss when I am looking straight ahead!"
"What? Do you want to fight here?"
In the narrow marina, people were arguing, and there were sometimes fist fights.
Unlike the other islands, the center of the Pirate Archipelago where the Sea God festival would take place wasn't connected by bridges. So, people had to move to the center island by boat. It was natural that there weren't enough boats compared to those who wanted to participate in the festival.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, Theodore and Randolph didn't need to take part in the struggle for boats.
"I've been waiting for you, Theodore."
"I've been waiting for you, Randolph."
While people were struggling over boats, two people emerged from amongst them and approached Theodore and Randolph.
The hull was decorated with gold, and the flag depicted a dragon on a black background, the symbol of the Pirate Archipelago. It was a privilege which couldn't be enjoyed by normal executives or people from the outside.
'Don't ride it... I can't choose that option.'
Theodore raised his eyebrows before climbing onto the boat. He didn't want to stay in a place where he had attracted attention, but he realized three days ago that it wasn't good to oppose Aquilo. Randolph climbed onto the other one, and the boats started moving with the current. As soon as the boatmen moved their oars, the gold boat moved through the water.
Their hands were very skillful. The boatmen moved the oars with several times more skill than those in the other boats around them.
'No, to be accurate, it isn't normal.'
However, Theodore could see that his boatman's eyes were shining blue, meaning he was controlled by Aquilo's 'Dragon Fear.' In addition to that, they had the divine blessing, so it was natural that they excelled. Additionally, the casual use of Theodore's and Randolph's real names was proof that they were under Aquilo's control.
After a while, hundreds of boats gradually gathered at the central island. When the party's boat arrived, Theodore and Randolph gulped as they saw the altar of sacrifice to the sea god.
It wasn't an exaggeration to say there was a mountain of gold piled up in front of the altar. There were gold coins, jewels, trinkets, weapons, and even food that could be eaten year round stacked up like dry leaves.
As the two people were impressed, the boatmen spoke at the same time.
""The Sea God Festival refers to the day once every year, when half the goods in the Pirate Archipelago are offered to the sea god. The greater the offerings, the better the blessing.""
"...Once a year."
Unlike the confused Randolph, Theodore reexamined the explanation and asked, "Then how many years has the Sea God Festival been held?"
""Including this year, 52 times.""
Disbelieving expressions appeared on their faces. If this had happened for 52 years, how much gold and treasures were piled up in Aquilo's lair?
There was a reason why a dragon slayer quickly made a fortune. Some dragons liked to receive tributes like Aquilo, while others would plunder them. Most dragons enjoyed their lairs being decorated with rare pieces.
One million gold? 10 million gold? Maybe there was 100 million gold inside the lair. Theodore couldn't help feeling breathless, despite having no greed for riches. The rumour that a kingdom used up most of their assets to hunt a dragon wasn't so farfetched after all.
'Human greed has no end, and they always repeat the same mistakes.'
Theodore sighed as he saw the greed in the eyes of the spectators. Maybe this was Aquilo's intention. For a dragon who loved blood and destroying things, this was enough to induce a punishment.
In front of that lavish landscape, the authentic Sea God Festival started. Nearly naked dancers shook their bodies in front of the gold, silver, and treasures, while the spectators cheered them on. The combination of gold, alcohol, and naked beauty was enough to seduce any male eye.
Only Theodore looked around with an unconcerned look.
Shortly afterwards, he heard the voice he'd been waiting for.
[Ah, I'm bored. It has been decades since I started this, so I'm becoming bored.] The voice whispered directly into Theo's mind. It was a sweet poison which melted his senses like when he first heard it.
[Can you relieve my boredom?]
Simultaneously, Theodore's boat started to slowly change directions. Only the current flowing around Theodore's ship moved in the other direction. Maybe it was because the flow was so calm, but Randolph still hadn't realized that Theodore was moving away.
No magic power could be felt, so it must be the inherent power of a dragon who controlled natural phenomenon. Theo didn't resist as he asked, "Didn't you ask me to come with my companion?"
[It doesn't matter if you want to come together, but I might feel a little worse.]
"...I will go alone."
It was what he'd expected in the first place. So, Theodore accepted it without any complaints. His policy was to avoid a fight if possible, and he didn't want to drag Randolph into this. Anyway, there was nothing to lose in trying. It was right to try conversing first, until Aquilo showed that she wanted to become enemies.
Before long, Theodore's boat was pulled through a crack in the cliff. The water depth became shallower, and eventually he reached the shore where the boat couldn't move anymore. The boatman put down the oars and pointed inside the cave. "Enter."
Theodore stepped onto the land instead of responding to the boatman.
'Um, this scent?'
A curious scent coming from the cave tickled his nose, but it wasn't toxic. Theodore calmly walked inside while clearing the scent with magic. Stalactites grew everywhere, making it seem like a natural terrain. However, the torches stuck on the wall at regular intervals were unnatural.
'I'm getting closer. In the next 10 steps...'
He reached the epicenter of the scent. The moment that Theodore thought so and took a step forward...
His feet touched the ground, and his five senses started screaming. It was an inevitable death. There were no gaps to escape. He didn't know what attack was coming, but Theodore Miller would die here.
Even with his nerves accelerated to the extreme, the attack was too powerful and fast to be seen. Additionally, it was small. The attack was smaller than a coin and similar to a grain seed. It was like Alfred's Magic Bullet, but it wasn't a magic projectile.
However, the attack reached before its identity could be discovered.
It punched straight through Theodore and continued in a straight line into the wall. The attack was so strong that it only stopped after penetrating half a stone wall that was tens of meters thick. It wasn't a power which could be defeated by 6th Circle defense magic.
However, Theodore survived that blow.
'A water droplet shot at ultra-high pressure...?'
Theodore's neck was sweating as he barely escaped the crisis. Then he saw Umbra shining on his right arm and realized how he'd survived. If Fluidization had been delayed even a little bit, the attack would've gone through his skull, leaving only a dead body behind.
He might've been able to do something if the water bullet was made with aura or magic power, but the pure physical damage would've dealt a blow that he couldn't endure. In some ways, this could be called superiority.
...Hah, the one with the complete advantage was waiting. Theodore scoffed at his own judgment and glared into the dark room beyond. This was the epicenter of the strange fragrance, which also contained the one who shot the water droplet at him.
"Ara, you survived?" The terrible voice filled Theodore's ears. Theo barely managed to ignore the instinct which was telling him to bow his head and lick this woman's feet.
"...Can I ask for the meaning of that attack?" Theodore's blue eyes shone as he prepared to rip his teleport scroll.
However, Aquilo replied to Theodore's question in a voice of deep boredom, with absolutely no hostility felt at all. "It isn't a big deal. I am fickle in many ways, so I decided to act like this."
"Like this? A surprise attack?"
"No. I wanted to attack once to see if you would survive or die. You did very well avoiding it. I honestly never thought you could avoid it, so you're more interesting than I thought." Aquilo flicked her fingers as she gave the terrible reply.
Then the beads attached to the room lit up, making the dim cave brighter. Naturally, Aquilo's appearance in the darkness also became clearer.
"Uh!" Simultaneously, Theodore's body stiffened.
With hair as blue as seawater, fluorescent eyes which glowed with a bewitching light, two horns which sprouted from between the blue hair, and gorgeous white shoulders which were exposed by the luxurious cloak... Any man would be forced to feel lust, including Theodore.
He had met a few beautiful women before, but none of them were those who oozed 'femininity' in order to seduce men. Aquilo was stunning, even with her chest to lower body covered by the long cloak. Even the extravagant gold accessories, which could seem tacky, were nothing but subtle decorations for her.
As she held a strange looking pipe in her mouth, Aquilo faced Theodore with gently curved eyes.
"-Now, let's start the story."