Chapter 203 - Sand Dragon Desertio (3)
Fortunately, a bloody battle didn't start between Veronica and Aquilo. It was thanks to Theodore. They didn't stop exchanging barbs through words, but that was enough. Both were transcendent beings capable of destroying an army, so Theodore hoped that the tension between the two would end with just arguing. He couldn't think about laughing at all.
The problem was that he was at the center of the tug of war. In that sense, Aquilo was really cunning. Unlike her attitude, she knew she was at a disadvantage in the desert and had no intention of fighting. After all, she wasn't a beast made of pure violence but an intelligent being.
"By the way, hasn't it been a while? Boy." As such, Aquilo ignored Veronica and grabbed Theodore's right arm out of the blue. Her thin, slender arms wrapped tightly around him. "Even if you couldn't call me properly, couldn't you at least say hello? Isn't that too much?"
"You are lacking sincerity. Don't you know it is showing on your face?"
It was as she said. This was the first time he had experienced something like this. Theodore had spent his youth reading books, and his past experience with women could be counted on one hand. He couldn't think logically because of the texture pressing against his right arm. His body and mind were simultaneously confused, so he didn't know how to answer and remained silent.
Aquilo smiled like she knew that. 'Kuk, what a cute response.'
She had experienced it in the cave, but men like Theodore shouldn't be openly seduced. Rather, she had to gradually narrow the distance until his vigilance broke down. Aquilo remembered the pleasure of putting her teeth into ripe fruit for the first time and couldn't help licking her upper lip.
'It looks like there are a few competitors but...'
One of them was a silver-haired girl staring at her from behind Theodore. For a human, she didn't have a bad appearance. It was the same for the woman mixed with the savage blood of the red clan. There was also the high elf she hadn't met yet.
Aquilo had never failed in her seductions, so it was the first time she had rivals. However, this difficulty was what Aquilo wanted. She would beat all her competitors and completely take away his mind and body-
"...Hah..." A sweet sigh was let out.
Theodore flushed red due to his close proximity to her, but Aquilo was so excited that she didn't even realize it. Like most cool-blooded animals, a flush appeared on her pale face when she became excited.
Then as Theodore was about to lose his breath...
"Hey." Veronica finally reached the limit of her patience and grabbed Aquilo's shoulder. "Fish, don't stick to the kid."
An unpleasant sound was heard from her hand. Veronica's grip was enough to break a large rock. It was at a level that not even Aquilo could resist. Theodore was afraid there would be a fight...
However, Aquilo just dropped his arm coolly and said, "It is truly savage. Do you have the blood of an ogre inside you?"
"What are you saying?!"
"Well, I can feel relieved now. You can never beat me."
Veronica frowned at the unknown meaning of Aquilo's words. She didn't know why, but Aquilo seemed one step ahead in this quarrel. From then on, neither of them spoke. Aquilo gave a strange smirk, and Veronica seemed deeply troubled.
'... The previous growls were scary, but I don't like this silence.' Theodore sighed as he felt the weight of the silence on his shoulders.
One person was a dragon, the strongest species in the material world, and the other was a magician who hunted dragons. This unnatural silence lasted until they met again with Desertio.
* * *
"It has been a while, Old Man," Aquilo said after entering the situation control room.
It was a nickname which didn't suit an ancient dragon like Desertio, who had lived for almost a million years. However, Desertio didn't become angry as he replied in a rather shaky voice, [This voice, is it Aquilo?]
"Of course, it is. I knew this would happen, but I didn't expect to be the one in charge."
[Haha, me as well. I didn't know that a tomboy would be my end... You didn't return for more than a thousand years, so I thought you had already forgotten about this old man.]
Then Aquilo replied cheekily, "Who is the one that lives in the desert? Even now, it is hard to breathe in this place. If you weren't dying, I wouldn't have come to you."
[Y-Yes. Thank you...]
Like a grandfather listening to his cute granddaughter, Desertio didn't refute Aquilo's ridiculous words. The majesty of the dragon, who treated a sword master as an ant, was indeed a mess.
Was he weak toward Aquilo or was it because they were the same species? The words between the two dragons were no different from the conversation between an ordinary father and daughter.
Then Aquilo asked, "But don't you still have a few hundred years left? There is still some life force left."
[Umm, there is perhaps 300 years left. But it is hard to imagine that this opportunity could come again. It will be difficult for you to be present when the time comes.]
"It makes sense, but..."
To humans, death was absolute oblivion and fear. However, it was a natural ending for dragons. Born from nature, they would go back to nature.
Their powerful teeth and claws, solid leather, and scales... All the blessings they received when they were born would be returned to the material world. Sand dragons became grains of sand, sea dragons became water, and fire dragons became lava. They were part of the world and would be reborn in a slightly different form.
The many years that Desertio had experienced were enough for him to understand this. Aquilo was still young, so she didn't understand it yet.
[Don't feel too much regret. I am satisfied with my life.]
He had lived for a long time. He had watched, fought, negotiated and killed many humans, elves, dwarves, and dragons. It would be a lie to say he felt no hesitation, but he had decided to end his life. This was the right time to do so while respecting the leader's wishes.
Aquilo shook her head and muttered in a small voice, "Who feels regret, Old Man."
[Hehehe, you feel regretful. You can't put up a false pretense in front of this old man.]
"... Annoying." The sly mask of a dragon was there, but she seemed more like a girl who wasn't being honest. Desertio laughed at her and shifted his gaze. He looked at the human who had been chosen by this volatile child, the man who had brought him this joyful relationship today.
[Young magician, you are this body's benefactor. What is your name?]
Theodore was surprised by the sudden question, "Theodore Miller."
[Yes, Theodore Miller. You are the benefactor who will bring a satisfying end to this body. As I said before, I would like to thank you and will give you a corresponding reward,] Desertio said. Then he continued talking, [I don't have anything other than this body. Since a thousand years ago, my power has been out of control, and all the treasures I had gathered all turned to sand. If you are expecting treasures or gold, I have to apologize for not being able to meet those expectations.]
Theodore had already guessed this much. Treasures from the Age of Mythology had long turned into grains of sand from the power of weathering. In addition to that, Gluttony had said that sand dragons didn't have much interest in goods. It was the opposite of water dragons who enjoyed stacking up treasures like mountains.
However, a dragon wouldn't lie about giving a reward due to his high pride. After all, Desertio hadn't said that he would repay Theodore in gold.
Then Desertio called out to Paragranum, [Ruins manager, are you listening?]
"... Yes, I'm listening."
[Quickly open the entrance for a moment.]
Paragranum was troubled for a moment. However, the opponent was a dragon who could destroy the outer walls, so she unlocked the entrance. Although it couldn't be seen from the control room, Desertio had a clear view of the entrance.
Then after a short silence, the sand dragon spoke again, [...Now, it is inside. You can close the door again and take it.]
As everything in the laboratory was under Paragranum's control, she moved the item to the situation control room without much difficulty. Then her eyes widened, and she uttered, "T-This...?"
The item resembled a topaz jewel. It had a mysterious golden orange color which was difficult to express. Its size was even more amazing. The gem was larger than the head of an adult male. This caused everyone to be shocked. Even Veronica and Sylvia, who had little interest in jewellery, stared blankly at the fascinating surface.
However, their surprise was enhanced by Paragranum's words, "... Dragon Heart!"
"This gem is a dragon's heart?"
The group cried out in astonishment, while Aquilo nodded with a bitter expression. She had already guessed it would be this, but it was hard for her to describe her feelings at seeing a Dragon Heart this way.
"Yes, that is a heart."
Could any creature in the world survive without a heart?
Theodore looked out carefully.
Desertio had expected this reaction and calmly explained, [Don't worry about it. This body is already closer to a spirit than a creature, so the concept of organs is rare for me. Anyway, I am going to die, so my heart will be taken out eventually.]
It was an unexpected gift. Even a dragon didn't have an eternal body. Their hard bones and skin would become thinner as they aged. Their thick muscles would shrivel up, and even their claws would lose their sharpness.
The only exception to that was the heart, which overflowed with mana. The strength of a Dragon Heart increased in proportion to age. As Desertio was a dragon who had lived a long time, the inherent power in his heart would be indefinite.
Theodore regained his composure and stretched out his hand.
Now it was a habit to touch an item with his left hand.
[+?? Desertios's Heart]
[-The heart of Desertio, a dragon who has lived for almost a million years. The power of weathering is preserved. If sacrificed, it is possible to call a god or demon. It can also function as a permanent increase in strength. If you absorb it, you can obtain the power of weathering. However, the user's vessel won't be able to endure it and will break.
* The rating of this heart is 'Mythology.'
* When consumed, the present user will die.
* When consumed, 'Power of Weathering' will be learned. The present user won't be able to control the power and will self-destruct.
* When consumed, a large amount of magic power will be absorbed. The present user won't be able to suppress the magic and will self-destruct.
* When consumed, the amount of dragon blood will become thicker. The present user won't be able to survive the change and will self-destruct.]
Theodore's face stiffened. This was a mythological item! It was an object which surpassed Laevateinn and the complete Azoth Sword. Additionally, the explanation was even more fearsome. If he consumed it, he would be overwhelmed by the abilities and self-destruct.
Theodore was quite accustomed to the system, so he could determine it.
'...Based on these comments, I probably won't be able to absorb it even if I reach the 8th Circle. It is a truly ridiculous thing.'
If he were at the 8th Circle, it was possible to consume 'Death's Worship', which lay forgotten in his inventory. However, this Dragon Heart was at the 9th circle. The heart of a dragon was given to a human...
'Let's put it in my inventory.'
Theodore pretended to put the Dragon Heart in his dimensional pocket, but he actually held it in his left hand and Gluttony swallowed Dragon Heart. He had a feeling that he could use it eventually.
It was literally an unexpected windfall. Theodore looked down at his left hand with a stunned face, then Desertio laughed with satisfaction.
[It seems like you like my reward. Yes, my heart is worth it. I hope this heart will be a great help to you, as you have been for me.]
"... I don't deserve this gift, Desertio."
[Huhu, don't say that. Keep this in mind while taking care of Aquilo.]
"Yes?" Theodore was surprised by the words and turned to look at Aquilo.
Aquilo stared at him and said, "Boy, is there something you want to ask of me?"
"Ah, Desertio's end..."
"No, that is his favor. You haven't asked me for anything. You just called me."
Her words weren't wrong. Aquilo had freely agreed after listening to the situation, and Theodore hadn't requested anything from her. Since she had accepted because of her relationship with Desertio, this meant Theodore still had the right to ask for something from her. As a blue dragon, Aquilo disliked this type of vague ending.
Theodore was troubled for a moment as he thought about the unintentional bonus.
'What should I ask from Aquilo...?'
He could postpone it until later, but it wasn't common to have a chance to properly prepare summoning magic like today. Theodore had been fortunate that Paracelsus' laboratory was filled with luxurious materials. He couldn't guarantee that there would be another chance to call an adult dragon.
At that moment, someone entered Theodore's field of view.
"Ah." The twisted puzzle in his head was now completed. Theodore's eyes shone brightly, then he turned toward Aquilo.
Theodore arranged his mind and opened his mouth, "My request..."