Chapter 148 - Along with the Dragon (1)
Aquilo and Theodore took the boat back to the altar, where the festival was in full swing.
The belly dancers captivated the audience with their aggressive dance, while there was smoke blowing everywhere, from the opium being lit in light concentrations. It would be difficult to maintain reason in a place like this.
However, the ugliness of the area couldn't be hidden.
'Even so... there is no chaos.'
Theodore eyebrows twitched as he looked around and clicked his tongue lightly. It was as he said. The prostitutes were already brought onto the surrounding boats, and drunkards were sleeping while tangled together.
On the other hand, Aquilo watched the humans with a satisfied expression. However, her eyebrows raised when she found a ship approaching them. What idiot dared to block her way? Aquilo raised a sharp nail at the end of a white finger and waited for the right moment to slice the person.
However, the man who jumped onto their boat stood beside Theodore. He held two swords, and the aura flowing from the blades seemed like they could cut through the darkness. Randolph sighed with relief when he saw Theodore, who had disappeared from his eyes for a while. His warrior's instincts had predicted death.
"Aha, is he your companion, Boy?"
Aquilo recognized Randolph's identity and put her nails away. The red lips on her white face seemed like cherry blossoms in bloom. Randolph lost his spirit for a moment at the smile, but his trained mentality meant that he quickly recovered. She might superficially appear as a beautiful woman, but...
'Dammit, I'm not a match for her.'
Randolph felt himself quickly getting drenched in sweat. Unlike magicians who pursued ideas, a warrior's ability to determine strength was unmatched. His senses, which had been trained for many decades, were screaming that no matter what, he shouldn't fight her.
"...Damn, I want to hit you."
However, Randolph didn't put his swords away. Rather, his two eyes stared straight at Aquilo. The surprising thing was Aquilo's reaction. She ignored Randolph, who had been prepared for battle, and manipulated the ocean currents to guide their boat to the center of the festival.
Then she climbed onto dry land and licked her lips.
Simultaneously, everything became static. The hundreds, maybe thousands, of people stopped moving.
This was 'Dragon Fear,' the ability of a transcendent species which allowed them to dominate those below them. It didn't mean much to Theodore and Randolph, but the merchants and pirates couldn't resist.
However, shortly after that...
Theodore perceived its presence before anyone else. Gluttony warned him, but this was the second time today that his senses let out a howl of warning. The size of the warning was equal to or greater than that of Aquilo's surprise attack. The biggest problem was that this presence was somehow familiar.
'No, I distinctly remember this presence... Can it be...?'
Theodore stiffened while trying to figure out the identity of the intruder. If his guess was correct... it was possible the uninvited guest had come for Aquilo, not him. There was nothing to base his speculation on, but it might be considered reality when thinking about the ominous warning.
Like right now...
The ground formed a pit as something landed from the sky, and six fluttering wings caused dust to rise up. In front of the expressionless Aquilo, Pride of the Seven Sins revealed its heinous appearance.
-I found you.
When Theodore saw it, he became nervous.
'Dangerous. Even more than last time...'
Gluttony heard his thoughts and agreed.
-5th stage. This time, don't even try to fight it.
-That's right. I don't know what Pride ate, but it has already unlocked the 5th seal. That swine.
A Seven Sins grimoire with the 5th seal released...! When Pride had been at the 4th stage, Theodore had been helpless until Veronica arrived. Now, it was even stronger? Theodore gulped and carefully looked at the confrontation between two monsters.
'How much stronger is it?'
Gluttony hesitated for a moment before replying.
-Now, even if that woman called Veronica comes, the odds are fifty-fifty. No, it is probably around 40%.
'This is just stage 5?!'
Theodore barely managed to maintain his expressionless face as he screamed inwardly. The last time, Theodore had to use Transmission to borrow Alfred's power. Now, Pride had released one more seal and could fight Veronica equally? If Theodore was currently five times stronger than that time, then Pride was 10 times stronger.
As another piece of the Seven Sins, Gluttony replied like it was natural.
-Of course. For the Seven Sins, releasing the seals is the process of returning to our 'original state'... If you reach stage 6 according to Pride's standards, you can slaughter an ancient dragon by yourself.
"...Crazy." Theo couldn't hide the astonished cry which emerged from his mouth. The ancient dragon was already mostly gone from the material world, but a 6th stage grimoire could defeat it. If so, what was the 7th stage, and what would Pride be like at that point? He couldn't imagine such a horrible future.
However, Theodore wasn't given any more leeway.
-We meet again, Gluttony's monkey.
Superbia's head didn't need to turn around as an eyeball appeared on the back and stared at Theodore. Perhaps it had known he was there from the beginning. It glanced at Theodore and wriggled its blade-like projections, as if it wanted to kill him right here.
However, the response came from a different direction.
"What, do you know this thing?" Aquilo smoked her pipe and spoke while pointing at Superbia. She seemed mild-mannered and friendly, but there was a sharp look in her eyes. Aquilo was certain that Superbia wasn't an easy opponent.
Theodore kept up his vigilance and nodded slightly. "I do. It is an unfortunate relationship."
"Hrmm, then this guy is chasing you as well?"
The answer came from elsewhere.
-No, I have no interest in a monkey. [Pride,] Superbia, spoke while gazing at Aquilo with hungry eyes. Of course, only Aquilo and Theodore could hear its low frequency voice, but Randolph felt an unpleasant sensation every time it spoke.
-Young sea dragon, I will ask you something. [Pride] Superbia's super low voice rang out. -My purpose is completion. Are you willing to join this noble purpose and be reborn as the perfect creature?
Aquilo's answer was clear. "Many dogs are noisy these days."
It was instant. Aquilo spoke in a way which didn't suit her beautiful lips and stepped forward. Veronica, a quarter dragon, was able to display the body of an aura user. Then how strong was a pure-blooded dragon? The question which Theodore couldn't answer was resolved in front of him.
The origin of the blow was the tail. As soon as Aquilo twisted her body, the fast-waving tail became the strongest whip on the planet. However, Superbia, who was hit by the blow, wasn't normal either. As half of its body burst, it used the repulsion to push its body back into the strong currents.
-Kuhu, huhuhu...! Refusal, I see!
As Superbia laughed at her, Aquilo was astounded.
"You want to go a round with me?"
Superbia wanted to face the sea dragon in the sea? Even the gold clan, the so-called strongest dragon clan, avoided fighting Aquilo at sea. Aquilo didn't hesitate to jump into the sea currents after Superbia. It wasn't the shadow of a woman but the long shadow of a huge snake moving through the waves.
Randolph held his double swords and looked at Theodore.
"I don't know really know what is going on, but... Young Master, what are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure."
Theodore looked at the shadows of the two monsters who had disappeared into the sea, and inquired inwardly, 'Gluttony, can Aquilo defeat Pride?'
-It is impossible, Gluttony replied immediately, without any hesitation. -The dragon's power would be sufficient if Pride was still stage 4, but after reaching stage 5, the odds are 0%. There is no means for a sea dragon to kill it.
'Even if the sea dragon is fighting in the sea?'
-Pride's combat power doesn't depend on environment. You should remember since you fought it once.
Certainly. Theodore couldn't deny it and stopped speaking. Pride's ability meant it could instantly create a shell which reflected Magic Bullet and could endure 5th Circle fire magic. There were many creatures which were strong in the sea, and Superbia's immortality wasn't something that a sea dragon could beat.
In the end, Theodore was forced to make a difficult decision. "I'm going."
"Are you serious?" Randolph was stiff, unlike his usual self. "I don't know what it is, but this isn't something we can afford to get involved in. It is like shrimps interfering in a fight between whales."
"Well, I can't deny it." Theodore shrugged. "But I have an unfortunate relationship with that creature. If that dragon is defeated, the creature will surely come to kill me. It is better to fight with the dragon to beat it."
"However... no, even if you win... can you trust in the wicked dragon?"
"A wicked dragon is still a dragon. Perhaps it will pay back the favour."
He had already made a decision. Theodore's face was showing that. The one struggling now was Randolph. Randolph followed Theodore with the desire to become a complete master, but he had never imagined contending with a dragon or monster.
How could Randolph fight an opponent that he couldn't win against? Did he have to risk his life just because Theodore helped him find the heirloom swords?
As he hesitated, Theodore spoke to him, "Captain Randolph, thank you for everything in the meantime."
"All old debts have been repaid, so you can leave me here. It is enough."
After giving his farewell message, Theodore ran in the direction of Aquilo. He ran by using the boats as stepping bridges. Using acceleration magic and physical strengthening magic, Theo soon disappeared from Randolph's sight.
Randolph simply stared dumbly in that direction. "......"
After Aquilo disappeared, the influence of 'Dragon Fear' gradually lifted and people started making noise again around the confused Randolph.
Randolph had received consideration from someone younger than him. Whether Theodore realized Randolph's hesitation or not, his intentions were good.
"...Damn, dammit. This sucks!" Randolph scratched his head in a rough manner as he shouted loudly, surprising the people around him. His wounded pride, disappointment in himself, worry for Theodore, and fear toward the dragon and unknown monster mixed together.
Then Randolph grabbed his two falchions and ran over the boats like Theodore had done.
'Ah! This bastard!' Complaints came from behind him, but he didn't hear them. Randolph ran toward the battlefield of monsters.
"Damn! It sure came without warning!"
The clear sky was now filled with dark clouds, and strong gusts of winds blew over the previous silent sea. Today's fighting promised not to end peacefully, as one swordsman entered the storm of his own volition.