Speeches are Silver, Silence is Gold
As the dragon still held itself slightly from a full collapse with its forepaw, Shirley naturally kept a strong grip on the sword in her hand.
For the upper strata of dragons, the ability to self-regenerate isn’t uncommon. Was it a feature of their giant bodies? Was it their desire to battle on? Or, for this ancient dragon, was it simply a matter of pride? Regardless, they couldn’t be compared to the dragons of the lower ranks.
Therefore, even if dealt a blow that would be fatal to a war dragon two ranks below it, it wouldn’t be unusual for an ancient dragon to be able to regenerate such an injury.
However, this self-regeneration is not just an ancient dragon’s natural trait, but something that is activated via magic. If one is killed instantly, such magic becomes meaningless.
The blow that Shirley dealt to the dragon’s neck just before should have been a killing blow. She didn’t just cut the blood vessels in its neck, she also tore through the back of its spine with the sword’s shockwave.
Cutting both the spinal cords and the blood vessels in the neck was as good as severing its head. Even if her opponent is an ancient dragon, so long as it was mortal it should have died without having the chance to use its self-regeneration.
“This is… I’ve come across a rare one.”
However, the grievous wound she had inflicted on the dragon’s neck had begun to heal at a rate that far surpassed that self-regeneration magic.
It’s a familiar sight to Shirley, who immediately understands the reason behind it.
“A semi-immortal dragon… I really did run into something troublesome in the end.”
If you compare the monster currently in front of her to the one she was expecting to fight, it certainly seems like a troublesome situation.
Any creature that lives long enough is bound to become abnormal in one way or another. That’s why it’s it’s more common to see more long-lived races like dragons become semi-immortal when compared to humans, but it’s still an incredibly rare sight.
What’s more, it’s easy to understand Shirley’s exasperation when you consider that semi-immortal dragon has much more potential to continually restore themselves than a semi-immortal human.
If you struck four fatal blows against a semi-immortal human being, they would be completely unable to move because of how much energy the regeneration would use up, but a dragon’s exhaustive magical energy reserves would be able to heal at least ten times as many fatal injuries.
“Kukuku, what is wrong? You wear a blank visage.”
The dragon spoke sadistically to Shirley who had just given him a supposedly fatal wound, guessing that she had become despondent out of hopelessness.
“You may be fleet of foot, but it is merely a cheap trick you employ, it is meaningless to one as mighty as mysel-”
Shirley slashed the neck of the dragon before he even finished speaking.
“You…! To interrupt my speech not once, but twice…!”
“I don’t have time to stand here listening to your dull speeches.”
As the dragon spat blood again and began to restore its wounds, Shirley took the pocket watch out to check the time again.
“So long as I kill you before noon, and finish up my main job not long after that, I should be able to have supper with my daughters tomorrow. For that sake, I need you to hurry up and die quickly.”
For Shirley, the dragon was never her main concern. Even if it was an ancient dragon before her eyes, her main goal was finding beautiful materials for her daughters’ coming-of-age gifts somewhere in the mine.
“You arrogant and wicked human…! Across the ages, I have never encountered such an impertinent being as you…!!”
For the ancient dragon, being treated as a mere nuisance was an even worse wound than being pierced through its inverted scale, such was his pride.
“The arrogance! The impudence! Repent your misdeeds in the next world!”
It is said that there must be magic involved in a dragon’s flight, as its wings seem too small to support its body.
As its four wings fluttered to life, it kicked up a storm of dust with its legs as it took to the sky.
Why exactly are dragons considered the strongest monsters? Whilst its physical strength, magical energy and tough scales are formidable, what’s really dangerous is just how mobile it can be despite their large bodies, which make its attacks difficult to predict and also renders it hard to counter.
Apart from the water dragons which swim through the seas and the earth dragons that bore a path through the soil and rock, all other types of dragons can effortlessly take to the skies in this way, and what if it also utilized its fiery breath from such a height?
A normal human would be overwhelmed by a dragon’s raw physical strength, so what exactly could anyone do when stuck on the ground against such an airborne monster?
Therefore, the dragon was taken by surprise when Shirley managed to reach the same heights as it had.
She didn’t use flight magic. A massive sword that could only belong to the race of giants was wedged into the ground at an angle, and Shirley had run up the length of it to mount the dragon’s back, stabbing a rapier through the vulnerable base of its wings.
Having lost the ability to stay in the air due to the thrust of the sword, the old dragon fell back onto its rocky nest in agony. But, Shirley’s attack isn’t over yet.
Leaving the rapier in place, she grasps a new two-handed sword and runs up the side of the dragon’s huge body. Having brought it down from the sky, all that remains is to strike quickly at the weak point for all semi-immortals, the brain.
Racing dexterously up its neck, she positioned herself to cut into the dragon’s skull from the back of its head, when her blade was suddenly blocked by a barrier of blinding white light.
It is somewhat different to Asterios’ technique, but it is still barrier magic all the same. It’s not unusual for a dragon of this rank to be able to use barrier magic, and Shirley would have been able to tear right through it, but the magic bought the dragon just enough time to shift his head and deflect Shirley’s blade.
“That desperate to keep your head?”
The barrier around the dragon’s skull was intended to protect its only real weakness as a semi-immortal. Jumping away from its head, Shirley begins to tear deep cuts into the dragon’s body as she runs along its flank.
Skillfully slicing through the scales that are as tough as steel, Shirley began to cut the tendons and blood vessels the dragon needed to move its limbs at a faster rate than it could regenerate.
“Y-you…! The sheer arroga-!”
Shirley sliced his throat again, cutting short his speech a third time. The dragon thrashed around in its nest bleeding profusely, barely ten seconds having passed since it fell back to the earth.
It broke several bones and ruptured its internal organs when it landed. But, just as Shirley gripped a new sword in her hand, she was pushed back by a wave of magical energy that seemed to radiate from its entire body.
Shirley frowns. She had dealt at least ten fatal injuries to the dragon, but the magical energy it was using to heal those wounds didn’t seem to be depleting.
(If anything, isn’t it increasing?)
The wounds she was inflicting were being healed in seconds, and its physical strength was also intact. This was absurd.
Magical energy is supposed to only be able to replenish through rest, medicine or magical tools, but the dragon is not using any of the three techniques that Shirley knows of, as vast amounts of magical energy are being pumped into its body.
“I see… So this is your unique skill, huh?”
The supernatural phenomenon that resides in a body of an immortal, independent of magical power. She doesn’t know the full details, but it seems like that is the basis for the dragon’s regeneration of magical power.
“Kuhahaha! Have thou succumbed to despair afore my limitless magical power? Do you now grasp the gap betwixt us?”
The amount of wounds a semi-immortal being can recover is in direct correlation with their amount of magical power. So long as the head is protected, a semi-immortal being with infinite energy can regenerate wounds indefinitely, as if they were a true immortal.
Shirley wasn’t underestimating the ancient dragon that was in front of her. She had come within inches of ending its life for good just before, only being stopped by the barrier it had formed on its head.
It was a cowardly act for such a proud dragon, but it was also the surest method it had of winning this battle.
“Whereas my wounds shall heal ad infinitum, you simply waste all your energy in vain. Even though thou boasted of striking me down afore noon, what good is that bravado if you work yourself to a standstill whilst I still live?”
If this cycle keeps repeating, it will inevitably lead to Shirley’s defeat. This cunning dragon is looking to bring about such a scenario.
“Furthermore, I have seen through your trick! The swords that appear in your hands are naught but a product of imaginative alchemy, are they not?”
From his ancient knowledge, he had figured out the secret behind her technique that not even the adventurers back at the guild could understand fully.
Alchemy allows one to make a copy of an existing object, a secretive art that can make something from nothing. The imaginative alchemy that she employs allows her to disintegrate any sword that she held, and then reproduce copies with magic.
Since it’s a copy created using magic, if it leaves her hand it will disappear after a short while. Moreover, since the technique only works on swords that originally had no magical power imbued into them, the usefulness of it relies solely on the skill of the swordsman wielding it, so it isn’t a thing a lot of people would use.
As if intending to demonstrate, the rapier she had thrust into the dragon’s wings and the giant sword she had used to ascend into the sky had both faded away.
“Thou doth not possess any physical weapon, only using such a trinket to pull weapons from a magical spa-”
“You’ve been going on and on for a little while now.”
For one who prides themselves on their knowledge, they seek to understand the enemy’s techniques and skills, so that they can know their next move.
And indeed, along with the threat of the endless well of magical power and regeneration, having her opponent unveil the nature of her magic is a definite disadvantage.
But still, Shirley doesn’t show an ounce of fear, as she cut through the windpipe of the dragon and ended his monologue a fourth time.
“Amongst adventurers, it’s considered bad luck to spend time talking about your opponent’s ability… ‘Death flag’, is the term they use. Did you know that?”
With all her might, she began slashing all over the dragon’s body apart from that head protected by a magic barrier.
For the sake of just one moment. Cut the body until it can no longer move. Thanks to the dragon attempting to start up a speech every time he healed instead of pressing an attack, Shirley finally saw exactly where she needed to cut.
For the first time in the battle, she finally had an air of intensity. Curved sword in hand, she sliced through a section of the dragon’s belly that had gone untouched before now, and as the dragon began to regenerate fully… The body of the ancient dragon that had always relied on its boundless magical energy felt an unfamiliar sense of fatigue.
“YOOOOOOOOU…! WHAT DID YOU DOOOO!!!???”
“I’m sure you know exactly what I did.”
In that usual brusque tone, the Demonic White Sword spoke as if she hadn’t done anything special.
“The inexhaustible magical energy that you were drawing from the earth… I severed your connection to it. That’s all.”
The ancient dragon had not noticed since it had not landed a single blow on Shirley, but she herself was also a semi-immortal.
And he did not notice the power that dwelled in those deep eyes. From the day she had escaped from imprisonment and the torture ordered by the man she loved the most, those eyes saw all.
Things that move at a speed unseen.
Things that lie unseen behind barriers or shields.
Concepts and curses, the ethereal and the corporeal, ‘power’…
Even what lies a few seconds into the future.
However, those eyes can merely see, they cannot affect anything on their own. That is the nature of that woman’s power.
“U-unthinkable! To sever a power that doesn’t have a physical form with mere swordplay, that shouldn’t be possible…!”
“Physical form or not, it doesn’t change the fact that it was still there. So, I decided to destroy it… That’s all there is to it.”
For once, the ancient dragon is speechless, unable to find the words to respond.
She can see everything. That exceptional ability the dragon had was no exception. So long as she can see it, it exists.
And if it exists, she can cut it. Even if it is a ‘power’ with no physical form, anything she sees can be cut. A sword that exists outside of the laws of nature, Shirley’s name as the Demonic White Sword comes from the fact that everything is vulnerable before her blade.
“Well then… With that, I shouldn’t have to listen to you boasting about your power anymore. All that remains is to finish you off.”
As she thrust the tip of her blade towards it, the ancient dragon saw the shadow of a god of war.
A little time ago.
Kyle tilted his head in confusion at Asterios, as they stood in front of the burning pile of bad bonobos.
“Yes. With a group as large as this, there should have been an older individual monster that would act as a leader known as a ‘Silver Bag’, did none of you three see it? It would have been larger than the rest, and be covered with white body hair.
Just like the goblin queen, any sufficiently large group will eventually have a leader figure, so if there wasn’t a leader for a group of this size it would be very abnormal.
For some reason, he had a bad feeling. After rubbing his chin with a groan, Asterios retrieved a crystal ball and a stone eye with wings from his baggage.
“What are those?”
“It’s a magic tool used for clairvoyance, it’s meant to be used for reconnaissance but I brought it so that we could watch Shirley’s fight on the peak. With this, we can see what’s going on atop the mountain.”
Once released, the stone eye flew towards the mountain without a sound. And after Asterios cast a short chant, the scene from the point of view of the eye was projected on the crystal ball.
“Woah! That’s really convenient!”
Speaking as a scout, Cudd exclaims in approval. An image is displayed from an angle and height no normal human could ever see from, and looking down on that summit the picture they saw displayed looked like a battle from a legend.
That’s the only word that fits.
A contemporary swordswoman overpowering an ancient dragon. In terms of technique and skill, none of them can truly grasp her movement.
Kyle gazes at the crystal with envy. His aspiration to reach the same heights as her is not borne of a simple crush. He too wants to be an adventurer that can one day square off against a dragon in such a way.
“Hm? Wait… Look at that!”
Leia pointed at the crystal ball. At the edge of this battle for the ages, a white-haired bonobo was looking on, the Silver Bag.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this… I don’t understand the reason why, but it seemed to have escaped the influence of my magic.”
“Asterios-san, is there some kind of way this magic tool can convey a message to the other side?”
Asterios shook his head silently.
He doesn’t know what the chieftain bonobo is thinking or why it’s there. But, all the bad bonobos in this mine are under the rule of that dragon.
If it plans on interfering in the battle between its master and a foreign enemy, it’s hard to imagine a positive outcome.
He desperately wants to warn her, but by the time he made it up there it would probably be too late, and unlike Asterios if he made it there he would only be a burden.
Kyle mulled it over in his head, then eventually lifted his head and spoke whilst looking into Asterios’ eyes.
“Asterios-san, I might have a way to let this magical tool transmit my voice, is it alright if I try and tinker with it?”
“No, I don’t mind, but… Is it possible for you? It’s a difficult thing to modify a magic tool that someone else has made.”
“I studied magical tools during my education. I can’t say for certain I can do it…”
He remembers his first request. And the remorse that will never fade away.
“But, I don’t want to live with regret because I decided to do nothing.”
It was then that Shirley unleashed a new flurry of blows.
A storm of steel that would end the life of any normal monster caught within it, the dragon desperately attempts to protect its head.
At first, it tried to intercept Shirley with fire and fang, but in the face of the onslaught eventually, all he could do is shrink further and further back.
Its inexhaustible supply of magical energy has been cut off, and now its body is beginning to grow fatigued from having to regenerate the copious amount of wounds.
It was utter humiliation. The proud ancient dragon that was being pushed into a corner by this little human glared at Shirley who was barely visible because of her speed and chuckled to itself in its heart.
(But, this is all there is to your power…! With a single blow, I shall put a halt to you…!)
The ancient dragon was as cunning as a snake. Being adept in the field of mind manipulation magic, he had shielded the Silver Bag from such spells and had him lurk in the rocks to wait for an opportunity.
(It is unheard of humiliation to have to borrow the power of a lesser being… But better to suffer that than meet my end…!)
Although it would need some time to verbally cast it, the chieftain can cast the intermediate magic called 《Burn Wall》.
It is a wall of flame that would span the entire nest. Even with that inhuman speed and swordsmanship, it’s hard to imagine that she could take a blow from such a magic and survive unscathed.
The ancient dragon isn’t yet senile enough to miss this chance. If he chewed her into pieces, her body and mind would both be ground to mush.
(Yes, continue to focus upon me. I will soon destroy you utterly…!)
At the very moment before the Silver Bag was about to finish casting the fire magic…
“Shirley-san, behind you! The Silver Bag!”
The voice of a young man flooded the field of battle. Turning their eyes upwards, they saw that the source of the voice was a flying stone eye that was looking at Shirley from above.
Shirley jumps in the sky, using the dragon as a springboard. And, twisting in the air like a crescent moon, she threw one of her swords through the skull of the hiding Silver Bag.
The surprise attack that the dragon had thrown away all his pride in order to gamble on had been completely foiled.
His eyes flashing in anger, he opened his mouth to spit flame once more. But, unintimidated, Shirley cut through another of the dragon’s tendons and sent it tumbling back onto the ground.
The regeneration that had been going on constantly before now didn’t occur, and the blood continued to leak out of that exhausted body.
The dragon that had received dozens of fatal wounds had finally run dry of magical power.
“T-this can’t be…! I-I am the Western…”
“I don’t care.”
Shirley cuts through the dragon’s neck. With that, the consciousness of the livid and humiliated dragon with a love of vain monologues fell into darkness.
After that, Shirley eventually descended from the mountain and greeted the party with a pickaxe resting on her shoulder, prompting a suspicious look from Cudd.
“What’s with the pickaxe?”
“There was something I wanted to mine. So, I took my favourite pickaxe.”
“What about the dragon’s treasure hoard?”
“Well, you all contributed to the request by killing the dragon’s minions, so you should take as much as you like.”
Seriously!? Although, Shirley poured cold water on Cudd’s dreams of an early retirement immediately after.
“That said, you can only take as much as we can store in the wagon.”
“…Don’t ruin it as soon as you say it.”
As Cudd started heading towards the mountain with a complicated expression on his face, Shirley approached Kyle.
“You’re the one who told me about the Silver Bag at that time, right? I just wanted to say thank you.”
“N-no! Shirley-san, you would have managed on your own anyway, I just did something unnecessary…”
“Well, you might be right.”
But, even as she said that Shirley went on.
“There is no such thing as certainty in battle. No matter if you’re an expert or a great hero, there are times when you’ll run into trouble. So, I don’t think what you did was for nothing.”
Shirley placed her right hand on her chest and said so with a smile small enough you might think it was an illusion.
“So, thank you. Thanks to you, I survived.”
“N-no… It really wasn’t anything big like that…”
He scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. As his hands trembled and his mind raced, Kyle eventually sped off in the direction of Cudd who was making his way towards the treasure that awaited him.
“I-I’m to going also hunting treasure, so me wait for!”
As Kyle ran off shouting with very garbled grammar, Shirley tilted her head.
“…What was that?”
“…Huh. Shirley-san is a little slow.”
“Slow? What do you mean? Was there something wrong with my movement?”
“No, what I meant was… Well, maybe it’s better if you don’t know.”
Leia stretched her back and looked towards the mountain full of treasure.
“Right-o. I guess it’s time to go look for that gem, huh~?”
“…The battle in the nest got quite violent, so the gems got scattered around a lot, are you going to be okay looking?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll use search magic to locate it.”
She said that, but Leia didn’t move from the spot. What to say… Ah… Scratching her head, she finally found the words.
“I just wanted to say, thanks. For putting up with my selfishness.”
“You don’t need to thank me in particular. It was just coincidence that our paths and goals crossed… Your request just happened to get done along the way.”
“Even so, driving the wagon and defeating a dragon, there’s no way I could have done those things on my own. Without you, I never would have gotten my family treasure back.”
Leia looked up at Shirley with her brighten golden eyes that shone like the sun.
“So, thank you very much! Shirley-san, I’m so glad I met you!”
After saying that, Leia rushed after the two boys. As soon as she caught up she began fighting with Cudd, and Kyle somehow managed to take elbows to both the face and the gut when he tried to break it up. Looking at such a peaceful scene in silence, it was hard for Shirley to imagine that she was fighting a life or death struggle not long ago.
“Is something wrong, Shirley-sama?”
“No, it just feels somewhat fresh.”
“Ho? The veteran who has been adventuring for over ten years still finds something fresh?”
“Until now, I only ever did requests to earn money for my daughters, I never really cared about the circumstances and feelings of the client. So, that’s the first time I had ever been thanked face to face for it.”
Asterios laughed pleasantly.
I thought of splitting this chapter up into two parts since it’s hella long, but I just rolled with it.