Chapter 5: Human Interaction
At a great distance of the Dragons Den’s sphere of influence, a forest housed the camp of an adventurer party. Consisting of two human mages, three human warriors and two elven knights, the fighting strength of this expedition was very well distributed.
The human mages were brothers, and descendants of a noble house of this country, although not in the direct line of succession for the throne. Born from a noble father and a maid, their status of nobility was the lowest possible, considering as well that their father was only from a branch house.
Nonetheless they showed good talent regarding their cultivation of mana, reaching the third rank in less than 25 years. To sustain their rather frivolous lifestyle they had to go on adventurer’s missions from time to time, and taking their household knights along reduced the amount they had to share from the overall gain. The knights approved of this practice since the main house was paying their salaries, and the brothers were usually taking along one or two maids to cater to their needs in the field, passing the unfortunate girls around the men to enjoy themselves after they had first ravaged the maids deep in the forest. There had been one or two maids who were especially defiant that unfortunately fell prey to a sudden monster attack and did not return home, but the main house turned a blind eye when it came to mages of their own household. Losing two maids appeared negligible opposed to the prestige they were receiving from nurturing the two brothers into capable mages, and possibly introducing them to the royal academy as teachers. Two or three commoner lives every few turns were seen as trifling compared to prominence in noble circles.
The warriors had refused at first, but gave in to their lust after roaming the forest for a week. Taking turns with the two cute maids almost beat the rush of a death fight against powerful monsters ; and their harvest hadn’t been bad on this expedition with either activity.
Ten years ago, a strange incident had happened, the episode latter known as the ‘Monster Wave’. From deep within the forest emerged numerous strong monsters running side by side with some magical beasts, rushing into the territory of the defenseless humans, destroying farms and rampaging through fields, which finally drew the attention of the kingdom. Surprisingly it appeared that a few rank 5 and 6 monster kings were participating in the assault, forcing the kingdom to ask the adventurers guild for help. A group of class A adventurers stood at the forefront of the defense, composed entirely of named rankers: the Herald of the Earth in the front, protecting the two women behind him, namely the Fiend of the Bow and the Blazing Skies. At the rear were the other members, the Protector of the Light and the Snake Tamer. Consisting of a paladin, an archer, a mage, a priest and a beast tamer, the party was considered top class even in the adventurer’s guild, and many young talents yearned to be like them,the pinnacle team of the human kingdom.
The defending human side stood its ground against the monster surge, pitting the rumored rank seven team against monster kings and their armies.Thanks to their marvelous teamwork and intense focus they managed to kill a big amount of monsters, and chased back the rest of the scarred foes into the forest.
Ten years later the party of the noble brothers stumbled across the carcass of a magical beast, a [Flaming Python], and scoured its remains. Luck had it that the monster was probably heavily wounded in the Monster Wave and only managed to crawl back into the forest, where the party found its body in a hidden grove. Most of the leathery skin was damaged and could not be salvaged, and the meat had been already consumed by other monsters, but the real treasure was hidden beneath the decomposed body : a longsword forged of black orichalcum and leather armor tailored out of a magical beast who was between the fourth and fifth rank. Bringing back these treasures and selling them after getting both of the items enchanted would most likely enable the party to gain enough money to take it easier for one or two years. High class weapons were a prized commodity, and being able to slay magical beasts outside of a labyrinth was unusual, so the demand for this kind of good was always higher than the supply. The risk originating from trailing into the inner part of the forest, source of the Monster Wave, definitely paid off this time. Feeling satisfied with their gain from the expedition, the two brothers sat down on roots beneath a tall tree, taking out some alcohol from their storage items and chatting with each other while the last remnants of the day were fading and night fell.
Unbeknownst to them, Little Flame had landed a while before and was roaming through the woods. Looking for followers was quite difficult in the sphere of influence of the Dragons Den. The fairies forest and the harpies nest left nothing to take control of, despite their ruling over the territory still left areas unmapped, yet they belonged to one or another’s sphere of influence. By going out of the power base the three dominions established, Little Flame had a chance to encounter a tribe of monsters or magical beasts and bring it back to the den to rule over them. After passing through several enclaves of other rulers around the same strength, the forest started to dim and the little dragon reached the outer scope of the Wilderness, where no one had yet claimed a specific area. While aimlessly flying through the dusk, a campfire sparked the interest of Little Flame, proving the existence of some sort of living being nearby. Taking caution not to draw attention of whatever creature was camping here to itself, the dragon landed and secretly approached through thickets close-by. The encampment of this unknown species was composed of one group in the camp, and two more of them a bit out of sight on the roots of a tree. Strange items covered their skin, very much alike to the things appearing in the Den back home. Something was off about them, some were talking to each other in a language Little Flame did not understand, drinking things kept in sparkling objects and tearing meat off a skewer above the fire, while a second bunch further away were huddling together like wailing animals, giving off sounds of suffering and pain. They were two, with waist-length hair, while all the others had shorter hair.
Little Flame could not recognize the bottles of alcohol or understand why the two maidens were crying, or even differentiate a male human from a female human; but the power dynamics were clear : the first group, the short-haired ones had done something wrong to the moaning pair, or maybe stolen something from them. This reinforced the wariness Little Flame felt towards the cheerful bunch, those creatures must have had some sort of power to assert their dominance over others.
Leaving the main camp behind, the dragon rather decided to observe the two short-haired with whom no one in the first group talked.
Usually adventurers would surely notice the threat of a black scaled animal prowling around their camp, but unfortunately for them, after they had soiled the maids earlier and began celebrating the discovery of the treasures with meat and ale, which caused the vigilance they had adopted whenever they went near the Wilderness to drop drastically. After all, this was only the outer skirts of the dangerous area, and whatever nightmares roamed this green hell was supposed to stay deep within.
Looking closely at the two humans who gave off an imperative feeling, as if they didn’t want to mix with the others, Little Flame detected the same sparkling objects the other short-haired had, and from the close distance the content released a stinging smell in the air.
The language they were speaking with each other was foreign to Little Flame, the human’s tongue was not something anyone in the proximity of the Dragons Den could speak after all. They hadn’t been drinking for long and soon noticed that someone was blatantly staring at them, and used a simple mana pulse to easily discover where the intruder was hiding. The pure wave of energy couldn’t be even be called a technique and it made Little Flame very interested when the wave bounced on its scales, the black animal tilted its head sideways in curiosity.
The two brothers however had a very different reaction when the mana revealed a pitch black, blood-red-tipped scaled creature in a hedge close to them. They had not noticed when it crept upon them, and the sleek tongue tasting the air, laid between sharp teeth, which could easily penetrate and rip off a limb with their dagger like appearance scared the hell out of them.
“It’s a wyvern! Get ready to fight,” screamed one of them, while the other started mumbling an incantation. Earthen mana condensed into a defensive ring around the two of them, while the camp bursted into motion, knights and warriors unsheathed their swords and readied their shields.
Even though Little Flame didn’t know humans’ habits in particular, the hostility they emitted was very familiar. Whenever the pack was out on a hunt and cornered a monster with no way out, they would lash out regardless of the injuries they would suffer in return. Fighting that kind was more trouble than the meat was worth, so each of the dragons picked up stealth methods to track a prey without alerting it.
In this situation Little Flame didn’t have time to think of the best option and fled directly opposite from the shouting mage, in the direction of the main encampment. Faced with warriors and knights in the front and mages behind it, the black beast came to an abrupt stop about halfway between them and turned to the side. It started running again to gain enough speed for taking off and to fly away.
One of the brothers casted an earth type spell [Earthen Chains] in response, the bindings slithered through the air at a fast speed and entangled the black scaled wings, increasing their weight and preventing flight, slowing down the fleeing creature.
Unable to fly away, the dragon turned around to face the creatures armed with what appeared to be metal fangs in one hand and shiny scales in the other. This was not the first swords and shields it was seeing, they had materialized in the room back in the den a few times, and were neatly stored away in the soul storage space. However, the only explanation that had come to its mind was that the strange tools were metal replications of teeth or claws, and the shield that of a sturdy scale.
Little Flame had no idea how to use most of the items that were cropping up in the room, and no other magical beast in the vicinity used these type of equipments either. The fairies naturally were too small to wear the average human sized equipment, and were cutting up the clothes and leather to sew fitting clothing out of it, which therefore didn’t resemble the original item anymore.
Similarly the harpies used the softer metals to form bracelets or rings on their claws. Sometimes rings would be traded over from the Dragons Den, building up the prized collection of precious metal rings of the harpy queen.
Rejoining with the mercenaries, the two brothers started shouting, both of them trying to convey the same message. “Don’t let it escape! It’s a black wyvern! Forget about the sword and the armor, if we manage to bind that monster to us, we can get at least to S rank status! S rank! Don’t kill it, we need to bind it!”
Despite being having trouble to speak the adventurers’ tongue, Little Flame had no problems understanding the words the human male shouted to the elven knights and human warriors and the objective of these screaming fellows was very clear. Unwilling to get captured and sold off, or worse, enslaved, the dragon seriously prepared itself to resist, turned around and suddenly lashed out against the warriors. The forest wasn’t particularly dense, allowing a straight slash against fighters running after their newly-found prey between the trees. Like a sharp sword, the restrained creature tore a deep gash through the line of three warriors who were lowering their swords while running. The slash started from the shoulder of the warrior on the outer right side and ran straight through the knee of the fighter on the left, spilling the first blood.
Luck gave them a small grace as the man in the middle had been reacting fast enough and had raised his sword in time to lessen the force of the blow. Only the adventurer on the right fell to the ground, his blood spilling from a severed artery. Although the other two’s lacerations were painful, they weren’t fatal, contrary to their bleeding friend on the ground. The party had no one specialised in water magic or life magic and aura was much harder to use to heal someone, so his fate was sealed. Anger welled up in the remaining adventurers, they knew of the danger in the Wilderness, yet losing a comrade still didn’t suit them well.
The knights had to stay back and escort the two mages who couldn’t keep up with the speed of someone training in aura, and most people couldn’t be bothered to train both types of energy, relying on either mana or aura to get recognition. While it was true that mages were rarer than body refiners, most of them still elected to get at least a few ranks in both cultivation paths to try to keep up with their counterparts.
When they arrived at the battleground, Little Flame had already taken off the head of the left adventurer with a vicious bite, resulting in a harsh conclusion : the slash on his leg did impede his movement after all.
The remaining adventurer was quite relieved, he had been having a hard time defending against the feral creature, barely hanging on in face of the rampage caused by the thoughtless taming attempt. On the way to the battlefield, one of the brothers handed over the treasure blade to one of the knights, putting their resources at use. With a weapon able to pierce the skin of their foe and injure it, the fight should go back under their control once the movement of their target was restricted. “Circle him and wear him down, once the wyvern calms down we can capture him”, commanded the same mage. The death of the warriors didn’t particularly bother the remaining party, apart from the humiliation they suffered from being played around by a beast, they had simply needed to fill their ranks with additional hands for manual labor from the adventurer’s guild, and if they managed to tame the monster in front of them and awaken it into a magical beast they would gladly sacrifice a hundred rank three warriors in a heartbeat.
The knights complied with the orders and flanked the remaining warrior on both sides, encircling the struggling beast. In the meantime one of the mages was sustaining the [Earthen Chain] spell while his brother looked out for an opportunity to bind and tame their opponent with a magical formation once the fighting died down.
The situation was slowly turning around, whenever Little Flame assaulted one of the knights or adventurer, a shield would block the bite or claw swipe and the high-ranked-sword wielding knight would use the opportunity to attack and inflict a wound on the dragon. Being at a higher rank protected the black lizard from the normal steel swords, but the Dark Orichalcum Greatsword was leaving deep tears in the scales of its flanks.
Frustrated over the limited success of simple claw strikes and fueled by the pain resulting from a sword biting its skin over and over again, Little Flame allowed it’s animal instinct to take over its actions. It inhaled a deep breath and suddenly unleashed a destructive [Dark Flame Breath], flooding between the shields of the knights, burning the adventurer partly and accurately hitting the mage channeling the [Earthen Chain] right onto his front, killing him instantly.
Shock appeared on the faces of all surviving party members, and the living mage shouted excitedly: “He’s a dragon! A black dragon!”. Wyverns happened to be a rare species, but it could be said that if someone searched long enough near cliffs and mountains he could eventually discover one, or stumble upon one when it wandered between territories by chance. They could sell for a high price as a flying mount and monster companion. The distinction between dragons and wyverns laid in their abilities and intellect, causing the wyverns to be called [Lesser Dragons]. Only dragons were capable of using a genuine Dragon’s Breath.
Most of the dragon race resided at the edge of the continent and their country had the strongest military and a great amount of influence over all surrounding kingdoms and cities. No one dared to trespass their underground city or mountain lairs, so the probability of obtaining a dragon familiar was close to zero.
In the Wilderness however, feral dragons appeared sometimes as monsters, and a mage who had managed to tame one was guaranteed to make a fortune selling it to a mighty aura practitioner as a bonded beast, after awakening it to a magical beast, or would gain one of the mightiest guardian beasts possible, ensuring anyone that possessed the treasured being at least an SS ranking, not to mention the ungodly amounts of prestige their family would gain from obtaining a dragon.
Not even the death of his blood-related brother managed to extinguish the excitement of discovering a wild dragon.
The excitement, however, slowed their reaction time when the black dragon turned around and ran away again, as the chains and extra weight slowing it down had disappeared when the mage casting the spell had died. Unwilling to let it escape, both knights sprinted forward in an attempt to inflict a wound serious enough to make the beast stay, but only the knight brandishing the rank six weapon managed to leave a deep slash on Little Flame’s neck running to its chest, making crimson blood starting to flow at a rapid pace.
The adventurer had been screaming loudly when the flames had begun to corrode his body, tearing into his flesh and causing him to suffer an agonizing torment, desperately imploring others to help him, heal him from this excruciating pain, when a wind spear swiftly pierced his heart from behind. This was a young dragon ! Taming a dragon was very difficult, but there had always been exceptions. A young dragon who had yet to awaken into a magical beast could easily be forced into an enslaving spell, as smoothly as any other monster. How could the mage possibly leave any witnesses behind, if the adventurer were to survive this situation, countless adventurers would swarm the forest in search of the dragon as soon as the writhing adventurer returned to the city to tell his tale and recruit a team on his own to hunt his nemesis down.
Dragons might be beasts by birth, but these humans had let greed turn them into monsters by choice.