Chapter 69: Crimson Crystal Lizard
Inching along the corridor, neither Nisha nor Henry could hide their excitement. At first, the young man couldn’t believe that they had found a hidden room, he had thought that his sister had read the map wrongly. However, they had been following the stone passage for a while, and Henry could now say for sure that it was different from the usual short tunnel connecting two rooms. Whatever was at the end, anticipation was already making shivers run down Nisha’s spine.
Still, blindly rushing in was no smart move, both youths knew that much.
Finally spotting a copper gleam from afar, differing from the yellowish light present in the Dungeon, both of them raced to be the first to discover the new room’s wonders.
The corridor abruptly ended in a room whose ceiling was littered with copper colored crystals, the walls and ground covered in either red metal, crimson stone or cherry tinged glass. Featuring soft hills and a wide crystal grass plain stretching to a magenta lake, the chamber was far bigger than any room they had passed by so far.
In the middle of this vermillion splendor, at the top of the highest hill, a bulky lizard, adorned with scales blending perfectly in its surroundings, lazily eyed the new visitors. Neither surprised nor agitated, it simply turned around and left them with their questions, apparently not interested in them.
“It’s a beast! This has to be a beast! No way a monster would leave us alone! Maybe we can contract with it!”
Excited by the prospect of subduing a companion, Henry forgot all of his hard earned caution and sped up once again.
Nisha on the other hand had lived with three oversized lizards for more than ten years, and the sneer she had spotted on the crimson beast’s muzzle before it had turned around had made her feel unsettled.
Most of all, this creature shared her element, she could see it clearly, swirling around its slender body, streams of reddish yellow mana and aura winding to its beast core; and she was thus the best person to understand the fire’s fierce temper, the flames’ desire for battle… No fire beast could suppress their bloodlust for long.
Figuring out that something was off, she threw herself at her brother, making him trip and crash into the stone wall.
A small trickle of blood streamed down his head, and he grimaced in pain.
“What the hell, Nisha?! Why did you do that? Don’t worry, I won’t steal it away from you, you found it first. But I can try if it doesn’t want to submit to you, can’t I?”
Pressing a hand on his injury and scowling at her, the young man sat, seemingly calmer.
The sneer had only warned Nisha, she didn’t know where the danger was. All the hairs on her arms suddenly stood up as the red lizard released his rank’s pressure, nameless dread and an overbearing feeling of inferiority were weighing on her small frame. Aware that the intruders were suspicious and wouldn’t enter the room easily anymore, its expression changed into a frown.
Now sure there was some sort of trap in front of them, the elven girl bent down and picked up a piece of rubble.
Four eyes closely followed the crescent depicted by the pebble as it fell to the ground.
Why does nothing happen? A false alarm?
“What should I see? Ow, this really hurts. Did you need to be so violent?”
Getting up and rubbing the bump on his head, although the bleeding had already stopped, Henry was about to enter the room and attempt to tame the beast when Nisha swiftly shoved another stone towards the lush grass.
This time however, she filled it to the brim with mana and aura.
It silently passed by the entrance, and the world exploded in noise, dust and fire.
Growing from complex formations hidden beneath the crystal vegetation, pillars of flame and earth rose from the ground and crushed the rock, before going for Nisha, whose power was linked to the intruding element.
In response, the Flame and the runes hidden in her core reacted, draining a huge amount of energy to immediately create scales on her right hand, shielding her from the spell.
Nonetheless, they could only soften the blow, not negate it. Breaking through the scales as though they were illusory, the energy tore her skin apart, revealing the pink flesh underneath the white skin, soon obscured by blood freely flowing.
Clutching her injured limb, Nisha denied herself the right to scream in pain and give the beast the satisfaction to see his little visitors successfully trapped.
“Nisha! What happened, are you alright?! You’re bleeding!”
Recovering yet again from the floor where he had been pushed by the blow, fortunately not injured this time, her step brother approached her.
He had understood that had he been in that stone’s place, there wouldn’t even have been a complete corpse left of him.
“It’s fine, I got lucky, it’s just a scratch. See, it’s healing. You’re forgetting I lived in the Wilderness, there’s no way I wouldn’t have some trump cards ready.”
The dragon showed her wounded limb where the dark shadow of her innate healing skill was replacing the damaged skin. No bone had been broken and her flesh was mostly intact, after all this could only be considered a harmless cut compared to the gruesome injuries she had sustained in the past.
The crimson lizard was snarling at the two elves. To Henry, it meant nothing, the growls just comforted him in his opinion that the creature facing them was a vicious beast; however Nisha knew what the grunts meant.
It was laughing at them!
Not only did the creature try to kill them, it was also ridiculing them.
“Shut up! What are you, anyway?”
Nisha glared at the lizard and bellowed in the dragon tongue in an angry tone, partly because of the pain, and partly because of the embarrassment she felt from being laughed at.
“Interesting. So you understand. Are you a half? Maybe a large snake type? No, you speak dragon. But dragons don’t produce half bloods.
And your order carries a certain weight as well, so at least a high rank bloodline. Interesting, interesting. I could ask you the same thing, don’t you think? Who are you?”
“Silence! Answer my questions, what are you? And why are you here? You are far too powerful to be placed on the first floor.”
Henry had long since stopped bothering with being surprised every time his step sister was doing something inconceivably. Watching the girl and the lizard growling at each other with increasing hostility, he silently moved in front of Nisha and raised his sword and shield.
“Such powerful authority. If you were of my species, I would probably have to obey. How captivating. Let us make a deal. Come here in my room and let me take a closer look at you, in turn I will give you a gift, let’s see… oh right, I have what you would call a ‘legendary’ metal, how about it? Adventurers enter the Dungeon to obtain those kind of rare treasures, right?”
Making a black ore appear in the air, the lizard proved that he had access to its [Soul Space], reminding the two youths of how powerful it truly was.
“Do you think I’m a fool? I destroy your first trap, you talk a bit about bloodlines, and we’re friends all of a sudden? I’m not stupid enough to fall for that. Keep your damn piece of steel, I know what you really want!”
What does that stupid snake think I am?! That I’ll simply throw away my life? Yeah, as if. Go pound sand!
Hurling abuse at the room keeper in her head, the elf still didn’t dare to insult aloud a beast most likely way stronger than her in every aspect.
The sneer turned into genuine enjoyment.
It laughed, and the laughter sounded like someone had began beating drums nearby. It flicked the ore with its tail, and the metal chunk split through the air with a whistling sound, far faster than Nisha’s eyes could perceive. Seeing the rock now embedded in the wall right next to her head, cold sweat trickled down Nisha’s back as she realized what would have happened if the metal had been directed slightly more to the right.
“If it wasn’t for the penalty, I’d eat you right away. Aaaah, I’d love to see your cute little skin ripped in pieces, and that arrogant face of yours begging for a quick death…
Take the ore, I’ve got others. Of course, I won’t give you the rest for free. You will have to fight me if you want it. Now go, before I change my mind and crush you anyway.
Ah, I’m in a good mood since I have visitors for the first time in a long while, I’ll give you one more piece of advice. Don’t go in the dungeon during at Slaughter Fest or I will not hold back and come for you.”
A strange and ominous excitement shone through the beast’s words, its crimson eyes glittered with joy, a hint of bloodthirst flashing towards the end. Nisha didn’t doubt the creature’s ability to back its threat, although she wasn’t quite sure if she had understood everything correctly. Her knowledge of the dragon language was innate after all and the crimson lizard was speaking its own variation, the lizard’s tongue. The two languages were closely related and allowed them to understand each other, but it wasn’t exactly the same.
Having said its part, the beast prepared to depart from the hill and head deeper in the chamber, moving surprisingly fast for its bulky body.
Why would it gift me something and warn me if it wants to eat me? This has to be a trap!
“Wait! Why are you doing this? Tell me, now!”
Glancing back at Nisha’s small figure the lizard hesitated for a moment.
“Truly amazing, such a strong impulse in your tiny voice. I want your lineage more and more. Well, feel free to take my gift or leave it, I even gave you a small bonus on top of it. Whether you can use it or not depends on you. I’m just happy to have spoken to someone after such a long time, and I even found a bloodline superior to mine. I’ll definitely do my best to find you during the festival.
Of course I could kill you here and now, but I can’t leave this room, so I’d have to watch as your blood dries and your flesh rots away. That’d be too much of a waste.
Do your best not to die until next time we meet!”
No matter how many times Nisha called after it, the lizard didn’t stop again and soon disappeared in a place the two adventurers couldn’t see from their spot at the entrance. And both of them were too prudent to take a step into a room likely riddled with explosive traps.
“What just happened? You were talking to that … thing?”
His shield still raised, an earthen thread playing around the defensive weapon’s edge, Henry decided to ask for an explanation rather than doubt the fact that his step sister could communicate with lizards.
“To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on. First, the lizard tried to kill us with that large magical trap. Then it baited us to the room to eat us, or so he said, and went as far as to show off that it could kill us any time. Finally it said it would eat me if given the chance, and gave me a present. I really have no clue.”
Scratching her head and wiping the cold sweat off her forehead, Nisha realized how close to death they had been. She turned, inspecting the metal in the hole beside her.
Wrapped in a ruby scale, a jagged rock was faintly glowing.
Shimmering in the light of the corridor, its surface appeared very smooth, although it was composed of many small rectangles.
This has to be a trap. No one would just throw a treasure at someone else’s face. Especially not with a personal scale attached to it.
But that lizard probably also knows I would doubt his present, since I sensed the trap. Maybe this is really a precious metal and it just wants to mess with me when I realize the value of what I left behind.
On the other hand, it could also be a way to lure me in the room. So conflicting.
In the end, her internal conflict was solved in a completely unexpected way.
Unconcerned by the various thoughts flashing in his step sister’s head, Henry simply walked to the wall and picked up the ore to inspect the thing that had almost killed them.
“Don’t! Who knows what that thing is?!”
Her worries were unneeded, as nothing happened apart from the scale peeling further aside from the projectile, revealing the true size of the metal chunk. Shaped into an oval sphere with multiple square facets, it was slightly bigger than Nisha’s head, and so heavy that Henry dropped it when he attempted to remove it from its alcove.
“Seriously? This weighs at least as much as a boulder. How are we supposed to get it out of here?”
Complaining to Nisha, Henry moved on to the scale, appraising its silky texture.
To make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with the crimson lizard’s present, Nisha grabbed it and scanned it with both her senses and her [Spirit Sight].
Unable to find a fault with the beautiful mineral, she lost herself in the metal’s shiny facets contemplation until Henry called her out.
“You can carry that thing? You turned common sense upside down too many times already. How strong are you exactly? Are you really just a second ranker?”
Henry was pointing at her with the reddish scale, and Nisha knew she had revealed more of her capacities than she had intended, but thinking about it, she decided that he had become close to her, he was an existence akin to Lydia’s and Annabelle’s in her mind. Hiding too much from him would hurt both of them.
Holding her hands up to let him see clearly, the dragon stored the treasure in her [Soul Space], the ore seemingly disappearing into thin air.
Henry’s eyes widened at this miracle, but the young man managed to keep his jaw closed.
“Well, as you know, I have some circumstances… Most of my peculiar strength, I obtained it through sheer luck, but I still train hard to make sure I don’t waste my potential. Well, maybe it’s too much calling all of it luck. I am stronger than I should be from my level, I often hunt around here to compensate the negative aspects. You might have guessed it, little trips like this are part of my usual routine. For some reason, I need a large amount of food to sustain my body, and buying it at the market or ordering large quantities of meat would attract unwanted attention.
Additionally, I can hone my fighting skills while hunting, so this is probably for the best.
Come on, I’ll tell you the rest while we go back, I think we can still make it for dinner if we hurry a little.”
After having disclosed some of her secrets to Henry, Nisha gestured his brother to follow her.
The restored wall at the end of the lizard’s corridor startled them, but Nisha easily opened her way back to the Dungeon entrance.