In a single moment, Yakov had completely lost control over the battle.
Joshua smashed through the ice, destroying the floor, and dropped Agamu into the depths of the lair. This prevented it from continuing to provide magical support to its friend, while the offensive magic it had been quietly preparing fizzled away without a visible target.
With the overwhelming power of dragons against a single Gold-tier human warrior, there should have been nothing to worry about. However, it was apparent now that this warrior was more than he seemed, and was entirely different from the norm.
Yakov clearly realized that, against him, a single dragon was no match!
But as a specialist spellcasting dragon, venturing rashly into the claustrophobic depths of the lair would doubtlessly leave it with no means of escape. While it hesitated, a great wail came echoing from below. It was unmistakably the sound of Agamu's voice.
There was no more time to waste. Yakov lashed its tail in anger, knocking out a huge chunk of ice from the floor. The translucent scales all over its body glowing with magic, with a flap of its wings, it immediately dove through the hole after Joshua and Agamu, and into the lair's depths.
Joshua silently brandished the greataxe and greatsword, and each time that he parried the desperate counterattacks of the dragon he was facing, he tore off a few of its scales, slashed through its flesh, broke its bones light flashed as his sword danced, the wind itself wailing as the air was cut into ribbons.
It wasn't that he was unable to deliver a killing blow the way he was fighting at the moment, perhaps by causing excruciating agony to his enemy, it might lessen his own misery a little.
If not, he could simply rush in, endure a defensive strike from his opponent, and then lop off the dragon's head with one swingbut what for?
And so, even as the fight raged on, so relaxed was he that his mind began to wander.
It had been a while since he'd invaded the dragon lair. Never mind the dragons flying around outside that he'd slain, could it be that there were only the ten of these dragons inside? What's more, only two of them had been any good, and worth his while.
This was very strange indeed. The warrior was quite familiar with how dragonkind was organized.
A dragon lair was mainly a nursery for dragonlings, and generally speaking there wouldn't be many mature dragons in residence. However, Joshua knew from his previous life that in preparation for the Dragon Calamity, nearly all of the mature dragons had been recalled to the lairs so that they could be assigned their tasks. By his estimation, it should have been around this time.
By all accounts, this lair at White Dragon Peak should contain a dozen normal dragons, several elite dragons like this one before him, and one overlord of the lair, approaching the Supreme Tier. For nowleaving the other dragons for laterwhere could that overlord have gone?
As he mulled this over, he once again dodged the dragon's combination attack of claws, breath, and tail swipe.
The dragon was tormented by the wounds it had suffered all over. An enormous talon like a battering ram swung past, leaving a howling gale in its wake, and it demolished the walls of carven permafrost, gouged scars in the floor several meters deep and dozens of meters wide. With each roar, cold blue light brought a bitter chill which blanketed the entire battlefield. With each flurry of rapid strikes, a massive white tail which could level houses and topple city walls with over a hundred tons of force swept past in a wide horizontal arc.
But how could Joshua not be anticipating these few simple techniques from the dragon? Which attacks they would use at what moment, when their breath attack would emerge the warrior could guess the most of it, a predictive sense born from hunting countless dragons, and with a hearty laugh, a crash like thunder echoing through the second layer of the lair, Joshua stepped on empty air, sending out ripples as he went, then circled around in front of the dragon, and before it could respond, he delivered a swift attack to its left flank.
Silver light flashed along the greatsword, Combat Aura burning red-hot. The Divine Armament was able to shatter through solid steel, and could produce a similar effect on dragon-scale. In the next instant, the greatsword was sweeping along the dragon's left flank, about to plunge deep into its gut, incinerate its vital organs and cause near-total system failure.
Not even a dragon could survive that!
But it was just at this moment that there was a subtle motion from above the battleground: Yakov had finally arrived on the scene, and the first thing it saw was Agamu unable to respond in time, allowing the human warrior to circle around to its unguarded flank, about to deal a fatal blow. Sucking in a breath of frigid air, an instant spell that had been concealed upon its scales was invoked.
There weren't many spells which a dragon could specially inscribe upon its own scales, and by and large none of them were all that powerful, but they had their usessuch as this particular spell, which applied a sudden, ponderous weight upon the length of the large silver blade, pulling the thrust askew so that it missed the dragon's mid-riff, the edge glancing off at an angle and shearing a few scales from its leg. Then the greatsword which had increased in weight by ten-fold dragged Joshua down towards the ground.
As a result, both Agamu (who'd just realized that it had almost lost its life) and Yakov (which had just saved its comrade) breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the crisis had been averted.
But reality would prove to defy their imaginations.
The blade, over-burdened, indeed made it difficult for Joshua to handle it for a moment
but then, with a surge of effort, Combat Aura stimulating his physical potential, the warrior was sheathed in a crimson aura, and he immediately used 'Divine Power', the ultimate strength-enhancing boon!
His skin flushed red, blood coursing like a great river, and his strength which had now been triplednot only allowed Joshua to wield his blade with ease, he brought it back around with more power than before, to deal a strike of even greater brutality!
With a single slash, the dragon's leg was severed nearly all the way through, but for a thin flap of skin and scales still connecting it with its body.
Muscles like steel were cut through with a sound like an elastic twang, and where the bones had been parted, one could clearly see the blue bone marrow oozing out. The blood-flow was beyond stopping, turbulently gushing forth, dying the surrounding ice a shade of blue.
"Stupid dragons, don't you know?"
The heavier the weapon, the greater the damage!
With a frenzied roar, Joshua's eyes were like those of a demon from the Abyss, and instead of making any move to bring an end to the dragon which was already delirious from pain and blood loss, he stamped both feet on the ground and soared up towards that spellcasting dragon, not far away.
And now, where was there room for Yakov to continue working his powerful magic? In the cramped quarters of the dragon lair, it had no way to retreatit could only draw upon its magic, expending the basic spells inscribed upon its scales, and use an unending stream of low-level magics to hinder the warrior's movements.
'Hold Person', 'Prismatic Spray', 'Ray of Frost', 'Web', 'Confusion' none of these were especially potent, but they were quick to cast and together became a veritable torrent of interference. It was only through the incredible magical ability of dragonkind that such a form of assault was possiblebut for the scarcity of suitable scales for inscribing spells upon, Yakov wouldn't hesitate to have covered itself in spells from head to tail, so that all at once it could overpower this human who had slain its kin and cut off its friend's leg.
Joshua's entire form blazing with crimson Combat Aura, he whirled his greataxe and greatsword, and the incoming waves of spells shattered. When it came right down to it, magic only worked when it could be applied upon somebody. Faced with this oddity of a warrior who could see the flow of energy, any indirect spell which didn't travel at light-speed was no use at all; meanwhile, spells like the paralyzing 'Hold Person' and the dazzling 'Prismatic Spray', which worked their effects instantaneouslyonly normal people were susceptible to such tricks, but they were wholly ineffective against someone like him, who had already transcended the mortal form of a human being.
By now, Joshua could clearly feel his opponent's hatred, to which he responded with a derisive chuckle. "A murderous beast like you has no right to be angry."
In his mind, he remembered returning to the liege's residence, and looking out upon the scene of the dragons' atrocities upon his town.
Women slaughtered, children eaten up with only their heads left remaining, old people in despair, found dead alongside the corpses of their own children, crushed underfoot by the monstrous draconic beasts even after the entire town had been razed to the ground, the ashes were still studded with gnawed and broken bones.
And behind it all were these accursed Pentashade Dragons!
The tragedy afresh in his memory, his movements became more frenzied, vicious. After slicing away a multitude of spells, Joshua simply barreled through these trivial hexes, charging upstream through the torrent of dragon magic!
It seemed that the dragon too had noticed: even dragons specialized in close-quarters combat had been defeated at the hands of this dragon-slayerand certainly it didn't want to share the same fate as its friend. With a glare, it unleashed its Dragon's Might, its terrifying presence and will inspiring a terror as old as timeat the same time, it also cast several spells of mind-affecting enchantment, in an attempt to slow the warrior down.
But Joshua's will was too strong, so that although the dragon's latest assault was even more potent than an empowered Fireball spell, the swiftly advancing Joshua was a greater threat than any of the dragons in the lairthough this was the home ground of his opponents, it was he who held the advantage. His axe chopped down at the dragon's leg, and Yakov had no means to evadeeven as it stepped back immediately, it barely counted as dodging: its scales and flesh were still torn by the serrated teeth on the axe-head, leaving behind a trail of minced meat, and slowing down the dragon further.
The warrior did not miss this opportunity: he rushed in straight-away, ramming himself against the white dragon's chest. White dragons being the ones which controlled ice and frost, the temperature around their bodies was constantly being maintained at roughly zero degrees, and one also had to consider the breath of frost and magical shield which were their natural giftsto Joshua however, such things only took a chop of his axe, a swing of his sword to deal with, and in the space of a moment, the colossal dragon was brought down to the ground by the warrior who was dwarfed by it in comparison. They smashed through the walls of solid ice, and tumbled down into the third layer of the lair.
The ice wall sundered, ice and snow cascaded in all directions, and then was rendered into steam by the burning heat of Joshua's Combat Aura, filling the area with a thick white fog. They were in an enormous ice cavern, and all around laid innumerable large eggs striped white-and-blue. Through the fog, one could just make out the permafrost and magical wards laid protectively over them.
This was the most important section of the dragon lair.
The dragon-egg hatchery.
"Tell me: why are there only so few dragons in this lair?"
With one foot pressed down between the eyes of the dragon, its whole body bruised and battered, Joshua raised his greatsword and held it directly over the center of its forehead. In a cool voice he said, "Despite such a huge lair, even with the dragons outside accounted for, it doesn't add up to twenty of youand the overlord of this lair is nowhere to be foundthis is very different from what I used to know."
The dragon only glared balefully at Joshua, saying not a word. It clearly had no intention of responding to the human's words at all. With a cold laugh, the warrior raised his great-axe in the other hand, and pointed towards the clutch of dragon eggs.
Immediately, it gave in.
" Up thereAgamu is the new overlord of this lair."
In slow and stuttering Common, the dragon spoke to the human warrior who stood over it. "The former overlord brought everyone else back to Dragon Island, five"
"Alright, I've got it." Interrupting the white dragon, Joshua nodded imperceptibly. "I see the main battle is not to take place in the northern lands. Come to think of it, in the past it also took place from south to north, sweeping all the way up"
How did he know everything?! Yakov felt his heart leap in shock. Originally it had assumed the human warrior had figured out that they were behind the attack of the draconic beasts, and that was the sole reason he'd come to slay the dragons, but to think that he knew this much he even knew all about the Dragon's Calamity which the Pentashade Dragons were preparing to instigate in the south!
"For you to come here could it be for the sake of wiping out the white dragons of the north?!"
The dragon began to struggle, but was immediately pinned down by Joshua. It roared in frustration again and again, but it was no use.
Having learned of this new problem, he was silent for a while, and then Joshua calmly declared, "In my eyes, you bunch of non-humans dare to walk the earth, build your lairs, raise your armiesall with the intent of making an enemy of mankind since you don't know fear, I will cut you all down like wheat.
"All that you have, I will take! All of your triumphs, I will subdue! Even as you thrive and prosper, propagating across the land, I will use these weapons to destroy your glory, as though smashing pottery in a kiln!"
Saying thus, the warrior leered mockingly, the scarlet light behind his visor emanating through the gloom of the hatchery. He pointed at the dragon eggs all around them, and whispered to the dragon beneath his heel, "Not only will I slay all of your kinI shall also enslave your descendants."
"These dragon eggsI shall bring them back to my domain, brainwash them thoroughly, and use them as mounts for my army From that point onwards, there will be no more white dragons of the north, only a race of dragon slaves."
Hearing this, the dragon finally lost its mind. Heedless of the wounds it had sustained from axe and sword, it thrashed with all its mighteven as its wounds tore open, its flesh being ground into mud, it needed to break free of Joshua. At the same time, overwhelming mana was building up in its mouth, which was faced towards that pile of enormous dragon eggs.
In that moment, Yakov thought of nothingnot its life, nor its body; the pain, humiliation, and frustration of being defeated, as well as its pride as a dragonall of it had been forgotten. In its mind, there was now only one thought
Even if its life was to be forfeited, sacrificed by its own actions, it absolutely could not allow the future generation to be enslaved!
But Joshua kicked it just as it released its accumulated energy, and the dragon's breath flew wide, solidifying across the frozen walls as a trail of crystal-clear ice.
Then, the warrior raised the greataxe in his hand, blinding light glinting off of the black-and-red weapon, the edges so sharp that it hurt even to look upon them
and he promptly brought it down.
The dragon's head, contorted into a mask of rage, was cut off like nothing, blue blood gushing forth, even spraying onto the dragon eggs.
Only now did the warrior's even voice reverberate through the frozen cavern:
"Such is the fate of the enemies of man."