Thump. Rumble… a massive creature down below slammed into something, and the force caused the entire room to shake. I checked my clothing one more time. All of us were in our best armor now. Carmine was freely wearing her paladin armor, which seemed shiny even in this dank underground ruin. The only girl who didn’t have much protection was Terra. I walked over to her and put a protective cloak around her.
“Terra, you don’t need to worry about fighting,” I explained. “We will destroy the dragon, okay?”
“I-it’ll destroy you too!” She said, reaching out and grabbing my shirt. “I can’t protect you.”
I smiled and patted her head. “Let us protect you for the moment.”
She was an embodiment of the lore or something like that, yet she was afraid of her own final boss. This was definitely another odd dungeon. Then again, which dungeon had I entered so far that could be considered normal or traditional. It seemed like every curse manifested in a unique way and formed a unique dungeon. Dungeons not only looked different and had different monsters, but they had a kind of personality to them. Each dungeon was absolutely unique.
Terra seemed to melt under my touch, looking quite cute for a moment as she blushed with her head down. However, immediately after, she shot an uncertain look at Carmine. It seemed like she didn’t trust the woman. The others didn’t seem to trust her either. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t wary of her, but cutting her out and trying to defeat the dragon on our own would be impossible. Plus, she was a paladin. The church might be xenophobic. What isekai story didn’t end up revealing a church that favored human beings? That said, they were still inherently good, right?
“Alright… for the last time, here’s the strategy.” I said, finally pulling away from Terra. “Terra will stay back and keep safe. Carmine says she needs to be close to use the control spell, so she’ll be at the forefront. With the highest defense, that’s probably the perfect spot for her. Lydia, use your speed and try to distract the dragon. Don’t do so much damage that his interest changes to you, but keep him from fully focusing on Carmine.
“Miki… your job is to damage the dragon’s spirit. You likely won’t be able to make it afraid or scared by attacking its spirit like you could with people, but you might be able to weaken its control, slowing it down. Celeste, concentrate on its eyes or whatever it sees out of. Try to blind it so that it can’t fight back effectively. As for me… I’ll be keeping everyone healthy…”
When I put it that way, I suddenly felt pretty awkward. I was the support class. I kept everyone’s health up. I’d be using Group Heal, heal, and keep an eye on the status. However, when I thought about my role next to anyone else, it felt really inadequate. None of the girls seemed to be judging me though, as they all nodded in acceptance. It was looking like I was the only one who felt my role was a bit weak. I suppose it was fine then.
“Alright,” I said, nodding to everyone. “Let’s finish this.”
The boss room was many times larger than the one where we had encountered Terra. It was likely that the other boss room had been allowed to shrivel up like the rest of the dungeon on account of the lack of mana. Only this last floor, which contained the bulk of the curse, was preserved until this time. As soon as I saw the clockwork dragon at the end of the boss room, I found myself shivering a bit.
I know I was saying that humans were scarier than monsters because they could strategize and were sometimes sadistic, but I had found they also had a certain degree of self-preservation and would take actions to save themselves. Staring down at this dragon that could only roar in an ear-piercing challenge reminded me that this was the first boss I had fought that didn’t have at least some level of sentience. He was a guardian, like a guard dog, ready to tear us apart until his dungeon was safe once again.
“Armor,” I muttered, casting Armor on myself, even though I knew I couldn’t give it to the others.
I had White Mage, Hero, and Basic Magician equipped. Although I was stronger than I had ever been before, I still felt extremely weak when comparing to this dragon. Perhaps I was letting appearances deceive me. All final bosses looked intimidating, but was the first final boss in a game really that threatening compared to the one at the end of the game? I meant that maybe he just looked scarier than he was.
We were halfway across the room when he half turned away. I almost thought he was about to flee until his tail swept out. A massive wave of air shot out at us. Celeste was in her fairy form and seemed to avoid the attack with ease. The rest of us got struck and lost our footing. Lydia, Miki, and I were all thrown back and slammed into the ground. Carmine was knocked back several steps, but managed to keep her footing. The only one who seemed unaffected was Terra, but she had stayed back a distance as I had commanded and was farther away from the attack. Still, she really felt solid, taking the blow without moving an inch.
“Cushion.” I cast, trying to lessen the blow of my landing.
The animalgirls both seemed to have a lot more finesse and were able to right themselves without landing painfully on their backs as I was prone to do. I got back up and immediately cast a Group Heal for everyone. Checking on the Party Status, I could see that everyone was still in good shape. We began our advance again. The dragon might have used his tail a second time, but because of Celeste and Carmine, he lacked the room to initiate another tail attack.
Carmine immediately cast some kind of holy spell, hitting the dragon. It let out another roar, which just had a hint of metallic grind in its voice which really made my hackles bunch. I struck out with a Mana blast while Miki attacked with a spiritual attack. Celeste flew up and created a mini-dust storm directly in the dragon’s eyes. Meanwhile, Lydia danced under its feet, trying to cause it to lose its footing. The fight was going perfectly, for about a minute.
The dragon seemed to have enough of our attacks, and in a single roar, a powerful storm exploded out. Lydia was knocked to the ground. Miki was tossed aside. Even Carmine was shoved back. I tried to break the spell with a well-timed Mana Blast. The dragon’s eyes suddenly turned to me. With the other girls knocked down, somehow I had attracted aggro! I cursed in my mind, as I turned to run. However, the dragon was too large and fast. He took a single step forward and turned. He was using his tail again. However, this time, he wasn’t attacking me with wind. The same tail that sent a wind attack that caused enough damage to sprawl me on the floor was now planning on hitting me directly!
The tail seemed to be flying towards me in slow-motion. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes, but that only meant I could experience the complete terror as that massive spikey bone, metal, and geared monstrosity aimed right for my fragile body. I desperately tried to pull out my sword and bring it up. I had been functioning as a wizard, so it didn’t occur to me to have my sword out while I had my wand in hand.
The hit was powerful, and I flew back with a skid. It was only when I stopped about five feet back from where I started that I realized I hadn’t been hit at all. The tail had stopped a foot before, and what I felt was just the wind backlash. Standing right in front of the tail was none other than Terra! She had stopped the tail with her hands and was now holding it with her small body. The tail was taller than she was, but she was able to keep it from moving an inch.
I stared in surprise for several moments as she continued to hold on to the tail, her mouth tight as she seemed to struggle against all odds.
“I’m going for it!” Carmine called out, backing up and beginning a chant that caused her to glow white. “Hold him down.”
“Lydia!” I called, confirming that we were going with this plan.
The clockwork dragon wasn’t truly being held down. Rather, he was stuck in his position. He was starting to struggle, trying to pull his tail away from Terra’s grip, but he didn’t seem to be able to do so. At this moment, he was half-turned and in an awkward position. I ordered Lydia to attack his side to distract him from his caught tail. Celeste flew in to support. Meanwhile, Miki began to cast a spell that seemed to make the air more solid, thus further slowing the dragon down.
It was pretty clear from the last attack that this guy was too powerful for us. He hadn’t even depended on any skill yet. A single breath attack of his would probably be devastating. Rather, just like we feared going in, our best bet was to take control of the guardian and then have him destroy himself. Trying to fight him with only five people was simply not enough for a creature of this strength.
“Terra, can you hold on?” I asked worriedly.
“Mm!” She said, her voice sounding somewhat weak.
I immediately used Moderate Heal and Refresh on her. I also used Create Earth around her feet, where I could see the rock breaking. She looked down as she noticed earth covering her feet. This caused her to smile strangely. A moment later, dozens of earthly spikes rose from the ground. On each side of the tail, they stabbed into the dragon, holding him in place like a vice. Terra seemed to be pretty powerful with earth magic. Given her name and this dungeon type, I supposed that made a kind of sense.
“Keep holding!” Carmine cried out as her spell started to affect the dragon.
He seemed to feel his control being wrestled away. The dragon started to fight back. However, Terra’s hold on his tail was incredibly strong, and with the other three girls attacking his front, he was in a difficult situation. I cast a few more healing spells, Mana Blasting the monster when I had the ability. Even though I wasn’t useless with the sword, I didn’t have the guts to attack its legs. The speed it was dancing around was something only Lydia could deal with.
The earthly spires that kept the tail confined suddenly broke. The clockwork dragon seemed to change its motions suddenly. This would be the equivalent of a boss changing its attack pattern after being hurt a certain amount. It lifted its tail up and then slammed it down. Terra was like a rag doll. With a flick, she went flying. Without thinking I jumped and caught her, the pair off us slamming into a wall. She was like a rock slamming into my front, with the wall of rock behind me. Suffice it to say, the wind was completely ripped out of my lungs.
The other girls barely managed to escape as it started lashing around wildly, knocking over one of the pillars and causing rubble to fall from the already dilapidated dungeon. Just when I thought all hope was lost, a white glow suddenly exploded around the dragon, and the previously red eyes turned blue in color.
“I got it!” Carmine’s voice cried out. “The dragon is under control!”
Taking a breath of relief through my aching lungs, I stood up, holding Terra in my arms. She blushed as she realized I had her in a princess carry. I was mostly just shaking my head at how heavy this little girl was. No, I needed to focus on the dragon. The danger wasn’t gone yet. We still needed to make sure the dragon was destroyed!