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Chapter 223

“A golem?” Lydia asked, tilting her head.

“Mm…” Terra nodded. “My parents constructed this body for me. After my death, they were able to protect my soul. I asked them to be strong and powerful. I wanted to be strong enough to defeat the dragon, and so this was the body they created for me.

“And then… I failed.”

She looked away, a tear falling down her dirty cheek.

Miki shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand. If she is the guardian, why was the dragon built? Why was he down here instead of you? Why didn’t you stop her from taking the lore?”

With each question, Terra seemed to shrink back even more. It was to the point where she looked like she wanted to slink into the shadows. I put a hand on Miki’s shoulders, stopping her from continuing her barrage of questions.

“Did your mother and father create that dragon?” I asked cautiously.

After a moment, the girl shook her head, rejecting that. It was as I thought. She was an Earth Golem. An Earth Golem required radically different kinds of magic than a mechanical dragon. There was no way that the same magicians have built both. After all, this was a world that pushed magicians down specific magical paths early on. Everyone was specialized. Likely one of her parents was something akin to a necromancer to handle her soul, and the other was an earth mage that could build her body.

“The clockwork dragon came one day. No one knew from where…” Terra said, her voice cracking slightly with emotion. “It attacked the city and laid waste to hundreds. My friends were among them. I was at school at the time. The entire school was ignited with its fiery breath. I watched as my friends were burned alive.”

“Y-you were lucky to get out alive,” Celeste said hopefully.

She shook her head. “Don’t you get it? I didn’t… I perished with them!”

“So, your parents managed to save your soul and remake your body. Why didn’t they just use resurrection?” I asked.

“I begged my family. I’m the one who asked to be put into a golem. I didn’t just want to be alive again and weak. I wanted to have the strength to fight back and get vengeance on the dragon.

“So, what happened?” I asked.

“I was… impatient. My parents said I needed to work together. They said we were stronger as a village, but I was so angry… so I went out to fight the dragon on my own. I wasn’t strong enough. When I finally came to, I returned to find the village in ashes, the dragon at its center killing the last of the people in the city. My parents were dead. If I was strong enough, I could have stopped it. Instead, I only helped it.”

“What happened after?” Lydia asked.

“She buried it.” I sighed. “The dragon. The village. I kept wondering why this dungeon felt like a tomb. It’s because that is what it is. Terra managed to sink the dragon into the Earth, and the entire village with it. That was the final act that created this dungeon.”

Chapter 224

I reasoned that Terra’s role as guardian differed from what we had assumed. She wasn’t actually a part of the dungeon at all. Rather, she was more like Celeste. She was just a young soul trapped within the dungeon, unwilling or unable to leave it. She created a grave for her family, and she remained here to guard it. There was just one thing I wasn’t clear on.

“Why didn’t you stop us?” I asked. “If your goal is to protect the dungeon, you should have stood in our way.”

She blushed. “I only decided to stop you when you revealed you were going to take over the dragon and help it escape. If you destroyed the dragon, why would I be upset? I planned to impede your progress. I even made you carry me… ah… I mean… I would have definitely prevented her from taking over the dragon! Except, you agreed to destroy it! She cheated! You didn’t do what you agreed to do!”

That was right. She didn’t choose to follow us until we started talking about controlling the dragon. As far as strength goes, I had a feeling that out party could defeat her. She was strong and seemed to have a good constitution, but she was also not exactly athletic or fast. If she just tried to attack us head-on, she would be defeated and accomplish nothing. Instead, she tried to slow us down. Plus, I couldn’t forget she had an inherent fear of the dragon that once defeated her. It couldn’t be easy returning to his grave.

“Terra, this dungeon was created by you. You seemed to be able to control parts of it before. You shut the boss’s door on the 10th floor, right? You may not be the final boss or a manifestation of the lore, but you have guarded this dungeon for many years.” I said. “Is there some way you can free us?”

She thought about it for a second and then nodded slowly. “I can open the treasure room.”

As she said this, she walked over to the door that remained closed because of the presence of the Lore. She lifted her arms, and the door began to rise. I realized that she wasn’t manipulating the dungeon at all. Rather, she was using her Earth magic to forcefully open the door. Since this dungeon was composed of earth, she was able to make changes like this. In another dungeon, if the door was made of something else, she wouldn’t be able to repeat this feat.

I walked into the treasure room. It was extremely sparse. It looked like the lack of mana in the dungeon also effected the growth of treasures. As the dungeon shriveled up, so did the wealth of the dungeon. Of course, I didn’t care about getting rich. The only thing that mattered was the return formation on the ground. I breathed easier seeing it there. That was our way out.

“Terra… will you come with us?” I asked.

Terra looked away. “I… this is my home. My family…”

“It’s crumbling. With the lore gone, it’ll be gone in a week.” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “If you come with us, together, we might be able to finally destroy that clockwork dragon.”

Her eyes widened. “You plan to go after it?”

I hadn’t been thinking about it until I knew we had a way out, but now that the immediate problem was solved, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to fight the dragon and figure out what was Carmine’s problem. Part of me just wanted to finish this story. I wanted Terra to have her closure. The other part of me just didn’t like to be betrayed, and didn’t want the church to have some powerful monster at the expense of the women in my life. I nodded softly.

“We’re going after that dragon.” I said with confidence.

As I looked back to see how the other girls felt, they all had looks of determination as well. They had started this fight. They wanted to end it on their terms!

“Alright…” Terra held out her hand. “Please take care of me.

{Terra has joined your party.}

Chapter 225

{Name: Terra

Class: Tank

Job: Earth Manipulator (LVL 45)

Unlocked Jobs: None

Race: Earth Golem}

Naturally, I couldn’t help but look at her status. I didn’t know quite what to make of that. On the one hand, I supposed her abilities weren’t exactly on the level of an Earth Mage. She could manipulate the ground and she was sturdy, but I didn’t see anything like her casting spells. She was an Earth Golem, which I didn’t even know was a race. Wasn’t that close to a monster? I guess that wasn’t the case since she was able to get jobs too.

However, being as she was freshly created for one purpose, she never had the chance to earn any other jobs. Even Celeste had picked up a couple throughout her years in the dungeon. Maybe it had to do with Terra’s race that she was unable to do anything but level up Earth Manipulator. Furthermore, would it open up a new job when she reached level 50? I was definitely interested in whether this was a possibility.

I also noticed that everyone leveled after the fight. I had been too distracted before to notice the text, but once Carmine had taken control of the dragon, we had been allocated experience. That was a testament to how powerful this dragon was. Even a fight that didn’t end with us defeating him netted experience at the level where we leveled up.

Lydia was at level 36 Swordsman, Miki was 32 Spiritualist, Celeste was a Master Wind Magician of level 2, and my Basic Magician and Hero had gone up. Basic Magician unlocked the Water Jet and hero gave me something called Last Chance that sounded ominous and not at all something I wanted to try until I read what it did in a book.

Putting everyone’s status away, I made sure to clean out the dungeon after asking for Terra’s permission. Given her story and the nature of this dungeon, robbing this place felt a bit like graverobbing. Thankfully, she assured me that nothing that the dungeon created was specifically something buried from the village. In other words, I wasn’t swiping someone heirlooms or something like that. All the magical items had long been dissolved and used to sustain the dungeon. There were only a few alchemic ingredients and some gold coins left.

“Master, what is this?”

I glanced over where Miki was indicating. She revealed a long staff. I recognized it in the image of one of the murals. I had interpreted it as some kind of control rod.

“Ah… th-that’s my…” Terra looked on helplessly as I reached out and grabbed the rod.

{Terra is now your slave.}

“Wh-wait… what happened?” I said, sweating suddenly.

“I was going to say…” Terra lowered her hand. “The first person to touch my control rod imprints and becomes my Master.”

“Ah… s-sorry… I was impulsive and grabbed it without asking.”

“I-it’s fine. I’ve already decided to help you.” Terra responded. “If I am… Master’s slave, then it is perhaps for the best.”

I walked up to her, even as she still looked down and then I patted her head. “We will stop this dragon. I will definitely help you complete what you set out to do. I’m there for you.”

She looked up at me, her eyes tearing up slightly. “Mm… Th-thank you!”

The other girls suddenly came forward and wrapped their arms around the both of us. The girls were all smiling happily. I didn’t get it, but this seemed to make Terra cry even harder, and soon the other girls were crying too. It took a promise to cook some very good food before the girls stopped hugging us and crying.

“Is everyone ready to go?” I finally asked, checking my equipment one last time.

We couldn’t guess what we would find on the other side of that portal. Had these been normal circumstances, the bandits would have been expelled the second that we defeated the lore. However, Carmine didn’t destroy the lore. She took it and ran. The Bandit King could still be on the other side of the door, none the wiser that the dungeon has already been destroyed.

As for Carmine, she might have fled with the dragon, or she might have used it to mop up all of the Bandits. We could be returning to a complete bloodbath as run by Carmine. Then again, perhaps the Bandit King was able to defeat the dragon after all, and now Carmine was in his arms and waiting for us to reveal ourselves. Thus, I made sure everyone, even Terra, was combat-ready. Who knew what we’d find?

“Ready!” Lydia called out comfortably.

“Ready…” Miki added, less sure.

“Ready, Master…”

“Master… Mm!”

We stepped into the circle, and the transportation began.

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