Lyra held her breath as she pulled on the string and poised her shot. The moment she expelled her breath, her fingers released the string and the two arrows nocked were sent streaking through the air. The arrows found their mark but only one stayed lodged on the mark, the one that struck the Rune Drake’s eye. The other arrow simply bounced off the Rune Drake’s tough hide. The Rune Drake reared and cried out in agony. Its tail floundered and thrashed its surroundings.

The knight gaped his eyes and mouth at the abrupt but welcomed assistance out of nowhere. He followed the path of the arrows and saw a beige wagon not far from him. His saviours were a group of adventurers, he gathered, but the wagon made him second guess himself as adventurers who could travel in a wagon were few. A wagon lacked versatility, a trait that adventurers deemed to be their lifeline.

Erin stopped the wagon before it entered the large road where the Rune Drake was rampaging. She hopped down and brandished a greatsword she conjured with Bespoke. Though a sword nearly as large as her, the weight of the spell greatsword was less than half it looked.

“Siv, Nivia, you two come with me.”

“What about me?” Lyra asked as she took a step off the wagon.

“You wait here in the wagon with Lilian and Aera. You have range. Use it.”

“Alright,” Lyra nodded and got back on the wagon without a single complaint. If this was before everything, she would have complained and insisted on joining them on the front lines but she was wiser than before. The conflicts she had braved through had made her grow.

“Nivia, I trust that your skills did not get rusty during the time apart from each other.”

“I have only gotten better, Erin,” she retorted. “I can’t wait to see how much you have grown. It’s really good to see you again, Erin.”

“What’s with the sudden warmth?”

“Doesn’t this remind you of the first time we sparred?”

“Um… no?”

“I-I see… S-so it’s just me…”

“Nivia, what are you—”

“Mistress, it's coming!”

Siv’s shout of warning turned Erin’s attention to the Rune Drake that was charging towards them. The eye that was struck by Lyra’s arrow had recovered and left not a scar.

“It healed its eye?” Erin blurted out. “But it didn’t have any healing-related magic or spells?”

“Runic Arts, Erin,” Lilian reminded her. “That means what you see it can do doesn’t mean it is all that it can do.”

Erin sighed. “That’s a tad unnerving but—” she pointed at the Rune Drake with her sword. “—also kind of thrilling. Nivia, Siv, flank its sides. I’ll charge straight at it.”

Siv and Nivia nodded and dashed to their positions. The Rune Drake roared and came to a stop in its charge. It drew magic into its mouth before unleashing it in a torrent. The torrent carved through the rocky paths and chased after Siv but the Wolf-kin wasn’t the least perturbed. Erin shifted the Rune Drake’s attention to her with a lightning bolt to its face. It immediately switched its target to Erin, who blocked the torrent beam with an Arcane Aegis. Though Arcane Aegis took the spell attack without breaking instantly, Erin was pushed back considerably but she persisted with Arcane Aegis. When the Rune Drake realised its attack would never penetrate Erin’s defence and the Beast-kin and the Elf were closing in on it, it ended its attack and leapt into the air.

“Watch out! It’s going to curl into a ball and roll towards your wagon!” shouted the knight who was rushing towards them.

The Rune Drake did as the knight said and curled into a ball as it made its descent, falling towards Erin. She grinned and surrounded herself with a barrier of lightning plates. The Rune Drake crashed into Erin, ploughing right through Thunder Shell. However, the Rune Drake was launched faraway by Thunder Shell’s counter effect. The Rune Drake went rolling and sprawling across the ground, all the while making the whole area tremble.

“What a handy spell,” Erin heaved a sigh of relief. She felt her heart stopping when the Rune Drake ploughed right through Thunder Shell without being slowed much.

“Spirit Bind!” Nivia shouted after muttering a short chant under her breath. Cyan tendrils made of Spirits emerged from the ground and wrapped themselves around the Rune Drake’s limbs and its tail.

Before it could free itself from the binds, Siv unleashed a flurry of slashes upon the Rune Drake. It roared and flung Siv back with a radial emission of its tremendous magic aura.

“I’m not through with you yet!” the knight cried and plunged his swords into Rune Drake’s side as it struggled in its restraints.

The Rune Drake protruded magic spikes from its whole body in retaliation. The spikes pierced through the knight’s armour and grazed him in many places but none of the vital spots. Still, the knight was incapacitated by his fresh wounds. The Rune Drake eventually broke free of the tethers after another violent fit of struggle. It turned its gaze to the incapacitated knight and drew magic into its mouth. The knight could only stare in despair with his unmoving limbs. As the Rune Drake unleashed the bided magic in its mouth, a gust of wind knocked its head up, spewing the magic into the air.

Siv swooped in and carried the knight to safety. The Rune Drake veered its aim back to the knight but Erin appeared right in front of it with her sword swinging. The Rune Drake scrapped its spell breath and hopped back to avoid Erin’s decapitating slash.

Nivia dove in under the guise of the wind and drew a deep cut across its hind limbs. The Rune Drake screeched and pounded its tail wildly. Nivia cast a wind barrier around her just right as the tail smacked into her. She went bouncing and tumbling across the ground but came to a safe stop.

Erin lunged at the Rune Drake, her blade clad in Arcane Edge. The Rune Drake lunged in return but with its hind limbs wounded, there was not much strength in its lunge, though its sheer size made up for its injuries. Erin leapt and flipped over the Rune Drake’s lunge. The Rune Drake covered itself in the magic spikes again but Erin enclosed herself in Storm Shell as she fell onto its back. The Magic Spikes pierce through Erin’s Storm Shell with ease but the counterforce was unleashed back at point-blank. The Rune Drake yawped painfully as it was slammed into the ground so hard that a crater was formed. It rolled over, trying to flatten Erin but she had already leapt away from it.

Erin landed gracefully on her feet and stretched her limbs, mulling over her performance. Her spell conjuration had improved. She could cast spells quicker and easier now but casting significant spells while moving was still a near-impossible feat for her.

“Mistress…. Something’s happening,” Siv observed.

Erin looked up from her stretching and found the rune marks on the Rune Drake were glowing. The wounds it accumulated disappeared along with the glow. Erin wanted to just rush in and slash the drake down but that was extremely unwise as she knew not what else it could do. Moreover, she realised she didn’t need to kill the Rune Drake. She had only got herself involved to save those people. Besides, killing the Rune Drake might topple a balance in the forest she knew nothing about. She would only kill it if it was absolutely necessary.

“Siv, Nivia, get everyone to the wagon,” Erin said, summoning lightning to her sword.

“Everyone?” Nivia asked. “You mean those humans?”

“Yes, them. We are going to run. Now, move. I’ll distract the Rune Drake.”

“Can the wagon even fit these many people?”

“I can run, so can you. You have Wind Magic. And once you have finished helping them, I’ll need your help here.”

“I am to risk myself for humans I don’t even know?”

“Nivia, please. I beg of you. Help them.”

Nivia couldn’t retort further when she saw Erin’s pleading doleful gaze. “That’s not fair,” she muttered but she followed Erin’s instructions regardless.

After making sure the victims were slowly being moved to the wagon by Siv and Nivia, she turned her attention back to the Rune Drake who was eyeing her curiously and cautiously. They were both wary of each other’s prowess and abilities.

“Why are you helping these thieves, Fae from the outlands?” the Rune Drake growled.

Erin blinked. She looked around but it appeared that she was the only one who heard it talk. “I can understand you?”

“Of course, you can. You’re imprinted by a True Dragon. You have gained the ability to comprehend the Dragon Tongue.”

“Oh, Aedan, you fucking piece of shit. You did not tell me about this,” Erin cursed and seethed.

“I ask you again, Fae. Why are you helping the thieves?”

Erin shrugged. She dispelled her sword and walked calmly towards the Rune Drake.

“E-Erin, what are you doing!?” Lyra shouted from the wagon.

Erin gestured for Lyra and the others to be at ease. She turned back to the Rune Drake. “Something has been stolen from you. That much is obvious but what exactly was stolen from you?”

“My headrest.”

Erin blinked. “I’m sorry, your what?”

“Headrest. Pillow, I think that’s the word humans use.”

“I see… What kind of pillow? Surely it’s not like the ones people used, yes?”

“It is a large blue square silk bag stuffed with cotton and embroidered with golden fringes.”

Erin frowned in great confusion. According to the Rune Drake’s description, it sounded exactly like a normal pillow but just enlarged. She couldn’t tell if the Rune Drake was being serious or simply gulling her. Nevertheless, she went with the conventional response. “What makes you think they are the ones who stole from you?”

“They smell and dress like the ones who stole from me.”

“I see… So nobles stole from you… Figures. Well, in any case, these aren’t the ones that stole from you. I saw nothing among the wreckage that could be your headrest and I have appraised every one of them, they did not have Spatial Magic to store your headrest inside a subspace storage.”

“Or you could be lying for their sake, Fae.”

“And why would I do that”

“A Fae isn’t immune to the temptation of human greed. I have seen Elves, Dryads, Spriggans, Druids, and various other Fae succumbing to the temptation of human greed.”

Erin sighed. “Looks like words just aren't a solution for this conflict.”

“I couldn’t agree more. Enough stall now, Fae!” The Rune Drake snarled and pounced.

Erin unleashed Lightning Barrage, which she had been preparing in secret while she conversed with the Rune Drake. Hundreds of lightning bolts descended upon the inferior Dragon. It roared amidst the barrage, expressing its humiliation over being outwitted.

The wagon sped past them without slowing or stopping with Siv on the reins. The Rune Drake shook off the barrage of lightning and turned around to chase after the wagon. The lightning bolts were still bombarding it but it was barely hurt and it could still move. But before the Rune Drake could take off into a sprint to give chase, a strong whirl of wind fell upon it and surrounded it. The Rune Drake tried ramming through the winds but with lightning that was dragged into the whirling, the Rune Drake was flung away from the offhanded magic fence. The Wind Magic spell was cast by Nivia, who had stayed behind like Erin had asked her to.

“What’s next?” Nivia asked, panting.

“Watch,” Erin said and summoned lightning into her from the clouds. She slowly hovered off the ground as the lightning was amassed in her palms. She spread out her arms, forming a spear of lightning. As the lightning spear gradually lost its shape, Erin held the shape whole with the assistance of the Spirits. She then imagined a spear as she cast Bespoke. The spear of lightning in her cradle instantly turned into a solid spear moulded of lightning and Spirits.

The thundering whirlwind dispersed just as Erin finished conjuring the spear.

“You insolent Fae! You dare trick a Dragon!? I will make you suffer!” the Rune Drake roared. It dug out a huge piece of the ground and flung it towards Erin.

Erin threw the spear right at the same time it tossed the large piece of soil and rock at her. Her spear tore through the ground fragment without losing momentum and streaked directly towards the Rune Drake. It tried to compete with the spear with its magic breath but it wasn’t even a competition. The spear went right through everything, including the Rune Drake’s head, and exploded in the far off distance it travelled to.

“By the Spirits,” Nivia swore. “What was that?”

“Bespoke… but I didn’t expect it to be this strong.”

[Experience gained +40% - Level Progression: 60%]

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