Ancient Dragon Tzaobath…Shin searched through his memories for the corresponding monster and was overwhelmed by surprise.
It was a silver dragon, similar to the ones appearing in western legends. Based on the circumstances under which it showed itself, many players called it “Silver Moon Tzaobath”.
Its level was the maximum in the game, 1000. Just like the Element Tails, it was a famous monster, both powerful and popular.
“I know it’s surprising, but it’s true, sir.”
Raster probably understood how Shin felt, as his smile seemed to be drier than before.
Tzaobath appeared in random outdoor fields when the moon was out. Its silhouette, descending from the skies with the bright moon as backdrop, was as beautiful as it was powerful.
Some players even roamed the fields at night hoping to take a screenshot of Tzaobath.
“Well, in this world you can talk with an Element Tail, so it’s not weird that it’s possible to speak with Tzaobath too…but why would it come to live here?”
“The same reason why the other dragons keep trying to take over. It’s apparently really comfortable for them here, basking in the sun all the time.”
“One of the most powerful monsters…taking naps in the sun, huh…”
Shin had also seen Tzaobath in the game era. Similar to western dragons, it had powerful arms, with a body similar to a human’s. It was covered in platinum scales; from its back sprouted two sets of wings, one physical and the other formed by pale blue light. Under the crystal-like transparent horn on its forehead shone blue eyes that clearly expressed its intelligence, as if judging whoever dared stand before the monster.
Shin fought it when his stats were barely over 800: charmed by Tzaobath’s silhouette descending in the moonlight, he had experienced a world of hurt…or so he remembered.
“Seeing Yuzuha sleeping next to you makes it all more convincing.”
When sleeping, Yuzuha almost always turned into small fox mode. Shibaid often shared the room with Shin when they spent the night at inns, so he had probably seen her then.
Shin nodded at his reasoning.
“That’s true. It would be a real problem if it started rampaging inside Rashugum, though.”
“That’d be a nightmare.”
Filma, who fully knew how powerful Tzaobath was, frowned at Shin’s comment.
“That’s where the defense system you set up does its work, lord Shin. It hasn’t gone off yet, though. Now I can say that we’d be fine even without it, but I was pretty scared at first. Also because Vizzy didn’t fear it at all…”
When Raster first saw Tzaobath he was really tense, thinking that they might have to fight it like that. They could use the weapons for fighting against guilds, so he knew they could win, but with a level 1000 monster as an opponent, it was impossible not to be nervous.
There was never any fighting however, and the dragon simply started living in Rashugum, completely peacefully. Vizzy, overheating with excitement, had charged blindly into the monster, but Raster stopped her, not knowing what she was trying to do.
“They say that servants resemble their masters, and that’s totally true for Vizzy. To go and hug a level 1000 monster is not what a normal person would do…”
“Aah…yeah, that’s just what Cashmere would have done…”
Shin remembered Cashmere’s tantrums during the game era, about why highest class monsters couldn’t be tamed, and laughed wryly.
The group went outside for a moment and Raster stepped forward.
As it turned out, the place next to where Shin’s group had landed was Tzaobath’s favorite spot: if they were still there, the group would pick up Schnee and the others on the way and go there.
After some walking, they spotted Schnee and the baby Illusion Dragon.
The baby’s parents were also there. Their grey silhouettes clearly formed dragon-like shapes, similar to eastern-style dragons.
“They look just like they did in the game after growing up, huh.”
The parent dragons were level 629: among Illusion Dragons, they were of fairly average strength. They had noticed Shin’s group, but as Raster was with them they just turned their dragon bone-like heads one moment, then turned again towards Schnee.
“I’ve never seen a baby dragon get attached to someone so quickly. Dragons don’t usually get that close either.”
Raster was looking at Schnee gently cuddling the baby dragon and Vizzy smiling at them.
The baby dragon was on Schnee’s left arm, belly up. When Schnee’s right arm got closer, the baby extended its paws and tried to touch it. The parents also seemed to want Schnee’s attention and rubbed their heads against her.
Schnee noticed and rubbed their heads: the parents trembled a little, their body turning peach colored.
“They turn that color when they’re happy.”
Shin looked around while listening to Raster. Other than the Illusion Dragons, many other kinds of dragons were gathering around Schnee.
Elder Dragons, Wyverns, the green-scaled two-headed Veight Dragon, the Zeranoira — a beast looking like a more brutal rhino — , the Aquoillya, or water in dragon form, and other large dragons.
There were also smaller species such as Fairy Dragons, as large as a person’s arm, and Drunes, with hair like moles.
“That’s kind of amazing…”
“Schnee came here many times already, but they were scared of her then. She always looked calm on the surface, but had a sort of tension inside…dragons are really sensitive, so they felt this and were afraid of approaching her.”
It would be different if she was a normal person, but against someone as powerful as Schnee, they probably felt in danger.
“Schnee is really peaceful now though. I’m pretty sure she would be even if she hadn’t lost her memories.”
“You think so?”
“Of course I do. Before she was always tense because you hadn’t returned yet, lord Shin.”
“Ah…really. Well…I’m sorry.”
Finding out that he was the reason, Shin honestly apologized.
“Nothing to apologize about, sir. Schnee wouldn’t hunt down the dragons here without a reason either, so.”
Shin replied that it was obvious she wouldn’t, then went towards Schnee. She had noticed his arrival: after returning the baby to its parents, Schnee walked towards him too.
“How was it?”
“I found some, but still not enough.”
Schnee’s expression clouded.
“Raster said that we could ask the Ancient Dragon dwelling here, Tzaobath, so we’re going there now.”
“If so, I shall accompany you.”
Schnee added that she was with the dragons enough time and there was no more reason for her not to go. Yuzuha had already hopped back to Shin’s shoulder.
“Okay, I’ll take you there then. Vizzy, the rest is up to you here.”
“Okay, see you~~late~~r.”
Vizzy waved while holding the baby Illusion Dragon. The baby did not resist at all, it must have grown attached to her while Shin’s group was away.
“Tzaobath, was it? Will it not be dangerous?”
Schnee voiced her concerns.
“Nah, it’s alright. I know its level is what it is, and it is kind of scary, but try talking to it and you’ll find that it’s really a good bloke, no wait a good dragon.”
It also helped defend Rashugum: the breath attack Shin’s group witnessed when they arrived had come from Tzaobath.
Shin and the others followed Raster through the dragons’ hall to a large clearing. There they found Tzaobath, its large platinum body resting on the ground, with its eyes closed. It was Shin’s first time seeing Tzaobath during the day, and he instantly understood why the dragon would only appear at night.
“This is almost blinding.”
Filma and Raster nodded to Shibaid’s comment.
“Yep, this is something else.”
“Yeah, I agree too.”
All members shared the same opinion.
“Bear with it a while.”
Tzaobath’s platinum-colored body reflected the sunlight. It was more than just bright or shining, but Shin couldn’t find better fitting words. It was hard for him too to look straight at the dragon.
“Mister Tzaobath! Would you mind turning the light down a bit, sir?”
“Hm? Raster? One moment.”
A deeply resounding voice replied to Raster’s plea. Just as it said, the light decreased gradually.
When Shin looked at Tzaobath again, the scales stopped reflecting the sunlight. They looked like they had turned a more opaque shade of silver.
“How is this?”
“Thank you sir! Sorry to barge in so suddenly, but these people have something to ask you.”
Tzaobath raised its head and looked at Shin’s group. Its mouth was large enough to swallow Shin and its entourage in one gulp.
“My name is Shin. I have come here in hopes to borrow your wisdom.”
He was talking with a dragon that had lived for many years: even if Shin was probably stronger, he felt he needed to be especially respectful, so he also bowed to the dragon.
“Oh, this magic power…a High Human. I remember, I remember you! You have grown much since the last time we fought!”
Tzaobath’s voice was like thunder, but nevertheless easy to understand. The dragon seemed to remember Shin, even if they had fought only once. His rumbling tone seemed joyful somehow.
“This is our first meeting in such a long time, it is proper for I too to say my name. I am Tzaobath! The wandering dragon that once donned the name of Silver Moon!”
Tzaobath stood up and said its name with a roar of thunder. Its intimidating presence, or majestic aura, created a gust of wind that made the surrounding trees shake. Shin felt himself instinctively prepare for battle, but suppressed it through willpower.
“Quite unusual for a High Human to visit together with an Element Tail. O Element Tail, do you remember me?”
“Kuu? I think I do…or do I?”
“I remember your name and personality.”
Yuzuha was still not in her complete form, so she still missed large chunks of her memories. She only remembered some details about Tzaobath too.
Tzaobath cried, disappointed, in response.
“I wanted to rejoice for this long-awaited reunion, but there is no helping that. The conversation has been derailed too. What do you wish to ask me, then?”
“I am looking for an item called 『White Scent Nectar』. I know it can be extracted from the Lily Orchid flower, but would you happen to know where I can find it?”
“Lily Orchid…ingredient for the Blessed Tag, is it not? I see, that young lady was affected by the Cursed Tag, hasn’t she.”
Tzaobath realized what had happened from Shin’s request. It looked in Schnee’s direction.
“That is correct, though I do not have any such recollection.”
“Hmm, yes, I know about it. Also where the tribe growing those flowers is located.”
Lily Orchids grew close to the settlements of a tribe called Tsumugi. Just like the Cursed Tag and Blessed Tag were opposites, the Tsumugi and Kishimi tribes were always at odds, and the former cooperated with the players.
Tzaobath said that it knew where they were located, adding that it was a place Shin had a connection to.
“What do you mean?”
“There is no doubt that you are a High Human, thus I shall tell you. The protector of the Tsumugi tribe is the High Pixie at your command. Her name is…Sety, was it.”
Shin, along with Filma and Shibaid, couldn’t hide their surprise at the sudden name.
They would have never expected for the name of the last support character, currently in whereabouts unknown, to come up now of all times.
“She’s protecting the Tsumugi tribe?”
“They are originally born from spirits. For High Pixies, spirit contractors, protecting such a tribe is not bizarre in the slightest, is it.”
Shin nodded to Tzaobath’s words. The Tsumugi and Kishimi tribes both hailed from spirits that governed human emotions. Pixies, like Elves, were a race that befriended spirits. Tzaobath’s explanation was thus convincing.
“Where would they be, then?”
“Slightly south from the center of the continent, near the country you call Kilmont. In a space where nothing was supposed to be, I felt a presence there similar to yours. I descended, out of curiosity, and there they were hiding.”
They were probably hiding from the outside world with the Pixie’s ability to create Faerie Villages. According to Tzaobath, that was probably a special location. If it wasn’t, there was no way for a High Pixie alone to maintain a separate space, which normally required at least 100.
“She bragged at length about you. Quite the cheerful girl, that was.”
“…could it be that you knew that I would come here if I returned, and waited on purpose?”
This hypothesis came up in Shin’s head as he looked at Tzaobath happily talking about Shin’s support character. Maybe because Tzaobath’s eyes, which were supposed to be the violent eyes of a monster’s, gleamed in a gentle-looking light.
“No, this is simply a comfortable place to be. I gave quite a scare to the caretakers here, though. Anyway, you lot will head there now, I suppose?”
“Yes, that is the plan.”
“Get on my back then. I shall take you there.”
Not only Shin, but all party members were very surprised to hear Tzaobath’s proposal.
Using one of the most powerful monsters in the world as means of transport had never crossed their minds.
“Er, we could borrow some other dragons from Vizzy to go there…”
“You alone would not be able to find the Faerie Village. Well, maybe Shin could, being the master, but you do not want to waste time, correct? Besides, I can fly much faster than any other dragon.”
Shin felt that there had to be something behind Tzaobath’s unexpected helpfulness. The other members probably felt so too: it was all too convenient.
“Why would you do so much for us?”
“Do you suspect my intentions?”
“I do not mean to doubt your words. However, honestly speaking, I wonder why you would help us to such an extent.”
“Hmm, I shall answer then. There is nothing to hide.”
Tzaobath easily nodded to Shin’s question, so easily that the group was kind of surprised again.
“How much do you know about the Kishimi tribe?”
“Only that they venerate an evil deity. They offer the stolen memories to their god, if I remember correctly.”
Shin mentioned what he knew from the event. He also added that Hameln had used the Cursed Tag this time, which he had stolen from the Kishimi tribe.
“I see, so they have already been exterminated.”
Tzaobath then closed its eyes for a brief time. More than relieved, it seemed to feel downhearted.
“I once had a friend. A Human one. This human did not fear me nor give me excessive respect, simply being at my side. I had such a friend.”
Tzaobath looked up at the skies and continued talking.
“The Kishimi tribe…those louts used their Cursed Tag on my friend, of all people. My friend, memories gone, did not remember a thing about me. My friend started seeing me as any other monster. Even if I knew that a Blessed Tag would return my friend’s lost memories, and knew the materials needed, I did not have the skills to create it.”
Tzaobath’s tone had a tinge of sadness in it.
“I looked for someone with the ability to create a Blessed Tag, but could not find anyone before my friend passed, without uttering my name even once until the end. I have never felt more powerless.”
Tzaobath probably recalled what he felt then: he anger that leaked from within was making the ground shake.
“After that, for 10 years, I have sought and crushed the Kishimi tribesmen. But could not completely annihilate them, it seems. Lending you my strength is a sort of apology for not being able to destroy them all.”
“…I do not think there is anything you should feel responsible for, though.”
Anyone could understand that Tzaobath was not to be blamed. The dragon, however, simply looked at Shin.
“…Understood. Please give us your assistance.”
Shin could not win against its gaze. They did not know the exact location and could also reunite with Sety. There was no reason to refuse in the first place.
“Let us depart right away, then. Or is there anything you need to do here first?”
“No, we already did what we had to.”
Shin could give Raster the promised items later: they could leave anytime.
“Let us go, then. Climb onto my back.”
Tzaobath lay down again and Shin’s party climbed on its body, which was large enough to fit them with plenty of room to spare. The lack of reins or a saddle was a little worrying, but they had to make do somehow with their skills and Tzaobath’s power.
“I’d be no use even if I went, so I’ll stay here, people.”
If the Blessed Tag did not work, they would have to go look for the evil deity and defeat it. Raster’s stats were mostly below Tiera’s, so he would stay back at Rashugum.
“Got it. This place is in your hands, like before.”
“Gotcha sir! Take care out there!”
Raster waved as Tzaobahn soared high in the sky. Maybe because of some particular ability it possessed, the dragon just needed to flap its wings a few times for its large body to rise up in the air. Once in midair, just one wing beat greatly increased flight speed.
If the group looked down, they could see the mountains they had looked up to until moments ago, noticing that they had already climbed to a considerable altitude.
“Not being able to touch the ground with your feet makes you feel quite uneasy.”
Thanks to a wind skill, everyone could clearly hear Schnee’s words. She was sitting right behind Shin, so he could hear even if she whispered something to herself. He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or to herself, but since her voice was different than the usual, he decided to reply.
“It’s the first time for the current you to fly, isn’t it. It’s not weird to feel uneasy after flying so high all of a sudden.”
There were no saddles or reins, unlike Vizzy’s Elder Dragons, so Shin understood being tense at flying this way. They were as high as airplanes in the real world, after all. The speed was much higher than an Elder Dragon’s too. If they weren’t protected by their skills, they probably would have had to desperately grab onto the dragon’s body in order not to fall.
“Speak up if it’s too tough. Tzaobath will probably adjust the height if we tell it to.”
Shin turned around and replied.
He peeked in the direction of Tzaobath’s head and realized that it had probably heard them, as the dragon’s head shook vertically, as to express assent.
“Then, could I please…hold onto your clothes?”
Schnee leant forward and asked. Because of the difference in height and her posture, she was looking up at Shin. Her pleading gaze, concealing the proud spirit she had before losing her memory, made Shin’s heart skip a beat.
“Oh, ah, yeah, sure, hold onto me hard, I mean, hold fast.”
Shin replied in an exaggerated manner, to keep his emotions from showing. He looked forward, thinking that he could be blushing.
Actually, because of the 【Riding】 skill, there was no immediate risk of anyone falling. In the remote case they did, Tzaobath would surely recover them quickly, but that was a different thing altogether.
“Allow me, then…”
After her words, Shin felt Schnee moving. After about 10 seconds, though, he didn’t feel her grabbing his clothes, so he turned around. Just then, Schnee’s hands hugged Shin’s stomach, thus holding her whole body against his.
“Eh!? Sh, Schnee!?”
Shin couldn’t help but voice his surprise at Schnee’s sudden hug. She was so close that Shin felt something very soft against his back. Forcing his attention not to focus on those massive presences, Shin asked her what happened.
“Am I bothering you?”
“No, not at all, I was just surprised…”
Before losing her memories, Schnee…not considering that there were others present…would have probably hugged him like this. The current Schnee, however loyal, was not supposed to feel romantically attracted to Shin. It was thus unnatural for her to hug him so tightly and rest her head on his shoulder.
“I don’t…understand myself. But if I don’t do this, I feel very uneasy…”
The voice reaching Shin’s ears did not seem to be joking at all. Shin touched Schnee’s arms, wrapped around his waist, and noticed that they were trembling.
“Schnee, you’re being pretty bold, aren’t…hey, you look sickly pale!”
Filma started poking fun at Schnee, but her tone completely changed halfway through.
Shin couldn’t see Schnee well, as she was directly behind him, but the situation seemed worse than expected.
“Let’s land for a moment. Tzaoba—”
“I’m alright. Please go on.”
“Don’t push yourself, if you feel bad just say it.”
“I’m really alright. I’ll calm down if I stay like this.”
Shin felt Schnee’s arms grip his waist tighter, so he couldn’t just believe her and leave it at that: he decided to contact Filma via Mind Chat.
“(I can’t see Schnee from here, I can only feel her arms are trembling. How do you see her?)”
“(I can’t tell if she’s shaking, but she looks really sick. She was always pale, but now she looks just unhealthy.)”
Her status did not show any abnormalities, so Shin chose to believe her and press forward.
He held her hands wrapped around his waist, and her shaking stopped.
“We will arrive soon.”
After less than 30 minutes of flight came Tzaobath’s announcement. Schnee, just as she had said, had calmed down after hugging Shin’s back. Shin looked down at the continent as they descended.
He could see cities he had previously visited: the Kingdom of Bayreuth, the capital of the Falnido Beast Alliance, the fortified city Balmel and others. East from Falnido there was the Dragon Empire of Kilmont, where Shibaid used to live.
“Hmm? What’s that impossibly large tree…?”
Shin spotted a very large tree located in the center of the continent, surrounded by trees of normal height.
“There wasn’t supposed to be anything there though.”
Shin remembered that in the map Schnee had previously shown him, nothing was marked in that area. Maybe it was a location that was not normally visible.
Shin made a mental note to go check it out when they had the time and looked at where Tzaobath was going to land.
“Hmm? I’ve felt this somewhere before…”
At first glance there was nothing to be seen, but nevertheless Shin could sense something that gave a nostalgic feeling coming from that seemingly deserted location, which made him cock his head to one side, trying to pinpoint the origin of that sensation.
He couldn’t say where, but his intuition told him that he had felt it before.
As they descended, the mirage-concealed location gradually floated into view. Tzaobath was heading straight there, so it had to be their destination.
“Shin, do you recognize that?”
“No…is that the entrance? There is a presence I can’t quite put my finger on.”
“Hmm, something might have changed here after the faerie village was created. I had been told that you would understand, though.”
Tzaobath asked this question to Shin and then held its chin, deep in thought. Looks like even dragons make that gesture when thinking.
It had been Sety who said that Shin would surely understand, apparently.
Soon enough, they arrived a few mels from the ground. Tzaobath finally gracefully flapped its wings and performed a very soft landing. Shin and the party got down from its back right after.
“The faerie village I know is over there.”
Tzaobath pointed at the location where the scenery was warped they had seen from above. It was about large enough for Tzaobath to pass through it, if it crouched, but did not seem to have any depth.
“That is pretty different from how I remember faerie villages entrances to be…”
Shin remembered to be rings of light that appeared only when the item granting permission to enter was used.
The other side was another world: that had probably not changed, though. The difference with his memories from the game era, however, still gave Shin a weird feeling.
“By the way, we do not have the entrance permission item, can we still pass?”
“As long as you are with me. I have been told that Shin and his ‘support characters’ won’t be stopped.”
There was probably no reason to block Shin, Sety’s master, and his companions from passing.
“It looks different than usual, but let’s go through it right away.”
Shin was a bit concerned, but decided to gather his courage and go through. As soon as he stepped into the distorted space, the scenery changed instantly.
The newly appeared scenery left Shin speechless.
Warm sunlight, a calm breeze. A small hill peppered with trees. He looked to the right and saw the teleport point building, as he remembered. It was all just like a view he had seen before.
Shin couldn’t believe it and looked at an area used as a flower field. There he noticed a single gravestone, standing among multicolored flowers. As he soon as he saw the gravestone, Shin ran up to it.
Yuzuha grabbed on to his shoulder, trying not to fall off; Schnee and Tiera, who had entered after him, were surprised. Shin did not notice any of that, however.
He rushed next to the gravestone and looked at the name engraved on it. There was no mistake, it was “Marino”.
It was indeed the private area that Shin had acquired as a reward during an event, which he had used to bury Marino’s avatar.