The bowstring emitted a sharp twang. Then a mana-imbued arrow shot through the tunnel lit by flickering torches, leaving a pale blue trail of light in its path.
[Grb!] A goblin’s eyes widened. He took several steps backward, only to bump against a fellow goblin and fall on his rear. His breathing quickened. He exhaled at an unusually fast rate. Then, as tight as he could—while wishing the arrow would miss—he shut his eyes.
Shortly, the arrow struck. The goblin confirmed it with his ears. He could not mistake it. And so, gradually, he lifted his eyelids, only to see an arrow digging on the ground between his thighs.
[G-ghorb. Gohorb. Gohorb!] It was a close call. His voice, broken by fear, started to regain its life.
[Gohorb! Ghorb! Gohohorb!] The goblin laughed as he stood with trembling legs. Gradually, a wide grin was plastered on his pale face. [Gohohorb!]
He pointed towards Amelia, mocking her for missing by a small margin. However, before he could finish his laugh, the arrow diffused a blinding light. The goblin, still laughing, then joined his unfortunate kin after an ear-splitting explosion.
A cloud of dust lingered after the explosion. When it subsided, the nearby boulders were rolled backward, shattered or cracked. Among those were torn bodies of goblins, drenching the ground with a mix of blood and several other fluids.
[Move!] Not missing the chance, Garfin roared and lugged his pick on his shoulders. He started to increase the speed of his climb while decreasing the pressure he was applying to Greith’s earthen spikes.
The other dwarfs did the same, which then increased the rate of spikes bursting from behind. However, despite their situation, an unwavering grin was expressed on their faces. [Don’t let up! Last one to reach the top gets three mugs less!]
With alcohol as their drive, the dwarfs continued.
On the other hand, Dresbon clicked his tongue. [If possible, use the mithril arrows sparingly! We can’t lose every one of them before the fight against the dragon! Preserve!]
The arrow Amelia shot was made of mithril. It was an arrow tipped with a crystal. The crystal—which was made by the dwarfs—had an advanced magic circle embedded inside, though incomplete.
However, just as Dresbon worried, mithril does not grow on trees. Or simply, they did not have a huge amount of mithril arrows carried on their person. At the least, a number of dwarfs—Amelia included—were provided with three mithril arrows each. The rest of the arrows were wooden and tipped with shards.
Following after Amelia’s example, several dwarfs halted their climb and knocked a mithril arrow. Then, as fast as they could aim, they shot the arrows. Needless to say, the arrows exploded after a few seconds it reached a target.
Unfortunately, dwarfs were not born archers, nor did anyone in the group were particularly skilled with handling bows. And due to that, the arrows exploded inefficiently. Or simply, most of the arrows exploded too close to each other. This reduced the amount of destruction the arrows were supposed to give.
[Gorb! Form a wall! Keep them inside the tunnel!] A goblin, at least twice the size of an ordinary goblin, perhaps a hobgoblin, shouted. He wore a coat of made out of a wolf’s pelt, which was stitched with plant fibers to cover his chest. [Let them taste the dirt!]
From what it seemed, the goblin, who had a blue skin, was the goblins’ current commander. He swung his metallic rod and shouted orders while remaining at the center of the goblins’ ranks. [For the Queen!]
Just as he shouted, the goblins raised a unified roar.
Though a number of the goblins were immediately wiped out, the goblin commander did not falter. If anything, his determined black eyes were filled with vigor. After all, though reduced, their number was far greater than the already split-up group of dwarfs. At the least, their number was five times greater. Adding the fact that they were defending from up the slope, and the fact that Greith was aiding them, the fear of losing was close to non-existent.
And so the goblins, just as the commander ordered, bolstered their defenses and blocked the mouth of the tunnel.
However, the goblins were not the only one who was determined to eliminate the obstacles on their path. And so, as a response, two arrows flew in succession. As a result, the explosion opened up a gap on the goblins defenses. Afterward, a figure dove into the gap and headed deeper into the goblins’ ranks.
Just as the gap was filled back by the goblins, the figure halted. Then, after the goblins surrounded the foreign figure, the figure clutched the backside of its helmet. Then with a step forward, the figure threw its silver helm, smashing into a goblins face while revealing the silver strands that trickled over her armor.
After shaking her head a few times to settle her hair, Amelia drew the longsword hanging by her left hip. The rapier on her right remained sheathed, and the arrow and quiver hanging at her back were now missing.
With her legs bent slightly, Amelia held her longsword with two hands.
Really, I can’t get used to this.
It was a surprise for the goblins. They never thought a woman would suddenly appear before them. Especially in a case when they have already surrounded the woman. And in this case, where their Queen was locked up, and where they were continuously forced to obey the Fairy’s order, they were naturally pent-up. And so, their lust, their desire, bubbled into their hearts.
[Tch!] Meanwhile, after pushing the goblins back with another mithril arrow, Dresbon clicked his tongue. [Oi! Garfin! Your granddaughter is definitely nuts! Do scold her not to play the hero! It’s going to drive me crazy!]
Dresbon thought differently of Amelia. He thought Amelia was more suited for handling people rather than be on the front lines drenched in blood. Maybe it was his prejudice. For he himself thought that most female dwarfs have a different place other than the front lines. Or so to say, he was worried. To him, Amelia’s life is not just her own. Too many lives depended on her, and so, she should cherish it and serve as a pillar.
[You don’t have to tell me.] Garfin arrived after Dresbon with the dwarfs in tow. And as soon as they arrived, the dwarfs dashed towards the goblins and swung their picks. [If only we were faster, we could have taken the role. Tch! Anyway, now is not the time to dwell on this! Break those heads open! Break through!]
Garfin’s mood was sour. Though he knew Amelia was capable of protecting herself, it still left a sour taste in his mouth to allow Amelia to handle the diversion. Or simply, he failed to react before Amelia was able to execute her plan.
In any case, Garfin and Dresbon joined the fray. They swung their picks and smashed the goblins with brute strength. And in order to aid their lack of a proper weapon due to the unexpected event, they employed a tactic of hit, back-step, and burst of earthen spike. Against the armor-less goblins, the tactic was quite effective.
[Finally!] Heaving his chest from exhaustion, Arkand arrived at the tunnel’s mouth. He and few other dwarfs focused on mitigating the burst of spikes from behind while Dresbon and Garfin paved a path for them. Fortunately, the spikes stopped emerging after the dwarfs exited the tunnel. However, they no longer had a path of retreat.
[Can’t believe I’d be frustrated about my height now! Damn this short and stubby legs! Can’t advance too quickly!] After catching his breath along with the last dwarfs, they joined Garfin and Dresbon’s group in culling the goblins. [Haha! Can’t be too late for the festival!]
Gradually, the number of goblins started to dwindle. After all, they were not particularly strong—not with the make-shift weapons and armor they wore. In fact, their strength solely relied on numbers. What the goblins needed was to overwhelm the dwarfs and drive them into exhaustion, in both physical, mind, and mana.
Back into the goblins ranks, the goblins started their assault towards Amelia. Although it was nothing but reckless, she chose this plan to divide the attention of the goblins, and to reduce the burden on the dwarfs.
[[Goorb! Gorb!]] The goblins cried in glee. They raced each other with their clubs, stone hatchets, wooden spears, or bare hands in order to receive the right of the first. Some even had drool dripping down their mouth as they charged.
Capture. Indulge. Tear. Smear. The goblins dreamed of the delight waiting before them. For, as long as they captured the woman before them, they could do whichever they wanted, They could release the stress that accumulated throughout their suffering.
However, Amelia was not gracious enough to mindlessly offer herself.
A thin limb fell to the ground, then a goblin writhed in pain. A flash of sword followed, slitting a goblins neck. A metallic clink rang, then a greave smashed into a goblins face. Then, followed by a wide swing, the incoming goblins from behind were forced to halt their advance.
[Go—!] Just as they halted, an earthen spike burst from underneath, puncturing them from between their legs up to their heads.
“Is that all you got?!” A flash of light came from the pommel of Amelia’s sword. Afterward, she took a safe distance from the surrounding goblins and darted her eyes around.
Fenrir would have done better!
Amelia swung her sword at a speed incomparable to how she fought her father. Currently, her movements were aided by a coat of mana that acted like an external muscle. It was a replication of the Celes’s puppet when she was training with Fenrir.
Each swing of her sword added a smear of blood on her blade. Her silver hair too was stained with blood similarly to her armor. However, she did not mind. If anything, she felt relieved. Relieved that she could fight how she used to, with her longsword and with simple flashes of light.
In a way, the blood she drew served to decrease the stress she accumulated. It kept her mind focused on evading, parrying, countering, and observing the goblins’ movements. Though she thought it was not a huge deal compared to how Fenrir attacked at blind spots, she prepared a countermeasure for an unexpected turn of events.
Among those she observed were the chips accumulating on her sword.
On the contrary, the goblins’ treatment and view on Amelia changed. Lust and desire turned into hatred. Then hatred drove a mindless assault.
[Goooorb!] It no longer mattered if Amelia was a woman. The goblins wanted to avenge their kin. And all they need is to capture and torture her in any ways imaginable. In response to that rage, a few more hobgoblins joined the assault against Amelia. As a result, Amelia drew more attention than she should have.
Slingshots fired. Make-shift bows shot arrows made of twigs. All of it rained down on Amelia. However, none succeeded to make a hit, for a few layers of barrier protected her.
The commanding goblin gritted his yellowish teeth. He swung his metallic rod and swept a dwarf to the side with one blow. [Don’t let that woman fool you! Focus on the dwarfs! You can tear her off once her allies are dead!]
He knew better than the other goblins, but he too knew it was futile to stop his kin. They were already at the point of no return. Not unless they succeeded in capturing the woman and avenging their kin. Still, he hoped his voice would reach those blinded with rage.
The commanding goblin clicked his tongue. [Rear group! Retreat! Front liners! Delay the enemy! We must reform our ranks!]
[We won’t let you!] Garfin broke through the thinning barricade of goblins with his pick. His aim was to take down the commander and further the chaos Amelia and the dwarfs sowed.
Just as Garfin broke through, goblins followed behind him and raised their club. At that moment, Dresbon shouted, [Garfin! Duck!]
An arrow flew into the air and dug deep into the head of one of the goblins chasing after Garfin. Then, just before the head reached the ground, it exploded, leaving bits of flesh in the surrounding area.
[Damned Dresbon! That was close!] The moment Dresbon shouted, Garfin created a thin earthen wall and continued to pursue. The wall, now crumbled, was enough to shield Garfin from the blast. Fortunately, the thin wall served as a buckshot that took down the nearby goblins.
[You’re mine!] Garfin raised his pick and took a swing at the goblin commander. However, the goblin commander parried the blow to the side with his rod.
[Fool! This is the end for you!] The goblin commander poured mana to the shard tied to the rod’s handle. Soon, the whole cavern trembled.
[[What?!]] The goblin commander’s and Garfin’s voice overlapped, which drove Garfin into further confusion.
Shortly, the goblins’ path of retreat was sealed with earthen walls. It surprised both the goblins and the dwarfs, but the perpetrator soon bared its head.
Above the cavern, where numerous boulders started to fall, light filtered.
[Hello dumb dumbs!] The fairy playfully waved her hand. She stood on Greith’s head who peeked through the hole on the cavern.
Just as the boulders fell, smash on the ground, and incur a cloud of dust, Greith reared his head with his jaws partly opened.
[Don’t tell me?!] Garfin shouted in surprise.
[Traitor!] The goblin commander shouted.
To begin with, the Fairy never treated the goblins as her allies.
[Turn them to dust!] Just as the Fairy ordered, Greith released his breath into the sealed cavern.
[The dragon!] A male elf ran towards a tree with bated breath. [I-it came out! On its own!] He looked up the tree where Kanna and Ran stood while observing the situation in the east.
Kanna downed a mouthful of saliva as she observed with Far Sight. [I-I know…]
The sun was still rising in the east. Though it was fine to fly with the sun up the sky, it was best to choose a time when the light of the sun would not limit their sight, which was why Kanna suggested the operation be held at noon or afterward.
[Tell Sylvar that we’ll deploy ahead of time.] Ran jumped down from one branch to another until she reached the ground.
[Understood!] The elf took a run. While he was running, he communicated with his spirit to send a message ahead. He thought it would be better to explain the full details in person.
[Kanna.] Ran moved her sight up the tree, but Kanna’s figure had already vanished. She roamed her eyes and found Kanna running towards the clearing while blowing her whistle. [Well, can’t be helped.]
Ran followed after Kanna. And as she did, she tried to suppress her drumming heart. She tugged on the leather sling that held her quiver on her back, asking herself to steel her determination and kill her fear. However, just as she saw Kanna’s unusually pale face, she clapped on her cheeks. [You’re not the only one afraid, Ran. You’re not the only one to fight. There are others waiting. There are allies to save.]
Ran took a deep breath in, and a breath out. [That should do, for a while, at least.]
Kanna jumped onto Birby’s neck and shouted at the people nearby. [Riders! Depart as immediately as you could! For the formation, take a three-wyvern unit! The rest would depend on how the situation rolls!]
Kanna took another sweep of the surrounding people and found Ran. [Hurry! We don’t have time to spare!]
Ran nodded. Then, as nimbly as she could, she climbed on Birby’s back and sat on the saddle. She locked her foot in the stirrup and said, [I’m ready to go!]
Kanna, riding on Birby’s neck, tapped on Birby twice. [Fly! I’ll fix myself later!]
Birby flapped his wings as hard as he could. It was as if he sensed Kanna’s worries and took off as fast as he could.
Just as Birby lifted from the ground, Kanna took out a reddish fruit and squashed it.
[Please endure it for a bit, Birby.] Kanna clutched on Birby’s feather-like scales and poured the squashed fruit onto the bridge of Birby’s nose. When she confirmed Birby started to exhale short snorts, Kanna nimbly ran up Birby’s neck and onto the saddle.
[That was dangerous, Kanna.] Ran expressed a wry smile.
[We don’t have time to worry about that.] Kanna, who locked herself similarly to Ran, had numerous beads of sweat all over her body. She gripped Birby’s reins and pressed on Birby’s back using her thighs. [Come on, Birby,] Kanna muttered while shielding her eyes from the sun, [you can go faster than this.]