—It didn’t feel like nighttime at all to me.
The calm air became filled with a heavy heat, burning my skin.
I touched the coarse rock surface with my hand. Just how many times had I encountered the evil dragon Fafnir already? No matter how many times I swung my sword, my blade never pierced its skin. I had to constantly avoid its attacks by a hair-breadth; failing even once would mean instant death.
There was no showy heroic tale in that battle.
It was a hellish comedy where I had to swing my sword just in order to survive, no matter how unsightly and ridiculous it looked.
I know that I can’t beat it. I had no experience or spark in me; inside, I was merely a soft homunculus who had taken on the outer shell of a hero.
But right now, I was the dragon-slayer Siegfried. I had to challenge this despairing battle once again.
The dragon opened its jaws and released a bluish-white light.
Flames burst out. I determined that it was impossible to dodge. I released the power of Balmung and blocked the attack by pushing forward—!
The dragon’s breath was a surging blast of extreme heat, extreme impact and extreme pressure. A normal human would die in an instant from either being burnt to ash or having their lungs torn out of their very mouths from the wind pressure.
…Even so, I managed to survive it.
I tried to suck in a breath and ended up coughing violently.
I seemed to have survived thanks to the sturdiness of my shell and the sword blast from Balmung. The great pain and suffocation I felt could be endured as long as I had this shell.
My arms couldn’t move. Even though my entire body was as hot as if I had been bathed in boiling oil, the heat of my body was frozen in fear. I couldn’t win; even with a hero’s body, it was impossible for ‘Sieg’ to beat it.
What should I do?
There’s no way I could know. Fighting, escaping and negotiating were all impossible against this enemy. I had no option besides giving up.
—As if I could give up.
Even after scolding myself like that, I couldn’t think of anything. Perhaps sensing that, the dragon sidled forward as if to bestow fear onto me.
And then, it suddenly opened its jaws and attacked. I reflexively counterattacked with my sword.
Perhaps the inside of its mouth would be softer than its skin…
That faint hope was easily smashed.
If my hopes had merely been smashed, then I still could have dealt with it. But what the dragon aimed for wasn’t myself, but the great sword which had blocked its breath earlier—Balmung.
The dragon’s teeth, whose hardness far surpassed any steel, clamped down on the sword and bite off the blade.
The legendary sword which had been bestowed to Siegfried by the Nibelung. The dual holy and cursed sword which released a blast of twilight—
If it was held not by a hero, but by a homunculus… then it could also break easily like this.
I… really wasn’t Siegfried after all. That hero had managed to come out with a plan to break through even a situation like this.
And yet, the only thing I could do was resolve myself worthlessly. I was going to die. I don’t know what will happen in reality, but the me here would be torn about by the dragon’s teeth.
Losing this battle is inevitable; I was merely unlucky.
I wanted to explain it away with such swords. I was merely unlucky—for being here, in this situation and at this moment.
That’s only natural. Just what do you think you are?
A homunculus, an artificial lifeform created through magecraft, and a mass-produced one at that. I merely survived by relying on fortunate chance and clinging to the kindness of others.
—My soul is pure and untouched, and therefore I can become anything.
My self-torturing thoughts halted at that sudden revelation. But, before I could understand what exactly it was, the dragon clamped down on me with its mouth.
Its fangs bite into me. I writhed in pain so great I couldn’t even scream. I let go of the handle of my sword and feebly hit the dragon with both hands.
I was being devoured while alive. The experience was more painful and terrifying than I had ever imagined. As I struggled, my gaze happened to meet the eyes of the dragon—and it seemed to be laughing smugly at me.
Ah, this dragon has surely devoured thousands of humans. It had probably tasted their fear and despair.
Even though it was of the dragon race, the very top of the Phantasmal Species, it was unbelievably avaricious. It continued to gather up possessions and devour humans who presented themselves as sacrifices.
No matter how many times it was hit, the hands of humans couldn’t even be felt by it, let alone hurt it.
Its fangs crushed and pierced my armor and body. This armor’s hardness wasn’t ordinary, but it was like paper before the fangs of a dragon.
I want fangs, I thought.
I want fangs to fight. I want fangs to win. I want fangs so as not to lose.
I want this dragon’s fangs.
Before me was the dragon’s upper jaw. I opened my mouth and bite into it like a starved wolf.
A howl rang out—the dragon was shocked, unable to believe it.
I couldn’t believe it either.
And then I laughed.
Thus, my path was settled.
I threw away all other options, not knowing if I’d ever had them in the first place, and cut open a path.
The [Dead Count Shapeshifter: Dragon Revelation Command Spells] on my left arm, which governed destruction. There was no longer any need to count down to my death. The result would be the same no matter how many Command Spells I use. Since I decided to participate in this war, the countdown would definitely reach zero.
But I was already resolved to everything.
I bit into the upper jaw and bared my fangs at the dragon.
——And then, Sieg opened his eyes. His consciousness was clear and free of pain.
He looked out the window from his bed. It was still dark outside, but the sky was becoming slightly bluish.
Dawn wasn’t far away. Determining he couldn’t sleep any further, Sieg decided to get up.