Everything turned white as we entered the door to the Trial Grounds. Then, after a moment, we found ourselves in a huge...sandy desert. Big surprise there. I'd never expected this. We only used an Extra Medal related to the desert to come here.
"So this is how the Trial Grounds take shape according to their location and the Medals used." - Vierter
After hearing Viertier Hyokras, I had to agree. Sure, it is a desert no different from the one that the main hub of the Damavand Dungeon is located in, but huge statues that portray the great dragon kings are spread all over the dry landscape. Way more than the numbers placed in the temple where the Trial Ground door was located in.
Then we noticed a pair of glowing lines that made a road throughout the desert, along with various vehicles placed at what you could call the "starting line". A timer floating above the line is counting down, while a barrier is preventing people from going past it. Seeing how close they are, and they look to be made of the same energy, I bet the timer shows for how long until the barrier goes off.
"I think I can guess what this trial is about." - Flint
"There is a sign over there. Maybe it can tell us of the details." - Vierter
True. The sign gave us everything we needed to know in the form of 6 sentences.
This doesn't sound so bad...okay, I lied. This is bad.
"What sounds worse? Facing the wrath of the old Dragon Kings, or facing this beast-thing?" - Flint
"Everyone knows the powers of the old Dragon Kings, so naturally, I am terrified of that idea. But we know nothing of this beast, and we will lose if we encounter it, so I'd say we should honor our previous kings and face them head-on." - Vierter
After saying his part, Vierter Hyokras transformed from his human form into his true shape of a cold-emitting Ice Dragon and took up position by the starting line. Don't tell me he's planning on running to the goal. For real? It's around 5 kilometers to the goal! Dragons are truly crazy in every way possible.
For my part, I decided to borrow one of the vehicles that were placed around the start line. Even if I have obtained that [Sand Strider] skill just now, I do NOT wish to run past the avatars of the old kings when I can use a much faster device instead.
I chose a car-like transport, one that looks like a "buggy" that was shown in those magazines from the other world that sometimes pops up in Damavand. I couldn't read their language, but Ciara told me they were called as such. Let's hope that "Strider" skill is good enough to keep this vehicle on the road. I do have one other hidden card that could help, but let's hope I don't need to use it.
There are even a pair of goggles in the front seat of the buggy. I'll be borrowing these then. The sand would make it impossible to keep my eyes open otherwise.
*Beep*, *beep*, *beep*...
Just as I'd gotten the seatbelt on, the countdown started to make itself known by giving off these strange beeping sounds. The red-colored numbers are also gradually shifting into yellow...and then green! The counter hit zero! Time to race!
Vierter Hyokras dashed out from the finishing line. Having flying banned doesn't seem to stop him. I made up the rear as I "put the pedal to the metal", as Garami or Ciara would say it, and followed him in my buggy.
And right off the start, a large sound came from behind us. In my side mirror, I could see...what am I seeing here?! An alligator? A locust? A fusion of both!? Whatever it is, it is HUGE! And it is heading toward the starting line we just left.
I returned my line of sight to the course, now more determined to win this thing than a few seconds before. Whatever that thing is supposed to look like, its identity is obvious. It must be the "great beast of the earth" thing. Getting caught by it must be how we would lose. Even if we are protected from dying in this Trial, having to experience being crushed by that thing is going to be more than just traumatic-
Woah-!? One of the statues just used its tail to try and knock me off the course! These things can move? ...how awesome!
"Flint! Stay focused!" - Vierter
"Say that to yourself!" - Flint
Vierter had the spare energy to turn around and give me a warning, that sly bastard. Why is he making it so difficult to distrust him!?
As if sharing my rage, the statues started to turn more animated and released outright illegal attacks against us. One of them jumped up and slammed the ground with such force it felt like a bomb had exploded. I barely managed to dodge that one, dammit!
Just as I drifted after that desperate dodge, another majesty of old started to make his mouth glow...hold on! Is that-!
HEEEELP!! It is that!! A dragon breath attack! No isn't the time to be a cheapskate on mana!
"Fire Accel!" - Flint
With my shout, I used a skill on the buggy I was driving, which created a spray of fire from behind the vehicle. That caused the buggy to dash forward, allowing me to escape sudden death from the dragon breath-
*Sound of the world ending with a bang*
MY EARS!! What was that!? There's a mushroom cloud in the distance where the dragon breath attack flew toward! I've never seen one in real life before! Only in my science textbooks! Those that I bought for a steep Sol when I started researching Automatas in the hope I could use that technology for my swords, but I ended up with the wrong books.
There's some fortune to be found in this world-ending misfortune though. The blast gave me tons of tailwinds. Enough to create a sandstorm, no joke. Good thing I found those goggles, and that the lines that create the track are visible even in this sandstorm.
I drive while my ears were ringing from the last blast. There are tons of large shadows and flashy blasts of winds and fire hidden in the sand, which created a level of suspense that I could live my whole life without!
Luck is with me even now though. The statues must be attacking us participants based on visual information. All the flying sand is making them go crazy and attack anything. It's now or never!
I swallowed my fear and rushed through the sandstorm. I didn't rely on the Accel skill again. The loud noises from the explosions everywhere are drowning the sound of the buggy, but fiery wheel tracks are a different story!
Almost there...almost...IIK! A huge dragon...statue...just emerged from the sand right in front of the goal! And it's charging up to the mother of all dragon breaths!!
Forget discretion! Flare Accel, full throttle!!
Guh! The sudden rush got me plastered to my seat, but right before the breath got released...I did it! I slipped past the statue's legs! Now-
*Sound too loud to be described with words*
GUH!? Now the force is coming from behind! The intense explosion made the buggy fly up into the air...and past the goal line! I won! I won! I...am flying!?
The buggy disappeared after I crossed the finish line and was sent back to the temple of the old Dragon Kings, but the force of the last explosion still lives. I'm being blasted to the sky! And it makes me feel like a loser for some reason, even when I won the Trial!
...is that the Water District? Am I flying past it now? ...how high up in the sky am I right now? Oh, god! I'm going to end up as a dirty flower on the asphalt at this rate! Help. HELP ME!! Somebody, help-!!
My desperate prayers were answered before I had the time to despair...much. A huge, red claw grabbed me while I was in the air. That is...Lord Runitos!? The same Fire Dragon who once owned the Dungeon that is now Damavand-Volcano, and Damavand's biggest business partner when you take Babel out of the equation!?
"-------?" - Runitos
...yeah. My ears are still busted.
Lord Runitos helped me down to the ground and to an establishment where I could get my ears checked while we waited for Vierter Hyokras to return. It took a good hour even after my check-up was done and I could hear again before we saw him flying down with a member of the Frost Hunters on his back.
"Flint, there you are," said Vierter Hyokras after dismissing the Frost Hunter. "How did things end on your part? ...and why is he with you?"
The one Vierter Hyokras glared at was Lord Runitos, who had changed to his human form. He looks like a well-trained human with flaming red hair. Unlike Vierter Hyokras who you could say emits an aura of nobleness and refined grace, Lord Runitos gives off a wild yet royal vibe.
"Yo, Vier. Long time no see, you damn stuck-up icicle." - Runitos
"I could say the same to you, you brutish campfire." - Vierter
"E-excuse me...do you two know each other?" - Flint
"Of course, I know this jerk/idiot!" - Runitos/Vierter
Wow, they're completely in sync. Even when they started to glare at each other right after parroting each other. But at this rate, it's smarter to shelve any ideas about getting more info about the relationship between these Ice- and Fire Dragons.
"Anyway, Runi. Why are you even here?" - Vierter
"I told you not to use that nickname! ...I promised that fallen angel-girl to make sure ol' Flint here would be fine without her." - Runitos
"Hey, it's quite possible you two are several centuries older than me. And you met Noire? When?" - Flint
"I met her two days ago at the Gorge Gate. I asked her for a favor, so I decided to do something for her in return." - Runitos
So they met right before Noire entered the Grievous Gorge. Guessing that I wanted to know his deal for being there, Lord Runitos started to whisper to me so that Vierter Hyokras couldn't hear him.
(Turns out the princess has fled the castle...again. She takes trips to the Gorge sometimes, so I thought I could find her there.) - Runitos
(That princess again...) - Flint
I can't say I am surprised. And I can easily guess why Lord Runitos wanted to meet her there. It's obvious that he has a crush on her. That is why he once tried to hunt me down.
"Anyway, mind if I tag along? I heard you guys are doing a walkaround of those new Trial Ground-places." - Runitos
"Where did you hear that?" - Vierter
"From Flint. He already gave me the go-for-it, and I don't care what you say." - Runitos
"Then why even bother asking, you overgrown ash heap." - Vierter
Uh-oh. Are they getting into a fight?
"But your battle sense is the only thing I can commend you for, and after experiencing one of those trials myself, I'd say it will be great to have a reserve player to tag out with." - Vierter
"Yes! As expected of the stick-in-the-ice. You know when a good opportunity knocks." - Runitos
"I am not a no-brain-only-luck fireball such as you, Runi." - Vierter
"Who're you calling no-brain?! And stop calling me by that name as well! On a completed unrelated notion, Flint, I hope we can restart our trading business when this stupid coronation quest or whatever is done." - Runitos
"Y-yes. I'll remember to ask Garami about that as soon as possible." - Flint
"Sweet! Same as the business! Speaking of which, Vier? How about we give Flinty here the rest of the day off and challenge another Trial Ground with the two of us?" - Runitos
"I love efficiency, but be aware. HP does not decrease when facing the Trials on safe mode, but the experience remains. Honestly, I never want to see a crocodile ever again..." - Vierter
"Then shall we return to the Water District? Or should we try the place here in the Life District?" - Runitos
After I got sent to the sky before, Runitos caught me when I was halfway past the Water District. Since the Life District, which is a neighbor to the Water District as the Metal District is, has the better doctors, he took me here instead.
The Water District is more of a recreation area, filled with hot springs and local specialties. Even if the servant race for the Water Dragons is the elves who had to flee from their old home. Or so I've heard.
"I visited the old man in the Water District, and he said they have yet to find the Trial Ground there. The report from my men says the same." - Vierter
"How sloppy of you guys." - Runitos
"We have our hands full with the recent attacks! Sorry, Flint. We old schoolmates need to settle some scores." - Vierter
"Well put! Let's go! ...where are we going?" - Runitos
"To the great garden! Where else?" - Vierter
"Race you there!" - Runitos
"I've already warmed up to it!" - Vierter
And then, the dragons of fire and ice created a small hurricane as they returned to their dragon forms and took off. ...am I forced to deal with these two from now on? Oh, my god...
Kigal-Note chapter: Traits:[Reptile-type Traits]