The Straw Millionaire, the Cat, and the Princess Volume 1 Chapter 4 part 3

 
At first, I mistook it for sunlight. I thought I had reached another entrance and had exited the dungeon. However, it was only when I was completely enveloped by the whiteness that colored the passage that I realized I was inside a dragon’s breath.
 
“Wow!!”
 
“Tonbo, the barrier is fine! Stay calm and aim for the head!”
 
It was a dragon that seemed to have come straight out of mythology. Incredibly huge, terrifying to the point of being terrifying, and so beautiful that you couldn’t look away.
 
Its massive body, which could scrape the ceiling of the dungeon, was covered in crimson scales about the size of my palm, and white flames leaked from the corners of its mouth, as if it could swallow people whole. It sized me up with flickering eyes gleaming with fire leaking from its mouth.
 
“Shoot, shoot, shoot!”
 
“Aaaah!!”
 
As I pulled the trigger with all my might, a loud sound like a roar rang out, and a small hole appeared in the dragon’s forehead. As the sound and vibration of the gun increased, the hole grew larger and larger.
 
“Tonbo! Let go of the trigger!”
 
“Ah! Ah! Right!”
 
As I let go of the trigger, the sound and vibration of the gun stopped abruptly, and the dragon’s head, which was spraying blood from its forehead, fell to the ground powerlessly.
 
“Did it!? Did we do it!? Did we!?”
 
“We did.”
 
“Oh, thank goodness…”
 
I slumped down, sitting on the ground. Without caring about the pants soaked in urine, I collapsed onto the ground.
 
“I seriously thought I was going to die, I seriously thought I was going to die…”
 
“Well, that was scary… huh? Tonbo…? Tonbo! Look up!”
 
Sharp pain shot through my shoulder. Mars had dug his claws in.
 
“Huh…? Seriously!?”
 
Like rewinding a video, flesh began to protrude from the hole I had just made in the dragon’s head. And then, the head rose up. By the time it was completely detached from the ground, the forehead, already covered in red blood, was already covered in scales…
 
“It’s regenerating…Tonbo, we have to decapitate it.”
 
“Oh crap! Oh crap! Oh crap!”
 
As I frantically readied my gun again, the second breath attack almost came at the same time.
 
“Calm down! The barrier won’t break from the breath! Take a deep breath first.”
 
“Haaah! Phew!”
 
As I took a deep breath with all my might, the breath suddenly cleared, revealing the dragon’s face. Was that the end of it? I thought, but when I lowered my gaze slightly, I saw a pure white breath continuously blowing onto my stomach. What’s going on?
 
“Uh oh! The breath is starting to concentrate!!”
 
“Huh!?”
 

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Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! The low rumble of the breath attack that had been sounding suddenly turned into a painfully high pitch. From the headphone-like life support device, a beeping alarm began to sound.
 
“Dodge it! Dodge it! The force field is about to saturate!”
 
“Huh? Ah? Oh nooo!”
 
In a panic, I couldn’t dodge or shoot. I just crossed my hands in front of my body and lunged toward the dragon’s face. With a bang, the sound rang out, and the dragon’s head, which had been knocked back by the barrier, bounced up. After the deafening explosion, rocks fell chaotically from the ceiling destroyed by the concentrated breath, pouring down into the corridor behind me.
 
“What should we do? What should we do?”
 
“Just don’t let it breathe!”
 
“Uh, aim for the head, aim for the head…”
 
“Just shoot anything!”
 
But when I aimed the gun at the dragon’s head, there was no head… Instead, with a roar like a landslide, the dragon’s tail, along with the rock wall it had scraped off, slammed into me. Again, with a bang, the dragon’s tail returned to its original position, scraping the ground.
 
The enraged dragon thrashed about wildly at a speed too fast to follow, causing the ground to shake with every crash against the walls and floor, making it difficult for me to stand. The dungeon was rapidly eroded, cracks appeared in the walls and ceiling, and it turned into a pitiful sight. As expected, today’s collapse was probably caused by this dragon.
 
“Tonbo, it’s going to breathe! Dragon breath !”
 
“Ah! Crap!”
 
I ran toward the dragon, crouching to avoid the breath attack from the glowing white mouth, and once again slammed into it with a barrier tackle. The dragon, whose breath had been disrupted, tried to bite me, but was pushed back by the barrier.
 
“Oh no! It’s terrifying!”
 
“Being breathed on is scarier!”
 
“Shoot it!”
 
“Keep shooting!”
 
I aimed at the dragon’s head and pulled the trigger, but the dragon managed to dodge it, avoiding fatal wounds. Although holes would be created when shot, its too-high regeneration rate caused them to heal as soon as they were created.
 
“We can’t retreat…”
 
“It’s impossible! The path behind is blocked by rocks!”
 
Retreating was impossible. But even if I tried to escape past the dragon, it seemed that the other side was also buried in fallen rocks.
 
“Being buried alive and suffocating to death in a place like this isn’t funny!”
 
“We won’t suffocate! The life support device can withstand space, remember!”
 
“So, wait for the dragon to suffocate…”
 
“How many hours will that take!?”
 
If we kept fighting until the oxygen ran out, our stamina wouldn’t last long. I’ve heard that reptiles have low oxygen consumption… Oxygen consumption? That’s it! We won’t die even if we suffocate, but the dragon will. So, let’s just deplete the air quickly.
 
“Mars! Deplete the oxygen!”
 
As I took out the air composition converter I had been using as an air purifier from the junkyard, Mars opened his eyes wide.
 
“That’s a good idea! Convert oxygen to nitrogen at full power! Place it on the ground to protect it from being destroyed while converting inside the force field!”
 
“Got it!”
 
I placed the air purifier that Mars had adjusted on the ground, facing the dragon. With a roar that was no longer audible, but blew away pebbles at my feet, the dragon whipped its head like a whip and hit my barrier.
 
“Kuno! Kuno!”
 
As we fended off the dragon’s attacks with the barrier, I shot at its body, trying to buy some time. Still, as the dragon steadily approached, I stashed the gun in the junkyard and wrapped yellow force-conducting cloth around both my hands.
 
“Come if you dare!”
 
I repelled the dragon’s bites with force field punches, closing its mouth as it tried to breathe fire. Even though I hadn’t taken a direct hit, the adrenaline-fueled exertion left my muscles aching.
 
“Tonbo! Oxygen levels are dropping! Just a little more!”
 
“Alright! Alright! Alright!”
 
No white flames spewed from the dragon’s mouth anymore. Its massive body swayed, and its mouth, lined with sword-like fangs, merely opened and closed weakly.
 
In the midst of trying to turn around, the dragon collapsed. It seemed it couldn’t absorb something nonexistent, despite its extraordinary regenerative abilities. I watched its demise from a distance and gently stored its body in the junkyard.
 
The journey back took much longer than the way in. The dragon’s rampage had caused numerous collapses along the path, and being our first venture into this area, we often found ourselves lost, despite using a compass.
 
Our lifeline, the radio, seemed to have been dropped during the barrier collision and was now crushed under rocks. As a result, we were trying to escape the dungeon we entered at seven in the morning, by three in the morning.
 
///
 


 
scene transition
 
 


 
///
 
Today had been quite a day. I even missed work. Well, at least the four of us who were at Base A were evacuated, so our efforts weren’t in vain.
 
“Still, when we get back, the entrance might be completely sealed with concrete.”
 
“Concrete doesn’t regenerate like a dragon, so we can slowly break it down. But, Tonbo… are you okay? Do you remember the scenario properly?”
 
“I’m fine. We’ll just say the dragon went berserk and vanished deeper into the dungeon, right?”
 
“If word gets out that the two of us defeated it, it’ll be a big problem. We’ll be treated like monsters.”
 
I didn’t want to stand out any more than I already did. No, I was already standing out too much… I didn’t want any more of it. I didn’t do what I did to become a hero, and I knew heroes rarely had good endings. I did what needed to be done. That’s all.
 
“Oh, thank goodness, it’s open.”
 
The entrance to the dungeon, usually closed at night, was now wide open, illuminated from outside by floodlights.
 
“They’re lighting it up from outside. Someone must have stayed behind.”
 
“I feel kinda bad, coming back at this hour.”
 
I switched off the night vision mode and barrier of the bio-maintenance device and switched the light source to an LED lantern. Stepping outside, next to the floodlights illuminating the entrance, sat a guild security guard in a fluffy down jacket, sitting on a chair while fiddling with a smartphone.
 
“Oh, welcome back.”
 
“Welcome.”
 
The security guard glanced briefly in our direction and returned the greeting, then looked back at the smartphone before looking at us again.
 
“…Wait! You guys came back!?”
 
“Sorry for the delay; it seems we caused you some trouble…”
 
“That’s not the issue! HQ! HQ! Kawashima Party has returned!!”
 
As the security guard shouted into the radio, a mass of people poured out from the guild building next to the dungeon. There were parties led by casually dressed, balaclava-wearing Kimu, and Kaneki, who wielded two swords, along with other familiar faces, all rushing towards us with smiles.
 
“Supply man! You still alive!?”
 
“Seriously, man! Were you okay amidst that earthquake!?”
 
“I was starting to think ithat you saved five people and then die!”
 
“If you hadn’t returned by morning, we’d have had to search for you all the way back to Base A!”
 
Embraced and vigorously patted all over, my muscles ached terribly from the hugs. Mars had cleverly distanced himself from me before everyone jumped on me, escaping unscathed.
 
“The one rampaging inside was probably the same type of dragon as Dallas No. 14, right?”
 
“What’s that?”
 
“Don’t you know?! It’s the worst land dragon that devastated half of the Texas State Army in the US! It was caught on the body camera of Ito’s survivors! Didn’t you see it inside?”
 
“I didn’t! I didn’t! They say if you see it, you die!”
 
“Oh, I see.”
 
Despite everyone laughing cheerfully, I felt a sudden pain in my stomach that hadn’t hurt before. I made eye contact with Mars, who was standing a little apart, and we silently agreed. It was definitely a good idea to have a scenario planned out.
 
As I looked up at the high moon of February, being roughed up by everyone, I let out a deep, thin, slow sigh.


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