265 Playing with fire
Leona was at a loss on how to proceed.
On one hand, she had just stumbled upon one of the temples of the four gods of the world, the temple of the north god.
"Hey, I'm talking to you..."
This could be a good chance for her to try and request some help from the gods and maybe even getting some aid in the quest to slay Knucker. From what she could see, the temple was not destroyed like the ones from the east or the west, so the north god must still be around somewhere.
"Hey! Would it kill you to look at me!??"
"Shut up!!!" she shouted as she could no longer bear Daren constantly interrupting her train of thought.
"Well, you were just standing there not saying anything... What was I supposed to do?" Daren replied.
"Nothing! I don't need you to do anything, just find a spot to stay quiet and don't bother me while I think about what to do-"
"Groaaarrrrr...." a loud noise could be heard coming out from the sleeping dragon, interrupting Leoan's speech.
Daren and Leona suddenly became frozen afraid that the beast could wake up and devour them.
"We should get out of here, right now! Before this thing wakes up..." Daren suggested.
"You go... I'll try to reach the temple of the north..." Leona replied.
"What!? Are you crazy?? We need to move away from this cave, not go even deeper!"
"Keep it down!! We need the help of the gods, and as far as we know, this is the only temple that is still standing... The god of the north might help us out."
"The god of the north...? Is he the one that blessed Mia? Why would he aid us?" Daren wondered.
"No, lady Hana told me that the old north god is gone... He vanished shortly after the war ended... So a new god must have taken his place... We need to find him and talk to him about our situation!"
Daren did not like that idea in the slightest. Part of it because he didn't want to feel indebted to another god. Part of it because a giant sleeping dragon was standing on their way to the temple.
"I don't think this is a good idea..." he commented.
Leona just rolled her eyes, "What you think doesn't matter... I'm not asking for permission nor for you to come with me... Just stay out of my way and let me be..."
"Wait! You plan to do this alone!?"
"You said it yourself, I'm not part of your team, am I? This is honestly a great chance for us to go on our separate ways..." she answered while climbing down from the rock and moving closer to the dragon's body that was blocking her path to the tunnels of the cave.
"Leona, wait! Let's think about this for a second!"
"There is nothing to think about. Mind your own business and leave me alone..."
Daren hurried to her side and began to try grabbing her arm to make her stop moving, "Would you just listen to me!?"
"Why should I? Ever since we've met you haven't tried to listen to a single thing I say! Why should I treat you any different?"
"I... Well... I..."
"I heard it all from Marcus already... You hate gods, you always hated gods, you will always hate gods, and you probably hate me because of my relationship with gods... So why don't you just do both of us a favor and stay away from me!!??"
"I don't hate yo- Oh, goddamnit..." Daren whispered.
"What?" Leona asked while noticing Daren's face looking upwards for some reason. She turned around and realized that the dragon had woken up from their constant discussion and was now staring at the two with a lot of anger in his eyes, probably due to having been awakened against his wish.
Leona took a second to gaze at the size of the beast and realized that they were in a lot of trouble, "Oh, goddamnit..."
The beast immediately started to rampage inside the cave as it tried to swallow Daren and Leona with its massive jaws.
The fire mage assumed her battle position and summoned a fire avatar in the shape of a large ape to battle with the dragon. Her ape wasn't as big as the opponent, but it was still enough to put up a fight.
"Hey! You won a fight against a dragon before, right?" Daren asked while trying to escape the giant lizard's attempt to step on him by hiding behind a group of rocks.
"Not really, no... All I did was hold them off for a while and pushed them away for a couple of minutes... And that was done with the help of Marcus! I'm not sure what I can do by myself!"
"You're not by yourself! You have me!!" Daren shouted.
Leona stared at him for a couple of seconds, "As I said... I'm all by myself..."
Daren felt a little insulted by that line but Leona couldn't afford to pay attention to him right now. She knew exactly how dangerous dragons were and she needed to give all of herself if she hoped to win this struggle.
The woman attempted to use her avatar to smack the lizard with its fists or throw a couple of boulders at him, but while its skin wasn't as durable as Wrath's, it was still very hard to injure.
The dragon continued to take her attacks head-on and just headbutted her avatar, launching Leona against the walls.
"Hit him with a fireball!!" Daren suggested.
"No way!! Launching fire costs a lot of energy... I'm not gonna risk exhausting myself when we are in such a dangerous situation!"
"Come on!! You can probably just beat him in one move if you do it! You won't even need energy if he gets down!"
Leona glared at him, "... ... ... You think one hit is enough to take down a dragon? One of the most fire-resistant creatures in existence?? Are you making fun of me??"
"Do you know anything about how magic works?? At all??"
The dragon used the moment while the two were distracted and rushed to smack Leona with its head one more time. The mage rushed to get out of the way and managed to make the creature bash itself against the rocks of the cave.
"Nice!" Daren shouted.
Leona saw a chance and grabbed its tail with her avatar's flaming hands and attempted to throw the beast against the ground.
The dragon was faster though, and while Leona raised its body, he latched onto the walls with its claws which allowed him to get free from her grasp.
"He escaped! Try using a fireball now!!"
"Quiet!! Or better yet, get lost!!"
"I'm not leaving you alone!!"
"And what do you plan to do?? You have no weapons, no magic, you are so small that the dragon barely even noticed that you are here... What exactly can you even do to help me right now??"
"I... Well... I..."
"Exactly... You are pretty much useless, so leave this place before you get yourself in danger!!"
Daren watched as Leona continued to charge at the dragon in an attempt to defeat it, but as the fight kept dragging, he began to notice that Leona's fire ape form was slowly starting to weaken, while the lizard just continued to act like he was just playing with her.
If that continued, it would result in her loss.
Daren began to remember about the time he faced a pair of dragons with the help of Marceus and how he almost got killed in the process. The only reason they managed to escape was due to his power combining with Marceus' holy energy and accessing a new form that could fight with both cursed energy and blessed energy.
Leona right now was a mage and a champion, thus she had access to blesses energy and magic energy. If he could somehow get her to gain cursed energy as well, she could beat the creature.
"Come on... Come on!! Think!! There has to be something that I can do to help!!"
The dragon began to bite on Leona's flaming body and its fangs almost managed to reach her face inside the avatar. She began to try pulling the fangs away, but her power was getting weaker and weaker.
At that moment, Daren began to search in his pockets for some kind of weapon, something that could help in the fight, and suddenly he stumbled across a small piece of diamond dyed in the color red.
"What the hell...? Oh! This is a piece of the armor that I used when I was under Mia's control!!"
He began to carefully study the diamond and an idea came to mind.
"Leona!! Use this!!" he yelled as he launched the diamond towards the woman as her fire ape finally began to vanish completely, dropping her on the ground.
Leona stared at the red diamond that landed on the floor in front of her eyes and recognized what it was, "One of Mia's diamonds?? Why do you have that??"
"It's a leftover from the war! It contains cursed energy inside of it! use it to beat the dragon!!"
"Use this...?? How? Ah!!"
Leona suddenly felt her foot being grabbed by the tail of the dragon and raised slightly above its mouth that was now wide open.
"Ugh!!! It smells so bad!!!" she complained.
"Use the diamond!! Hurry!!!"
Leona didn't know what exactly Daren was planning but she just tried to move the red fragment closer to the absorbing crystal that was on her staff and suddenly a red mist began to flow into it from the diamond.
She felt something strange happening with her staff as if it was about to burn in a way that even she would not be able to sustain.
"What is this power...??" she whispered.
But before she could finalize her situation, the dragon released her leg and swallowed her whole.
"Leona!!!!!" Daren screamed.
He dropped on his knees as he observed the fire mage being devoured while he was completely helpless to do anything.
"What have I done... ? What have I done!!!??" he repeated while holding his own head in disbelief.
The dragon noticed his noise and finally spotted him as well. The lizard began to charge after him to devour his flesh but suddenly stopped for some reason.
Daren observed as the dragon was starting to scream in pain and agony and began to twitch slamming his head against the walls.
"Wha- What the..."
And before he could notice it, flames began to appear out of the dragon's throat, then his eyes, his wings, and finally, his entire body began to burn for some reason.
"Wraagghhhh!!!" the beast screamed in anguish as its body suddenly turned into ashes as a large ball of fire appeared to be engulfing his entire being.
Not just a regular fire thought. It was a flame that kept changing its colors from red, to green, to silver. Those were the flames of terminal energy, and in the center of it, was Leona, laying on the ground with her face down.
"Leona!!" Daren yelled in relief. Once the flames began to extinguish themselves, he rushed to her side and lifted her head to confirm if she was okay, "Leona!! Leona, talk to me!!"
"..." the woman opened her eyes and finally noticed Daren crying face staring at her.
"Leona!! Are you okay!!?"
"Quiet down... You're being loud..." she whispered with a weak voice.
"Oh!! I'm so glad!!" Daren replied while burying her in his arms.
"Di- Did you just hugged me??" she asked with her eyes wide open.
"Oh... S- Sorry..." Daren whispered as she released her.
She began to raise an eyebrow towards his behavior, she did not expect the man who spent the last couple of hours constantly complaining about her connection with gods to suddenly show such a display of affection, "I'm confused... Do you hate me or not...?"
"I never said I hated you. I just... Well... Ugh... I'm Sorry... "
"I think I got a little carried away and ended up transferring some of my hate towards the gods to you..."
"Whaaaat... Noooo... I could hardly notice it... " Leona sarcastically replied.
Daren turned his face away from embarrassment.
"Well... You did save me with your little trick... So I guess that makes us even now... Let's just get out of this- Oh no..."
Leona gasped as she began to look for her wooden staff and realized that the entire thing had been burned to a crisp by her terminal fire.