Gruldo's position was just close enough for people to see him from above the walls surrounding Linecol, but it was too far for anyone to intervene immediately. This was certainly the perfect spot for a one-to-one battle.
In this setup that was prepared by the Melra worshipers, Kyle was going to face Gruldo at last.
However, that did not mean that everything was settled. Because Kyle's goal was not to defeat Gruldo, rather, it was to bring him back to Yggdrasil.
【"Listen to me, Gruldo! You're being manipulated! Snap out of it!"】
Kyle shouted at the top of his lungs, but there was no change to the cloudiness in Gruldo's eyes.
【"Isn't there a way to wake him up somehow?"】
Kyle clicked his tongue and asked Sildonia for a plan.
【"It depends on the method that was used on him. If his mind was being controlled through a spell, then the situation would be solved the moment we cancel that spell... But it looks like he's being controlled by both drugs and magic. Anyway, it's going to take some time.... I do have a plan but it's a last ditch method..."】
After Sildonia whispered something to him, Kyle looked dubious.
【"You weren't kidding when you said that it's a last ditch method."】
【"But that's the only method you can use right now, there is no more time. And you can't just give up on him now, can you?"】
Gruldo had already attacked people, so, as things were, a full-blown subjugation party was eventually going to come from Lincol. And if Kyle were to defeat Gruldo before their arrival, Gruldo would be too weakened and would be killed by them soon after.
【"Now then, go and help him with everything you've got."】
"Good grief..." Saying that, Kyle put a strengthening spell on himself and approached Gruldo.
【"...Let's go! "】
As Kyle pulled out his sword and rushed forward, Gruldo, whose eyes were out of focus, reacted. And so, the battle began.
However, Gruldo's responses seemed like those of an animal reacting to a stimulus, and compared to the speed that dragons usually displayed in battle, he was quite slow.
Moreover, his actions felt dull and unnatural, as if he was being puppeteered by someone else.
He was not breathing out any flames, he was only swinging his claws and lunging forward with his fangs in a simple fashion.... Of course, his attacks would still be a threat to ordinary humans, and even to first-class adventurers, but Kyle's current strength was plenty enough to deal with him.
【"...So the mind control is that bad, huh."】
Despite the circumstances, Kyle couldn't help himself from sympathizing with Gruldo.
After dodging the enormous claws that were coming at him, Kyle jumped on Gruldo's back and ran up towards his head. But even those daring actions brought no change to Gruldo's dull reactions.
When Kyle reached Gruldo's neck, he jumped very high. Then, using the momentum of his fall, he drove his sword towards Gruldo's head with every bit of his strength.
If Kyle intended to kill Gruldo, this would mark the end of the fight.
Although Grudlo had a dragon's defensive power, that did not mean he could resist Kyle's slashing attack combined with the sword Sildonia. A slice from Kyle's sword towards Gruldo's head would almost certainly spell death.
However, Kyle's goal was only to bring Gruldo back to his home. Therefore, he did attack him with all of his strength, but he was using the handle of his sword.
Having received a terrible shock on his head, Gruldo let out his voice for the first time, although it was only a scream.
This was Sildonia's idea, and, although Kyle wasn't sure if it was worthy of being called a 'plan', it was a good method to give Gruldo his awareness back. The method consisted of inflicting a shock upon Gruldo's head to wake up his consciousness... In other words, the idea was to hit him until the hypnosis' effect would wear off, it was a drastic measure.
【"For now, I'll see what happens with that one blow...."】
After hitting Gruldo with all his strength, Kyle took some distance and observed the result.
While letting out a groan of pain, Gruldo glared at Kyle, like he was noticing his presence for the first time.
【"Mhm, it looks like it worked well."】
Said Sildonia with a a grin, as she noticed a certain intent in Gruldo's eyes that differed from the one he had had so far. This was thanks to her plan.
『Guh... a... a human...』
At last, Grudlo said an actual word. Light slightly returned to his empty eyes, and he could feel emotions again.
However, the emotion he was feeling was anger.
Standing in front of his very eyes was a mere human being who was so unaware of his own position and so arrogant that he dared to attack a dragon.
Gruldo's breathing became much faster, there were even flames occasionally peeking through the gaps between his fangs.
Although he seemed to have slightly regained his consciousness, his fighting instinct had apparently woken up at the same time.
【"Well... That's only natural, I guess."】
Upon being exposed to that tremendous wrath, Kyle unconsciously took half a step back.
Kyle could not recall ever unconsciously retreating in the middle of a fight, no matter what kind of opponent he was facing. He was completely overwhelmed by Gruldo's strenght.
【"He has only recovered halfway... This is taking a pretty bad direction."】
【"There was no other method."】
Said Sildonia with a bitter voice, and Kyle agreed.
Gruldo let out a roar of anger towards the sky.
But this roar was different from the roar he had let out earlier to show his location, because, in a certain way, this one was beautifully pure.
Kyle was assaulted by a feeling that made all the hair on his body stand on end.
But, seeing that Gruldo's eyes had regained light, Kyle shouted at him, thinking that maybe his voice would make him recover.
【"Listen up, Gruldo! We were sent by Zeurus to....!"】
Even though he had regained his consciousness, Gruldo was now being controlled by his anger. He opened his mouth wide and let out a long breath of fire, which was a dragon's greatest weapon.
That fire could melt iron when it came in direct contact with it, and it was now fired at Kyle right from the front.
Humans were much more vulnerable than dragons, and the fire had assailed this one's whole body. Gruldo was convinced that Kyle had been thoroughly burned.
But Kyle made his way right through those flames and revealed himself before instantly going right under the head of Gruldo, who was still spitting flames.
Kyle jumped up vertically on the spot, and then sliced his sword up towards Gruldo's chin. Once again, Kyle was using the handle of the sword, so perhaps it was more accurate to say that he struck Gruldo with it rather than saying that he sliced it towards him.
The blow forcefully closed off Gruldo's mouth while he was still spitting flames.
The impact was like an explosion, it broke several of Gruldo's numerous fangs and it made the flames he was blowing return towards his nose. Moreover, having seemingly bit his own tongue with his fangs, Gruldo was writhing in pain.
Although Gruldo had unexpectedly received a lot of damage, that naturally did not mean that Kyle was unscathed.
He was wearing an armor made out of dragon leather which had high resistance to fire, but the power of Gruldo's flames exceeded the armor's resistance, and Kyle had suffered burns all over his body in consequence.
While Gruldo was writhing in pain, Kyle hurriedly drank some of the magic healing medicine that he kept for emergencies only.
『Ugh, damn you!!』
In his attempt to press the already enraged Gruldo even further, Kyle had made the mistake of approaching him.
Earlier, Kyle figured that he could more or less see through Gruldo's movements, but now that Gruldo's intelligence was back, he exceeded Kyle's expectations.
Gruldo swung his connected arms and wings with all his strength, creating a sudden gust of wind.
Under the power of that terrible wind, Kyle reflexively tried to resist, but it was yet another mistake.
If he had not resisted, the wind would have allowed him to take some distance, but instead, he stiffened his body in order to stand firm, and due to the wind, he turned his eyes away from his opponent for a mere instant. And that moment was enough for Gruldo's gigantic body to disappear from Kyle's sight.
Following Sildonia's keen warning, Kyle looked above him, only for his field of vision to be filled by the sole of Gruldo's foot.
Gruldo used his gigantic body in order to crush Kyle. This sure-kill attack was as simple as it was powerful.
The surrounding ground shook as if there was an earthquake.
Confident that he had crushed Kyle for sure, Gruldo slowly raised his foot, but there was nothing under it. Thinking that there was no way Kyle had escaped, Gruldo tried looking at his surroundings, but at that moment――
Gruldo suddenly heard a scream coming from the side of his ear. When he turned towards that sound, he received yet another attack, but this time, it was on his cheek.
Gruldo was confused by this sudden hit from an opponent that should already have been crushed.
And now, he was once again writhing in pain due to the attack on the side of his face, which had contained all of Kyle's strength.
【"It's been... a while, since I last felt like this... I did not want to drink that ever again.... but in the end... I guess I still have to rely on it."】
Kye became slightly excited, his breathing became rougher, and his eyes turned red.
Said Sildonia with a somewhat sad tone to her voice, because she knew the true nature of this phenomenon.
Blood eye was a medicine that could effectively enhance the capacities of a person's body, dull their sense of pain, and make their hearing and sight sharper.
In exchange for that, the medicine would damage the body of the person who drank it, bringing them closer to death, although that did not mean the effect would happen immediately after drinking it.
Kyle had drunk it in the instant when he had closed his eyes due to the wind, and that was the right decision to make. Thanks to the medicine, he had barely managed to dodge Gruldo's attack.
Then, when the crushing attack landed on nothing, Kyle had taken advantage of Gruldo's lack of attention to jump towards his head and hit him.
【"I only have a single one, but I'm glad I told Minagi to prepare it for me... Though I would have preferred not to use it."】
【"You... Don't push yourself too hard..."】
Although she was worried, Sildonia could not stop him.
That was because she knew there was something he had to accomplish even if he had to sacrifice his own lifespan for it.
【"It's fine, my end goal in life is just to die happily of old age."】
Kyle spoke of this average, normal wish with a serious face.
『Humaaan! How dare you, HOW DARE YOU!』
Maybe because the three strikes on his head had liberated him from his mind control, Gruldo's words were very clear this time.
(Maybe we can communicate now?) Thinking so, Kyle once again shouted.
【"Hear me out! Zeurus asked me to come help you. Ilmera is worried about you, too!"】
『Wh-..... Why did they ask a damn human like you?』
The mention of Zeurus and Ilmera's names added some confusion to the mind of Gruldo, which was already hazy due to the shock and pain that came from Kyle's attacks.
『N, no! I won't be tricked again! You're probably working with those other humans anyway!』
But Gruldo's anger only increased, and he started to attack Kyle again.
【"Oh, so you were tricked, as I thought... Did you get deceived by someone's glib talk?"】
『Silence!! I will not listen to the words of humans anymore!』
Although he was a dragon who had already lived for 500 years, the truth was that he had never had any exchanges with other races, so it could be said that he was ignorant to the ways of the world.
He had likely been lured into a trap by the Melra worshipers, who had taken control of his mind.
【"I understand how you feel! A role was being forced onto you, so you left Yggdrasil seeking for freedom, isn't that right?"】
Feeling like Kyle was subtly talking down to him, Gruldo grew even more irritated and kept repeatedly attacking with his tail and claws.
『Ugh! Silence! Silence! Silence! As if I'd sympathize with a human!』
Gruldo continued to attack and Kyle continued to dodge while retreating.
【"I see, you certainly are behaving like a rebellious brat. You must be quite a handful to take care of for Zeurus! ...Just listen to the advice you're getting already!"】
『Shut your mouth!』
Gruldo was completely furious and did not even hear Kyle' words.
Fortunately, the injuries in his mouth seemed to be preventing him from spitting flames. Even so, as he was faced with quick consecutive attacks that did not seem like they could come from Gruldo's large body, Kyle's only option was to focus solely on defense.
『Ugh, stop moving!』
Gruldo shouted out of irritation after Kyle avoided yet another attack.
Meanwhile, Kyle was looking for a chance to counterattack, but it seemed like luck was on Gruldo's side.
As he dodged again, Kyle's foot stepped and slipped on one of the fragments of Gruldo's fangs which had fallen to the ground earlier.
Gruldo did not miss that opportunity and attacked with all of his power.
His claws hit Kyle right from the front.
By jumping backwards and using his sword as a shield, Kyle reduced the damage as much as he could. However, there was no such thing as perfect defense against a serious blow from a dragon. Kyle was blown away as if he was mere thrash and hit the ground again and again, and when he stopped at last, he started bleeding on the ground and became completely motionless.
There lied the difference between humans and dragons. Kyle was a human magic swordsman of the highest level, but he was powerless against the true power of a dragon, a species whose basic rank in life was much higher.
Sildonia screamed but there was no response.
『You damn... fool!』
While catching his breath, Gruldo glared at the foolishly arrogant human who had attacked him. He was finally feeling some relief.
Then, perhaps because he was starting to consider his current situation at last, he looked at his surroundings.
There was human girl who looked helpless and who seemed to be a companion of the arrogant human, but that did not matter to Gruldo.
He faintly remembered the human who had controlled him and made him do whatever he wanted. (He must be close to here) As he thought that, the flames of wrath within him were ignited again, and he turned around to look for the one who had manipulated him, but at that moment――
Gruldo heard a voice from the same side of his face that had been hit ealrier.
That voice made Gruldo feel something he hadn't felt before in his life―― fear. With that new emotion in him, Gruldo turned around and saw Kyle, who had jumped up almost as high as the tip of his nose.
Thinking that he was completely dead, Gruldo had not paid much attention to Kyle's body, but he knew that he had undoubtedly been in a gruesome state, with wounds all over his body. Nevertheless, Kyle now had a fearless smile on his blood-stained face.
As Guldo tried to ask why this was happening, the middle of his forehead was hit by the handle of Kyle's sword.
【"Never drop your guard!"】
That blow made Gruldo's feet unable to support his body, and then, with a roar that came from the depths of his belly, he fell to the ground at last.
『D-damn you.... You are... you are still alive...?』
Gruldo glared at Kyle with hollow eyes, but this hollowness had a different meaning than it had when he was being controlled.
As a dragon, this was a sensation that Gruldo had never experienced before.
While his consciousness itself was being shaken, Gruldo's field of view was undulating left and right. He was feeling nausea rising up from his stomach to his chest, and that was also something he was experiencing for the first time.
The four relentless and concentrated attacks he had received had made Gruldo's mind completely hazy.
While Gruldo was feeling all that, Kyle was standing beside him.
【"Looks like it was very effective... I know you just woke up, but too bad for you... You're going to sleep for real this time!"】
After saying that, Kyle drove the finishing blow with the handle of his sword on Gruldo's head.
Then, finally, Gruldo's eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness.
Without a second of delay, Kyle went to ascertain that Gruldo was still alive, and although there were bubbles coming out of Gruldo's mouth, it was clear that he was still breathing, so Kyle was able to relax at last.
At the same time, he could faintly hear shouts of joy coming from the walls of Linecol, but right now, Kyle could not afford to pay attention to that.
Although Kyle was struggling to catch his breath, like a fish on the verge of suffocating, he still used his sword as a cane to help himself stand up and avoid dropping on one knee.
It was clear even to Kyle himself that he had multiple bone fractures and that his internal organs had been considerably hurt. It was a mystery how Kyle had managed to survive, let alone how he managed to keep his consciousness and move.
If Blood eye hadn't been dulling his pain, Kyle would have passed out by now.
Kyle tried to take the magic healing medicine with his trembling hands, but he wasn't even able to do that properly, and he ended up dropping it to the ground.
Sildonia ran to pick up the bottle of medicine and then made Kyle drink it.
【"You complete fool, you were too reckless."】
Sildonia had an angry expression on her face, but she somewhat seemed like she was about to cry.
【"There was no helping it... I couldn't have done anything to a dragon without being this reckless, right?"】
After great pains, Kyle finally managed to drink the medicine and settled down a little. Then, he turned towards Sildonia with a wry smile on his face.
Due to his promise with Zeurus, Kyle could not kill Gruldo. And since persuading him was also impossible, Kyle had been left with no other than choice than to make him pass out in order to subdue him.
Therefore, Kyle had attacked multiple times to induce multiple shocks on Gruldo's head, first to cancel the hypnosis on him, and then, to make him pass out. Kyle did not know if this could be considered as an actual strategy, but he had still executed it.
Although Kyle hadn't used the blade of his sword, his hits still carried all of his strength. That would likely have been enough to deal fatal wounds not only to humans, but even to demonic beasts, and yet it didn't bring down Gruldo. However, since Kyle had already been aware of the extraordinary vitality of dragons, he had kept on attacking regardless.
Kyle's surprise attacks had piled up well and had been very effective, especially the third one, but, after that, Gruldo seemed to have become more vigilant. In fact, he had only attacked with his claws and tail afterwards, and his head had not approached Kyle at all in the process.
Kyle had figured that if he let too much time pass, the damage on Gruldo's head would recover. Therefore, he had made a gamble.
He had deliberately taken a blow that could hurt him so much that it would make it impossible for him to fight any further. The idea was that such a situation would make Gruldo drop his guard, which would most likely give Kyle an opportunity to exploit.
The one thing Kyle had been very careful about was to not let the attack kill him.
And like that, he had won his gamble.
【"That was so reckless of you... Doing that when your opponent is a dragon who could tear off your flesh and crush your bones was just..."】
【"So what? That play-acting still allowed me to win in the end."】
【"That certainly was some great acting... You played dead so well that even I was tricked."】
【"You're saying that I was playing dead, but I made it look more like I was a step away... or maybe half a step away from dying. I have to say, it wasn't that good a death.... Oh, also, don't tell Lize about all this, okay? She'd probably be very worried."】
If Lize knew that Kyle had behaved so foolishly, she would hit him first and then cry afterwards.
Although Kyle could endure being hit, he would be quite troubled if she started crying.
【"Humph, if you want me to keep quiet about this, you'll have to give me something good in return."】
【"Are you trying to extort me even though I'm hurt all over?"】
【"Oh, shut up... I was really worried, you know?"】
The cheerful atmosphere that there usually was between Kyle and Sildonia was starting to come back.
But that atmosphere was crushed by a bright voice that resounded from the distance.