Rigen's Library Corner
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The Huntress peered from behind a tree's shadow, towards the moonlit clearing in the forest. The clearing was massive enough to fit an entire castle, and right in the middle a metallic mass of flesh and scales and claws the size of a house slumbered.

The Huntress nocked an arrow onto her bow, and aimed at a minuscule gap between the Dragon's scales.

"The Dragon is a clear and present threat not only to our Empire, but entirety of human race! Your Majesty, you cannot seriously intend to ignore this threat to our people!"

"We understand that you have had, history, with the Dragon, Duchess Watrachia. Yet you should understand that this council is hardly the appropriate place for emotional arguments. We cannot risk our troops to fulfill your personal vendetta."

"Is that how you see it, Marquess? A personal vendetta? The Dragon has rampaged across the cities in the eastern coast! How could you be so blind as to—"

"I will not tolerate further insult in my council, Duchess. You would do well to take Marquess Reilnohd's advice and not bring your emotion unto this gathering."

"Apologies, Your Majesty, but unless this council of yours is planning to do anything about the Dragon crisis, I no longer has business sitting in this room."

"Then you are dismissed, Duchess."

The Duchess stormed out from the council chamber, her blue cape fluttering behind her.

The arrow took flight, wobbling in predetermined wave-function with its steel tip as a node. The tempered steel accurately pierced the skin peeking from between armor scales encasing the Dragon, but it lacked the weight and speed to incur permanent damage.

The Dragon woke up with a roar. The Huntress calmly nocked another arrow. Her dragon-slaying had only begun.

With a loud crash, the porcelain jar shattered on the floor. Similar wreckage scattered around in the mansion's living room, no doubt recently smashed by the owner herself.

"Those old buffoon would sacrifice anything to undermine my authority."

An old Maid fearlessly approached the Duchess, standing at the epicenter of the glittering vitrified clay carnage.

"I know." Preempting the Maid, Duchess Watrachia snapped with voice shaken with anger. "This is no time for wrath. We need to evacuate the people, save what we could. But the road west is controlled by the Marquess and his cronies, and no doubt they would wring my treasuries dry if I try to evacuate through them! This insanity would cost me my rule, one way or another."

"Your servants are ready to follow whatever decision you take, my princess. Know that you will always have our loyalty, and our swords." So long as you have the gall to call yourself Watrachia. The Duchess heard her condescension loud and clear.

"Your swords? To what end would I deploy your swords? Even if I arm every last one of the people in my territory, the Imperial army would simply mow through them like a scythe through wheat!"

"The Empire? My princess, pardon my insolence, but surely you jest. Even at its height, our realm could barely challenge the Empire. Much less now, after our military might has been reduced to a pale shadow of what it was. Not that we could spare any time to deal with such distraction."

"The Dragon."

"The Dragon." The old Maid agreed.

"Has madness swallowed you? No human has ever lived through an encounter against a dragon, much less slain one, in thousands of years. Though I suppose you have been insane for a long time now," you disgusting wench.

"Would denying your accusation changes your thought of me?"

"…No. Ready my armor and bow. We ride at dawn."

The Huntress, of course, waits not for the dawn.

Already her first quiver half-empty, thirty arrows let loose, all now embedded between the Dragon's adamantine scales. Burning remnants of trees scattered around the Dragon's nest, shattered by its roar and ignited by the liquid flame it expelled from its stomach.

Still, the Huntress kept her calm, the shine of her dark hair peeked through the moonlit gaps between the leaves. Her arrows weaved through the impossibly small gaps towards their target, almost as if they have minds of their own. The deadly dance continued, and the clock ticked towards midnight.

"Once a coward, stays a coward, I guess." The Duchess' bedroom was comparably clean compared to the porcelain heaps down the corridor, yet glittering shards still littered the floor: the remnant of a shattered window, a sturdy rope descending from it.

The Maid surveyed the room. The Duchess couldn't have taken the horse—she might as well walked through the front door, with all the alarming noise it would create.

"She can't be far, we must chase her!"

"Why should we?" The maids had rushed to the room because a report that the Duchess' armor disappeared. There's little doubt in the old Maid's mind that the Duchess took the armor herself. "She decided to leave the manor on her own. Mere servants like us shouldn't be concerned with her highness' decision."

"But what if she was captured?!"

"In full armor?" Sure, the armor itself could fetch high price in the market; that is, without the ducal house emblem. Good luck removing the crest embedded in the pattern-weld. "We would sooner find the would-be captor's corpse before they could gain anything from the Duchess. And if she indeed was captured, nothing we could do would help her."

But just in case…

Just in case she wasn't a coward lower than maggot…

"Prepare a horse." If she decided now of all times to play hero… "I need to investigate something."

The maids shot each other confused looks, but a single glare sent them away.

The Huntress slipped, and the full force of liquid fire jet slammed her to the trees. Her quiver is now empty, but all sixty arrows only served to further sober the Dragon, and she stood no chance against fully awake and enraged dragon.

Her skin sizzled where it comes into contact with the red-hot metal armor, though her gambeson lessened most of the damage. Her foolishness had led her to pick fights that she knew she won't win—inspired by that damn Maid's insanity! Why had she thought that wench had suggested anything that won't end in her demise? She hated her almost as much as those in the decrepit noble council! And now all that would be left from her is a hunk of flesh cooked live to perfection within hard metal shell, a cruel parody of lobster cuisine.

No. I have to survive, if only to prove her wrong.

The Huntress—the Duchess forced herself up, her sword drawn against the Dragon.

"You should've told me that you're feeling suicidal. I would've gladly strangled your neck." The Maid dragged the Duchess from her horse, wincing as the blazing armor burnt her hand. Deeper into the forest, she worked to remove the armor off the Duchess before it further damaged her.

"I must save our people!"

"I know, have you already forgotten that it was I who advised you as such?! I proposed us move our army against it, along with our siege weapon battalion! How conceited are you to challenge a dragon with toothpicks and a spoon?!"

The Dragon roared as the Maid finally removed the last piece of metal armor from the Duchess.

"The Dragon is enraged. There's nothing we could do now. The legacy of Watrachia ends here."

"If only there's a way to engage it from distance, oh I don't know, perhaps with a couple dozen ballistae?"

"If we could get the message—"

"The Dragon is faster than any method to send a message. There's no way we could get the siege battalion to prepare in time."

"One of us could stay to distract the Dragon."

"And be devoured within seconds? Neither of us possess the means to meaningfully slow it down. Any plan we devise must be under the assumption that no support would come."

"The Dragon's impervious scales are not contiguous. There are gaps where even an arrow could pierce its skin. But without a long-range weapon reaching those gaps require coming into striking distance of its claws."

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