Chapter 15: The Orochi
"We'll find it more and more difficult to sail," warned Captain Marbeley. "As the year reaches its end, the waters cool and icebergs and other dangers become commonplace."
It was already mid-November when the group had found the Final Key. The climate had indeed been getting colder and colder. Now the group was on their way to the city-state of Jipang that they had heard of from a man in the Portogan shrine. The four decided that they had gotten a little side-tracked by the Final Key. Nobody knew much about Jipang, especially what their political situation was or whether Jipang would be able to help the Romalian Empire and Isis.
The group had teleported the Mad Hound to Baharata and then sailed around the coast until they came across the island of Jipang. Jipang was on a tiny island east of Baharata. The four disembarked from the Mad Hound and headed into the city.
As the group entered the city they found themselves greeted by strange and sometimes unfriendly looks. While the townspeople were nowhere near as unfriendly as the people of the elven lands, the four knew that they were considered abnormal and potentially dangerous.
"It seems like we've gone to a lot of places recently that don't typically receive visitors," pointed out Ron.
"Well, Malandoras is pretty isolated from the other continents. Really, the whole eastern hemisphere is pretty cut off from the west, since there are few nations or settlements," said Alice.
The four talked with the local people trying to find an audience with the city's leader. The people of Jipang seemed downcast and low in spirits, as well as suspicious of the group's motives. The group came to a large building belonging to Himiko, leader of Jipang. The people of Jipang looked on Himiko almost as a god, believing he had the power and wisdom to achieve almost anything.
As usual, the group had their weapons and magic taken away as they sought audience with Himiko. The group was surprised to find that Himiko spent his days in a room with no throne or chair of any kind. The ruler stood awaiting the group as they entered.
"What do you want?" asked Himiko, clearly not happy to see the four travelers. "I despise outlanders such as you. You better have a good reason for being here, and you better explain that reason quickly."
"Have you heard of the Archfiend who plagues southern Tarasia?" asked Suzanne.
"Yes I have and I have no interest in hearing any more fairy tales," replied Himiko angrily. "You must be the one called Suzanne. I received a message from both the Romalian Empire and Isis about you. You may have scared that idiot emperor and his whore queen-ally into some wild goose chase, but you're not about to get me to. Leave."
"We apologize for wasting your time," apologized Suzanne as the group left Himiko's room.
"Geez," grumbled Ron once they were out of earshot of any listeners, "I think we had a friendlier welcome from the elf queen."
"What about these people makes them think they can treat people like dirt?" demanded Alice angrily.
"It would seem we have little more to gain here," pointed out Thomas.
"You're right. We should probably just leave," said Suzanne sullenly.
"Not yet," said Alice cheerfully. "We've made it a habit to stay in every place we go to for at least a night. Why break the habit now?"
"She's got a point," agreed Ron. "The townspeople don't trust us, but they haven't been hostile yet. Unless they try to kick us out we may as well stay the rest of the day."
"Fine," replied Suzanne. "We'll look for an inn and then everyone can do as they wish for the rest of the day."
The group found, however, that the only inn in Jipang had been closed to visitors for some reason. The group decided that they'd once again have to set up camp just outside of town. Suzanne was not feeling up to talking to any of the villagers so she decided to watch the camp for the rest of the day. Thomas, as usual, had no interest in talking to people and also stayed behind, as Jipang had no library for him to visit. Ron and Alice decided to head into town and look into the usual hot spots for the local news.
"I've noticed a great decrease in your determination since talking with Himiko," Thomas pointed out.
"It's nothing. I just hate all these rulers looking down on us and treating us like this," replied Suzanne.
"It's more than that. This is the third nation in a row we've failed on. We had some great initial success, but now our luck has run dry. It may have been better if our two successes were spaced between these failures, to renew our hope every so often," Thomas theorized.
"You're right. After all the success we had at first, I think I became a little bit arrogant. There's no way we could fail after going two for two, I thought," admitted Suzanne.
"I would say it was two for three. I would say Aliahan was our first try and that we were not successful with them," corrected Thomas.
Suzanne could not help but chuckle at Thomas' brunt honesty. "I suppose that's true. I guess our successes were between failures."
Suzanne's short burst of mirth quickly faded. "I can't help but remember what our good king said to me when I first requested to go on this journey. He asked if my bloodlust would continue after being laughed at for such an idea. To be fair, he said it would be because we're from Aliahan, but it's the same sort of thing."
"Has your bloodlust disappeared then?" asked Thomas.
"Is that what you think this has been about?" replied Suzanne.
"To be honest: no I do not. I never thought this was about bloodlust or revenge. I always was under the impression that you, like your father, believed this sort of journey was necessary to fight a greater evil. The need to gain pride for your deceased father may also have played into it, but above all else I thought you wanted to help people," guess Thomas.
"You're right. His majesty our king was incorrect. It was never about bloodlust. I don't get a violent satisfaction or happiness every time I slay a monster. To be honest, I don't really want to fight at all. But I know I have to, so I do. No big deal really," said Suzanne.
"Don't say that. Even monsters have lives. All lives are big deals. That is another crime this Archfiend has committed. To pit monsters against humans on such a grand scale means incredible loss of life, both monster and human," scolded Thomas.
"I'm sorry. I guess I've never seen much value in the life of a monster," admitted Suzanne.
"Well you should. It may be naïve, but if monsters saw value in humans and if humans saw value in monsters, we may see less Great Wars," said Thomas.
"Hey guys! You won't believe what we found out!" called the voice of Alice as she entered the camp.
"Yeah guys, there's a reason why all the citizens here looked so down, besides our arrival," chipped in Ron.
"What reason is that?" asked Suzanne.
"These people are being terrorized by a dragon called the Orochi," explained Ron. "Apparently, the beast won't attack the village so long as the people sacrifice a beautiful young woman every so often."
"The time of the sacrifices is random, determined by none other than our darling Himiko himself," continued Alice. "The villagers say he has divine abilities that allow him to determine the longest time to go without sacrificing someone without angering the beast."
"That's awful!" exclaimed Suzanne. "No wonder everyone in the city looked so down. It wasn't just us after all. Where is this Orochi?"
"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?" asked Thomas.
"Yes. We're going to slay the Orochi ourselves and save the people of this city," declared Suzanne.
"But why? They haven't asked for our help and I'm sure they've tried to slay the beast. What makes you think we'll be successful?" asked Thomas.
"We have to try. You said that once. We can't sit by while these people suffer," replied Suzanne.
"Well said!" beamed Ron. "I'm up for another dragon fight!"
"They said the Orochi lives in a nearby cave just northeast of here," said Alice. "Let's do this!"
As Alice had said, there was a cave just northeast of Jipang. The cave was only a couple of hours away from the city. The group descended into the cave and found that it was incredibly hot inside.
"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Ron. "Perfect lair for a dragon! Could it be any hotter in here?"
"Actually, some dragons prefer the cold," corrected Alice. "They would be quite miserable in here."
"How can a bunch of things that breathe fire like the cold?" asked Ron.
"Some dragons don't breathe fire. It is said that there are some that breathe terrible gales of cold and ice," explained Alice.
"You're making that up. Everyone knows dragons breathe fire and that's that," argued Ron.
"Who's the sage here? I'm telling you, some dragons breathe ice!" yelled Alice.
"No time for arguing! They're here!" called Suzanne.
The group was confronted with two monsters that looked very similar to the human-fat monsters they fought in the cave near Baharata, the ones that could cast the confusion spells. These ones had red skin rolling off them. They still carried staves of similar nature to the green versions near Baharata.
Deciding that magic would be worthless against the creatures, Alice took out her sword and ran at one of the creatures. She gave it a slash across the midsection. However, the creature's layers of skin and fat kept the blow from being anywhere near fatal. The two creatures then displayed incredible agility as they quickly retreated from Alice's charge and cast spells at the group. Both Alice and Suzanne were hit with the yellow waves of confusion spells. Alice managed to shake hers off, but Suzanne was visibly disoriented.
"Beware Suzanne! The spell's affected her!" warned Thomas. As if to prove his point, Suzanne came at Thomas and managed a slash across his shoulder. Thomas began casting a sleep spell and sent Suzanne to sleep. Ron finished off the creature that Alice had wounded with a crushing blow to what may have been the creature's face (it was hard to tell.)
Seeing the surviving creature attempting another spell, Alice ran at it to try and kill it before it could finish its casting. Just as before, however, the creature's girth cushioned the blow from killing it. The creature finished its spell and sent yellow waves at Ron. Ron managed to resist the confusion and return the creature's spell with steel. The monster died.
The group made sure to stay away from Suzanne as the effects of confusion wore off. After that the group went to work exploring the cave. The group took a left right off the bat and went down a large hallway. They soon found their way blocked by a stream of fiery rock; a mudslide of flame.
"What is this!" asked Ron, taken aback by the scene.
"Lava," answered Alice. "Make sure not to touch it. It's as lethal as it looks."
"Wait, isn't lava found in a volcano?" asked Suzanne.
Alice, knowing what Suzanne was hinting at, was hesitant to answer. Seeing Suzanne's pressing look, she could not help but tell the truth, "Yes. It is."
"So then. This stuff is probably how my father died," said Suzanne.
"Are you all right?" asked Ron.
"I'm fine. It's just funny looking at what did him in. If it were a monster, I would feel anger. But seeing an inanimate object like this…" Suzanne trailed off.
"You sure you're fine?" asked Alice.
"Yeah. Let's keep going. We have an appointment with a dragon," replied Suzanne.
The group turned back around to the cave entrance and followed the other path where they found another hallway. They followed the hallway and eventually found a chamber heading to the right. The group entered the chamber and found themselves greeted by three bears.
"Watch out guys!" called Ron.
Alice cast a spell and the bears found huge spines of ice rising up from underneath them. The ice then shattered giving the beasts several cuts in addition to the wounds they sustained from the sharp pieces of ice stabbing them from the ground. Suzanne took advantage of the bears' surprise and ran one of them through with her sword. The two surviving bears ganged up on her and while she managed to dodge one of them, the other one caught her across the face.
Thomas ran up and stabbed one of the bears in the shoulder, but the bear still had enough strength to fight. Ron ran up and decapitated the other bear. Alice unsheathed her sword and finished off Thomas' bear with a quick slash to the side. The bear succumbed to its wounds.
"So ice this time huh?" asked Ron to Alice.
"Well, I've never really understood why one should 'fight fire with fire.' It seemed to make more sense that way," replied Alice. Ron could not help but laugh at her response.
The group continued making their way through the cave. The chamber they were in actually turned out to be empty. The backtracked to the hallway and found that after the chamber it almost immediately split into another hallway. This hallway led into a very large room but the group found their path blocked by more lava. The group was forced to backtrack back to the main hallway.
As the group worked their way through the main hallway, they found another entrance to the large room on the left. However, this entrance was also blocked by lava. The group returned the main hallway. The hallway made a left turn, such that it was now going the opposite direction of where it was going from the entrance. The hallway seemed to be winding its way around the edges of the cave.
The group came to another split to the left that led back into the main room, around which the hallway was wrapped. This time the group could make progress into the room and they found a staircase in the middle. As usual, the group skipped the staircase to explore the rest of the floor for their target. The large room led back to the main hallway, but on the other side of the lava that had blocked the group the first time. Here they found a chest. After checking it, they found a peculiar mask inside.
"What is this?" asked Ron. "It sure does look funny."
Alice used her magic to start investigating the object. The group was surprised when she suddenly dropped the mask and started backing away.
"What is it Alice?" asked Suzanne.
"This mask has extremely powerful magic within it. It can make the wearer almost impervious to physical attack!" she exclaimed.
"Really! Sounds like my kind of equipment!" said Ron as he started for the mask.
"Don't touch it!" Alice shouted. "It's also cursed! It breaks the mind of whoever wears it! You know those confusion spells that have been thrown at us a couple times now? Imagine living under that spell forever!"
"Are you serious?" asked Thomas, horrified at the prospect.
"Well, forever might be a little dramatic. Like all curses, it can be broken. At the expense of the mask, of course. So you see, it really is worthless to us no matter what," explained Alice, now starting to calm down.
The group back tracked to the part of the main hallway they could make progress through and found it ended at one last chamber. Unfortunately, the chamber was empty. The group went back to the stairs and went down them. The four were quickly greeted by two large, red, moving rock formations. The strangest part of these rock formations may not have been their movement but by the eyes that glared from the top rocks.
"Those rocks are alive!" warned Suzanne. "Ready yourselves!"
Alice sent her ice spikes up from the ground underneath the rocks. The rocks were almost taken apart by the ice, but kept their form. Suzanne sent a slash at one of the rocks, not knowing if her attack would have any effect on whatever it was that she was striking. She was relieved when the rock formation broke to pieces and the eyes disappeared.
The other rock monster was still alive however. The rock monster suddenly opened up at the top, similar to one opening his or her mouth, and breathed a blast of fire at the group. The fire caught the group off guard and inflicted serious burns on all four of them. The four were still in fighting shape, unfortunately for the rock monster. Thomas finished the creature off with a stab between the eyes. The creature fell apart just as its partner had.
"More fire breath. I guess we should have expected that in a fire cave like this," commented Suzanne, waiting for Thomas to finish the healing rounds.
"I don't think our tricked out armor did much against that breath either," complained Ron.
"Many people have come up with the theory that monsters' fire breath is not actually magic," explained Alice. "It's actually a natural occurrence, such as breathing oxygen is for us. These theories are supported by instance like this, where wards against magic do not protect against fire breath."
"Oh, that's great! How does that help us?" asked Ron exasperatedly.
"There are wards that can protect against breath weapons," said Alice thoughtfully.
"I believe that would be my area of expertise," joined in Thomas. "But, as usual, I don't have the knowledge of magic necessary when we need it."
"Don't do this to yourself again man. There's only so much one man can do. You'll get it soon. Just like you how you got the antidote spell. Just like how your healing just keeps improving," said Ron.
The group was now in another hallway, similar to the one on the previous floor. This one was significantly shorter. It led to a chamber with a gruesome alter inside it. Both the alter and the area around it were covered in blood and human skeletons.
"This must be the sacrificial alter," said Ron grimly.
"I can't help but notice how deep inside the alter is," noted Thomas. "The Orochi probably hopes that whoever escorts the sacrifices inside will be killed by the other monsters. More food for the beast."
"We have to be close then," said Suzanne.
The group went back to the hallway and found it split in both directions midway between the chamber and the stairs. One split led quickly to a dead end. The other split led to a huge chamber almost filled by a lake of lava. There was an island in the middle of the lava lake with a bridge leading from the hallway the group was in to the island. The group quickly made their way onto the island.
The four wound themselves around the various boulders scattered around the island, careful to look for more rock monsters. And then the group found their target.
"Oh goodness, this will be a fight!" said Ron.
"Numerous heads. I pray they can't all breathe fire, especially at once," commented Thomas.
"We can take it!" said Alice confidently.
"It seems happy to see us. I wonder why that is?" noted Suzanne, knowing full well from the sacrifice chamber why the beast was happy to see them.
The Orochi was a green dragon with five heads standing upon four legs. Each head had blue spines running up it. The dragon was indeed happy to see the four. Humans no longer wondered into the cave, too afraid of the beast. To see the four humans wonder in on their own, without the dragon having to do any work, was like a free meal for the Orochi.
Alice created spikes of ice underneath the Orochi. The Orochi hissed in pain, but the group was amazed to see its wounds already closing before their eyes. Suzanne and Ron struck the Orochi with their weapons. Not only did the dragon's scales reduce their weapons' effectiveness, but they could see the wounds they did inflict closing as well.
"Damn! The bastard can regenerate!" swore Ron.
Thomas hung back and cast a spell. The four were engulfed in the bright light of the spell that reduces vulnerability to physical attack. The Orochi brought two of its heads to face the party. One of them gave Ron a good bite to his shoulder. The other let loose a burst of flame at the group. Having expected this, the group was able to use the various boulders around the island for cover. However, they were all still given good burns.
"It can use its heads at the same time! Beware multiple attacks everyone!" warned Suzanne.
Fortunately, Alice had just the spell to overcome one of the Orochi's abilities. Alice had recently learned a spell that greatly enhanced the strength of the one the spell was cast on. She quickly chanted the spell and Ron found himself engulfed in crimson light.
"There! You should be able to get past its scales now!" yelled Alice.
Suzanne and Ron continued their offensive. Alice's spell did indeed aid Ron, as he cut through the Orochi's scales and its hide as though it were butter. The Orochi screamed in rage and pain as Ron cut it. Although the wound was starting to heal, it was grievous enough that it would not heal completely for a little while. Thomas sent his stronger healing spell at Ron, to account for the bite and the burns.
The Orochi still had enough in it to keep up the assault. This time it nearly took Suzanne's head off with a bite from one of its own. It still dealt a decent wound to her shoulder. The other head sent another burst of flame at the group.
"I can't heal all of you at once! I need some help!" called Thomas.
"Alice! Help Thomas keep the healing up!" ordered Suzanne.
Alice healed herself, though she did not have Thomas' stronger healing spell yet. Thomas sent his stronger healing spell at Suzanne. Suzanne and Ron once again struck the beast. Suzanne managed another easily regenerated wound to the dragon's side. Ron once again gave the beast a good slash, almost taking one of its heads off at the base of the neck.
The Orochi was definitely mad now. This was supposed to be an easy meal and it would take a while for its wounds to heal now. It had been a long time since it had felt this much pain. Those humans would be devoured nice and slowly now. The Orochi kept up its same assault: a bite to Suzanne, this time to her side, and another blast of flaming breath. Suzanne suspected that the beast was now focusing more on her due to its sick nature of preferring female humans.
"Alice! Give that enhancement to me that you gave to Ron! I'll help Tom heal for now!" called Suzanne.
Alice did as she was told and soon Suzanne was engulfed in the same crimson light. Suzanne sent her healing spell at Thomas, though hers was also not as strong as Thomas'. Thomas sent his healing spell at Suzanne. Ron was the only one left for offense as he gave the Orochi another wound to its side to hiss about. However, without Suzanne to inflict another wound, the Orochi was soon no more wounded than it was a few seconds ago.
Although the Orochi loved its flaming breath, there was something to be said for simply tearing humans to pieces. The Orochi brought two of its heads at Ron in a vicious double strike. Ron took a bite to his left side and one to his right arm. Combined with his burns, Ron was in rough shape.
"Alice! Heal yourself! Tom! You focus on Ron!" ordered Suzanne.
Alice healed herself while Thomas healed Ron. Ron, although still not in top shape, was looking much better now. Now Ron and Suzanne, with their enhanced strength, launched a great offensive on the Orochi. As the Orochi's heads were about to strike, Ron and Suzanne both struck at one and severed their targets clean off. The remaining three heads of the Orochi screeched a horrible screech of agony and rage. However, the group could see that the two heads were already growing back from the stubs of the necks.
However, the Orochi had been dealt terrible wounds. Too terrible to continue on. The Orochi quickly retreated into the lake of lava surrounding the island. The group gave hot pursuit, but the Orochi escaped into the lake.
"Dammit! The bastard got away!" cursed Ron.
"Maybe not," said Suzanne. "Look at where he went in!"
The other three looked at what Suzanne saw and found something interesting indeed. The lava was swirling oddly where the Orochi had entered the lava lake. In fact, the swirl looked like a red version of a Traveler's Gate.
"I don't think it dipped into the lake. The Orochi probably can't handle that much fire. I think it teleported away!" guessed Alice.
"We should follow after it!" said Ron, about to go after the Orochi.
"Stop!" shouted Thomas. "How do you know you still won't be burned?"
"We can't let it get away Tom!" shouted Ron back.
"Let's be cautious about this. Tom, finish healing us. Ron, tie yourself up to a rope so we can get you out if you get burned. Then just slowly get in. Try dipping a finger in first, just to make sure," suggested Suzanne.
"Of course, the monster is healing itself as we waste time. Maybe even planning an ambush," grumbled Ron.
"Well, if it turns out that you still get horribly burned from that teleporter, you'll probably get a different view on it," scolded Suzanne.
Ron conceded to Suzanne's point and the group started tying a rope securely around his waist. Ron carefully put his finger into the swirl. The group was relieved when he felt no pain from it. Ron slowly began entering the red Traveler's Gate. When he disappeared without screaming in agony, the rest of the group followed after him.
This Traveler's Gate was different from the others. Instead of spinning around over and over and feeling dizzy afterwards, the group felt as though they had fallen a long ways. Fortunately, the fall was not real, as the group landed without injury.
The four found themselves back in Himiko's room in the city of Jipang. The group was surprised to find that night had already fallen while they had been in the cave. What was more surprising was the scene the group had appeared in the middle of. One of Himiko's aides was desperately tending to Himiko, who had been given terrible wounds. Himiko was definitely still alive, but was bleeding quite a bit.
"Where did you come from!" cried the aide. "Unless you have skill in healing, you must leave now! Himiko has been injured!"
Suzanne quickly called the group into a small conference.
"Does anyone else find it suspicious that Himiko is now suddenly injured, after we injured the Orochi and chased it here?" asked Suzanne.
"Funny how that works," agreed Alice.
"Let's see what he has to say," said Ron.
The four walked up to Himiko, hands on their weapons. Himiko was not only injured, but breathing oddly. Himiko's breath was coming out in inhuman hisses. As the four approached, Himiko gave them a venomous gaze. But it was not the glaring eyes of an angry human that glared at them, but the solid purple eyes of the Orochi.
"So, 'Himiko,' how did you get injured?" asked Suzanne.
"Enough games," growled Himiko. "You are the only ones who know my true identity. And you must know that by now, I've healed enough of your pitiful wounds to easily finish you off. But if you leave now, and don't speak a word of this to anyone, I'll spare your lives."
"I'm afraid we can't do that," answered Suzanne. "We need you to stop devouring sacrifices from this city. But you're not about to do that, are you?"
Himiko gave a great roar, the angry roar of the Orochi. "I shall enjoy devouring you!" it screamed.
The group quickly drew out their weapons as Himiko's form quickly grew and morphed into the form of the Orochi. As the Orochi had said, it had recovered from a good amount of its wounds. Where there had been two stumps left over before the Orochi now had two new heads, though they had not yet grown to the size of its three others.
Alice and Thomas knew that the spells they had cast in their first fight with the Orochi had worn off. Alice recast her spell on Ron, once again enhancing his strength. Thomas recast his spell on the group, giving them extra protection against the Orochi's bites. Ron and Suzanne resumed their offensive against the beast. They were please to see that, besides the small heads, some of the Orochi's other wounds still remained.
Suzanne, not yet boosted by Alice, once again found it difficult to inflict a wound that the Orochi could not almost immediately heal. Ron, however, was once again cutting through the dragon's skin like butter. The Orochi, incensed by the human female that dared stand up to it so, forgot its flaming breath for the moment and brought two of its heads down to bite at Suzanne. Suzanne tried to jump over the attack this time but was sent sprawling to the ground with one good bite in each leg.
Alice cast her magic on Suzanne, so now both the front line fighters had great strength. Thomas sent his stronger healing spell to Suzanne, almost completely healing her legs. Ron tried to go for the Orochi's head again but the creature was ready for the attack this time. The head ducked down and then came violently back up, sending Ron flying. Suzanne managed a strike to the creature's leg, almost severing it. The creature limped for all of two seconds as it let out a burst of flaming breath.
"Alice! Help Thomas heal! We just need to outlast it!" called Suzanne.
Alice healed herself while Thomas healed Ron. In the case of most monsters, the Orochi would have made things worse for itself by throwing Ron over itself, for it was no flanked by Suzanne and Ron. However, a five-headed beast like the Orochi was not at much of a disadvantage with an enemy behind it. Ron tried going at one of the two weak heads with another jumping strike but found them quickly snake away from his strike, leaving him on the creature's back in the middle of the five heads. Suzanne stabbed the beast just under one of its heads. By the creature's roar, Suzanne guessed she had not been far from the creature's heart, or some vital organ.
The creature was definitely angry now. Two of the Orochi's heads took a great inhale and unleashed a double blast of flame upon the group. As Ron was still on the dragon's back, he was not hit by the blast. The other three were badly burned however. Suzanne, Thomas, and Alice were all forced to heal themselves, though there were still good burns on all of them after their spells took effect.
Ron took advantage of his position on the Orochi's back. He got himself into a position similar to horseback riding and brought his axe through one of the dragon's five necks. Ron felt a spine snap as he did so and realized that each of the necks must have a spine. The neck Ron attacked went disgustingly limp and fell to the ground.
The Orochi realized the advantage Ron now had over it but realized it could not get its heads around to attack him. Instead, the dragon tried to buck Ron off its back. Ron tried to hold on, but quickly found himself falling off its back. The creature then tried to stomp on Ron, while one of its heads sent another blast of flame at the other three. Ron managed to avoid the worst of the stomp, but took a crushing blow to his left arm.
Thomas and Alice healed themselves again while Suzanne rejoined the melee. She managed to get underneath the head that had just breathed fire and sent a great upward slash at the dragon. The result had one of the beast's heads on the ground and a stump of a neck left. The creature howled in agony, allowing Ron to get back to his feet and try a daring move of his own. The Orochi was so distracted by its pain, as it was so unaccustomed to feeling, that it forgot to get one of its other heads out of the way as Ron sliced it clean off. The Orochi was now left with one good head and two smaller heads.
The Orochi quickly overcame its pain, channeling it into rage. It brought its good head and one of its smaller heads around to fight the group. The large head threw out a blast of flame while the smaller head snapped at Suzanne. Suzanne managed to block the smaller, weaker head with her shield. Alice healed Ron while Thomas healed Suzanne.
The four knew the Orochi was in its last stages of life. Suzanne and Ron focused on the large head. Suzanne went in low, ready to roll away if the head tried to crush her. Ron went in high. The creature's head was stuck between a rock and a hard place. If it tried to crush Suzanne, Ron would finish his own crushing slash on the neck. If it tried to swat Ron out of the air, Suzanne would have plenty of room to perform another terrible upward slash. The Orochi decided to pick on Suzanne again, as the two humans had come to expect from the dragon.
Having anticipated the attack, Suzanne easily rolled away. The Orochi roared before Ron even decapitated it again, knowing its head's fate. Indeed, there was a third head on the ground. The Orochi now also knew its fate. With only its two weak heads left, it could not hope to put a suitable offensive up. Nevertheless, it brought its two heads around and sent a double blast of fire at the group. However, the two blasts were only as strong together as one of the blasts from a strong head. But the Orochi knew it was still doing more harm than the two healers could erase. If it could outlast the humans, it could spend the next few months in rest healing its wounds.
The group knew the Orochi's plan. Alice and Thomas healed themselves while Ron and Suzanne kept up their offensive. Ron and Suzanne once again focused on the same head, and the creature was once again unable to dodge the double attack. Another head landed on the ground. The last head sent out one last desperate blast of flame at the group, but this one was noticeably weaker.
Ron and Suzanne finished off the final head and then the entire group went to work hacking the creature to pieces. Since it could heal itself, they could not risk the creature healing back someday. They cut and hacked until they came to the creature's heart. After stabbing the heart, the healing seemed to stop. Blood flowed unabated and none of the stumps tried to grow anymore. The group stopped their bloodbath and took one final look at the beast. The Orochi had finally died.