Episode 126. Metamorphosis (1)

News of the duel between Seon-Hyeok and Roland quickly spread throughout the front lines.

Countless soldiers had been killed or wounded during the struggle between the two monsters, but even more had survived to tell the tale.

“They soared in the skies as the wind blew fiercely. Barricades fell, soldiers were flung about, and all was chaos.”

The survivors recalled the events as though they were scenes from an old legend.

For these earthbound people, the heavens were an unapproachable realm, and both Drachen and the griffin rider were mythical figures capable of conquering this arena. They could not be treated as mere humans.

“They moved so quickly that it was hard to tell what was going on, but one thing’s for certain.”

However, there were gaps even between two superhuman beings, and...

“Drachen is much stronger than Roland of the Gale.”

The Knight of the Azure Sky was no match for Drachen.

***

“I apologize. I underestimated him.”

Roland could not hold his head up, knowing that he had marred the griffin riders’ first appearance in battle with a one-sided defeat. His typical confidence was nowhere to be seen.

“Because of me, the name of the Knights of the Azure Sky…”

Whether or not he wanted to listen, all people spoke about were the events from their duel.

At the very least, rumors that the Knights of the Azure Sky were inferior to Drachen were accepted as fact in these eastern Noctein territories. These rumors would soon spread from this area across the vast continent.

“It’s not your fault.”

Lafayette neither rebuked nor criticized Roland for his loss.

“He was simply much greater than we anticipated.”

Would the results have changed if I fought instead of Roland?

No, that was not the case. It was because Lafayette was well aware of this fact that he could not blame his comrade.

“I have no excuse. And thank you. If it weren’t for you, I…”

Roland belatedly expressed his thanks for saving his life. However, it had not been Lafayette who spared his life.

If Drachen had not loosened his grip on his lance at the last minute, Lafayette could not have saved the life of the third ranked knight.

“Nonetheless, it’s not like he doesn’t have a weakness.”

From the beginning, Lafayette had chosen to be a bystander in the off chance that Roland was defeated. As a result, he was able to vividly recall the duel and evaluate Drachen’s power.

“He had a weakness?”

Shocked that the monster-like Drachen had a weakness, Roland quickly responded.

“Drachen’s weakness is his wyvern.”

Roland may have lost, but his griffin, Devon, had not.

Devon had defended its rider until the very end, despite becoming a bloodied mess in the terrifying tempest. If it were not for those injuries, the griffin would surely have overwhelmed the wyvern.

“Roland, you should’ve targeted the wyvern, not Drachen.”

The practice duels between the Knights of the Azure Sky had become a detriment in real combat.

In practice duels, it would have been awkward, at the very least, to injure a precious griffin. As such, in the process, Roland had subconsciously trained himself to attack the riders, and not their mounts.

To Lafayette, this seemed to be the reason behind Roland’s defeat.

“Don’t forget. If the winged beast falls from the sky, the monster’s rider can’t fly on his own.”

“But His Majesty told us to capture the wyvern alive at all costs…”

Lafayette shook his head at Roland’s words.

“That’s only possible if our opponent is weaker than us. Did it look like Drachen was weaker?”

Roland did not respond as he wordlessly hung his head.

“Raise your head. I’m not trying to lay blame. We’re not in Griffindor – if you show weakness here, there will be many people jumping at the chance to take advantage of you. Don’t give them that opportunity.”

An airborne griffin could be considered the master of the skies, but a wounded and earthbound one could fall prey to these underhanded wild dogs.

Devon and its rider were the perfect prey.

The only reason these opportunistic hunters had not shown their true colors was because their terrifying foe, Drachen, was still alive.

“The next time we meet; we’ll pay him back for today’s disgrace.”

Of course, there was a debt to settle before that, but Roland was willing to endure that. What was truly important was regaining the lost honor of the Knights of the Azure Sky.

But this would not be easy. The two griffin riders were not the only ones to gather valuable information from the duel.

In fact, at that very moment, Drachen remained dissatisfied with his victory and was analyzing his fight.

***

Redvern’s still weak.

Redvern was inferior to the griffin in speed, strength, and all other aspects of combat. If the riders’ skills were taken out of the equation, Redvern would have lost in the battle between beasts.

“Ah.”

However, Seon-Hyeok could not blame Redvern. He knew well that he, like Redvern, was still lacking in many aspects.

This was my first aerial battle. It’d be strange if I didn’t have any regrets.

His combat style had always been to deal a powerful blow and quickly leave the battle. There had not been an opponent he could not defeat with Wind Piercing and Wind Bite, and he never needed a second attack.

Roland was different.

Despite the numerous wounds, the griffin had endured the attacks until the end, and Roland likewise only suffered non-lethal injuries.

It was the first time Seon-Hyeok encountered such a situation after taming Redvern, and it was the first battle he could not win after using Wind Bite once.

He held the upper hand throughout the battle. No, he had thoroughly dominated Roland. But despite having countless opportunities to put away the duel, he repeatedly lost his chance.

At the time, he simply believed Roland was being persistent. However, that was not the whole story.

His attacks were overly simple and straightforward. He fought like an idiot, repeatedly charging at his opponent while hoping they would fall.

And this realization taught him his fatal weakness.

He was too specialized in large-scale battles. He excelled at breaking down enemy lines and inflicting significant damage on large groups of enemies, but was vulnerable in single combat against excellent knights.

He was not sure whether it was because of the types of battles he had been involved in, or because the abilities of his class were specialized in that manner.

What was certain was that unless he overcame his limitations, it would be more challenging to achieve a perfect victory against these Knights of the Azure Sky.

“Did he call himself Lafayette…”

Seon-Hyeok recalled the knight with red hair and rugged face. He seemed more mature than Roland as both a knight and a rider, and his griffin was likewise larger and stronger than Roland’s.

Thinking back, Roland had been the third of the knights. Since Lafayette was second, it was clear that he would be stronger, so long as these rankings were not only based on seniority.

Nonetheless, he did not think he would lose.

“He interfered once, so there’s no saying he won’t again.”

That is, he was confident in victory if he fought one opponent. Unfortunately for him, there were two griffin riders on the front lines.

“Ah, maybe I shouldn’t have let him live.”

Seon-Hyeok regretted missing his chance to deal with the griffin rider. However, he had no choice back then. If he had continued with the attack and finished Roland, Lafayette would have immediately aimed his sword at him.

Victory may be sweet, but certainly not at the cost of his own life.

“I’d be more at ease if Redvern could grow up a bit.”

Considering Goldrake had grown after devouring the earth veins, it was possible that Redvern could also undergo similar development.

“Hm.”

After pondering the situation for a while, Seon-Hyeok got an idea and looked for Aria Eisen.

“What’s the matter?”

Aria Eisen, seemingly busy even at the fort, had an outwardly annoyed expression on her face. Seon-Hyeok rushed to explain his situation.

“Poison that Redvern can eat?”

She frowned in confusion, but soon changed her attitude after hearing his explanation.

“It’s my first time hearing that drakes grow from absorbing the energy of the ground.”

As always, Aria Eisen was thirsty for knowledge, and she naturally showed great interest in his suggestion.

After all, who else could possibly tame a drake and know of its inherent attributes?

The mage seemed satisfied, having gained a glimpse into the essence of the drake.

“Well, there is something I can experiment with.”

She spoke as she waved a glass bottle with an unpleasantly-colored liquid.

Seon-Hyeok got the impression that Aria Eisen’s experiment would not be a very pleasant experience for Redvern. He internally expressed his condolences for the poor wyvern in advance.

Seon-Hyeok’s predictions proved incorrect. Aria Eisen’s experiment went more smoothly than expected, and Redvern did not complain of any pain in the process. In fact, Redvern ravenously devoured the unidentified liquids she offered.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

The long-awaited message appeared around the time Redvern consumed the second bottle of poison.

Excited, he pressed Aria Eisen on, and she threw five more bottles into Redvern’s gaping maw.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

His attribute control continued to increase. Unfortunately, however, the rate and number of levels were not notable. Even after all that effort, the stat only increased by around 4 levels.

“Hm.”

When he gave a disappointed look, Aria Eisen smiled and continued.

“The real part starts now.”

She explained that the poisons used so far had been relatively mild, just in case, and pulled out glass bottles that looked several times more threatening.

“But you’ll have to keep this in mind. I can’t take responsibility if the wyvern can’t handle the toxins. These poisons are powerful, and even subsequent detoxification can leave side effects. If you’re not open to that, we’ll have to stop now…”

Aria Eisen could not finish her words. Redvern pushed out its snout and snatched away the glass bottles the mage held in her hand.

“Hey!”

Having yet to make a decision, Seon-Hyeok shouted in bewilderment at the sudden development.

Gulp!

However, as though worried that its food would be taken away, Redvern swallowed the glass bottles whole.

“You damned beast! Spit it out!”

He grabbed and shook Redvern’s neck, but the ravenous wyvern kept its mouth shut and held on.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

-          Attribute control (poison) has increased by 1.

At that moment, messages repeatedly appeared in his head. Seon-Hyeok realized then that Redvern had already absorbed the poison it ingested.

“Ah…”

It was too late. Now, he had no choice but to pray that Redvern was capable of digesting the extreme poison.

After a while, the messages suddenly stopped.

When he checked his status window, he noticed that his attribute control had risen from 11 all the way to 30.

“Are you okay?”

He was more worried than happy. Right now, it was not his attribute control that mattered. Redvern was indispensable, and he needed to ensure his wyvern’s safety.

Chirp.

Redvern squeaked, unable to understand its master’s feelings.

It almost looked as though it was begging for more poison.

Seon-Hyeok breathed a sigh of relief, as it seemed nothing was amiss.

Shriek!

However, it was too early to be relieved. Redvern suddenly shrieked before rolling on the ground.

“Sir Eisen!”

“H, here! The antidote!”

Aria Eisen had been holding onto the antidote just in case, and she quickly handed it over.

“Hey! Hold still!”

With one arm, Seon-Hyeok held the thrashing Redvern by the neck before forcing an antidote down.

Shriek! Squeak.

Was the antidote effective?

Redvern’s screams died down.

It was at that moment that a never before seen message appeared in his head.

-          Sufficient poison has been accumulated for growth.

-          Redvern is undergoing metamorphosis.

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