Episode 149. Change (1)

“Wow, way to apologize so soon. I thought my head would burst back then.”

It was no joke. If Seon-Hyeok had not realized how to forcibly break their communications in that time of crisis, he was certain his head would have exploded in pain.

[Those events were caused by imperfections in mind and body, and I have no excuse.]

The dragon’s voice was calm as usual, but as it was conveyed through thoughts rather than words, Seon-Hyeok could sense the underlying emotions.

The dragon was fretting like a child caught after misbehaving. She pretended it was not the case, but could not hide behind her thoughts.

“Well, it does seem like you’re sorry.”

[I am not just sorry. I nearly killed my one and only companion because I could not overcome my momentary rush of emotions. The weight of my crime weighs heavily on my conscience.]

Believing he would have died was one thing, but having this directly confirmed by the dragon was a completely different matter. Surprised, Seon-Hyeok shot back.

“Wait. I really almost died?”

[If you did not forcibly cut communications back then, even if you survived, you would have become a vegetable.]

He genuinely wondered whether he should be angry with the dragon. However, his first priority now was to have his questions answered.

“Ugh. I’m not going to let this slide, but first, tell me who this Dark Lord is.”

His head pounded upon saying that name. Recalling his previous experience, Seon-Hyeok shouted out in terror.

“Stop!”

The sensation of his brain shaking in his head quickly subsided, and the dragon’s subdued voice could be heard.

[The apostle of hell is a terrible being who violates the very laws of existence. Even saying the name brings me discomfort. He is the opposite of all that is bright in this world, and the antithesis of peace.]

The dragon’s words were still vague, like trying to catch a floating cloud. However, what she was trying to convey was completely clear. The dragon defined this being as an absolute evil that could not exist in this world.

[All that is precious in this world will disappear. Death will be denied, and life will flounder in endless despair. The ugliest and most detestable of beings will prevail, and the entire world will be saturated with grief and hatred. There will be no place where the groans of people begging for death cannot be heard.]

Seon-Hyeok had also felt a strong opposition to the Dark Lord’s existence. However, this revulsion was conveyed to him by the dragon, and he himself did not have a clear understanding about this being.

“Is he strong? That Dark Lord person?”

[Just as you have gained strength through me, he would have been guided by the fragments of chaos. The power he accumulated by now will be significant.]

“Ah…”

It was an incredible asset to be guided by a transcendent force, and Seon-Hyeok imagined that these fragments of chaos would not be inferior to the dragon. If they were, the proud dragon would not have made such an uproar.

In fact, it was not the foreigner army that defeated the Nordic Kingdom, but rather the Dark Lord and his army of the dead.

“Then are you saying that the world will become extinct when he appears?”

[Sows will be unable to give birth to calves, and women to babies. No life can exist where the fragments of chaos have taken root.]

The dragon repeatedly emphasized that the Dark Lord knew only of destruction.

“Hm.”

According to these stories, this Dark Lord was practically the devil, and the enemy of all living beings. However, Seon-Hyeok could not truly appreciate this threat.

First and foremost, the Nordic Kingdom was on the opposite end of the continent, and the Dark Lord described by Dong-Jin was not the devil, but rather human. Moreover, this human was a victim of severe abuse and exploitation, forced to stand up against the inequality in this world.

[The apostle of hell…]

“Wait.”

Seon-Hyeok silenced the dragon.

“I can’t concentrate. Give me a moment.”

The dragon might repeatedly emphasize her hostility and hatred towards this evil, but Seon-Hyeok did not consider this person someone who must be eliminated.

Of course, the uncomfortable feeling that he first felt upon hearing of this individual remained. However, he tried to rationalize these emotions, knowing that these feelings were induced by an external being.

After some thought, he finally reached a conclusion.

“I’ll just keep an eye on this situation.”

[Dragon Rider, the most brilliant light in the world! This person must not be accepted…]

“Shut up and listen to me.”

Seon-Hyeok cut off the confused dragon and slowly explained.

“I understand how terrible and evil the Dark Lord you speak of is. But think about it. Do I have the strength at the moment to fight someone who even you fear?”

The dragon had always told him he was not ready yet.

“So what the hell do you want me to do? Do you want me to take Redvern right now to the other end of the continent, fight the Dark Lord in the Nordic Kingdom, and die?”

Even if this Dark Lord was truly the scourge of the world, there was nothing he could do. Considering their respective achievements, Seon-Hyeok knew that this person was not beneath him.

“So stop it. They waged war in order to survive. When it comes down to it, it was the Nordic royalty and nobility that instigated this.”

The men were overworked in the mines, and the women became playthings for the nobles. The Dark Lord and the Nordic foreigners were the clear victims.

“Just because they were different from the native people, these foreigners were enslaved after being forcibly dragged to this world. In that case, are the Nordic nobility and royalty in the right? Are they included in the brilliant lights of your worldview?”

The perpetrators and victims of this current situation were undeniable. Despite this, the dragon kept insisting that this foreigner was the epitome of evil and needed to be disposed of right away.

Seon-Hyeok did not agree with this viewpoint. To him, it was the Nordic nobles and royals who were evil. Ahn Dong-Jin and the other foreigners in the northwest were simply struggling to live like human beings.

[The seed of chaos…]

He once again stopped the dragon in her tracks.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re saying he needs to die because he was given this class.”

Seon-Hyeok paused before bitterly continuing.

“You’re essentially saying that he and I are puppets forced to obey a greater power’s instructions.”

If he acknowledged that Park Sang-Jin deserved to die just because of his class, he would be admitting that he himself was a slave to the dragon’s greater mission, with no free will of his own.

“Tell me. Are Park Sang-Jin and I no more than your slaves?”

The dragon remained silent.

“I am grateful. If it weren’t for you, I would likely have died in a battle against the Sasteins, or perhaps in one of the subsequent fights. No, I certainly would have died at some point.”

The majority of low-tier classes died in wars. The lucky survivors became partially insane, forced to kill or be killed. The only difference between them and Seon-Hyeok was the inherent gap in their abilities.

If he had awakened as the same class as them, he would also be suffering alongside them.

As such, Seon-Hyeok always regarded the dragon as his great benefactor, and he was always deeply grateful.

“So I’m sorry. I can’t follow your instructions.”

But despite these feelings, he could not listen to the dragon this time.

“I will keep my eye on the situation.”

If, as the dragon claimed, the Dark Lord was a devil causing mortal harm to this world through his very existence, this would be revealed sooner or later.

All he could do now was to build up his strength for the confrontation that may or may not come to pass.

Seon-Hyeok prayed. He ardently hoped that the day when he would face the countless Nordic foreigners on the battlefield would never arrive, and that the Dark Lord would not be a servant of the fragments of chaos, but the human, Park Sang-Jin.

[You…]

After a long period of silence, the dragon spoke in a heavy tone.

[You are not my puppet.]

Seon-Hyeok expected the dragon to persuade or threaten him to eliminate the foreigner immediately, but surprisingly, the dragon’s voice contained neither anger nor signs of reprimanding him.

[I have no intention of impeding on your free will, and I hope you do not consider our relationship in a different light.]

Seon-Hyeok smiled at the unexpected encouragement.

[You are my companion. I will respect your will, as you are the only one able to make the final decision.]

He let out a sigh of relief at the dragon’s willingness to respect his decisions. He had worried that the two of them would be at odds as a result of the dragon’s hatred towards this foreigner’s class.

[However, you will come to know this sooner or later. You and the Dark Lord are not alike. Likewise, the fragments of chaos and I are not the same. I simply hope that day does not come too late.]

I will hope so as well.”

The short response was followed by silence. It seemed this was the end of his conversation with the dragon.

“Ugh. I might have been better off when I was a member of the cavalry.”

Seon-Hyeok unknowingly lamented when he was left alone and in silence.

Those days of living a modest and incomparably shabby lifestyle were several times more comfortable than his current life. Back then, all he had to worry about was physical exhaustion, and he did not have these greater concerns on his mind.

However, he could not live in the past forever.

Right now, he was a high-ranking noble of the Adenburg Kingdom, the future son-in-law of the royal family, and the lord to countless subordinates and civilians.

“Perhaps I will have to get used to it…”

Now, it was time for him to change.

After that day speaking to the dragon, Seon-Hyeok began to move with more purpose. Within his territory, he started to become invested in the major events and paid attention to what his administrator, Antoine Montaigne, did on a daily basis. Externally, he grew interested in the situation of the other foreigners remaining in the Adenburg Kingdom.

“There are a lot fewer than I thought…”

He realized that there were not nearly as many foreigners in the kingdom as before. Some had been killed in the wars against the Nocteins, while others followed Dong-Jin to the Nordic Kingdom.

Less than half of the foreigners originally brought to this world through the mass summoning remained, and there were now fewer than 100 in the entire kingdom. As expected, the defecting foreigners predominantly held lower-tier classes.

Among the mid-tier foreigners, the few runaways were from the Central Knights. Unfortunately for Seon-Hyeok, they were all those harshly punished by Seon-Hyeok in the previous war.

These defectors had clearly left for the Nordic Kingdom out of spite – spite for the thrashing they received thanks to the princess’ silence. If it had not been for that event, those mid-tier foreigners, valued and treated well in the Adenburg Kingdom, would not have left for that treacherous battlefield as a group.

“A hundred. Maybe 60 after excluding the mid- and high-tier classes directly managed by the royal family?”

Many had left, but there were still a good number of lower-tier foreigners remaining in Adenburg. Some likely remained fearing the clouds of war brewing around the Nordic Kingdom, and others, like him, probably grew attached to life in the Adenburg Kingdom.

They each had their own reasons, but overall, the majority still suffered from the same, relatively poor conditions compared to the lives of luxury enjoyed by their more blessed counterparts.

Seon-Hyeok singled these foreigners out and began to provide both material and spiritual support.

He had been unable to prevent the foreigners on the western front, including Kang Jeong-Tae, from leaving, but was determined to take care of the rest.

Privately, he wanted to help make his comrades’ lives a little better, and from a broader perspective, he wished that such defections would not happen again.

He was fully cognizant of the political dangers of this behavior. As such, he revealed his intentions to the royal family in advance, hoping to prevent any potential misunderstandings. The Seon-Hyeok of the past would not have been so thoughtful.

[I will listen to what you say, so speak without reservations.]

Hearing the princess’ voice through the communication magic, Seon-Hyeok offered his opinions on the current situation.

“I want to develop the foreigners with low-tier classes.”

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