Episode 169. Ugly Duckling (4)

[You should greet your guests first.]

“Guests?”

Seon-Hyeok was bewildered. He was not expecting any guests in his territory.

“Hm?”

The fairy dragon did not tell him who the guests were, but he soon found out without much difficulty.

“W, what the hell?”

Seon-Hyeok panicked as he saw a golden monster’s head through the window.

Growl.

He wondered how long the drake had been there staring inside.

Shriek!

The piercing cry from nearby was clearly Redvern’s, and the loud but intermittent thuds were Bluegon’s footsteps.

“What the hell is going on?”

Having been so focused on Geheimnis, Seon-Hyeok did not notice the other dragon subspecies approach. He had no idea what was happening.

[Don’t be surprised. They’re here after sensing my presence.]

“Surprised or not. Can you do something about your tone? It’s so frustrating.”

Seon-Hyeok barked out as he watched Geheimnis float gracefully in the air. He thought he would finally be getting answers, but the fairy dragon’s responses were always vague. Despite his pleasant nature, he could not help but feel irritated.

[Contrary to your appearances, you’re quite hasty…]

“Stop pretending to be so mysterious, and tell me why these guys suddenly rushed here.”

If he left her alone, he thought she would take this conversation on another lengthy tangent. Seon-Hyeok quickly cut her off.

[Don’t tell me you speak to her like that too?]

“Hey, come on!”

He thought he would die of frustration if he continued talking with this dragon subspecies focused on her own mysterious aura.

“How many times do I have to ask you? Why the hell did they come all the way here?”

Seeing his heartfelt irritation, Geheimnis gave a startled look.

[They have something to receive from me.]

It was only a slight change, but the fairy dragon’s responses were quicker.

“And what might that be?”

Seon-Hyeok pressed on without giving her a break. He had no intention of meekly playing along at this strange creature’s pace.

[There was one particularly harsh punishment among the hundreds they received. They lost what was most precious to them.]

“So what is that?”

The fairy dragon’s responses were prompt, but it was increasingly frustrating for Seon-Hyeok as the listener. The creature had a truly strange talent for irritating others.

[Horns.]

Fortunately, Geheimnis did not intend to further aggravate him this time.

[They want the horns that were brutally removed.]

Seon-Hyeok pointed at the giant horn on Goldrake’s head.

“Then what’s that?”

[Those trifling, exfoliated horns are not real.]

The fairy dragon shook her head as she said that the horn on Goldrake’s head was nothing more than aesthetics.

[What they are missing is closer to their source of existence – their source of power.]

As she spoke, Geheimnis stared directly at him.

[It’s time for you to decide.]

“Decide what?”

[Depending on your answer, they may or may not be given what they lost. Do you want them to have their horns back?]

Seon-Hyeok smirked. After acting like it would be something difficult, Geheimnis’ question was trivial.

The dragon subspecies he had found in the mountains, seas, and skies through all his efforts were now his most reliable assistants and his greatest strength.

“Is that even a question?”

If they could reclaim something and grow more powerful, he had no reason to refuse.

“Return them at once. Horns or whatever they may be.”

Seon-Hyeok immediately responded, as though there was nothing to think about.

[The companion’s choice is her choice.]

Geheimnis had paused as if waiting for his permission, but she once again began to flap her wings vigorously.

[I should not have any doubt that her will is being transmitted through you.]

The glowing body of the small creature disappeared in a colorful and brilliant flash of light.

Whoosh!

The light permeating in all directions soon reached the dragon subspecies before disappearing.

“Hm?”

Seon-Hyeok let out a sound of disappointment as he watched Geheimnis work with a look full of anticipation.

It seemed like a huge horn would appear right away, but not a single change happened in the creatures touched by the brilliant light.

“Where are the horns?”

[Some time is required for the lost sources of power to settle in. It won’t be long, so there is no need to be disappointed already.]

Now that he thought about it, these dragon subspecies took weeks, if not months, to go through their metamorphoses. It would have been too much to expect this change to be instantaneous. Nonetheless, he was let down because Geheimnis had such an imposing presence.

“What will change when the horns are fully grown?”

Source of their existence, source of their power – these were all nebulous concepts to him. As such, he directly asked for clarification, and fortunately for him, Geheimnis did not beat around the bush.

[Following their long exile, those creatures have become little more than humble beasts. The horns will allow them to regain their original intelligence.]

“Oh!”

It was excellent news. Seon-Hyeok had been especially frustrated by Redvern’s childish antics.

If Redvern becomes more intelligent, maybe it won’t get into trouble eating whatever it wants to.

[Of course, the horns won’t magically make a dumb creature intelligent. These horns are just one of the things they lost, and it won’t create something out of nothing.]

“Ah…”

His expectations were brought back to reality.

Just from opening his status window, he could see that Redvern was unusually unintelligent. It was clear his hopes were nothing more than impossible wishes.

“Now. Since we finished greeting the guests, how about we move onto the next topic?”

The dragon subspecies’ horns would not suddenly sprout just because he was being impatient. As a result, he decided to revisit the question he had asked moments earlier.

“Where are the others?”

[To the far west.]

Geheimnis’ gaze headed towards the sunset.

[And slightly north.]

“Hm…”

Seon-Hyeok now knew the general location of the dragon subspecies, but he could not hastily leave his territory.

“It’s a hard decision.”

He was unsure whether he could travel far at the moment, as the princess’ coming-of-age ceremony was fast approaching.

“How long do you think it will take?”

[I have no way of knowing right now.]

Knowing the distance would have helped in reaching a decision, but unfortunately, not even Geheimnis knew the exact answer.

“Ugh.”

It was clear he needed to put off his meeting with another dragon subspecies for the time being.

It was important, but so was the approaching royal ceremony.

[You chose well. It won’t do you any good to be hasty.]

Geheimnis exhorted him as she watched.

[You shouldn’t think that all of the dragon subspecies will be anticipating meeting you.]

Goldrake tried to eat him, and Bluegon had gone so far as to actually swallow him whole. Redvern likewise initially treated him as prey.

There was no way the creatures to the west and northwest would be cooperative.

“I know.”

The small fairy dragon shook her head when he replied that he already knew this.

[No. You do not.]

Geheimnis scolded him, suggesting that he was not being alert enough.

[The dragon subspecies with you were only hostile to you because they were overcome by their wild instincts.]

She was correct. In reality, Goldrake only tried to eat him out of starvation, and the same held true for Redvern.

The only exception was Bluegon.

But even Bluegon had decided to submit, choosing to enter a relationship with the dragon rider rather than irreversibly becoming a beast.

[Among the remaining ones, there are those filled with hatred and rage. They will likely see you as their mortal enemy.]

Seon-Hyeok frowned at this unexpected remark. He could not imagine why these dragon subspecies would hate him, considering they had not even met yet.

However, his confusion did not last long. He soon realized that the hatred and rage was not directed at him.

The being these feelings were directed at was the dragon.

“What the hell even happened?”

He had no choice but to ask, even knowing that the fairy dragon would not respond. As expected, Geheimnis remained silent.

***

Time quickly passed, and the princess’ coming-of-age ceremony was almost at hand.

“I wish I could’ve seen their horns grow before I left.”

They had begun to emerge. However, they were still little more than slight lumps and could barely be called horns.

[Whether or not you rush, time progresses the same for everyone.]

Seon-Hyeok was not sure whether Geheimnis was trying to console him, but he did not respond.

It had only been a short period of time together, but Seon-Hyeok now knew that this small and beautiful creature was a huge chatterbox and lover of riddles. He likewise knew that if he ever played along, he would be subject to long and unhelpful stories.

Realizing that the fairy dragon would once again go off on a tangent, Seon-Hyeok did not respond. Geheimnis gave a clear look of disappointment.

[You have no curiosity for the truth, nor desire for mystery.]

“I do know someone interested in both of those – want me to introduce you?”

He figured that Aria Eisen would be a perfect conversation partner for this strange fairy dragon. The only problem was that the dragon rider was the only individual capable of communicating with these dragon subspecies.

[To think that such a person still exists…]

She’s surprised that such a person still exists?

At the capital, there would be plenty of mages just as greedy for knowledge as Aria Eisen.

[Then again, even the mages of the past were quite open-minded.]

Geheimnis seemed truly disappointed, and Seon-Hyeok was likewise full of regret. He had meant it when he suggested he wanted to introduce this creature to the mages.

He was that tired of the talkative and almost-condescending fairy dragon.

Don’t tell me the others will be like her once they can talk?

Just the thought of it made him balk. But there was something even worse. It was that Geheimnis did not want to be away from him for even a second.

[There’s nothing I can do about it until my mission is complete.]

Whatever the reason, the reality was that Geheimnis would accompany him on this trip to the capital.

“I hope that mission or whatever is finished soon.”

The fairy dragon nodded in agreement at his sincere comment.

“Sigh. Let’s go.”

Seon-Hyeok once again headed for the capital after his brief rest in Rheinperle, this time accompanied by the talkative fairy dragon.

The composition of his entourage was the same as last time, but this time, it was on a different scale. All of the territory’s cavalry accompanied him, as did Asha Trail, Jackson, Julian, and the other key figures of Rheinperle.

Only the bare minimum force was left behind.

“Well, Bluegon and Redvern are both here, so I doubt anything will happen.”

Clark remained laid back, and the others likewise showed little concern over the territory. After all, what could possibly happen to the land defended by two such fierce monsters?

“In any case, it’s amazing no matter how much I’m reminded of it. To think that there really is a fairy dragon in this world.”

Despite seeing her several times during their time at Rheinperle, Clark and the other riders continued to look at Geheimnis in awe, unable to get used to her presence.

[There are always those dim-witted people who need to confirm with their eyes…]

Geheimnis once again took her opportunity to chatter directly in his head, but Seon-Hyeok continued with his duties without responding.

“Increase your speed! The capital is just ahead!”

When he took the lead on top of Goldrake, even the talkative fairy dragon shut her mouth and followed.

I finally feel like I’m alive.

Having noticed that Geheimnis was quiet when he charged on ahead, he refused to stop as he continued towards the capital. He prayed that she would remain quiet at least until they arrived.

***

The princess’ coming-of-age ceremony was an important occasion, but so was her subsequent wedding with Earl Drachen. News that this main figure in the marriage arrived in the capital made both the citizens and nobles even more excited.

Upon passing by the cheering onlookers and arriving at the palace, Seon-Hyeok immediately sought out King Theodore.

“I was wondering when you would arrive.”

The king greeted him with an unprecedented smile, and he even moved to embrace the foreigner.

“Your Majesty…”

When Seon-Hyeok gave an embarrassed look at this unexpected greeting, the king smiled as he spoke.

“We’ll be family soon, so it’s fine to be a bit informal.”

As he spoke, King Theodore looked behind Seon-Hyeok.

“You always bring some interesting beings whenever you come.”

The king seemed intrigued by the fairy dragon’s mysterious appearance, but he soon turned and returned to his seat.

If anything, it was Geheimnis who continued to show interest.

[How surprising.]

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