Episode 180. The Hopeless Warrior (2)

“H, hyung. I’m finished with my business here, so let’s go.”

Seon-Hyeok was similarly uncomfortable at the thought of uninvited guests. Lafayette and Roland’s origins in this kingdom lingered on his mind.

However, Joon-Min seemed even more troubled by the people’s appearance. 

Seon-Hyeok wordlessly watched the warrior before asking Atiya.

“Atiya. Could you describe the approaching guests?”

‘They’re dressed in white armor, white capes, and white clothes. Even their horses are white.’

“White armor and horses… what a strange bunch.”

Flinch. 

It was as he expected. When Seon-Hyeok described the people clad in all white, Joon-Min grew noticeably urgent and bewildered.

[Pure white armor and horses? I have a guess as to who they are.]

Perhaps Geheimnis was determined to cooperate now, as she stepped in with impeccable timing and informed him about the unidentified group.

[The most reverent of knights. The Templar Knights would insist on such all-white attire.]

“The Templar Knights?”

Seon-Hyeok frowned when he heard that these knights, who should be far away at the holy kingdom at the center of the continent, had appeared in Griffindor.

“Park Joon-Min.”

“Huh? Yes!”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes narrowed at the unnecessarily surprised response.

“Is there something you haven’t told me?”

Joon-Min vigorously shook his head. However, given that his eyes were shaking as wildly as his head, it was clear that the foolish warrior was lying.

[How strange. The Templar Knights never leave their own territory, but from what I can tell, this doesn’t look like their land.]

“Perhaps it’s because of the demonic beast?”

[That would make sense, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.]

Geheimnis’ gaze was on Joon-Min. Rather, it was on the Holy Sword he wielded.

[Since ancient times, the Holy Sword was kept and defended at their temples.]

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes followed Geheimnis’ back and forth between the Holy Sword and Joon-Min. By now, the naive warrior seemed uneasy and incapable of standing still.

“It can’t be…”

Even as he thought it was ridiculous, Seon-Hyeok could not help but wonder after seeing the warrior’s reckless behavior up to this point.

“You didn’t just take the Holy Sword, did you?”

Joon-Min, after being restless like a puppy needing to be let out, froze on the spot.

“You did.”

Seon-Hyeok facepalmed.

“Well, let’s talk about this once we’re away from here.”

Lafayette and Roland coincidentally appeared at that time, having been drawn by the holy light. Seon-Hyeok had Joon-Min get on a griffin before they flew away.

If the approaching figures were Griffindor knights, Seon-Hyeok would have overcome his discomfort and made contact for potential diplomatic gains, but there was nothing to be gained by crossing paths with the Templar Knights at this time.

“Atiya. Make sure nobody hears.”

‘Leave it to me.’

When they completely left the scene, Seon-Hyeok found a place at a reasonable distance from the griffin riders before asking Joon-Min about his situation.

In turn, the warrior openly revealed the series of events leading to his pursuit by the Templar Knights.

“When I entered this world, I found myself in the Astoria Kingdom.”

Joon-Min awakened at a sacred temple in the Astoria Kingdom and was granted the class of warrior. Unfortunately, despite the promising-sounding name of his class, Joon-Min found himself without any distinguishing features or abilities, and thus was soon disregarded by others. Though he was treated as little more than a physical laborer, he did not complain during his time within his new kingdom.

However, this was only the case prior to the Dark Lord’s emergence.

When the Dark Lord rose, Joon-Min began to hear a voice and soon discovered it was the Holy Sword. Through his struggles, he found the central temple in which sacred relics were kept, but the church did not recognize him as the master of the Holy Sword.

“And so, you ran away with the Holy Sword in a fit of anger?”

“I didn’t run away with it - the sword’s rightful owner took it as his own.”

Joon-Min complained that the church’s decision to deny the facts and make all sorts of excuses after he was recognized by the Holy Sword was unreasonable and self-serving.

“The Holy Sword recognized me as its master, so what right do they have to say anything? It’s even in their religious dogma - to help the true owner of the sword when he appears.”

[A high priest of the church should be able to borrow some strength from the sword - even if he is not Balmung’s master. Besides, the mere presence of Balmung in the temple is symbolic and cannot be overlooked.]

Clearly, people were the same no matter where they lived.

Seon-Hyeok thought priests would not be worldly given his previous experiences with the devoted and frugal figures. However, it was not unreasonable that in a kingdom ruled by priests, some would be tempted by the secular world and covet personal power and material gain.

It was an almost obvious situation, but Seon-Hyeok listened thoughtfully to Joon-Min’s complaints, knowing how serious he found the situation to be.

“They really don’t know how to give up. Even if I try hiding in deserted areas, they soon show up and start whining for the sword. I’m sick and tired of it.”

Joon-Min’s expression was full of fatigue as he finished his tale. He pursued the path he deemed to be right, but was having a difficult time because of the pushback from reality.

[Considering that they’ve held onto the Holy Sword for so long, it’s not strange that they prepared a means to track it in case it was ever stolen.]

Even Joon-Min seemed to recognize that the Templar Knights had a means of locating Balmung. So long as he did not abandon the sword, his only path forward was to endure their pursuits.

“Okay. I’ll take you west.”

“Really? Thank you, hyung! I’ll definitely be of help if you take me. You saw it before. I can fight well so long as it’s against those demons.”

Seon-Hyeok had no choice but to agree with Joon-Min’s claim. Just as he excelled in large-scale battles, Joon-Min was far more specialized in fights against demonic creatures.

The warrior’s help would be of paramount importance if Seon-Hyeok encountered another such creature before finding the dragon subspecies he sought.

“But in return, don’t deceive me from now on. You don’t have to share everything, but at the very least, if you’re going to ask for a favor, you need to tell me what’s going on.”

“Okay! Okay! I’ll make sure not to!”

The excitedly chattering Joon-Min did not look like a man heading west in search of the Dark Lord.

“Are you heading west in an attempt to avoid the Templar Knights?”

“That’s one of the reasons.”

Joon-Min laughed with a mean expression that did not match his clean aura.

“Hm. Are you finished?”

Lafayette interjected after standing off to the side listening to their conversation.

“Could we ask who this person is?”

Because they had been far away, the two riders did not see the warrior’s performance against the banshee. They seemed genuinely curious about the man casually conversing with the renowned Indomitable Duke.

“Park Joon-Min. He’s from the Astoria Kingdom, and he’s a foreigner with a class specialized in hunting demonic beasts.”

Lafayette and Roland expressed their admiration when Seon-Hyeok gave a brief introduction, leaving out the details regarding his class and the Holy Sword.

“Oh! I thought he had a unique aura about him!”

“His energy is so pure - it’s closer to that of the Templar Knights than any normal human!”

Perhaps they sensed the distinctively clear energy surrounding the warrior, as the two riders looked kindly at Joon-Min.

“Let’s rest here today and start moving tomorrow.”

Having fought the banshee all day, Seon-Hyeok belatedly felt the accumulated fatigue.

He leaned back on Redvern’s torso as the creature lay flat on its stomach and looked towards its head.

“Your horn…”

Redvern’s horn was no bigger than a child’s fist prior to the fight against the banshee, but it was now closer to the size of two adult fists.

Evidently, Balmung and its master were not the only ones to benefit from devouring the demonic energy.

[It’s remarkable that the wyvern’s capable of even digesting the demon’s poison, but I wonder what will happen to the pure dragon…]

Geheimnis voiced her concern upon seeing Redvern’s horn, but Seon-Hyeok did not mind.

“Well, I guess we’ll see.”

Both Goldrake and Bluegon changed significantly from when Seon-Hyeok first met them. There was nothing to worry about because Redvern was doing the same.

Seon-Hyeok and his party continued to head west. Their travels progressed smoothly.

“Ahh! It’s insanely fast!”

The only problem was that Joon-Min was so talkative that it made Seon-Hyeok’s ears hurt.

“Where can I get something like this?”

It seemed Joon-Min preferred the griffins with their pure white wings over the sleek and elegant wyvern, as he repeatedly voiced his desire to own one for himself. And each time, Lafayette shuddered as he held onto Mionte’s reins.

“I want one! With it, I wouldn’t ever be bothered by those persistent Templar Knights again.”

It was absurd to think that the griffins, prized even within the Griffindor Kingdom, were being treated like a getaway car.

But regardless of what the foreigner said, the group continued to head west. Eventually, they finally managed to traverse the eastern part of the continent and reach its center.

“Hm…”

Seon-Hyeok grimaced as he entered the airspace of the central kingdoms.

“Hyung, did you sense that?”

Even Joon-Min, after talking excitedly all this time, lowered his voice.

The surrounding atmosphere was too ominous to remain easygoing.

[Demonic energy. They said that the central territories were in chaos due to the demonic creatures, and it seems the situation is even worse than expected.]

The energy was not quite as dense as it had been in Griffindor, but the demonic aura spread across the central kingdoms covered a far larger area.

“Hyung, what will you do?”

“We keep moving.”

Joon-Min gave an unhappy look at the response, but he did not complain, perhaps recognizing his own situation.

“Whew.”

Finding and eliminating all of the sources of demonic energy around them was not a task that could be completed in a short period of time. In any other situation, he would not have refused the challenge, but Seon-Hyeok did not have time to spare.

[You need to hurry. Given the strange atmosphere out west, it seems as though something has happened. If you delay any further, another of the dragons will fall from grace.]

Geheimnis repeatedly warned him that there were abnormal signs coming from the dragon subspecies curled up in the west.

“I just hope that the kingdoms’ superhuman beings will rise to the challenge in time.”

It was unfortunate, but all Seon-Hyeok could do was hope that the kingdoms would successfully purify the corruption within their borders.

[Even so, the humans are fighting well. If the demons had been given the time to settle down and grow, the demonic energy in the area would be much greater.]

Perhaps sensing Seon-Hyeok’s bitter feelings, Geheimnis explained the current situation.

He was relieved, but these feelings did not last.

There was no end to the demonic energy in the central kingdoms. Even after flying on Redvern for days on end, the burdensome atmosphere did not dissipate. It was almost as though the entire continent had been tainted by the ominous energy.

The party did not get caught up like before thanks to Balmung’s abilities, but they were unable to enjoy these benefits.

The demonic energy spreading across the continent was simply that severe. Even the talkative Joon-Min recognized the seriousness of the situation and kept quiet.

After their long flight, Seon-Hyeok and his party finally reached the western part of the continent. What awaited them there was a purple sky that had lost its clear, cerulean hue, and a blackened, rotting, and polluted land.

“What the hell…”

The demonic energy here was so dense it was hard to breathe. Seon-Hyeok immediately realized that something was wrong.

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