Episode 181. The Dark Lord’s Domain (1)

The territory occupied by the Nordic foreigners only extended as far as the Nordic Kingdom and parts of the surrounding northwestern kingdoms. 

Seon-Hyeok heard that the western kingdoms still had power in reserve, as they had not yet been directly involved in the ongoing war.

However, when he finally reached the western portion of the continent, things were not as he had heard.

The demonic energy covering the world was so terrible that Seon-Hyeok wondered how anyone could live in it, and the cursed land was too lifeless to support crops.

The western lands Seon-Hyeok saw were literally the land of the dead.

“Ahhhh!”

Joon-Min suddenly screamed as he rode behind Lafayette. At the same time, Balmung began to violently emit its holy light.

The sacred aura pushed away the demonic energy, but it proved insufficient. Even after being repelled, the pervasive dark energy quickly rushed in again in a black haze, and the holy light capable of extinguishing even the giant banshee disappeared without much effect.

“Heok. Heok.”

Joon-Min’s breaths turned ragged. It was as though he spent all of his energy in that brief period.

Shudder.

Balmung trembled, and it seemed it was lamenting its own lack of strength.

[Balmung’s energy is the antithesis of demonic energy. It’s natural it would be enraged by this level of it.]

Geheimnis explained the reason behind the Holy Sword’s, and its warrior’s, sudden reactions, and Seon-Hyeok quickly accepted the explanation.

Though not to the same degree as Joon-Min, Seon-Hyeok felt a similar way. The hostility and fighting spirit bubbling up from within was pushing him to expend all of his energy in an attempt to tear the unclean aura apart.

However, unlike Balmung’s owner, Seon-Hyeok suppressed this impulse and remained in control.

“I, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself.”

Joon-Min belatedly realized his own mistake and apologized.

“No, I get it.”

Seon-Hyeok let out a quiet sigh as he saw the reddish gleam remaining in Joon-Min’s eyes.

“Let’s back away for now. Considering the commotion we made, something will come.”

The situation would be dire even if they were at full strength, and right now, it would be difficult to deal with any incoming threat.

Seon-Hyeok decided it would be better to leave the area than fight a losing battle.

Shriek!

His expectations proved correct. Something approached from a distance with an ominous scream. Moreover, it was not just one being. Tens, no, perhaps hundreds of cries could be heard, and Seon-Hyeok quietly retreated with his party.

“Whew.”

Dragon Fear protected the group from the demonic energy while Balmung was out of strength. Even the pervasive energy around them faltered at the dragon’s aura.

But this only applied to the energy directly surrounding the party. The land was still dense with demonic energy, and both the Holy Sword and its master struggled to recover in such an environment.

Seon-Hyeok fell deep into thought as he waited for the warrior to recover.

“The information was wrong.”

It was not just wrong, but egregiously so. If the news had spread that the western situation was so dire, the central and eastern kingdoms would not have remained so nonchalant.

This is what they hoped for.

Seon-Hyeok easily figured out what the Dark Lord of Nordic wanted.

Park Sang-Jin, the Dark Lord, was inducing the central and eastern kingdoms into a sense of complacency and optimism about the ongoing situation. Instead of uniting against a common threat, these kingdoms, in turn, placed all responsibility on the western kingdoms.

In fact, the Astoria Kingdom at the center of the continent cried out for help from all kingdoms, but none had committed any troops or offered their full-fledged support.

These kingdoms hoped that the westerners would put an end to the civil war out in their region. This was in spite of the fact that these western kingdoms were already on the brink of destruction.

“We have to tell them.”

Seon-Hyeok did not know how much time the dragon subspecies here had before being completely corrupted. However, even if it cost some time, he had to notify the central and eastern kingdoms of the truth.

“Lafayette.”

Lafayette immediately answered his call.

“Tell me which of the kingdoms around here has a relatively strong influence over the surrounding kingdoms.”

Lafayette replied after a moment of thought.

“The Holy Kingdom has the most say among the central kingdoms, but I don’t think they’ll be of much help right now because of the turmoil there.”

The Astoria Kingdom, having lost its leader due to assassins sent by the Dark Lord, was effectively in a state of civil war. The bishops previously in power continued to speak from their temples, but their opinions were disjointed, and the surrounding kingdoms naturally disregarded their opinions.

“Was this planned…”

Seon-Hyeok now understood why the Dark Lord had the leader of Astoria assassinated among the various kingdoms he threw into chaos with his demonic creatures.

“Aside from the Holy Kingdom, Iberia has a relatively strong influence around here.”

“Iberia?”

Seon-Hyeok tilted his head in confusion, as he had not yet memorized all of the kingdoms’ names aside from the major powerhouses. Roland offered an explanation.

“It’s less a kingdom as it is a union of autonomous city-states towards the center and southern parts of the continent. Their autonomy has been recognized after paying significant tribute to the Holy Kingdom using their trade profits. They would be able to spread news of the current events faster than anyone else using their trade routes.”

There was no further reason to delay.

“Lead the way.”

He immediately had the griffin riders guide him to the Iberian Alliance.

*** 

Granado, the leading seat of the Iberian Alliance, was thrown into a frenzy.

“Drachen? That Drachen?”

News spread that the envoy and Indomitable Duke of the Adenburg Kingdom, which had emerged as the eastern powerhouse through the War of the Three Kingdoms, was suddenly making a visit to Granado.

“Unbelievable. Why is this major figure from an eastern kingdom all the way out here?”

There were lingering doubts whether the visitor would be a fraud impersonating the Indomitable Duke, but even the messenger’s identity was unusual.

It was Jean-Marie de Roland, once known as the Knight of the Gale and the pride of Griffindor, but now an Adenburg knight following his defeat at the hands of Drachen.

“Well, if it’s a swindler on a griffin, I should pretend to believe him at the very least.”

Diego Velazquez, the consul of Granado and leader of the Iberian Alliance, silenced the raucous nobles and immediately went to Roland.

“Could you tell me what brings the Indomitable Duke to this shabby place?”

“You should hear the details from the duke himself.”

Roland remained dignified even while dealing with the leader of the Iberian Alliance, a strong power within the central portion of the continent. It could have been considered rude at first glance, but Diego Velazquez was more merchant than monarch and did not take offense to this attitude.

Rather, he expressed admiration for the elegant and beautiful griffin and its dignified rider.

The Knight of the Azure Sky is showing this level of dignity, so how great could Drachen possibly be?

Diego Velazquez looked up into the sky with an expression full of expectations, knowing he would meet the most renowned figure in recent history.

In turn, he was rewarded beyond his imagination.

The purple wyvern, a symbol of Drachen, was beautiful beyond expectations. It was much greater than the fierce and vicious monster he anticipated.

The membranous wings spread wide were each as large as the sails of a sizable merchant ship, and the creature’s extended body was as beautiful as the statues adorning the bows of the most magnificent of ships. It looked to be a being out of this world.

The beast descended like a masterpiece created by God. It soon gently landed in a vacant area.

“Ah…”

Seen from up close, the wyvern’s figure was like that of a king. Overwhelmed by its majesty, Diego Velazquez forgot all of the flowery greetings he had prepared for Drachen.

“This is the spouse of Ophelia Laurel Ro Adenstein, Queen Regent and the rightful heir to the Adenburg throne. He is Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen, the Indomitable Duke and the lord of Rheinperle.”

If the Knight of the Azure Sky, who had arrived first, did not grab his attention, Granado’s consul would have stood there admiring the wyvern’s appearance forever.

“I welcome the Indomitable Duke.”

Belatedly coming to his senses, Diego Velazquez offered his greetings and searched for Drachen. Only then did he notice the renowned knight hidden behind the giant monster.

“Ah…”

He thought he would not be surprised by anything after seeing a monster that looked to be the lord of the skies, but soon realized how foolish he had been.

The wyvern was not the Lord of the Skies. The true ruler was Drachen himself.

His armor, colorful and tastefully ornate to show his noble status, was unlike anything else as it conjured images of the dragon. The impression it gave was extraordinary. However, the armor, made painstakingly by famed artisans, was dull compared to its owner.

Diego Velazquez staggered when he was faced with the foreigner’s black eyes. It was as though a shock had been sent through his very spirit.

He barely managed to come to his senses and straighten up.

For a moment, he thought it would be proper to kneel in front of Drachen, and his knees naturally began to bend. If he had been any slower in coming to his senses, the history of the Iberian Alliance would have stated that its leader kneeled in front of a foreign figure.

Drachen’s presence was simply that oppressive.

However, this was understandable. Drachen was intentionally unleashing the full force of Dragon Fear.

It was because Seon-Hyeok worried that his counterpart would take his warning lightly given his unscheduled visit.

The Dragon Fear’s effect was undoubtable. The elder man, the leader of the Iberian Alliance, was completely overwhelmed by the dragon’s aura and left speechless.

If Seon-Hyeok wanted to speak, he needed to take this opportunity.

“Please immediately send magical communications to the neighboring kingdoms.”

It was perhaps rude, but nobody would blame him given the severity of the current matter.

“The western kingdoms, previously said to be surviving and well, have collapsed.”

The consul’s expression was blank, suppressed by Seon-Hyeok’s presence, but his eyes grew wide.

“What are…”

“It’s exactly as I said.”

Seon-Hyeok enunciated every word as he looked directly at Diego Velazquez.

“The west is now hell.”

*** 

On the day Seon-Hyeok arrived at the Iberian Alliance, magical communications were sent to all kingdoms located on the central and eastern parts of the continent.

At first, nobody believed the information. There were twelve kingdoms of various sizes in the west. It was unbelievable that all twelve had collapsed.

However, they soon noticed that the renowned Drachen was guaranteeing the contents of the magical communications.

Those refusing to believe the news immediately were thrown into a frenzy.

They tried to contact the western kingdoms, and to their surprise, not a single kingdom responded.

As the days continued to pass without a response, these kingdoms’ suspicions became certainty. By the time they started to believe the news coming from the Iberian Alliance, one of the western kingdoms finally replied.

‘Annihilation in the west. Minimal survivors.’

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