Episode 187. Dragon Platoon (1)

The demonic energy covering Red Wyrm dissipated.

- Communication with Red Wyrm, which had been blocked by contamination from demonic energy, has been restored.

- The ‘fire’ attribute has been restored under the attribute section.

However, Red Wyrm was not the same color as before. Its scales, originally red like burning flames, now emitted an ominous, dark-red glow.

“Sorry, hyung.”

As Seon-Hyeok looked at Red Wyrm’s body, Joon-Min descended and apologized out of nowhere.

“Huh?”

“I couldn’t remove all of it.”

Before he could even process this comment, a message appeared in his head.

- The sacred energy was powerful, but it was insufficient to completely extract the demonic energy penetrating deep into Red Wyrm’s bones.

- Red Wyrm’s attribute (fire) has been corrupted and transformed.

- Fire attribute control has become blackfire attribute control.

- It is impossible to predict the effects of the corrupted attribute on Red Wyrm.

Joon-Min sighed as he saw Seon-Hyeok grimace.

“If I do any more, it could die.”

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok belatedly understood the situation and sighed alongside Joon-Min.

“I’m ashamed for being so overconfident earlier.”

He shook his head. There was nothing to blame Joon-Min for. If anything, he had half given up on reclaiming Red Wyrm, and the situation was only different now because of the warrior’s intervention.

“No, this was enough.”

The attribute may have changed, but Seon-Hyeok had successfully kept Red Wyrm. He praised Joon-Min for his hard work.

“Hm…”

As he accepted Seon-Hyeok’s thanks, Joon-Min belatedly noticed the Templar Knights and priests surrounding them and staggered. He looked ready to flee right away as he held the Holy Sword tightly with both hands.

However, there was nowhere to run. The 3,000 warriors left no gaps for escape, and the area was full of Templar Knights with their swords drawn.

Stare.

Joon-Min’s eyes darted around. After failing to find another solution, his eyes stopped on the griffins.

“Hyung…”

Despite trailing off, Seon-Hyeok immediately knew what Joon-Min wanted.

He could not escape on the ground, so he wanted to borrow the griffin to escape through the skies.

Click.

The Templar Knights noticed the same signs, as they blocked the path between Joon-Min and the griffin by forming a wall with their swords and shields.

The tension made it feel like conflict could erupt at any moment, but the worst did not come to pass.

“It would be right to retrieve the Holy Sword immediately, but we will temporarily put on hold our mission to recover it.”

The old archbishop stepped forward to inform Joon-Min they would not take immediate action.

“Wha?”

Joon-Min, busy trying to find a path for escape, made a bewildered noise at the unexpected response.

“Also, we will entrust the foreigner, Park Joon-Min, to the Indomitable Duke until we leave this land.”

“Thank you for trusting me.”

“I simply hope this incident does not bring dishonor to the Indomitable Duke.”

“If it does, I will accept all the repercussions.”

Even after seeing Seon-Hyeok speak with the priest, Joon-Min did not seem to understand the situation.

“Hyung, what’s going on…”

The foreigner had spent all this time being pursued by his own kingdom. He did not readily believe the priest’s decision, despite the fact that it was only a temporary suspension of hostilities.

The old priest answered Joon-Min’s question.

“The Indomitable Duke has vouched for your identity.”

Only then did the clumsy warrior understand, and moved, he tearfully looked at Seon-Hyeok.

“This is all I can do for you. You have to show them who’s the rightful owner of Balmung. You can do that, right?”

“I can, but will they believe me? I’ve shown them repeatedly as they chased me, but they never once accepted it. No, they didn’t even try to listen to me.”

Joon-Min showed no signs of trusting the old priest, given the previous treatment he had received at the hands of the Astorian elites.

“Things are different now.”

Unlike him, however, Seon-Hyeok did not show any concern.

“What’s different…”

“You didn’t have me around before, but now you do.”

He knew well the value of his name, and he was confident he could have it carry its full weight.

“Anyways, consider the debt paid.”

Despite Seon-Hyeok’s confidence, Joon-Min remained uneasy.

The opportunity soon presented itself. The demonic beings and the undead, after fleeing in disarray, approached once again.

“All knights, prepare for battle!”

The Templar Knights showed no signs of fear as they rushed towards their countless foes. They had thoroughly prepared for the upcoming battle, as did the priests and accompanying warriors.

However, they did not get the chance to swing their swords even once.

A holy light greater and denser than the sum of the Templar Knights’ energies descended in the middle of their foes.

Bang!

It was complete annihilation without a single scream. The single appearance of the holy light was enough to completely destroy the incoming creatures.

“What in the world…”

The Astorian forces, briefly mesmerized by the astounding power, were soon shocked to realize that this was all the work of Park Joon-Min, the self-proclaimed master of the Holy Sword.

“I told you. I’m the master of the Holy Sword…”

Joon-Min had been treated like a thief despite repeatedly wielding the power of the Holy Sword. He complained once again of the injustice before his eyes grew wide.

Plop.

The old priest and his juniors were all kneeling on the ground. The Templar Knights dismounted from their white horses and followed suit. The accompanying warriors likewise showed their respects to Joon-Min.

“God has proven with his dazzling radiance that you are his follower in this world. I will testify to this until my old voice grows hoarse!”

“Huh? What?”

Joon-Min was taken aback by the reverence shown by the others.

“Hyung, why are these people like this?”

He was puzzled how his previous hardships were so easily overshadowed as he was readily recognized by the Astoria forces.

“They aren’t going to drag me away and take Balmung from me?”

If anything, he remained suspicious.

“That won’t happen.”

At the very least, none of the priests or Templar Knights gathered here seemed like they would backstab him like the high priests motivated by worldly possessions. No, it did not matter even if they did. As Seon-Hyeok claimed, he possessed the power to reverse any actions taken by these priests. He was the first to reveal the fall of the western kingdoms, and the Adenburg Kingdom was the first eastern kingdom to send aid. There was no way to ignore such an influential figure. As long as he remained vigilant, the priests could not easily change their attitudes.

“Really? Really?”

Like a child, Joon-Min repeatedly asked Seon-Hyeok for confirmation, and each time, the latter smiled as he replied.

“I guarantee you nobody can treat Drachen’s sworn brother recklessly.”

Seon-Hyeok’s words were a declaration and warning towards the Holy Kingdom.

“I swear upon this sword and shield that what you speak of will never happen.”

The leader of the Templar Knights looked sorry rather than offended by the stern warning. Unlike the old archbishop, a figure unconcerned by the events of this world, the knight seemed to have grasped the underlying situation behind Joon-Min’s troubles.

“Knights, prioritize the safety of the master of the Holy Sword and the Indomitable Duke’s party!”

At their leader’s command, the Templar Knights’ formation shifted slightly. They previously paid close attention to their interior, preventing any possible escape, but now they were in perfect formation to guard these important figures.

“Then, we’ll guide you back to the kingdom.”

“We’ll leave it to you.”

Seon-Hyeok did not refuse the Templar Knights’ escort.

The return journey was not easy.

Like the missing expedition forces, Seon-Hyeok’s party was attacked by countless demonic beings, and they were forced to fight nonstop against them.

“Ugh! Why won’t they stop coming! Those persistent bastards!”

Even Joon-Min, after swinging Balmung wildly in excitement at the beginning, began to groan like he was about to die.

“It seems they have no intention of letting us go back.”

The leader of the Templar Knights spoke with a heavy expression as his forces blocked the attackers in place of the exhausted warrior. It seemed the endless attack was burdensome even for the strong knight willing to charge into innumerable enemies.

“At this rate, our forces will be exhausted before we can reach the border.”

He was concerned about the accumulating fatigue of his forces. The priests constantly worked to restore their strength, but there was a limit to their abilities.

The priests’ healing abilities were techniques that helped allies forget their fatigue by boosting their mental and physical strength. This was only possible when the combatants had strength to spare. When exhausted from prolonged combat like the Indomitable Duke, the priests’ abilities proved ineffective.

“Considering you’re unable to fight at the moment, the situation will become dire if the priests likewise run out of stamina.”

The head of the Templar Knights, confident at the time of their initial meeting, was now stone-faced and preparing for the worst.

“Does it look like that?”

“What do you mean?”

The eyes of the Templar Knights’ leader grew wide at the unexpected question.

“Does it look like either I or Joon-Min are tired?”

“You’ve endured this terrible land for so long, so isn’t it normal that you would be?”

The knight carefully continued, worried he was offending the prideful dragon rider.

However, it was not that Seon-Hyeok’s pride had been wounded. If anything, he seemed pleased by the comment.

“If it looks that way to you, then it’ll be the same for it.”

“What are you talking about…”

Baffled, the knight even seemed concerned that the Indomitable Duke was becoming mentally unstable after overexposure to demonic energy, but there was no chance for this to happen given his protection through the dragon’s aura.

“There’s a shrewd, but suspicious and frightened, creature that waits until its prey is exhausted.”

“It can’t be?”

The knight belatedly understood his point and answered in bewilderment.

Roar!

At that moment, a deafening scream exploded from somewhere.

Neigh!

Despite being unfrightened during their countless battles against the demonic horde, the blessed horses of the Templar Knights reared up in shock.

“Ack!”

As a result, the Templar Knights tumbled from their horses as they were preoccupied with recovering while the holy warriors fought in their place.

“Everyone dismount! Re-form ranks and get ready for battle!”

When the horses showed no signs of calming down, the leader of the knights decided that fighting on foot would be preferable. Even in the chaos, the Templar Knights faithfully followed their superior’s orders.

“I apologize for not telling you in advance. That thing is too quick witted.”

“I, Indomitable Duke?”

Seon-Hyeok got on Redvern and apologized before calling for Julian.

“Julian.”

Though surprised by the sudden call, his squire immediately answered.

“My lord?”

“You asked about my face before, right?”

His hand touched a long wound extending from the left of his forehead to the right of his jaw. The deep, three-lined scar, which looked like the traces of a beast’s claws, was still a dark red. 

“Manticore.”

Seon-Hyeok lowered his hand and grabbed his lance after touching his scar.

“It’s the name of the beast that rules this land - the beast that made my face like this. Also…”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes blazed with a fire unseen before.

“It is a beast said to be a predator to dragons.”

Roar!

The terrible roar was heard once again, and Goldrake, Redvern, and Red Wyrm responded in kind.

***

Roar!

At that moment, a giant blue monster climbed up the riverbed and suddenly raised its head to let out a violent roar.

With that, three powerful pairs of legs stomped vigorously on the ground.

Thud. Thud.

However, in contrast to its ferocity, the monster’s pace was far too slow.

Thud. Thud.

This day was about a month after the blue sea dragon departed from Rheinperle. The creature finally left the end of the Rheinperle River tributary, but it would be another two weeks before it reached the west.

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