Episode 196. Destiny (1)

Though many kingdoms on the central front successfully fended off the Dark Lord’s army, these victories solely amounted to a brief repulsion of the evil influence invading their lands.

The Holy Kingdom of Astoria was the only one successful in crossing the front lines and intercepting the demonic forces beyond the borders.

The kingdom used its extensive numbers of priests and the power of the Templar Knights to attack the demonic beings, and they even had the remarkable achievement of blocking the demon king’s forces before they reached the front lines.

However, neither the powerful priests nor the Templar Knights dared to infiltrate deep into the Dark Lord’s territory to fight the evil creatures acting as the source of demonic energy.

The kingdom’s superhuman beings and their holy energy were the natural enemy of the demonic energy. But despite this advantage, their sanctity was unable to exert its power in front of the much denser and pure demonic energy.

Entering the Dark Lord’s domain to take down these creatures was highly risky, even for the superhuman beings of the Holy Kingdom.

Drachen, the guest from Adenburg, stepped up in their place.

“It’s too dangerous. Even if you are the Indomitable Duke…”

The priests tried to dissuade him, mentioning his uphill battle against the manticore. Despite this, Seon-Hyeok remained adamant.

“It won’t be difficult for me to retreat alone if I have to.”

When he insisted, the priests had no option but to stand down. After all, Seon-Hyeok was affiliated with the Adenburg Kingdom and not Astoria, and thus, they lacked the authority to command him.

Seon-Hyeok took all of the dragon subspecies following him beyond the kingdom’s borders.

Not long after, the priests learned that additional demonic beings were marching towards the border. This happened to be in the same direction that Seon-Hyeok headed.

They desperately prayed for Seon-Hyeok’s safe return, as he was the hero who spread word about the western crisis and rescued countless survivors.

Roar!

Almost in defiance of their prayers, a terrible scream was heard soon after from beyond the border.

The roar was so wicked and ominous that even the holy warriors, recruited for the Holy War and burning with a sense of duty, were terrified.

“Demonic creature…”

Having already encountered a demonic creature on the Dark Lord’s cursed land, the priests and Templar Knights instinctively knew that this unusual cry was not that of a normal beast.

Around this time, other creatures’ roars erupted one after another.

The five roars were as fierce as the demonic creature’s, but the energy they contained was completely different.

Honorable and dignified. Righteous. They lacked the evil nature of the demon’s cry.

“This…”

The priests and the Templar Knights were both familiar with the cry, and it was only then that they realized Drachen was not alone.

“They are the Indomitable Duke’s creatures!”

Five dragon subspecies, including the late-arriving sea serpent, were accompanying the Indomitable Duke.

“Please be safe.”

They desperately prayed and prayed again for Drachen’s safe return.

The roars that shook heaven and earth continued on for two days and nights. The eventual ceasing of this noise indicated a conclusion to the battle.

However, Drachen did not return.

“We need to organize a search party.”

The priests and the Templar Knights were anxious about what could have happened to that righteous man.

However, the Indomitable Duke’s loyal subordinates, those who came west all the way from Rheinperle in search of their lord, remained calm.

“Our lord has never been defeated, even when he fought with a single one of his creatures. Right now, he’s with not one, but five dragons.”

The young squire, who possessed a sharp gaze that did not match her young face, even went so far as to reassure the priests, saying that the Indomitable Duke’s title was not borne out of luck.

“It seems the decades of experience we have were in vain. To think that we’re causing a fuss when a young girl like you is remaining calm…”

The old priest lamented, embarrassed that he was the one being comforted after approaching to support the others.

But unlike what the priest believed, it was not that the young priest and the riders were fine.

They envisioned terrible scenarios hundreds of times each day, but they simply believed in their lord and waited stubbornly for his return.

“Ugh. Our lord ventures off alone to all the dangerous places in this world.”

Clark, Julian, and the others’ expressions grew dark as they heard one of the rider’s complaints.

They felt ashamed at being unable to follow their lord, who journeyed alone into the cursed land that even the pious priests and Templar Knights avoided.

How many times had they pledged to stand by their lord? They had sworn to themselves that they would always follow their lord into battle. However, his steps were too quick and relentless for ordinary people to follow.

“At that time, I thought there couldn’t be another novice like him.”

Clark, responsible for Seon-Hyeok’s training from the start, was deeply moved as he recalled how the low-ranking cavalry rider grew to become such a mighty lord.

“I knew he was a promising talent the moment I saw him.”

“That’s right. He’s now someone capable of shutting down Hansen with a simple look.”

The greater their pride in their lord, the greater their sense of loss. The riders tried to overcome their sense of shame with their empty words.

“In any case, it’s nice hearing our lord be praised as hero and savior everywhere we go.”

“Even so, does he have to do so all the way out here? I know the Queen Regent told him not to overdo it.”

The men sighed repeatedly, as though they were disappointed in the dangerous decisions made by their lord.

However, contrary to their concerns, Seon-Hyeok was not doing this out of his desire to be a hero or to sacrifice for others.

It was simply because it was something he could do, and because it was a good opportunity.

***

“Hell yeah! Level up!”

Contrary to his party’s fears, Seon-Hyeok was full of energy after fighting the massive demonic creature reigning over the land and its subordinate beings for two days.

Until now, he had avoided war out of his great reluctance to take another human’s life. No matter how many times he fought in wars and showed no mercy to his enemies, Seon-Hyeok never grew accustomed to having another’s blood on his hands. This had weighed heavily on him.

Compared to that, the battles here in the west were different.

His opponents were not humans, but demons. He felt no aversion to dirtying his hands here, nor did he have to feel guilty about murder.

For Seon-Hyeok, the cursed land was the perfect hunting ground to level up.

“At this rate, I’ll hit level 40 soon.”

After fighting day and night, he successfully leveled up twice over the preceding two days. He was reaping the benefits of entering the Dark Lord’s domain on his own, without the clingy Najima or the warrior.

He experienced rapid growth, but he continued to feel inadequate.

The demon king was a being powerful enough to destroy the western part of the continent alone and wage war against its center. Compared to such a monster, he still had a long way to go.

This was not because the dragon rider class was inherently weaker than that of the Dark Lord.

The Dark Lord had successfully attained the fragment of chaos and became whole, while the dragon rider was still missing the true dragon. That was the key difference between them.

It was just one factor, but by no means a small one.

So long as he did not meet the dragon, the dragon rider would never be able to beat the demon king in a thousand years.

“I need to hurry up and find her.”

Seon-Hyeok grew increasingly nervous over the preceding days as he realized this.

He was not sure whether it was because he confirmed the devastation that befell the west with his own eyes, or whether it was another reason entirely.

[Mortal enemy. Just as the warrior awakened in response to the Dark Lord, all transcendent beings have a mortal enemy. That’s the law that creates balance in this world.]

Fortunately, the fairy dragon knew the reason behind his anxiety.

[And if your great enemy is still alive on this continent, that person would have awakened the day you became a dragon rider.]

“Who is the great enemy of the dragon rider?”

Having no idea who his mortal enemy could be, Seon-Hyeok asked Geheimnis.

[Dragon Slayer.]

All of his muscles tensed, and his heart grew cold just from the sound of that name.

It was different from when he was first made aware of the Dark Lord. At the time, he was filled with anger and hatred, but what he felt now was something even more primal.

A feeling of grave danger.

It was the strong vigilance one feels against a natural predator threatening his very existence.

[That presumptuous title is that of your mortal enemy.]

It was clear even the fairy dragon found this name uncomfortable to mention, as her clear voice sank low.

[If that person comes to find you, one of you will disappear from this world.]

The small creature’s expression was more serious than ever as she recited this ominous prophecy.

[No matter how determined you may be, that is a destiny you cannot avoid.]

Seon-Hyeok continued to search out demonic creatures and beings to fight.

In front of the powerful dragon rider with his five dragon subspecies, any and all of these enemies proved helpless. Having grown more powerful since the battle against the manticore, Seon-Hyeok’s creatures did not find themselves cornered in any battle.

“Here, eat up. Eat and grow strong.”

For Redvern, a creature that fed on extreme toxins, the bodies of these demonic creatures were an optimal source of energy. However, in the case of the others, the poisonous quality of the demonic energy was not particularly helpful.

Surprisingly, the other creatures were also eating up these slain demonic creatures as though they were enjoying a great delicacy.

It was all thanks to Bluegon.

The painfully slow sea dragon, after taking all of two months to reach the center of the continent from the east, proved incredibly useful, almost as if to make up for its previous absence.

In addition to its impenetrable shell and water cannon capable of annihilating demonic creatures, it was able to purify demonic energy through its water attribute. This was a benefit that not even Seon-Hyeok anticipated.

[Not even I can predict what consequences your present decision will have in the future.]

Only the fairy dragon refused to consume the demonic creatures until the very end.

“Wipe the drool on your mouth first if you want to complain.”

Geheimnis shut her mouth at Seon-Hyeok’s comment.

“Hm. There aren’t any more demonic creatures around here either.”

Thanks to not only Redvern, who grew hazy-eyed and ravenous at the prospect of devouring demonic beings, but also the other dragon subspecies, Seon-Hyeok was able to displace the demon king’s army from this land.

When he first stepped foot in the Dark Lord’s domain, the demonic beings rushed in to attack, but at a certain point, they began to flee to other areas to avoid Seon-Hyeok and the dragon subspecies.

The same held true for the demonic creatures, and as a result, there was a strange phenomenon in which the demonic beings, practically overflowing on the front lines, were absent from their own territory.

Now, he really would have to venture deep into hostile territory to continue finding these demonic creatures.

Seon-Hyeok agonized over his decision.

If he continued to rampage in the Dark Lord’s domain a little longer, he would come close to his 5th class advancement.

After some thought, Seon-Hyeok looked back in the direction of Astoria. It was around time the expedition force from Adenburg would have reached the central kingdoms through the Iberian Alliance.

“What to do.”

He did not want to miss out on his 5th class advancement by going back now, but at the same time, he was too worried about the situation within the front lines to mindlessly continue on.

That said, his answer was as good as decided. The existence of a mortal enemy growing rapidly somewhere in this world pushed him on.

[The area we passed so far has been little more than the outskirts of the Dark Lord’s domain. However, further in will truly be his evil realm. The demonic energy I feel from beyond…]

“It’s incomparable to the demonic energy felt here.”

[If we continue on, we will have to be prepared.]

“I know that much.”

Having made his decision, Seon-Hyeok unhesitatingly stepped westward. However, it was not long before he had to stop. A group of people blocked his path.

Covered in capes from head to toe, they somewhat resembled the Qeisha tribe, but the feeling they gave was completely different.

The group had an unsightly aura that perfectly matched this cursed land.

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