Episode 197. Destiny (2)

Seon-Hyeok raised his hand towards his dragons as he looked at the group covered in demonic energy and emanating a despicable aura.

Growl.

The scales on Goldrake’s body stood up as the beast stepped forward, while Bluegon began to shake its neck and take aim at the group. Redvern and the fairy dragon likewise awaited Seon-Hyeok’s orders, ready to fly up at any time. Red Wyrm had already burrowed into the ground, poised to attack the enemy from somewhere under them.

Having crushed countless demonic beings and even hunted down the demonic creature leading them, Seon-Hyeok’s dragon subspecies seemed completely different from before.

When Goldrake growled furiously after stomping out front, the surprised group faltered and stepped back.

“W, wait!”

One of the individuals stepping back hurriedly opened his mouth, and his phlegmatic voice was as abhorrent as the aura he gave off.

“W, we’re not here to fight.”

Perhaps afraid of being attacked, the caped man raised both hands as he spoke.

Seon-Hyeok did not believe them.

This was the Dark Lord’s domain, not some random place in the continent. There was no way someone would have good intentions in this land tainted with malice. No, even if there could be such beings, the people in front of him were definitely not it.

“Identify yourself.”

Nonetheless, he decided to listen to them for now.

Of course, it did not mean he was not fully prepared.

The demonic energy from the group was quite powerful, but it was pitiful compared to the might of the five dragons. All Seon-Hyeok had to do was destroy these people on the spot the moment they showed any signs of ill-will.

“P, please hold off for a moment.”

The terrified man caught his gaze before removing the piece of cloth covering his face.

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok unknowingly groaned as he saw the exposed face.

As though he was stricken with the plague, the man’s face was half-melted without clearly defined features, and horribly discolored gums were exposed behind his lipless mouth. His skin, covered in dark blue veins, was more off-putting than that of a normal demonic being.

The most terrible aspect of the man was his eyes. The normally white sclera was pitch black, while the originally black irises were a pale white.

[Demonkin.]

The fairy dragon openly expressed her contempt upon seeing the reversed colors of the person’s eyes.

[They are filthy creatures that willingly embrace demonic energy.]

“We are demonkin.”

Geheimnis’ prediction was correct.

“But before that.”

However, if there was something Geheimnis did not anticipate,

“We’re foreigners like you.”

It was that the demonkin were foreigners.

Surprisingly, the demonkin were the Nordic foreigners responsible for leading the uprising alongside the demon king.

Seon-Hyeok thought these foreigners would be enjoying their positions among the Nordic leadership now that they were in control over the entire west, but it seemed that the demonic energy did not discriminate in choosing its prey.

Who could have imagined that they’d be wandering around in such a sorry state?

“We didn’t expect things to be like this. At the time, all we needed was the power to protect the women from the Nordic monsters.”

Even the affected individuals themselves acted as though they did not expect this outcome as they lamented their situation.

[Hmph. They’re not worth pitying. If you want to show them mercy, it should be to end their miserable lives before that demonic energy penetrates even deeper into their bones.]

“Hm…”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes narrowed at Geheimnis’ harsh words. However, he was forced to acknowledge the veracity of the ill-tempered creature’s words to some extent.

These demonkin, with their poorly-defined facial features, looked to be several times worse off than the patients addicted to demonic energy. They exuded this ominous energy like the demonic beings he had fought against, and Seon-Hyeok could barely detect their vitality.

Seon-Hyeok wondered if these individuals could be cured, even if the master of the Holy Sword was present.

It was a pity, but that was all.

He felt a slight pang of sympathy, but it did not truly impact him given his poor relationship with the Nordic foreigners.

After all, long ago, when the Dark Lord first revealed himself to the world, one of his emissaries had come to visit him and recruit the Adenburg foreigners.

At the time, Seon-Hyeok could not give up the foundation he built in Adenburg, so he simply wished the Nordic foreigners the best and inwardly hoped they would succeed in building their own paradise in the west.

His goodwill had been repaid with malice.

The Nordic envoy spread negative rumors while departing from the kingdom, putting him in a precarious situation. If the Adenstein royal family had not remained steadfast in its support of him then, his life within the kingdom could have become untenable.

Even now, Seon-Hyeok grew enraged at the thought of what happened then.

Of course, the demonkin in front of him now were not the scheming foreigner from back then. Despite this, Seon-Hyeok could not help but feel antagonized.

In addition, the collapse of the west and its transformation to the land of the dead was all attributable to the Dark Lord of Nordic. The people in front of him were those who sympathized with this cause and willingly accepted the demonic energy into themselves.

They could not be free from responsibility for the calamity that befell the west.

In such a situation, it was impossible for Seon-Hyeok to be moved by mere words.

“I’m sure you didn’t come all this way to complain. What business do you have here?”

Having worked through his thoughts, Seon-Hyeok sharply responded to the foreigner before him. The representative of the demonkin seemed slightly taken aback.

What could they possibly expect from me?

The situations of the foreigners in the west, forced to unite because of an inability to overcome the exploitation and abuse from their nobles, and those in the east were completely different.

It was too much to expect them to feel some sort of fraternal bond with the foreigners out east.

“If you’re to be cured of the demonic energy, continue due east. You’ll find people capable of purifying the energy if you reach Astoria.”

Of course, he had no intention of sending them away just like that.

Though they were docile now, suppressed by the presence of his dragon subspecies, it was impossible to know what kind of chaos they could cause if they had a change of heart during their journey.

Even if he did send them away, he planned to take additional precautions.

[Well, the master of the Holy Sword is probably the only one capable of treating these demonkin. But I wonder if they actually want treatment?]

Geheimnis claimed that extraction of the demonic energy from these demonkin would entail giving up the skills they possessed even before being corrupted and insisted they would never want such a thing.

“We’re not here to be cured of demonic energy.”

Seon-Hyeok’s expression grew even colder as Geheimnis’ expectations were proven correct.

“It’s too late for us anyway.”

However, it was a misunderstanding.

The representative of the demonkin knew full well that the demonic energy they accepted had already penetrated deep within their bones, and that they would soon become fully fledged demonic beings.

“Then why did you seek…”

These people were not trying to be cured. They also were not trying to entrust their bodies to another territory outside the west. Seon-Hyeok could not think of why they came to find him.

“Sang-Jin…”

The demonkin spoke in a desperate voice.

“Please save our poor Sang-Jin.”

Sang-Jin.

Sang-Jin was the name of the demon king.

After planning to journey deeper into the Dark Lord’s domain for his growth and that of his dragon subspecies, Seon-Hyeok was forced to revise his plan.

“This chaos is not the will of the Dark Lord. Do you really expect me to believe that nonsense?”

He spoke to himself in a dazed voice, but contrary to his words, he was already turning back towards the Holy Kingdom.

“If Sang-Jin really wanted to, the central kingdoms would have fallen by now, if not the east as well.”

The Dark Lord’s power, as evidenced by the situation in the west, was too great for Seon-Hyeok to take the demonkin’s words as a mere bluff. If Sang-Jin unleashed his endless hordes of demonic beings to the central kingdoms ahead of time, they would have been unable to easily form an alliance and prepare to defend the front.

It was possible that some of the central kingdoms, including the defensively vulnerable Iberian Alliance, would have collapsed under such a situation.

The demonkin insisted that this worst-case scenario was prevented only because Sang-Jin suppressed the demonic energy and prevented the demonic beings from leaving the west.

“Then why now…”

“He seemed to have some strength in reserve before we left, but it seems it was only a facade.”

The demonkin spoke desperately, saying they should have stayed by Sang-Jin’s side at the time.

[It seems the Fragment of Chaos has overpowered its contractor. It is too insidious and greedy a power for any human being to handle.]

Seon-Hyeok’s expression grew grim as the small fairy dragon clicked her tongue.

Once again, Geheimnis’ expectations were correct.

The demonkin explained that Sang-Jin sometimes acted like he was a different person after obtaining the Fragment of Chaos, and that it almost felt as though there were two personalities contained within one body.

“I hope your words are not false.”

All the circumstances pointed towards a singular truth, but Seon-Hyeok remained suspicious until the very end. The malice contained in this cursed land was far too entrenched for him to believe others so willingly.

Seon-Hyeok and his dragon subspecies surrounded the demonkin and headed east. It was towards the Holy Kingdom of Astoria.

***

It was clear the Holy Kingdom strengthened its defenses following his departure, as the borders were swarming with countless soldiers.

“Commander!”

Seon-Hyeok grew dumbfounded as he saw a familiar face among them.

“Soo-Hyuk…”

He was told the Adenburg would send 120 elite soldiers, but he never thought they would be the formerly low-tier foreigners he had trained. He looked around at the happy faces.

Lee Soo-Hyuk and the other two-handed swordsmen, guardians, and snipers were all present.

“Forward! 120 members of the Adenburg Holy War expedition! We are here to join you under the Queen Regent’s orders!”

The person leading them was a senior knight from the pro-nobility aristocracy.

It was clear this expedition force was constructed by mixing the foreigners, manpower employed by the royal family, with pro-noble knights in equal proportions.

Though there was only one senior knight among them, the power level of this force could not be considered weak by any means, as each and every individual could demonstrate the strength of an average knight.

Among them, the most powerful of the reinforcements was the summoner, Choi Min-Young.

“Commander…”

Seeing her for the first time in a while, Min-Young’s face was still full of blind trust, but she also seemed to have much to boast about.

It was clear her training in the north led to considerable results in its own way.

After looking around happily, Seon-Hyeok quickly grew serious. He knew that this was not the best time to exchange pleasantries.

“We’ll speak later.”

Soo-Hyuk, Min-Young, and the other foreigners briefly seemed disappointed, but they quickly cleared the way.

“And you…”

“I am Baron Adolph Hochnech! Please call me Adolph, or by my rank as lieutenant!”

The baron displayed an incredibly favorable attitude unexpected of someone from the pro-nobility faction. Seon-Hyeok quickly entrusted the soldiers to him and searched for Najima and the other Qeishas.

“I need to talk to you for a moment. Let’s head outside.”

Surprised that he was searching her out first after treating her as a nuisance, Najima quickly raised her eyes in surprise and gathered her tribe.

“This way.”

When they reached an area far past the line of sight of the border patrols, the Qeishas suddenly notched their arrows and stared into the distance.

Their gazes were trained in the direction of demonkin looking towards them.

“Wait, please put away your bows, and let’s talk…”

Seon-Hyeok recounted the stories told by the demonkin.

“But why are you telling us this? And what are those despicable things over there?”

Though she seemed somewhat surprised by the Nordic situation, Najima’s tone was lukewarm. It was clear she considered this matter unrelated to her tribe’s predicament.

Seon-Hyeok sighed as he explained why he had them gathered here.

“First, I will accept your request.”

Najima and the other Qeishas celebrated his response. The eyes behind their robes were smiling brightly.

However, this was just the beginning.

“But first, I must ask for your cooperation.”

“Of course, if there is anything I can do.”

Her voice was different from before. She spoke so politely that it seemed she would kneel on the spot. As Seon-Hyeok accepted her request to help move the Mother Tree’s seedlings, Najima was treating him as her true benefactor.

After looking at her for a moment, Seon-Hyeok glanced towards the demonkin before moving to speak.

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