Episode 209. The Forgotten Ones (1)

His delight only lasted a moment, and Seon-Hyeok soon frowned at the dragon’s sudden comment.

“What time?”

[Events could only proceed like this from the beginning. The great evil accelerated the timeline for the promised day, and the forgotten ones forced to wander for ages were able to return to the world.]

Her explanations were as vague as always, but Seon-Hyeok was able to get a sense of the situation after repeatedly hearing about the promised day of their meeting.

[The world will remember the forgotten ones, those who once shone most brilliantly.]

The first thing that came to mind was the day he received the class of dragon rider.

“Congratulations on your awakening. What is your new class?”

“D, dragon rider, sir!”

“Dragon rider? What’s that? Dragons? You can ride dragons?”

“Yes…”

“Ugh. I thought it would be another high-tier after all this time…”

“Isn’t this good?”

“It probably would have been. That is, if there were dragons in this world.”

“Why!”

“How would I know? They never existed. How can you ride something that doesn’t exist?”

When he first spoke about his class as a dragon rider, everyone universally mocked him and looked down on him. It was all because of the widespread belief that dragons did not exist in this world.

“I will guide you until the day you are truly worthy.”

However, the dragon did exist. She was simply forgotten.

“You must have been one of them.”

[The time is ripe, so prepare yourself for the promised day!]

As soon as he heard the dragon, the contract imprinted on his heart began to grow wild, regardless of how he felt.

Thump. Thump.

His heart beat so hard that Seon-Hyeok worried the powerful draconian heart would explode then and there.

“Phew. Phew.”

He took deep, ragged breaths trying to suppress the beating of his heart. However, it did not calm down easily, and Seon-Hyeok tried to compose himself as he asked.

“Explain so I can understand. What else do I need to do to prepare?”

He had done everything he could. He started as a dragon rider and was now a dragon knight, and he now commanded five different dragon subspecies.

He had no idea what more he could do.

[Improve your abilities and prepare for the final test.]

“Test?”

As the dragon mentioned worthiness many times in the past, it was not completely unexpected. Nonetheless, Seon-Hyeok was frustrated, not knowing the contents of this trial.

[It’s unfortunate. Originally, our meeting was supposed to be as natural as water flowing from high to low, but you are not currently ready to endure the return of the forgotten ones.]

Not only this, the dragon was making him worry.

“So what is that test?”

[A time will come when you have to make a decision.]

“What decision?”

[I cannot tell you any more.]

Seon-Hyeok’s expression crumpled at the dragon’s words.

[But I will warn you, do not take the trial lightly. It is not a formality, but a heavy burden that could cause your efforts to date to disappear in vain. You must approach it as if your life depended on it.]

The dragon’s attitude was more serious than ever.

[It is a great burden to me to even tell you what I have so far, and even this would not have happened if the Fragment of Chaos had not broken the unspoken law first.]

Seon-Hyeok was growing angry at the dragon’s inability to explain anything in detail. Despite this, he held himself in check, sensing the genuine regret in her voice.

He could not imagine what laws were in place that the dragon, who acted as though she was the only being in this world, could not disobey them, and why she was so concerned about this upcoming trial.

“It’s driving me crazy.”

As he sighed and lamented, the dragon tried to comfort him.

[The hardships may be great, but the fruits of your labor are also waiting for you. I sincerely hope that you will pass the test safely and reap the benefits.]

“I hope so too.”

The dragon once again encouraged him.

[May you be blessed with an indomitable will and the courage not to waver in the face of adversity.]

With that, the dragon’s voice faded away.

“Great benefits…”

Belatedly noticing Najima and the Qeishas surrounding him, Seon-Hyeok let out the sigh he held in throughout his conversation with the dragon.

But the conversation with the dragon was not only ominous.

The dragon insisted that the Fragment of Chaos could never escape the west, now that the forgotten ones had returned. His greatest concern had been resolved.

In addition, the current situation was not conducive for him to stand there sighing. Test or not, he needed to safely move the tens of thousands of refugees and the 1000 fairies only looking up to him.

There was a long way to go, and a mountain of work that needed to be done.

“Gather the people.”

***

“P, please spare us!”

“Forgive us!”

The ten men prostrated themselves before him, desperately begging for mercy. They were the schemers trying to save themselves when Seon-Hyeok left the procession to intercept the demonic horde.

“Sigh.”

Seon-Hyoek frowned as he stared at them.

He felt uneasy, having heard of all their lies from Najima during his return.

Even though he was resigned to playing the villain in an effort to save the refugees, and though he did not expect gratitude from them, this had gone too far.

He made a difficult decision to save these despicable men. He sent back Redvern, the trusty wyvern always at his side, and remained alone in the midst of the enemy forces. Of course, he had the confidence to endure, but on the surface, he still risked his own life.

But what did they do? They pretended to be unaware of their savior’s situation, not hesitating to lie to cover their own disgrace.

Thanks to this, he was forced to fight alone. They could not have known he would escape unscathed.

No, they certainly believed I wouldn’t return - they wished that I wouldn’t. Because that was the path to them covering their dirty hands forever.

He grew even more enraged as he thought about their despicable acts.

“We only wanted to live! We didn’t mean anything else!”

As his visage grew cold, the men became even more desperate.

“Is that all you have to say?”

However, his expression did not soften.

“Najima.”

“Yes.”

Najima’s eyes, revealed through her mask, were blazing with fury. It seemed she would remain in a rage even if she was given the opportunity to tear these men apart.

“You said there was one who told the truth?”

“Yes. It’s him over there.”

Seon-Hyeok nodded after turning to see where she pointed.

He had already been keeping an eye on the person Najima indicated. That man was the only one to remain silent, even as the others made excuses and begged for their lives.

Even now, the man remained with his head bowed, as though waiting for his judgment while the others made a fuss trying to win forgiveness.

“You. What’s your name?”

“It’s John.”

When John answered with resignation without begging for his life, seemingly having given up on everything, Najima grew displeased and tried to step forward. She closed her half-open mouth and backed off when Seon-Hyeok raised his hand to stop her.

“You seem to be the only normal one here, so I’ll give you a chance to say your final words.”

John once again remained silent. He simply shut his eyes tightly.

Seon-Hyeok became certain when John continued refusing to offer excuses. He understood that John was trying to atone for his mistakes with this punishment, unable to shamelessly beg for forgiveness.

“It seems like you don’t have any last words.”

“S, save us! We won’t do it again!”

“Please spare our lives!”

In fact, the others shouted out when John remained silent. It was clear they expected their own predicament would be worse, considering that John, the only one to tell the truth, was being asked to leave his will.

Seon-Hyeok was determined to fully meet those expectations.

“Abandon them and ensure they cannot rejoin our ranks.”

There was once a time he gave a second chance to the low-tier foreigners protesting their training by assigning them all of the tedious and unpleasant work at the fort. At first, he wondered whether he should extend these men a chance to reflect on themselves by giving them similar punishments.

However, he had to change his way of thinking. Perhaps it would be different if they were all somewhere safe, but creating a bad precedent in a perilous situation where tens of thousands of refugees needed to be reined in would only create bigger problems.

Now was not the time for mercy, and these were not people capable of appreciating it.

“Thank you. Thank you.”

They likely anticipated their punishment would be execution, and so they seemed pleased at this seemingly lenient judgment. But Seon-Hyeok was not yet finished.

“Do not give them so much as a sip of water. They will no longer be protected from the curse spreading through this land, nor will they be protected from the demonic horde.”

The men’s faces turned deathly pale, as they soon knelt at his feet and again begged for forgiveness. Seon-Hyeok did not go back on his decision.

“P, please!”

When he remained unmoved despite their pleas, the men’s expressions grew dark.

“Damned bastard! Who does he think he is!”

“What did I do that was so wrong! Nobody got hurt, and everything turned out fine!”

“Is it such a great sin for us to leave our places for a bit?”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes became even colder.

The men were so shameless, cursing him and showing how pathetic humans could be.

“Just kill me here instead!”

“I’m going to die anyways, so kill me now!”

He coldly responded to the men revealing their true colors.

“You want me to kill you?”

On a fundamental level, he did not like to kill people.

“Yeah! Don’t be such a coward and just kill me with that spear!”

Perhaps these men understood his personality. They may have judged he was soft-hearted, seeing that he was willing to shoulder personal risk to help these lowly commoners.

And so, they likely imagined that he would not dirty his own hands.

However, this was just the men’s misunderstanding about Seon-Hyeok.

He abhorred murder, but he could be ruthless the moment he deemed someone to be his enemy.

The path he walked was far too fraught with danger for him to recoil at the thought of blood on his hands now.

These men could not possibly guess how many battlefields he had endured, and how many enemies he had slain with his own hands.

“Do you really want me to do that?”

Hearing the violence in his quiet comment, the men shivered, unable to even breathe in his presence.

The Qeishas returned after dragging the men away. They were not gone for long, but it was more than enough time for the quick fairies to abandon the men somewhere off in the distance.

“Thank you for your hard work.”

Even while praising the Qeishas’ efforts, Seon-Hyeok did not inquire any further about the punished men. He simply stared at John, the last man remaining among those leaving the procession without permission.

Seeing the resigned man still with his head bowed, Seon-Hyeok growled out a command.

“From now on, I will give you only half rations of food and water. If there are any children, elderly, women, or tired people falling behind, you will be the first to run to them and help. And if you survive until we all completely leave this place, I will absolve you of all of your sins.”

Perhaps John would grow envious of the abandoned souls. Regardless, he would remain alive, even if it meant struggling for his decision, and this would be the only comfort afforded the sinner.

“Wouldn’t it have been better to make an example of them here?”

When even John disappeared, Najima finally voiced her complaints. It was only in these recent moments that Seon-Hyeok realized how cold the gentle fairy could be when it came to matters regarding her eternal partner.

“None of them will get out of here alive anyways, so that’s enough. And I learned a lesson as well.”

“A lesson?”

He looked around when he heard her question.

“E, eek!”

The refugees, watching the situation unfold after noticing the sudden commotion, quickly averted their eyes and shuddered after meeting his gaze.

It was the stereotypical image of the weak. Seon-Hyeok felt as though he was looking at herbivores at the very bottom of the food chain.

“The lesson that the weak are not necessarily good.”

Somehow, his eyes resembled those of the rulers of House Adenstein as he spoke.

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