Episode 237. Return (2)

After leaving the grasslands where the Panthea base was located, Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party changed directions and headed south. They planned to use the Iberian Alliance’s fleet. 

The road to the Alliance was peaceful without any disturbances. Ever since the day they had annihilated 100,000 demons around the Holy Kingdom, no demon was willing to cross the front lines. 

Everywhere Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party went, there was a commotion like none other as the high-ranking officials of the Holy Kingdom welcomed them and tried their best to befriend them. 

“Are you saying that all the demons swarmed over because of Min-Young?”

The party shared what happened while they had been separate; things that they hadn’t been able to talk about in the base. 

“Yes, sir. The illusion beasts that Min-Young called out became too much for the demons and they escaped.”

In the process of the discussion, Kim Seon-Hyeok found out that the demons that excessively swarmed over that day were actually victims(?) that had been pushed out by Choi Min-Young and her illusion beasts. 

“Were the illusion beasts always that strong?”

Even though Kim Seon-Hyeok had once experienced Torgos, a beast that Choi Min-Young had summoned, it still wasn’t easy to gauge the power of an illusion beast. 

When he expressed surprise, Choi Min-Young modestly disagreed, saying that it wasn’t a big deal. But it absolutely was a big deal.

The moment a summoned illusionary beast could drive away a hundred thousand demons and demonic creatures was the moment the priests and Templar Knights were made useless.

“Don’t get me started. All the creatures from the illusion world ate like a horse until their stomachs were about to explode, sir. They didn’t care whether they were eating demons or anything else.”

Lee Soo-Hyuk talked a whole lot about seeing an illusionary beast’s stomach actually bursting and dying after overeating, but based on the other people’s expressions, it didn’t seem like he was exaggerating.

“Actually, I couldn’t say this in the Holy Kingdom because I was afraid people would be listening, but it was because of Choi Min-Young that we had to stop looking for you in the west, sir.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok urged Lee Soo-Hyuk to tell him what he meant. 

“When she brought out all the illusion beasts and swept through the western lands, the Fragment of Chaos came to see us. It tried to coax us, but before it could tell us all the conditions, Min-Young released the illusion beasts.”

Although he had defeated the Fragment of Chaos with the Draconian’s strength, it wasn’t an easy opponent. Its dense malice was incomparable to a decent demon and like a deadly poison, it easily could suppress an opponent’s will before they could even begin to fight. 

However, Lee Soo-Hyuk was saying that even such a Fragment of Chaos was no match for Choi Min-Young. 

“After we caught the first one, another one came a bit later. But unlike the first one, it was more intelligent and tried to talk to us from afar. And in the process, we found out that you left the western region, sir.”

In short, the Fragment of Chaos was asking them to stop causing a commotion and leave since the commander they were looking for wasn’t there. 

It was dumbfounding.

Kim Seon-Hyeok was surprised to hear that the illusion beast was so strong that the Fragment of Chaos, the most powerful demon out of all the demons that the Demon King commanded, wanted to avoid fighting them.

“I want to see it.”

“Shall I show it to you now?”

Choi Min-Young approached him with sparkling eyes. Even if he told her to die, she would do it if it was him telling her to do so. 

“No! No, definitely not, sir! If she summoned her illusion beasts here, it’ll be a complete disaster!”

The more they stopped him, the more he became curious. Just what kind of illusion beast was it that all of them wanted to avoid meeting it?

“Min-Young is definitely a great Illusion Beast Tamer, but unfortunately her ability to control them isn’t as good as her summoning ability. Maybe if this was enemy territory, sure, but to do it here would be insane, sir.”

Seeing how they were dissuading him to this extent, he couldn’t risk the danger to satisfy his curiosity. He nodded appropriately, but Choi Min-Young snuck up next to him and whispered to him that she would find an opportunity to show him a couple of illusion beasts.

“Alright.”

He could only nod and tell her he looked forward to it at her somewhat ominous suggestion.

As Kim Seon-Hyeok listened to what the Adenburg’s foreigners had experienced in the west, the distance to the Iberian Alliance was getting closer.

There had been several battles since they left the Holy Kingdom. 

But because there were the Qeishas, who were equivalent to high ranking knights, and the foreigners who survived the pandemonium, the demons were defeated so badly they seemed pitiful.

“Hm.”

Seeing that, Kim Seon-Hyeok realized that Cho Min-Young wasn’t the only one who grew. The foreigners, including Lee Soo-Hyuk, had been low-leveled soldiers. But now, it wasn’t wrong to say they were stronger than intermediate leveled soldiers.

It was remarkable growth.

“Level is definitely the bomb.”

He realized once again the strength of levels when he found out that all of them were over level 50.

Even if you were an insignificant infantryman, as long as you put in the effort, you would eventually be as good as a high level soldier.

Kim Seon-Hyeok looked bitter as he recalled the frustrated foreigners who had lured over to the Demon King’s because they hadn’t realized this. 

But what could he do?

The world wouldn’t wait for them to grow, so if they couldn’t overcome it themselves, then they would eventually be swept away by the currents. No matter how powerful Kim Seon-Hyeok was, there was nothing he could do. 

“Ooh! Indomitable Duke! All your victories and miracles have been vividly conveyed to even Iberia, this far away place. We couldn’t help but listen to the legendary news with our palms sweating.”

When Kim Seon-Hyeok first learned about the situation in the west, Diego Velazquez, the leader of the Iberian Alliance had made a great contribution by spreading the news of the disaster to the entire continent. Now, he was eagerly welcoming Kim Seon-Hyeok back.

“More than that, I don’t know how I should express my gratitude for your help in brokering communication and help in so many other ways…”

“Ah, don’t mention it. Thanks to the Indomitable Duke and Adenburg’s quick response, this central region was able to avoid the disaster that occurred in the West. We can only be grateful.”

Diego Velazquez’s attitude towards him was as unconditionally amicable as a boy meeting a hero he had completely devoted himself to. 

“Oh dear, where is my mind? I’ve been keeping you when you must be so tired. Forgive me. I’ve been wishing for you to return safely, that I've forgotten my manners. Please excuse me, Indomitable Duke.”

Belatedly coming back to his senses, Diego Velazquez informed Kim Seon-Hyeok he had prepared lodgings for them as he patted him on the back. 

“Unlike the other kingdoms whose finances have deteriorated due to the war, the Iberian Alliance has accumulated greater wealth since all kinds of supplies and troops come and go. Thanks to that, our status has become comparable to that of the Holy Kingdom. And with the accumulated wealth, we’ve hired a large number of mercenaries and are blocking the frontlines better than the Holy Kingdom.”

Seeing how most of the materials from the East were delivered to the Central region through the Iberian Alliance, it was clear that the middleman was taking a hefty portion of it. 

When Kim Seon-Hyeok thought about it, it was odd that the city was exceptionally active in the midst of a war.

“I never thought the leader of the Iberian Alliance, someone who’s recently become very proud, would receive us with such hospitality. This is all thanks to the Indomitable Duke’s status.”

Vucocque Mitenmeier, who had been trailing after Kim Seon-Hyeok like a lieutenant once his escort mission was over, flattered him.

However, Kim Seon-Hyeok had never wanted the fame, nor was he interested in his increased fame, so he apathetically responded with, ‘is that so,’ and moved on. 

Once it became evening, Velazquez invited all the important members of Adenburg’s party to dinner. It was a splendid and grand banquet that they had never received even in Adenburg

The next day, Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party were guided to Granado’s port.

“I would like to cling onto the Indomitable Duke, but seeing how important you are, I can’t possibly do that when your country is waiting for you. ‘Tis a pity.”

Diego Velazquez was extremely disappointed that he had to say goodbye to Kim Seom-Hyeok. It was surprising how extreme his attitude was.

“When the time comes, I’ll stop by again.”

But in comparison, the other’s attitude was calm.

“I will pray that your way back is peaceful.”

Diego Velazquez clung onto him for a long time, even following him to the port and seeing him off. Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party were finally able to climb onto the ship  and the fleet headed towards their home country.

***

Diego Velazquez hadn’t spoken just empty words. One of the ships had been emptied and filled with rare items as a gift to Kim Seon-Hyeok. 

“Isn’t this a bit much, sir?”

No matter how much the Iberian Alliance was overflowing with money, this degree of favor was excessive. Not to mention, weren’t they in the middle of a war where every bit of money was valued?

Kim Seon-Hyeok nodded when Lee Soo-Hyuk said that with a frown. 

“Nothing is free in the world.”

It was almost as if Diego Velaquez and Kim Seon-Hyeok had come to a secret agreement.

“Indomitable Duke, I’m scared. The Holy Kingdom is religious, but there is a side that is too self-righteous. Now that all the central kingdoms are filled with pro-religious figures, Iberian can’t help but feel a great deal of crisis.”

And in fact, Kim Seon-Hyeok had received a request from Diego Velazques. So in a way, this ship filled with extravagant gifts was like a bribe.

“The Holy Kingdom has been disapproving of our Alliance’s freedom as self-indulgence, I don’t don’t know what will happen once the war is over.”

It wasn’t odd for a country as religious as the Holy Kingdom to disapprove of the Iberian Alliance where people of different nationalities and cultures had settled down together. 

“So if it ever becomes an issue in the future, please do not forget your friendship with the Alliance.”

Diego Velazquez wanted Adenburg as insurance in case such a day came. 

Having proudly emerged as the strongest country in the continent, Adenburg was the only country that could block the pressure from the Holy Kingdom. And if that didn’t work, then Velazquez wanted to borrow the Indomitable Duke’s name and the power it held.

He believed that the Indomitable Duke would be able to exert enough influence even without Adenburg since he had fought for more than a year on the Holy Kingdom’s frontlines. 

Kim Seon-Hyeok hadn’t immediately given Diego Velazquez an answer. And neither did the Iberian Alliance’s leader want him to answer immediately. 

The requests and gifts given currently were just a paving stone for the distant future. 

Perhaps even after the war with the Demon King is over, the continent won’t be quiet.

Kim Seon-Hyeok looked back at Granado's port that seemed far away. 

Although the city looked beautiful and prosperous with its exotic atmosphere from all different kinds of culture, it didn’t seem strong enough to withstand the turbulent times.

“Ha, if it really is a war, I’m sick and tired of it.”

War was scary because one never knows where the hatred and greed that follows it will turn to next.

***

The Iberian Alliance’s fleet was skilled enough to proudly call themselves as the best in the continent. The voyage with them was very smooth. 

The pirates who occasionally appeared ran away when they saw the Iberian Navy’s flags and the occasional marine monsters were dealt with by the navy before Kim Seon-Hyeok’s party could even step forward.

Indeed, with this level, it wasn’t strange for the Adenburg kingdoms and other eastern kingdoms to use the sea routes that went through the Iberian Alliance in order to support the central region. 

Under the skillful hands of the Iberian Navy, Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party arrived at the Adenburg’s southern port within a month.

It was where he had first met Bluegon in the past, the estate of Rugenburg.

“Welcome back, Indomitable Duke.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had once indebted himself to Lord Rugenburg for curing Julian of the sea serpent’s poison. Now, the lord was welcoming him with a sincere attitude.

It was completely different from the second time Kim Seon-Hyeok had visited Rugenburg. It wasn't the territory that had changed. It was Kim Seon-Heok himself who had changed. 

In the past, he was on par with Baron Dmitry, the lord of this territory, but now, Kim Seon-Hyeok had become so noble that his opponent didn’t dare to face him. 

In fact, the baron was worried that he might’ve offended him in the past. 

But Kim Seon-Hyeok was indebted to him for Julian’s issue in the past, so he had no intentions of causing trouble for the baron and treated him moderately.

“Indomitable Duke, people from the royal family have been waiting for your arrival for a while now, sir.”

The baron belatedly realized that the duke didn’t have any resentment and informed the existence of the people from the royal family with a relieved face.

“The royal family?”

“Yes, sir. Surprisingly, in order to greet you, Her Highness the Regent has…”

Even before the baron could finish talking, a familiar voice could be heard. And when Kim Seon-Hyeok heard it, he frowned. 

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