Episode 256. Imminent Awakening (1)

The aftermath of the ‘Slash’ was devastating. 

A small hill had collapsed, and the vast wasteland had a large crater that showed deep hideous layers of the wasteland. The sky had been split into two and reconnected, and a strong gale blew non-stop and dust was everywhere. 

The world was covered in a haze of yellow dust, making it impossible to see even an inch in front of him. 

“Dragon! Are you really planning on breaking the Law?!”

Marek shouted in the midst of a dust storm so thick that even the sun was obscured. 

“Dragon! Answer me!”

He shouted over and over until a solemn voice finally spoke from beyond the hidden world. 

[Only my clan.]

To Kim Seon-Hyeok’s surprise, the Dragon, who had never allowed anyone else to hear her voice besides her companion, answered Marek’s call.

[When chaos and iniquity devoured the world and nothing was spared, everyone was afraid of being polluted by the filthy darkness and no one came forward.]

The Dragon’s voice was calm. But just because her voice was calm didn’t mean she was actually calm. 

[We were the only ones who didn’t hesitate to dye our scales black and stepped forward.]

At her regret, even Marek stopped pressing her and shut his mouth. 

[The Red Dragon was more passionate than anyone else, but ended up on the ground as his[1] eternal flames went out and became cold and dead. The Gold Dragon had been as strong as a mountain, but he became weak and turned to dust. And the Blue Dragon, he was as cold as a billion years old glacier, but burnt in the long battle until he became mad. Eventually, his horn and heart were removed by the clan.]

Her sorrow was so palpable that it felt like it could even freeze the dust particles fluttering down. However, the Dragon’s tone remained calm. 

[The wings of White Dragon, who had once raced through the sky, broke and he took his own life. And the wise Black Dragon didn’t realize his own scales were being stained black as he led the fight. In the end, he turned into a Demonic Dragon who self-destructed due to the poison.]

As the story continued, the Dragon’s voice sank lower and lower. The coldness of her words became as tangible as the cold northern wind and froze the hem of Marek’s clothes. 

[Extinction. That’s the price my clan had to pay while those watching the situation strengthened their will.]

The Dragon suddenly raised her voice and called out.

[Eastern Adjuster! Answer me!]

As if in rebuke, her voice was harsh.

[My clan has paid the price of extinction. Is there still a price that must be paid to the world?! Six of the seven pairs of wings were cut off and of the three horns, only one is left. But must I give the only remaining pair of wings and horn to the world?!]

The Dragon’s rage was justified and Marek couldn’t easily answer her. 

[I was thrown out of the world’s boundary and have wandered for a thousand years. But why is the world trying to bind me again!? Is this really the balance that you Adjusters speak of!?]

Enraged, the Dragon continued when Marek didn’t respond. 

[Is the world planning to tie my companion to the border of the world and push me away?!]

In the end, with his lips blue from the cold, Marek had no choice but to answer the Dragon’s question.

“Personally, I cannot dare to imagine how much the dragon clan must have paid for the sake of this world in the past. I dare not imagine how deep your grief must be in losing your entire family and wandering outside the world for a thousand years. I can only give you my condolences and respect.]

[Then answer me. If your condolences and respect truly isn’t a lie, then why are you still trying to put the same shackles that chained you onto my companion?]

Marek sighed when the Dragon pressed him. 

“Right now, the people who have previously supported the world are fading away. The power you and your companion hold is too strong.”

It was no coincidence that Marek named Kim Seon-Hyeok as the next Adjuster. 

Seon-Hyeok was gifted enough, if not too talented, to be an Adjuster. He was even someone who could harm the world.

[Do not dare to mention the nonsense of the law of balance in front of me! My clan lived as the Adjusters for countless years before you have, so do not dare to quibble with me about the Law.]

There had been a Great Summoning before Marek, and there was another before that. And in the distant past, even before the first Great Summoning, the dragons had been the ones responsible for the balance of the world

In a way, the foreigners had come to take over the dragons’ duties because the dragon clan had been exterminated and pushed out of the world’s borders. Under such circumstances, it wasn’t appropriate for Marek to speak of the law and balance in front of the Dragon.

Marek knew that as well.

However, Marek wasn’t standing here because of his own free will.

The world wanted the next Adjuster and the Dragon’s companion was the best suited to be the next Adjuster than anyone else. It wasn’t Marek who had decided that. Even if he felt compassion and pity for the Dragon’s plight, there was nothing he could do. 

“But what can I do? Your companion has already promised to accept the fate of becoming the Adjuster depending on the results of this duel. This is separate from the self-sacrifice you and your clan had committed for the world in the past, and cannot be overturned now.”

That was true. Just because the Dragon dragged out the secrets of the past didn’t mean that the promise Marek and Kim Seon-Hyeok made disappeared. 

If she tried to nullify the promise by force, then the Dragon would be giving up all the reputation she'd accumulated over the years with the Spirits for nothing. And no matter how powerful and unrivaled she was, it was a huge loss that she wouldn’t be able to easily recover from. 

“Do not involve yourself in this duel any further. The cost of you breaking this Law will already be tremendous. If you continue to be stubborn, it’ll only harm you and your companion.”

Marek had taken a step backwards in the face of the Dragon’s grief and remorse, but now, he spoke sternly. 

“This is the last homage and goodwill that the Eastern Adjuster will show the dragon clan for their devotion in the past. If you do not accept this, then I will have no choice but to carry out the authority the world has given me. Of course, it won’t be you who won’t show yourself, but your companion who will pay the price.”

The Dragon didn’t respond to Marek’s warning, but he took the awkward silence as the dragon’s agreement to no longer interfere in the duel. 

But it was a hasty judgement. 

[You are mistaken.]

After the brief pause, the Dragon’s voice no longer held the same remorse or regret as before. 

[I answer your call to berate you for the dishonorable scheme that your stunted head came up with. If there is a price I must pay for this, then even my smallest scale will be enough to pay for it.]

“What do you mean by this?”

Marek frowned at the Dragon’s incomprehensible words. 

[I mean that from the start, I have never been, or planned to be, involved in this duel.]

Before Marek could finish understanding the situation, a blue light flashed through the cloud of dust.

“Then…”

[He survived your Slash with his own ability.]

At the same time the Dragon finished talking, a sulfuric breath breathed out into the air and covered Marek.

***

After the fierce Slash destroyed their entire surrounding, the tenacious Drakanade’s breath swept through the earth.

Marek had poured considerable energy into the Slash and couldn’t avoid his hair scorching or his face burning, but he still managed to endure. 

He let loose another powerful Slash, and after that, several more intense sword attacks. 

But the Drakanade continued to endure it all.

Marek carried on attacking. 

Perhaps it was because he had already consumed a lot of his energy, but the same power that had overturned the world couldn’t be seen any longer. 

But even as he showed the same swordsmanship that any high-ranking knight could show, at the hands of Marek, an extraordinary knight, all of his stabs and cuts were lethal. 

The Drakanade’s body had endured even that terrible slash and he continued to tenaciously charge towards Marek even as his scales broke off and his hide was cut. 

With every step, his scales fell off and blood splattered on the ground. The Drakanade shed so much blood that the ground around him slowly became muddy. 

However, even with all that, the outcome of the duel wasn’t determined easily. 

Although the Drakanade was seriously injured, he still somehow had energy left. On the other hand, Marek wasn’t injured but his energy was considerably depleted. 

Marek’s attacks gradually lost their vigor and light. 

Later on, even the most average of attacks no longer held the same light. Marek merely continued to pound on the Drakanade with the swords that he had created. 

A sword struck the Drakanade’s head. While it was a sharp cut, it lacked energy and was no different than being struck with a club for the sturdy Drakanade. 

The Drakanade staggered when he was struck. He extended his arm with his hands clenched in a fist. Marek ducked to avoid the Drakanade’s vicious punches. He must’ve been out of breath to continue attacking because he took a step back and got his breath under control again. 

The Drakanade rushed forward towards Marek again. 

A similar scene happened. A sword that couldn’t pierce through the scale; a fist and spear that couldn’t hit their opponent. Countless attacks were exchanged, but none of them were particularly effective. 

“Hup.”

Marek tried to stab with his sword every time he felt his energy was returning, but his attacks couldn’t defeat the Drakanade. 

The Drakanade had shed so much blood that any other average person would’ve already died, but he was very sturdy and strong. However, he was too slow to catch Marek.

It was unsightly. 

The majestic duel between the two superhumans, who were definitely one of the most powerful people on the continent, was nowhere to be seen. It had turned into a dog-fight. 

The Drakanade, who was rushing forward as if he wanted to grip his opponent by his hair, and the old knight who was rolling around dodging the vicious attacks while trying to stab his opponent. Both of them had become a mess.

“Huu.”

The terrain had changed due to his ‘Slash’ and Marek used the high ground created by it to roll down, far out of the Drakanade’s path. He caught his breath.

Ssss.

The hazy images of the sword that he had been barely maintaining shape disappeared completely now.

He no longer had the energy to maintain his sword.

“It feels like I went back in time.”

Despite his predicament, Marek’s expression was surprisingly stoic. 

“If I’m being honest, I can’t tell who’ll win anymore. 

Marek spoke as he looked at the Drakanade. He looked even bigger as he stood on the high ground.

“But I’ll give it my all.”

Marek brought his hands together in front of his chest. 

“Summon Iron-Sword.”

A flash of light appeared. As it disappeared, Marek held an iron sword in his hand. 

“Back then, it was difficult to find a good quality sword.”

Marek looked at the iron sword with a complicated expression before he stabbed the sword into the earth.

“Come.”

At just that moment, the Drakanade pounded down the hill. Marek had stabbed the sword into the ground at an angle. Now, with perfect timing, he flicked his sword up.

Plop. 

The dirt and sand brought up along with the sword splattered all over the Drakanade’s face. It was a cheap attack that shamed the name Sword Star. 

“Even if it’s with a cheap attack, I must win.”

Marek must’ve known that his attack didn’t live up to his reputation because gave an unnecessary excuse.

Even as he spoke, he moved the iron sword diligently.

Slice. 

The Drakanade’s scale fell off at an ordinary sword strike. The Drakanade roared when the bleeding that had barely stopped resumed.

Marek swung his sword again. The Drakanade shed blood each time he swung his sword. 

“It doesn’t matter as long as I win.”

Marek must’ve set his mind on it because he grabbed dirt and threw it. 

Unlike before, the Drakanade took a step back and raised his hand, stopping the dirt from getting into his eyes. The Drakanade had been running forward, but for the first time, the Drakanade retreated. 

“I also agree with those words.”

The Drakanade’s harsh voice was like the growling of an animal. Marek shrugged his shoulders. 

“I thought you couldn’t speak in that state.”

“Well, usually I can’t. But I think I’ve shed so much blood that my hot-tempered head seems to have cooled down a bit.”

Having said that, the Drakanade, Kim Seon-Hyeok looked at all the wounds on his body.

“It’s great that my head’s cooled off, but at this rate, my body will get cold. It seems like you’ve also run out of plans, so let’s end the duel now.”

“That’s what I want.”

With those words, Marek gripped his iron sword again and took a stance. Then, as if preparing for the final fight, the sword he was tightly gripping began to glow faintly along its blade.

“Come.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had lowered his body, looking as if he would immediately run forward at Marek’s provocation when he suddenly straightened his back and stretched out his hand. 

“Atiya. Nudar.”

As soon as he finished speaking, the ancient Spirits appeared from the air and the earth.

“Finish.”

‘Yes, Master!’

‘As you command!’

Unlike the two injured and exhausted superhumans, the Spirits were full of energy as they responded. 


1. The dragons are genderless, but for ease of reading, I’ve translated them as ‘he’

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