Episode 260. Succession (2)

When the light first flashed, it was very intense, but it was just a small incident that happened in a corner of the world.

But over time, everything changed.

The halo of light surrounding Kim Seon-Hyeok quickly turned into a large pillar of light that endlessly shot up into the blue night sky. When the pillar of light couldn’t go up any further, it began to spread out in all directions.

In an instant, the whole world was enveloped in pure light.

“Hm…”

The villagers woke up one by one from their deep slumber when the intense light shone through the windows.

“Is the sun already rising?”

“Gah. I must be late.”

At first, all of them thought it was morning. They didn’t think there was any other reason it could be this bright outside. It didn’t take long for them to realize it wasn’t morning. 

“Huh?”

The people were stupefied when they saw a golden light distinctly different from a brightly shining sun. The intense light that they couldn’t even stare directly at during the middle of summer at noon was overwhelming.  

Just by staring at it, any fatigue from suddenly waking up in the middle of the night disappeared. Their confused minds instantly cleared and without meaning to, they got out of their beds and headed towards their windows. 

“Ah…”

The world outside their window was bright and perfect as it was bathed in pure light without a single shadow visible. 

Even their dingy roofs and yellowed walls were dyed golden that even if they rubbed their eyes and looked hard, no one could find the usual eyesores. 

“What on earth…”

The people were half mesmerized by this bizarre phenomenon taking place in the middle of the night, but they weren’t apprehensive or hesitant about it.

They instinctively knew something.

They felt this golden light was auspicious and they reached out their hands as if they were trying to physically hold onto it. 

The people felt this golden light wasn’t a bad omen, but a good one.

Otherwise, why would their bodies feel so refreshed and their heads clearer when they just simply touched it?

People unconsciously hoped this auspicious light would continue forever. They wished they could continue to feel this atmosphere a bit longer. 

But their wishes weren’t granted. 

The golden light that enveloped the entire world disappeared as if it had never existed in the first place.

“Ah…”

People sighed without realizing it. Some even got angry as if they were having a good dream when they were forcibly dragged into reality. Others shed tears in sadness.

Everyone reacted differently, but the emotions on their faces were all the same.

A sense of loss. 

As if they had lost something important, all of them had expressions of disappointment. 

What on earth was that?

The people stood there blankly before suddenly opening their windows and sticking their heads out. They were looking out in hopes of catching sight of the tail end of the light.  

“Ah.”

The people who had stuck their heads out their windows looked around before freezing. Their eyes widened and were glued to the high sky.

A dragon.

***

[My companion, everything has happened as you wished.]

A massive creature large enough to hide the full moon spoke.

[A new destiny has been given to the one you so desperately wished to save, and your greatest adversary ceases to exist in this world.]

It was what he hoped for. In order to save Julian, he had dueled against Marek until he became a bloody mess and won with great difficulty. He had finally broken one of the chains of the destiny ‘kill or be killed.’

But even with that, Kim Seon-Hyeok couldn’t rejoice. 

He was completely overwhelmed by the massive creature looking down at him from the sky.

“Dragon?”

Although the Dragon looked hazy, as if he was looking out through a foggy window, it was definitely a dragon.

A pair of huge wings and a graceful body so beautiful that just the silhouette was enough to bewitch him. 

Goldrake’s strength, Redvern’s agility, Bluegon’s aloofness, Redwyrm’s flexibility, and the Fairy Dragon’s mystique. The strengths of his dragons that seemed unlikely to ever mix had gathered together in one being.

The Dragon was strong and agile, arrogant, flexible, and mysterious. 

What was even more surprising was that all these characteristics could be seen in the hazy silhouette that seemed more like an illusion. 

Are, are you really the Dragon?”

He had finally met the Dragon he had always longed for. Although it was only a blurry silhouette, for the first time, he was finally able to catch a glimpse of the Dragon and not just hear her voice. 

But he had ended up saying something so stupid that even he thought was ridiculous.

However, right now, Kim Seon-Hyeok didn’t notice.

Looking at a higher existence that was beyond his imaginations, all his thoughts basically stopped.  

[Your expression makes me happy.]

Although he could barely make out the hazy silhouette of a head perched atop a long, stretched out neck, Seon-Hyeok could tell that the Dragon was smiling. 

[Companion, am I how you imagined? Or perhaps I do not live up to your expectations?]

What a ridiculous thing to say. The Dragon was a being that he had never dared to envision with his poor imagination. Even merely discussing expectations and disappointments seemed to be an insult to the Dragon. 

“N, no. Not at all.”

The Dragon seemed satisfied with the words he just barely managed to speak.

[I’m glad.]

“Have I passed the test?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok calmed himself with much difficulty. 

[I am here in front of you. Do you need another answer?]

He had known from the beginning. But he still had to ask because he was agitated by his encounter with the Dragon.

“But why are you so blurry?”

It was both a question and a strong desire.

He felt sad and dejected; he wanted to see the Dragon more clearly. 

He had thought they could be together, but the Dragon told him that this was just a preview of their meeting.

[Come find me. Only when your breath truly touches my heart, will our relationship be complete.]

“Where?”

Although the words were the same as it promised a future meeting, the meaning of it was completely different. Unlike in the past where it never seemed like he could touch the Dragon, right now, the Dragon seemed close enough to touch. 

All he needed was one step.

[North. I am in the North.]

With those words, the Dragon’s silhouette began to disappear like a mirage.

[I will be happily waiting for you to come to me.]

The Dragon’s hazy image completely disappeared as her voice became fainter until it could no longer be heard.

“Ah…”

He unintentionally sighed at the feeling of a terrifying sense of loss. It felt as if an arm or leg had been completely cut off.

The resonance didn’t go away easily. Even after the Dragon disappeared, he stood there blankly for a long time. 

- You have passed the final test and finally succeeded in earning full qualifications.

If he hadn’t heard that message in his head, he would have continued to stand there for a long time. 

- You were only a Dragon’s Companion in name, but now, you have been reborn as a true Dragon’s Companion.

If the Dragon’s presence felt like a dream, and not a reality, then the message was real. 

His fuzzy head felt like he had been wandering in a fog, but at the dry emotionless voice, it instantly cleared.

- An advancement from 4th class Dragon Knight is possible.

- Would you like to advance?

His answer was the same as always.

“Of course I do.”

- The nature of advancing from the 4th to the 5th advancement is completely different. If the previous advancement was a process in which the existing class grew stronger and more versatile, the 5th advancement is a process of being reborn into a completely different class. No one knows what may happen in the process.

- Once you advance, you cannot go back.

- Do you still wish to advance?

For some reason, the message didn’t tell him in advance what the 5th class would be and only asked if he would like to advance.

“I’m advancing.”

A flash of light exploded with him in the center and another pillar of light rose above Mangsk’s sky.

But unlike when the Dragon had appeared, the light disappeared as quickly as it had suddenly appeared and it was nowhere to be seen.

“Ahh.”

He exclaimed. Kim Seon-Hyeok had been startled each time he advanced, but the feeling he got from the 5th advancement was different. 

A tremendous amount of vitality moved through his blood vessels before settling in his heart. Then, starting from his heart, that vitality circulated through his body.

The leftover fatigue from the duel disappeared in an instant.

“Huh?”

At first, it was great. New energy seeping into a tired body was always welcomed.

But when the impact of the advancement didn’t end soon, he began to worry. 

Gaaaaaah.

The vitality that was pouring into him from somewhere continued to flood his body endlessly.

“Ughh.”

His lips parted as he drooled. His extremities trembled and out of his control, his body had twisted unsightly.

Craaack.

Crack.

His bones twisted and his skin tore apart. But more painful than all that was the pain in his heart as it seemed to burst at any moment from being overloaded.  

“The nature of advancing from the 4th to the 5th advancement is completely different... No one knows what may happen in the process.”

“...Once you advance, you cannot go back.”

“...Do you still wish to advance?”

Belatedly, he realized that there was a reason the message asked him for confirmation. However, his decision had already been made, and now, all he could do was hope that this terrible flooding of vitality would end before his heart exploded.

It… it wouldn’t really explode, would it?

Despite the terrible pain, Kim Seon-Hyeok didn't give up on hope. He had never heard of an instance in which a foreigner died from his heart bursting while advancing.

But just because it had never happened didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. 

Unfortunately, that was now.

Riiip.

His heart exploded from the endless waves of tremendous amount of vitality.

He perceived it happening with astonishing clarity. One question arose.

What would happen if my heart stops?

Bang.


A long time passed before Kim Seon-Hyeok regained consciousness.

“Ugh…”

Half awake, he remembered what had just happened.

“My heart!”

He rose to his feet like a madman and quickly touched his chest 

Duh dum. Duh dum. 

Overshadowing the memorable feeling of his heart exploding, his heart continued to beat unharmed. 

But something was strange.

His heart was beating too slow.

And that wasn’t the only strange thing.

It felt as if his body wasn’t his. Looking at how his body was moving as he willed, it was clear it was his body, but it felt so unfamiliar.

“What the hell is going on…”

It seemed like his advancement had succeeded(?), but he couldn’t figure out what on earth happened to his body.

“Hm…”

He patted all over his body, then he tilted his head.

Bump bump.

The foreign sensation was too vivid for it to be an illusion. After moving his hand several times, his eyes widened.

“Huh?”

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