Episode 281. Zealot (2)

Recently, the war situation had been getting worse day by day, so how could they not be pleased by the return of the Indomitable Grand Duke, someone who was even praised as a god of war? The leader of Iberia lost his composure and ran to the port to welcome the return of the great knight. 

“Indomitable Grand Duke!”

Before he left, the Indomitable Grand Duke had looked obviously ill, but not any longer. Although he looked scruffy as if he had just come out of the water, his shoulders were thrown back and he looked like the strong knight the Iberian Grand Duke had seen before in the past. 

“You’ve returned!”

Once again, the Iberian Grand Duke exclaimed with joy at the return of the great knight he had been desperately longing for. 

Swish.

The Indomitable Grand Duke watched the Granado port bustling at the Iberian Grand Duke’s overreaction, then he turned his head. His gaze was excessively calm and flat. 

“Hek.”

Ecstatic, Diego Velazquez had been rushing to hug him. However, he took an unintentional step back as he breathlessly exhaled at the calm gaze.

“Grand Duke?”

For some reason, it seemed as though the Indomitable Grand Duke was separated from everyone else. As if winter had arrived just around him, the cold air froze the Iberian Grand Duke.

Looking at him, the Indomitable Grand Duke asked.

“How much time has passed?”

It had been a while since he had heard the Indomitable Grand Duke’s voice, but it was surprisingly cold. 

“It has been a little over two months since the 1st Fleet returned. To be more exact, 68 days have passed.”

“Damn it.”

Immediately after the Iberian Grand Duke finished talking, the Indomitable Grand Duke turned to look at the sea as he cursed. The Iberian Grand Duke didn’t know the reason why, but for some reason, he felt like he had committed a crime and hunched his shoulders unconsciously.

With his shoulders scrunched up to his ear, [1] the Iberian Grand Duke quietly looked at the Indomitable Grand Duke. 

“What’s the situation?”

However, there wasn’t any time to continue looking at the Indomitable Grand Duke’s changed appearance.

“Things aren’t very good.”

The Iberian Grand Duke explained everything that had happened on the frontlines in the two months or so that Kim Seon-Hyeok had been missing.

***

Kim Seon-Hyeok cursed several times in his head.

Damn it. God damn it.

It had taken him far longer than he had expected to return. He thought that, at most, it would take a week for him to return. But now that he had, he found out that two months had passed.

And in that time, the war had spread to a shocking degree. The entire central and eastern regions of the continent were engulfed in the war, and the tide of war had flip-flopped multiple times.

All of this had happened in the two months he had been away.

“Do not even think about blaming yourself. The fact that the enemies were able to deploy their forces so quickly meant that they were planning on invading Iberia from the very beginning. Perhaps they weren’t happy with the fact that the West, a region they had gotten at great cost, was so polluted and useless.”

The Iberian Grand Duke told the Indomitable Grand Duke reassurances that weren’t really reassurances when he saw his heavy face. 

It was definitely a valid statement. 

Unless they had been considering war with Iberia from the beginning, there was no way that the Holy Kingdom and the central kingdoms could have reached the Iberian borders so quickly. 

“Grand Duke, your actions were correct.”

When the Indomitable Grand Duke still didn’t speak, the Iberian Grand Duke once again told him just who had the reason and justification for the war. 

However, contrary to the Iberian Grand Duke’s fears, Kim Seon-Hyeok wasn’t blaming himself. 

“Then, the location that must be the most trouble should be Seville fortress.”

Having quickly analyzed the progress of the battle, he pinpointed the place that would need the most help. He looked like he wanted to run over right away.

“I trust you’re not planning on heading into the battlefield immediately?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok shook his head when the Iberian Grand Duke spoke with a voice full of discouragement. 

“Not yet.”

The Iberian Grand Duke frowned at the vague answer. He tried to say something, but before he could, Kim Seon-Hyeok spoke first.

“Please establish a communication channel with the Imperial family.”

The Iberian Grand Duke didn’t delay and immediately arranged a communication channel with the Imperial capital. 

“With our current situation as it is, there is a high possibility it would be listened in to. If possible, please share sensitive information through a more secure written message…”

The communication mage spoke a couple of words of caution before soon informing him that the communication channel was established.

“I took too long. I’m sorry.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok cleared his throat and then immediately apologized.

[That’s nothing new. Instead, I feel like you’ve returned much sooner than I expected.]

While Ophelia didn’t get angry, it didn’t mean she was exactly happy. In that short response, she was expressing concern for her husband who always lost contact with her for a month or two whenever he went to the West.

[But seeing how your voice has strength, it seems like you got what you wanted, Indomitable Grand Duke?]

“Although things got a bit complicated in the middle, I still got more than I wanted.”

Even from afar, he heard Ophelia’s sigh.

Although the world talked about her as an iron-blooded woman who didn’t shed blood or tears, she was only able to feel relieved after confirming that her husband was alive and in good health. 

“But more importantly, how are you, Your Imperial Majesty? I was worried that something bad might’ve happened to you, but even now, after directly hearing your voice, I still don’t feel relieved.” 

[...Both myself and the child are safe.]

This time, he left out a sigh of relief at Ophelia’s voice, which seemed to have softened a bit. However, they couldn’t continue to share their happiness at their reunion forever. Their situation wasn’t good enough for that.

“I will join the battle.”

[I thought you would. Personally, I would like to issue an order for you to return immediately, but you, the Grand Duke, probably wouldn’t listen.]

She seemed to be well aware of that fact, and instead of saying she was hurt, she asked him about his future plans.

“I plan on saving the isolated Seville fortress.”

[And then?]

Ophelia didn’t ask how he planned on saving the isolated fortress. It was as if she believed that since he said he would, it would happen as he said.

“Justification. I want to make it so that they can no longer spout nonsense about why this war started.”

[The Empire will support you, Grand Duke.]

“I trust you.”

Just as she trusted him, he trusted her. He believed that no matter what he did, no matter how he moved, the Empire would support him. 

They continued to talk for a long time after that, but due to their fears of others listening in, they couldn’t speak more in detail.

But it was enough.

He had informed Ophelia of his own well-being, and he had found out that both she and her child were well. On top of that, he had been able to inform her that he would be joining the battle soon.

Ophelia was wise and no matter how he moved in the future, she would keep pace with him.

“What happened?”

The Iberian Grand Duke, who had been impatiently waiting for them to finish talking, asked him if the Imperial family had any countermeasures against the Holy Kingdom’s secret art.

“Although we weren’t able to share any details, Her Imperial Majesty seemed to pay absolutely no attention to the Holy Kingdom.”

“That means…”

“Perhaps Her Imperial Majesty has already found a way.”

The Iberian Grand Duke’s face had been heavily wrinkled, but after hearing Kim Seon-Hyeok’s answer, his face brightened.

“If it’s Her Majesty, she is capable of doing that and more.”

It hadn’t been long since Iberia had joined the Empire, but in that brief time, the Iberian Grand Duke had become a loyal follower of the Empress.

Truthfully, nothing had changed. The frontline that had been pushed back with the collapse of the border hadn’t recovered yet, and the Eastern Kingdoms Alliance’s armies were being stopped and they continued to go back and forth against the central kingdoms’ armies that had turned into berserkers.

“For now, we have no choice but to endure.”

“Can you do it?”

The only thing that had changed was that one missing person had returned.

“Even if after this war, Iberia’s finances are completely ruined and all powers are exhausted, I will not allow another handspan of land to be given over to the enemy.”

Nevertheless, the Iberian Grand Duke’s eyes were shining with liveliness like never before. 


The Iberian Grand Duke proved that his words weren’t lies or exaggerations. Leaving only the bare minimum to defend Granado, he sent all his troops to the frontlines.

It was truly a daring decision. This was a decision that most monarchs wouldn’t have made in their current situation where superhumans were running wild. 

However, the Iberian Grand Duke wasn’t making a reckless decision while neglecting the safety of Granado.

“Please protect the place for a bit. I won’t be long.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok readily nodded. 

Even if the Iberian Grand Duke hadn’t requested him to do so, he had something to do before heading out to the frontline.

“Summon Dragon.”

Goldrake had begun to corrode because of the demonic energy during the fight against the Demon King and he had to be treated first. 

Grrr.

When Goldrake appeared again, it could be seen that he had already undergone considerable corrosion from the demonic energy. Half of his huge body was dyed black, and even his dazzling golden eyes were red and bloodshot.

“But I’m not too late.”

Although Goldrake was halfway to becoming a demonic dragon and was flashing his eyes, he didn’t bare his teeth at his master. It was fortunate in an unfortunate situation.

“Bluegon.”

When he spoke that one word in a low voice, Bluegon broke through the surface of the water as he poked his head out. 

Having emerged like that, it was clear that the sea serpent’s appearance was quite different from before. 


He still had scales as blue as the sea and a curve so smooth that there wasn’t a single twist to it, but his presence was completely different from before. 

Just his head alone was large enough to swallow any battleship, even the part of his torso peeking out of the water was comparable to that of the giant earth dragon.

But that wasn’t all. 

The horn that protruded from the middle of the forehead that was constantly blowing cold air, or the multiple pairs of wings that had sprouted from the body, all of them were things that hadn’t been seen previously on Bluegon.

[Seeing how even his natural temperament has changed from the corrosion of the demonic energy, it’s enough to call him a demonic dragon.]

Bluegon spoke nonchalantly.

“Stop exaggerating. It’s curable.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok took this for granted. It seemed like he had gotten used to Bluegon’s manner of speaking after being stuck with him for two months while his body was being healed. 

[Originally, it would’ve been impossible. However, because his essence is rooted in a land with strong vitality, the possibility is high.]

“It’s not going to take as long as it did for me, right?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had already been troubled once by being confined(?) under the guise of treatment, so when he asked in a distrustful voice, Bluegon responded with an equal amount of dissatisfaction. 

[You got everything you wanted, and now, you’re blaming me. You really are shameless. If it weren’t for me, who could’ve reversed the predicted death, and who could have given you such strength?]

Just what did he gain that Bluegon spoke this patronizingly, and even then, Kim Seon-Hyeok didn’t contradict Bluegon’s self-flattering words.

[It won’t take long.]

“We don’t have time to dawdle.”

Bluegon nodded his massive head at Seon-Hyeok’s urging. Then, he suddenly attacked Goldrake. 

Gaaaaah!

Corrupted by the demonic energy, Goldrake was barely holding onto his rationality that he didn’t even recognize that Bluegon was his ally. He snapped his black, discolored teeth and violently roared towards the sea serpent that attacked him. 

However, Goldrake was halfway to becoming a beast and could not defeat Bluegon. 

[You will have to bear his resentment.]

For some reason, Bluegon seemed tetchy. It was as if he was hoping that the relationship between Goldrake and Kim Seon-Hyeok would be messed up.

“I doubt Goldie would resent me.”

[You say that because you do not know how terrible it is for a dragon to move away from his origin.]

“But even so, hm…”

He doubted that the loyal dragon would hold a grudge against his master, but his confidence seemed to fade a little as he listened to Goldrake roaring as he writhed his entire body and desperately resisted. 

“But there’s no other way.”

Whether he was resentful or not, that was a problem for later. Right now, he had to prevent Goldrake from transforming into a demonic dragon.


Less than a day after Goldrake had been dragged away by Bluegon, a large fleet appeared beyond the horizon. 

“The 2nd Fleet is back, sir!”

The Iberian fleet had gone to the Empire’s mainland in order to bring back reinforcements.

“Leader!”

Surprisingly, there were a lot of foreigners amongst the Imperial reinforcements. They were the foreigners from the Central Knights, which included the Magic Swordsman Kim Woo-Young. At first, they had been jealous and envious of Kim Seon-Hyeok, but during the war with Noctein, they had eventually come to admire and follow him. 

“We’ve come too, sir.”

In contrast to Kim Woo-Young, who had run towards Kim Seon-Hyeok making a fuss, a man calmly bowed his head. He was Lee Soo-Hyuk, leader of the two-handed swordsmen.

“I’ve missed you, sir.”

Standing next to the quietly bowing men, Choi Min-Young ran towards him with a tearful face.

“Ah…”

Behind the friendly faces, he saw a continuous stream of reinforcements. [2]

“We’re the advance party, sir.”

But surprisingly Kim Woo-Young told him that this wasn’t all.

“Our mission is to primarily help Iberia and the main force that’s on its way will push back the displaced frontlines, sir.”

What kind of magic did Ophelia perform while he was away from the Empire? Kim Seon-Hyeok was surprised that the Empire had been able to pull out this many troops in addition to the troops marching towards the Rosehog Kingdom. 

But he didn’t have time to enjoy the reunion.

[I’ve done everything I could. Once I’ve driven out all the demonic energy, he’ll come onshore on his own.]

Having shoved Goldrake somewhere, Bluegon signaled to Kim Seon-Hyeok that it was time to head to the battlefield. 

Without waiting for the Adenburg’s main force that was supposed to be arriving soon, Kim Seon-Hyeok immediately left Granado. 

“Let’s go.”

At his words, Bluegon began moving through the water and went up the river.

And just as Kim Seon-Hyeok started moving towards the Seville fortress, the war situation on the continent was shaken once again.

***

“What?! The Indomitable Grand Duke is back?!”

The Pope was horrified when he learned that the Indomitable Grand Duke was heading towards the frontline.

“Sir, he won’t be able to act recklessly.”

One of the archbishops smiled sinisterly as he spoke to the Pope.

“Not if he truly considers his sworn brother precious.”

“Have you already done something?”

The archbishop nodded as he replied.

“It’s not difficult to tie up a person who is swayed so easily by his personal feelings as the Indomitable Grand Duke is, sir.”


Around that time, a strange rumor began to spread on the Iberian front. Kim Seon-Hyeok heard the rumor when the river stopped being deep enough for Bluegon to pass through. 


1. The original phrase used here was 자라목 which is turtleneck

2. The author originally used the phrase 꼬리에 꼬리를 물고 which is directly translated to biting tail after tail and has the meaning of one after another.

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