Episode 36. Frost Peak (2)

After crossing through a treacherous grassy area, the party arrived at a rocky, open space. And finally, they saw a tall peak covered in a thick layer of frost.

“This is as far as we can guide you. Nobody has ever been up there before.”

The hunter’s expression seemed to ask what was so important on this white peak that they had to go through all this trouble to get here. However, he didn’t bother asking. He had completed his duties, and he wanted to be done with everything.

It was already getting dark, however, so they all decided to spend another day at the outdoor campsite.

“I can’t go with you either. Why the hell do you need to go up there?”

After helping the soldiers set up camp, Hansen looked up at the towering peak and shook his head.

“There’s something I need to find, and it’s supposed to be there.”

“What is? No, rather, who told you?”

Seon-Hyeok simply replied that nothing was certain yet, and that he would explain after he finished his mission. As usual, Hansen accepted the response and asked no further questions.

“You, you can get up there?”

Hansen simply worried about how Seon-Hyeok would ascend the path-less cliff.

“I’ll have to try.”

Seon-Hyeok answered in the affirmative, but he also felt uneasy. Until now, the hunters had skillfully found the correct paths and guided them, but he would have to go alone from here on out. Looking up at the peak, which rose up straight like a spear, he wondered how he’d climb up the mountain.

“Well, I’m sure it’ll work out somehow.”

Camp preparations essentially meant nothing more than keeping the fire from going out in the biting wind. There was no tent in this world that was both sturdy and light enough to take on such a treacherous mountain trip, and all they could rely on were shabby sleeping bags.

These sleeping bags, made from the fur of an unidentifiable animal, were each made for two. As baggage needed to be minimized, this was more efficient than preparing individual sleeping arrangements, and it also allowed people to compensate for a lack of warmth by relying on each other’s body temperature. Until now, Seon-Hyeok had endured the nights by sharing a sleeping bag with one of the hunters.

But the wrong person joined him today.

“Excuse me.”

“W, what are you doing!”

Seon-Hyeok panicked as Anne suddenly jumped into his sleeping bag.

“Hansen’s sleeping bag is over there!”

“I can’t share one with Hansen anymore. He’s too big – I thought I’d die of discomfort.”

Answering casually, Anne skillfully settled down in his sleeping bag without giving him the opportunity to stop her.

“But, to come here…”

“I’m the baron’s precious daughter. Do you think I should share a sleeping bag with the hunters or soldiers over there? There’ll be strange rumors going around…”

“But I’m also a stranger!”

Seon-Hyeok looked over at Hansen’s sleeping bag. It seemed as though he had already paired up with someone else, as snoring could be heard from under the lumpy animal fur.

“Hiik!”

In the brief moment he looked away, a hand, cold from the biting wind, hugged at his chest, and a strong thigh grabbed his waist. Seon-Hyeok tried to pull himself away from the unfamiliar touch, and he heard a whisper from behind.

“Ah, I should’ve done this sooner. It’s so much better.”

It was the voice of a traveler who had finally found a place to rest after a long journey. Seon-Hyeok unknowingly relaxed at the soothing voice.

But why.

“Why are you breathing into my ears?”

Why was she whispering into my ears breathlessly?

“Me? When?”

Anne even whispered these words.

“Just go to sleep. I’m going to sleep too.”

Anne wriggled around a bit more, then settled down. Seon-Hyeok froze, unable to do anything, and time passed. His tired body wanted to fall asleep, but his mind was becoming strangely clear.

And as this happened, he more clearly felt the soft touch on his back.

Ah, this is driving me crazy.

If he hadn’t heard her words from earlier in the day, he would’ve been more accepting of her unexpected visit(?). However, he couldn’t do so after hearing her claim that she’d break him down.

“I’m going to break him down. I’m going to break him down. I’m going to break him down. I’m going to break him down…”

Her voice repeatedly echoed in his head. At this point, he couldn’t help but wonder if she had meant for him to hear those words.

Get a hold of yourself! She’s a female Hansen!

Seon-Hyeok tried to calm down, but his frustration would not go away. Even so, the fatigue from three days of travel eventually overcame his racing mind.

He probably would have fallen asleep, were it not for Anne twisting and turning in her sleep.

“Ugh!”

Seon-Hyeok unknowingly groaned, but then immediately shut his mouth in surprise. At that moment, he heard Anne’s voice from behind.

“Can’t fall asleep?”

Seon-Hyeok froze once again as he felt her warm breath.

“I know a good way to fall asleep.”

Anne moved her hand as she spoke, and Seon-Hyeok, startled, immediately grabbed her wrist.

“Y, you can’t do that. Hansen and I are like brothers.”

He blurted out in surprise.

“You’re like brothers, but you’re not actually.”

“There are other people here, you can’t…”

“Just call me Anne. And speak quieter. What are you going to do if the others wake up?”

“So you should stop…”

He glanced at Hansen’s sleeping bag upon hearing her words. Thankfully, nobody seemed to have heard their conversation over the fierce wind blowing through the campground. All that could be heard were the sound of wind and the occasional snoring.

“As you saw, there aren’t many people in our territory.”

In the meantime, Anne suddenly began to explain the situation in her land. Because there were so few people living there, there weren’t many who weren’t at least distantly related to one another. Because of this, the lord’s family always sought partners from outside their territory, and she was no different.

“The nobles from the capital always talk about consolidating their bloodline, but that’s not the case with us.”

In a way, it was unfortunate. As a noblewoman, it would be difficult for Anne to travel freely to find a suitable partner.

Hansen’s family had been testing the waters, but it seemed they weren’t doing so for any political benefit. Seon-Hyeok was almost convinced.

He had lived an austere life before coming to this world, and his situation had not changed here. Naturally, he longed for material wealth, and Anne was an attractive woman difficult for such a person to resist. However,

“So…”

She held his face in her hands and leaned in, but her face too closely resembled someone he knew.

When he saw her face, he was able to regain his composure.

However, Anne was too persistent to hold off that easily, and the sleeping bag was too small.

“Stay still.”

“Please stop.”

Still, Seon-Hyeok held out desperately for his life. And like that, the night passed.

“Ughhhh!”

As always, the campgrounds were active before the sun came out. Hansen, stretching with a groan, found Seon-Hyeok and approached to greet him.

“How are you doing? Did you sleep… oh, I guess not.”

The area under Seon-Hyeok’s eyes was dark as death, and his cheeks were hollow. His eyes, having lost their focus, shook as though caught in a typhoon.

“Male Hansen. Female Hansen.”

“What are you talking about?”

Hansen frowned at Seon-Hyeok, seemingly completely out of his mind, and called to Anne, who was just getting up in the back.

“Why’s this guy like this?”

“What do you mean, this guy? I know he’s a rider like you, but isn’t that a bit inconsiderate?”

Anne strangely seemed to be defending Seon-Hyeok, and the foreigner jumped up and muttered something about needing to pack his bags.

“What’s going on? It can’t be…”

The atmosphere was so awkward that even the tactless Hansen could notice something was up.

“Is there something wrong with his body?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then why isn’t he falling for me?”

Anne tilted her head as though she couldn’t understand, and Hansen made the same expression. They looked so unbelievably alike. The siblings would probably never understand why Seon-Hyeok refused her advances.

“Well, I’ve set things up at least. There’s still the trip back.”

Hansen cheered Anne on as she said words that would horrify Seon-Hyeok if he had heard.

The night was eventful, but the upcoming schedule did not change. Seon-Hyeok said goodbye to the group for the time being as he took the ropes and climbing equipment handed to him by the hunter.

“Come back if it ever gets too rough. I don’t know what’s up there, but nothing’s more important than life.”

“That’s the plan.”

After Hansen said his goodbyes, Anne approached him.

“Take care.”

“Okay.”

Anne embraced him as he hesitantly responded.

“You haven’t seen the last of me yet.”

Seon-Hyeok didn’t respond – he immediately headed towards the Frost Peak as though he was running away.

Climbing the peak was not easy. It was even more challenging for Seon-Hyeok, who had never climbed in his life. However, he was able to secure his rope with Atiya’s help, and he made progress thanks to his high strength stat.

After a day of struggling, he had barely managed to get halfway up the peak.

“Sigh.”

Seon-Hyeok found a suitable ledge and sat along the edge. Seeing his stiff limbs and knotted muscles, it seemed as though he wouldn’t be able to make further progress today.

He found a number of protruding rocks around him and tied himself into place. After a while, he was finally able to catch his breath and look up.

“It’s so damn high.”

He couldn’t yet see what was at the top of the peak, but his senses kept provoking him. At this distance, even if the dragon hadn’t said anything to him before, he’d be able to tell something major was at the summit.

“Hm?”

After looking up for a while, Seon-Hyeok suddenly tilted his head in confusion.

“Wait. If drakes can’t fly, how did it get up there in the first place?”

However, there was no point in wondering. Eventually, he began to climb again. His palms were torn and blistering, but he refused to give up.

“Ugh!”

‘Be careful.’

Seon-Hyeok lost his footing as he suffered a lapse in concentration. If Atiya hadn’t supported him in a timely manner, he might have fallen to his death.

It was a hair-raising experience, and he gritted his teeth.

There was still a long way to go, and he began to wonder why he was going through this crazy trial. Even if he didn’t locate the drake, his abilities as a dragon rider remained excellent and left little to be desired.

Seon-Hyeok wanted to give up. However, it was too late to go back down again, and he felt dizzy just looking down.

At this point, it was better to just look upwards and continue climbing.

After barely hanging on, Seon-Hyeok finally managed to reach his destination.

“Ah…”

The drake he had been looking for was there.

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