Episode 38. Drake of the Frost Peak (2)

Having been thrown from the peak, the drake looked warily at the group for a moment, but soon turned his head and stopped moving. Having already lost his strength due to hunger, he seemed to be even less energetic after receiving the shock from the fall.

For Seon-Hyeok, this was a fortunate development. He had succeeded in taming the drake, but the monster wasn’t completely obedient. Considering his innate wildness and ferocity, it was fortunate that the drake remained sprawled out on the ground.

“But just in case.”

He had tied the drake’s body up in rope, with the exception of his four legs. In particular, he made sure to bind the mouth well so that nobody would inadvertently become the monster’s next meal.

-          Hunger, discontent, frustration, lethargy

The drake seemed dissatisfied by being tied up, but had followed him nonetheless after being tempted with several pieces of jerky.

The path down the mountain was especially rough. Seon-Hyeok suffered, struggling to drag the immobile drake down the narrow and treacherous path.

As they travelled down like this, there were a number of spots that could not be traversed with the drake. Each time, he repeated the technique used at the Frost Peak, rolling the drake down the mountain.

Roar.

Hansen and the party paled as they looked at the monster roaring while rolling down the mountain.

“Uh, is it okay to roll that down the mountain like that?”

“He’s pretty tough, and I’m being careful when I do.”

He did feel a bit sorry for the drake, but he had no other way of taking the feeble monster down the mountain. To make matters worse, the time he wasted on the peak meant that their schedule in getting back to the 24th Regiment was tight.

There was no time to find another method.

“You can’t take a dangerous monster like that back to our land. He might be docile now because he’s powerless, but he’s more than capable of destroying our territory after regaining his strength.”

Their descent was difficult, but even more troublesome was the attitude of the group concerning the drake. Drakes were rumored to be ferocious even in this monster-filled world, and they were reluctant to take one back to their territory, no matter how weak the monster might currently be.

And faced with that predicament, an accident occurred. On the party’s trip up the mountain, Atiya had dropped a group of yeti down the cliff. They passed by the piled up bodies on the way down, and the drake caused a scene.

-          Hunger, hunger, hunger, dissatisfaction

The sight of the drake charging at the yeti corpses and tearing them apart was the splitting image of an apex predator.

After watching the drake eat, the group, dazed by the sight, found themselves raising their spears and swords defensively as the monster finished his meal.

“Rope isn’t enough.”

The rope used to previously bind the drake was nowhere to be found, and all that remained was a hideous mass of flesh and blood. The party grew even more afraid of the monster, having seen their safety mechanism overcome in an instant.

“Seon-Hyeok. There’s nothing I can do about this. I might be the lord’s son, but right now, I’m just another heavy cavalry rider from the 24th Regiment. My father wouldn’t want me to ignore the others’ opinions and override them.”

Now, the entire party was opposed to hauling the drake back. Seon-Hyeok was left with the drake at the foot of the mountain.

-          Hunger

“Again?”

He sighed as he saw the drake complaining of hunger not long after stuffing himself with the yetis.

He had come all this way to find a mount suitable for a dragon rider, and instead, he had found this beggar of a monster.

His heart grew heavy thinking about the hardships he’d have to go through in the future, but he had no intention of giving up the drake.

“If I can get him to listen…”

He could imagine the drake charging into enemy cavalry on the battlefield. No matter how well-trained their horses, he didn’t think they could avoid being intimidated by this ferocious monster.

***

“Is this the drake?”

Baron Wulfmeyer and the other key figures from the territory had gathered, as though they had already been notified of the drake’s presence. They came with high expectations. They were amazed by the rare sight, but at the same time, seemed perplexed by the drake that seemed to be just flesh and bones.

“Compared to what I imagined, it’s a lot…”

The baron couldn’t bring himself to say that the drake was less impressive than he imagined, but Seon-Hyeok seemed to hear those unspoken words nonetheless and gave an embarrassed look. Even he could tell that the drake’s gaunt appearance was not dignified. The drake was thin, had an overly large head compared to his body, and looked simply ridiculous.

“This guy’s necessary for my class…”

“You said dragon rider, right? Well, that drake does look similar to the dragons from the myths.”

The baron nodded with an understanding look and said something unexpected.

“But by the way, do you know that that’s an old drake?”

“Huh?”

He had come here after being told of the existence of the drake, but he knew next to nothing about the species. Seon-Hyeok couldn’t help but pay attention as the baron spoke about the drakes.

“It’s my first time seeing one as well, and there aren’t too many stories about them. That said, wyverns and drakes are said to go somewhere high up and wait when it’s time for them to die. Considering this drake was dying at the Frost Peak, if I’m not mistaken, he must be quite old.”

The information the baron provided was far different from what Seon-Hyeok had expected. He despaired, hearing that the drake, who he thought was in a terrible state simply due to hunger, might be so permanently as a result of old age.

“Why…”

“No. Then again, it doesn’t look like he’ll die anytime soon. I heard he had an unusually ravenous appetite? If he climbed the Frost Peak to die, he probably wouldn’t act this way now. Just pretend I didn’t say anything.”

The baron belatedly retracted his words after seeing Seon-Hyeok’s visible disappointment, but the foreigner didn’t raise his head. They continued their conversation, but nothing else important came out of it.

“I’m sorry. The people of the north are widely known to be fearless, but even so, they’ll be agitated if they see such a monster brought into their territory.”

“I understand.”

Seon-Hyeok needed to recover from his trip, but at the same time, he couldn’t ask the lord for additional accommodations given his current situation. As such, he set up a temporary camp and waited for Hansen to bring him his horse and belongings.

Munch, munch.

Meanwhile, the drake finished eating the pig provided by the baron and lay down. His actions resembled that of an old man, and Seon-Hyeok grew frustrated.

The mental image he had of the imposing, brave dragon riders was gone. He wished for the dragon to call out to him in these troubling times, but no words of comfort came.

Seon-Hyeok spent a night at the temporary camp and began the trip back with Hansen. The drake seemed much livelier than before, having devoured two pigs over the previous day.

“Our schedule is pretty tight. I wonder if he can keep up.”

Hansen’s concerns were natural. The drake waddling behind them didn’t inspire any confidence.

“Let’s go. We can’t let ourselves be charged as deserters.”

Seon-Hyeok slowly increased Stella’s pace. Fortunately, the drake was quick to follow. He had been worried, knowing that there was little that could be done if the drake refused to follow or ran away outright, but was relieved to see the monster easily keep up.

“Then should we pick up the pace a bit more?”

He increased Stella’s speed to test the drake’s speed and endurance.

“Oh? He’s doing pretty well!”

Hansen looked back and commented in surprise.

Surprisingly, the old(?) drake refused to fall behind. They picked up the pace a bit more, and the drake did his best to follow.

“Hm. He’s a bit slower than a horse though.”

After riding for a while, Seon-Hyeok was able to understand that the skinny drake was unexpectedly fast and persistent. He couldn’t keep up with the full speed of a galloping war horse, but he nonetheless did much better than his appearance suggested.

“I can see the drake being pretty useful as a mount.”

A war horse became far less mobile when saddled and carrying a fully armed rider. Considering this, it didn’t seem too far-fetched to ride a drake onto the battlefield.

The only problem was...

“Can you actually ride that?”

Compared to a horse, which had regular upper and lower-body movements while running, the drake that followed them didn’t move like an ideal mount.

“I’ll have to hold on somehow.”

Seon-Hyeok had a gloomy expression, recalling the trials he faced while first learning to ride a horse.

He had finally gained a dragon-type mount, but the path of the dragon rider nonetheless seemed treacherous.

***

Most of the riders had returned to their camp with a day to spare. Even those who arrived late among the cavalry were at their post by that evening and reported on their return.

The only two left were Hansen and Kim Seon-Hyeok.

“Did something happen to those two?”

“Ugh. We shouldn’t have trusted Hansen with him.”

Clark, Jonasson, and the other riders stared out towards the entrance to their garrison several times a day. Nonetheless, they received no news of the riders’ return even on the last day of their assigned vacation, and they became concerned about the potential punishments for desertion.

“Hansen might get a pay cut and be treated harshly for a bit, but Seon-Hyeok’s the problem.”

“No. When you think about it, Hansen can’t avoid responsibility either. Our superiors allowed Seon-Hyeok to take his trip because they trusted Hansen.”

Foreigners were generally treated well, but the one exception was when it came to the topic of desertion. Those who deserted were given much stricter discipline than the native people, and at this rate, Seon-Hyeok would be on the receiving end of serious punishment, let alone get a reward and promotion for his achievements in battle. Even the company commander looked nervously towards the entrance.

Even though his promotion to senior knight had been confirmed, it would be a terrible black mark on his record to have one of his subordinate foreigners desert on his watch.

The day grew dark, and the fears of potential desertion became more and more real. The 24th Regiment heavy cavalry all went to the entrance of the garrison, hoping that Seon-Hyeok and Hansen would return.

“Where’d that crazy bastard go with Seon-Hyeok?”

Clark swore as he waited. He had trusted Hansen, but both he and Seon-Hyeok hadn’t yet returned. Jonasson and the other cavalry showed a mix of anger, anxiety, and restlessness.

The sun continued to fall, and yet the two still didn’t return. They had missed their return deadline.

“If they arrived right now, I could use my authority to lightly discipline them myself.”

The agitated cavalry quieted down after hearing Company Commander Frederick’s words.

“But I can’t wait any longer. Send out a messenger and a search party…”

It was a search party in name only. In reality, the assigned group would pursue the two and catch the deserters, and their fate would be unenviable once caught. The riders’ expressions darkened.

At that moment.

“Huh? Over there!”

A rider with particularly sharp eyesight saw a horse approaching in the darkness and shouted out.

“It’s Hansen and Seon-Hyeok!”

“Those crazy bastards! Making us all worry!”

They were late, but the situation was still manageable. The riders cheered at their comrades’ belated return. Even the company commander showed a rare expression of relief and welcomed the late returnees back.

“Huh? But what’s that? They’re bringing something weird?”

Boom. Boom.

A strange sound was mixed among the sound of horses’ hooves. A large shadow was between the two approaching horses.

“M, monster!”

“No! No! It’s not a monster!”

Panicking, Seon-Hyeok shouted from the distance as he saw the riders trying to prepare for combat. The drake he was riding looked completely different from when he first left Frostbegmund.

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