Episode 67. Monster Hunter (2)

Was it unexpected? 

The monster hunter momentarily stared back with a blank expression.

“Did you just say fairy dragon?”

Seon-Hyeok nodded. The monster hunter had been looking at him like he couldn’t be serious, but hearing the lord respond in the affirmative, his expression contorted grotesquely. He seemed to be holding back his laughter in front of the lord, and his expression was somewhere between crying and laughing.

“I’ve heard a lot, but I think it’s a bit childish for someone of your age.”

No matter how little Seon-Hyeok cared about his authority as a lord, he couldn’t help but frown at the monster hunter’s mockery.

“Julian.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Julian approached and bowed at his call.

“What is the punishment for lese-majeste?”

“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. One who offends the lord with his eyes forfeits his eyes, and one who speaks ill of the lord loses his tongue.”

The response was resolute and savage. Seon-Hyeok looked at the monster hunter and spoke in a low voice.

“I see.”

If he had tried to threaten and intimidate the monster hunter, he most likely would not have been frightened. However, his warning just now was horribly blunt, and much more effective. The monster hunter’s condescending attitude changed at once.

“I’ll ask you again. Have you heard anything about fairy dragons?”

“I have not.”

“And why did such an ignorant person try to mock me?”

The monster hunter looked perplexed. He probably hadn’t expected the lord to reprimand him so directly and openly for his insolence. Of course, any other noble would not have even acknowledged that the hunter mocked him out of shame.

However, Seon-Hyeok was not an ordinary noble. He cared more about practicality than appearances, and he had no reason to be reluctant.

“I did not mock you.”

“So you are claiming that I’m provoking you for something that didn’t happen?”

If he said no, he’d be admitting that he had mocked the lord, while an affirmative would mean he was accusing the lord of being a lesser man levying false accusations. The monster hunter, unable to answer, broke out in a cold sweat.

“You won’t answer? Are you saying that the lord isn’t worth responding to?”

“That’s not…”

“Then what is it? Did you mock me? Or am I making false accusations?”

Nobody in the world was better at working others than a Korean sergeant, and he had been a proud sergeant of the Korean army. The monster hunter finally shut his eyes at the persistent verbal assault.

“This uneducated man has offended you! I have sinned.”

“Looks like you really were mocking me. How reckless.”

Even if the monster hunter had been joking, it was natural for someone of higher standing, with power over life and death, to treat it as a more serious offense.

“Please forgive me!”

“If you’re guilty of death, you should die.”

The monster hunter had expected to be face to face with a clumsy rural noble, but he now found himself prostrating before the foreigner to beg for leniency.

“Or you should pay for your life.”

The monster hunter’s face was deathly pale and had lost all traces of its earlier smile. He looked as though he hadn’t expected to be verbally eviscerated by a noble. At the same time, he had no intention of paying for his life with money.

“Spill everything you know. Everything about monsters that resemble the dragon from the fairy tale.”

From the start, he hadn’t expected to get valuable information about the fairy dragon. If they were appearing in children’s fairy tales, it was obvious that they would be treated similarly to the dragons, which were long gone from this world. Instead, if that were the case, his goal was to obtain information about the other dragon subspecies at the very least. After all, the reason he was searching for the fairy dragon was to find those other dragon subspecies.

“When you say monsters that resemble dragons…”

“Beasts like drakes.”

Having completely lost the initiative in their conversation, the monster hunter began to desperately rack his brain for useful information.

“You’re looking for information about drakes?”

“Drakes, fairy dragons, anything. Where should we start?”

“I’ll tell you about drakes.”

The monster hunter hurriedly provided the information that he had. However, drakes were rare monsters, and as such, everything the hunter said was little more than rumors.

“There’s a rumor that there’s a drake-like monster in the north somewhere.”

“Really? And where might that be?”

“It was Frostbegmund or somewhere. I heard it was an older drake.”

The only detailed rumor the monster hunter had happened to be about Goldrake. Seon-Hyeok was disappointed by the lack of new information, and this conveyed clearly through his expression.

“Hm…”

As the lord frowned, the monster hunter once again desperately tried to recall any relevant stories he had heard.

***

“Oh! Dixon. How did it go?”

“Do you think there’s money in it for us?”

The monster hunters surrounded their leader, Dixon, upon his return. They thought he would have sufficiently worked the shabby rural lord.

“Which bastard was it? The one who said that lord was an ignorant foreigner?”

Dixon’s attitude was strange.

“Why? What happened?”

“I just got worked to death. What kind of damned lord is that? He’s more of a thug than a lord…”

Dixon blurted expletives as he explained what happened at the lord’s mansion.

“Fairy dragon? The same fairy dragon found in fairy tales? There’s no such thing in this world.”

“And dragons? It’d be less absurd if he told us to find fairies.”

“That’s what I’m saying!”

The gang looked bewildered upon hearing that the lord was searching for a fairy dragon.

“Is he messed up in the head? He’s not even a child, so why’s he looking for a fairy dragon? Is he trying to get that magic horn or something?”

“He said if I didn’t have information on the fairy dragon, he’d take what I knew about drakes or other similar monsters.”

Dixon had barely escaped the lord’s mansion to return to his group, claiming he needed some time.

“Wait. Dixon. Doesn’t this smell like money?”

“I almost died just now. Stop saying nonsense.”

“Why? Don’t you remember Baron Patterson in the east? He heard that a unicorn horn was good for giving birth to a boy, so we found him one.”

The gang had sinister expressions on their faces as a mean-looking man recalled their past hunts.

“So you’re saying we should offer something that looks similar and sell it at a high price?”

“Exactly. It shouldn’t be difficult. After all, has anyone actually seen a fairy dragon? We can just put some wings and a horn on something and pass it off as one. I’m an expert at that.”

It seemed like Baron Patterson hadn’t received a proper unicorn horn.

“But I already said I didn’t know anything.”

“That’s not a problem. You can just say that one of your colleagues knew about the fairy dragon. Shouldn’t that be enough?”

“As always, Waldo’s better than Dixon. We should’ve sent him instead. Things wouldn’t have become so complicated.”

The monster hunters began to devise a plot. Their voices got lower, afraid of being overheard. They were unaware, but someone really was listening in on their conversation. A breeze passed through the building, despite the windows being closed.

“Good job, Atiya.”

‘It was nothing. Call on me anytime.’

After passing on the monster hunters’ conversation to her master, Atiya laughed and disappeared.

“I gave them a chance, and they’re taking me for a fool?”

Seon-Hyeok sighed at the monster hunters’ behavior. Just as Julian said, they were nothing more than criminals.

“My lord. My colleague just so happens to know about fairy…”

“Seize him.”

At that very moment, Dixon returned, talking excitedly as though he had good news. Seon-Hyeok immediately gave the command to Julian. She gave a look to the Drake Cavalry members standing by, and they immediately surrounded the hunters.

“M, my lord! Why…”

“Send them to the mines and work them to death.”

He would have settled for reprimanding them and sending them on their way, but among the hunters’ conversations overheard by Atiya were plots to commit crimes against the women of Rheinperle territory. The thugs were rotten to the core, and he knew they could cause more problems if they were simply let go. Seon-Hyeok made up his mind and sent them to the mines currently under construction.

“As I expected, it’s not easy.”

He never expected it to be easy. However, he felt drained, coming face to face with scammers from the very beginning.

“Other hunters won’t be much different.”

It was as Julian said. The majority of monster hunters visiting the territory after the Dixon gang were likewise con artists. Some tried to sell off animal byproducts at a high price, claiming they were from rare monsters, while others were desperate to swindle as much money as possible from the young country lord.

Their methods and actions were all different, but without fail, all met an unfortunate end. Those guilty of minor crimes were beaten and sent back, while the more serious sinners were chained together and sent to the mines.

At this point, even Seon-Hyeok wondered whether he was looking for information about dragon subspecies or clearing the kingdom of its trash.

Even so, he refused to give up and continued to bring in monster hunters. His efforts finally paid off, and he was able to find a man who looked and acted like the monster hunter he had originally imagined.

“Oh?”

The man had sharp eyes, a well-built body, and brilliantly shining armor. He was completely different from the preceding crooks from head to toe.

“What are you looking for?”

Even his deep voice was in line with what Seon-Hyeok expected, and his anticipation grew.

“I’m looking for a fairy dragon.”

“Hm…”

The man neither laughed at his words nor spoke rashly. He simply stroked his chin as he was absorbed in thought.

“If you don’t know anything about fairy dragons, drakes or other similar monsters will be fine as well.”

The man raised his head after hearing Seon-Hyeok’s comment.

“Would you give me time to discuss this with my colleagues?”

Seon-Hyeok gave the man a day, as he did not waste his time with common gossip and requested additional time in a serious manner. As soon as the man left, he summoned Atiya.

“Atiya.”

‘Yes, master. I’ll be back.’

Atiya was now familiar with the process and disappeared into the air.

The man truly was a monster hunter. While the other groups had schemed about how to scam the lord, he sincerely discussed the lord’s request. Having heard the news through Atiya, Seon-Hyeok waited excitedly for the man’s return.

“I have information about a wyvern.”

As expected, the man did not disappoint, and Seon-Hyeok was finally able to get the information he wanted.

“There’s a rumor that a wyvern lives on the edge of a cliff somewhere in the steppes of the northern nomads.”

The man calmly told him what he had heard, and then inquired about the lord’s objective.

“If you wish, I will track down the rumor to find the exact location of the wyvern.”

“How long will it take?”

After a moment of thought, the man responded.

“I don’t know. I cannot guarantee how long it will take to hunt a rare monster.”

“And the chances of success?”

“I don’t know that either.”

The hunter showed no certainty in his answers, but this proved even more convincing to Seon-Hyeok. He would not have taken the man seriously if he exaggerated or spoke boastfully.

“And what’s your name?”

“My name is Tristan.”

“Okay. Tristan, I commission you to search for the wyvern. I hope you find the wyvern, no matter how long it takes.”

Tristan responded.

“If I find it, do I capture it alive? Or do I bring it back by any means necessary, even if I have to kill it?”

Seon-Hyeok immediately replied.

“The wyvern must be alive.”

He wanted living dragons, not corpses with which to decorate his living room.

“If it’s impossible to capture alive, finding the exact location is good enough.”

Tristan replied that he understood, and he left the mansion with his group.

Monster hunters continued to arrive even after Tristan left. Perhaps because rumors had spread about con artists being taken to the mines for forced labor, the number of scammers decreased, while that of real monster hunters increased.

Of the groups of monster hunters that came, Seon-Hyeok picked around five groups that seemed particularly capable and commissioned them to find the dragon species.

“Start your search in the eastern forest where the fairy dragon is supposed to be.”

“Find the wyvern.”

The different groups of hunters left his territory. While they combed through the land, Seon-Hyeok remained busy managing his territory and training his mind and body.

“Dixon, the man sentenced to work in the mines, has requested an audience with you.”

One early afternoon, Julian came to deliver the message. Seon-Hyeok tilted his head.

“Dixon?”

“If I recall correctly, Dixon was the leader of the first group of scammers that arrived here.”

Only then did he remember. Dixon was the man who had swindled a lord in the east with a fake unicorn horn.

“What about him? Is he saying he reflected on his actions and would like leniency?”

“He says he has something to tell you.”

“I’m sure it’ll be something absurd. It looks like the work in the mines isn’t difficult enough, seeing as he has time to think about other matters.”

Seon-Hyeok refused Dixon’s request for an audience. However, the scammer refused to give up and repeatedly pleaded for a meeting.

“I will have to give the mine supervisor a warning. He’s allowing himself to be swayed by a swindler’s words and giving you a difficult time.”

“Hm.”

Seon-Hyeok became curious. He wondered what Dixon was so desperate to say. In the end, he brought Dixon back to his mansion.

“I, I greet the lord.”

Dixon seemed to be a completely different person from when he first visited Rheinperle. His messy, but robust, body was emaciated from hard labor, and there were no signs of his earlier insolence. His shivering figure almost made Seon-Hyeok feel sorry.

Almost.

Dixon’s crime was not just attempted fraud. He plotted rape, murder, arson, and countless other crimes, and there was no room for forgiveness. And so, Seon-Hyeok felt no pity for the so-called monster hunter.

“So. How’s the mining work?”

The scammer, having been completely broken in the previous few months, was unable to answer the question properly and simply begged for forgiveness.

“If you’re going to waste my time with nonsense, I’ll send you back to the mines right away.”

At those words, Dixon hurriedly got to the point.

“I don’t know if it’s the monster you’re looking for, but there’s one on my mind…”

Seon-Hyeok waited for Dixon to continue, wondering what the scammer was going to say.

“I, I heard a rumor about a serpent in the south sea.”

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