Episode 76. Sea Dragon (4)

Seon-Hyeok imagined Rugenburg’s lord would be fat and disgusting, but contrary to his expectations, he was an unexpectedly good-looking, middle-aged man.

“It’s an honor to meet a knight with Gradus, Viscount Drachen. My name is Rostein Rugenburg Dmitry.”

The Baron of Rugenburg oversaw a number of wealthy merchants and thus possessed more de facto power than the average earl. However, he welcomed the guest without showing any signs of condescension.

“I would love to spend all night talking about how you defeated the Sasteins and the Sword of Lightning, but I’ll restrain myself considering the circumstances.”

The evil lord keeping cunning and cruel merchants as his confidantes while being resented by the people was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a wise leader capable of showing compassion for his guest’s plight and stepping back when necessary.

“But if I send Viscount Drachen away like this, I don’t know when we’ll get the chance… How about this? The mage treating your sick squire lives here, so I think it would be best if you also stay here while she gets her treatment.”

Seon-Hyeok had been worried about leaving Julian at the baron’s mansion alone, so it was difficult to refuse his offer. He once again expressed his thanks, and Baron Rugenburg waved his hand.

“Ah, don’t make me embarrassed by thanking me. My shallow calculation was that if I’m lucky, I could hear a bit about your accomplishments while you’re my guest. Oh, and I think I’ve been keeping you for too long. Please go check on your squire’s condition.”

The baron quickly let him go, saying it would be a good story for him to even meet the Drake Knight like this. Seon-Hyeok promised to repay the favor before going straight back to Julian.

“It’s good to see you. I’ve been having a hard time because that person won’t say anything.”

When Seon-Hyeok returned, the mage complained that he was unable to make progress with Julian’s treatment because of Jackson’s refusal to explain the situation. It seemed as though Jackson had kept his mouth shut, in case what he said could prove harmful to his lord.

“By any chance, did you run into the deep sea monster?”

Seon-Hyeok didn’t particularly welcome this line of questioning, but he nodded after a moment of thought.

“Yes, we encountered the sea serpent.”

The truly important part was that he had tamed the sea dragon, and it wasn’t much of a problem to reveal that he had simply encountered the monster. The only others outside of his party aware of his secret were the sailors aboard the Undutiful Son, but they had been abandoned in the vast sea and unable to return to land.

“It was as I expected. This lady is suffering from the sea serpent’s poison.”

Seon-Hyeok had already guessed that would be the case. There was no other way Julian, after eating the same food and sleeping in the same accommodations, could have suddenly ingested poison herself. The only possibility was that she was poisoned while going in and out of the sea serpent’s stomach.

“Since I know the cause, it won’t be difficult to neutralize the poison. I haven’t had the need to make the antidote in a while because the sea serpent isn’t a monster that’s encountered often, but I made a couple of bottles just in case after the beast went on a rampage a few years ago. Counteracting the poison isn’t a problem, but…”

“Is there another problem?”

“Too much time has passed. You should be prepared for the aftereffects.”

“Aftereffects?”

Seon-Hyeok asked with a trembling voice, and the mage solemnly responded.

“There could be lasting physical effects or even slight madness. It’s also possible that her personality will change. In any case, things will be quite different from before her poisoning.”

He felt the world crashing down. The face of the insane Doppin popped up in his head, and Seon-Hyeok unknowingly bit his lip until it bled.

“Please cure her. She’s very important to me.”

Julian was a kind child who never complained about her heavy workloads, and she only asked him to teach her swordsmanship once they left the Rheinperle territory. It was terrible to imagine her suffering from the aftereffects of his greed.

“I will do my best. My lord has also repeatedly asked me to do my best, since you’re an important guest.”

“Please. Please bring her back to full health.”

Seon-Hyeok bowed before being guided outside by the mage, who asked him to make room for his patient’s treatment.

***

Julian’s condition improved rapidly. The mage’s assurances proved valid, as the squire quickly became stable. All that remained was for her to regain consciousness.

“So what the hell happened?”

Jonasson finally asked about the incident. While on the emergency boat, he had held his tongue, worried about Doppin overhearing the conversation, and once they reached land, he had waited until Julian’s condition became better.

“Atiya.”

‘There’s nobody listening.’

Seon-Hyeok slowly opened his mouth to speak after confirming with Atiya and his Wind Spirit ability that there was no potential for eavesdropping.

***

- The dragon taming skill has been activated.

- You are now able to interact with the sea serpent for a short while.

Seon-Hyeok’s class-specific skill had activated the moment before he was swallowed whole by the sea dragon. The communication link allowed the sea dragon’s status to be conveyed directly to him.

- Vigilant, Curious, Expectant

Strangely enough, there were no signs of hostility in the sea dragon’s thoughts. Realizing this, Seon-Hyeok remained still instead of avoiding the sea dragon’s terrifying maw.

Snap.

In that instant, he was suddenly surrounded by darkness and exposed to a terrible stench. This was also when Julian, already in a poor state after being drenched in seawater and tossed about, lost consciousness.

- The dragon taming skill has been activated.

- You are attempting to tame a subspecies of dragon, which tore off its own wings and hid in the seas.

Just in case, Seon-Hyeok attempted to tame the sea dragon right away. Of course, he didn’t expect anything. Having endured so much trying to tame the weak and dying Goldrake, he didn’t expect to succeed in taming a larger, livelier sea dragon in a single attempt.

- Dragon taming has been successful!

- The sea serpent sought a relationship with you out of its own will.

- The sea serpent is not completely subservient to you, but you have nonetheless succeeded in forming a relationship with a subspecies of dragon.

Shockingly, he had succeeded in taming the sea serpent on his first attempt. However, it was too early for him to be surprised. What was even more surprising happened next.

[So we finally meet.]

The sea dragon telepathically spoke to him. The voice wasn’t as mysterious as the dragon’s, but the sea dragon’s voice that resonated within his head felt sufficiently powerful.

“You… you can speak?”

Taken aback by the repeated unexpected developments, Seon-Hyeok unknowingly asked a dumb question.

[I almost forgot until I met you. I am surprised myself. I thought I had forgotten everything, but I can’t believe I still remember it all so clearly.]

The sea dragon explained with almost too much detail at the meaningless question.

[It’s a relief. You came before it was too late.]

The sea dragon spoke as though he had been waiting for the dragon rider.

[It’s fortunate you came to find me before I became a poor, pathetic creature.]

“What do you…”

Seon-Hyeok welcomed the candid responses, but he found it difficult to understand what the sea dragon was talking about.

[You should also consider it lucky that you’re not late. If this meeting had occurred even a little later, you might not be in my mouth as you are now, but dissolved without a trace in my stomach.]

The sea dragon didn’t listen to him until the very end. He simply rambled on with his own story.

[I am too small and insignificant in my current state. However, much will change thanks to you. It might be possible for me to regain what I lost during that process.]

Seon-Hyeok gave up trying to have a conversation, as the sea dragon told an incomprehensible story. Instead, he named the sea dragon according to past experiences.

“Your name will be Bluegon. That’s your name.”

[Oh! I like the name! The beginning of all relationships starts with defining each other’s existence, and accordingly, our relationship will officially begin now that you have named me.]

Messages rang in his head one after another as the sea dragon made his declaration.

- The sea serpent’s obedience has instantly increased to 30.

- A new category has been added under the attribute section.

- The ‘water’ attribute has been added.

- You have gained resistance to poison.

***

“So you were delayed because you were listening to Bluegon’s stories?”

Jonasson and Hansen had accepted even Seon-Hyeok’s explanation about the dragon riders’ hidden abilities readily, but they were nonetheless surprised by the notion that the sea dragon was a talkative creature.

“He spoke a lot. A lot. Even worse? He doesn’t listen to others. But that’s not why I was late.”

It was true that the sea dragon’s chatter was disgustingly tedious, but there was a separate reason for his lateness.

At a certain point, the sea dragon had stopped his incessant talking. However, Seon-Hyeok wasn’t surprised. After all, the sea dragon already warned him about this eventuality.

For some reason, the sea dragon had hidden himself within the seas, and as a result, he was losing his sense of self as he turned into a monster. They were able to communicate for a while because of the dragon rider’s unique ability, but the monster had warned him that it was only a temporary measure. The sea dragon was too feeble to continue the conversation, and he warned that Seon-Hyeok was likewise lacking in strength.

And indeed, not long after that, the sea dragon began to respond with roars in place of coherent thoughts. The monster had forgotten human language, and in that state, he was frustratingly unable to follow commands. As a result, the return journey took a considerable amount of time.

“Then is the sea dragon completely subservient to you now?”

“Not yet, but I’m sure that’ll be the case soon.”

“When that comes to pass, nobody will be able to beat you.”

Remembering the power of the sea dragon, Jackson spoke with a look full of anticipation.

“That’s not exactly true… that guy can’t get out of the water.”

Even though the sea dragon wasn’t a fish, he had the preposterous fatal weakness of dying when his body dried out. Bluegon claimed it was the divine punishment given to sea serpents, just as drakes had been deprived of their wings.

Seon-Hyeok was curious what happened that drakes were banished from the skies and sea serpents were driven into the seas, but even the chatty Bluegon didn’t provide an explanation.

“Ah…”

Hansen and Jonasson sighed in disappointment. It was a pity that they had gained a powerful creature but were unable to make any use of him.

Of course, it was true that under the right circumstances, Bluegon would be a stronger ally than any other force. However, the main problem wasn’t in figuring out how to use the sea dragon.

“We have no way of taking him. He’s not small, so we can’t put him in a tank. At the same time, he dies if he dries out, so we can’t take him out of the water and bring him that way.”

The true issue was that there was no feasible way of taking the sea dragon, a creature as large as a whale and as delicate as a wild cutlassfish, back to Rheinperle. Naturally, they would try to find a solution, but if none arose, they would be forced to leave the burdensome creature at sea for the time being.

“Well, that’s not the most urgent matter.”

Right now, Seon-Hyeok was satisfied in simply acquiring the water attribute. He had no reason to be impatient.

***

While he waited for Julian to recover, Seon-Hyeok had several meals with Baron Rugenburg, where he told the noble in detail about the two battles against the Sasteins and the duel against the Sword of Lightning. The baron listened to his tales like an excited child and praised the foreigner.

The baron was clearly a flawless aristocrat and possessed the most refined manners. However, Seon-Hyeok soon realized that the baron was only considerate towards other nobles.

“Please forgive me, my lord.”

“How dare a humble servant ruin my meal with this precious guest.”

The baron punished the servant harshly for the slightest of mistakes made during the meal. Even though the servant wasn’t harmed on the spot because of Seon-Hyeok’s presence, her trembling appearance made it clear that she wouldn’t be able to avoid punishment later.

“It’s fine with me, so please forgive her.”

Seon-Hyeok snuck in a word, feeling sorry for the servant, but the baron spoke with a laugh.

“If you treat those below you kindly, they’ll quickly expect more. At times, it’s necessary to treat them strictly, as though they were dogs or pigs.”

The baron did not seem to regard the commoners as equal men. It was only then that Seon-Hyeok realized why the people of Rugenburg suffered so much.

“But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show mercy just this once. I hope she doesn’t come to expect more after today and instead learns her lesson.”

Seon-Hyeok came to understand that the baron’s attitude and mindset were not compatible with his own, and he became uncomfortable with the kindness Rugenburg’s lord showed him. After that incident, he found meals with the lord extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, however, it seemed as though the baron thought differently. The Lord of Rugenburg clearly liked the foreigner and repeatedly invited him to dine together.

Around that time, Julian finally regained consciousness.

“Julian!”

Having heard the news, Seon-Hyeok ran to her room and hugged the young squire as she stared blankly at the ceiling. Julian would normally hate such actions and complain vociferously, but today, he couldn’t hear her voice.

“It can’t be?”

His heart sank. He reflexively turned his gaze towards the mage.

“Let me go. I’m suffocating.”

It was then that he heard Julian’s voice. He belatedly realized that the mage was laughing and let Julian go.

“You’re really fond of your squire.”

The mage finally explained what he found to be so amusing.

“Thankfully, there don’t seem to be any aftereffects at the moment. However, there might be negative developments in the future, and we’ll just have to wait and see for the time being.”

Thrilled, Seon-Hyeok once again gave Julian a big embrace as she openly tried to push him away.

He had been most worried about Julian, but she had recovered without any signs of negative aftereffects, and he had also successfully tamed the sea dragon. Seon-Hyeok had no reason to be beholden to Baron Rugenburg any longer.

“Please come visit again. I’ll be waiting.”

At the baron’s burdensome farewell, Seon-Hyeok said he would surely repay his debts if he had the chance in the future. With that, he left the lord’s mansion and headed straight to a beach located some distance away from Rugenburg.

“Bluegon.”

He called for his sea dragon, and soon after, a monster cut through the current and popped his head out of the water.

“Huh?”

However, the sea dragon’s appearance was completely different from the last time he saw him.

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