Episode 85. The Birth of a Legend (4)

When Seon-Hyeok opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Goldrake flailing about, tied in ropes and chains, and the warhorses opposite his drake, struggling to pull the monster away.

“Ah…”

Belatedly recalling the situation from before he lost consciousness, he hurriedly looked around. His heart sank when he saw the bodies littered on the ground, but upon realizing that there were no enemies about, he flopped down onto the ground in relief without realizing it. The arrows embedded in his body became bent and twisted, causing waves of pain to course through his body.

“Ugh!”

Hearing the suppressed scream, both the cavalry and Goldrake stopped their struggle for a moment. All that could be heard on the former battlefield was the rough breathing of the war horses.

“C, commander!”

“My lord!”

The silence did not last. The men cheered when they saw their company commander. However, they did not dare rush towards him on account of the drake.

“Untie Goldie first.”

Seon-Hyeok could not think straight because of the searing pain, but he endured and gave his command. Goldrake was even more wounded than he was, and he feared that the drake would die at any moment.

Flop.

The taut ropes began to loosen, and then they were cut at various spots. Having barely regained his freedom, Goldrake lowered its head onto the ground with a labored breath.

Flutter.

Seon-Hyeok noticed that Goldrake’s nose was covered with wounds. Dozens of spears were stuck between his broken scales. He could immediately tell how desperately Goldrake had protected his owner once he had lost consciousness.

Growl.

Seeing Goldrake’s unhealed wounds still dripping blood, Seon-Hyeok became emotional and put a hand on the drake’s nose. His arm hurt so much that he thought it would fall off, but he needed to endure. The loyal monster currently struggling to breathe deserved his praise.

“Thanks, Goldie. You protected me.”

Goldrake gave a low growl and slowly lowered its head.

“You did well.”

The slowly-blinking eyes soon closed completely, and the harsh breaths gradually died down.

“Now rest.”

As soon as he spoke, the ground shook, and the huge monster was sucked into the earth.

“Ah…”

The onlookers watched on with somber expressions. Some of the infantry watching from afar wept.

“What are you doing! Hurry up and treat the viscount!”

In the meantime, Julian urged the priests to hurry, her big eyes filled with tears. The healers had been watching the situation unfold with solemn expressions, and they belatedly rushed in to use their healing abilities.

The arrows sticking out of his body were extracted one by one, and the wounds were covered in a sacred light. The healing abilities cast by the five priests quickly mended Seon-Hyeok’s wounds.

“Thank you.”

He expressed his thanks as he felt a refreshing sensation wash over his entire body. The oldest of the priests gave him a gentle smile.

“It looks like you still have a lot to accomplish. There must be a good reason why God turned a blind eye to your apparent death.”

His pain subsiding, Seon-Hyeok thanked the priest repeatedly before calling on the Drake Cavalry.

“Ah…”

However, the number of riders who flocked to his side was so little. He wanted to shut his eyes, not wanting to see the huge gaps in their ranks, but he did not neglect his duty as company commander.

“Casualties.”

Clark stepped up to respond to Seon-Hyeok’s cracking voice.

“Drake Cavalry! 94 total riders! 38 dead! 22 excused! 34 present!”

Clark did not look well as he gave his report. However, despite stumbling, he continued to maintain his upright posture until the end.

“Fourteen were killed in the last battle. And even among the survivors, there are many who will never be able to wield a spear again. We’re the only ones well enough to walk on our own two feet.”

Overcome with grief, Seon-Hyeok was unable to open his mouth. He looked up at the sky, trying to hold back the tears rushing to his eyes. He knew that they would fall the moment he lowered his head.

“Even so, I’m sure none of them have any regrets. You’re still alive, and so are all of the civilians. So please don’t make that face. Men don’t send off their fallen comrades with tears.”

However, contrary to what he said, Clark’s eyes were also full of tears. It was natural. More than half of their comrades had already fallen in their earlier battles against the Sasteins. They had replenished their forces, but most of the veteran riders forming the core of the Drake Cavalry did not survive to see another day.

This was because the relatively experienced and mature veterans had volunteered for the dangerous positions and had been at the forefront of the battle. With most of the original members dead, the current group was no longer the old Drake Cavalry. And this was why the faces of the surviving riders looked so bitter.

“You’ve all done well. And…”

One by one, the priests took their hands off of him and backed off with solemn expressions.

“Thank you for surviving.”

At his words, the cavalry straightened up and pounded their chests. This wordless act was so much more than it seemed, and Seon-Hyeok, overwhelmed, closed his mouth.

His critical wounds were healed, but his depleted energy and stamina did not return. Furthermore, he had lost so much blood that he would need to remain in the infirmary for the time being. Lacking the strength to stand on his own, Seon-Hyeok was brought back to the garrison on a stretcher. Countless people welcomed him as he arrived.

“Long live the Drake Knight!”

“Long live Viscount Drachen!”

The image of the Drake Knight riding alone into battle against hundreds of enemy cavalry was strongly engraved in each person’s memory. They all watched and remembered how he fought, how he fell, and how he refused to relinquish his lance even after losing consciousness.

“Long live the dragon rider!”

“We’re alive thanks to you!”

However, the eyes of the cheering onlookers were full of concern. The golden monster that the Drake Knight rode into battle was nowhere to be seen. Even so, they tried to suppress their sadness to cheer. It was as though they hoped their cheers would be of some comfort to him.

“There are a lot of empty spots where infantry used to be.”

Julian was following Seon-Hyeok and replied with a dark expression.

“Many died at the end when they rushed out to save you and the Drake Cavalry. The regimental commander and all of the company commanders were killed.”

After saying so, she forced herself to smile and tried to comfort him.

“But none of the civilians died. Some of those who tried to step up and help in the battle were injured, but they’re all safe.”

“Yeah. That’s enough. I’ll have to be satisfied with that.”

In the first place, he had abandoned the Drake Cavalry’s greatest strength, its mobility, and fought in a set location in an attempt to protect the civilians. If he had not been able to protect them, his heart would feel several times heavier, and he would be much more miserable than he already was.

“I’m tired. My body…”

“Please sleep. Your body hasn’t recovered yet.”

“Should I? Then I…”

His eyes closed before he could even finish his thought. All that could be heard after was the sound of his even breathing.

***

“It’s a miracle. In fact, I thought you’d have to live with some of the lingering aftereffects of your wounds, but I can’t believe how fast you’re recovering. Who would think of your pitiful state from yesterday when they see you now?”

The old priest was in disbelief after seeing how much Seon-Hyeok’s wounds healed after a few rounds of treatment.

“I can’t help but thank God for his kindness.”

Hearing the priest’s words, Seon-Hyeok gave a small smile.

It was not that God was being kind. It was not thanks to his grace that Seon-Hyeok was making such a rapid recovery.

-          The water attribute has reduced the pain of your wounds.

-          The water attribute has improved your recovery rate.

-          The water attribute has significantly reduced the likelihood of suffering lasting aftereffects from your wounds.

It was all thanks to dragon rider class’ dominance over the attributes. As a result, he was able to survive despite his grievous wounds and despite not receiving treatment for days after the battle. This attribute control likewise allowed him to recover quickly. However, he could not explain all this to the priest, so he played along with the healer’s enthusiasm.

“But above all, it’s really unfortunate. It might have been just a beast, but his loyalty to you was no different from that of a knight. My condolences.”

The priest praised God until his wrinkled face turned red, then consoled Seon-Hyeok in a sad voice. Seon-Hyeok stared, wondering what the healer was saying, and he belatedly realized who he was referring to.

“Are you talking about Goldrake?”

“Yes. I heard that the royal princess gave it that name. She’s a very kind person, so I’m sure she’ll be devastated to hear of its death.”

Seon-Hyeok shook his head upon realizing the reason behind the mourning.

“It’s not dead.”

“Of course. Death isn’t the end, but rather a step towards eternal life in God’s embrace.”

“That’s not it. I’m saying it’s not dead.”

The old priest had clearly seen Seon-Hyeok bury the seriously wounded drake in the ground himself. He wondered whether the foreigner had suffered lasting head trauma when he heard these claims.

“It loves the earth. I buried it because it recovers faster when it’s underground.”

Goldrake was a monster with the earth attribute, and it had the tendency of becoming stronger and more physically capable in areas with high earth energy. It was natural that its recovery rate would improve the further underground it was. It would have been even better if there was an earth vein nearby, but given this was not an option, Seon-Hyeok decided that the best course of action would be to bury Goldrake as deep underground as possible and give it time to recover.

That alone was enough to save the hardy subspecies of dragon from death.

“But I saw…”

“I didn’t bury it because he was dead.”

To those unfamiliar with the circumstances, it would have looked like Seon-Hyeok buried a monster which life had ended. Belatedly realizing this, Seon-Hyeok understood why people had been giving him such pitying looks recently.

“Oh? How strange.”

“After a while, he’ll have fully recovered and start bothering me once again out of hunger.”

If there was something wrong with Goldrake, he would know immediately from his status window. Just in case, he checked the drake’s status.

-          Sleeping for recovery, hungry

***

His body had recovered to some extent, but his depleted energy did not return quickly. Ultimately, even disregarding his physical fatigue, Seon-Hyeok was forced to stay bedridden for a long time, and he could not leave the 22nd Regiment garrison. In the meantime, he heard that a precious guest would be arriving soon.

“The royal princess will come here herself to comfort those who lost their homes and families in the war and to honor the soldiers who fought on the front lines.”

“Ah, the princess?”

The remnants of the invading Noctein forces had been wiped out, but it was never safe for a member of the royal family to visit somewhere so close to the border.

“That’s inconvenient…”

Seon-Hyeok began to express his concerns, worried that troublesome events would come to pass, but Julian quickly cut him off.

“You don’t have to worry. Some of the Central Army will be accompanying her here. It’s even possible that an entire knight division will be her escort.”

If she had such talented guards, there was no reason for him to worry – especially in his injured state. Even so, he frowned, worried what the royal princess, who treasured Goldrake, would say. In addition, the special weapon she commissioned for the dragon rider had been broken and turned into scrap metal. He was uncomfortable, knowing that it was customary in this world to treat a royal gift as a precious heirloom.

However, there was nothing he could do about it now. He could have tried to find an excuse to leave if he was physically able, but both he and Goldrake still needed time to recover.

“Ugh. I understand.”

“Also, the Mangsk commander has said he could come visit as soon as the wounded units have been attended to.”

Many infantry companies suffered losses as a result of being scattered across different villages. It would be quite the headache reorganizing and reinforcing these units. However, there were many competent subordinates under the commander, so this was not something he needed to be concerned about.

“I don’t know. We’re alive, and that’s enough for me.”

Seon-Hyeok had jumped into battle knowing that half of them could die. However, in all his time working to hone his abilities, he had never pushed himself quite this far. In all previous situations, he had kept some power over the attributes in reserve.

However, this situation proved to be different. With his life at risk, he drew on the fullest extent of his strength. As a result, he had depleted his wind attribute power, and his summoning of Atiya had been undone. Because of this, he became exposed to the enemy’s arrows and almost lost his life.

This proved to be a blessing in disguise. Having completely emptied his stores of energy, a change occurred as the empty vessel that held the wind attribute slowly replenished itself.

“Master.”

In that process, Atiya appeared in this world without first being summoned. Her appearance was so different that Seon-Hyeok could not help but stare open-mouthed.

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