“I will head to Mangsk.”
It was possible that Seon-Hyeok could regret his hasty decision at any moment. However, he felt that he would live the rest of his life with regrets if he did not go to Mangsk. As such, he decided to play a role in the upcoming war.
Clark and the surviving veterans nodded upon hearing his decision. Looking at their subdued expressions, Seon-Hyeok could tell that they felt the same way. However, most of the survivors had yet to make their decisions.
To be fair, it was reasonable that they were hesitant. It was too much to expect to have his cavalry fight in a terrible battle and then immediately volunteer to participate in another war. Knowing this, instead of reprimanding them, Seon-Hyeok provided a reasonable excuse for them to stay behind.
“The remaining riders will stay and take care of the wounded. It’s something that needs to be done anyways, and I’d rather leave it to people I trust.”
Some among the survivors breathed a sigh of relief at his words, while others clenched their fists in shame. Seon-Hyeok approached them one by one without reproach and embraced them.
“Good work. Please take care of the injured.”
“You fought well.”
“Please recover quickly so we can ride together once again.”
The men could not bear to raise their heads and apologized with their heads bowed.
However, Seon-Hyeok just gave them a smile.
“I can leave without reservations thanks to you all. Thank you. It’s me who should be sorry for leaving you with such a big burden.”
It was possible that the burden carried by those remaining at the garrison would be greater than that of those heading into war. It was the ones left behind responsible for helping the wounded soldiers get back on their feet – the soldiers who would never hold a spear in their hands again.
The decision had been made, but he was unable to leave the garrison immediately. This was because Clark and the other veterans needed some time to fully recover. Of course, the same was true of Seon-Hyeok. After all, Goldrake still had not woken from its slumber. 
- Sleeping, hungry
However, he was not impatient. Having already checked his status window, he knew Goldrake’s injuries had healed. There was only one reason why Goldrake would remain asleep in spite of this.
Just as the drake had once shed its skin to grow larger, Goldrake was once again sleeping to allow for continued growth. Knowing this better than anyone, Seon-Hyeok refrained from forcing the monster to wake up.
Right now, all he hoped for was that Goldrake would wake up before it was too late.
How many days had passed? Clark and the other veterans fully recovered under the intensive care of the priests. Seon-Hyeok was likewise well enough to leave the garrison at any point. His depleted energy had nearly returned to pre-battle levels.
Goldrake woke up with impeccable timing.
During the battle, Goldrake’s scales had clearly demonstrated their strength by enduring the foreigners’ onslaught. Now, the single layer of scales had been replaced by a double and triple-layer, to the point where gaps could not be located in the drake’s innate armor. The chest wounds inflicted in the battle through focused attacks were no longer visible, covered by these thick scales. Goldrake had completely recovered, and it was a shocking sight.
The horn on the middle of its head resembled a giant spear, and the rough bumps along its neck looked like a lion’s mane.
Contrary to Seon-Hyeok’s expectations, Goldrake was not any larger when it came out of the ground. Instead, the drake’s appearance was different. Previously, Goldrake had looked like a solid and resilient monster. Now, it looked much more aggressive, and this alone made it feel several times stronger and more threatening than before.
Seon-Hyeok found himself admiring Goldrake’s appearance. If the previous Goldrake was like an armored vehicle, the present Goldrake was a tank with horns in place of guns.
Goldrake gave a low rumble, as though boasting about its continued development. At that moment, the protrusions on its neck stood up straight.
The drake was trying to show off, but to Seon-Hyeok, this made Goldrake look like a frilled lizard. The foreigner’s expression was inscrutable.
Goldie looks strong. Strong, but also oddly ridiculous.
To Seon-Hyeok, Goldrake had clearly sacrificed much in return for its increased power.
“Let’s avoid doing that if possible.”
At his words, Goldrake quickly folded the frills on its neck and gave a sullen look.
As soon as Goldrake woke up, Seon-Hyeok left the garrison with the volunteers. Almost all of the soldiers and civilians left at the garrison gathered, hearing the news that the Drake Knight was headed to the front lines once again. They maintained their courage in front of the terrifying monster and approached to try and offer words of encouragement.
“Please be careful.”
“If I can, I’ll make sure to repay this debt in the future.”
The soldiers saluted and expressed their feelings of admiration, while the civilians bowed their heads to wordlessly pray for his safe return.
As Seon-Hyeok got Goldrake to pick up the pace, Clark and the riders likewise dug their heels into their horses and followed suit, heading towards Fort Mangsk.
There was always almost three regiments’ worth of soldiers stationed at Fort Mangsk, as it was a strategic point in the western territories and the command center of the Western Army. With the addition of two additional regiments from the Central Army, the fortress was literally overflowing with soldiers.
However, despite the masses of soldiers, Fort Mangsk was eerily quiet. It was the calm before the storm.
The fortress suddenly became noisy once again.
“The Drake Knight is here!”
“Notify the command that Earl Drachen has arrived, and hurry up and open the gates!”
There was no procedure for confirming the new arrivals. Noticing Seon-Hyeok, the soldiers at the fortress quickly rushed to open the gates. Then again, it was not particularly strange. No other knight in this world rode a huge drake as his mount, and the mere presence of the golden monster was proof of his identity.
“It’s convenient but too conspicuous.”
Seon-Hyeok did not think for a moment that he could enter the fortress without being noticed, but the incoming crowd of soldiers made him feel suffocated. Clark laughed as he saw Seon-Hyeok’s frustration.
“Well, it’s well-intended. Take it as a compliment. We don’t have to wait out here in the snow because of it.”
“Even so, this is…”
The cavalry had urged their horses through the sleet in the western wilderness, and so their hands and feet were freezing in the cold. They looked as though they did not mind this extra attention.
“It’s proof that we’ve had some great accomplishments. Please just accept it.”
Just as Clark said, nobody had made greater contributions in recent wars than Kim Seon-Hyeok. He had annihilated the Sastein cavalry, the scourge of the Adenburg riders, and they had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in defending the 22nd Regiment garrison.
In an era where knights and mages did not march into battle, nobody else could possibly have such shining accomplishments.
“But it’s still incredible. This kind of welcome might be expected of His Majesty, but is there another soldier who’d get this kind of treatment?”
All things considered, the hospitality shown by the soldiers of Fort Mangsk was excessive. Soon, they were able to understand why.
On a battlefield without superhuman figures like the knights or mages, there was no more reliable ally than the foreigner riding his drake. The presence of this powerful ally meant that they were also more likely to survive, and thus, the soldiers were naturally enthusiastic about his arrival.
The cheering soldiers suddenly quieted down. Seon-Hyeok wondered why, before noticing Princess Ophelia behind Marquis Reinhardt and Commander Mangsk. The soldiers watched expectantly at the young princess and the new hero.
“I refused to believe it no matter what Sir Trail and Marquis Reinhardt said, but you really came.”
The royal princess was normally difficult to understand because of her excessively formal speech, but it was even more so today. Seon-Hyeok just bowed as he looked at the princess.
“There’s a lot I’d like to ask you and say, but I can’t bear to keep you here considering you only recently recovered and had to come on this long journey.”
Fortunately, the princess was unwilling to keep him for long.
“It’s good to see you, Adenburg’s Spear. Mangsk welcomes you.”
Hearing her brief greeting, the soldiers cheered. They were completely excited for some unknown reason. Seon-Hyeok and the princess both looked bewildered at the sight.
Perhaps the two of them would never know. They would never know what the soldiers had expected, and what they now saw and cheered for.
The sight of the young princess and the Drake Knight together in the snow flurries in this winter fortress scene left quite an impression.
Despite her youth, the princess looked regal and beautiful dressed in white fur. The knight kneeling before her and the monster with its head bowed were majestic. The appearance of the two sides looking at each other and talking was like a painting, and it made them envision the heroes who walked the continent a long time ago.
This meeting of the royal princess and the dragon rider in the snowy fortress in the middle of winter thus stimulated their imagination. They felt they were witnessing the beginning of a new epic, and they cheered.
The young princess and the valiant dragon rider were the perfect pair to mark the beginning of this story.
She could not possibly understand this, so the princess simply believed that the soldiers’ trust in the Drake Knight was beyond even her expectations. Likewise, Seon-Hyeok thought that the princess was much more popular than he imagined.
“I knew you would come.”
Concerned about the princess’ safety in the presence of the excited soldiers, the knights quickly led her away. Marquis Reinhardt remained to greet Seon-Hyeok.
“You made it so that I had to.”
“But you look like an actual person today. Much better than before.”
The marquis had a sour expression, but his tone conveyed some feelings of concern. Amazed, Seon-Hyeok found himself asking the knight.
“I didn’t look like a person?”
“You looked like you were carrying the burden of the entire world on your shoulders. You really needed to drink and let it all out, but insisted on abstaining from alcohol. It’s why I forced you to drink. Do you understand me now?”
Marquis Reinhardt’s attitude towards him that day had not just been out of revenge.
“Thank you. I do feel a bit better because of it.”
And in fact, following his meeting with the marquis, it felt as though something weighing him down had been removed. Belatedly realizing that their previous encounter was a result of the marquis’ consideration for the foreigner, Seon-Hyeok could not help but feel thankful.
“Don’t say such embarrassing things. You’re going to give me goosebumps.”
Now that he understood that Marquis Reinhardt’s sharp attitude that day was simply a function of his personality, Seon-Hyeok smiled and nodded.
“Commander. It’s good to see you again.”
Commander Mangsk had stood off to the side until this point and had not said anything. It was only after Seon-Hyeok directly spoke to him that he acted like he noticed them. Even then, the commander’s gaze was not on Seon-Hyeok, but somewhere off in the distance.
“I’m sorry. She’s so stubborn that I wasn’t able to stop her.”
Seon-Hyeok quickly realized that the commander was looking at his granddaughter, and he bowed and apologized. The commander gave a bitter smile and shook his head.
“It really is time for me to retire. Putting my selfish desires over everything…”
The commander looked as though he had rapidly aged. His previous powerful and imposing appearance was nowhere to be seen.
“Get some rest and come see me at the command center at any time. We can talk then.”
Seeing the Mangsk commander leave, Marquis Reinhardt spoke up.
“He wasn’t like this before, but he’s been acting this way lately.”
“Do you think he’ll be okay? He seems to be feeling a lot of remorse.”
The commander attributed the casualties of the previous war to his own incompetence. Seon-Hyeok worried that the commander’s emotions might interfere with their upcoming mission, but when he brought up his concerns, the marquis gave him a look saying he was being absurd.
“Who’s worrying about who now?”
To be fair, Seon-Hyeok was far too lacking in experience to be worrying about the veteran commander. When he gave an embarrassed look, the marquis shook his head and quickly became serious.
“Since you’re here, I’m assuming you’re mentally prepared.”
“Yes. I am.”
Hearing his answer, the marquis gave a satisfied smile.
“Good. Then there’s nothing to be worried about.”
However, the smile was unusual. Seon-Hyeok found himself stepping back before he knew it, but the marquis quickly followed him and said.
“You’ll be commanding the Central Army.”
Seon-Hyeok gave a blank look at the sudden remark, and the marquis belatedly clarified.
“I’m saying you’ll be commanding all the foreigners in the Central Army.”
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