Dragon Devouring Chapter 156

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EPISODE.78

* * *

Russell Raymond.

The rumors about him had not escaped the ears of Count Rainkel, who had heard them frequently enough for the stories to wear thin.

The illustrious rise of the Raymond House, founding contributors of the nation.

The youngest disciple of Daria Snowwhite.

The son-in-law of the royal family.

The youngest Sixth Circle magician in the history of the continent.

Although merely a lord of a remote region, he was not completely disconnected from the central political news.

Moreover, in recent years, the name Russell Raymond had been consistently on the rise…

Even if one were a noble disinterested in central news, one would have heard about him becoming the royal son-in-law.

That Count Rainkel was acquainted with him might have been an obvious matter.

Thump, thump.

The sound of confident footsteps resounded as he entered the Lord’s Office, guided by a soldier, looking precisely as the rumors depicted him.

‘Black hair and red eyes, this young man is…’

Young.

That was what first crossed the Count’s mind upon seeing Russell for the first time.

Although the youngest Sixth Circle magician…

He was just past his early twenties.

He might have heard of his age from rumors, but the face of Russell he encountered was far younger than what the count had imagined.

However, it was only his exterior that looked young. The depth of his character, contained within, was difficult to gauge.

‘This is the caliber of a Tower Master magician…’

It wasn’t simply because of his red eyes, which looked like a volcano ready to erupt at any moment, to the extent that the Count felt intimidated without realizing it.

‘Hmm.’

The Count, who had flinched for a moment, chuckled silently in his mind.

‘Heh.’

He laughed bitterly, realizing his own error.

‘Who could have imagined feeling intimidated by the gaze of a young man young enough to be my youngest son?’

At that moment, Russell, who made eye contact with the Count, gave a simple nod – a gesture neither too excessive nor lacking, just appropriate.

Despite his status as a royal son-in-law and a Count, the other party was unquestionably his senior by age.

“Russell Raymond.”

Regaining his wits, Count Rainkel extended his hand with an awkward smile.

“I am Tes Rainkel. I’m sincerely grateful for you rushing over to help with the hardship of our domain, Earl Raymond.”

After exchanging formal introductions and greetings, Russell’s gaze changed instantaneously.

“If it is not an inconvenience, may I hear about the situation right away?”

He had already guessed the estate was in dire straits from the partly destroyed castle walls and the atmosphere.

Above all, the ruined wall.

‘That was definitely the result of a magical and physical assault.’

At Russell’s request, Count Rainkel let out a thin sigh and nodded.

“Let’s do that.”

As the Count began to speak with a grave expression, Russell’s face suddenly hardened when he mentioned how Alan Page was in grave danger after being stricken with the full force of the Hydra’s venom.

‘Alan Page is…’

He was not someone Russell didn’t know; there was a time when they competed fiercely to improve each other’s skills.

Furthermore, the man was not of bad character, so naturally Russell was concerned upon hearing that he lay at death’s door.

Thus, after waiting for the Count to finish his story, he spoke.

“Where is Sir Alan now?”

.

.

Click-.

As the doorknob turned, a vile smell rushed out from inside.

‘This is…’

The scents of various medicinal herbs known for their detoxifying effects mixed with a particularly unpleasant and sticky stench.

At that stench, Russell scrunched up his nose.

‘Venom.’

Given how potent the venom was, drifting outside the moment the door was opened, it was evidently powerful.

Looking up, the face of Alan lying on the bed came into view, his whole body burning with a high fever, and his complexion blackened as if the venom had spread throughout his body.

“Sir Alan…”

Was he unconscious from the pain?

Or was his consciousness overwhelmed by the intense torment from the venom?

Despite Russell’s murmuring, Alan could not even open his eyes.

“…ugh.”

Alan writhed in apparent agony as faint groans slipped from his lips with every shudder.

Could the beads of sweat also contain venom? Parts of the bed where he lay were turning black.

That’s when Count Rainkel noticed several healers examining Alan stiffly nodding their heads as they saw him enter.

“…You’re here, Count.”

Their eyes were dark and dead, reflecting exhaustion and poison exposure from tending to Alan.

The Count decided to inquire amidst the appearance of the healers.

“It seems as if it’s time for a shift change.”

“Yes. If we stay any longer, we too will suffer serious poisoning.”

It was apparent from the conversation that the healers were periodically switching to manage Alan’s treatment due to the mild venom emanating from his body.

The Count expressed his regret toward the evidently weary healers.

“I didn’t mean for you to endure such difficulty. However…”

“We understand. He saved my family and everyone in our lands.”

“We must treat him.”

The healers replied with determination.

Of course, because the healers present at this location had volunteered to treat Alan rather than having been conscripted.

“If you can bear with him until the High Priest returns… I would be grateful.”

With the Count’s encouragement in the background, Russell asked the healers.

“What is the status of Sir Alan? Is the antidote effective?”

The healers hesitated momentarily at the sudden appearance of this stranger, but soon one stepped forward to explain.

“To be frank, the situation is not good.”

Even without further explanation, they seemed to consider him a guest of the Count’s, or an acquaintance of Alan’s.

“A situation that is ‘not good,’ could you please explain?”

Hydra venom was known to be potent, but antidotes were available. And yet, Hydras were classified among the deadliest poisons precisely because…

‘Most victims dissolve before even using an antidote.’

Meaning, in a situation like Alan’s where he was still holding on, it would be possible to administer an antidote.

Yet they say it’s not good.

“Could it be-”

A sudden thought flashed across Russell’s mind, prompting him to quickly ask.

“Was the Hydra that appeared this time with eight or maybe nine heads?”

A Hydra of that magnitude would understandably carry a venom immune to antidotes.

‘However, if I recall correctly from the briefing, the Hydra only had five heads…’

Considering that a mature Hydra typically has four heads, this specimen seemed slightly more powerful.

In response to his question, Count Rainkel shook his head.

“That’s not it. I clearly saw it with my own eyes that the beast had five heads.”

“Then why…”

Confused, Russell trailed off as the healer continued the explanation.

“This Hydra’s venom is somewhat unusual.”

“…?”

“That is—frankly, it’s difficult to explain. We’ve never encountered a Hydra with this kind of venom before…”

Other healers chimed in.

“We are administering the treatment by supplementing the known antidote’s effectiveness, but frankly, we can’t have much hope at this stage.”

“The silver lining, if any, is that Sir Alan is resisting the venom somewhat independently of the antidote…”

With the healers unanimously indicating the grim situation, Russell approached Alan.

“Wait, it’s dangerous!”

“If you must go closer, please use these gloves and mask…”

The healers cried out in alarm, but there was no need.

Russell was a Sixth Circle magician affiliated with the Flame Tower, and to venom, fire was a deadly counter.

Even if he couldn’t expel the venom from Alan’s body, he could easily dissipate the trace amounts attempting to enter his own.

‘Unusual, you say?’

Reaching out, Russell grasped Alan’s wrist and gently infused his magic.

Whoosh-.

His magic flowed through Alan, following his mana rod into his body.

At that moment, the venom consuming Alan recognized a new prey and surged toward Russell’s magic.

-!

When the venom and magic collided!

Russell’s eyes widened with astonishment.

‘This is…’

From the venom, an energy unseen flowed, and Russell’s shoulders trembled involuntarily.

* * *

A brightly lit conference room.

Russell stood there alone, lost in thought after he had asked Count Rainkel to gather all the mages dispatched from the capital in one place.

‘Hmm…’

With a slight frown and a sigh, Russell muttered to himself.

‘That was definitely the presence of a dragon’s energy.’

To his surprise, the Hydra’s venom was infused, albeit weakly, with the energy of a dragon.

Although each dragon’s energy varied due to its unique attributes, the fundamental nature of their power was identical.

Russell, who had encountered dragons several times before, found it not too difficult to recognize the energy of a dragon.

‘Of course, I couldn’t tell which dragon it came from…’

The problem was why the energy of an actual dragon was present within a Hydra’s venom.

Hydra.

A monster classified as mature with more than four heads and undoubtedly a branch of the dragon species.

An upper tier dragon species incomparable to the Komodo Dragon Russell had met the day before.

‘Not only do they grow larger with more heads, but their intelligence also increases.’

Moreover, they innately wielded magic and even expelled it, as records existed of Hydras with a certain number of heads holding conversations with humans.

‘Based on raw strength, comparable to or even exceeding that of Arc Drakes depending on the individual.’

However, a dragon species was just that—a species.

There was a significant difference between the energy of a true dragon and that of a dragon species.

‘Yet this is the energy of a real dragon…’

An alarm flashed, and a translucent green window appeared before him.

[Mission]

The Hydra’s Secret.

Vanquish the Hydra that devastated the Rainkel territory, uncover the secret it holds, and dissolve the mystery.

[Reward]

Hydra Vanquished: Highest quality mana stone (edible) x5

Hydra’s Secret: ???????

‘The rewards…’

Were bifurcated.

The rewards for merely vanquishing the Hydra and for unveiling its secret.

The latter was what caught his eye.

‘More question marks than usual?’

While there had been rewards marked with question marks before, such a high number was unprecedented.

Whether it was just a change in the notation or if the reward itself was of a completely different nature remained uncertain.

‘If I uncover the Hydra’s secret, will I be able to treat Sir Alan?’

Even if he had sought the help of a high-ranking priest, he had to prepare for the possibility that even holy magic may not cure the venom that didn’t respond to antidotes.

‘After all, if the antidote doesn’t work, holy magic might not either.’

As he felt his head grow heavy with the complexities, Russell exhaled deeply.

That’s when he heard footsteps.

Thump, thump.

Tap tap-.

The sounds approached from outside the conference room.

The mages from the capital whom Russell had asked the Count to gather had arrived.

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