Dragon Devouring Chapter 168

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EPISODE.84

* * *

Considering the gravity of the matter at hand, the issue should have merited days of discussion. However, as urgent as the situation was, it posed a danger that required immediate attention. After hours of heated debate and discourse, a strategy was established.

“Given the limitations of the warp gate, which prevents sending a large number of personnel at once, deploying the kingdom’s regular army from the capital is not feasible.”

“For now, it seems prudent to mobilize the 5th and the 7th legions to hastily fortify our defenses.”

“Those units are already adequately supplied in the vicinity, that’s not a bad consideration.”

“What about reaching out to the lords of the border regions to supplement our forces?”

Ultimately, the list of those to be dispatched to the southern regions of the kingdom was finalized. A total of eleven experts were selected, seven of whom were mages, and four aura practitioners. This number represented nearly half of all the powerhouses currently in the capital. Even including those who were away on other missions, this force amounted to nearly one-fifth of our strength.

Among them were two masters from the great towers of the capital city: Amelia Merwin, the White Tower Master, and Niccolò Machiavelli, the Yellow Tower Master. It was a luxurious lineup indeed.

‘Are we leaving just the minimum force behind in case of unforeseen events?’

Russell too was of course included in this list. Not only Russell, but Vermillion and Hubert were also exceptions to the norm. Among the mages, those who inherited the legacy of the Red Tower, the element of fire, boasted the most formidable firepower. War mages capable of reducing dozens or even more to ash in a blink were among them. It would have been absurd to exclude them.

With the Blue Tower Master and the Green Tower Master remaining in the capital to prepare for any sort of incident, it seemed like the best decision had been made.

“It’s hard to estimate the number of demons,” King Alfonso Latmos said, breaking the silence. He made eye contact with each person listed and spoke with emphasis, “We don’t know how they have emerged, but if we allow them to set foot on our land, the damage will be uncontrollable.”

His voice was firm and resolute.

“Make sure not a single demon crosses the border.”

Those who had received the mission responded in unison.

“We heed Your Majesty’s command!”

Their resolute declaration echoed through the council room.

. . .

Preparations for departure were swiftly made. Given that the number of people was not huge to begin with, and each was a high-ranking magedom user capable of utilizing spatial magic, there was no need for cumbersome preparations involving packing carts and the like. Of course, this included the aura practitioners who were also equipped with artifacts that incorporated spatial magic.

With preparations completed in just a few hours, Daria approached the brothers who were waiting to use the warp gate. She meticulously adjusted their attire.

“I know you are all well trained, but with the sheer number of demons, it’s impossible not to worry.”

Her voice was laden with concern, much like a mother watching her children approach the water’s edge.

“And in battle, one can lose their life even to a blind arrow…”

Daria stopped in front of Russell and, while fastening his robe, assured him,

“Don’t worry about failing to contact the princess. I will relay the message on your behalf.”

Trying to lighten the mood with her jest, Russell responded with a small smile, shaking his head.

“No need to worry.”

“…?”

“It’s true I still find Her Highness difficult to read, but she’s not so immature as to be unable to differentiate between personal and official matters.”

Even when she was being brusque or feigning indifference, Hecate never crossed certain lines. Russell had always known her as such a woman.

Smiling at Russell’s reply, Daria gently ran her fingers through the hair near his ear.

“You’ve truly become a devoted lover, haven’t you?”

Perhaps it was her youngest disciple Russell’s involvement in a task akin to real war that made her feel unusually sentimental.

‘She would have grown up to be so beautiful too…’

She couldn’t help but superimpose the face of someone she’d lost long ago over Russell’s, and her fingertips involuntarily trembled.

“…Master?”

Bewildered by her unexpected behavior, Russell expressed his confusion.

Daria hurriedly withdrew her hand.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Ahem.”

With a forced cough, she saw off her three disciples.

“Please return without misfortune.”

Engulfed in a radiant swirl of light, they vanished in a blink.

* * *

“Ugh.”

No matter how many times one used the warp gate, it was difficult to adjust to the disorientation. Russell murmured as he steadied himself, noting the change in time zones.

“…This is already my second visit here.”

Vermillion nodded in response.

“You’re right. The last time we headed to the Underworld, we used the warp gate at this branch.”

For Russell and Vermillion, this was no unfamiliar path. Nonetheless, there seemed to be no need for them to act as guides, as the party included not only dwarves but also elves, familiar with the way to both the Underworld and the Great Forest.

“Have you arrived?”

As they stepped outside the branch, Niccolò greeted the three brothers. Below him were the knights and mages who had arrived earlier, along with the elves and dwarves nestled among them.

“Now we’re only waiting for the people from the Spear Tower and the White Tower.”

Since the warp gate couldn’t transport many people at once, the gates in each of the capital’s towers were used to split the group up.

As they waited, Russell turned his gaze southwest, toward the Red Canyon. He approached an elf sitting among the group, Azlan, and asked,

“May I ask you a question?”

“…?”

“Do you know of an elf from the White Ash Tree tribe named Iora?”

Before Russell could finish, Azlan murmured in astonishment,

“How do you know Lord Iora…?”

After taking a closer look at Russell’s black hair and red eyes, he exclaimed,

“I see, you must be the person Lord Iora spoke of! I should have known, there is such a strong spirit scent even though you are a human!”

“Yes?”

“I’ve heard a lot about you from Lord Iora. That you were the one who saved her and our tribe from the filthy—no, the humans with deplorable spirits…”

“You seem to know a lot about Lord Iora.”

“Of course. While not from the same tribe, she is a Sentinel of our people.”

“Sentinel…”

The term ‘Sentinel’ was one that Russell had heard of before. It usually referred to warriors among the elves who protect their tribes. Azlan was also one of those protectors, the foremost Guardian of his tribe. However, within the entire elven race, there were those who served as protectors of not just their own tribes but for all elves.

‘Those are the Sentinels.’

That Iora had reached the rank of Sentinel could be due to her awakening the power of the dragon, Russell thought. With this reflection, he inquired further.

“Is Lord Iora well?”

“Absolutely.”

Azlan responded with pride, vigorously nodding his head.

“She stayed behind until the last moment to build a line of defense for the young and injured elves; even as I left, she was fighting at the frontlines for her tribe.”

Azlan mentioned that it had been about five days since he left for Endymion.

‘At least until then, she had been without any major issues.’

Just then, the area crackled with the surge of magical energy, and two women and a man emerged from the depths of the branch.

“…Tired.”

One was unmistakably Amelia Merwin, the White Tower Master, a child-like figure leaning on a fluffy white rabbit doll as she floated in the air. Below her was a middle-aged mage woma

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