Dragon Devouring Mage Chapter 256

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Dragon devouring mage

EPISODE.128

Several days before Russell and Gillian would face each other, a significant conversation was underway deep within the Britania Imperial Palace. Cloaked in a black robe, emanating a radiant light from his eyes, was the man known as Thanatos, and the pale-faced former Crown Prince—no, now the newly crowned Emperor Edgar Conrad IV.

Clink, thud, rolling sounds…

He idly rolled a chess piece in his hand several times, eventually tossing it aside in apparent disinterest, causing it to tumble haphazardly across the board.

It was Conrad IV who spoke first.

“I knew this would take time, but it’s much more tedious than I expected.”

Thousands of soldiers from his own country were dying on the battlefield every day.

Additionally, nearly two-tenths of the Empire’s territory had fallen under Endymion’s control.

In such circumstances, the Emperor’s voice was unbelievably detached.

Thanatos responded to him,

“As I understand, the first phase is almost complete.”

As he spoke, he stretched out a finger lightly.

He skimmed over a map of the Empire next to the chessboard, tapping lightly at several locations—all sites of recent clashes between the Empire’s forces and those of Endymion.

As his fingertip brushed over these places, a red aura, like ink, began to spread outwards.

A few instances later, the sight before him resembled bloodstains, and Thanatos continued,

“The fools of Endymion, thundering about without a clue, have penetrated deep into imperial territory. And now, the land is sufficiently steeped in blood.”

The original plan was to instigate a war by inciting the Duke of Endymion, the new king, but regardless of the slightly altered course of action, the end result was still moving in their desired direction.

“And if we add the locations where internal conflict over imperial power has been staged, with blood shed and sacrifices piling up…”

More specks of red appeared on the map, with lines connecting these areas to form an inverted pentagram that covered nearly half of the Empire.

Gazing intently at the center of the blood-hued pentagram, Thanatos declared,

“Now that the coordinates are set, all that’s left is the sacrifice and death necessary for the descent.”

And indeed, a substantial amount of both would be required.

“The time that Master has been desiring will soon come.”

Their ultimate goal was to bring forth “a certain entity” to this world using the sacrifices and coordinates they had arranged.

After Thanatos finished speaking, the Emperor, Conrad IV, muttered with a twisted smile,

“When the time comes, I will be reborn as the Apostle of a new god.”

“An Apostle to bring ‘The End’ unto this land, replacing the fallen demon realm since the mythical age.”

As he spoke, a colorless despair faintly emitted from his figure.

This was different from the typical dark magic used by socialites—a “despair” that seeped in from outside the world itself.

* * *

“Be wary of those lurking deep within the Empire,” Gillian’s parting words lingered in Russell’s mind.

Along with the last words of the cultist who had declared himself Hypnos before dying.

‘I believe there’s still darkness yet to come…’

Considering the relationship revealed between the cult and the Empire, were the “lurking ones” Gillian spoke of referring to the cultists?

‘While that is highly likely for now…’

I must consider other possibilities to remain composed and manage unexpected situations without panic.

While Russell continued his thoughts, he had already reached the entrance to the military camp.

He noticed something seemed amiss—people were busily moving about, seemingly searching for someone.

“How could you not assign any escorts when His Excellency the Duke goes out!” came the shout of Baron Donovan.

“But His Excellency…” replied a soldier’s voice, flustered by the Baron’s reprimand.

“This is out of the question, even for him!”

A genius Archmage, who by his late twenties had surpassed the 7th-circle and reached the 8th.

There weren’t many who could pose a threat to such strength, but the reason for assigning escorts wasn’t solely for protection.

“He even went out without attendants…”

A moment later, Russell, observing the Baron’s anxious movements, let out a slight chuckle.

Then he murmured softly,

“Don’t blame them too much; it was my call to go unattended.”

His soft voice, carried by magic on the wind, reached Baron Donovan’s ears.

Jolting to attention, the Baron spun around and spotted Russell approaching the camp from afar and hurriedly strode over.

“Your Excellency the Duke!”

With a slight nod in acknowledgment, Russell inquired without further ado,

“It’s quite noisy around here. Has something happened?”

“Well…”

After a brief pause, Baron Donovan slowly replied,

“We were actually looking for you, Your Excellency.”

“Has something come up that requires my attention?”

Donovan slightly tipped his chin and whispered in a quiet voice,

“A message from the main force. It seems the Empire’s movements are unusual.”

“The main force…”

He was referring to the unit led by his mentor, Daria, the overall commander of this war.

The message from the main force and the suspicious movements of the Imperial army were both critical issues, but the place was not suitable for such discussions—too many ears were listening.

After all, groundless rumors could travel a thousand miles in a day, and morale in warfare was easily swayed by minor gossip.

Baron Donovan’s decision to lower his voice was also guided by this wisdom.

“We should move to a different location…”

Sensing the eyes of the soldiers around him, Russell suggested.

Upon returning to the tent…

As if awaiting him, the staff officers began to gather one by one. It seemed they had all been outside looking for Russell.

‘I must report and move accordingly before stepping out next time.’

Had he done so, all these people wouldn’t have needed to scour the camp for him.

Even though he had been preoccupied trying to avoid drawing Gillian’s attention, it was clear negligence on his part.

‘Tsk.’

Silently chiding his own carelessness, Russell softly apologized to the assembled staff,

“I apologize for causing undue concern. In the future, I will ensure to notify you, even for personal matters.”

“Heh…”

The officers, including Baron Donovan, showed a mix of awkward and relieved faces at Russell’s apology.

‘If possible, please be accompanied by guards…’

‘But considering the expression on his face, that might be too much to ask.’

Furthermore, regardless of his young age, Russell was the Duke of Endymion.

Such an individual of high position wasn’t accustomed to bowing their heads.

‘Perhaps this, too, is a virtue of Your Excellency the Duke.’

With these thoughts in mind, Baron Donovan cleared his throat slightly,

“Understood, Your Excellency.”

He nodded in acceptance, closing the matter of Russell’s unreported departure.

What truly warranted attention now was the message from the main force and the state of the Imperial army.

“Then, I shall report.”

After taking a brief breath, Baron Donovan unfolded the report from the main force.

“According to reports from the owls deployed at the front, the movement of the Imperial army is quite unusual.”

The owls were scouts infiltrating close to the enemy lines, risking their lives to report on the Empire’s activities.

“They have pulled a significant majority of their forces from their current positions, and are now gathering these dispersed units in one place. Moreover, the forces currently moving to regroup include those engaged with our forces.”

“A gathering, you say?”

“It suggests they intend to engage in a proper battle.”

The landmass known as the Britania Empire was vast in size.

Even among the great powers, the territory of Endymion spanned just about 60 to 70 percent of that of the Empire.

And with that large of a territory came a sizeable population.

Based on the warfare thus far, the average number of Imperial troops was about 1.5 times that of Endymion.

‘Adding in the undead furnished by their alliance with the cultists…’

The result would be a staggering imbalance in military force. Fortunately, in terms of the power wielded by those called ‘superhumans’, Endymion’s military was superior.

‘Were the Tower Lord of the Spire to aid, Endymion’s count of 8th-circle mages would rise to three.’

As for the Empire’s sole 8th-circle mage, also known as the Lord of the Shadow Tower, he had been killed for opposing the Prince associated with the cult, right?

Certainly, with superior numbers of high-circle mages capable of bombarding entire legions, the balance tilted in their favor.

‘Beyond that…’

MacLay Hughes.

Giabol Nich.

Count Heizen.

Already several of the Empire’s superhumans had been defeated by Russell or met their end due to involvement with him.

‘The remaining unknown element must be the undead.’

Doom Knights.

A top-tier undead variant said to have powers rivaling superhumans.

Russell had directly witnessed the events within the Empire that were leading to this creation.

‘If the Doom Knights have been completed…’

Considering how many Doom Knights there might be was also a problem that demanded attention. As Russell pondered this, the bridge of his nose twitched slightly.

‘No, Doom Knights aren’t the only issue.’

Unlike the Doom Knights, which required an unlikely probability and numerous sacrifices to create, their adversaries had a confirmed top-tier undead that they could manufacture using the corpse they possessed.

‘The deceased Lord of the Shadow Tower from the previous generation.’

If they managed to resurrect an 8th-circle mage as an Archlich, it would be nothing short of a nightmare.

Tap, tap, tap—

As his thoughts deepened, Russell lightly drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair.

That’s when,

“And…”

Baron Donovan spoke up in a cautious tone,

“Sir Arex has retreated to the rear, and the Tower Lord of the Spire is moving to the frontlines.”

“Sir Arex, you say?”

“Yes. According to the report, he stayed behind alone to delay the enemy’s Bow Master and facilitate our retreat…”

Within the Empire, there was only one known Bow Master.

The original owner of the Heavenly Bow Boreas and the father of Philip Mason, whose life had ended at Russell’s hand.

‘—Lord Mason.’

The Empire’s superhumans, who had remained unseen until now, were finally beginning to take action one by one.

What exactly this implied…

“What has the main force decided?”

“The commander-in-chief’s message states… if they want a full-scale battle, we shall join them in kind.”

A decisive and fearless decision.

Feeling as if he could hear his mentor’s voice in his head, Russell smiled wryly.

Regardless, this place was a battlefield.

Where the survivors take all: a winner-takes-all struggle to the very end.

Considering the Empire’s move to go all out and the fact that the cultists would likely also reveal themselves,

‘Just as I can’t escape the vengeance against Lord Mason, they too can’t remain unscathed from their grudge against me.’

Given that those entrenched within the Empire were aligned with Hypnos,

“We need to prepare to mobilize our own forces.”

Calming the rising thirst for vengeance deep within him, Russell declared,

“We’ll start moving as quickly as we can to join the main force.”

The Mage Who Swallowed a Dragon.

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