Dragon Devouring Mage Chapter 258

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Dragon devouring mage

EPISODE.129

Shortly thereafter, the reply that flowed from Jillian was somewhat unexpected.

“I… cannot say.”

“—?”

Before the hanging question mark in my head could transform into the word ‘Why?’ and exit my lips, Jillian spoke first.

“I may be gradually being cleansed, but I’m not yet completely free from ‘his’ dominion.”

As he said this, he pressed tightly around the vicinity of his heart with the fingers of one hand.

It was a heart housing a bleak and gloomy magic power, too dirty and vile to be that of a dragon’s.

If one could slice open the chest and remove it, it would likely resemble a black jewel, with not a spark of light to it, swallowing all illumination that touched it… It was too grotesque, too monstrous to belong to a dragon.

There were moments when he wished he could clutch his own heart and burst it apart.

The edge of his spreading anger soon targeted not himself but another.

“If you had been complete, none of this would have been an issue.”

Had Russell fully awakened to his sanctity, not just partial awareness, he could have cleansed the cursed remnants that lingered within his heart entirely.

Russell’s face twitched sourly at Jillian’s venom-tinged voice.

“Ah. Yes. I see.”

How many days had it been since those glaring eyes had been gazing down from the skies, following him? Whether he liked it or not, he had become accustomed.

After all, it wasn’t exactly Russell’s fault that Jillian had ended up this way.

‘It’s not something I should feel responsible for.’

Ignoring Jillian’s gaze, Russell took a big bite of his sandwich. But this conversation had yielded something useful.

‘There is… one among the cultists.’

The principal person who had led Jillian to corruption.

Thinking about the phrase “I cannot say” led to that inevitable conclusion.

‘A transcendent who once possessed the power to corrupt a dragon.’

It was unclear how such a being had survived the long passage of time.

Transcendents normally couldn’t live for thousands of years intact. The real concern, however, was how strong he remained.

It was then.

Jillian, who had been glaring at Russell, opened his mouth again.

“However, there is one thing that is certain…”

“…?”

“Even with your still meager sanctity and dominion, his curse is being stripped away.”

His eyes, as he turned to look at them, conveyed that message.

‘Not yet complete?’ Russell pondered. The side effects of living for thousands of years?

Or was there another issue?

Amidst the series of questions, assumptions, and possibilities, Jillian turned his body.

“Hmph.”

He snorted through his nostrils and spread his wings wide.

A moment later, rustle—.

Where Jillian had vanished, only the paper that had wrapped the sandwich lay discarded on the ground.

‘Even though he was going to eat it…’

Whoooosh.

The dry wind sprinted across the barren plains.

With it, the settled sand dust rose into the air, and Hubert opened his mouth in its midst.

“It’s in sight.”

He said, cleaning his monocle with a handkerchief.

True to his word.

Looking down slightly from the hill they stood upon, a vast military camp filled the area in view.

Fluttering inside the camp were flags adorned with symbols of nobility, magic towers, and knights’ orders.

Among them, one flag particularly stood out.

In comparison to the others, it was more than twice as big and hung very high, catching the wind’s embrace.

Embroidered with the image of a steed galloping across a blue field, it was unmistakably the national flag of Endymion.

‘The Skyhorse Banner.’

The camp at the foot of the hill belonged entirely to Endymion’s forces.

‘Roughly three hundred thousand strong.’

It was indeed a colossal military force, befitting one of the only two great powers on the continent.

It was enough to intimidate most nations by the mere congregation of such strength, more than sufficient to trample over any smaller surrounding states.

What was even more astonishing was that the present troops weren’t all they had; even now, scattered forces from around the empire were converging here.

But…

‘The opponent is the Empire.’

It wasn’t something to be fazed by.

The Grand War.

‘As usual, they’ll clash with us using even greater numbers than our own.’

Even the cultists had been taken under the Empire’s wing with the official recognition of the existence of the Black Tower.

The undead they created would join the Empire’s forces, and their numbers would swell beyond any seen before.

Whooooosh.

The wind that blew seemed to carry a scent of death, not just a figment of Hubert’s imagination.

With that reaffirmed in his mind, Russell spoke up.

“Let’s go.”

As Russell made the succinct statement and walked down the hill, Baron Donovan and Hubert followed suit.

At their front, the troops standing in tow moved in unison.

Knightly orders clad in full iron armor and magic soldiers wrapped in robes, along with ordinary infantrymen not belonging to either group.

Stomp, stomp, stomp—

A military twenty thousand strong.

Their marching boots caused the ground beneath to subtly rumble.

It was time to join the main force.

“…?”

Having led the troops down the hill for a while in the direction of the main force, Russell’s steps faltered.

He sensed a presence approaching from the direction of the camp, the main body of their forces.

‘Numbers over a hundred, and judging by the heavy treads and the sound of metal, most are armed soldiers.’

Moreover, the presence of figures leading the party felt anything but mediocre.

Under other circumstances, such an aura would have provoked immediate preparation for combat.

But Russell remained unphased.

The energy of the approaching group was unmistakably familiar.

For those at the head of the party gave off the aura of his master, Daria Snowwhite, and the eldest apprentice brother, Vermillion Ulsen.

Among others, familiar faces from the Flame Tower could be discerned.

‘It seems like the soldiers keeping lookout on the hill spotted us.’

As he thought this, both groups approached within recognizable distance—.

“Master.”

“I’ve heard the story, you rascal.”

—Russell began, and Daria laughed lightly in response.

“You made quite the name for yourself in the battlefield, haven’t you?”

The unassailable fortress, rumored in just one day, pierced single-handedly. Not just that, but back-to-back conquests of the Empire’s champions.

Among them were Empire’s arcane 6th circle sorcerers and even transcendents who had reached the 7th circle?

“It’s dizzying from all I heard.”

Daria grumbled, although her mouth was curved into a pleased smile, clear that she took pride in Russell’s achievements.

For there’s no greater relief than hearing of success and valor on the battlefield.

Of course, she knew well that there were few threats to Russell,

But that didn’t stop the worry that always nags at a master’s heart, akin to that which one feels for a child left by the water.

Remembering the reports that flowed in, she smiled warmly.

Then her gaze rested on Hubert, who stood beside Russell, and she remarked,

“It seems you have arrived at new realization as well.”

“Heh.”

Embarrassed by his master’s accurate read, Hubert chuckled bashfully.

Vermillion, overhearing the conversation, suddenly exclaimed with surprise.

“Is that true, my apprentice?”

His reaction showed no jealousy towards his younger apprentice brother, but rather, camaraderie in their shared path towards higher understanding.

“It seems there is no hiding from Master’s eyes.”

As Hubert nodded, acknowledging the truth, Vermillion beamed and approached with his thunderous laughter.

“Ha ha ha! Congratulations! I’m thrilled! Now I have a comrade to walk this path with me!”

Having stalled at the threshold of the 6th circle for years, he too had caught a glimpse of the 7th circle’s horizon.

Now, he could journey forward with his apprentice.

Thump, thump!

About ten years ago,

After the conversation with Russell, Hubert had not slacked in his training.

He even learned martial arts to counteract his weaknesses as a spellcaster.

However—

“Ugh… Ah, that hurts, brother.”

Despite all his efforts, he still couldn’t withstand Vermillion’s slap.

After all, even as a mage, Vermillion possessed the strength to shatter boulders with his fists.

And with the unique techniques learned from dwarves, his muscles, already tough, became highly compressed.

“Tsk tsk. What was I thinking taking that guy as my apprentice…”

Rather a fighter than a mage.

Chiding while looking at the formidable figure of Vermillion, who seemed to have overdosed on some mutant elixir, Daria then suddenly asked Russell,

“Nothing special happened on the way here?”

“Yes. Nothing…”

As he was about to reply routinely, Russell trailed off mid-sentence.

“—?”

“Nothing special, perhaps, but there is something I should report.”

“Report?”

He nodded and then succinctly explained what had occurred on their way here: the discovery and repulsion of an undead horde using elementals to scout the skies.

“Hmm.”

After the short recount,

“I have no intention of belittling your minor feat to dampen the spirits, but…”

Daria’s voice came heavily laden with meaning,

“…it seems to have been of little significance.”

Her gaze was no longer on Russell—she was looking off in a completely different direction. Russell nodded in agreement and turned his eyes to share her focus.

“Yes.”

Somewhere in that direction likely lay the Imperial army’s formation.

Even if one were to estimate roughly, the distance between both encampments must have been over ten kilometers.

Even enhancing vision with magic, one couldn’t see the camp’s palisades, let alone a flag from this distance.

Yet, Russell was convinced of their presence there for a simple reason.

‘The stench and morale…’

An unmistakably malign aura seemed to flow from that direction, somewhere beyond the horizon.

How many undead would it take to create such overwhelming morale?

‘At least hundreds of thousands…’

Or perhaps such a number of the dead wouldn’t even suffice to replicate such oppressive morale.

Plus, not to mention the cultists and high-rank undead mixed in—how many would there be?

It wouldn’t be a question of simply unearthing bodies from graveyards.

For such morale and military size, countless innocents must have been sacrificed as well.

‘Less than beasts…’

—Clench!

Feeling the spirits’ aggrievement, Russell gripped his fist until it nearly crushed.

Once, he had opposed the cultists just for his father’s death and social convention, but not anymore.

For the sake of peace in the material world, these beings must be eradicated—his own sanctity, from a time when dragons were known as guardians of the material plane and he, the Empyrean crowned at its peak, insisted upon it.

‘That son of a…’

Watching Russell’s expression, Daria inwardly muttered.

He had been the fastest-growing among her disciples.

It would have been a lie to say she never worried he might be intoxicated by his power and stray.

But defying those fears, her youngest disciple continued to walk the right path.

‘…Quite admirable.’

After glancing once at her first and second disciples, who were still engaged in their usual banter—

“You all and the troops as well must be weary from the journey…”

—She spoke once more.

“We should head inside.”

“Yes.”

Feeling his fingernails digging into the palm of his hand, Russell nodded.

Continuing to face the deadly morale that felt suffocating, nigh on asphyxiating.

The Mage who Swallowed a Dragon

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