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Chapter 266 – The Die is Cast (4)

    Chapter 266 - The Die is Cast (4)

    At the easternmost part of the northern continent, in the port city of Ribenda in Meltor, there was a disturbance.

    In fact, even though it was a port city, the sea currents in the north were so rough that it couldn't be used as a trading port. It was common for boats and large passenger ships to break easily in stormy weather, so this port was usually empty.

    However, today was an exception, as a special guest was filling up the vacant seat. It was a sea dragon that sailors called 'sea serpent.'

    Despite the tight restrictions of the guards, there were constant footsteps of those who wanted to see Aquilo. They felt both honored and fearful. The people were also in awe. The petty monsters on the ground were incomparable to dragons.

    "Back off! This is the army!"

    "Anyone who approaches any further will be arrested!"

    Far from the tight barrier of the guards, Theodore sighed with relief as he stepped into his homeland for the first time in ages.

    "This is why I wanted a secret landing."

    It was as he said. Sea dragons might be half as big as the dragons of other dragon clans, but their size still couldn't be hidden by the high waves.

    Aquilo created 20-meter-tall waves as she carried Theodore to the shore. Unlike a tsunami, there was no secondary damage. However, it was inevitable that he would catch the attention of the residents.

    However, instead of apologizing for it, Aquilo tightly hugged Theodore's left arm and giggled. "What's wrong? No one got injured or killed. Besides, you arrived on time, so shouldn't you be proud?"

    "Hah." Unlike before, Theodore didn't move his arm. He just sighed with a resigned expression. Aquilo's white skin felt smoother than usual. What had happened to cause this diminishing distance between the two?

    "Anyway, thank you for your favor, Boy. With this, our contract has further deepened."

    "Hey...!"

    While whispering sweetly into his ear, Aquilo reached out and touched Theodore's body.

    She touched his well-tempered chest and abdomen. It wasn't sexual at all, but whenever she touched him, Theodore recalled the memories of the past few days couldn't help gritting his teeth. Or maybe it was because Aquilo's blood, which was inside him, was thicker than before.

    He barely overcame the temptation.

    To be honest, Theodore had said 'I will do anything' because he knew the nature of the sea dragon. He never worried that Aquilo would try to make an unfair demand, and that she would ask for something equivalent to crossing the sea.

    So, when he first heard her request, he had doubted his ears.

    -Then I want to take your 'essence', how about it?

    Theodore had no experience with the opposite sex, but it was impossible for him to not understand what 'essence' meant.

    There had been a fierce conflict in Theodore's mind the moment he received Aquilo's invitation. She was a wicked dragon, but she was beautiful and had developed the skill of melting males for over a thousand years.

    Ellenoa's confession and a few other things crossed his mind. However, Theodore's suffering occurred next.

    -Hrmm, does that mean it is fine as long as I don't go all the way?

    -What? No, wait a minute!

    -There is no reason to refuse. There are many ways...

    Theodore realized that remembering it was causing a counterproductive effect, so he shook his head. He hadn't crossed the last line, but he had climbed the stairs of an adult in many ways. Therefore, he wasn't upset at Aquilo clinging to him like this.

    Her thin white fingers and moist lips...

    "Ugh." Theodore shook off his light dizziness and pulled his arm away from Aquilo. "It is done now. Don't stick so close to me."

    "Kek, there is no need to be ashamed―" Aquilo was still relaxed despite Theodore's rejection. She had the face of a sated lioness and didn't hide her satisfaction at all. He couldn't beat her when it came to this.

    Theodore was convinced and placed his left hand on his body instead of dealing with Aquilo further. Then...

    [+20 Aquilo's Blood Mark (Imprint)

    -An imprint using the blood of the sea dragon, Aquilo. Additionally, Aquilo has received permission from the owner of this imprint and has strengthened the contract. The imprint has reached stage 2, allowing the owner to receive part of the dragon's power. If the relationship with the partner of the blood mark becomes hostile, it will naturally be destroyed.

    * The rating of this imprint is 'Treasure.'

    * The user's water affinity will significantly increase.

    * The user will be given the 'Sea Dragon's Blessing'.

    * It is possible to summon the sea dragon, Aquilo.

    * It is possible to use Dragon Words five times a day.

    * User's physical abilities and magic power will greatly increase. Applying magic power to the blood mark will allow dragon scales to appear. The lowest level of 'Dragon Fear' can be used.]

    The information window of the blood mark, which was two times more powerful, appeared before Theodore's eyes. The number of times he could use Dragon Words had increased from three to five, and the procedure required to summon Aquilo was shortened.

    However, those changes were minor compared to the added abilities. His physical abilities and magic power were amplified, and he gained dragon scales and even Dragon Fear. Theodore received an overwhelming power that similar to Veronica's mixed blood.

    Kkuok. Theodore clenched his fists and shook his head.

    'Both my strength and endurance have increased significantly. I haven't used the dragon scales yet, but this alone is a tremendous achievement.'

    He had the power to bend iron with his hands, and his magic power was almost at the 8th circle. It couldn't be judged simply by the total amount of magic power, but Theodore could proudly proclaim that he was twice as powerful as other 7th Circle magicians.

    If he fought Marquis Fergana now, wouldn't he be able to win easily?

    "Well, it looks like you are satisfied in your own way."

    "I won't thank you."

    "Of course. It was part of the deal. But still..." Aquilo murmured. Then like a serpent, she wrapped her arms around Theodore's neck and whispered, "Didn't it feel good?"

    Theodore didn't deny it as his cheek was stroked, and the notorious dragon snickered. He looked at her and suddenly realized, "Are you leaving?'

    "Yes, for the moment, I plan to wander and watch the war. If I stay here, I think I will somehow get used to it. It might be fun, but it isn't to my taste."

    Just like how humans watched the ants at their feet, this war was just a spectacle to Aquilo.

    She might be a beautiful woman, but she was also a dragon. Aquilo didn't try to deny or excuse her nature. She would stay true to her essence until she was killed or reached the end of her life.

    Theodore gazed at her calmly. Then Aquilo smiled and said goodbye. "Boy, those eyes... Don't forget. If you melt easily for me, you will just be an ordinary idiot."

    "Don't speak nonsense and just go."

    "There is no need to be ashamed." Aquilo walked into the sea without looking back. Then she turned into her dragon form and said to him, "Ah, I'll say one thing before I go."

    "What is it?"

    "It isn't a big deal. The next time you call me―"

    Her mouth submerged in the water didn't make any noise, but Theodore heard the rest.

    "...Damn." Theodore's face flushed red as he let out a breath. In this field that wasn't a fight, he seemed to be defeated by Aquilo. Theodore gazed at the distant sea until the people from Mana-vil arrived to meet him.

    In many ways, it was a disturbing farewell.

    *     *     *

    Theodore headed into an unused VIP room in the mansion of Ribenda's lord and found familiar faces.

    "Master!" Theodore called out.

    Vince Haidel, a Prime of the red tower and his teacher, jumped up and greeted him.

    News of Theodore's circumstances was concealed inside the magic towers, but Theodore's story had been fully conveyed to Vince since he was Theodore's teacher. Theodore's return was miraculous for Vince, who was well aware of the reputation of the 2nd Sword, Zest.

    "You are surprisingly okay!"

    Theodore awkwardly smiled at Vince's disbelieving voice and scratched his head.

    "You are very excited, Master."

    "I guess you are fine since you are talking like this. I'm glad."

    "I'm also glad that Master is well."

    They embraced firmly and shared the joy of the reunion. It couldn't be helped since Theodore hadn't met him for a while. After all, Vince was a war mage, and he was already on the battlefield.

    However, Theodore saw that he wasn't alone.

    Sylvia, who had come to meet him with Vince, waited for her turn with shining eyes.

    Theodore turned to look at her and felt a sense of discomfort. '...Um? Her atmosphere seems different from before?'

    Sylvia had grown up as a genius separated from her peers, so she didn't call anyone a friend aside from Theodore.

    Like a watercolor painting painted in black and white, Sylvia was always distant from her surroundings. It wasn't what she wanted, but she didn't know how to change it. Therefore, Sylvia always reluctantly stepped back from people.

    "It has been a while, Sylvia. Have you been well?"

    Unlike before, her presence was sharp. Sylvia smiled brightly as she greeted him, "Yes, I'm glad that Theo is healthy."

    Her features and body were the same. However, her childish emotions were gone, and Sylvia seemed more like everyone else. Was it called the three days of bereavement?

    He could feel that her magic power had been well trained in the three months which had passed. Her old weakness that could have been pierced at any time had completely disappeared. It seems Theodore wasn't the only person who had progressed in the last three months.

    The three people talked for an hour.

    Theodore explained about his experience in the East and other small things. The two people paid close attention to Theodore as he spoke. They didn't want to admit the difficult reality where he had almost been killed and then returned from far away.

    He appreciated their care, but it was time to stop this warm moment. "Master, Sylvia."

    The two people looked at each other. Then Theodore laughed. "I am fine. I know the current situation. I really appreciate your intentions, but I think our kingdom is more important than my trip."

    "Theodore, I..."

    "Master, don't hesitate to speak. What is happening in Meltor?"

    Vince sighed at his words. It wasn't a sense of guilt or responsibility toward Theodore but a daunting reminder of who his disciple was. The boy was different from when they first met. The young boy from the countryside had grown into a dignified hero of the kingdom.

    Vince settled his heart, arranged the situation in his head, and opened his mouth to speak. "To put it briefly, it is a seesaw game."

    Then Vince continued explaining to Theodore.

    Shortly after the declaration of war, Meltor had hit three of Andras' border bastions with three vanguard units: Veronica who could be called a one-man army; the assassination operation of the troops led by White Tower Master Orta; and the war and ghost mages who were mobilized on the plains.

    Among them, one had been successful, and one had failed. The remaining one had yet to fully engage in battle.

    "Veronica smashed the fortress without difficulty, but White Tower Master was engaged in a desperate battle with the 3rd Sword. Except for Karul Plains where the fighting continues, the rest is in a lull."

    "I see."

    "Meltor has secretly dispatched envoys to Elvenheim and Austen. According to the intelligence agency, there are 2,000 troops from Lairon that are moving to Andras. An unprecedented war will take place this time in the north."

    On one side, there was Meltor, Elvenheim, and Austen. While on the other side, there was Andras and Lairon. This was at a scale which seemed like it was including the whole West Continent in the dispute.

    The prelude to a historic war was rising. Theodore got a thrill as he once again realized this fact.

    'Andras and Meltor... One of them will surely perish...!'

    Regardless of whether he knew the feelings of the silent Theodore, Vince's hadn't finished speaking yet.

    "Kargas is neutral, but they don't want Andras to win. Well, they aren't a big force."

    "...Finally, it is starting."

    "Yes, it is finally starting," Vince's eyes flashed intensely as he declared with fighting spirit, "The unification war of the Northern Continent...!"
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