Chapter 343 - Unknown Land (4)
'Pledge? Transcendent? Furthermore, not allowed in the swamp?'
As words, of which he couldn't understand the context, poured out, Theodore inwardly estimated the power of the dragon. The superiority of power was a great variable in any situation. However, Theodore was soon forced to gulp. 'Damn, a monster. He is literally on a different level.'
At first glance, the dragon was far stronger than the hydra. The dragon wasn't a Desertio-level presence, but he was at least an ancient monster. He had stopped Abraxas with simple Dragon Words. If he wanted to hurt the three people, he would be able to temporarily seal Theodore's magic.
The dragon hadn't done this, so Theodore scattered the spell he had completed. He felt that this could be solved with words rather than fighting.
"Huh? Something is strange. Wait a minute." At this moment, the dragon looked at Theodore with wide eyes. "You aren't transcendent? Your spirit is high, but it isn't over the limit. It seems you are at the boundary? It is interesting that you have a transcendental spirit."
The red dragon didn't ask for an answer because he could see through everything. After realizing Theodore's abilities, the red dragon made a strange expression and then closed his eyes like he was thinking. However, there was someone who interfered with his silence.
[Kuaaaaaah! I will get rid of you! Tear you into hundreds of pieces!] The hydra finally shook off the mud hands.
The snake overturned the ground in a violent manner and was able to smash the solid clay. Its tail dug into the ground as its six heads roared. This was an ignorant destructive force. As Theodore's group regained his vigilance, the red dragon opened his mouth and spoke in a low voice, "Hey."
The hydra's frenzied body stiffened. [...Yes?]
"Shut up before you make me angry."
"I don't want to say it twice."
The hydra became aware of the irritation in the voice of the red dragon, Brasmati, and fell silent. There was a clear hierarchical relationship between them. Despite the difference in strength, there was a strange relationship between the dragon and endangered creature. Didn't it seem like Red Dragon Brasmati and the hydra were working together?
'My guess may be right, but let's put it on hold for the moment.'
There were so many problems before Theodore that he couldn't afford to worry about anymore. Theodore had to prioritize his thoughts while waiting for Brasmati to open his mouth. Randolph and Titania were also aware of the identity of their opponent and held their breaths.
"Ah," Brasmati soon spoke. "I just thought of something. Was it you? Aquilo, she said she has a blood contract with a human magician."
"I suppose your body odor is familiar because of Aquilo's blood? It is mixed in with the smell of another... that I don't know."
Theodore remembered the face of his lover. Was Veronica, a quarter dragon who had inherited the blood of a red dragon, related to Brasmati somehow? However, Theodore didn't speak his thoughts.
Even if the dragon before him really was closely related to her, it wouldn't be strange if Theodore didn't know about him. Theodore and Veronica were lovers, so he knew Veronica had an unhappy childhood because her grandfather, the dragon, hadn't taken care of her at all.
'...Dragons are a species who don't care about blood relations.' Theodore knew this, but he couldn't stop his gaze from becoming colder. If this dragon was one of those who had made Veronica suffer, then an unnecessary hostility would emerge.
It was much better to pretend not to know anything.
"Well, good. You wouldn't have made the pledge since you aren't a transcendent," Brasmati spoke without any consideration toward Theodore. "There are two options for you. If you were an outsider, I would've driven you out already. But you have Aquilo's blood, meaning you are no longer an outsider."
"What are the choices?"
"One, give up on moving forward and go back in good health. Stop searching the areas you haven't reached yet." Brasmati looked at them with calm eyes. There was no malice in his gaze, but neither was there a liking toward them. It was a dull gaze with no interest on whether Theodore died.
Then he shrugged and warned them lightly, "There is no reason to stop mortals from staying, but I can't let you act as a variable. If you dare move forward, I will stop you will be own strength."
"...Then what is the second choice?"
"Heh, you are wise."
Theodore didn't think he would die. However, it was true that the odds were slim. A dragon approached the area beyond the framework of life and was almost comparable to a god. The risk for a fight without any merits was ridiculously huge. It was a situation with a 70% chance of collapsing, a 20% of getting annihilated, and a 10% chance of having one or two deaths. In such a situation, there was no reason to fight.
"Secondly, come with me to the middle of the swamp and cooperate with our work. If you do, I will allow you to move forward and promise a reward equivalent to your merit."
"...Can I know the situation before choosing?"
"No. If you were another person, you would've been sent back regardless of your capabilities. Now, make your choice."
Theodore shut up at Brasmati's words. Brasmati didn't want an 8th circle magician. He wanted a 'competent magician linked to Aquilo.'
According to the information he'd gathered before heading to the swamp, there were at least five dragons gathered here. Assuming there were two or three on the same level as Brasmati, Theodore wouldn't be able to endure it. What was the problem that they couldn't disclose it yet had to ask for his cooperation?
'The situation is serious enough that the dragons on the continent have gathered together. It is also so secret they have to stop the intervention of other species.'
Even without his super sensitivity, he could tell that the future would change dramatically depending on the choice he made here. To step back without obtaining anything or take the risk and move forward... The greatest magician in this age stood at the crossroads where no magician would hesitate.
* * *
"First, let me explain the pledge related to the swamp."
Once they started moving, Red Dragon Brasmati explained the history that they didn't know.
It was a story that of what happened thousands of years ago.
In the latter half of the Age of Mythology, many superpowers and high-grade species had existed all over the world, even though it wasn't comparable to the peak of the period. During that time, the swamp didn't reject civilization like it did now, nor was it a place where mutated creatures lived. More than 100 demonic energy sites had been sealed by strong hands, and the southern part of the continent had once been the most prosperous tourist spot in the continent.
Then the destruction started suddenly one day.
"13 transcendents living on the southern continent died in one day. The causes of death consisted of heart attack, brain death, respiratory arrest, and so on. The people who would live even when thrown out into the universe were wiped out. At first, we thought a demon king had descended."
"...That wasn't the case?"
"No, it would be easy to kill if a demon king had been summoned."
For a demon king to be treated as a wild beast from another dimension... Theodore made a frightened expression.
After all, Nídhöggur was in the category of a demon king. He was a transcendent who could turn the horizon upside down with a single flap of the wings and who had induced the onset of darkness with a single command. Yet, in the Age of Mythology, even demon kings had been subject to subjugation. They would descend once a century and be defeated.
'There is something more dangerous and difficult than a demon king? A great demon king?' Theodore was mumbling these words in his mind.
It was then when Brasmati stopped walking and looked back. From here on out, he cut to the chase.
"A grimoire. One grimoire ate more than a dozen transcendents at the end of the Age of Mythology. When we became aware of its existence, we sealed it with the help of a safe and over 40 people."
Theodore's expression became blank. He knew the power of a grimoire, but he didn't know of a grimoire that could eat a dozen transcendents. He couldn't help raising his voice, "If the transcendents really died that way, isn't it a disaster for the continent? Why wasn't such a disaster recorded?"
"There are three major reasons." The hot and damp air stirred around Brasmati. "One, only transcendents, not mortals, died. It was a raid only on transcendents... Although, the word 'raid' is also strange. It is more suitable to say transition."
"Two, we covered up the history. If someone got their hands on a grimoire that could threaten transcendents, it could jeopardize the world. The hydra is a guardian we prepared a long time ago. Transcendents don't enter this swamp, and the hydra can easily beat mortals."
The three people looked at each other with confused faces at this wave of truth.
The unknown land, the southern swamp that had been unexplored for thousands of years... It was an area where people had once flourished, and the cause of the swamp's current state was a grimoire. Any historians who heard this would have a defining moment of their career.
"Then why doesn't the hydra have any practical experience?"
"There are rarely any strong people who aren't transcendents. Most of them can be defeated with just its poison and body, so it didn't feel the need to sharpen its combat skills."
"Then the third reason?"
Brasmati went silent for a moment. Then he replied with a stiff expression without looking back, "It is simple."
Only a dragon could intervene with this seal.
"The grimoire can't be described by any means other than 'memories'."
The meaning of his words was vague, but Brasmati didn't explain any further. No, he arrived at his destination before he could say any more.
"We're here. I will tell you the rest after the introductions."
As Brasmati spoke, Theodore felt a shadow over his face. Someone was approaching from above them. The approach didn't involve an enemy, so Theodore's reaction rate was slightly slow. He barely raised his eyes when something white and blue pounced on him.
"―Boy!" Theodore's face was deeply buried in something. "Did you come to pick me up? I thought you abandoned me after calling a few times. I'm sorry I misunderstood."
"Uh, your voice is coming from my chest, not my mind? You have grown since I last saw you, Boy."
"Uup, let me go, puhaah!" Theodore barely managed to escape from the slender beauty, stepping away from Aquilo with a reddened face.
A few years wasn't a long time for a dragon who lived for thousands of years, but her welcome was more excited than he had thought it would be. She'd grabbed his neck and buried his face in her chest. The reddening of his face was caused by his breath being blocked, not because of Aquilo's smell or texture... probably.
"It has been a while. I didn't know we would be reunited here."
Aquilo grinned at Theodore's serious tone. "Really? I knew you would come."
"What does that mean?"
"From now on, you will know. Our last lord is waiting for you."
Facing Theodore's wide eyes, the dragon of the sea laughed at him. "Yes, the dragon lord. Don't you know about it?"
That's right. It was impossible not to know.