Ancient Dragon Eruhaben was quietly standing on the walls of the Caro Kingdom's Dubori territory while looking forward.
The soldiers could only peek at him but could not approach him. It was because he was giving off a presence that made it hard to approach.
Eruhaben hair fluttered in the wind.
The wind that had been blowing from the sea to the land during the day and changed direction from land to sea as soon as midnight passed and a new day began.
Dark Elf Tasha had explained to him about this sudden change in the wind when she snuck out in the afternoon to see him.
‘The wind always blows from land to sea when the dead mana smoke is rising in the desert.’
That was why it was rare for the dead mana smoke that started at the center of the desert to reach the Dubori territory.
‘Furthermore, the Dark Elves also have members who use Wind Elementals and mages to make the wind stronger in order to be careful about any potential changes.’
Eruhaben had thought that the Dark Elves were very nice when he heard that.
The Dark Elves were living underground as they were hiding from humans and other races who tried to kill them.
But according to Tasha, they had worked hard for a long time to make sure the dead mana smoke didn't reach the Dubori territory.
‘That is not the case. Eruhaben-nim, this is not for the Dubori territory nor the humans. It would be bad if the secret of the desert was revealed and the Caro Kingdom ends up finding us while investigating it. We did it because we were afraid we would lose our home.’
Tasha was saying that it was not for the other living beings, but the fact that there were humans living happily in the Underground City showed that the Dark Elves were generous beings.
He turned his head after hearing a voice.
Shaman Gashan, the chief of the Tiger tribe, smiled while looking at Eruhaben.
Gashan could not call Eruhaben by name nor call him Dragon-nim right now, so he was temporarily calling him leader. Eruhaben slightly bowed to the person he saw once Gashan took a step to the side.
Crown prince Valentino was standing behind Gashan. Behind him were some of the nearby territory lords with stronger forces.
“How dare he in front of his highness! This, that arrogant-!”
One of the territory lords in the crown prince's faction was starting to get angry at the fact that Eruhaben's actions were rude, but Valentino waved his hand to stop him.
“Your highness! But look at the way that guy greeted you! He dares-”
The noble shut his mouth at Valentino's repeated response. He knew there would be no benefit if he argued about it once more.
“I wish for all the territory lords to head down. I have something to say to him in private.”
The territory lords looked confused at Valentino’s comment but they soon bowed and headed down from the city wall.
Valentino, whose complexion had gotten significantly worse over a single day, looked toward the nobles with a tired expression before turning toward Eruhaben.
“I don’t know how to address you.”
“Whatever is easiest for you is fine, sir.”
Valentino thoroughly observed the only two members of Cale’s group that were left at this castle.
The shaman, Gashan. He treated Valentino in a very respectful and cheeky way even though he was quite old. However, Valentino could tell that Gashan was a strong individual through his gentle demeanor.
His large stature gave off a natural sense of pressure, but he had also seen how Gashan had controlled the crows in the Dubori territory. Furthermore, he could not treat him like his own subordinates after learning that he was a Tiger and expecting that he would have extreme physical strength as well.
‘But that guy is still easier to deal with. As for this mage in front of me-!’
Valentino looked toward Eruhaben with an odd gaze.
He had seen how Gashan acted around Cale. That was how he could tell how much Gashan respected Cale. However, that person was even more humble to this mage.
‘He is at minimum a highest-grade mage.’
That was the determination the Caro Kingdom's mages had about this mage in front of him.
It was shocking that such a strong individual was by Cale’s side, but Valentino was more shocked at himself.
‘Something is weird. I can’t easily handle him.’
Eruhaben had given quite a rude greeting to the crown prince of a kingdom, but Valentino's intuition had told him to let it be.
Eruhaben had a thought on his mind as he looked at Valentino.
‘He has a pretty good intuition.’
Eruhaben had completely suppressed his Dragon Fear. Even still, this crown prince was being wary of Eruhaben and cautiously treading around him.
Valentino was using an informal tone as he did with the others, however, he was keeping quiet about Eruhaben's actions that could be seen as arrogant.
He also enthusiastically approached Eruhaben.
This was a human with a strong intuition.
“I will simply call you mage then.”
Valentino who stopped talking for a moment as if he was thinking cautiously continued to speak.
“Have you received any communication from Commander Cale?”
Valentino who asked the question felt as if his mind would overflow with complicated issues right now.
The Caro Kingdom had sent a declaration to all of the Western continent's kingdoms, principalities, and free cities. It was actually more of a request for cooperation than a declaration.
He had done it because he decided he couldn't just let things be.
Valentino recalled what the Dubori lord had said once he came back to his senses.
‘Your highness. I didn't even know I was bewitched! I swear! Do I look like someone who is crazy enough to drag such a person into my territory? He's someone connected to black magic!’
The scared Dubori lord begged to Valentino. Valentino, as well as the rest of the Caro Kingdom’s political world, felt significantly concerned after seeing his reaction.
That was fear that the Northern Kingdoms… Then the Mogoru Empire… And then the Caro Kingdom and everywhere else would all be swept away by this White Star bastard in the future.
They also felt anger.
‘How dare he…!’
He dares to control the Caro Kingdom as he wishes?
What the White Star tried to do was not to attack the Caro Kingdom but trick it and play with it.
That fact made Valentino even angrier.
The entire Caro Kingdom was full of anger and fear as well and they agreed that they should do whatever is necessary to overcome this situation.
That was why the kingdom had chosen to display its power openly.
Each territory will start to gather troops starting tomorrow and the mages and knights who were spread out had to return to the capital.
The other kingdoms that had received the declaration showed support for the Caro Kingdom's actions. There were many who were still feeling chaotic or that the Caro Kingdom was going overboard, but everybody agreed that they needed to do something, whether that be big or small.
He had received a letter from the Roan Kingdom's crown prince Alberu Crossman not too long ago.
< Let’s meet in the next three days. >
The influential people of the Western continent would gather to the Roan Palace.
‘It’s only right for the Roan Kingdom to take the lead.’
Valentino knew the strength of the Caro Kingdom. That was why he handed the reins over to the Roan Kingdom even though they were the first to step up.
He had no complaints about it. Instead, Valentino recalled what crown prince Alberu had added to the end of that message.
< Please take care of Cale Henituse, my sworn younger brother. >
The story about how Alberu Crossman took Choi Han as his instructor and Cale as his sworn brother was famous throughout the Western continent.
However, something else had caught Valentino’s attention instead of those words.
Valentino had been swept up in an indescribable emotion when he read that name.
That was why he left the strategy tent and headed up the wall. He had then asked this mage in front of him if there was any contact from Cale.
However, the mage did not give Valentino the answer he desired.
“No, your highness. We have not received any contact from the young master-nim yet.”
Valentino bit down on his lips. He could not hold back the frustration building up inside him and started to speak.
“…For dead mana smoke to be rising from the desert……!”
He had tried to follow the White Star who had chased after Cale into the desert.
He could make that decision because numerous troops had come to the Dubori territory and more were on their way. However, all of the troops could only stay in the Dubori territory after Eruhaben stopped them and informed them about the dead mana smoke.
Of course, Cale had discussed with the Dark Elves about this in advance before revealing the information to Valentino.
They were originally not going to reveal this information, but they had no choice because the White Star had charged into the Dubori territory and the Caro Kingdom’s forces were gathered there.
They couldn’t just let the Caro Kingdom’s troops in the Dubori territory charge forward into the desert.
Tasha had laughed about this.
‘Well, that’s good. Nobody should come to the desert anymore because they are afraid of the dead mana smoke.’
She was correct.
The nobles who were shouting loudly to kill the White Star were the first to withdraw.
Valentino looked toward the desert.
He could not see the dead mana smoke properly because of the dark night sky and the black desert.
But he thought he could faintly make out something that looked like heat simmer.
He would have thought it was a mirage in the past, but knowing what it was made him afraid.
That was why Valentino could not help but ask.
“Commander Cale is going to fight inside that black smoke?”
Humans will die if they absorb dead mana.
Cale should know that as well. But he was willing to place himself into that deathtrap?
“Yes, sir. The young master-nim is fighting in the desert.”
Valentino looked toward the calmly responding Eruhaben and asked again.
“The Dark Elves and necromancer are one thing, but won't Commander Cale and the sword master be in danger if they absorb the dead mana smoke?”
“…Even though young master Cale said he would be safe and that he had a way to fight…”
Forget his position as a crown prince; Valentino started to get emotional as he felt thankful and sorry to Cale in a humane way.
He was sad, but he was also filled with anticipation.
He felt sad thinking about Cale who would suffer, but he was excited at a potential future without the White Star.
Eruhaben observed Valentino whose emotions were completely visible on his face as he caressed his chin.
‘It’s true that Cale Henituse is suffering. That unlucky bastard is always wearing himself out…. Should I help him out?’
Eruhaben started to speak for that unlucky bastard.
“Is there something you wish to say?”
Valentino looked toward Eruhaben with curiosity as this was the first time Eruhaben called out to him to speak. Eruhaben who received his gaze continued to speak in a calm voice.
"There is a way for a living human to fight effectively in dead mana.”
Valentino's eyes instantly opened wide.
“What is it? What is the method? Quickly tell me!”
He wanted to head out to the desert with his knights if there was such a method.
Eruhaben looked at Valentino's eyes that clearly showed what he was thinking and continued to speak.
“That is to spray or cover your entire body with life force.”
“Yes, sir. Life force.”
Tiger shaman Gashan flinched and looked toward Eruhaben.
The method Eruhaben was describing was a very stupid and very scary and sad method.
‘I guess he really is a Dragon.’
Gashan thought that Eruhaben saying it as if it was nothing made him very Dragon-like.
However, he kept his mouth shut and did not interrupt their conversation. He knew Eruhaben must have a reason for doing this.
Valentino looked toward Eruhaben and started to speak.
“How does life force help fight against dead mana?”
“Dead mana is, as the name indicates, a dead presence. The opposite and incompatible presence to that is a living presence, life force. That was why dead mana cannot approach someone who is covered in life force.”
“Then what is that life force? If it is the opposite of dead mana, is it regular mana?”
“No, sir. We are talking about the opposite and incompatible force to death. It is not a discussion of mana.”
Eruhaben said one word without any traces of a smile on his face.
Valentino’s whole body instantly stiffened.