The Hero Returns – Chapter 293

Chapter 293: Chapter 293

* * *

Su-hyeun stayed behind in the reception room and mulled over his conversation with the emperor, Wick Bradley.

Bradley wanted him—or more correctly, he wanted the power Su-hyeun possessed because Bradley was gathering powerful individuals to his side.

When Su-hyeun asked for the reason, the emperor simply replied that it was related to the “predator.”

“Is it a coincidence?”

More than anything else, he kept thinking back to what Bradley said toward the end—that the predator was the monster that preyed upon this world.

Su-hyeun had only ever heard such a thing once in his entire life.

“It’s the same as what Fafnir said.”

In Su-hyeun’s final moments, Fafnir told him that it would devour him and then finish preying upon the world.

Although he was too exhausted and dying at the time, he still clearly remembered those words. And that was precisely why Su-hyeun just couldn’t get rid of Bradley’s words from his head.

“The predator…”

When he initially heard the term “predator,” he thought it was a title simply reserved for a type of existence that sat on top of the local food chain. But the “predator” Bradley was thinking of didn’t seem to be the same creature.

Su-hyeun took a look at the reception room he was in.

At first, he figured this world was an ordinary one.

Even if this was a unified empire, nothing seemed all that special about it. Unifying a continent under one rule wouldn’t be an impossibility if a kingdom or an empire boasting an overwhelming military strength existed somewhere, after all.

He also wasn’t too perturbed either after learning about the knights of this world training in the Sage Arts called “aura control.” There was no rule saying that only Sun Wukong and the Bull Demon King could learn the discipline called the Sage Arts, after all.

However, after his encounter with Emperor Wick Bradley, Su-hyeun began questioning the existence referred to as the predator.

“Whatever the case may be, there’s no point if I stop here.”

Bradley said that Su-hyeun should come to see him tomorrow if the latter decided to join him.

So, he had to choose between two options: leave or stay.

He didn’t need long to make up his mind.

If he left now, it would become impossible to progress further in this trial.

He still hadn’t found anything concrete about who this Bradley could be and what kind of existence the objective of this trial, the “predator,” even was. However, he at least had run into a sliver of hint right now.

But if he left the imperial palace, he would not get to learn anything more.

“Okay. Let’s do it.”

Bradley.

The “predator.”

Su-hyeun silently mulled on that name and that title.

And so, a day had passed by inside the 100th floor’s trial to herald the arrival of a brand new morning.

* * *

Chirp, chirp—

Shwa-aaaah—

The singing of birds and the sound of a waterfall filled the morning air.

Bright sunlight cast down from the clear sky above highlighted the beautiful scenery decorated by verdant grass and colorful flowers.

Bradley was strolling around in the imperial palace’s garden but stopped and turned around. It had taken a while before his visitor showed up as he was taking his usual morning stroll.

“Have you decided?” he asked while taking another look at the flower garden.

It was as if he didn’t feel all that interested in the person standing behind him.

A reply soon came his way.

“What will you do after I hear what you have to say and still wish to leave?”

“Answering a question with another question? I’ve never enjoyed humoring such a thing.” Bradley seemed to consider for a little while and then replied, “It sounds like you’re mistaken about something here. When I asked you to join me, I didn’t mean you should become my retainer. No, it’s as I said. Join me, and fight alongside me. Well, regardless of what, if I was correct in reading you, then you’d probably choose to stick by my side anyway.”

Bradley’s behavior today was somewhat different from yesterday when he was so set on convincing Su-hyeun to become his ally.

Su-hyeun became curious at that type of response that seemed to communicate, “Can’t be helped in that case,” and simply had to ask. “What do you see me as?”

“The same type of person as me.” While saying that, Bradley picked a flower up and held it in his hand. The flower’s color suddenly paled before all of its moisture was drained from it. It withered and dried up before disintegrating into powder. “A monster full of ambition. No, more correctly, someone who’d become such a monster.”

“That’s a bit difficult to understand.”

“You won’t understand now even if I explain to you. Let me add one more thing. I’ve spread aura control to the rest of the world so that I can find people like you.”

Of course, the “aura control” was the discipline Su-hyeun knew as the Sage Arts.

He knew that Bradley distributed the Sage Arts and let the knights master them, but to think that the purpose of doing that was to find others like him?

“When you train in aura control, you will inevitably awaken a unique ability specific to an individual. Were you aware of this fact?”

Su-hyeun nodded at Bradley’s question.

He already heard from the Bull Demon King about awakening one’s unique abilities through the Sage Arts. Not to forget, he had witnessed it in full display for half a year recently as well.

“Third brother’s cloning technique was precisely that, wasn’t it?” he thought.

You couldn’t tell what kind of an ability you would awaken nor when it would awaken in the first place. Sometimes, it would manifest out of the blue and, almost always, when you needed it the most.

That’s what the Bull Demon King had told him.

“Since you already know, explaining will be easier for me, then. The ability that I awakened is ‘precognition.’ To be more specific, I should say that this ability allows me to foresee any dangers that will happen in the future.”

“Any dangers, you say?”

“Right, any dangers. Dangers that will threaten me and the world that I rule.”

Bradley spoke up to there and raised his head.

Su-hyeun followed after his gaze. The skies that used to be sunny and clear a second ago gradually grew darker, and soon enough, pitch-black stormy clouds completely blanketed everything.

“You asked me why I’m gathering strong subjects, didn’t you?”

“Is this an illusion?” Su-hyeun thought.

Su-hyeun instantly realized that this scenery, the surrounding air, and even the massive pressure bearing down on him were all part of an illusion.

However, he didn’t sense any malicious intent behind it. It seemed that Bradley merely wished to show him something.

“It’s all because of that thing.”

Gu-gugugu—

Kiii-aaaah—!

The black clouds covering the skies split open, and a monstrous roar resounded from within. The roar was so loud that not only it reverberated throughout the sky, but the ground below also rippled noticeably.

Su-hyeun couldn’t help but gaze toward the torn opening of the black clouds above as if he was drawn to it.

Something was coming.

It was something massive and terrifying.

It was something that no other monsters Su-hyeun had come across so far could even be compared to.

“No, wait. This…”

Actually, there was one creature he could compare it to.

Soon, a creature’s head emerged from the gap in the clouds, and Su-hyeun’s eyes shot open incredibly wide.

“Fa—Fafnir?!”

It was a humongous dragon covered in jet-black scales, one that was large enough to cover the entirety of the heavens above.

Its size or how it looked differed from his memories. Not only did Fafnir possess a human-like body but its size also wasn’t as humongous as that black dragon.

However, Su-hyeun had fought against Fafnir for a very long time, so he could definitely tell. The face of the massive dragon was exactly the same as Fafnir’s.

Ruuumble—

The black dragon readied its Breath and then exhaled it to the ground below. Not too long after that, the ground Su-hyeun stood on turned into a sea of flames and, eventually, scorched land of death.

Right at that moment, Su-hyeun’s vision was assaulted by the images of his homeworld, now completely obliterated.

Rumble, ruuuumble—

Tumble, shatter—

The land and cities were burned beyond recognition and filled with rivers of blood and corpses of people torn and scorched to death.

Grit—

Su-hyeun gritted his teeth. He squeezed his eyes shut right after that, and by the time he opened them again, the illusion had ended.

“You don’t wish to watch anymore, it seems,” Bradley said.

“What…Just what was that?”

“The predator.”

Bradley’s reply was what Su-hyeun had been expecting to hear.

“The true monster that will devour this world.”

“…”

“Not too long from now, that monster will show up to devour this world. What you witnessed wasn’t an ordinary illusion but the future that will happen not too long from now.”

“When you say not too long from now, how long are we talking about?”

“About 15 days.”

Fifteen days was a period normally considered to be neither too short nor too long.

However, as the remaining time until the advent of the world’s destruction, it certainly felt mercilessly short indeed.

“So, how about it? Are you willing to join my cause now?”

“In 15 days…”

For Su-hyeun, who couldn’t go back to his world, 15 days was an awfully long time.

Still, it was good that the trial’s outline had finally revealed itself. He was able to get a hold of the clue pertaining to the “predator” far easier than he thought.

“As soon as I kill the ‘predator,’ I plan to leave right away.”

“That’s your choice. And I don’t plan to stop you, anyway.”

“It’s great that our discussion has become simpler.”

Su-hyeun extended his hand toward Bradley.

The latter looked at the offered hand for a little while before smirking softly and said, “You’re the first person to ask for my handshake in the past 100 years.”

Squeeze—

Bradley grabbed his hand and, while holding it tightly, shook it up and down.

“And it’s not such a bad feeling, indeed.”

* * *

Another day passed by after Su-hyeun shook hands with Bradley.

A conference of great importance was held in the imperial palace’s audience chamber every 10 days. The occasion was meant to inform everyone of the continent’s state of affairs and discuss the potential solutions to the problems that cropped up.

The conference was also used as a ceremony to bestow peerage or to announce the appointment of a noble to an important position within the empire’s government.

“And so, I shall be appointing him as my personal guardian knight for the next 15 days.”

On this occasion, Bradley announced Su-hyeun’s new position. Whatever the case might have been, a suitably important position was necessary if he wanted to have a smoother life inside the imperial palace.

The role of the emperor’s personal guard was a pretty good position since Su-hyeun would get to use the personal training area, as well as the imperial court’s armory as much as he wanted.

“Are you really sure you don’t want the peerage of a duke?”

“Being a personal guardian knight is perfect, actually.”

“But that feels shortchanged.”

“Please don’t try to tie me down unnecessarily. I don’t know how to handle such a position, anyway.”

Su-hyeun always felt uncomfortable when people looked up to him.

A duke should be second only to the emperor in terms of the hierarchy, so basically, one could think of it as a position reserved for the No. 2 of the entire empire.

It would suit the crown prince best, but from what Su-hyeun heard, Bradley didn’t even have any kids.

“Your Majesty, forgive this servant for his impertinence, but bestowing a foreigner with the position of your personal guardian knight is a bit…”

“He’s correct, Your Majesty. How about searching for a talented individual among the commanders of the knight orders? If not, this humble servant’s household has produced a rather excellent knight, and he…”

“No, Your Majesty. The House of Count Walts has…”

Bradley’s announcement caused the chorus of the nobles to grow louder. The emperor remained quiet and listened to their opposition for a while. But he eventually intervened around the five-minute mark of the nobles’ insistent suggestions voiced in different manners.

“I now understand all of your opinions on the matter, good sirs.”

Once he spoke up, all the other nobles promptly shut their mouths.

Even if they had raised their voices in agitation, they wouldn’t dare to cut off their own emperor mid-speech.

Bradley continued, “So, your objections boil down to the question of his skill, correct? The question of whether or not I can leave the duty of my personal knight to this man.”

“It is indeed so, Your Highness.”

“There can be only one sword qualified enough to escort you from your side, Your Majesty.”

“Although we’ll never dare to imagine that Your Majesty would find yourself in danger, we must still beseech you to consider the significance of the position.”

The personal guardian knight of the emperor was certainly not a lightweight role.

In a way, this position was higher than the empire’s count or marquis. It was a glorious and honorable role that indicated that the emperor had acknowledged a person’s abilities.

“I’ll guarantee his level of ability. However, anyone dissatisfied by his appointment should challenge him because if you manage to defeat him, I shall immediately appoint you as my next personal guardian knight.”

“…I beg your pardon?”

“Challenge the personal knight appointed by you, Your Majesty?”

“Is this true?”

Proverbial flames lit up within the eyes of the nobles at Bradley’s declaration.

Standing next to the emperor, Su-hyeun witnessed their reactions and couldn’t help but sneak a glare at Bradley.

He inwardly tutted, “What’s up with this unfunny prank…?”

It was hard to tell whether Bradley was aware of Su-hyeun’s glare as he chuckled on his throne.

And soon, the conference had come to an end. It happened just as Su-hyeun exited from the audience chamber along with the other nobles.

“Look here.”

Someone approached Su-hyeun and grabbed his shoulder.

Before Su-hyeun turned his head, he glanced at the hand restraining him. The other guy must have been thinking of provoking him because that hand was gripping him fairly tightly.

“Why don’t we have a brief chat?”

“Man, things got really annoying,” Su-hyeun groaned under his breath.

It was simply at that level, though—nothing more than some annoyance.

Su-hyeun hurled profanities in his mind at Bradley, the instigator of this mess, and turned his head to look.

Comments

Loading…