The Hero Returns

Chapter 102



Chapter 102: Chapter 102


Just the monster’s width alone must’ve been dozens of meters thick. It was so big, in fact, he had to question whether one could even legitimately call that thing a snake or not.


Something that big was more than enough to compare to a dragon of a certain maturity.


Ka-booom—!


Ouroboros raised its head above the ocean’s surface before diving back under the water. When it briefly revealed itself, the monster was definitely staring at Su-hyeun.


<>


The tenth level trial. Not only that, but it was the third hurdle, too.


Su-hyeun wondered if that was to show him the difficulty level of this trial being this harsh or something to that effect.


For sure, it would not be strange to get scared by that. Some might even start thinking, “What is anyone expected to do against a snake that huge”?


However…


<>


Su-hyeun put the ocean behind him and began walking away.


<>


Fafnir was neither a dragon nor a human. The strongest, worst monster that Su-hyeun had ever faced.


That b*stard was far, far smaller than Ouroboros in physical size. However, if one asked him which of the two was “bigger,” then Su-hyeun wouldn’t even hesitate and choose Fafnir.


Compared to that creature, this gigantic Ouroboros was nothing more than a common pet snake.


“Well, then.”


Step—


“Should I take a look at what kind of island this is?”


* * *


Once he made his way out of the island’s outskirts and into the deeper parts, huge ramparts soon caught his eye.


The walls, crafted out of solid steel, seemed to easily exceed 50 meters in height.


Not a single gap was visible anywhere, and the rampart came across as a literal steel fortress.


<>


Su-hyeun recalled the first part of the trial’s description and made his way to the bottom of the wall. It was then he heard a voice coming from the top of the rampart. The voice contained magical energy, so despite the distance, he could hear it quite clearly.


“Halt! Identify yourself!”


Su-hyeun stopped walking and looked up.


Two soldiers on the rampart’s railings were looking down at where he was.


“I’m lost! The ocean swept me up and brought me to this place! May I ask for your assistance?”


The soldiers seemed a bit unconvinced by Su-hyeun’s reply.


The two soldiers chatted with each other for a little while before one of them jumped down to the ground.


Whoooosh—


The soldier rode on the winds and made a gentle landing. This person was kitted out in full armor, but rather than a sword-brandishing warrior, he looked far closer to being a magician.


When Su-hyeun took a closer look, this soldier didn’t even carry any weapons, let alone a single sword.


“You were swept in by the ocean?”


His eyes were filled with suspicion. But then again, with the state of the ocean surrounding the island being what it was, trusting a stranger would be understandably difficult at the moment.


“When I came to, I was standing before your fortress,” said Su-hyeun.


“Are you telling us the truth?”


“I also saw the monster living in the sea. But yes, I’m being honest.”


Su-hyeun’s reply didn’t manage to ease the soldier’s suspicious gaze.


It was then that the other soldier came down to the ground and started talking as well. “Well, yesterday was the day of sacrifice, so Ouroboros’s appetite could’ve been weakened enough.”


“Is that so? Well..it’s not important how he got here, after all.”


“Still, not anyone can waltz into this city. If you wish to enter, you need to prove this one thing.”


“What could that be?” Su-hyeun asked.


“This here is the city of magicians. If you want to enter it, then you….”


Rumble—


The mouths of the two soldiers were clamped shut.


There was a small flame appearing above Su-hyeun’s palm. They could sense magical energy from it.


“I see that you at least know the basics.”


One of the soldiers shrugged his shoulders and walked over to the rampart.


Gigigigigik—


When the soldier placed his hand on a palm-shaped engraving at the foot of the rampart, the fortress gate began noisily opening up.


“Do remember one thing. This is Moros. The city of magicians, the dream of magicians.” Magical energy wiggled and spread out everywhere from the body of the soldier glaring at Su-hyeun. “I don’t care what kind of a man you were before coming here, but I pray that by some chance, you don’t happen to harbor any impure intentions and decide to act upon it during your stay. But, if you do…”


“You can rest easy. Nothing much will happen.”


“…Sure. I shall hope for that, too.”


At Su-hyeun’s relaxed reply, the soldier waved his hand around.


Su-hyeun strode into the wide-open fortress gate. The two soldiers were still keeping their eyes locked on his back.


<>


Even though they were worried about such things, they still allowed him inside the city. That was probably due to this city’s regulation.


The regulation said anyone with the qualifications of a magician would be admitted inside the city; that was why this place was called the city of magicians.


<>


What an interesting place it was.


Magicians. He had run into this bunch of people plenty of times before during the countless trials he had experienced. He was well aware of how fastidious and odd they could be.


Su-hyeun made his way inside the gates and his eyes caught many people going about their daily business on the streets. Every single one of them was supposed to be a magician.


It was quite hard to believe.


Gya-ohk, gya-oh-ohk—!


Kkak, kka-gahk—!


Divine beasts sporting strange outer appearances were flying above the heads of a few people here and there — a bird with its body lit up in flames or a blue-colored horse trotting in the air.


As they were magicians, it seemed that quite a few even managed to tame divine beasts, as well.


“Hey, Miru.”


Gi-iiing—


Gya-ohng—!


Miru tore the air and emerged from the subspace, and as soon as he was free, began rubbing his head on Su-hyeun’s cheek. He must’ve been overjoyed to step outside.


“Sorry about that. I think it’ll be fine for you to stay outside while we’re in this place.”


Gya-ong—!


Su-hyeun was worried about the off-chance that someone would mistake Miru for a monster and attack, so he couldn’t afford to bring him out too often, but at the very least, he believed no such thing would happen inside this city.


Gurung, gururung—


Su-hyeun placed Miru on top of his head and continued to walk down the street.


He sensed the people’s passing glances. When he took a casual look, it turned out that his own attire differed a lot from everyone else’s.


<>


It was still hard to grasp the overall mood of the people living in this place. One thing was for certain, though — this city was quite different from a regular one.


Rather than meat or vegetables, the market place sold strange-looking potions and corpses of monsters instead. Potential shoppers looked at them with interest or dipped their fingers in the potions to have a taste.


Without a doubt, this was a very strange place.


<>


According to the trial’s description, sacrifices had to be served up to Ouroboros once every month.


A city that used people as sacrifices. Certain aspects of it were similar to the tenth floor’s trial. So, he thought that the city’s overall vibe would obviously be gloomy.


But for some reason, people here seemed to be filled with vitality. He couldn’t tell whether that was down to the special trait of them all being magicians, or because of some other hidden factor.


<>


That was a fairly long period of time.


According to what the soldiers guarding the gate were saying, it was only yesterday that sacrifices were served up to Ouroboros.


Tap, tap—


It was then that someone lightly tapped Su-hyeun’s shoulder from behind.


He turned his head. An old man with a white beard and hunchback was looking up at him.


“Is this your first time in the city?” the old man asked.


“How did you know?”


No matter how long you lived in a city, it’d still be impossible to memorize the faces of tens of thousands of people.


The old man chuckled at Su-hyeun’s stunned expression, and offered his explanation. “It’s easy to guess since you were looking around with such mystified eyes. And also, I’m a native of these parts, you see. A man I’ve never seen before that behaves like you will make me think that you’re a newcomer who arrived only today.”


The old man then shifted his gaze over to Miru resting on top of Su-hyeun’s head.


“Actually, what I was curious about is this young dragon hatchling.”


“You mean, Miru?”


“Is that the dragon’s name? What does it mean?”


“It means ‘dragon’ in the country I’m from.”


“Well, that’s one hell of an insincere naming sense, that.”


Su-hyeun felt his guilty conscience flinch a little. Since he no longer wanted to discuss Miru’s name at length, he quickly changed the topic. “You said you were curious about something. May I ask regarding what exactly?”


“This child doesn’t seem like a regular dragon, that’s why. Well, it’s true that the divine beasts called dragons are considerably rare species to come across to begin with…”


“Do you know anything about Miru?”


“Would you like to accompany me to my home? The thing is, my memories aren’t as good as they used to be. Besides, you don’t look like you have a particular location you have to go to, anyway. I live alone, which can get quite lonesome.”


This was an unexpected boon.


Su-hyeun needed to find lodging anyway, but he had no money on him. Not only that, but he began thinking that maybe, he might get to learn more about Miru at the same time.


There didn’t seem to be anything to lose with the offer. So, Su-hyeun nodded his head. “In that case, I’ll be in your care.”


“Follow me.”


Su-hyeun walked after the old man.


The man, in his advanced age with his bent back, turned out to be quite a slow walker. However, he seemed to be a natural-born chatterbox and started explaining this and that regarding the city of magicians, which meant the trip proved to be rather educational.


They reached the old man’s residence after 20 minutes of walking and it turned out to be the biggest house in the vicinity.


The house even had a pretty sizeable front garden, too. The old man opened the gate leading to the garden and spoke up. “Now that I think about it, I haven’t told you my name yet. I’m Malcolm.”


“I’m Kim Su-hyeun.”


“Kim…what? Your name is more strange than Miru.”


Malcolm mouthed Su-hyeun’s name several times while walking into the house.


The first thing to greet Su-hyeun when he entered the house was the wide foyer plus the tall ceiling. The living room beyond the foyer was lined up with bookcases filled with literally thousands of books.


“If you aren’t feeling too tired, why don’t you put your luggage down later and head on to the basement with me? That’s where my study is.”


“Then, what’s all this?”


“These books? They are the ones I check out whenever I feel bored, actually. All the books for research are stored in the basement.”


To think that these many books were just there to ease his boredom. The majority of magicians were supposedly bookworms, and Malcolm seemed to be cut from the same cloth.


They entered a door to the side of the living room that revealed the staircase leading to the basement. Malcolm then created a small lick of flame in his hand.


“It’s dark downstairs, so watch your step.”


Creak, creaaak—


The basement study was located pretty deep underground. Once they reached the bottom of the staircase, Malcolm lightly snapped his fingers.


Snap—!


Rumble—


At the same time, flames illuminated the basement study.


It was so wide and expansive that its end couldn’t even be seen. Su-hyeun wouldn’t normally get surprised by any old thing but still, he couldn’t help but look on with his eyes almost bulging out of their sockets.


<>


Instead of a private study, this place was more like a public library in its sheer scale alone.


The old man surely couldn’t have read every single book found in here, right? At the very least, there seemed to be well over tens of thousands of books.


Gya-ong, gya-oh-ong—


It was then that Miru cried while looking in a certain direction.


Su-hyeun watched Malcolm walk towards the center of the study before turning towards the direction of Miru’s cry.


“Now let’s see, it must’ve been here somewhere….”


Malcolm pulled out a book and blew the dust on top of it before nodding his head. “So, that’s where you were.”


He smiled in satisfaction and turned around. However, Su-hyeun, who should’ve been following him, wasn’t there.


“…Mm? Did he get lost?”


“No, I’m over here.”


The direction where the young man’s voice came from alarmed Malcolm. He hurriedly moved his bent back and walked over there.


Su-hyeun could be seen reading a book he had pulled out from the bookcase. No, more specifically, he was looking at a drawing.


How did he even locate that book?


Malcolm, eyes searching, urgently raised his voice. “N-now look, that book is…”


“Sir, I was already aware that you were a dark magician,” said Su-hyeun, his eyes staying locked on the book’s pages. “Still, I didn’t expect you to be the one who had summoned Ouroboros.”



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