Everything is salty. The air that brings the saltiness of the windy sea to the mind who daringly recalls the treacherous past events.
Cheated by my past wife, and left alone by my elven slave. Instead of feeling sadness, however, what I feel the most is how foolish I am to think that love still exists.
I snort in derision. I’ve been betrayed once so I should’ve learned from my past mistake — only to repeat it once more.
L̴͖̎o̵͈͊v̵̼̉ẽ̴̗ ̸̲̓i̷͖̐s̶̖͑ ̷̼͑f̵̖̀ȏ̸̟r̵̹͋ ̸̺͊ẗ̷̥́h̶̜̑ȇ̵̝ ̴̤̀w̵̘̚e̴̲̿ă̴͍k̸̙̃
I’ve known this and now I learned my lesson twice. Yet, a part of me still yearns for true love, believing in such a made-up concept to exist. I guess I am a fool first and foremost.
The saltiness lingers forever long, amplified by the very blue sea. The archeological expedition requires a ship that I’m in right now. Within the view is the destined Ivrett Mountain Range, a desolate place littered with rocks and dust. To think there’s a ruin in this kind of environment, who knows what the builders or settlers were thinking…
While I ponder some more, the ship sways slowly and surely like it always fucking has…
Oh fuck, I feel sick, N-not again….
Ugh… Thank god I threw it up to the sea this time…
「 Why does the senior, Krig Meyer, even bother bringing this idiotic human to the expedition? He can’t even sit nice and tight without having to throw up. Thanks to the ancestor for this foolish human to finally learn his lesson. 」
Oh great… Here comes another pinch of salt. Can’t a fool just be left alone in peace for fuck sake?
I could recognize that voice filled with a pompous attitude anywhere, even though I first just heard of it yesterday. A devilishly handsome young dragonkin around my age. Sporting a fancy red and gold robe. Streaks of white marred his golden blonde hair, adding a rebellious feel towards him. His red sharp eyes, burning with constant judgment to my upbringing — as a human.
「 Dae Sho, 」I sigh,「 I know you have a beef against me. But let’s put your prejudice aside and act professionally for the time being alright? Professor Meyer has already told you from time to time again that I won’t steal your ancestors’ legacy items. 」
「 And how could this venerable one trust you, a lowly bohemian? 」He sneers at me.
「 For goddess sake… there’s like twenty people in this expedition, do you think I can slip up an ancient item without getting noticed by that many people?! 」
「 I don’t know. I’m not a human who likes to use underhand tactics! 」He replies automatically, anger added in the end.
「 Look, I get it. 」I say, trying to reason with his bias,「 I can’t change your view towards humans, but if you can let your prejudice pass under the rug just for this one expedition, we can finish it super quick and you won’t have to deal with humans like me any much longer. 」
「 As always, humans with their roundabout thinking. The fastest way would be to throw you off the ship! 」
「 Silence! 」A deep loud shout, silenced the whole ship, leaving only the noise of the ocean breeze.
I look towards the noise. Professor Meyer walks towards us, with heavy steps, segmenting the inevitable, wearing an expression as though he found a student sleeping in his class. Irritated.
「 Dae Sho, 」Professor Meyer calls,「 I’m pretty sure I’ve told you beforehand, Renald Alderhide is my assistant that I hold dearly to. I know you are unhappy that a human is joining an expedition to what’s highly likely to be our ancestor ruins but by no means you are allowed to threaten him. 」
「 Senior Krig Meyer! 」Dae Sho’s words carry an unmistakable tint of reverence,「 I propose for this human to just stay on the ship and not join us in going inside the ruin! Who knows what this lowly human would steal in the ruin. 」
「 Your premonition is unjustified. Renald is not the greedy kind and I already promised him that he can take any items that don’t hold historical value for us. And even if he does steal something, it’s my responsibility to deal with him. Not yours. 」
「 How can you be so confident with their scheming kind?! He might be your student but you don’t know what he’s up to! 」
「 Remember this, young dragonkin. 」Professor Meyer says, Stress added in the last word, 「 What you’re in right now is the Concordis-sphere — the human-sphere. This is not the Lungkin dynasty, where your powerful father clan resides. Contain your arrogance, for it will cost you greatly if you fail to do so. 」
「 Hmph, fine! 」Dae sho shouts, slightly condemning him.
Dae sho with his face red as tomato and runs to the quarter deck. Then, from the quarter deck comes Professor Meyer’s friend, Karn sho, looking embarrassed. Must be because of Dae Sho’s explosive attitude.
「 Forgive me, Renald, and Krig, 」Karn Sho immediately speaks to me,「 to think this young junior of mine would be quite brash in front of you. Having him on board wasn’t my first intention, but due to the will of his father, my clan headmaster, I have no choice but to let him join in the expedition. 」
「 It’s alright. I’m sure he’s very arrogant due to his upbringing, but why is he like that towards humans like me and not towards fellow dragonkin? 」I ask, looking forward to an explanation of this whole social shenanigans. Something I’m desperate for but didn’t get the chance.
「 Honestly, I’m not quite sure. Although we are slightly related by blood, we are not exactly that close. When I was just a child I had already moved away from our clan, from the Lungkin dynasty. It was only recently that my distant family, which includes Dae Sho, started to connect with me again. I can only guess the clan’s education puts a lot of dislike towards humans. 」
「 You missed out on the current geopolitical situation Karn Sho, 」Professor Meyer steps in, seemingly wanting to share a piece of mind,「 there’s rising tension between the Concordis-sphere with the Lungkin dynasty. It’s a very complicated situation but in short, the Concordis-sphere refused to help or trade with the Lungkin dynasty when the barbaric Nogoon empire attacked them. Even though previously the Lungkin dynasty helped the Concordis-sphere in repulsing the elven attack. This makes it seems that the human-sphere betrayed the Lungkin dynasty. And this sentiment could very well be transmitted to its citizens, including Dae Sho. 」
「 Hmmm… That’s true, 」Karn Sho says, 「 Your intelligence is definitely something to be praised. I never thought of it in that perspective. 」
「 Ohhh… my, is that the ruin?! 」Professor Meyer shouts, brimming with unusual happiness out nowhere,「 I can see it now! Even though signs of age and crumble are apparent from far away, its magnificence still withstands! 」
I follow him and look in the direction of what he’s looking at. And I see what mesmerized him. Within the Ivrett mountain range, with a closer look, lies a cone-shaped temple, made of what seems to be dark black stone. Even though it is purely black, it doesn’t resonate with death or violence, rather, peace and harmony of some sort. Interesting.
「 Indeed it is. Now, do you regret spending your money on this expedition? 」Karn sho asks, brimming with enthusiasm.
「 Although a new archeological expedition is exciting as always, this one is a bit too small for it to be an actual dragon ruin… 」
「 I’m not sure what you’re talking about…? 」
「 Karn Sho… Did you just lie to me?! This is probably not a dragon ruin, but a human ruin! 」
「 Ehh… really? I couldn’t tell…? 」He says, seemingly feigning ignorance.
「 Urghh fine… I make an exception on this one just because this ruin doesn’t look like anything that we’ve discovered before. 」
「 Thanks to the ancestors for your graciousness… 」Karn sho mutters, 「 Man! 」he then shouts, calling the attention of the ship’s crew,「 prepare to close off to the shore and prepare the landing boats! 」
We finally come closer to the shore, but before landing, we first must take a smaller boat. Thankfully, I don’t have to share the boat with Dae Sho. Who knows what kind of ruckus he would make. Karn must have this in mind when assigning landing boats.
From the boats, we tirelessly row in rhythm to the shore. With how close the ship already is to the shore, it takes quite a short time, and the crew wasn’t exhausted.
Under the command of Professor Meyer and his friend, we quickly start mobilizing and walk to the ancient ruin.
Inside it, dust, crumbles, and cracks are on all sorts of corners. Considering its primal-like usage of stone material, it’s amazing how this temple still stands with a little tear.
「 Hey! There’s a staircase going down! 」
We all rush and look into the staircase, it’s quite narrow, only allowing two people side by side at most. We probably have to divide into smaller groups.
「 It’s quite narrow and the descent is steep. Only a small group of people can pass through it. 」
「 Who’s going deeper? It looks dark as hell. 」
「 Oh, now you’re chickening out? When you were boasting about an upcoming adventure last night? I should’ve expected nothing more from a son of bitch who’s just trying to impress the bar harlot! 」
「 Shut up! I only signed up to help to man the ship, not for dying in an unknown ruin! 」
「 Be quiet! This is a new ruin discovery! Not a street market! 」Professor Meyer interjects,「 Me, Karn Sho, and Renald Alderhide will be the ones going down the stairs, the others will explore the surface ruin and collect any data. 」
「 What is this blasphemy?! Why am I not joining to go downstairs?! 」Dae Sho protests.
「 Fine…. You also join us. Now let’s go. 」
『 Albenz 』
A small blob of light materializes in Karn Sho hand’s, radiating bright light as we descend on the staircase. Dae Sho as always distances away from me and trying to be closer with the rest, which makes me feel excluded. But why should I care?
After what seems to be a long time, we finally meet on a flat floor.
An entirely different atmosphere greets us. There was no calm nor was there is peace unlike before. A fiery serpentine dragon statue lies in the center of the room. Its malicious expression faces directly towards the entrance of this room.
「 Senior, look! It’s a dragon statue! 」Dae Sho says, stating the fucking obvious.
「 A human-made temple with a dragon statue inside? This is the first… 」
「 I’m sure it’s because the humans here revered heavily to our superior ancestors! As they should be! 」
「 Renald. What’s your take on this dragon statue? 」Professor Meyer says, immediately interjects.
「 The dragon statue race seems to be that of the Raiyuu race. 」I recall,「 with its long serpentine-like body. However, this one surprisingly doesn’t have feet nor hands… For the sculptor to miss it out accidentally is definitely unfathomable. 」
「 For the first time, I have to agree with you on this one human. To think these low lives dare to sculpt an incomplete version of our great ancestor! 」
「 Calm down. 」I say, trying to shut him up, 「 if the sculptors truly revered the dragons then, of course, they won’t purposely miss out on such a big detail like its limbs. There are two hypotheses for this reason. First, the dragon is not that of the Raiyuu race, but instead a new dragon race the world never discovered before, which is, of course, highly unlikely. Second, considering humans are isolated in the ancient era, it wouldn’t surprise me if they have the wrong depiction of the typical dragon, which is more likely, considering how desolate this area is. 」
「 I must say you always put a well-thought-out perspective, 」replies Professor Meyer, 「 We can debate and uncover more about the dragon statue but for now, we need to figure out how to open that door. 」
He points to the door, and immediately the top of the door draws the attention the most.
From a protrusion hangs a golden crown. A very unusual place to place what supposed to be such a valuable item. Why would there be a golden crown on top of the door? The size of it is monstrous — no human would be able to wear this.
What’s the point of using priced metals on something you can’t wear? Unless… It’s not meant to be worn in the first place?
A crown that is luxurious, decked in gold, and other beautiful ornaments are usually worn by a very important figure, a king. But a king’s crown in a temple? Hmm… Something’s missing.
「 Professor, I have an idea I like to try. 」
With the help of everyone, including the reluctant Dae Sho, we pulled off the golden crown out of its unusual place, and placed it where it rightfully belonged — at that’s least what I believe it is — the dragon statue head.
It fits perfectly and in a short moment, the ruin shakes a bit as the door slowly opens.
「 Hmph, I knew bringing you in is necessary for this expedition to work. 」Professor says, showing me off apparently.
The door completely opens, Dae Sho rushes out first, leaving us catching up to him from behind in rushing to the newly opened room.
It strikes us that the room isn’t something that we weren’t expecting at all in this archaeological expedition.
A bonafide treasure room.
Gold, unique silk, and fancy porcelains are littered everywhere throughout the room. There’s even what seems to be a gigantic painting of the dragon similar to the one before, drawing the attention of both Dae Sho and Karn Sho.
The professor starts to cast what seems to be sealing magic to prevent the non-metal findings from turning to dust upon touch. A form of mana layers the object it is cast on.
Karn joins in, soon finishing the work.
However, what calls my attention the most is not the exorbitant wealth that lies in front of me, but rather… two rusted swords on the corner of the room, emitting an arcane magical aura, a somewhat dim purple light.
「 Professor Meyer, 」I call him,「 Do you find anything special in these two swords? 」
Professor Meyer then comes and inspects the rusted swords with meticulous details, like what a true professional would do.
「 Although the embellishment might make these swords seem special, in the end, These are just common human swords, Renald. Ancient ones for sure, but I’ve seen this type of sword in my many other previous archeological expeditions. Most likely tracing back to the Aquilo human civilization. 」
Huh… that’s strange…
「 Do you feel anything from those swords? Perhaps a mystical aura or something? 」
「 I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to talk about Renald… 」a doubt spread over Professor Meyer’s features,「 as I said before, these are just normal swords with no magical properties or manaritium embedded. 」
Am I the only one who’s able to sense that arcane magical aura and the dim purple light coming from the swords?
It feels arcane, with its distinct and other-worldly sensation of magical aura. But somehow, instinctively I feel like I’ve felt this before… But where? The only time I’ve noticed an arcane aura was my time with Instructor Smush and… the Sky Palace… wait, the purple room?
「 Professor Meyer, may I take these two swords? 」
「 Huh? Why would you want these words? 」
「 Of course, I would like to have some gold that we found, but I would also like to take these too. It might be rusted but the ornaments seem special to me, I would like to collect them. 」I say, making up excuses. If my hypothesis is right, then these ancient items might have a connection with the purple room.
「 Sure, these artifacts are from human civilization and seem unimportant, so you can keep them. As for the gold, it will be equally distributed to everyone, in the form of money perhaps. At a first glance, the other artifacts here have some historical value that I have yet to determine so I would take all of them. 」
「 That’s alright, thank you. 」
「 Krig! Come to me! I found something! 」shouts Karn Shoe on the other side of the room.
With Professor Meyer rushing towards his friend, leaving me alone, a chance to slip to the recently forgotten mystical place of mine — the sky palace.
I quickly carry the two swords and go inside another room. Immediately, I whisper my spell chant. And within my burning excitement on what’s to come, drowsiness comes to me as I fall asleep.
Somehow here I am in the Sky Palace, specifically the Purple Room.
The two rusted swords wiggles around, trying to escape from my grasp, as if it has its own mind. I follow along with its force, as I move to the middle of the room, where the decagram magic rune and altar lies.
They calm shortly afterward, right at the front of the altar.
Subconsciously, I place the two swords on top of the altar.
The rusted weapons slowly radiate bright purple light.
Then, out of nowhere, comes the blinding light that forces me to shut my eyes.
『 From The Shackles of Death, I Am Reborn. From Thy Wish I have Cometh. 』
The voice that comes resonates heavily within the room, an absolute authority giving out its last magnificent statement.
『 From The Mountain That Pierces The Heaven, To The Divine Sky-Palace Whom The Owner Has Called For. 』
And deep within the room, on top of the decagram magic rune, something comes from the nothingness.
『 I Am The Ruler. The Tyrant. The Guardian that Rises From the Root of the Earth. 』
The serpentine neck reared up, along with its head adorned with horns and a gleaming golden crown. Its skin covered in purple lilac scales.
『 I Am Naga, God Amongst Dragons. 』
The serpent dragon just from its presence alone radiates sheer power and majestic regality. And like a true ruler, demands full attention and obedience.
『 And I have Come Forth To Greet He Who Summoned Me. 』