Episode 91

Big Game Hunter
2 weeks ago
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On the day when she intended to annihilate humanity and end her long life.

Tashian, due to a promise with the only being who had ever halted her advance, had been forcibly sustaining her life, which otherwise would have ended soon.

It was a promise she need not have kept.

She raged because, before even having the chance to quell the chaos, contemptible beings intoxicated with the authority of their petty wars dared to challenge her.

‘Give them a chance. A chance to prove they deserve to exist in this world…’

Even now, she could annihilate such irritating beings, yet why had she continued her life this long, upholding a promise she didn’t need to make?

Even now, she couldn’t accept it, defining all of it as ‘whimsy’ and regretting the promise she made that day.

As a dragon, a being akin to part of the world itself, her words carried significant weight, compelling her to fulfill any promise she made, regardless of its reason.

Therefore, no matter how contemptible she found the humans around her, she wouldn’t act until the day came to fulfill that promise…

“So, in this situation, a future where I annihilate humanity’s armies is soon to unfold… is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, yes. That’s right. I’ve definitely seen such a future… Eek!

The fortune teller, appearing to talk nonsense, shuddered and cringed as she swiftly raised a finger.

Her trembling, clutching her head, was clearly an act of fear, evident to anyone who saw her.

“If you don’t like hearing the truth, at least speak more civilly.”

As she was heading to the market for groceries, she suddenly appeared, grabbing her collar and demanding explanations. How could she be civil in responding?

“So, what made you come all the way to where I am?”

However, given that she had the ability to see the future, there must be a valid reason for her actions.

As Tashian, sitting on a bench in the square, lit a cigarette and asked, Airi began to look up at her cautiously.

“Wh-what do you mean?”

“If you’ve seen my past, you should know. Promises are absolute to me.”

A dragon was, in and of itself, almost a part of the world.

Thus, every word she spoke was akin to an enduring rule of the world, and if it took the form of a promise, not even a being called a God could break it.

And, though it was perplexing to her, if she had foreseen his death, she surely would have sought a way to avoid it.

“So you chose to confront me directly as a way to prevent that… Surely you don’t think that just because you can see the future, you can manipulate me?”

“No, no, I don’t think that. Controlling you would be like moving mountains and parting seas.”

Yes, she was different from other transcendents.

If the interventions of ordinary transcendents were limited to individuals or their surroundings, the whims of the being before her would affect futures on at least a national or regional scale.

The butterfly effect of such interventions could bring upheaval to the world.

To think one could prevent a catastrophe caused by such a being just by knowing the future would be the height of arrogance.

“Then why did you come to me instead of helping him?”

“Because when you revealed your true form, he was right there beside me.”

*Twitch. *Tashian’s body shivered slightly while smoking her cigarette.

Was that reaction due to a statement beyond her expectations?

Or because she had uncovered a hidden aspect of the promise she had made… something she had been concealing all along?

“For a dragon, a promise is absolute… You’ve emphasized that countless times.”

Whether it was the former or the latter, it wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

If it was the former, it meant the contract was broken for reasons she didn’t anticipate.

If it was the latter, it meant there was a loophole in the contract itself, and she could release her power soon, regardless of the promise.

“In that case, even though Hyo-sung is alive, a future where you unleash your full power has appeared. Isn’t that something you can’t ignore?”

“What if it’s a future that’s been incorrectly verified?”

“Futures can change, but even the changed future is based on the present. Among the futures I foresee, there is no such thing as a future without basis.”

Indeed, since his survival was the key to her contract, not taking action even if something unusual happened was not an option.

If something unforeseen was predicted to happen in the distant future, then finding and eliminating the signs of that future immediately would be necessary.

“…I don’t have any particular guesses at the moment.”

“Are you sure you don’t have any guesses? Are you lying by any chance…?”

“What? You want to be hit again?”

Tashian clenched her fist, raising her voice.

Airi, realizing too late that she had almost crossed a line, flinched, but the interrogation, albeit subdued, continued.

“P-please think seriously about this. It’s not something you can take lightly.”

Nothing irritated a dragon more than lies, but it wasn’t easy for her to stay calm, considering the stakes involved.

She might have been tempted to strike in annoyance, but Tashian ultimately restrained herself, contemplating the woman’s words.

A situation where she acts out without fulfilling the conditions of the contract…

At least for now, she had no idea what might have caused it.

Unless some other being had intervened.

“That dragon… is it really me?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve never seen my true form. It’s not like I’m the only dragon in this world.”

“…That’s a thing of the past. Now, in this world, you, Tashian, are the only dragon left, aren’t you?”

The possibility of another dragon appearing, apart from her, had been considered from the beginning.

But that possibility was ruled out through the past she had read when she faced her again.

At the time she decided to destroy humanity, all dragons, except for her, had already died of old age and disappeared from the world.

Given their inherent void nature and lack of breeding desire, it was unlikely that any offspring of dragons who had lived out their lives would remain anywhere in the world.

“Yes, I am the only dragon left in this world.”

Even though that was a result of a whimsical promise that extended her life, how could she now consider the possibility of another dragon existing apart from herself?

Yet, despite her apparent survival, a dragon appeared before her…

“Extra, extra!! Merchants and mercenaries are currently being recruited in the Imperial City to head to an excavation site!”

Just as she considered investigating the cause herself, someone’s shout echoed from the middle of the marketplace.

Turning to look, she saw an employee of the newspaper, responsible for the empire’s information activities, wandering through the streets.

Moreover, given the nature of the topic, it was drawing increasing attention from those around.

“People are being recruited in the Imperial City?”

“An excavation site? Did they find some kind of ruins? It doesn’t seem significant enough for an extra unless it’s a dungeon or something.”

“Don’t be shocked to hear this! It’s reported that dragon bones have been excavated in the mountains located at the southern end of the continent!”

Murmur. Buzz.

The continuing news stirred up a commotion among the people gathered at the marketplace.

Such a topic was something they couldn’t simply overlook.

“Dragon bones? Is that true?”

“I thought that was only something out of fairy tales…”

“Well, if the Imperial City is talking about it, it must be worth looking into.”

“The senile old lady next door used to ramble about seeing dragons in the past; I wonder if it’s related to that.”

“Whatever it is, if we sell some supplies, we might make a good profit.”

It was an excavation led by the Imperial City, a powerhouse of the empire.

As one of the most significant operations in the empire, it naturally garnered deep interest from the merchants in the marketplace.

The living dragon, overhearing this story, was also intrigued.

“Hey, demi-god kid.”

The remains of her kin had been discovered by humans.

Hearing this, Tashian dropped the cigarette from her mouth and turned her attention back to Airi.

“Check the future again, right now.”

“The future?”

“Yes.”

Her sense of kinship had long turned to ashes over the years.

Yet, at this moment, hearing the news of her kin’s remains being unearthed, she felt a tightening in her heart.

This was not merely a reaction of heightened emotions.

Her very being was sensitively responding to the current news.

Sensing the seriousness in Tashian’s reaction, Airi soon took out her crystal ball to foresee the future.

“This is…”

Gradually, a scene emerged in response to her power.

As soon as Airi realized there was a clear change in the future, her expression hardened.

“Tell me.”

And that altered future, surely, was unfolding just as she had anticipated.

As flames slowly ignited in her lifeless eyes, Tashian sensed what lay ahead.

“How I will act in the future you’ve seen.”

The longest moment in her millennia-long life.

Even in the most painful finale of life, the end was finally beginning to dawn.


And then, as time passed, the day of the expedition arrived.

Before beginning her mission at the excavation site, Ga-ram followed a guide sent from the Imperial City to the location where the gathering of heroes was taking place.

For ordinary missions, heroes were granted freedom of action and decision, but given the Imperial City’s request involving numerous heroes, the matter was treated with the utmost seriousness.

“This is where the heroes participating in this expedition will gather.”

“Ah, yes. Thank you for guiding me.”

“Alright, then I’ll leave now…”

The guide who brought her to the door then left.

Standing alone in front of the grand doors, Ga-ram steadied her breath amid the tension, recalling the conversation with her patron before arriving here.

“If it’s an excavation, digging will be the main task. Is there really a need to take heroes along?”

“It’s not just a simple excavation. The empire is also considering sending a legion there, and over ten heroes are already heading that way. It’s practically a military garrison, so many are focusing their attention on that location.”

“…Are dragon bones really that important?”

“The product of legend has revealed itself. I don’t know much, but since the Imperial Family considers it very important, we who thrive on the empire’s grace cannot take it lightly.”

Regardless, where people gather, opportunities to achieve greatness abound.

For a noble on the brink of ruin, this excavation, attracting the attention of humanity’s greatest army and numerous heroes, was seen as a path to reversal.

“Ga-ram, you realize that my continued investment in you, despite being called a fallen hero, is not just out of pity, right?”

“Yes, yes. I understand.”

“Your investment is gradually paying off, but it still feels insufficient. Use this momentum to drive a wedge in this excavation and prove your worth.”

Proof of worth.

For a hero, shining as an idol to the public and proving one’s worth was of the utmost importance.

The same applied to Ga-ram. Fearing being branded as incompetent, this excavation operation was seen as an opportunity, just like the noble who became her patron.

“Yes, if I make a significant contribution this time, it will make things easier in my activities with my brother.”

Everything was for the sake of living and surviving with dignity in this world.

Ga-ram, with only that thought in her heart, soon opened the door and stepped into the meeting place where the heroes had gathered.

Into what she expected to be a den of vain and arrogant individuals who wouldn’t welcome a fallen hero like herself.

Murmur.

But what she actually encountered upon entering the meeting place was a group of people whispering and looking at one corner of the room.

Their equipment revealed each of them as heroes, but their faces bore confusion over some incomprehensible phenomenon.

“What’s with that guy? Is he really a hero?”

“Ah, well. He’s famous, known as the eccentric among eccentrics…”

That the heroes, always seeking a target for scorn, were focusing their attention elsewhere rather than on a fallen hero like her.

Realizing that her presence was unnoticed, unlike usual, Ga-ram turned her gaze to where their attention was focused.

A secluded area in the dining hall filled with banquet tables.

The first thing she noticed about the figure sitting there was his lower half covered in rags, and then his bare upper body, wearing not a single thread.

But even more peculiar was the paper bag over his head, with only eye holes cut out.

‘Is that person the one Hyo-sung Oppa mentioned?’

The man sat there, looking no different from a beggar.

Recalling the nickname she had heard from an acquaintance, Ga-ram began to stare intently at the person in question.

‘…Is that person really the Big Game Hunter?’

Im Tae-yang, the Big Game Hunter.

The strongest hero who had eliminated the most Big Game (boss-level creatures) in this world.

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