The palette squad, or also at the same time the luxury adventure squad led by Eric’s nephew, was deep within the vast forest because they accepted a bordering town’s mission. The mission required them to investigate within the forest, a tower that could possibly be hiding an evil magician.
This all began around two years ago. A famous rogue was passing through the woods and happened to see a tower deep in the forest. He approached with curiosity to investigate, but was instead met with merciless magical attacks from the tower. Heavily injured, the rogue barely escaped from the forest, and in a small town nearby, right before he died, he spoke about the dreadful magician within the woods.
This stretch of woods was technically the border of two countries. As precautionary measures, the border garrison officers asked strong adventurers to investigate the situation inside the forest.
The forest was vast, with vicious beasts appearing everywhere, and in addition to the density of trees acting as barriers, it was not suitable for brigades to march through. The borders also didn’t have any extra soldiers to waste for things like this, and so the most economically viable option was to employ adventurers.
However, since two years ago, the adventurers had come group after group, but not one of them have ever returned. This had instead attracted further attention from the garrison officers, and the palette squad today was already the tenth group to come forward. Should the palette squad also fail, the garrison officers will then turn towards the Royal City and request a large troop to force through the forest.
All in all, in the name of justice, the palette squad was on a crusade against the evil magician.
In order to dismantle the traps and locks that may possibly exist inside the tower, Easley employed the rogue Roland. To prevent the other side from using cursed magic, he even invited a priest, and there was also a mage within the attendants. The three youths were excellent swordsmen. No matter what situation will arise, this line up will most definitely be able to deal with it.
After he finished talking about the purpose of this journey, Easley then smilingly asked Eric, “May I ask, good sir, just exactly what animal are you carrying on your back? It’s not as if I want to pry into other people’s affairs, but there is a very high probability that we will be facing a powerful and evil magician. Every single detail must be taken care of, and I wish for nothing to be left out.”
Eric spoke light-heartedly, “This is a little fella I’m taking care of, but she’s rather timid and doesn’t really dare to meet new people. I’ll go ask if she’s willing to meet you all.”
After having said that, he walked back to the side of the box, kneeled till he was eye to eye with Yi Longlong, then lightly lift up his messy hair, his pair of gentle, wide blue eyes meeting hers just right. “You’ll eventually have to interact with other people besides me, right? Why don’t you take the first step now?”
He gently encouraged.
The need to be brave, to let go of worries, to try, to interact.
If she was to spend her whole life withdrawn inside her shell, then she will never be able to see the magnificent sights outside.
Yi Longlong gazed at Eric’s eyes. It was different from Easley’s conceited arrogance. This was a pair of beautiful clear blue irises, as clear as a bright sky free of clouds, high and vast, so warm, without a hint of shadow.
He gently encouraged, and even so, he will definitely protect her.
In that moment there was a strong feeling of trustworthiness.
Yi Longlong lifted her paws, plucked off the leaves covering her head, revealing a snow white head. She slowly stood straight up with her two feet, with two white paws placed in front of the hems of the leafy clothes. She turned towards the palette squad, and with some anxiety and apprehension gave a small bow. A small young voice spoke. “I am Alvin’s companion, pleased to meet you.”
Of course, she didn’t forget Eric’s fake name.
The moment Yi Longlong revealed herself, when the palette squad saw her, it immediately fell into dead silence. The only sounds made were the winds at night lightly blowing across the leaves.
Hearing this silence, Yi Longlong became more and more uneasy, not knowing what she did wrong.
After for who knows how long, an attendant finally couldn’t restrain themselves from screaming out. “Oh my god! It’s a dragon!”
Although Easley and company woke up from their astonishment much earlier than the servant, out of various reasons they all didn’t say anything, all until someone broke the silence. It was Dixon who was the first to express his amazement. “It’s real, a dragon. We didn’t see wrong did we?”
Easley elegantly gave a light sigh. “I have never imagined that I will have the opportunity to see a dragon in my life.”
Dixon nodded his head in agreement. “We are just too fortunate… but… why is it this small?”
Yi Longlong’s eyes glared over there: So what if it’s small? Is being small not allowed? Concentration is quintessence!
This time, Eric became the one to be confused. Sensing the palette squad’s expressions becoming weird, he could not resist blocking in front of Yi Longlong. “Everyone, this is only a baby dragon, there’s nothing to be amazed at, right?”
Just then, Easley’s behavior slipped too many notches. Although dragons were not a common sight in this world, with his family’s influence and his position within the family, if he wanted to see dragons, it would not be something particularly difficult to do. Why did they show this level of excitement?
Easley heaved a long sigh then gave a bewildered look at Eric. “Don’t you know about it, good sir? In the last six months, recent rumors about this huge incident have been circulating across the lands.”
Eric cautiously asked, “What incident?”
He was lost in the forest for a year, it was a given that he could not be well informed and grasp the things happening outside.
Repressing his urge to go around Eric to look at Yi Longlong again, Easley spoke a truth that shocked both man and dragon. “Actually from a decade ago, the dragons in this world have been continuously killed off in secret. It was only because humans and dragons very rarely interact with each other, and in addition to those in the upper echelons of the empire who knew about it but kept it a secret, it resulted in people failing to notice it. In the recent six months however, a small number of dragons who were rather close with humans were also killed off one by one, and just not long ago, within the span of one night, all the creatures across the lands that branched off from the dragon race – not the conventional dragons, but because of the similarities in appearances and being crowned as a dragon, the wyverns and land dragons also lost their lives in the same inexplicable way. Right now, there are no longer any creatures existing on the lands that can be called a dragon, other than the one by your side.”
Although that white dragon had an excessively tiny body, perhaps it could be the reason why she had escaped this attack.
Yi Longlong listened in terror. In other words, she was the last giant panda in this world, the functionally extinct baiji1, the critically endangered South China tiger.
He had never expected the truth of the incident to be like this. So back then, Tahinia’s death was not an accident, but the catalyst of the dragon massacre?
After killing Tahinia, that mysterious black shadow then continued to kill other dragons?
In these recent years, due to things that have happened in the past, he practically ignored information about the dragon race on purpose. In addition to that he had left the family, so there was no way for him to know about the internal matters. It was actually today after so many years, that he was aware of such grave news.
Eric was almost convinced by his intuition, that the dragon massacring bastard was the same person as the one who murdered Tahinia. Besides that person, no one else had this kind of terrible strength, and no one else was that ruthless and cruel.
Easley and company did not think Eric’s reaction as strange, and only thought he was shocked speechless. Given it was such a shocking incident, it was already an extremely brave act for a weak wandering swordsman to not cry out in fear after hearing it.
Seeing Eric look as if he was planning to stay in a daze, Easley finally could not resist opening his mouth and disturb him. “Greatest apologies, good sir, I have a rather difficult request, and I hope you can agree to it…”
He glanced behind Eric’s back. In the end he could not control the small desire within his heart. With grave formalities, he requested in earnest, “Please sell me the dragon behind you. I am willing to pay, no matter the cost. Currently, she is the only, single dragon in the world; there will definitely be many calculative people who will desire to possess her. No offense, but with your strength, it is probably not enough to protect her. Although my own strength is rather weak, the Heine family I belong to will at least have some measures…”
Nobles didn’t have to follow formalities when facing commoners, but in order to express his sincerity, the rich gentleman of noble birth still slightly stooped down for a while. He first put forward the temptation of gold, then highlighted that with a dragon, Eric will be attracting unscrupulous people, followed by tactfully letting Eric know in an objective manner, that his strength was too trashy and could not protect a dragon this precious, and possibly have it snatched away. At the last moment, he flashed his family name to show that he, instead, is the person with the strength to protect a small dragon.
Should Eric really only turn out to be an insignificant wandering swordsman, then through the twists and turns of his pressuring and persuasion, it was possible he would weakly yield and hand over the dragon’s custody.
But Eric wasn’t.
Hearing these words from Easley, all he did was merely turn around, stretch out his arms and tenderly embrace Yi Longlong into his bosom. “Sorry, I cannot honor my promise.”
He was apologizing to Yi Longlong.
He said he was going to bring Yi Longlong and find her race, but in the end he couldn’t keep his words. In fact, from today onwards it will never be honored.
He was extremely conflicted. He had just brought Yi Longlong away from the lake, and now let her receive the news of her whole race being decimated.
Carefully holding Yi Longlong, Eric then turned around again and shook his head, turning down Easley’s request. “Much apologies, this dragon is extremely important to me, I will not turn her over to anyone.”
Since he now knew the dragon’s situation, he will go to greater lengths to protect Yi Longlong, stopping other malicious people from taking her away, as well as prevent the mysterious person who has been massacring the dragon race within these years from finding her.
He never expected to be actually met with refusal. A dumbfounded expression appeared on Easley’s handsome face. “Why don’t you reconsider for a moment? Being overly stubborn will bring you and this dragon misfortune.”
Eric’s tone persisted in its obstinacy. “There is nothing to reconsider about this matter.”
1. 白暨豚Bái jì tún – Baiji, a functionally extinct species of freshwater dolphin, AKA Chinese river dolphin, whitefin dolphin, Yangtze dolphin. ↩