Sigurd walked across the vast northern ice plains. He should have been feeling weary after marching for so longhowever, because he was about to arrive at his destination, his spirits were high, and he felt relaxed and cheerful.
Over the past few decades, he had spanned the entire continent on his own two legs. However, the places he'd passed through were either underground cities, mazes, or other hidden and dangerous places. Yet in Sigurd's heart, he considered himself an adventurerthe trailblazing sort of adventurer who sought out wondrous new scenery, while uncovering strange and secret mysteries.
According to the legends, this world contained many unimaginably beautiful, breath-taking vistassuch as the Lake of Eternity in the Far South (where one could also find the Saint's Heartwood), the Stormbreak Cliff at the southern sea, the Floating Emerald Island (hidden in the mountains to the west), the unfreezing Lost Sea beyond the northern lands, and countless other wonders besides.
Though this world was dangerous, rife with daemons and war, nevertheless there were so many incredible places worth seeingand that was the reason why Sigurd loved this world so much.
Right now, Sigurd was walking along the road, which would lead him through the northern lands, all the way to the Lost Sea. He had prepared many years for this.
If one wished to reach the Lost Sea, they had to first pass through the mountain checkpoints at the center of the empire, and afterwards the innumerable uninhabited tundras of the north, and only then could one arrive at the first re-supply point along the journeythe capital of Moldavia.
After that, there were two options: one was to go around the long way, either through the Thomas or Moldova regions, towards the territory of Wallachia (which would be the last chance to replenish supplies); the other option was to pass straight through the Great Ajax Mountain Range, heading directly across the ice plains far to the north. Without a doubt, the first option was somewhat saferand Sigurd wasn't a Gold-tier champion or anything like that. Truth be told, the Dark Forest of the northern lands was one of the most dangerous black forests in this world, second only to the Central Dark Forest. One might even have the misfortune to encounter a large horde of draconic beasts withinin such an event, even a typical Gold-tier champion would flee.
But no matter what, right now, Sigurd had finally arrived at the northern ice plains.
It was summer at the moment, so although it was cold on the ice plains, it was not unbearably so. After careful estimation and planning, this was the situation the adventurer had hoped to see.
During winter on the northern ice plains, even a Gold-tier champion was not guaranteed to pass through safely, with all manner of perils such as terrifying blizzards and the occasional appearance of a white dragonall harbingers of doom. But now, with the slightly warmer climate, there wouldn't be any blizzards for at least a few months, while the white dragons would probably be hibernating through the summer.
Upon the uneven fields of ice, pure and white, Sigurd looked out upon the mountains in the distance. They were capped with misty wreaths of fog, the peaks soaring up to staggering heights, majestic and commanding. Sigurd wore a white snow-coat, and as he walked through the snow, he could feel himself becoming one with nature. Looking out upon the vista ahead dreamily, a joyful feeling welled up in his heart.
This was what he'd always been fighting fora sight like this, so magnificent you couldn't turn your gaze away.
From where he stood, he could see the towering mountains marching away before him, their peaks reaching through the clouds, their upper reaches capped with a massive layer of crystal-clear icewhich seemed to take up half the height of the entire mountainall of it dusted with snow, and studded with circular cave mouths.
There was the home of the white dragons of the northWhite Dragon Peak.
Sigurd, as an experienced adventurer, was naturally aware of this fact. It too was in truth a beautiful sight as wellalthough it couldn't compare with what legends described as the exquisite panorama of the fabled Lost Sea, which could move a man to tearsbut when sunlight hit the snow-cap, refracted in the countless facets of the ice, it was as radiant as a diamond, a beauty beyond words.
Patting the frost off of his body, Sigurd set down his backpack, preparing to stop for awhile in order to properly appreciate this view for a momentmaybe have a bite while he was at it, and replenish his strength a little.
However, before he could sit down, something extraordinary happened:
Not too far behind him, there burst forth a streak of fire.
It was a blazing conflagration: even just looking at it, one could imagine its searing heat. This point of red light raced across the snow-covered land, its heat melting a trail of snow in its wake, exposing the blackened ground underneath. A sweltering gale arose, and even though Sigurd was quite some distance away, he could feel the warmth from it.
What's going on? A meteor? But why would a meteor be running around on land?
Before he had the time to think about it, the trail of fire took off at a speed incomprehensible to the average person, arriving near White Dragon Peak.
And then, tracing the ridge of the mountain, it dove straight in!
The rest of the scene took place beyond where Sigurd could see, but he hurriedly got back on his feet, no longer in the mood for a break, and was instead looking out into the distance.
That's a dragon lair! The lair of the white dragonsmuch more dangerous than the lair of any single dragonwhat in the world would think to attack such a place?!
Before he could finish that thought, or figure out what he was looking at, the entire snow-covered mountainunchanged in a million yearsfollowing the entrance of that ball of fire, began to tremble ever so slightly, the snow at its peak tumbling down as a fierce avalanche. Just as the adventurer sucked in a cold breath of shock, a blinding beam of light burst out from the clouds around the mountain-top, brighter than the sunlight a light that could pierce through any barrierand as Sigurd watched, stunned and staring, the mountain which held the lair experienced a second avalanche, and a sound like rolling thunder travelled across the distance to reach him.
And, somewhere in that commotion, he heard the enraged roars of dragons.
What in the world is going on here?!
Sigurd had always considered himself to be merely a common traveler and adventurereven if he was in the Upper Silver tier of power, he did his best to avoid combat, trying to rely mainly on his wits. In other words, this was his first time seeing a great spectacle like this.
And a spectacle it was, this scene that had found him: something incredible was playing out right before his eyesthe show had begun!
Not knowing whether he should sit down and continue to observe, or make his escape right awaygetting clear before the white dragons descended in furySigurd didn't know of anyone who could successfully assault a dragon lair on his own, yet somehow he could tell: this time, events might defy expectations.
That sound he heardit could not have been just any Gold-tier champion.
As he continued to hesitate there, several more powerful roars carried down from the mountain-top, while dazzling magical light punched through the outer walls of the lairits phenomenal energy bled away into the air, the light splitting into the seven colors of the rainbowit even drove through the clouds, dispersing them for several kilometers in every direction, before disappearing into the distance.
Not even a dragon lair could withstand such a force. The outer wall, once solid and immaculate, now bore visible cracks.
Moments later, these cracks became a veritable omen:
A torrent of chipped ice showered forth, the snow rising like fog, while huge chunks of solid ice came toppling down as the breach grew ever wider.
The entire mountain peak was beginning to fall apart!
Meanwhile, inside the dragon lair
Joshua dragged Ling along with his left hand (who in turn was hugging the bottle to himself), while with his right hand he pulled Ying after him (the girl clutching a bag full of dragon eggs), and he stood before the enormous hole he'd created.
Previously, he'd punched through the ice wall at the top of the lair, and then later he'd slammed the newly appointed overlord of the lair, Agamu, down through to the second layer, and finally broke into the third layer to kill the spellcasting dragonalong the way, he'd knocked out three massive openings which together led directly outside.
Now, with the collapse of the dragon lair imminent, this was the fastest way to get out.
"Careful, Ying, Ling: I'm about to throw you. Try not to get hurt on the way down."
Although he'd killed so many dragons, thus avenging his people, Joshua had never shown any joy in the actbut now, that intimidatingly cold demeanor was touched by a faint smile. "You'll be going very fast."
"Master! Why don't you just come along with us?!"
"That's right, Master! You'll lose us if you do this!"
These keening cries issued from the Divine Armaments in either hand. They seemed to have gleaned an idea of their master's intentions, as well as their impending fate.
"Get ready!" Ignoring the both of them, Joshua gave a shout, gathering power into both his armsand then with a heave, he tossed them both away.
"Off you go!"
With that, the two Divine Armaments were sent flying, together with the dragon eggs and the big bottle filled with Chaos vapors. The wind whistling and the children hollering, Ying and Ling were lost to sight within the dragon lair, hurtling all the way outside.
Then he turned to regard his warhorsehis monstrous, dragon-blooded warhorse Black shook its head with horror, issuing multiple futile neighs, but what did Joshua care about its feelings? With a broad smile, he seized the horse with both arms, raised it high, and lobbed it out just the same.
The ice walls all around him were in the process of crumbling apart: huge slabs of ice tumbled over from time to time, sending out a spray of frozen splinters. The frost, stained blue with dragon blood, released a strange, sharp tang into the air.
Now, the warrior was alone.
Turning, he looked at the fallen dragon beside him.
Sometimes, being alone was better than being surrounded by people, if only because he didn't have to worry about keeping his sins hidden.
Not that he didn't have faith in his Divine Armamentson the contrary, Joshua trusted Ying and Ling unconditionallythey were the only family the warrior had in this world.
But some things not even your family could be allowed to see. Joshua was accustomed to doing some things alone, and he didn't want anyone to see this side of himself. He hadn't accounted for the dragon lair falling apart so easilyhe would have to get this done quickly.
Even if he couldn't finish in time, with his Gold-Tier abilities, the cave-in would pose no danger to him; Black and the others, however, might have come to some risk. Joshua didn't like endangering those near himespecially outside of battleand not even the smallest risk was worth braving.
So he would face this alone.
Great chunks of ice crashed down all around Joshua, sliding and colliding with loud, thundering smacks. Ice chips flew everywhere, many being deflected away by the warrior's Combat Aura.
He walked up to the strongest of the dragons here, the body of the one named Agamu, and straightened his hand into a blade.
And then he slashed downenhanced by his intense Combat Aura, tough dragon scale and muscle were forced apart.
Digging through flesh and sinew, he tore the dragon's chest wide open, snapping off bones and ribs, until Joshua saw the giant heart within the dead dragon.
Waves of cold white mana washed over the dragon's heart. It had never stoppedeven though nearly all of the dragon's blood had already drained away, it was still beating softly.
With a little laugh, the warrior removed his armor, reached out, and clutched the massive heart.