Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Theodore, human, aged 47, a mage from the Twilight Flatlands. His face was an ordinary one, his personality introverted, and he was a teacher at Winter Fort Academy.
The Twilight Flatlands was located to the south-east of the Empire and was connected to the hub of the Dark Forest. The place was shrouded with thick fog and filled with rivers and swamps, and the mist was often so heavy light simply could not seep through, which in turn was how it got its name.
According to legend, a primordial dragon resided there, and its very presence was the reason the locale was encumbered by the damp darkness.
As an ordinary child who grew under such a difficult environment, Theodore had always dreamt about leaving this cursed place to see the wide world, the free world.
Therefore, it was perhaps the mercy of the ancients that his wish was quickly grantedafter being tested positive for magical affinity, the brown-haired boy was chosen as an adept by an Imperial Mage who had traveled across the world. Under the blessing of family and friends, he left the depressing place, and arrived at the heart of the Empirethe Imperial City, the Holy City of the Triplet Mountains.
That may have been the happiest time in his life. Not only was he able to learn the mysterious ways of magic, he could finally experience a lucid world without fog.
However, as happy times go, it did not last long. The war against the orcs had suddenly broken out. After being enlisted alongside his mentor, his mentor soon died on the battlefield. Though sudden, it was still nothing out of the ordinarywar would always claim lives.
However, despite thinking that he was already prepared for it, he was still at a loss when it really happened. He genuinely felt the irony that he himself, who was ever so weak would survive, while his mild yet formidable mentor died to a single ambush.
The war had concluded not long afterward. He was now an initiate without a mentor; he could learn by himself but at most he would end up as a rogue mage. Initially, he had simply wanted to leave the Flatlands, but now he had really fallen in love with magic and could not accept the fact that he was now an outcast.
With a once-in-a-lifetime resolve, he sought out a man and told him his hope to keep learning magic. That person was none other than the former comrade of his mentor and the leader of the Grand Team of Imperial MagesNostradamus, and it was a gamble that he won.
For the sake of a departed comrade, the old mage took him under his wing as a student and taught him certain spells. In return for his grace, Theodore would agree to whatever Nostradamus desired of him.
That naturally included this occasion, where the elderly mage asked him to leave his work with the Guild and leave the cozy Imperial City. He would then be stationed at the cold and desolated northern border as an academy teacher.
Although he agreed without hesitation, he now felt a tinge of regret.
“This damned place. The weather’s as bad where I’m from!” Standing at the entrance of Winter Fort Academy and staring down at the foot of the mountain, Theodore rubbed his hands as his expression darkened.
“No, it’s worse!”
The northern snow plains at the border was a hostile environment, and was definitely worse in every aspect than the Twilight Flatlands. It was to Theodore’s utter shock that it would snow in summer too, and that the temperature was always below zero.
Additionally, the temperature was a notch lower than the surface mid-summit where the academy was built. He would have to wear three layers of cotton if he did not cast [Environment Survivability].
Many from the Twilight Flatlands tend to deem the gloom and cold of their hometown magical damagewhich Theodore was absolutely certain about, too.
He thus believed that the winter of the Imperial City was a mere trifle, and that the northern realms were the same one way or the other. Now, he realized that he was wrong. The frost from the snowy mountains could go through his bones and even more clothing would not help.
Not far off were the sounds of frolicking. The brown-haired mage turned to see quite a number of teenagers playing around in the little forest near the academy.
They were only wearing a single thin layer of student robes as they dashed out and rolled about in the snow, all without a single sign of suffering from the bitter-cold air. All of them were students from the academy it was their break time right now, the time for a breather.
“Are kids from the north monsters?” Theodore mumbled unconsciously, tightening his robe and shaking his head.
“Professor Drake!” Suddenly, a youthful voice called out behind him.
He turned to find a boy and girl with identical platinum-blond and gray pupils walking towards him from the academy.
The boy was in front, and in his hand was a huge silver-gray steel box carved with streams of magical circuits. It looked extraordinarily heavy, but the boy with a hunter’s braid held it effortlessly, just like the girl with a ponytail behind him.
“Thanks, Ivan, Amelia.”
Theodore took over the two boxes and touched the contents without opening the covers through spiritual senses, before nodding in satisfaction.
“Sorry to trouble you during your break. What do you two want as a reward?”
“I’m thinking about” Ivan began immediately after hearing the mage, only for the girl behind him to kick him summarily, before grabbing the back of his collar and whispering something into his ear.
“Thanks, Professor Drake! Weuh, should always help our teachers whenever we could, although weum. We had finished reading all the library books in the public section, so”
“So you want to access and borrow books from the inner vault, huh?” Theodore cut him short as the boy stuttered an almost-verbatim quote from his sister. The mage smiled, shaking his head while taking out a little parchment and pen from his robes. “You’ve been helping me so diligently, how would I not realize what you two would want here.”
Hastily scribbling his signature and a note that would grant permission, the brown-haired mage handed the paper to the delighted siblings while giving them a kind reminder of what being a practitioner of magic meant.
“Ivan, Amelia, you two have been the most hardworking amongst all the students. Still, you two must be aware of your health and rest from time to time. And don’t just stick to the tomesthe measure of a mage is their ability to apply knowledge instead of merely hoarding it. Go have a stroll outside, and apply your understanding in practical terms. By the way, the books at the inner vault are quite difficult. Although I’m a biological researcher, I’ve dabbled in other disciplines. Do come look for me if you’re stumped.”
“Yes, sir! And thanks, Professor Drake!”
Amelia seems to be shy with words, which was why her interaction had always been handled by Ivan, her outgoing elder brother.
Nevertheless, both were overjoyed to receive permission to borrow books from the inner vaultthe brother’s lips parted in a goofy smile, while the sister grinned lightly like a lady.
The break time was not that long, and the siblings quickly bade the mage goodbye. As Theodore carried both boxes in hand and watched on as the two left, his eyes showed the hint of a smile as he pondered.
Both Ivan and Amelia were the most diligent students Winter Fort Academy had to offer. Nonetheless, it was the younger sibling whose unparalleled talents far outshone her brother. She would definitely step in the threshold of Gold one day, although it would not be a surprise to find her entering Supreme either.
It was exactly because of that the entire academy’s teachers would treat her with additional favor. And she would never disappointwhether it was her grades or her practice, she always placed first.
Ivan’s innate gifts did not compare to his sister’s, but he was an excellent student too. Hidden beneath his carefree demeanor, was a heart of iron.
Whenever he had a problem he could not solve, the youth would not hesitate to ask anyone be it student or teacher. Should that fail, he would move under his own initiative to research it. Furthermore, he had an affinity for magical mechanisms and mystical lifeforms, the latter of which gave Theodore the intention of taking him under his wing as an initiate.
If not for that, even he would not be that lenient towards the children.
“Rumor has it that their parents had died from the rampage of berserk dragons last year, which burnt their villages to ashes. That’s what got the Dragon-slayer Count to massacre the beasts in rage, but the dead never return,” Theodore mumbled to himself pensively.
“Though they look cheerful, but they’re filled with hate in their hearts It’s a power that motivates, but to let such emotions go unchecked would definitely bring reprisals in days to come.”
The experienced mage could see the siblings’ hidden intention. Both were rather interested in dragons, which made Theodore suspect the reason they kept asking after him was not because he was their biological teacher or that their recent topic was on dragons.
But who caresTheodore was not inclined to heed such matters. He was actually happy that their own abilities were acknowledged at such a meager age, and the siblings would definitely contribute to dragon-slaying preparations in the future.
And right now, it was time that he went to work.
Adjusting his grip on the boxes, the mage inhaled deeply and carried the boxes that could not be transported by spells down towards the icy lake beneath the mountain.
As mentioned before, Theodore was a researcher of magical creaturesotherwise known as a biologist.
In older times, his type was called contract mages. They were mages who, through contracts or artificial adjustments to their own bodies, earn ownership over magical creatures.
But now that the Church of Seven had listed the synthetic means as taboo across all nations, contract mages turned their attention to nurturing and making contracts with magical beasts, sharing power and life. Theodore’s mentor had been a famed contract mage himself, having helped the Diamond Royal Family form a contract with a Hellfire Dragonthe very ancestor of Israel Diamond’s own dragon mount.
That, in turn, was Theodore’s goal in life, to make a contract with a dragon, and become a draconic contract mage.
His dreams notwithstandingdragons were a proud race, and therefore why would they form a contract with a mere magic user? Adult dragons would never obey human commands either, unless compelled by the champions of men.
That was why it was nigh impossible to bind a mature dragon in the contract. Still, it was only after many attempts and near-death encounters that Theodore gave up on that idea and turned to look for opportunities of nurturing dragon hatchlings.
Nonetheless, this was even more impossible than forming contracts with adult dragons. To groom one meant to start from the egg, which dragon mothers brood over with an almost maniacal obsession.
What was worse, even though dragons were a highly territorial and strongly independent species that loathed sharing domains with their same kind, they would abandon that practice and build a collective nest just for the additional security over their eggs and young. That was how much their eggs matteredthe dragons would suppress their basic instincts for them!
After trying many times over more than a decade, Theodore noticed that he had stopped short of hitting Sureme tier after he abandoned the idea of forcing a full-fledged dragon into a contract. If he had kept at it, he would have been much greater a magician than he was now. However, he had turned to and mastered elemental magic and transfiguration cells in his quest to approach dragon nests, which in turn left his contract magic lacking.
Indeed, it was a sign of him despairing and giving up when he accepted the teaching offer at Winter Fort Academy. Gold-tier powers were practical, and he was a respected lecturer anywaywhy risk his neck and face-off against a mad dragon?
But fortune toyed with him once more. One day, he was utterly stunned to find out Joshua van Radcliffe, dragon slayer, Liege of Moldovia and an honorary Dean of the academy held possession over a large number of dragon eggs. He had even sent them to the academy as laboratory samples!
“What cursed luck!”
Years of blood and sweat was simply incomparable to a single moment of dumb fortune. When he saw the eggs he could only ever dream about, he did not know whether he should laugh or cry.
Since he was the only person who possessed deep knowledge about dragons and could also care for the eggs, Nostradamus quickly decided that he was the one to watch over them. Still, Theodore was aware that those eggs did not belong to him and that they would not hatch for certain. All he could do was use his self-taught methods and gingerly care for them with untried procedures.
As if the Truth was watching over an apostle, the eggs showed signs of hatching in less than a month. He breathed a long sigh then, for his craft was finally proven correct and useful. If it did not, there was no need for Nostradamus or Joshua to punish himhe would end his own meaningless life.
The frost was coming from every direction of the icy mountains, but Theodore was therefore even more conscious. Clenching on his robes and adding another layer of elemental protection, he quickly felt the warmth shield his body as he kept heading towards the lake.
In truth, to have a dragon hatch especially by human means was a delicate process. What was more, it takes the fulfillment of many conditions that to bond a young dragon to man and have it view the person as an equal while holding back its pride as a dragon. Therefore, there are not many people who incubate dragon eggs, and even fewer people who know how to bond with the draconic infant.
Coincidentally Theodore was one of who was learned in both, which was why he knew that now was not the time to dally.
The methods are many, but there is definitely not enough time. Whether it was conditioning, brainwash magical formations or contracts, nothing can be done soon enough. To start enchanting the eggs was now simply too latethe only way was through nurture.
Theodore thus had only one choice, and that was to have a dragon that was already familiar with a man to care for them. With the influence of the same species, the young would definitely imitate its affection for the man.
Blessed be the Truth that th Count and owner of the eggs, Joshua van Radcliffe, was also a dragon rider, and Mount Nissia was where that dragon mount rested.
Black was its name, and although it was just a half-breed fire dragon, it would do. After all, would infants care about the race of their guardian? And what Theodore needed was just a leaderhe knew how to groom a dragon.
As such, he asked the academy to forward an urgent letter to Joshua. But because he was thrilled when he wrote it, the words were scribbly and the language so confusing that even Theodore himself suspected that the receiver would probably not understand what he wrote.
Still, it meant that he had made prior notice, and without waiting for an agreement the mage made his move. With the eggs being about to hatch and every moment of delay a greater risk, he would brave the punishment of no-notice.
After traversing the winding paths of snow and the lush pine forest, Theodore finally arrived at the lake beneath the mountain.
Frost magic was streaming incessantly from it, a force hard to detect even for Gold-tier mages. But Theodore couldthis was his gift and the reason he was picked up by his mentor. He could use this awareness of his to communicate with other species.
Putting down the two cases of eggs, the mage did a little stretching. He had been on the battlefield and journeyed across countless treacherous mountain passes for eggs and dragons, which in turn shaped his body into a rather athletic one. He had even carried the two boxes easily with a hand on each.
After a quick break, he was ready.
He called loudly from the icy lake. With magic manipulating his voice, the tremors were not sent into the air but instead under water. “It’s me, Theodore, who keeps feeding you. I have some business with you!”
And he left it at that. He knew that it heard him, and as it happened so often in the past, it would appear soon enough.
As expected, the surface of the lake started bubbling not far off, and the bubbles were quickly heading towards him. A gigantic shadow too was slowly appearing underwater, showing just how huge it was.
As it approached, Theodore could feel the flickering fiery elementals that were flickering thanks to the cold started razing. The surrounding temperatures rocketed, as if placing the man inside a furnace.
The shadow slowly rises by the lake. In the company of boiling sprays of water and steam was a colossal dragon floating up.
This was a sleek beast filled with the beauty of elegance and danger. Its body was covered with jet-black and thick shells; its back had wings yet to fully develop and filled with threatening spikes. Underneath its scales, a red-gold vein could almost be seen.
However, the most eye-catching thing was its chest. It was decorated with a single golden crystal as brilliant as the sun, unleashing inconceivable levels of heat.
What’s up, Theodore? More food?
Black had been swimming around below the lake and absorbing mana. It now fixed its dim-gold gaze on the brown-haired mage, a familiar face who always fed it. He was also one of the rare few who understood it, which in turn prompted it to be jovial with the mage.
Had snow prawns, so give cods. Don’t give me cow or goatsick of those!
“No, Black. You’ve just had breakfast, and cod isn’t in season right now, there aren’t enough to feed you. I’m looking for your help.”
Raising the steel cases in his hand, Theodore exclaimed excitedly, “Dear friend, I need you to sit over these dragon eggs!”
The mage would quickly sense the instant change in the atmosphere right after he said that. Black, who had been quite cheerful, had become quiet.
Wait, what did I just say?
“Wait, my friend! What I meant was”
Theodore finally noticed that he was so thrilled that he had forgotten his place. Although he tried to offer an explanation in panic, it was too late.
The dragon’s eyes had widened fearsomely and unleashed an ear-splitting bellow. Scorching gale whistled out of its mouth, consuming the mage’s body in an instant.
Theodore, so you’re such an impudent human!!
Red circuits started to spread across Black’s scales as if corresponding to its anger, and the flashes of its core were now so blinding it was almost a second sun. It trampled the ground heavily, quaking the pine forest.
Moving its head to face the mage directly, it opened its huge maw and growled in fury.
I never had a mate yet, and you would have me to sit on some eggs?! Do you even know what you’re talking about? Fool of a mage!