22-22 Black Dead Dragon

 I gasped at the sight of the creature that suddenly appeared due to the princess' Uncover.

It's not ...... a black death dragon ......!

 It looks like a giant black frog, but it's a true dragon with a ferocious personality - the Black Death Dragon.
 With claws harder than iron, it can tear apart its prey, bite through rocks with its sturdy fangs, and feed on anything that moves, following its instincts.
 Most frightening of all is the miasma it stores in a sac at the back of its throat, which it breathes out.
 In addition, if the miasma is not properly treated, it will stay in the area and continue to burn the soil black, turning the whole area into a barren wasteland.
 The secondary damage will be enormous.
 For this reason, it is called the "Black Death Dragon" as it is the one who brings about the black death, and it is one of the most vicious creatures among the demons that inhabit this continent.

 As a dragon species, it has a high level of fighting ability, but it is also an extremely dangerous species that is treated as a "Class A" threat due to the danger of the miasma breath that causes damage to a wide area.

 However, they are usually found only deep in the poisonous swamps, and are said to be rarely encountered.
 How could it be this close to the city?

 What about the child?
 What does it look like?
 I've only heard about it, but I'm sure of it.

How did the demon race get here?

 A hundred years ago, they fought a great war against the Holy Mithraism, and lost their country. They're scattered all over the world, and they're an abhorrent race of subhumans called the Demons.

 They look just like people, but there is a crucial difference.
 They have a special ability that allows them to communicate with demonic beasts at will, and everyone is born with this ability.
 They are born to be close to demons.
 There are records of people who have manipulated ferocious demons as if they were arms and legs, and have plunged many cities into danger.
 It's common knowledge that everyone who goes to school knows about them, but few people have seen the real thing.

 This was the first time I had seen one myself.
 It is said that the demon race has been hunted to extinction.
 However, they are not completely extinct.
 It is said that the survivors of the Holy Demon War are hiding somewhere, seeking revenge.
 Therefore, it is recommended to kill them as soon as you find them, and if you catch them alive and hand them over to the Holy Mithraic Kingdom, which is the enemy of the demon race, you will receive a huge reward.
 For this reason, it is said that there are even adventurers who advocate "demon hunting".

I don't think so... that Black Death Dragon was controlled by that demon tribe to get here...?

 That must be it.
 The Black Death was brought here by a child of that demon tribe.
 If left unchecked, the nearby towns will be destroyed.
 There's nothing we can do. Not with this many people.
 A breath of miasma will kill even the strongest of men.
 Approaching it without any countermeasures would be like going to destroy yourself.

 And yet, that man...!

"Mr. Linneburg, no.

 The princess was about to run after the man, but I quickly blocked her path with the light shield I created with my [Divine Shield] and forcibly stopped her.
 I feel contradictory and conflicted about my actions.

 It was my role to protect my companion...
 And I just said that I would protect that man.
 But more importantly, I have to protect Princess Linneburg now.

 I have to give up that man.
 That's what I keep telling myself.

 The man who ran off, Noor, is now flicking the claws of the Black Death Dragon with a one-handed sword.

 It was an unbelievable sight.
 When his own teacher, the [Shield Saint], [Immortal] Dundargu, once had it in his hands, he could barely make a single swing with both hands with all his strength.
 That man is wielding it lightly with one hand.
 And using that "black sword", he easily flicked the claws of the dragon species, which would break any weapon if it was taken seriously, right in front of him.
 Even Gilbert called his strength "a joke," and his ability to defeat the Minotaur single-handedly is real.

 He is undoubtedly a strong man.
 But that's not enough.

"That alone is like going to your death.

 The real threat of the Black Death isn't the claws and fangs that come out of its massive body.

 You should have turned and fled as soon as you saw it.
 There's nothing we can do with our current strength.
 Go back to King's Landing and call the main army... no, no.
 All the troops are gone now.
 Isn't that why I was sent on this mission?

 I have a secret mission from the prince.

 From now on, King's Landing will be in danger.
 If the news of the destruction of the capital reaches you, you are to immediately defect to the Holy Mithraic Kingdom with Lord Noor.
 You are strictly ordered to protect the life of the princess above all else.
 I was forbidden to explain the situation to the princess.
 He said that if I told her, she would insist on staying in the country...

 I was conflicted.
 I know I'm the best person for the job since I've been protecting the princess's safety since she was a child.
 But it's frustrating. I feel guilty when I think of the people I left behind in King's Landing.
 To think that I alone can escape while my colleagues and subordinates are fighting to the death...
 No, this is a mission.
 Protecting the princess and getting her to safety.
 I'm just like them in that I'm willing to give my life for my country.
 That's what I thought as I drove the carriage here.

 But the Black Death Dragon appeared on our way.
 This was unexpected.
 It was probably guided by the demon race.
 Could the enemy have anticipated the princess' escape route?
 No, we don't know that.
 But this route won't work for exile anymore anyway.

 We have to turn back.

 We have to give up... everything.
 We're near a mountain city.
 If the Black Death appears anywhere near human settlements, we have to be prepared to lose a city or two at the very least.
 Such a threat.
 That's what the enemy has unleashed.
 If we let that demon go, it will do a lot of damage to the city.
 But we can't let that happen.
 We must flee, knowing that the lives of many people in the neighboring towns will be lost.
 No matter how hard we try with this small group of people, we can't do anything right.

 There's only one thing we can do now.
 Retreat as fast as we can.

 And yet...!

"What the hell is that man thinking...!

 In frustration, I couldn't help but blame the man.
 With that man running out, I completely missed my chance to retreat.
 The man left the carriage and the princess followed him, barely stopping his actions, but they were still far from the carriage.
 Even if she tried to get into position and escape now, it was unlikely that she would be able to leave immediately.

 That man must have taken off without a second thought.
 He probably did it to save the demon boy.

 Stupid, that man.

 I couldn't help but think that.

 Maybe he doesn't know.
 That black dragon was brought here by that boy.

 There's a child about to be killed in front of me, so I'm going to save him...
 It must have been such a simple thought, or perhaps it was such an instantaneous decision that he didn't even have time to think about it.
 That is understandable, to a point.

 But to go and save the one who is the source of this threat, even at the cost of his own life.
 That act was inconsistent no matter how you look at it.

 If I hadn't known, I would have gone to save him.

 The next thing that came to mind was a feeling of jealousy.

 Protecting people with their own bodies - that's what a tank is supposed to do.
 If I saw someone in front of me who was frightened, I would want to protect them too.
 That's why I chose this job and rose to this position.

 But there is only so much a person who is not a character in a fairy tale can do.
 There are times when defending someone with one's own body ends up putting someone else in danger.

 And that's just what's happening now.

 What a fool that man is.

 The man who called Princess Linneburg "Leanne".
 The man who came to her in her hour of need, who saved her life.
 The man who saved her life and handed her the Black Sword, the king's favorite weapon.

 I've known that man's name for a long time.

 Every time my respected teacher and nurturing parent, Dundargu the Shield Saint, mentioned that man's name, I felt annoyed.

 During training, on expeditions to defeat the enemy... that man's name came up at every turn.

If only ...... Noor were here at a time like this.

 That's what he used to say only to me.
 Every time I heard it, I thought.

 I'm right here. Why are we talking about this guy?

 I knew I was having ugly feelings of jealousy towards the man whose name I only knew.

 And when he appeared in front of me, I was even more jealous.

 The man who called Lady Linneburg by her name so casually, the man who stood next to her, the man who was supposed to be my role for so many years.

 When I found out that it was Noor, I felt as if everything had been taken from me.

 I guess that's why I said that I would protect that man in the carriage who didn't need to be protected.

 That ugly feeling may have shown its face the moment the man jumped out of the carriage.

 That's why I delayed my decision for a moment.
 If he had just let the shield appear in front of the man, he would have been able to stop him.
 The reason I didn't do that...
 If that man had jumped out and lost his life...
 Was I thinking about that?

 No... no.

 Quite the opposite.
 I was thinking.
 Maybe that man, that man who is recognized by the king, by the princess, by Gilbert, by his father-in-law Dundargu, by all the Six Saints, would be able to take care of that evil, the Black Death.
 I hesitated to stop for a moment, thinking so.
 I was hoping.
 I harbored a selfish dream, loaded with emotions that could not be described as jealousy or envy.

 I approved of the man's actions at that moment.

 Yes, he was a fool.
 He went to his death without knowing it.

 But if you call him stupid.

 I'm probably even more stupid than that.
 Because I'm the one who sent him to his death knowing that.

 I saw the mouth of the black death dragon facing the man open wide.
 In the depths of its throat, I could see a swirl of jet-black miasma.
 The thing I feared the most - it will be unleashed right here, right now.

"Master Linneburg, the miasma is coming. Be prepared.
You have to give up! You can't save him now...

 A jet-black miasma breath was released from the Black Death Dragon.

 It hit the man and dissipated like an explosion.
 The whole area was quickly covered in a black mist.

"Coming... Mr. Linneburg, get behind me. Divine Shield...!

 I immediately activate the [Divine Shield] and create a shield of light as much as I can between me and the Black Death Dragon.
 The light shields overlapped each other to the point where they became a wall of light.
 However, this alone will not be enough to prevent the miasma from coming.
 The princess neutralized the miasma that came through the gaps with her [monk] skill [Purify].
 That somehow managed to protect them and the horses pulling the carriage.
 But... that's all. That's all I can do.

Sir, ......!
You have to give up... there's nothing you can do.
No! Right now, all you can think about is your own survival...!

 I bit my lip as I shouted at the princess.
 This was predictable.
 From the moment that man ran off on his own.
 That's why I'm angry.
 At that man for running off without a second thought.
 And at myself for not being able to stop him sooner.
 As a result, you're risking the princess's life.
 In the end, I'm not protecting anyone.

 I'm a failure as a guard.

 The miasma is getting thicker and thicker.
 He's completely helpless!
 The miasma of the Black Death Dragon is fatal with just one breath.
 It is nearly impossible for even a high-ranking monk (cleric) to cure.
 In such a dense miasma, you won't be able to live more than a few seconds.

"Teacher ......!

 The princess is worried about the man's health.
 But he can't be saved.
 In fact, we're in danger.
 The only thing you can think about now is protecting the princess.

 Suddenly, I heard a sound deep in the black mist.

 Perhaps it's the sound of that man fighting the Black Death Dragon... no.
 He's resisting with his last bit of strength.
 The sound never stops.
 Every now and then, there's a sound like something popping and cracking.

"What's that sound ......?

 An unfamiliar sound made me wonder.

 Suddenly, a breeze blew across the plain.
 For a moment, the dense miasma cleared.
 In the depths of the black mist, I saw the Black Death Dragon swinging its claws down.
 And the figure of a man flicking it with a one-handed sword.

 Incredibly, the man was still standing in front of the Black Death Dragon.
 spewing blood from every part of his body.

 He's not going to make it. It's so badly injured you can see it at a glance.

 And yet he continues to stand in front of the dragon.
 All the while the miasma was slowly clearing...
 As if to protect the demon boy who was sitting behind him, the man stood there, flicking the claws of the attacking black dragon with the sword in his hand.  

 The princess and I were both speechless at the sight of him.

 And then we understood.
 That strange sound was the sound of the Black Death Dragon's claws breaking one by one.

 I couldn't call it stupid anymore.

 Because it was the image that I had always longed for and pursued...
 The kind of person I've always wanted to be, the kind of person I've always wanted to be, the kind of person who would risk his or her life to protect someone else.

 That was the ideal defense worker (tank) that I had envisioned for myself.