[Enter, and bring your dish.]
The portal was connected to some place high up in the sky above the world. In the blue sky, amidst the clouds were countless floating islands and boulders.
‘Could this be the Floating Archipelago?’
A fantastical place he’s only heard of in stories.
The magnificent sight that unfolded before Sungchul seemed to match exactly with the description of the legendary Floating Archipelago. Sungchul walked forward feeling slightly awestruck.
The portal was located on the center of the moss-covered floating island.
Sungchul walked over to the edge of the island to look down below.
A gravel fell down below towards the endless dark blue ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see. The seas were rough and waves tall. The powerful winds ceaselessly fluttered Sungchul’s coat.
Sungchul covered his eyes with his hands as he searched for the one who had called him here, the primordial dragon.
“Look to your back.”
A voice could be heard. The voice was spoken softly but solemnly. And yet it also carried a sense of lighthearted playfulness.
“Hii… what a slimy voice!”
Bertelgia trembled as she muttered something.
Sungchul discovered that there was a large cave behind him. One big enough for even the giant dragon to enter.
Sungchul took his covered plate of food and moved into the cave.
There was nothing special about the cave aside from its massive size. There was no horde of treasures nor servants to defend the cave.
The light became fainter the deeper he went in until he had to use Fairy Light to chase away the darkness.
And so Sungchul arrived at a place where he finally met the being seated on the far side of the dark cavern.
It was unmistakably a dragon. An intimidating dragon lay in the darkness in his full glory, enveloped in darkness.
Sungchul walked up to the dragon with his dish.
Getting closer caused the golden scales of the dragon to sparkle from Fairy Light.
“Place down the dish, human.”
The Dragon spoke to him. Afterwards, a magic formation appeared in front of Sungchul and an obsidian table was created in its place.
As commanded, Sungchul placed his dish, the Moonlight Crimson Beef, on top of the table.
The Dragon used levitation to lift up the plate and brought it to his mouth.
It was a fairly large amount of food in human standards, but it wasn’t close to being a mouthful for a Dragon. But the dragon in question kept that in his mouth and chewed it for quite some time to savor it.
It took longer than he had expected.
About when Sungchul was beginning to grow bored, the Dragon lifted its body up.
“I was wondering what was the cause of the addictive sweetness, but that was it. Stardust Sugar.”
Dragon concluded. Sungchul nodded.
“That is so.”
“I recognized the nostalgic taste. So that was it.”
The eyes of the dragon sitting on the far side of the darkness sparkled.
“Are you an Alchemist?”
“I am an Alchemist as well.”
“I thought so. Seeing how you aren’t intimidated by the sight of me, the first of all dragonkind.”
The darkness of the cave was banished by the sudden appearance of bright illumination from the ceiling.
Under the new source of illumination that was incomparably brighter than the likes of Fairy Light, Sungchul was able to get a good look at the primordial Dragon in detail.
It was a massive dragon bearing colorful scales. The golden portions were a very small minority of its beautiful glistening gem-like scales. Every part of the dragon’s body radiated with a fearsome strength that could raise hairs.
Bertelgia’s surprise was all too relatable. She was overwhelmed by the wondrous beauty of the dragon.
On the other hand, the initial impressions Sungchul had was the sense of instability. Though the dragon himself was truly awe inspiring, Sungchul noticed an unstable flow swirling around the dragon, threatening to explode at any moment.
‘It’s different from a Lesser God. It’s similar enough but something seems dissimilar.’
And so the dragon opened his mouth to speak.
“I am the original dragon as well as the overseer of the Chef class, Androa.”
His absolute dignity was befitting of his title as the father of all dragons. An ordinary person would have collapsed to their knees at the sound of his voice, but Sungchul was no ordinary man.
Without a hint of fear, Sungchul looked straight at the dragon and spoke calmly.
“I am Sungchul Kim.”
Androa’s eyes sparkled.
“I have no choice but to acknowledge your mettle. That human with a twin sword was quite something, but you make him look mundane in comparison.”
“Human with a twin sword?”
“It was perhaps a thousand years go. I suppose it’s not quite a thousand yet, since this era hasn’t ended. But all that aside, the name of that human was Desfort.”
Sungchul looked visibly surprised.
“He had come with a few comrades in tow. The one who actually did the cooking was an elven woman, and the Stardust Sugar that I was so deeply impressed with was made by an Alchemist. They had come claiming that they were making a dish with group effort. The one who I bestowed the glorious broach to was the Alchemist.”
Sungchul felt he knew who the dragon was talking about.
‘Desfort. He had come here with Vestiare and Eckheart it seems.’
“That human seemed to have researched quite diligently about this world.”
“What did he ask you?”
“How to destroy the world.”
“To be more specific, he already knew how it could be done. What he asked me was the location for realizing that ambition.”
“You mean the Island of Lamentation?”
“You know very well, human. But from conversation just now, you might be able to deduce a fact. I, Androa knows all, but the limitations on what I can tell you is determined by your own understanding and knowledge.”
Androa’s eyes sparkled again. Sungchul immediately understood what he was told. A grin appeared on Sungchul’s lips.
“Why do you smile, human?”
Androa probably couldn’t imagine in his wildest dreams just how far a human named Sungchul Kim has gone and to what end he had arrived.
“How many questions am I allowed to ask?”
“As many as you wish. But I will not give you unlimited time. So think carefully before you ask. The value of the knowledge a finite creature like a human can obtain from me is immeasurable without equal.”
Androa’s voice conveyed his absolute confidence and pride. It was worthy of one with the title of the first of all dragons.
It was possible that Sungchul in Androa’s eyes seemed like nothing but one of the numberless creatures passing by, living its short flicker of a life.
Sungchul felt the urge to reject Androa’s limitless pride. A small desire to rebel sprouted in his heart as he picked his first question.
“I have seen the God of Order in the Transcendent World.”
In just one word, Sungchul caused the father of all dragons to freeze up. Androa’s enormous body twitched once.
Sungchul sensed the cave begin to tremble slightly as he continued to ask his question calmly.
“Is that really a god?”
Androa’s body flinched. The overconfident demeanor he showed must minutes before was nowhere to be seen.
“You… What are you? What absurdities do you utter?”
He was panicking. The being known as the father of all dragons, the primordial dragon.
“You ask a preposterous question, human! Are you here to provoke me?”
To this, Sungchul replied with a voice devoid of any uncertainty as he calmly and honestly informed the dragon what he had seen.
“I’m not asking a ridiculous question. Because I have climbed the stairs.”
Sparks of flames leapt from Androa’s eyes.
“The stairs that lead to god.”
“Are you saying you climbed that all the way to the end?”
Magic formations appeared before Androa’s eyes. Dozens of magic formations suddenly appeared all together and just as quickly vanished. Androa had used the power of magic to examine Sungchul.
Dragon’s jewel-like scales stood on their ends and the giant talons gripped the earth.
It was the purest form of shock anyone can exhibit. One that even the primordial dragon that lived close to eternity found difficult to handle.
That kind of man had come looking for him.
“So this is the true identity of the bizarre gourmet who cooks trash to eat.”
A thick sigh escaped Androa’s lips.
“Bizarre gourmet? You speak too harsh.”
Sungchul turned his neck as he stretched.
“Aren’t you the real bizarre gourmet? It seems to me that you also have quite the deviant taste, falling heads over heels for the taste of saccharin like that.”
Androa fell silent.
He had endured all of perpetuity, but the mysterious power hiding in Sungchul’s body was still outside of what he had believed possible. Sungchul listened to the sound of winds blowing in from the outside as he waited for Androa to organize his thoughts.
It wasn’t until Bertelgia was thoroughly bored and thrashing about that Androa finally broke the silence.
“… So in the end, this world marches onward to the predestined annihilation.”
Sungchul, who had been mending his coat in the corner, put down the needle and thread and stood up.
The dragon continued.
“The reason why you were able to climb the stairs to the end could have been due to the strong resolve you carry that far exceeds normality. But I do not believe this is the true reason.”
The dragon scratched a boulder with his enormous talons as he continued his explanation.
“It means that time is starting to draw to a close. The Alchemist from the previous era, too, informed me that he had successfully climbed and returned from the god’s stairs. It used to be something unthinkable. In the distant past, far stronger and mightier heroes had…”
Sungchul interrupted Androa’s explanation.
“I would like to hear the answer to my question earlier.”
There was only one answer Sungchul wanted. Between the being he witnessed at the end of the stairs, and the one in the Transcended World, which was truly a god?
Androa’s large body began to tremble slightly.
Sungchul had a bad premonition. And it soon came to pass as Androa opened his mouth again.
“…I dare not answer that question. I cannot afford to displease either one of them.”
Getting the answer was utterly impossible.
Sungchul looked gravely disappointed.
“…Is that so?”
But he did not blame Androa. In the end, that’s all that he had amounted to, even the being known as the primordial dragon.
Sungchul did not engage in mockery or leave provocative words that most would find well deserving. He simply turned to leave without hesitation.
“Are you leaving already, human…? No, you who no longer befit the meaning of human.”
This caused Androa to be the one to reach out.
First of all dragonkind, godfather to all dragons, keeper of all knowledge, he had many great and illustrious titles. And now he was being discarded and ignored by a human that just happened to show up one day.
“Do you have nothing else you wish to ask? I could answer a different question.”
“Nothing comes to mind.”
There were a few things he was curious about but he didn’t particularly feel like asking the dragon. What was the point of asking a few mundane questions about small details when the most fundamental question could not be answered?
Androa seemed to have guessed Sungchul’s mind because he continued to make an offer from behind.
“What you wish to know, you’ll have to find the answer within you yourself.”
“I have not come here to hear that kind of answer, dragon.”
Sungchul turned around and replied calmly.
The human and the dragon’s eyes met.
Restless Dragon’s eyes and human eyes as calm as a lake.
Dragon broke the brief silence that fell between them.
“Go back to the stairs again. There you’ll be able to obtain the answer that you seek on your own.”
“Go back… hmm…”
A thin grin appeared on Sungchul’s lips.
“You already knew the answer, didn’t you.” The dragon said with a low tone of voice.
“Is that so?” Sungchul suddenly felt the urge to ask questions return.
Sungchul once again turned his body around to face Androa. And from the bottom of his heart, he finally brought forth the question on the topic that had become his life’s goal and ambition.
“What are Calamities?”
Sungchul asked. Like before, Androa trembled slightly when he was given the question but he did not evade the answer like he had before. The dragon replied slowly and sincerely.
“…Calamities are necessary evils.”
Androa nodded at Sungchul’s parroting and explained.
“Necessary evil required to keep this world in existence. That, is the Calamity’s fundamental nature.”
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