Two black creatures were walking through the leaf-littered forest floor of the Forest of Darkness. One of them looked like he’s in his late 20s, has long black hair tied up with a red ribbon and dark blue eyes. The other was an old man, has black eyes and, although he once had hair as black as his companion, he now had white hair. They were both wearing black clothes just like they have nearly their entire lives.
The older of the two stopped momentarily to catch his breath.
“Do you want me to carry you?”
The old man looked at his companion. This ‘young man’ has a stoic expression on his face much like a certain young master he once knew. He couldn’t help but laugh a little.
“Asking that question with that expression makes me remember things from the past.”
The past. The time when he used to carry a certain red-headed young man around because he was weak and sometimes coughing up blood. The truth was, it’s not just this young man’s expression that made him recall the past. Although his hair was black, he looked almost identical to that red-headed young master. Almost like a far more handsome version of the red-headed young master.
“Raon, even if I am old and withered, I still wish to reach that place with my own feet.”
That’s right. That young-looking man was the same person as that chubby 1.15-meter young dragon he rescued with the red-headed young master and a couple of cat tribe kittens.
Raon snickered and said, “Sure, if that’s what you want, Choi Han.”
They continued on their way to their destination, while flashes of old memories pop up in their minds.
Raon stared forward as he remembered the last great battle he fought in.
It was a battle that surpasses the battle during ancient times. The White Star just needed to do one more thing to fulfill the dream he’s had for a thousand years. What was that step? He had to kill three people. One was Choi Han, the other was Raon and the last one was his human. The White Star needed to kill these thorns in his path that was about to ruin his dream.
Puzzle City was destroyed. The surviving ordinary soldiers, highest-grade knights, and the rest of the population in the western continent were in disbelief. Only one thought was in their minds as the battle unfolds before them or through a video communication screen.
‘This-, this is a battle not even a highest-grade knight could participate in.’
Powerful white and red-gold bolts of lightning clashed against each other in the sky. The aftershock of each clash was enough to cause fear and uncertainty in their hearts.
They were all currently being protected by multiple layers of shields that were cast by Rosalyn, Mary, the dragons, and Cale from the lightning bolts of the White Star’s sky attribute.
Cale had exerted himself once again to his limits. The others were at their limits too. They had to deal with all the hidden cards the White Star had shown them at the final stages of the battle. Raon was out of his mind with worry. His human’s weak glass plate was in danger of breaking again. He knows, and his human knows, that if this human’s glass plate breaks again, he would certainly die this time.
There are no more other chances.
He remembered his frustration, anger, dread, despair, and desperation at that time.
‘That stupid plate!’ He remembered cursing that weak plate of his human at that moment.
‘My human is suffering so much because of that weak plate! I-!’
–I want to destroy it–
It was at that moment that his human’s shield broke for the third time. Raon then saw his human coughing up bright red blood and in pain. And he can sense another thing about his human. He can feel that his human’s plate was starting to crack.
Raon lost all self-control. A great wave of mana never seen before exploded out of him. This mana pushed everything in its path away from him and his human. He stared for a moment at the real cause of his human’s suffering in the eye with pure hatred before his own black mana enclosed him and his human just like a protective shell.
Raon shifted his eyes back toward his human and he knows his human can see the anger, desperation, and a hint of insanity in his eyes.
“Cale.” His human flinched after he called him by his name. He had only ever called his human by his name once in his life. “You are so weak.”
He lifted one of his stubby paws and black mana slowly surrounded Cale. Cale was confused and tried to say something to Raon but he ended up coughing out more blood. Raon, on the other hand, can feel the crack on Cale’s plate getting bigger.
“No, you are not the one that is weak.” Raon’s tone was almost emotionless. Cale was worried that Raon had finally snapped. He was worried that Raon was about to go berserk and desperately tried to reach out to the young dragon to soothe him. But that weak body of his is no longer cooperating with him as he coughed out more bright red blood.
Raon’s mana completely engulfed Cale and the power unique to Raon moved. That power started to break his human’s plate. That stupid fragile plate, much like his human’s existence, started crumbling.
Little by little.
He can tell his human was suffering because of what he’s doing judging by his gasps and his trembling body. But he didn’t stop. He wanted to destroy it. He doesn’t want this plate to endanger his human ever again. And at its place…
“I will share my plate.”
Raon’s plate. Raon will share his plate with his human. It’s practically non-existent. He destroyed it himself during his first growth phase but something else became his plate as a result. He was giving that to his weak human. He was giving it to him as a present.
The others, who could feel that Cale’s plate was being destroyed, screamed his name out.
“Young master Cale!”
White Star was laughing out loud thinking he’s finally gotten rid of one of the obstacles in this path.
Only Eruhaben and Mila could tell what is really happening. Eruhaben, whose eyes were opened wide, slowly grinned and then laughed out loud, while Mila felt goosebumps all over her.
“Hahahaha! I’m really going to go crazy! Hahaha! I can’t tell anymore if he’s a truly lucky or unlucky bastard! Hahahaha!”
Eruhaben was the only one who could tell exactly what Raon was doing. He was the only one who experienced it before. Beacrox was also there, but it was only Eruhaben who could tell what was happening to Raon’s plate at that time.
‘Unbelievable! That little kid is removing that unlucky bastard’s plate! This could only mean one thing.’
One’s plate represents one’s limits. Raon was removing Cale’s plate just like he did with his own, although he didn’t know it at that time. Raon was removing Cale’s limit.
The ancient powers within Cale were panicking at first. After all, they knew that if someone’s plate breaks, that someone would die a painful and explosive death as a result. But Cale’s plate was starting to crumble and disappear because of Raon.
Then they realized something. Cale’s plate may be disappearing but the ancient powers that the plate once held didn’t run wild. It did not crash against each other like it normally would. In fact, they felt a far firmer and more stable foundation in comparison. They rejoiced after realizing what’s really happening and Cale could also feel the pain subsiding quickly.
The Vitality of the Heart started working even faster than ever. Cale coughed up blood that was dark and clotted one last time and felt better than before. He was shocked for a moment and then laughed. He looked at Raon with amazement on his face.
“Raon, you really are the greatest and mightiest existence in this world.”
And with a smirk, Raon replied, “Of course I am, human. There is nothing I can’t do.”
After that short exchange, Raon removed the protective black barrier around both of them. Everyone could now see Raon and Cale. They saw Raon’s face that’s scrunched up in anger and renewed determination in his eyes while looking at the White Star, who had the most disbelieving expression, and Cale, whose front was completely drenched in blood but looking healthier than ever. He was still pale but not as pale as he was these past few months.
Of course, there was no time to explain anything. Cale just gave orders to his allies and used his ancient powers that have become stronger than before thanks to Raon’s present. They then launched their final attack against the White Star.
The human Raon closed his eyes at the end of the memory. When he opened them again, he could see the entrance to a cave. It was the entrance to the Super Rock’s villa.
Choi Han also saw the entrance and made a passing remark, “We’re almost there.”
He then snorted a bit and said, “I remember when you tried to squish through this entrance after your second growth phase.”
“… Shut up.”
Raon grew bigger than most dragons after his second growth phase when he was 56 years old. Because of that, he couldn’t enter the area where the Super Rock villa was located inside the cave by normal means. Of course, he was great and mighty and just entered it using teleportation magic. The plaza area was big enough to accommodate his size. Unfortunately, he was still unable to enter the villa itself so Cale had to come out in fear that Raon might break the villa if he doesn’t. In the end, Cale decided to just stay in the Black Castle so he can relax and do whatever he wanted with peace of mind.
Raon was 204 years old when he first polymorphed into his current form. The season was spring. The spring flowers they planted in the past were blooming beautifully that season.
The descendants of the beast children Cale took in in the past made flower crowns for him. They then visited Cale to give it to him.
Cale was an old man. A very old man at 218 years of age. The body he had inherited from the original Cale was reaching its end. After all, even the original owner of the Vitality of the Heart died of old age.
Ron’s great-grandson now serves Cale as Ron, Beacrox as well as Beacrox’s only child had long left this world. Every day, this great-grandson, who was almost at the same age as Ron when Cale first opened his eyes and found himself in the Birth of a Hero’s world, would help Cale with all his needs and help him sit in his rocking chair. That’s how all of Cale’s visitors would see him every time they came to visit in the Black Castle.
But one spring day was different from any other. Cale has steadily grown weaker in the span of a year. He has now grown so weak that he could no longer be moved from the bed to the rocking chair.
The representatives of the elves, dark elves, various beast tribes, and kingdoms of darkness attribute races visited Cale in the last week. They all knew his time was almost up and came to say goodbye one after another.
Only the Roan Kingdom had a representative who came to visit. There were no representatives from the many human kingdoms that were allied to the Roan Kingdom while fighting the White Star who came to visit that week. Why would they when they had already attended Cale’s funeral 120 years ago?
It was a funny story to king Alberu at that time and a dreadful event to Cale.
Cale knew his lifespan was prolonged due to the Vitality of the Heart. On his 98 birthday, he decided that 98 was a good age to die. The people around him at that time flinched at his words. It almost seemed like they forgot to breathe. Only Alberu was unbothered.
“I guess you seriously want to start your slacker life now.” said Alberu after taking a sip of tea from his cup.
Alberu was right. After defeating the White Star, Cale and the rest of the gang needed to clean up the mess White Star had left behind. It was annoyingly too much. Since Cale was the only person everyone unconditionally trusts, he was forced to take on the job of negotiating and helping create treaties between human kingdoms, beast tribes, elves, dark elves, and kingdoms of dark attribute races.
“The sun of the Roan Kingdom truly is a wise king. Now I can leave this world in peace knowing that the Roan Kingdom will continue to be ruled by a-“
“Cut the crap.”
Cale grinned. Even decades after, they still do their little antics, which relieves the rest of the people around them.
Alberu touched his chin with his fingers as if he was thinking. “It does sound like a good idea. I shall personally handle your funeral, o treasure of our Roan Kingdom.”
Cale frowned and immediately felt ominous.
“You’re majesty, I just want a quiet funeral.”
“That is an impossible request, master Cale.”
Although Alberu said that to Cale, he did try to make Cale’s fake funeral as quiet as possible. But the death of the hero who saved the world is a far bigger deal than Cale would have liked.
The entire Roan Kingdom wept and mourned for the death of the former commander, Cale Henituse, who saved not only the Roan Kingdom but the entire world. In fact, it was as if the entire kingdom attended Cale’s funeral in the Henituse dutchy.
There were even bards who came to sing songs about the legends Cale had created.
The truth is, it wasn’t just the Roan Kingdom’s citizens who were mourning. The entire western continent was mourning. Nobles and royal family members of other kingdoms, as well as some commoners who could afford to travel, personally attended this fake funeral believing it was real. And when the news reached the kingdoms in the eastern continent, they, too, mourned for Cale.
The sight of the people, while he was invisible in one of the rooms in the Henituse family’s castle, was giving Cale a massive headache. Raon was, of course, crying his heart out as he listens to the bards’ songs.
Alberu was the representative of the Roan Kingdom who came to visit Cale in his death bed. He’s in his dark elf form and his hair was now mostly white. Although saying he’s the representative of Roan kingdom was technically not correct anymore as he also faked his own death a year after Cale’s. He had lived the rest of his life as a dark elf since then. Thanks to Cale, he and his kind could live as they truly were.
Alberu entered Cale’s room and found him surrounded by several people of various races.
On and Hong, in their cat form, were lying next to Cale just as they used to when they were children with sad and teary expressions on their faces. Ron’s great-grandson was there by his side as well with an expression that’s almost identical to Ron’s whenever he saw Cale suffering but with a hint of sadness and loss. Witira and Paseton were there as well with tears in their eyes. Lock and Choi Han looked like they have been crying for a long time. Choi Han, in particular, seems to have no more tears to cry with. King Fredo was there as well looking like a father about to lose his child.
The dragons Rasheel and Dodori were at Cale’s bedside as well. Dodori, seem to be trying hard to not cry and was mumbling things about his hero. Rasheel, dragged in by Dodori, mumbled something like he doesn’t know why a mighty dragon like himself has to be here but then he quickly wiped the tears that were threatening to fall from his eye. Eruhaben and Mila have already passed away.
Adite, the World Tree’s elven priestess, also had a tearful expression as she placed a wreath of leaves from the World Tree on Cale’s head.
Amongst the original party members Cale traveled with, only the ones in this room were left. The rest had already died of old age as well.
“Our eternal King, Alberu. The wisest and bravest of them all. It is the highest honor to have you come visit me.”
Cale noticed that Alberu had arrived and weakly greeted him.
“Our kingdom’s treasure and the legendary hero who saved the world, Cale Henituse. It is a far greater honor to be in your presence.” Alberu said back to Cale with a grin.
Cale just weakly snickered after giving each their usual exchange of glib tongue.
“Alberu, thank you for letting me live a slacker life. Even if it was only for the last 73 years.”
Alberu smiled sadly at Cale’s little complaint and said, “Of course. It’s only obvious.”
As Alberu walked closer to Cale’s bed, he noticed someone with long black hair and wearing black clothes sitting on the floor and holding Cale’s wrinkly hand to his forehead. The hands holding Cale’s were shaking almost as if he refuses to let it go.
Although it was Alberu’s first time seeing this person, he knew exactly who it was. In fact, it was everyone’s first time seeing this black-haired person, but they also knew who it was.
Cale weakly called this black person by his name.
The trembling Raon could only gasp and choke at those words. He was feeling a deeper sorrow, despair, and loneliness than when he was still chained and tortured in that cave during his first four years of life. He was finding it hard to control himself so as to not crush his human’s now fragile hand in his hands. His tears wouldn’t stop falling from the tip of his nose either.
Raon felt like his world was crumbling down. He could feel his human’s presence becoming weaker and weaker over this past year. He had also heard his human telling him he’s fine numerous times.
He understands what was happening to his human. Even if he has removed his human’s limits, it only helped extend his lifespan. Nothing he could do would prevent the inevitable happen.
Cale lifted his free hand and patted Raon’s head. He hasn’t been able to pat Raon’s head for a long time. Well, Raon grew so big that he couldn’t reach his head anymore.
“Do you still despise humans?” Cale asked.
Raon thought for a moment. He thought of the genius Rosalyn, the strong Choi Han, the good Mary, and many others and answered, “Yes. But not as much as before.”
Cale smiled and said, “You have grown splendidly.”
“Haha.” Raon couldn’t help but laugh. He had only polymorphed into this human form because he couldn’t hold his human’s hand in his dragon form. His desire to hold his human’s hand was stronger than his aversion to taking a humanoid form.
“I wonder… if we will meet again.” Raon felt like he could only let go of this hand if this human tells him they’ll meet again someday even if it’s not in the world they are currently in.
“I don’t know. Most likely not.”
Raon laughed momentarily at Cale’s answer.
‘That’s just like him.’ he thought.
He finally lifted his head up to look at Cale for the first time after entering this room. The others could now see Raon’s face, which looked like a more handsome version of Cale’s, that was wet with tears.
“Human, I don’t want to say goodbye.”
It has become a tradition in Cale’s group to hold the hand of the one who’s dying and say their farewells but Raon was finding it extremely difficult to say goodbye.
He understood that it was bound to happen but he still doesn’t want his human to die.
“Raon, you must say goodbye.” Cale said to Raon with a stoic expression. “Not everyone could say goodbye to their loved ones before they died. I was one of those people.”
Cale remembered all the deaths of those whom he cared for. The ones whom he couldn’t say goodbye to. He could never forget the despair he felt in those moments. Cale doesn’t want that to happen to Raon. It was the reason why he personally stayed at the deathbeds of his friends and family in this world while holding their hands and saying goodbye.
Alberu, Choi Han, On, Hong, and Raon knew the gravity of those words. They were the ones who knew Cale’s past as Kim Rok Soo.
Raon continued to hold Cale’s hand tight. The others bid their farewell to Cale as he did so. It was only when Raon could feel that the last embers of Cale’s life were about to go out did he said his goodbye.
“Goodbye, human. Goodbye… Cale.”
Raon was deep in his thoughts that he didn’t realize he and Choi Han had arrived at their destination.
It was Cale’s room in the Super Rock villa.
No one has been in here since Cale had died except for Raon, who once visited to place some trinkets that Cale once owned on the altar that once held the ancient power of earth. The trinkets were the items Cale used his Embrace ability on as well as the magic bag Cale used to carry around, filled with various things he mostly stole and highest grade potions.
“We have arrived.” Choi Han announced to no one in particular but Raon answered back.
“Yes, we have.”
They were the only ones left. They both have the longest lifespan within their group and knew that they will be the ones left behind to live on.
And now, their time, too, had come.
They have returned to the place where they felt closer to the one person they admired and loved the most.
That’s why this was the place they both wanted to spend their last moments in. If you think about it, it’s quite symbolic in a way.
Choi Han was suddenly thrown into the Forest of Darkness where he had to do the best he can to survive. It was a place he never thought he’d return to after leaving it. Now he felt like he’s really returning to where he came from. The place where he was born in this world.
It was the same for Raon. He so desperately wanted to escape the cave he was imprisoned in only to choose to spend his last moments in one. But unlike that hell he was born in, this cave only reminded him of the warm and good memories he had made with everyone.
Raon had once cast a spell that would prevent everyone, except him, Choi Han, Alberu, On, and Hong, from entering this villa the last time he came here but now he is about to cast a more complicated, powerful, and absolute spell that would prevent anyone and anything from entering. It was a magic spell to hide and seal this entire cave forever. It was a spell so strong that only a dragon much stronger than Raon could undo it. Being an almighty Dragon Lord would not be enough.
After all, some of the items Raon had left on the altar were where the sky attribute ancient power and the God of Despair were sealed. Although they knew there was no one, except Cale himself, who could undo the seals on those trinkets, they still felt like it’s better to keep these items away from anyone’s reach. Especially since all the other items their friends used to defeat the White Star and God of Despair were in this villa as well. The seal would also protect and preserve anything that’s in the cave of the Super Rock villa.
While Raon was casting the spell, Choi Han approached Cale’s bed and patted the sheets with a nostalgic expression on his face.
Cale’s room in the villa was almost the same as when he first moved in here. The only difference was the three additional beds on the side of the room where the window with the best view of the plaza was located.
Choi Han went to the one in the middle of those beds and laid down in a way that would make someone think of what an old man, who had just finished a laborious work, would do at the end of the day.
The bed was Raon’s childhood bed. In the past, Cale decided to give the three children their own beds because they had grown so big that there was barely any room for him to sleep on his own. The children, of course, protested at first.
Once he was done, Raon first approached Cale’s old bed and touched the place where Cale’s head would have been as he slept before going to where the three beds were as well.
He sat at the bed on the right of Choi Han. It was once Hong’s bed.
Raon then reached out his hand to Choi Han and Choi Han took it.
Since they were the last to go, they had no one else but each other who could hold their hand in their final moments.
“Being the last to go really sucks, huh.”
Choi Han chuckled at how childish Raon’s remark sounded, but he agreed.
“It sure does.”
Raon had spent a life just shy of a millennium, while Choi Han had surpassed it. They only had a few more moments left to spare.
Tiny black sparkling particles started to appear around Raon.
‘It’s time.’ They both thought.
They both gave each other a smile. Just a simple smile without a hint of sadness. They then told each other their farewells.
“Goodbye, Choi Han.”
After saying their goodbyes, Choi Han closed his eyes for the last time.
Raon looked on at Choi Han’s face for a moment longer and said with a small smile, “I am glad that fate had managed to bring all of us together.”
And with that, Raon’s body disintegrated into those bright black sparkling particles and turned into dust.