Chapter 442: Balance is but an Illusion
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Dragon Valley was filled with sunlight, and Link found himself in the middle of a huge pathway where trees with lush canopies stood on both sides. The leaves filtered sunlight into blocks of gold and yellow scattered across the road ahead.
The Red Dragon Queen and Link walked along this shady path, with an entourage of Red Dragon Elders following behind them 100 miles away.
"Oh, I almost forgot. This is a 1000-year-old tradition of the dragon clan. Anyone who possesses Dragon Power, if they are able to make it through the Mist Maze, will automatically be accepted as an official member of the dragon clan," said Gretel with a smile.
I doubt she's actually forgotten, this must be part of her plan, Link thought.
Fearing that Link might refuse to take part in all this, she continued, "Of course, there won't be any ties to you becoming a member of the dragons, it's more of a rite of acceptance."
Hearing this, Link quickly pulled back what he was about to say as a retort.
"If that's the case, then I guess that's alright." Link nodded in agreement.
Gretel let out an inward sigh of relief then continued, "You know, the dragon clan has always been responsible for upholding the balance of the world, that is, if you're up to the task. So, with your current power level, you may even be accepted as a Red Dragon Duke."
Link shook his head. "No, no, no, I am a lord of Ferde, also I'm quite occupied with my pursuit of the ultimate secrets of magic. I won't interfere with the affairs of the dragon clan."
Even in peak physical condition, time was of the essence, and he could not afford to squander it in the affairs of others. Besides, Ferde was something he held dear and could not bear the thought of losing.
Gretel had expected such a response from Link, and she nodded somewhat sadly. "I knew you would give an answer like that. If that's how you feel, we'll just have to settle with making you an official member of the dragon clan. On the condition that you do not bring harm to us, one of the special privileges you'll enjoy as a member will be free passage through the Dragon Valley."
"Also, the Red Dragon Elders may be a bit stubborn. Promise me you'll try not to butt heads with them too much," said Gretel with a knowing smile.
Link smiled back in response. "I understand. There are people in Ferde who are just as stubborn, though it may sometimes be a bit unbearable, politics does require one to be headstrong at times."
At this point, they finally said their piece on the matter.
Then Gretel said with a smile, "We may have to wait a bit more till everyone from the Emerald Circle gets here. At this point, I've kept my promise."
"And I'm extremely grateful for that,"replied Link.
Gretel beckoned with a wave of her hand at the solemn-faced elders behind her, who then walked up towards them.
"Alright, from this day forth, Link will be a part of the dragon clan. Of course, he's still the Lord of Felde, and won't be free to take part in our affairs, so he'll only be a regular member."
Though there was a grudging approval from the elders, disapproving muttering still persisted among them.
"The affairs of mortals are as ephemeral and insignificant as ember. There is nothing to be gained from something that will be no more than a memory in the span of mere decades."
Among the muttering, Elder Pettalong added, "Master Link, I do feel that you should finish up your business in Ferde as soon as possible so that you may join us in our affairs. We desperately need your help!
"Ever since the incident with the Red Dragon dukes, the dragon clan's strength had been greatly reduced, and now, with the emergence of spatial cracks across the Korora Mountain Range, we only have the Red Dragon Queen to fend off these Void creatures every time they come through one of these cracks.
"This is simply not acceptable, our queen's body is of the utmost value to the dragon clan, a guarantee of its continuation. It's just out of the question to put our queen in such danger all the time. If something happens to her, the royal bloodline will be irreparably severed."
Link chuckled. "I'll think about it, Your Excellency."
Pettalong nodded, pleased at such a humble reply. "You are a wise man, Master Link."
With that, Gretel announced to the group, "Well then, let's go back to the Holy Mountain and mold a dragon's heart with all the dragon spells in it for Link."
The dragons were a proud race who would not stand for the dishonor of going back on their word. It was also a promise made by the queen, not to mention the fact that Link was already accepted as one of them. So naturally, they were duty-bound to keep their end of the bargain.
All the other dragons transformed into their dragon forms, including the Red Dragon Queen. As for Link, he was forced to ride on the back of Elder Pettalong for the moment.
This dragon elder recently gained a power boost. The last time Link saw him, he was only at Level-8. At that point, he had reached the first stage of Level-9, but since he had only recently gotten this level-up, he still had a long way to go to actually be considered a fully-fledged Level-9 master.
He was also still far from being on the same power level as the three Red Dragon Dukes in their former glories.
The procession of dragons flew straight for the Dragon Temple but did not stop there. Instead, they flew on, towards the peak of the mountain.
Link looked into the distance and saw that there was a round platform with a diameter of more than 330 feet carved out of the mountaintop. Six obelisks etched with runes were erected around the platform's circumference, while the platform's surface itself was densely covered in runes as well. Around the platform curled and twisted a stone dragon statue.
Looking on at the majesty of all this from a distance, one could not help but feel a sense of awe and dread that left one breathless.
"Up ahead is the Ancestor Altar, a sacred place of our clan. When members of the dragon race pass on, their spirits will come here to rest. We'll begin our work on your dragon heart here," said Elder Pettalong solemnly.
The dragons stopped in front of the round platform before taking on their human forms. Then, one by one, they entered the platform through an entrance in a line.
There were a total of 16 Red Dragon Elders present. After entering the place, all 16 elders each took a place at a rune carved on the platform's circumference, forming an exact circle around it.
Pettalong moved to his rune and pointed to the rune at the center of the platform. "You just stand right there."
Link climbed up the platform and did as he was told.
Behind him, Gretel climbed onto a dais beside the round platform and looked down at Link. "We'll begin the ritual soon. Now close your eyes and relax. Don't hold onto your Dragon Power, as I'll be molding it into a dragon's heart."
Link took a deep breath, closed his eyes and emptied his mind as he stood motionless on the platform.
After a while, he heard the Red Dragon Queen's voice breaking into something of a cross between a song and a prayer. Chanting along were the voices of the Red Dragon Elders around him.
The elders' voices were deep like the valley, a low rumble reverberating around Link, not unlike the arcane chanting of the monks.
This went on for about five seconds before Link felt a sudden tremor running through his body. His eyes shut tightly;all he could see in the darkness behind his eyelids was a tiny point of light which gradually expanded. Bigger and bigger it grew, till it took on the shape of a gigantic dragon with black, crimson scales.
Though most of the Dragons of Firuman had dark red scales, there were also dragons of other colors, from black to yellow, to blue and green. Red, however, remained a color revered among the Dragons, considering their queen had always bore red scales on her body.
Red Dragons were also known for developing their powers at a faster rate than the others.
The silhouette of the Dragon before him was a stark black, the kind of black that had been the result of blending countless shades of red. To Link's knowledge, nothing like it ever existed in this world, and so he had no clue just how major it really was.
The shadow of the dragon approached him, its long neck towering over Link. A strong voice resounded in Link's head. "Mortal, answer my question with care."
The voice was neither male nor female, but it was overbearingly solemn.
Link felt a sudden chill and knew instantly that this must be the spirit of the dragon presiding over this place. He listened on intently.
The voice spoke, "Is there good and evil in this world?"
"No, only life and death."
"Can this world have balance?"
Stunned by his response, the dragon silhouette asked, "Why do you think so?"
"The only rule governing this world is survival of the fittest: victors survive, while the vanquished perish."
The dragon silhouette remained motionless. After a while, it heaved a sigh as deep as the caverns. Then, it retreated back step by step until once again, it was nothing more than a speck of light. The voice once again spoke, "You are worthy of becoming a dragon!"
Hearing this, Link felt the Dragon Power boil inside him, which then rushed back from his extremities and into a single point deep in his body.
In an instant, Link felt not only his Dragon Power flowing back, but even his physical human body felt like it was being folded back in. This provoked an unimaginably sharp pain in his very core and caused Link to howl in agony.
The pain seared through him for a second or so, and what came after was a craving for power seizing him from the deepest recesses of his consciousness. Power, I need more power!
All 400 Omni Points now converted into Dragon Energy!
Link's Dragon Power went up by 400 points, reaching 10700, but it was not enough; he needed more.
At that, Link suddenly felt a burst of Dragon Power well up in him. It instantly rejuvenated him, as if he was given water after a long, dry journey through the desert.
This sudden torrent of Dragon Power seemed almost endless, flowing into Link seemingly without end and quenching his thirst for power.
At this point, Link had lost all track of time, and out of nowhere, he felt another eruption of power within him. It was an incredibly violent power surge, to the point that Link could not help but roar out loud.
And in a matter of seconds, Link's voice deepened gradually into a dragon's roar.
Being extraordinarily sonorous, a dragon's roar could be heard from very far away. All the inhabitants living around the dragons' Holy Mountain turned to look at the top of the mountain in fear simultaneously.
The Magicians of the Emerald Circle all blanched at the sound in their guesthouse at the base of the mountain.
"That's a Legendary dragon's roar, not the Red Dragon Queen; it's one I've never heard before."
"Another Legendary dragon? How is that possible? Could it have something to do with the dragons we saw flying about in the sky just then?"
On the platform atop the mountain, Link roared with all his might, getting a feel of the sound reverberating through his body. What happened to his body?
Link soon found out that his body had undergone some drastic changes. He shut his eyes for a feel of the body he currently inhabited and felt that his current body was exceedingly vast. He could also feel the power surging in waves through his body as if with one flick of a finger, he could topple an entire mountain, and with one breath, he could blow up a tidal wave.
He read the status message of his new body:
Link Morani (Dragon race)
Level-11 Legendary Dragon.
Description: Originally a human Magician who managed to reach Legendary status by attaining Dragon Power due to unforeseen circumstances. With the deteriorating presence of the dragon race, Link was able to condense a dragon's heart with the aid of the Red Dragon Queen, as well as acquire the dragonification technique with it.
(Note: Balance is only an illusion!)
Link knew then that he had attained a dragon's body.
Blinking his eyes, he discovered that he had a near perfect field of vision.
Without even turning, he could see his own body, which was close to 230 feet long, and by no means inferior to that of the Red Dragon Queen. His body was covered in gleaming black scales and his claws a set of razor-sharp gemstones black as the night. With a slight movement, he banged his claws against the ground, and a metallic sound rang out. At the same time, it let off small shockwaves in the air. What set him apart from other dragons were the crystal-like spikes jutting out from his joints, but mostly across his back, all gleaming with white light. Two rows of spikes grew out menacingly from his skull all the way to the tip of his tail.
He was a Black Dragon.
Around him, the Red Dragon Elders were struck dumb at his new appearance, gazing at him in awe. The Red Dragon Queen remained in place, but she too had gone pale, an incredulous look on her face.
"What's wrong?" Link asked, and he noticed that his voice had taken on a thick, metallic quality.
The Red Dragon Queen nodded. "Your new look is most peculiar. You look exactly like one of our Black Dragon Kings from our history books."
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