Blue eyes peered at two yellow stars.
Instead of pupils, he had sharp spindles.
A man and a dragon looked at each other.
The creature, which had been alive for millions of years, had spent its most recent ones in a tomb. Unable to move its tail or claws, it gazed into the infinite emptiness of its soul.
The man had lived but one life in the prison of his own body, and then continued to exist in the same prison during his second one.
The amazing dragon, whose beauty had been praised in a thousand and one songs… The legendary conqueror of heaven and the Lord of Starlight had been cast down like a simple mortal.
The young man was disgusting to behold. His hands twisted at unnatural angles. He also had skin covered in scabs, a scarred face, an almost white, bald scalp and purulent blisters. Instead of legs— mere wooden stumps.
He’d been one of the most brilliant masters of his time, who’d reached the pinnacle of the martial arts practiced in his country.
The once-talented Prince was now trapped in a body that was incapable of even running, not to mention practicing the art.
In a dark cave, amidst ancient chains, sealed away with energy so dense that it could even be felt, touched, they lay in front of each other.
A bug, and a monster the size of a mountain.
Whether Fate, Chance or Ridiculous Coincidence had brought them together—nobody knew.
The dragon was so bored, he wanted to devour this disgusting mortal, but suddenly noticed the look in his eyes. Those intense, azure eyes. Despite everything that had happened, there was no despair to be found in that gaze, no regret, no fear.
Only the body was rotten, the gaze had remained clear and ferocious. So ferocious that if it were to be manifested, it could split the heavens and bring them down, to the ground itself.
“What is your name, little bug?”
“Hadjar Duran. And what’s your name, scaly face?”
The dragon was about to dissolve the insolent whelp with a thought, but then he suddenly laughed, and his laughter made the thousand-year-old chains shake and the stones of the dungeon crack.
“My name is Traves.”
They looked at each other. One a prisoner of the impregnable dungeon, one the prisoner of his own body and fate.
Traves knew that, even without being chained down, no mortal could escape this place. What puzzled him was how the ant had managed to end up in here.
This ‘Hadjar’ couldn’t help him, couldn’t tell the world that the Great Traves was still alive. Now they were locked in here together. Forever, or until the mortal died of starvation.
And so, Traves’ revenge would never come to pass.
Hadjar didn’t understand how lucky he’d been—he hadn’t drowned in the underwater current, the endless rapids hadn’t broken his head open, he hadn’t drowned in the waterfall nor broken his body going down it, nor had he been shot by the archers. How had he managed to escape from the city on his improvised, artificial limbs?!
And yet, after only one glance at the whirlpool that had spat him out into this underwater grotto, it became clear that he would die of starvation here.
And so, Hadjar Duran’s revenge would never come to pass, either.
The dragon looked at the bug’s fierce gaze. He didn’t flinch, didn’t let go of his rage, even after realizing that it was all completely hopeless.
“I’ve lived a long life, Hadjar Duran. I’ve seen empires built. I’ve seen eternal cities collapse. I’ve fought with geniuses and defeated immortals. I’ve created Techniques so complex that many adepts are still, to this day, racking their brains over them. And yet, Hadjar Duran, I remain only a small spark in the world of martial arts.
‘A small spark’? Hadjar hummed mentally and invoked one of the few functions that his neuronet was still capable of.
If ‘a small spark’ looked like that, then what had the hell of all the adepts he had previously met been? What was he, for that matter? A microbe? Mere dust? A recollection?
“I have lived two lives,” if Duran had had the strength for it, he would have given the dragon a smug grin. “And so, I’m cooler than you.”
All he had left now were stupid jokes and bravado. Well, to be honest, that was all he’d ever had, in principle. Jokes, bravado and an indomitable will.
“Hadjar Duran, will you make a deal with me? One which, most likely, will lead to you dying in such agony that children, listening to stories about you, will pass out from fear?”
“You would make a ‘deal’ with me? Even idiots would laugh at you if you were to do so.”
The dragon laughed. Today was a good day for him to die, and to begin exacting his revenge. Finally…
“Move under my claw, bug.”
Hadjar didn’t argue. If it had wanted to do so, this creature would’ve already split him in half. And so, Duran, gritting his teeth, crawled over. The scabs and blisters, irritated by the stone floor, caused him unbearable suffering.
But he still crawled.
The steel claw was the size of a windmill and resembled a guillotine.
Undaunted, he crawled. Toward his death. Toward his revenge.
The ten yards became his own personal green mile.
Traves lifted the claw with visible effort. Not very high, just a little (for the dragon’s size), but enough that the little bug could crawl under it.
“Are you ready, Hadjar Duran?”
“Come on, you bastard. Do whatever you need to…”
And then the cave was flooded with the man’s cries of anguish and the dragon’s roars.
[Urgent message for the user! Unauthorized changes to the owner’s body detected! One of the vital organs has been replaced!]
The old heart of Hadjar, who had endured so much pain and despair, was sinking into a whirlpool. The dragon’s heart was now beating in his own chest. It had been created by Traves, using a drop of his blood and all the willpower that he’d been able to find in himself.
The dragon died, and the man was reborn.
The age-old chains were crumbling, the ancient dungeon was collapsing, and the streams of water enveloping the body that was writhing in agony were carrying it towards the sunlight flickering above the surface.
The question remains, how had the man with the neuronet found himself in front of the dragon and how did he get his heart?