Murmurs of dissent rippled through the Allied Fleet of the Human Empire that had organized at the peak of Harupaya Ridge. The source of this discontent was the Head Commander of the fleet, Dimitri Medioff. He had positioned three fleets on the peak in order to keep the Devil Army in check while the rest of the army was ordered to pursue Sungchul, but a completely unexpected person was nominated to lead the pursuit.
The one who was handed the command was the next most hated man beside the Enemy of the World. That man was none other than Martin Breggas; the coward who had abandoned the Demon Realm Frontlines without a second thought despite his role as the head commander.
The men whispered behind Dimitri’s back that he was suffering from diplomacy fever. But no one dared to openly oppose his decisions.
“All of this is the will of the Great Emperor.”
It was because the Emperor himself had issued this order. Martin had fiercely lobbied on this front. He begged for cooperation from the Human Empire by offering an enormous tribute, economic rights, and absolute obedience in the next year’s world council meeting.
Martin desired only one thing: to restore his name. As a lord who had thrown aside all of his subordinates and territory alike, he needed a victory large enough to wash away his sins. The subjugation of the Enemy of the World was his sole chance to clean the slate.
He had but a single concern. According to rumors, Sungchul had become some transcendent powerhouse. All those who had witnessed him fight spoke the same thing that the Enemy of the World is a Transcende…no he has become something more.
But Martin had never seen Sungchul fight with his own eyes.
“I can’t not accept that Sungchul has grown stronger to a certain extent, but that man is still human. Mortals aren’t perfect; he must have a weakness.”
Martin led two fleets of the Human Empire by sky and the Militia of Trowyn along with few elite veteran soldiers by land as he headed north-east to pursue Sungchul. He had expertly narrowed down the possible locations where Sungchul could be hiding thanks to his knowledge of the surrounding area as the Commander in Chief of the Frontline of the Demon Realm and quickly began the search.
Sungchul, who was taking a rare break, soon confronted the pursuers. The roar of a flying Wyvern tore through the sky. Dozens of Wyvern Knights flew past the crack in the rock through which he watched the sky. The pursuers had also managed to reach him by land.
“He couldn’t have gotten much further! Don’t leave a single stone unturned in this area and find him.”
Elven rangers led by three-horned deer went through the area like a comb.
“Mm. No matter how you see it, I don’t think this is the time to be drawing pictures?”
Bertelgia stopped working. Sungchul also had the same thought.
“They’re being such a bother.”
However, he didn’t intend to kill them. They were mere pawns following the will of those in power, and it wasn’t Sungchul’s way to kill the innocent, unlike those in evil organizations such as the Followers of Calamity.
Sungchul lifted his body up from the rock and gestured toward Bertelgia.
Sungchul was thinking of heading to the Storm Battlefront. The Great Forest Belt of the Varan-Aran Tribal Alliance was the best for hiding, but it might not prove to be so great once the Elves, who are familiar with the forest like the back of their hand, begin to track him. Sungchul who had decided on his destination stepped forth without a second thought.
The scene of a familiar mountain range opened before his eyes. Below, the dwarven encampment caught the last few rays of light from the sunset, making it glitter with a mysterious and profound light. This was the area supervising the Storm Battlefront. It was an extremely rough mountainous region referred to as ‘the source of all mountains’.
Sungchul had made camp at various points along this area. It was the only option left to the man driven away under the label of Enemy of the World. He headed toward one of the camps he had prepared in the past. It was located on the edge of the mountain cliff that overlooked a fortress named Archon Crack. It was a dark and damp place due to the unique geological shape of the mountain that didn’t even allow a single hour of sunlight to reach the ground.
Sungchul had dug a cave into this shady spot and made a storage for fermented food. The cave was packed to the brim with Jeotgal made with salted oysters, that come into season during the fall, and salted fish of various species caught all throughout the Demon Realm that he had prepared with a sense of experimentation.
Sungchul started a fire and prepared food when the sun started to set. He stuck a finger into one of the pots filled with brine on the shelves as he was cooking rice and was instantly immersed in its exquisite flavor. Bertelgia was sitting under the dim light of an oil lamp still drawing portraits of Vestiare. She had managed to complete only five till now at a rate of one per hour. Bertelgia also took a break between each drawing that lasted thirty minutes to an hour making it so that she only drew a single portrait every two hours realistically, and also additionally threw a tantrum saying that she couldn’t draw more than four pages a day.
Sungchul didn’t rush her. He was well aware that it would be much faster to gain the Intuition by simply waiting for quest completion through the paintings.
‘I waited 8 years. It’s a drop in the well to wait a week more.’
Sungchul affirmed these thoughts as he stuffed a spoonful of rice with some of the Jeotgal. The warm and fluffy flavor of the rice and the salty deliciousness of the Jeotgal stirred his salivary glands as well as his taste buds.
[The score of this dish is… 5 points!]
The judgement of the Chef Class was harsh, but what could he do? Sungchul cleaned out his bowl of rice with a satisfied smile on his face. But while he was eating Sungchul discovered a small but important change occurring in the scenery that he was observing. The Dwarven fortress that should be lit brightly with torches and lamps was still steeped in darkness.
‘Was the fortress taken?’
The recent assault by the Devil Army had caused the state of the Demon Realm Frontline to become unstable on an unprecedented level. It was at a point where the disappearance of a small fortress or two wouldn’t seem strange.
The next day, Sungchul turned in the seventh portrait for the quest and headed toward the direction of the fortress in the spirit of exploration. Bertelgia who had just completed a drawing joined in on the momentary rest.
As Sungchul expected, not a single dwarf could be found within Archon Crack. He discovered that the outer walls of the fortress had suffered severe damage from magic and material attacks and found several corpses with the scraps of numbered clothing usually seen on the members of the Suicide Unit deeper into the fortress. But, there were too few of them.
It appeared as though the majority of the dwarves who had been defending the fortress had managed to escape.
‘They escaped quite cleanly despite being attacked by Devils.’
Sungchul entered the fortress as though it was his own home, and headed toward the underground storage. The underground storage was where the Dark Beer brewed by the dwarves were stored. He had stolen a few of these oak barrels whole whenever he felt thirsty. Thankfully, no dwarf had managed to discover him, so this thievery was not added to the Dwarven Book of Grudges.
Sungchul felt an uncomfortable presence when he exited the fortress with the Dark Beer in tow. The unique damp aura of the Devils was spread thickly in his surroundings. The way that this aura made even the air stale was outside of the norm.
‘It looks like this isn’t an ordinary Devil. Maybe a Devil Lord or one on par with a High Devil has shown up.’
High Devils and Devil Lords were often lumped together when assessing powerful demons, but strictly speaking, that wasn’t correct. High Devils were those with stats that surpassed what the humans referred to as ‘Transcendent’ or ‘Superhuman’ thresholds, and among them, the ones that held territory were further separated into Devil Lords. No matter how strong a Devil became, without land they would simply be referred to as a High Devil, whereas even a weaker Devil with land was titled a Devil Lord. However, in order to become one of the lords of the ’72 Seats of Power’ in the Demon world, a great deal of strength was absolutely necessary.
Among the hundreds of High Devils, only those within the 72nd ranking could hold lordship over a territory within the Demon Realm, and only one that managed to subjugate all of the 72 Devil Lords was able to become the sole ruler of the Demons known as the Demon King. However, Sungchul was someone who stood over even above their King, and thus this distinction held no meaning. Whether it was a High Devil or the Devil Lord, they would all be removed from this world with a swing of his hammer.
Sungchul took in the presence of this powerful Devil and walked over to the direction of the source while holding the oak barrel with leisure; boldly making his presence known. Soon, an ominous shadow loomed over the fortification as a demon revealed itself before Sungchul. Sungchul’s eyes wavered the moment he saw the Devil.
‘That guy is…?’
His appearance had changed drastically, making it hard to recognize him, but there was no doubt. The massive Devil that loitered before the crumbling walls of the castle was someone Sungchul already knew.
He had heard it through rumors. It was the story of an eyeless Devil that had been attacking a Dwarven fortress. It was said that he shrieked an odd noise while carrying the body of a beautiful woman on his back.
‘So he was in this kind of place.’
Elijah had yet to feel Sungchul’s presence, so Sungchul observed him from beside a shadow drawn by a castle wall. The youthful air from his adolescent form could be found no longer. Instead, he had the figure of an angry Devil whose torso was 4 meters on its own, and the eye sockets that he had emptied himself was filled with darkness that was discomforting to behold. His back held a corpse of a woman tied down in metal chains. Her face was covered by her hair, but looking at the virtuous attire of a female knight on the corpse, it wasn’t difficult to guess that it was the body of Sophia Breggas.
“That Devil. It’s that one sibling isn’t it?”
Bertelgia must have figured out the identity of the Devil after seeing Sophia’s corpse. Elijah was busily stacking rocks onto the collapsed wall with his massive arms. The Devil spoke.
“Sophia. Look at this! Our castle is being completed. Once the castle walls are repaired a bit more, we’ll be able to hold land without the help of that man!”
The corpse of Sophia that hung behind him did not respond. It swung limply from side to side along with the Devil’s movement, but Elijah continued to speak with an excited voice for some reason.
“This is where it all begins. Starting from this castle, I’ll take over every castle in this area one by one. Then I’ll give you a castle too. We’ll make a country, just the two of us! What kind of country? I’m still thinking on it. I like the Human Empire that the Summoned have created, but I also really like the Hegemony the evil ‘Holy Kingdom of Ruteginea’ once held.”
The eyeless Devil that had been stacking stones stood dumbly and scratched his head while making a grotesque smile before speaking.
“Regardless, whatever country I make will be better than that man’s.”
Sungchul who had been watching from a distance realized that Elijah’s mind had been completely devoured by the Devil’s flesh. He hoisted the oak barren filled with the Dark Beer and silently left the fortress.
As he climbed the mountain road leading toward his camp, Berltegia popped out to speak.
“Was it Sophia? That girl… she’s so pitiful.”
Bertelgia poked his shoulder with one of her corners when he didn’t say a word.
“Couldn’t you have just saved her? So terrible!”
“Dying was the best recourse for her.”
Sungchul spoke in a firm voice.
‘There are times when reality is much harsher than death.’
It was at that moment when his eyes caught sight of something he wasn’t too pleased to see. Toward the southwestern sky, the fleet of the Human Empire pierced through the inky clouds. They were the ones pursuing him. There was also an army holding a flag with a winged skull marching below them. Sungchul who was watching them approach with indifferent eyes discovered a single figure among them and clicked his tongue.
“It is most likely that the Enemy of the World has hidden himself here. It doesn’t matter how many days or nights it takes. Turn over every rock and search every cave. Our labor shall soon be rewarded.”
The one who was making the speech toward the marching army at the lead was none other than the father that the Breggas siblings hated so dearly. The Lord Marquis Martin Breggas.
He gazed at the distant fortress of the Dwarves and led his army toward it; unaware of what was waiting ahead.
Jeotgal is a type of korean preserved food made with aquatic creatures (fish or oysters etc). Typically the food would be salted, but that’s where the commonalities end. Some Jeotgal are made into powder, others are made into wet paste. Some add spices where others only use salt. Although it could be eaten as is, it’s also often used as flavorant to other foods, most famous being shrimp Jeotgal being used in many kimchi recipes.
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