He had already set his eyes on the path toward Procrustes. Sungchul headed toward the equipment that linked the airships to the ground without wasting any time.
“Who goes there?!”
The werewolves bared their fangs and blocked his path when he approached. One of them seemed to recognize him.
“Huh? That guy’s the one with shit taste chewing up the weeds…”
Fal Garaz separated the head and body of the chattering werewolf. The fate of the rest wasn’t all that different. They all turned into chunks of meat without even knowing how they died.
In the direction the blood was flowing were the stake and chains that were tying down the airships, extending all the way to the sky. Sungchul lightly jumped atop a balloon. Within the balloon, two soldiers were dozing off.
Sungchul grabbed their collars and tossed them to the ground. He could hear dull thuds resounding through the night sky as he lifted his head. There were two more balloons with a pair of guards standing in each one.
Sungchul stepped on to each balloon in turn, overwhelmed the guards, and finally stepped onto the deck of the pure white airship with light steps.
There was a stillness not unlike one within a graveyard lingering around the deck. The Eye of Truth activated and revealed the barriers and formations scattered all over the deck. It looked intimidating, but it was not enough to stop Sungchul. He soundlessly entered the hallway leading to the cabins in order to seek out traces of Kha’nes or Aquiroa.
Sungchul’s method of ambush could be likened to that of an assassin in the way that he moved discreetly without being discovered, but there was one fundamental difference. Assassins have trouble displaying their strength during a head-on fight, and therefore, avoid fighting by utilizing their stealth in order to approach their target discreetly.
On the other hand, Sungchul’s method was far different than the assassins. His philosophy was simple. Dead men tell no tales. Sungchul maintained this stealth by leaving not a single person from the opposing force alive within the intruded area. It was more closer to cleaning than assassination.
Beyond the hallway, there was another hallway lit up with a lumination stone from which a group of mages approached. Sungchul changed his path toward their direction. He seemed to only be walking slowly at first, but eventually, his figure disappeared entirely.
He swung Fal Garaz striking each of the mages in turn. The mages didn’t even have an opportunity to let out their death throes before facing their unexpected demise. Four corpses in all.
A cabin was nearby.
Sungchul swung open the door to the cabin revealing a group of guards playing cards inside. They must have been gambling in secret as they had extinguished every form of light except a faint candlelight as they played.
“All in! No matter how you put it, Lady Luck is smiling on me tonight.”
The soldier who was beaming as he looked over his complete set of cards finally met eyes with Sungchul. Fal Garaz split the air.
“Wrong! It was the smile of Mistress Death!”
Bertelgia made her input in a small but bright voice as Sungchul threw the ragged corpses on the hallway into the cabin one after the other and closed the door. He even put in a bit more strength which warped the door framing it shut.
Sungchul then pulled out a scroll from his Soul Storage. It was a scroll that contained a spell that was very useful in cleaning out a stronghold.
When Sungchul ripped the scroll apart, he saw the location of the people outside of his vision being indicated by something similar to a faint lamplight. There was a single mass of crew members nearby.
Sungchul quietly opened the cabin. It was the sleeping quarters of the flight crew.
Nearly a dozen members of the flight crew were sleeping in hammocks without a single care in the world. Sungchul’s eyes grew cold. He didn’t make it a hobby of killing innocent people, but that didn’t mean he was lenient or weak-hearted.
Sungchul showed no mercy to those he considered an enemy. He had done so for the Followers of Calamity, and he would do so for those subordinate to Aquiroa.
About a dozen crew members died without a single reaction. Faint lamplights still appeared before his eyes.
In about the time it takes to drink a cup of tea, Sungchul had killed every crew member on the same floor and headed to the stairs leading to the lower floor.
There was a notice preventing entry to all of the lower rank soldiers at the entrance to the stairwell hanging right below a lumination stone. Sungchul went downstairs.
When he arrived at the lower floor, the faint resonance of a Flotation Crystal could be felt in the entire hallway. It was not only the core but also the heart of what kept the airship in the air.
Sungchul listened to the resonance of the Floatation Crystal as he sought out the flames of life.
A cabin door opened. A haggard officer was recording something in front of a bluish mass that hung like meat in a butcher shop.
Sungchul approached him from the rear and suppressed him in a single breath. The reason he hadn’t killed the officer right away was to interrogate him regarding the freakish lifeform that was hung like meat.
Something that had a human form, but was clearly a different entity altogether, was hung on a hook inside this not-so-wide room. The unsettling truth was that he could feel life from these blue-ish creatures.
‘They must be the creatures I faced when I eliminated the previous Aquiroa.’
They weren’t human nor marionettes. They were somewhere in between.
Sungchul wrapped around his hand around the officer’s neck and spoke calmly.
“Answer my questions.”
The officer attempted to refuse, but it was futile before Sungchul. The man soon quieted down after a bit of pain.
“What are these things?”
“T-they are… the Soldiers of Salvation…!!”
It was quite a generous name for blue-ish monsters that couldn’t be considered human or marionette. As Sungchul saw it, they looked more like the vanguard of some Calamity rather than soldiers that would save the world.
“Of course. Who made them? Aquiroa?”
“What’s their purpose in being here?”
“I don’t know that much. I’m just a lower rank officer… urk!”
Sungchul snapped the man’s neck as there was a mass of people approaching this place beyond the door. He hung the man’s corpse in between the blue-ish monsters and hid his own body behind the creatures as well.
The door soon opened revealing a mage and crew members. There were three people in all.
Sungchul didn’t move and let the situation unfold.
“Where did Vaarti go this time? Is he playing truant again? Damn that bastard.”
The mage complained as he moved toward the creature. He pulled a blue crystal from his pocket. The crystal emitted a blue light like the pale moonlight. When the mage brought the crystal to the creature impaled like meat in a butcher shop, something surprising occurred. The creature’s eyes haphazardly attached to the top of its head began to twitch as it woke up. It was then when Sungchul revealed himself from the gap between the monstrous humanoids.
Wham! Wham! Wham!
Fal Garaz showed no mercy. Sungchul grabbed the blue crystal from the hand of the trembling mage, but no information regarding the crystal was displayed. However, he could discern a few things. There was a familiar musty and uncomfortable, yet absolute, energy held within the crystal.
‘This feeling… is it the energy of Calamity?’
It was at that moment that the creature hung on a hook began to flap about like a fish. Its eyes, that were attached to it haphazardly like a zipper, began to dart about wildly as it extended its long arms and desperately clawed for the blue crystal.
‘Just what is this thing?’
Sungchul’s eyes were filled with questions. Despite his vast amounts of knowledge and experience, he had never seen anything like them before. He tried to conjure up anything similar to them in his mind but failed to do so. The crystal held in Sungchul’s hand and the creatures that were reacting to such crystals were new experiences to him.
“Bertelgia. Do you have any inkling of what these things are?”
“Nope. I also haven’t seen anything this vile before. Nothing’s recorded within me either.”
Sungchul tried to place the crystal into the Soul Storage, but it did not go in. On seeing this, he recalled a single item he had forgotten all about. Sungchul unclasped the waist of his pants.
“Hiii… what are you doing all of a sudden?”
Below his belt was a fanny pack. The fanny pack was made from the leather of a thousand year old snake by the hands of a world-class leatherworker. It was a tough and durable leather with excellent resistance to moisture and it held all of Sungchul’s prized possessions within. Once he opened the fanny pack, several junk items such as a hairpin, talisman, and more was revealed along with a flat and wide piece of dark green rock that seemed to hold darkness within it.
Fragment of Calamity.
It was the spoil he had gained from the gods after killing the Demon King Hesthnius Max. Sungchul put the crystal he had taken from the mage and the piece of Calamity in both his hands and compared them both. The indescribable dark energy was overwhelmingly greater in the Fragment of Calamity, but a similar energy was flowing from the blue crystal.
‘Was this crystal perhaps created using the Fragment of Calamity?’
He didn’t have proof, but somehow he had a feeling. Sungchul gripped the crystal in his hand. The crystal could not withstand the pressure and broke apart within his grip allowing the shadow-like sinister aura hidden within to disperse in the air like smoke.
The creatures within the room began to convulse in turn. Their frog-like fingers opened and closed while their zipper-like eyes as an ominous voice echoed terrifyingly.
“What are these things?”
Sungchul didn’t move as he watched the creatures stop their movements.
‘It looks like there is something to be found at the Floating Isles Fortress.’
There was nothing known about the Floating Islands except that it was an island floating in the sky in some part of the world, but absolutely nothing else was known except to those from the island itself. Aquiroa was an opponent that Sungchul had to kill, but that wasn’t the first priority. Sungchul’s number one priority would always be the Calamity. However, he might have to refactor things if it turned out that these people were utilizing the power of Calamity, which Sungchul had no knowledge of, to produce something. It reeked of evil. Evil that could only be smelled at the heart of those in power, but even then Sungchul didn’t rush. He stepped out onto the hallway and promptly killed every crew member he met without sparing anyone.
Around the time he had dispatched fifty people, Sungchul finally arrived at a luxurious cabin that appeared to be Aquiroa’s room. It had been cast with high grade seals and defensive techniques, unlike the other cabins, which made his suspicions grow stronger.
Sungchul passed through the seal carefully and approached the cabin. When he walked as close as he could without breaking stealth, he heard a faint voice beyond the door.
“It will be too late the moment his name is recorded in the Scripture of Calamity. He is growing stronger at this very moment, and he is already becoming an unstoppable existence.”
It was a voice he had never heard and much too young to be one of Aquiroa’s. Following this, another voice could be heard. It was a familiar voice this time.
“But, it’s a bit too much for me to move solely based on your words alone.”
This voice belonged to Kha’nes. Bertelgia lightly shook her body as to express her joy once she knew Kha’nes was safe. Kha’nes spoke on.
“To begin with, I already serve the Tower of Recluse. I no longer have reason nor right to mingle in this world’s affairs. If this world ends, that is that. Don’t you already know that we dragons are an existence irrelevant to the Calamity, Executor Aquiroa?”
“But, aren’t you half human? Even if one half of your blood is of the Dragons, you will not be safe once the final moment of the Calamity strikes.”
The person referred to as Aquiroa possessed a voice Sungchul had never heard before.
‘She’s a different person than the previous Aquiroa.’
Sungchul slightly nodded his head before eavesdropping attentively on the conversation further while maintaining his civility.
“You will die to that man.”
Shock passed by Sungchul’s eyes.
‘Sujin Lee? How did that woman arrive here?’
The owner of this voice was Sujin. This woman, currently known as Ahmuge, looked toward Kha’nes with clear eyes that reflected her resolute will before speaking again.
“You along with all of your kind.”
Kha’nes’ demeanor suddenly changed the next moment. In an instant, the air in the room stirred violently while auditory hallucinations similar to thunder could be heard from all directions. The center of this storm was Kha’nes.
“Don’t make me laugh when you’re just merely human.”
Explosive energy, reminiscent of lava, pulsed within her reptilian eyes. Sujin who saw this could feel her body tremble, but she was a person who had witnessed a much more terrifying existence.
“I am speaking only of the future I’ve seen, Guardian of the Tower.”
Kha’nes stared piercingly at Suijn before bursting into uncontrollable laughter and reined in her violent temper. The stormy atmosphere within the room dissipated instantly.
“Are you saying that you’re a Regressor? But what can a Regressor know? There shouldn’t be anything a human that has already failed once can do even if they turn back time?”
Kha’nes looked a bit tired. It was only to be expected as the important person they had lured her with was merely a Regressor.
‘Regressors are truly existences fated to repeat their despair.’
Kha’nes who had the appearance of a youthful woman yet lived more than a thousand lives, in reality, knew well how much malice the gods and those like gods held.
That was the folly of turning time. Fate could not be overturned.
Kha’nes could only think these thoughts as she turned toward Sujin again.
An ordinary woman. She seemed to be fairly well trained and possessed willpower, but as far as Kha’nes could see, she was nothing more than a toy to those that surpassed Transcendence. However, Sujin took a step forward. Sujin’s eyes which Kha’nes already thought lacked any hint of waver became even clearer to see to Kha’nes.
“I am different than the other Regressors.”
Kha’nes replied sarcastically, but Sujin took a deep breath as if determined and took a step back. She was steeped in the darkness that loomed within the room until she had disappeared from Kha’nes’ sight.
“Are you trying to play around here?” said Kha’nes.
Aquiroa who had held her silence spoke.
“This woman is different than the other Regressors.”
Kha’nes didn’t retort, but she did feel slightly irritated.
‘How is this failure different than the others?’
At that moment, Kha’nes felt it. She felt the shining blade of a dagger held at her neck.