A man stood before a cave entrance blocked by an enormous boulder. His outward appearance seemed very ordinary, one that would be hard to pick out of any crowd. He closed his stubby nailed hands and placed his ear onto the boulder before knocking on its surface. It was deep. It was impossible to tell just how many more boulders were within.
He bent down on one knee and inspected the surface. Scratch marks and scattered dirt. The boulder had been recently moved to the cave’s entrance. Not only that, but it was moved by sheer brute force without the aid of any tools.
Behind him was a family of pitiful looking refugees half covering themselves within a shrub as they watched his back nervously. The man with the ordinary appearance tore a scroll from his bosom while softly reciting an incantation. After observing the sinister magic seeping through the openings around the boulder, the man walked toward the refugees.
“I feel like what you guys said was right.”
It was an inconspicuous voice that matched his inconspicuous appearance. It wasn’t deep nor shrill, but the refugees were terrified to an extreme of this completely ordinary looking adventurer. It was because behind the family of refugees were other men that looked indistinguishable from the man in front of them, guarding them from the shadows; it was as if they were made from the same mold.
“A-are you going to compensate us as promised?”
A middle-aged man who appeared to be the head of the family stood in front of his son and daughter and spoke up while looking at the ordinary-looking man with sunken eyes. The man with the ordinary appearance nodded. As a faint gleam of anticipation passed across the middle-aged man’s eyes, a terrible scream rang out.
It came from the mouths of his family. The man turned around in shock. The men who looked identical to the ordinary man were stabbing his family with short blades. Already, the flames of life in his family’s eyes had been extinguished. The middle-aged man turned back with eyes of rage before pulling out a dagger hidden in his possessions and lunging toward the ordinary man.
“This wasn’t what was promised, you fucking devil!”
Cold blades pierced the man’s back before his own could reach its target. It wasn’t just one or two weapons either.
The middle-aged man squeezed out the last of his strength in order to turn back and witnessed an unbelievable scene unfolding before him. Dozens of men identical to the man with an ordinary appearance held identical weapons with satisfied expressions on their faces. That strange sight was the last thing the refugee saw before his eyes went listless.
The ordinary looking man stared down at the four corpses, including that of the middle-aged man, before taking out a scroll.
Once he recited the incantation of sinister spirit magic, the murdered group of refugees were reborn and arose from death. The still-warm blood flowed from their stab wounds, dying their appearance red.
The man with the ordinary appearance looked amused at the family head who had been changed to a zombie after being alive mere moments ago and opened his mouth to speak.
“The glorious task of taking part in the defining moment of this era; This is the compensation I can give to you all.”
White Shadow; one of the Seven Heroes. He disappeared with his identical companions into the darkness of the forest.
The unsealment of the Soul Gem through the Fog Guide was progressing smoothly. The Carbuncle being worked on currently was Carbungbung. He was the most loyal among the six Carbuncles that Sajators had, but a Carbuncle’s loyalty swayed like a reed. Carbungbung’s mind was changed merely after playing with it for a bit, and after a week had passed, the second Soul Gem was fully operational.
However, Carbungbung had put up a condition: the girl that played with it must be with him if he wanted to put it to work. As the one that played with it had been Bertelgia, it might have been an obvious condition to put up. Even as Sungchul was surprised at the strange communication of conversing with only their wills, he agreed to Carbungbung’s condition. This raised the number of spells that Sungchul could cast simultaneously to 3, but Sungchul was a person that was never satisfied.
Sungchul still had a week’s worth of food and water left within the cave, so Sungchul attempted to appeal to the third Soul Gem as well. The name of the Carbuncle he had to accommodate was Carbung Carbung. Sungchul was a man of few words who did not often express his discomfort outwardly, but Sajators’ naming sense was one that could not be ignored.
“Sajators, this idiot. King Carbuncle, Carbung and Carbungbung as well… he really is terrible at coming up with names.”
“Is that something you should say?”
Bertelgia’s voice was growing stronger by the day. Although Sungchul felt bothered by her behavior, he decided to talk it out instead of shoving her back into his pocket lest she gets upset and goes on a strike.
“Whatever could you mean by that?”
“You just call everything Fabre.”
“There is Seton as well.”
He immediately activated the Fog Guide because he didn’t get the response he wanted. The world of the third Carbuncle was an endless expanse of grassland. Carbung Carbung stood on his hind legs beyond the grasslands where a refreshing breeze blew and looked toward Sungchul’s party.
“There’s the Carbuncle.”
“Just who is Seton, though?”
Her appearance may have changed, but Bertelgia was still persistent. However, Sungchul completely ignored her and headed toward the new Carbuncle.
As Sungchul approached, the Carbuncle tilted its head for a moment before it hastily fled beyond the grasslands. Sungchul chased after it with all of his strength, but couldn’t catch up. This was the dreamscape of the Carbuncle; even Sungchul’s god-like strength was restricted within it.
Carbuncle, the master of the grassland, poked its head out from the tall grass which was swaying gently in the wind and hid as their eyes met. No words were shared, but Sungchul believed he understood what it wanted.
‘Does he want to play hide-and-seek?’
He felt like the difficulty had risen since the last time, and he also felt a sense of unease. The reality that each of the Carbuncles had different games they liked to play.
Sungchul turned back and sought out Bertelgia. She was spread out on the grass watching the clouds swiftly flowing across the sky. Smiling radiantly, Bertelgia could not possibly look any happier as she enjoyed having an intact body and basked in the environment; she could not possibly look happier than this.
Sungchul gave up on trying to exploit her.
‘I suppose it’s not bad to let her take a break once in a while.’
Unfortunately, his decision didn’t even last 5 minutes. However, rather than a lack of determination on the part of Sungchul, it was actually due to external forces. The sound of rolling thunder could be heard faintly from a distance and the dreamscape shook precariously, as though it might shatter at any moment.
‘It appears like something is happening outside.’
The dreamscape and the real world were separated as a rule, but since the dreamscape was still situated within the real world, it can’t help but be affected.
Sungchul, who had returned to reality, looked around him. There was no hostility nor any presence that could be felt around him. Of course, his body was also without any injury. However, the sound he had heard within the dreamscape could be heard faintly from beyond the boulder.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
It was the sound of a drum. It was slow and clumsy, but the unending and senseless tune triggered images of fire and steel clashing to linger in Sungchul’s eyes.
“What’s going on all of a sudden?”
Bertelgia, who was now back to being a book, looked around her surroundings as she fluttered about Sungchul.
“It doesn’t seem to be anything good. It looks like something is about to happen.”
Sungchul activated the Eye of Truth and raised Fal Garaz. Massive boulders were smashed in turn with each powerful swing. Sungchul, who was progressing while smashing the boulders, realized that an unfamiliar formula had been cast in between the boulders.
‘Is this a trap formula?’
Someone had placed a trap here. When he grabbed some stone fragments and threw it toward the boulder in question, an inferno forced its way deep into the caves as if to incinerate everything. When the inferno subsided, Sungchul pulled himself out from between the boulders. As usual, not a single hair was damaged on his body.
He put Fal Garaz away into his Soul Storage and glared toward the now open exit to the cave.
‘I don’t know who it is, but he’s playing some useless tricks.’
The sight of the forest glimmering under the pale moonlight in the pitch black darkness of the night could be seen beyond the thick smoke.
“What is that?”
Bertelgia noticed something squirming within the forest and let out a brief shout. Sungchul immediately recognized its identity with a single glance.
‘Are they zombies?’
Looking at their condition, they were corpses that hadn’t even been left to decay for a single day. The drumming was coming from the zombies.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Sungchul discovered that a large drum was attached to the back of the oldest of the four zombies with some rope and planks. The drum and drumstick that were bound to the dead’s arm and leg made ominous off-beat sound of drums every time it moved.
The zombies that caught Sungchul’s scent began to move quickly causing the beat of the drum to also quicken. When they ran toward Sungchul like beasts after catching the scent of fresh blood, the sound of drums quickened to the tempo he had often heard Infantry use during their charge.
‘What a perverted hobby.’
Contempt flashed across Sungchul’s eyes as Demonic Weapon Cassandra finally made its appearance. The whip carrying flames of the Demonic Realm split the rushing zombies in two and burned them away.
The drum stick that was causing the unsettling beat fell onto the ground and rolled in front of Sungchul’s feet. What he had thought was a drumstick was actually a human fibula. Not only that, it was wet with fresh blood as though it had not been extracted so long ago.
“Ew… what’s that?”
Bertelgia spoke as she trembled within her pocket. Sungchul stomped on the bone and turned it to dust as he glanced around his surroundings.
“Looks like some low brow character showed up this time.”
As if on cue, a single man was heading toward his direction from beyond the forest. Sungchul turned his head to look at the man. It was someone with an ordinary face, physique, and attire that could be found anywhere. It was an utter stranger, but his face still felt familiar.
However, as the man opened his mouth, the ordinariness that covered the man disappeared instantly like a facade.
“You’re here as that girl said.”
It was an unbelievably dreary voice that could never be forgotten after its first utterance. If graves had a voice, it would probably sound like this.
‘This guy reeks of death. Is he an assassin?’
Sungchul vaguely broke down the man’s identity before replying with a question of his own.
“Girl? Who are you referring to?”
The stranger replied with an ominous chuckle at Sungchul’s question.
“You should not be unfamiliar with her. I’m talking about the bug that claims to have come from the future.”
“Are you talking about Ahmuge?”
“That’s not important, Destroyer.”
The ordinary man smiled.
“I am White Shadow.”
Sungchul’s eyes lit up with interest.
“I will show you the pinnacle of assassination that hasn’t existed before and will never exist again.”
Endless pride and self-confidence poured out of his entire body. Sungchul who saw this understood why this assassin had chosen to reveal himself by himself of his own volition even after knowing about the death of his companions. It was because an assassin was only an assassin. Sungchul spat out in a voice laced with contempt.
“You talk a lot for a fly.”
Demonic Weapon Cassandra flew out and split White Shadow’s body in two the moment he was about to give a mocking laughter and reply. No blood or flesh remained where White Shadow vanished. His entire body disappeared like a mirage once Cassandra struck.
‘It’s no ordinary illusion.’
It was impossible to use Illusory Magic to trick Sungchul who had the Eye of Truth. This demonstrated just how special that ability the assassin had just showed him was. Revealing such an ability meant he was either confident or that he was aiming for something else, one of the two. It could even be both of the above, but there was one thing that White Shadow didn’t realize.
Petty tricks in regards to combat would never work on the man named Sungchul. Walking the path of absolute strength stubbornly from the very start meant he needed such qualities to survive.
If his opponent uses not strength but tricks, there was no reason to rush in. Sungchul walked forward with steps that were neither fast nor slow. The thundering sound of a roar and drums resounded from beyond the forest.. There was a mob of angry people with torches that was shouting once he made it forward.
A shallow sigh escaped his lips because it looked like it was going to be a dirty fight.
At the deck of the Human Empire airship which overlooked the crowd at the Tower of Recluse, Ahmuge looked amused as she watched the light of the many torches move through the forest. A young commander wearing flashy armor approached her and observed the same blaze together by her side.
“Regressor. Is that the deed of White Shadow of the Seven Heroes as you’ve said?”
The identity of the commander was Arquebus. A controversial character favored by the emperor and despised by the citizens; he was a man now gaining infamy for his involvement in the recent massacre at Panchuria. An attendent walked up meekly and offered him a wine glass. Arquebus gripped the blood-colored glass and listened to the sound of the roaring mob and drums from down below. It didn’t appear as though a battle had broken out yet. He soon felt bored and turned his head toward Ahmuge to ask a question.
“As an assassin, shouldn’t he crawl about like a cat and ambush him in some underhanded manner? What is he trying to achieve by making his battlefield so big? Is he even trying to assassinate him?”
Ahmuge did not answer positively or negatively to his crude question. Instead, she made a subtle smile and recited some vague words as though they were poetry.
“…Der Freishutz of the Demonic Bullet. His bullet will pierce through all.”