The simplest and the most convenient solution is to use violence. And this was the method that Sungchul enjoyed the most up to now as violence is a universal language. However, there were several reasons that he was hesitant to use such methods at this moment.
It was Largo’s mental state.
Sungchul knew full well that her mental state was on the verge of collapse due to narcotics and depression. Violence may be the universal language, but even violence is mute before a madman.
She was also innocent. Sungchul didn’t make it a hobby of kidnapping and interrogating ordinary people unless the situation was truly dire, so he decided to try another option. Unfortunately, it would be much more difficult as it meant getting close to Largo in order to find a method to approach the Cult of Extinction. Sungchul was a long distance away from being sociable.
As he continued to struggle to find an answer, Bertelgia put in her opinion.
“Wouldn’t that man called Kimchi also know the Church of Extinction? Seeing that he was referring to some kind of cure before, he must know something.”
Sungchul had planned on using Kimchi to visit the magic store of Roxanne’s gang anyways. Sungchul took Bertelgia’s advice and headed toward the catacombs, but to spoil the ending, it turned out to be a dead end. Kimchi was not speaking of a cure through the Cult of Extinction, but rather treatment through the Sect of Mura, the God of Order, that had its roots deep within La Grange. It was one of the two main Sects of La Grange that had excommunicated Sungchul. However, the purpose of the ‘medication’ was to induce termination of pregnancy rather than a cure. It was a strong drug that would risk the mother’s life. The only difference between this and snake oil from other cults was that sect-trained healers took care for the mother.
“It should be possible if I manage to scrounge a bit more. Things turned out to be not as dangerous as I thought, but I don’t think I can work here for much longer because Roxanne’s gang operates in a small scale.”
Kimchi, who had not seen Sungchul in a while, answered with a bright face.
Sungchul was disappointed, but he didn’t reveal it. Kimchi moved on to another topic.
“And about that thing from before, I explained the situation to mister Airfruit. He said he would be willing to sell his wares when I mentioned you.”
This deviated from Sungchul’s original goals, but it allowed him to complete another task. Sungchul entered the catacombs again with Kimchi. A few men stood guard in front, but they opened the path without a word once they saw Kimchi. The magic vendor from Airfruit had set up shop in a corner of the catacombs.
He had setup a table packed full of magic tomes and tools in this space filled with skulls not unlike many other rooms of the catacombs, and the owner nicknamed Airfruit stood in the center. Airfruit was a large man of middle-eastern appearance with a beard that appeared like a loofah.
“Are you perhaps from Airfurit?”
Sungchul immediately inquired upon seeing the man.
Airfruit replied honestly.
“I had always wanted to attend Airfruit, but as I wasn’t able to, I used Airfruit as my nickname as a form of deep regret.”
“It became a wish that will never come true as Airfruit has now fallen to ruins. Tell me what you are looking for.”
Sungchul first looked for runes. As the tall magician vendor in the streets had told him, Airfruit possessed various kinds of helpful runes. Sungchul purchased runes related to physical and magical defense, along with sensory runes and runes that expanded the range of incantations.
‘With this, I should be able to construct my own defensive techniques and boundary techniques.’
He wasn’t able to purchase high grade incantation techniques, so he wouldn’t be able to create powerful defensive techniques at the level of Sajators or Malachia, but these would still have their uses. The sensory and range expansion runes were the most important purchases. Sensory runes were multi-purpose runes that would detect any intruders who passed specified boundary. Range expansion runes allowed construction of larger size boundaries for his techniques. Sungchul had not felt the need for boundary runes so far, but since a tricky opponent such as Ahmuge had appeared, they became a critical item.
Of course, the price wasn’t cheap. The runes to construct boundary barriers were extremely expensive. It was a price that fell slightly higher than the amount he brought on hand. Sungchul had to pull out a single gold coin from his Soul Storage to pay the cost. Airfruit’s eyes grew wide after he witnessing Sungchul doing so.
‘Using a Soul Storage? He appeared like a beggar, but it looks like he might have quite a bit of coin. Is he some sort of an imposter?’
Airfruit’s attitude softened the moment he learned Sungchul was wealthy. He began to recommend items other than runes. Powerful magic tomes from various schools of magic began to flow out of his Soul Storage. Sungchul pulled out two more gold coins from his Soul Storage.
A fire lit within Airfruit’s eyes.
‘He was rich as expected. I’ll make you spend it all today!’
However, there was nothing more that caught Sungchul’s eyes as majority were magic tomes from the popular schools of magic: Pyromancy and Cryomancy. Sungchul inquired on after glancing at all of the magic tomes.
“I’m looking for Long Distance Teleportation.”
As he considered his immediate needs, Sungchul figured that moving long distances instantly was the best option, as it would prove very useful in the upcoming hunt of the Seven Heroes.
“Long Distance Teleportation? That is very hard to obtain. Availability is limited by more than just the cost, the bastards that can reproduce it only leave behind single-use tomes to reduce inheritors of that knowledge.”
“What school of magic is it from?”
“It is a secret tome from the Empath school of magic. They’re quite a pricey bunch for being a support school of magic.
Sungchul stood up as there was nothing else he particularly wanted.
“Is there nothing you’re interested in?”
Airfruit felt panicked.
“How about this then?”
Airfruit put on a faint smile before pulling out a scroll made of lambskin that appeared extremely old from his Soul Storage and laying it on the table.
“This is an extremely rare item.”
“What is it?”
“It’s one of the first documents recording the letters of gods called an Ancient Letter. No one knows what’s inside, but if you’re looking for something special, how about taking a look inside?”
Those words were enough to turn Sungchul’s steps around. He sat back down into his seat and looked at the ancient scroll laying on the table. Traces of the unending flow of time was evident even on the outside. However, Sungchul was fully aware that con artists could disguise a book made last night to look like an ancient tome of thousands of years. Sungchul looked over the scroll in a gambling mood.
It was definitely old, but something was strange. When he tried to undo the bindings that held the scroll, Airfruit stroked his loofah beard and smirked.
“I apologize, but you can’t look. Why? It required a tremendous amount of Intuition. The god didn’t want his Letter deciphered by just anyone, you see.”
“Is that right? How much Intuition do you need to be able to look at it?”
“It turns out that one can barely read the preface with the bare minimum of 500 intuition, but to fully decipher the text within, some rumors guess more than 900 might be needed.”
Sungchul doubted his own ears. Not only was it a ridiculous amount, who would be stupid enough to try to raise their Intuition up to 900? Roughly 400 intuition was enough to decipher tomes of ultimate magic belonging to most ordinary schools of magic. Even the Primal Light tome that held Sungchul’s most powerful magic, Starlight, required just 500 Intuition to read. A magic tome that required a bit more might exist, but nothing existed that required more than 600. Although, required amounts may have been different in the ancient past. In present times, no one would raise the Intuition stat to such a meaningless level under these circumstances.
Sungchul’s own Intuition had exceeded 600, but he had already been thinking it was unnecessarily high.
“I already realize that it is an impossible number.”
Airfruit spoke on while continuing to stroke his beard.
“But, I guarantee that this is no scam. If you’re so curious, just try opening to look. But! Don’t read too deeply. There is a chance to descend into madness if you misread the letter.”
Sungchul opened the book with doubts, but he saw the truth immediately as he opened the book. Countless words held within the worn pages flowed out in every direction as to envelop him like stars in the night sky.
Airfruit’s voice could be faintly heard from across the table.
“What? Mister, can you see something? Could it be? You’re not telling me that your Intuition is above 500?”
His voice faded away with a faint laughter. Sungchul somehow ended up in another world. He was within a sea made up of those floating words.
‘Just… what is this?’
He couldn’t feel anything until suddenly words he couldn’t understand appeared before him. Words that weren’t ancient or modern words. Sungchul felt that these words he could never understand were somehow transmitting meaning into his mind as though giving birth to new life in his mind. He saw it within. A single word of a single syllable composed of infinite meaning. A few lines he could understand faintly appeared in Sungchul’s consciousness amidst unbearable whispers thundering from every direction of his mind.
[ … Thorough extermination is inevitable. ]
[ … Harvest only delays that final day. ]
[ … In the world where gods perished. ]
He could bear no more. Sungchul felt that something crucial sustaining his sanity was about to break and thus turned his sight away from the words.
The words scattered about like the stars disappeared. Sungchul looked around his surroundings. He was within the catacombs. Airfruit was looking over at Sungchul with a suspect gaze, while Bertelgia was shaking violently against his body trying to wake him.
Sungchul softly held her and caught his breath.
“I believed you were a gentle fellow, but your acting is quite amazing. Are you perhaps trying to tell me that your Intuition is above 500? That number that only a few even within Airfruit can claim to have?”
Airfruit was looking at him accusingly through squinted eyes. Sungchul felt beads of sweat trailing down his back as he awkwardly tried to beat around the bush.
“… You got me.”
“I’m not going to lower the price even if it’s true, so don’t waste the effort. It’s not as though there is absolutely no way to read the contents of the book.”
“Are you saying that there is someone with an Intuition above 900?”
Such a person could not possibly exist in the entire world. The only exception may be among the dragons who are rumored to live forever. Sungchul inspected Airfruit’s face with such thoughts.
“There is a rumor that there are people that can read the Letter of the God regardless of Intuition.”
“I’m hearing of this for the first time.”
Sungchul was able to obtain the most secret of information as the Commander in Chief of the Empire. There wasn’t much that he wasn’t aware of.
“It looks like you don’t believe me. Well, I haven’t seen it myself as well, so it’s a bit much to insist on this, but it’s true. After all, there is a being within Ruteginea called the ‘Interpreter’ or ‘One who Reads’. Ah, don’t look at me with those eyes. It’s true!”
Airfruit felt scrutinized under Sungchul’s gaze as he rolled his eyes after a while and said something with revitalized eyes.
“That’s right. That woman exists! The Princess of the Fallen Kingdom, Princess Ryze Himerr!”
Sungchul shook like he was struck by lightning after hearing that mind.
Airfruit continued his story before the shock could stop.
“There is a rumor that woman is the ‘One who Reads’. Not sure if you’re aware or not, but she doesn’t have the royal blood of Ruteginea royalty. King Kromgard picked her from the outside and took her in as his adopted daughter.”
If everything he said was false, Sungchul would have ignored his prattling, but Airfruit’s words were true. Ryze was neither of royal blood nor noble blood. There were even rumors that she had been a farmer’s daughter or merchant’s daughter. Although in truth she was the daughter of a healer.
Airfruit’s story continued.
“There is a rumor that Kromgard took that woman in as his adopted daughter and made her a princess was neither due to her beauty nor land, but rather due to a special ability from birth.”
“Where did you hear such stories?”
The atmosphere surrounding them changed completely. Airfruit who had been relaying his story without worry a moment ago could feel the surrounding air prickling his entire body like needles.
‘W…what’s going on?!’
He realized too late that this suffocating aura suppressing him came from none other than the sloppy man sitting before him. He would die if he didn’t give the correct answer.
Airfruit had a bad feeling as he stumbled through his words.
“I heard from Galf… Galf! The old man that lost his head during the trial for war crimes after the rebel forces took over La Grange.”
“Galf…? Are you talking about the Dark Mage Lord Lefebvre Galf?”
Airfruit nodded feverishly at Sungchul’s question and his actions showed that the man wasn’t simply lying to get out of the situation. The hostility fuming from Sungchul’s body disappeared.
“I see. Is there anything more to add?”
Sungchul spoke much more softly. He held two coins as recompense for his discourtesy and pulled out another gold coin from his Soul Storage and held them out to Airfruit.
Airfruit was surprised at first, but a small fortune of 3 gold coins didn’t come by often, so he gathered his confidence and spilled the rest of what he knew.
“The Letter of God is not a single object. It seemed like there were a few documents gathered within the secret library of Ruteginea, but when Ruteginea fell, the documents were scattered with this one being one of them. In any case, The Idle Fool Kromgard appeared to have been quite fanatically obsessed with the library, and well, there were stories saying that was the reason he fell lax in governmental affairs.”
He had never heard of these stories before, but he couldn’t discard them as falsehoods.
Sungchul remembered Ryze and the memories he shared with her. The one-sided letters she had sent him.
Soul Harvester, Shield of Thunder, Eye of Truth; These various methods of standing alone against the world and the final letter containing the path leading to god. He could now feel the faint link connecting these fragments of the past that have already come to pass that he couldn’t understand before.
Sungchul had finally pieced together the greater truth he had never understood before, in a place that he could have never imagined. However, that was no coincidence. Coincidences no longer existed for him that was now a tool of a god. All that remained was the unavoidable path known as destiny.
The one that understood this fate better than anyone was now looking down upon the shabby city from the skies of Section Eight.
“Why the hell did trouble occur at the Night of New Year’s Eve? And of all the places, in Section 8 where all the trash gather that’s better left incinerated. Nothing can get worse than this!”
Young Fleet Commander Arquebes that lead the city’s Defensive Fleet held a bitter smile as he glared at the back of the woman looking down toward the ground. The woman suddenly replied.
“It’s probably nothing big. It can’t be anything more than a little squabble.”
A cold smile was plastered thick onto the young man’s lips.
“As you already know, the upcoming New Year’s Eve is the greatest celebration of La Grange. The ceremony presided over personally by the Emperor also takes place at that time.”
“… I know.”
“If that celebrated day is ruined once again by some false report, I won’t overlook it any longer, Regressor.”
Sujin, the Emperor’s guest of honor, spoke with a slight falter in her confidence in reply to Arquebes’ chilling words.