On the endless road leading to the east. Sungchul was touching his pride and joy, the Broach of Chef. What Adelwight had said before he left the Forest of the Witch flashed across his mind. According to Adelwight, the broach was hiding an amazing secret.
There was limited information on the Chef class to begin with, and for someone like Sungchul who essentially taught himself how to cook, it couldn’t be helped that Sungchul was lacking information when it came to the Chef class. So Adelwight who was a better chef for now suddenly gave him advice.
“You probably already know that if you manage to create a dish above 90 points your broach turns into diamond. But there’s one another boon.”
Sungchul asked Adelwight as to what the boon was but was unable to get an answer from her. All he got out of her was a word of good luck and a strange word of advice.
“When you begin to question the world, try focusing your attention on cooking as a way to cool your head. If it is you, you should be able to do it quickly. As long as you can resist trying to force a recipe from your hometown that is.”
It might be true, considering it came from Adelwight who surpassed the 90 points in cooking.
‘But 90 points…’
Sungchul knew better than anyone that making a 90 point dish was no easy task. One of the reasons why Adelwight is capable of making a 90 point dish is because her ingredients are excellent. She does not waste not one blade of grass nor one chunk of meat. The meat and vegetables she raises and harvest are grown in ideal conditions and all sorts of techniques and know-hows accumulated over the years went into preparing and combining them. With such excellent ingredients as a base, Adelwight is able to perform at her true potential. It’s a matter of experience.
The combined total experience she accumulated in her extraordinarily long life was not something Sungchul could dare match. If we assume Sungchul had cooked a hundred times in his life, then Adelwight would have cooked tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of times in hers. That’s how much time she had to refine her recipe again and again. For someone like Sungchul who had begun cooking for himself on a whim and have continued to treat it more like a hobby, it might be an obvious conclusion that he would not be able to reach her level.
But Sungchul did not lose hope. In fact, it seemed that he was happy that he found an objective related to doing something he liked.
‘It’s not such a bad challenge, trying to make at least one 90 point dish.’
In truth, there was a recipe he was thinking of trying. It was just, there were the problems of recipe, place, and time that delayed him making the attempt time and time again. And more than anything, there was no chance for him to attempt for a high score because he tended to prefer making Korean dishes to making high scoring dishes. But now that he has been given a clear objective, Sungchul resolved himself to achieve heights he had never attained before.
‘It would not be a bad idea appearing before that arrogant Elf of La Grange wearing the Diamond Broach.’
He decided on doing this right after taking care of the Seven Heroes. If the Calamities progress the same way it had when he defeated the Demon King, then he will have enough time to go back. And considering the nature of the Calamities, it didn’t seem likely that the things would progress too rapidly.
“Hmm. There’s nothing, nothing at all.”
While Sungchul was lost deep in thought about his plans with cooking, Bertelgia was orbiting Sungchul as she took a look at the beautiful but deserted Eastern regions. Unlike the barren Northern regions, the Eastern regions were lush and fertile, dotted with clusters of round roofed houses in small villages.
‘How strange. There are always bound to be some who remain attached to their land no matter how bad the catastrophe.’
Sungchul had witnessed it many times. The sight of inhabitants refusing to leave their homes despite the fact that their land was about to become a battle ground between two armies. Some people feared losing the source of their livelihood more than their own lives. This was especially true for the elderly. These people often thought that rather than losing their homeland, it was preferable to die there. Sungchul believed that he would find at least a few people with the same mindset.
But once he arrived in the Easter regions that were recently destroyed, only empty houses awaited him. Not a single person could be spotted. Only abandoned livestock roaming without owners.
Sungchul entered a few houses as an experiment. No one lived in them. He once examined every house in a village and came to the same result. It wasn’t too long before Sungchul came across a clue as to why.
He found a corpse. Not just one or two but dozens of corpses stacked up into pile and set aflame like firewood and turned into something resembling charcoal.
It was a systematic mass murder.
And it happened recently. Sungchul could surmise that according to the state of the corpses, it happened roughly a week ago.
There’s no evidence of looting. The houses were in terrible shape however. Some were charred and smoldering, while others were partially broken and swaying dangerously.
‘It does not seem to be the work of some simple bandits.’
When Sungchul found a safe still full of gold, he realized that the calamity happening in the eastern regions has yet to cease.
‘How peculiar. I’ve heard that the Seven Heroes have decided to treat the people of their lands generously.’
Sungchul thought as such as he drew water from the well and took a sip from a bowl. But the moment the water touched his lips, Sungchul immediately threw away the plate and spat out all the water.
“What is it?”
Bertelgia asked out of surprise. Sungchul looked into the well and answered with a calm voice.
“Someone poisoned the well.”
Sungchul gazed at the nameless corpse floating deep in the well as he recalled the dark days of war during his time in the Rebellion army.
This was a defensive scorched-earth tactic.
Both Ruteginea Kingdom and the Rebellion forces enjoyed employing this cruel tactic where they remove every bit of useful resource in the suspected path of the enemy army, whether it be food, water, shelter, or even people. They chose to use the absence of resources as an ally to threaten the enemy. Although he had come across similar situations several times upon leaving the Empire lands, Sungchul did not recognize it at the time. It was only after he left the Forest of the Witch that the long forgotten memories of the past came back to him.
‘Is this the work of the Seven Heroes? But didn’t the Seven Heroes and the Empire already declare peace? Even if the peace was only a ruse, there should not be a single reason to be utilizing this tactic at the moment.’
Just one possibility came to his mind.
‘Could it be that this was done just to stop me?’
This seemed unlikely and was unheard of. A scorched earth tactic to fight just one man. It was a thought that could only occur to a mad man. But it did not take long for bad omens to show.
It was when Sungchul was sitting next to a bonfire enjoying Adelwight’s packed lunch and resting. Sungchul detected a presence of someone watching him from the darkness. But he did not act right away. He finished his meal and even took time to enjoy a warm cup of tea before he stood up to face the unwanted guest.
There was no reason to hurry. It was near impossible to escape Sungchul once he noticed something in an open field like this. Unless someone had ability to vanish like Soojin, they could not shake Sungchul’s pursuit.
Once Sungchul confirmed the identity of the unwanted guest, he could not hide his surprise.
‘This, a miniature golem?’
A dried up well located outside the Summoning Palace. Within was Eckheart’s hidden quest for obtaining the Alchemist class. The golem that appeared before Sungchul now was identical to the golem he had seen inside of the dried up well back then.
There was a total of three of them. Once the golems recognized that they were spotted by Sungchul, they turned their bodies and entered a combat state. The gem embedded on the head part gave off an eerie red glow.
“Ah. That’s my daddy’s golem!”
Bertelgia shouted when she realized the identity of the golems.
Sungchul put the flapping Bertelgia away into his pocket. The eyes of the miniature golem sparkled red and soon blood colored lazer was fired towards Sungchul. Sungchul saw through the trajectory of the laser in an instant and easily dodged as he took out Fal Garaz. The two other golems followed suit and fired their own lasers as well. It was an attack similar to Glare, but with a completely different mechanism and source of power.
‘They have installed Magical Armaments.’
Magical Armaments. It was a class of weapons that operated using the power of Magic. It was once widely used but has since fallen out of use due to the problem of high cost and low effectiveness.
One of the ray of laser that missed Sungchul hit the ground and left marks. Although it burnt a portion of the ground it touched, it was not even half as strong as a Glare.
‘It’s too weak.’
Sungchul dodged several more shots of lasers before smashing the golems one by one with his Fal Garaz.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
A refreshing 3 consecutive hits.
The three golems that were firing red lasers were smashed and fell to the ground in pieces. Once the battle was over, Bertelgia emerged from the pocket and examined the golems.
“Hmm. Why were my daddy’s golems out here?”
Sungchul focused on his five senses in case there were more hidden enemies and checked his surroundings as he deployed his detection formula he had learned in the catacombs just to be safe. Meanwhile, Bertelgia was able to finish her analysis of the golems successfully.
“Bertelgia. Are these really golems your father made?”
Sungchul asked her.
“The design is definitely daddy’s handiwork. Golem’s core and mechanisms. But the Magical Armaments that’s installed on it doesn’t look like it was made by daddy. It’s too rudimentary.”
“Is that so?”
There was no one else in the world aside from the Seven Heroes who used Eckheart’s golems. Sungchul had witnessed Sajators utilize Eckheart’s golems back in the Great Jungle. There was no guarantee that the other Heroes were incapable of doing so.
“But there’s a small problem. No… should I say it’s a big problem?”
Bertelgia said with a voice filled with concern upon inspecting the golems.
“What’s the problem?”
Bertelgia answered with uncertainty upon Sungchul’s question.
“These, they were made recently.”
“Recently? How recently are we talking?”
Ancient beings like Adelwight and Bertelgia have a completely different sense of time so it was important to take care in clarifying. Especially when it comes to Adelwight, since her ‘recent’ is anything that has happened within the last thousand years. It would not be too different for Bertelgia who existed just as long as those ancient ones. Sungchul waited quietly for Bertelgia to open her mouth.
“About two months?”
Bertelgia gave an unexpected answer.
“Two months you say?”
“Yeah. I think it was made within the last two month.”
“Was Eckheart’s techniques leaked?”
“Although that possibility is highly unlikely, even if the technique was somehow leaked and someone found out the method of producing these, it’s not something most people can make.”
Bertelgia stated definitively and then added,
“Just because someone found out your recipe, do you think any random chef can imitate your cooking?”
Explaining in terms of cooking that Sungchul enjoyed made it easy for him to understand right away.
“Something’s weird though.”
While Bertelgia was lost in thought, Sungchul checked the rubble of the destroyed golem. There was a remnant of complicated but crude parts of a machine inscribed with magic formulas around the golem’s eyes. It was the Magical Armaments used to attack Sungchul. The Magical Armament was connected to the golem’s inner core which also supplies the power necessary for motion. Because the projectile it launched was in the form of a light it was fast and difficult to dodge, its power was mediocre. Of course while it was effective against isolated and few remaining residents of villages, it would not be effective against properly trained and equipped soldiers. It would likely only end up scorching the surface of a shield or an armor piece. But making assumptions would be a mistake.
As long as the Seven Heroes were behind the construction of this golem, it was not a problem to take lightly. In the moment Sungchul made up his mind, three pillars of light fired up into the sky from far away and scattered its light in all directions.
Azure, Scarlet, Crimson.
‘A signal flare?’
That was when Sungchul perceived a slight rumbling of the earth. He got down and placed his ears on the ground to listen.
It was faint but a massive sound was sending shockwaves through the earth. Sungchul had heard a similar sound before.
‘Is it a colossus?’
His prediction soon became reality. Beyond the horizon, a giant with the body size of a mountain became visible under the faint light of the moon and was heading his way.
But it was not alone. Behind the approaching Colossus was an identical Colossus following. Two Colossi. But that wasn’t the end of it. Covering the ground like ants around the Colossi’s feet were the same golems like the ones Sungchul just destroyed. And spread out among those golems were the larger medium sized golems Sungchul had seen in the Great Jungle, approaching with their eyes glistening red.
A grand army composed of golems was marching towards Sungchul.