“That woman is alive…?”
There was such a change in Sungchul’s appearance that it was immediately visibly noticeable. Diametrically opposed to Sungchul’s incredulous reaction, the Wandering King continued to speak nonchalantly as if he was speaking about something trivial and pedestrian.
“She’s alive. She sought me out looking like some dirty beggar. No pride or dignity whatsoever, just like the rest of the low born commoners.”
“…Are you speaking the truth?”
Sungchul asked with a calmer but still shaky voice. The question he uttered signified something much more than a simple question. It meant that if it were to be a lie, then it could lead to a confrontation against Sungchul himself. A being currently known to be the strongest in the world. Although the question carried immense weight that should have made it intimidating to answer, the Wandering King answered with the same kind of aloof demeanor as before.
“I can arrange for you to meet if that is what you wish.”
Although the Wandering King’s face was completely concealed by his helmet, Sungchul was able to come to the conclusion that the Wandering King was likely not making a baseless thoughtless lie. Of course, this was predicated on the assumption that the Wandering King was not an idiot who would lightly turn Sungchul into his enemy.
“But she will be difficult to recognize. That woman’s original appearance has long since been lost, transformed by the sweeping passage of time.”
“Let me extend my offer once again. Let me know what you desire, and I’ll arrange for her to be brought before you at any time.”
Sungchul said nothing about the offer. Instead, he opened the door to the cabinet while wearing an exhausted and drained expression before leaving. It was as if he was running away. The Wandering King stood his ground as he watched Sungchu leave.
“Ah! The Imperial Commander in Chief left already-yeyo?”
“Leaving without saying bye, so disappointing-yeyo.”
The Fairies appeared from the kitchen with tea but Sungchul was long since gone.
“The Cuckoo is still alive.”
Marakia hadn’t been able to speak until now due to Sungchul’s depressed mood as they walked through the forest, but he took the opportunity for when Sungchul left the campsite to procure ingredients for a meal to start talking away.
“But Now that I think of it, that Ryzen or whatever human is closer to Red-Banded Sand Wasp. Hey, Living Book, do you know what Red-Banded Sand Wasp is?”
“Mmm… Not sure?”
“It’s a cruel insect that kidnaps other insects to lay eggs upon them which then hatch to consume them. You can’t possibly have no entry on Red-Banded Sand Wasp among your great many pages? Because if that’s the case, then it’s no better than a magazine read by a common street thug!”
Of course, the one he was conversing with was Bertelgia.
‘Oh my god. Why does he talk so much. Could he have a woodpecker somewhere in his ancestry? Why can’t he just complain to the person in question?’
Bertelgia regretted not hitching a ride in Sungchul’s pocket as she listened to everything that Marakia had to say. But there were parts of his opinions that she just could not agree to.
“…Us Nahak are strict with the other races, but we are generous to one of our own. Of course there’s a difference between the white feathered and blue feathered Nahak. But humans don’t even have that level of loyalty or fealty to their own kin. Just like what that strange masked human said, there’s no pride or dignity whatsoever.”
“Haa. I guess. Why does he always live like an idiot and always allows himself to get manipulated? Daddy was stupid too but that guy seems even worse!”
Marakia was overjoyed by Bertelgia’s engagement so he crunched some nuts with his beak as he muttered.
“There is a terminology I’ve picked up from humans that I believe is perfect for this situation.”
“Well. What is it…?”
A large hand took hold of the back of Marakia’s head.
After a brief retaliation, Sungchul took a seat. Bertelgia carefully examined Sungchul’s face in the flickering light of the campfire, she found that his expression was not all too different from usual.
“… Are you ok?”
Bertelgia asked gingerly.
“Is there anything to be ok about?”
Sungchul peeled the skin off of the monkey he had caught in the forest. The skin came off smoothly. The whole unskinned monkey was pinned up by sticks to be bathed in herbs. The monkey was stabbed in the side so that a variety of herbs could be inserted.
Sungchul reduced the campfire to the level of an ember and cleared out the debris before adding in thinly cut wood from what looked like a teak tree to start smoking the monkey meat. In order to smoke a meat well, the choice of the tree to burn was as important as the quality of the meat.
Sungchul called Marakia over and gave him the task of rotating the stick of meat hung over open flames so that the smoke could be spread across the meat evenly. Marakia protested, saying this was not something for a King to be doing, but he was forced to change his mind in under 10 seconds.
While the smoked meat was cooking, Sungchul prepared another pot and added milk and stock to make soup before adding mushrooms from the forest along with the monkey eyeballs.
Even Marakia, who typically scorn Sungchul’s cooking, praised his eyeball soup.
“How refined, despite being a human.”
“How about it, will you like to partake in it as well?”
Marakia waved his hands to refuse Sungchul’s offer.
“Sorry, but I do not eat human food. How can I expect a creature that can’t appreciate the wonderful taste of piquant meat on the edge of spoiling to understand anything about flavor?”
“Then I shall have it alone.”
Sungchul brought a spoonful of boiling soup to give it a taste. It wasn’t bad. But adding the eyeballs were a mistake.
[The score of this dish is 45 points]
Even so, his fundamentals were solid and the food was of the type of the Curator of the Class’ preference, giving him a rather high score. The food he had made out of the monkey he had kidnapped while it was taking a bath in the hot spring after Sungchul failed to find game animals also ended up scoring 67 points.
It was a fairly good score, and turned out quite delicious. But it was nowhere even remotely close to Sungchul’s target of 90 points.
‘I guess I have no choice but to try and make that.’
Back in his day as the Commander in Chief of the Imperial army, Sungchul was served all sorts of rare delicacies during his travels all over the world. Even among all the lavish and luxurious banquet he had been presented with on a daily basis, there were a few that stood out above the rest. And among them, there was a dish he wanted to add his unique spin to it and create a variation on.
‘Dormouse, Songbird, pregnant rabbit. Well, I guess that’s about I can think of for now.’
There was no hint of a shadow of worry or concern on Sungchul’s face who was busy having joyful agony over his choices. And he was truly feeling at peace. Although he was told a shocking truth very recently, it was as if the electricity passed through him and nothing remained of the brief headache he had experienced in that moment. Bertelgia could not understand Sungchul.
‘How can he be so calm after finding that out? His path through life was dramatically changed because of her.’
This wasn’t a simple matter of strong will or mental strength. Sungchul as seen through Bertelgia’s eyes seemed disquietingly strange. It wasn’t to the extent that ‘twisted’ was the right word for it, but there was significant enough difference between him now and the Sungchul she had come to know.
“Um. Are you really ok?”
It was not until Sungchul was almost done eating that Bertelgia was able to ask about the subject once more.
“You mean that?”
Sungchul replied in his usual calm tone. Bertelgia shook a little so Sungchul tossed away the arm of the Monkey that he reduced to bones.
“I don’t particularly mind.”
“The woman that I knew already died in my heart long ago. Even if she still managed to survive until now, it has nothing to do with me anymore.”
“I… is that so?”
“The moment I fulfilled my promise with her, my last bit of connection to her had come to an end. That’s the end of that.”
Sungchul was severing his past relationship with a shocking level of calm. Bertelgia thought Sungchul was extraordinary, but on the other hand, she also felt a sense of dread.
Now that the sharp dagger has been unleashed in his heart, there was no saying he wouldn’t readily use it again.
‘Could it be… I hope not…’
Bertelgia began to grow concerned and carefully asked Sungchul.
“Hey, is it ok if I go in the pocket?”
Sungchul made an expression that seemed to ask why she was acting so awkwardly as he opened the completely tattered coat for her so she could go into his inside pocket.
Bertelgia felt relieved as she listened to Sungchul’s heartbeat. Nothing had changed. It was the same rhythm it always was. Bertelgia gently shivered.
“What is it?”
Sungchul noticed the sudden vibration and asked.
“No, it’s nothing. I think I’m just lacking exercise.”
“Books also need exercise?”
Sungchul grinned as he finished his meal.
On the following day, the journey continued.
Sungchul decided on the route he would take towards the Tower of Recluse and began his rapid travel through Forests and mountain paths where it was unlikely to run into people.
Although he was not running at his maximum speed, he was moving at a considerable pace sustained over a long period of time, so eventually Marakia couldn’t keep up and collapsed. Sungchul had no choice but to sew in a small pocket towards the back of his coat to carry Marakia within.
‘My pockets are full of unwanted guests.’
There was another problem.
The sole of his boots were being worn out. The boots which carried out its duty without complaint for so long may look like an ordinary pair of military boots, but it was actually a one-of-a-kind masterpiece made by the hands of the number one Dwarven master craftsman using the scale of the Black Dragon.
It had admirably carried out its job through the thick and rough of Sungchul’s perilous journey, but it finally reached the end of its life during the battle against Sidmia due to Sungchul unleashing his full might. Although Sungchul knew how to sew and there were scales of Black Dragons resting in his Soul Storage, he could not repair it.
It was because such a high quality item was something only the highest class of craftsmen could handle.
‘Mmm… I would rather avoid it, but I might have to visit the Dwarven Kingdom.’
That place was probably the most uncomfortable place in the world for Sungchul to be in, since every dwarves greatly desired having the opportunity to rip apart his skin by their teeth. Although the cause of this hatred was Sungchul’s possession of their divine artifact, Fal Garaz, Sungchul had not one iota of an inclination to return it.
About a month ago he had entertained the thought of returning it, but the fight against the Lesser God Sidmia made it painfully obvious that it would be impossible to contest similar beings without it.
Either way, as he continued to run somewhat absentmindedly while thinking about his next steps, a familiar sight came into view between the thick coniferous forest.
A lake as clear as a mirror surrounded by white capped pine trees, with the snow capped mountain in the backdrop rising above the treetops like a folding screen.
Sungchul finally slowed down once the tower in the middle of the lake came into view. It was necessary to walk normally from this point on. There was no reason to stir up trouble when the master of the tower Porypyrius was amiable towards him and allowed Sungchul to come and go freely.
Sungchul made his way through the dense forest and headed towards the path that led up to the Tower of Recluse. It did not take long before Sungchul reached the place where a vagrant tent city used to exist. The former Insbant refugee camp was completely deserted. Judging by the evidence left behind, it didn’t seem like they had departed more than two weeks ago. That would place the timing to be around when Sungchul was still in the Fae World waiting for Craiya to open her eyes.
‘They left in a hurry. Since they decided to move despite being midwinter, I suppose it meant that they were treated poorly.’
While he was lost in thought as he roamed around the place where the refugee camps had been, Marakia curled up and looked around before opening his beak.
“Just for what did we come here for?”
Sungchul was beginning to become irritated. Anyone would become irritated if they had explained something several times but the person listening still didn’t get it.
Marakia was such a self-centric being that he had very little experience listening to someone else. But Sungchul did not have to do anything because the person who was second in rank moved on his behalf.
Bertelgia, who was such a momentous person (in the presence of Sungchul) not even Marakia could talk back lightly, passionately mixed scorn into her explanation about the reason why they decided to come here. Although he was arrogant beyond belief, Marakia was very intelligent and understood right away. But there was one thing that bothered Marakia.
“Hmm? Scroll of Calamity? Something seems odd.”
“What’s the problem now? Hmm?”
Marakia scratched his beak as he replied to the rather confrontational Bertelgia.
“It’s not a big problem. It’s just that it seems as though the name of it changed. It was called by something else in my era.”
Sungchul broke silence and looked down at Marakia to ask. Marakia nodded in response and replied.
“The object you call Scroll of Calamity was once called Stone Tablet of the Apocalypse.”