At the break of dawn, Airfruit became a place of horrors. The teaching staff of Pyromancy that had been leading the corrupted school had been slaughtered, and their promising students had all met their deaths. Those who were still around gathered in disparate groups and wandered the campus, seeking the assassins with tensed nerves and torches in hand, while the rest lined up the corpses and mourned the dead. Sungchul arrived here at this time.
A group of students holding torches stood in his path. It was because of his unusual appearance.
“Who are you? Identify yourself!”
A man shouted bravely. Five staves were trained in Sungchul’s direction. Sungchul glared at them and spoke curtly.
“I am a student here.”
At this point, one of the students recognized him.
“Wait, this man. I’ve seen him before. Put away the staves.”
It was a student wearing a robe dyed in blue. He asked for discretion from his fellow students, then approached Sungchul to speak to him discreetly.
“You are the fellow from the School of Alchemy, right? I greet you. I am a junior at the School of Cryomancy named Sidone. It is truly a blessing for you to have survived this fearful night.”
It was apparent that the man wished to become an acquaintance of Sungchul. When Sungchul remained silent, he offered to lead the way to Professor Danton.
“Did he also survive?”
Sungchul didn’t know of all the casualties yet. He knew that the Almeira family had been behind the attack on the school, but he had no way to know where their blades had been directed. Sidone briefly spoke of the known casualties so far.
“For now, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the School of Pyromancy has been completely obliterated. The teaching staff has been wiped out. There are plenty of rumours, but I think that the Assassin’s guild might be behind this attack.”
The School of Cryomancy had suffered almost no casualties according to the man’s report. It would most likely be like this because Sungchul intervened before the Almeira family could fully commit themselves to the assault on the school. He decided to wait until later to consider this a blessing or a curse. Meanwhile, he took up Sidone’s offer to be guided toward the School of Cryomancy, which was believed to be the most secure building on campus.
“You were quite fortunate to be able to survive this horrid night unscathed.”
Robert greeted Sungchul warmly, and he nodded in response. Sungchul then spoke of everything he had seen at the entrance.
“It looks as though the Order of Purity will burn Professor Altugius on the pyre.”
But for some reason, Robert looked unfazed at the fate of his fellow professor.
“Whether that stubborn old fool dies or not is none of our concern. The most important news is that the Assassin’s Guild has attacked us. In other words, the Inquisitor of Heresy has drawn his blade.”
He didn’t hide his anger. His eyes burned with vigor and a twisted smile formed on his lips.
“If the Inquisitor wants to play like that, we also have our ways.”
Robert let out a carefree laughter and nodded his head.
“Our way to retaliate, that is.”
All Robert had was a handful of Mages beneath him. Furthermore, the majority of the fighting force other than Robert and the teaching staff were students. Sungchul judged them to at most being able to clean up the mob soldiers of the Order of Purity might be their limit.
“Follow me, my friend protected by the Ancient Kingdom. I will reveal to you our secret weapon.”
He brought Sungchul and a small number of guards down to a basement. Robert swung his staff at a wall of the basement where musty air flowed, and then the aged bricks began shifting to reveal a secret passageway. Sungchul recognized that the passageway looked relatively new compared to the rest of the architecture.
“Only a few know the truth that our former Headmaster the Grand Magnus was a Follower of Calamity.”
Robert watched a few gutter rats become spooked and scurry away before he spoke again.
“However, most people with a similar status to me should have suspected it. It was challenging to find any Mage who dissented against the Great Mage Balzark when he was recruiting for the Followers of Calamity.”
“Is that so?”
“It was even worse among the higher-ranked Mages since they had already hit a plateau. They needed some way to break through their limitations, something to stimulate their growth. Like…”
At that point, they had reached the end of the tunnel where an enormous golem stood in their path. As Danton shook his staff, the golem moved to the side and the end of the tunnel revealed itself to Sungchul.
Unlike the passage covered in darkness, they approached an area filled with light. They could see nothing but the vague mass of light in the distance, and as soon as Sungchul stepped into this area, he could see his surroundings right away. They were inside a massive cave with a spherical structure that stood in the center.
Robert said with pride in his voice, and Sungchul’s eyes lit up.
‘It’s a Dimensional Door.’
Large forces such as the Human Empire and the Ancient Kingdom had set up massive Dimensional Doors in several places to move their large military forces. It wasn’t immediately clear why a Dimensional Door was needed at a Magic academy, but Robert quickly provided an explanation.
“This Dimensional Door is connected to the Demon Realm.”
“The former Headmaster had completed most of it, but it lacked a few critical components. With the funds that you provided, I was finally able to complete the Dimensional Door.”
Robert spoke in an excited voice. Sungchul looked back toward the Dimensional Door and then at Robert with a cold gaze.
“What’s the grand plan?”
Robert let out another carefree laugh and pointed towards the Dimensional Door.
“At high noon today, Altugius will be executed according to the notice put out by the Inquisitor of Heresy. Much of the Inquisitor’s force will be gathered there as well. That is when I will utilize the Dimensional Gate.”
Robert flicked his finger which caused a flower of ice to form in the air and then shatter.
“After that, they’ll become like this. All due to the unexpected visit from the forces of the Devil in Golden City.”
Robert’s heroic laughter echoed within the large cave while Sungchul only gazed at the spectacle quietly.
“This Dimensional Gate. How do you activate it?”
The underground prison of the Inquisitor of Heresy was not a place just anyone could enter. They had to satisfy one of two requirements: they had to be sentenced by the Inquisitor of Heresy, or they had to provide enough bribes to satisfy the wardens. Sungchul entered the dimly-lit underground prison through the latter method.
“Be quick. You have until the Inquisitor finishes his midnight prayer.”
The warden with the crow mask tactfully retreated. Sungchul flung open the unlocked door and stepped into the torture chamber. Within the center of the chamber, there was an unconscious man whose body showed apparent signs of torture while being held in chains.
Sungchul approached him. Altugius regained a bit of consciousness and put in some effort to open his swollen eyes. His eyes, peering through the thin gap his eyelids created, were filled with fear. His stubborn spirit had been drained out of him during the span of the torture. Sungchul, who had seen his powerful personality when the man had fought against Kaz, and when he had chased away Leonard, felt a bit of pity towards his current transformation.
“It is your disciple.”
Sungchul revealed his identity before Altugius could get a good look at him. Altugius’ body shook ever so slightly.
“S-Sungchul Kim? Are you actually here?”
When Sungchul nodded, Altugius desperately rushed to speak.
“W-water. I need some water…”
Sungchul looked around his surroundings. There was some water in a few barrels, but it was tainted with blood and filth. Sungchul opened his Soul Storage to pull out a transparent bottle that blended with the surroundings and brought it to Altugius’ lips.
When a single drop of liquid from the container touched his tongue, Altugius’ eyes flew open. A miraculously refreshing sensation traveled from the tip of his tongue to the rest of his body. Sungchul drained the contents of the bottle completely into his mouth.
“What a remarkable flavor of water. T-Thank you! I feel as though my vigor is returning!”
Altugius would never know the truth even in his dreams. What Sungchul had given him was the sap of the World Tree grown in the land of the Fairies.
“Okay then. Why have you come here?”
After regaining his senses Altugius looked towards Sungchul and asked in a low voice, so Sungchul let known his intentions.
“I came here to learn the Secret of Cosmomancy.”
A sigh escaped Altugius’ mouth.
“What a waste. I don’t have it with me at the moment.”
“The Secret lies in the place that I’ve spent my life guarding. The Observatory of the School of Cosmomancy.”
“The Observatory of the School of Cosmomancy?”
“If I weren’t a prisoner, I would follow your side to deliver you the Secret…but as of now, it is not so easy.”
“I shall break you out then.”
Altugius simply shook his head weakly.
“I would keep my life if I escaped, but I will not be able to deliver you the Secret of Cosmomancy. It takes a considerable amount of time to inherit the Secret of Cosmomancy, and Maxima Magnus will not stand by once he hears of my escape.”
“You are quite honest.”
Other Mages would have begged and pleaded for freedom, regardless of their actual intentions to keep any promises made. It was the modus operandi of Mages which Sungchul had ceaselessly dealt with. Following what Sungchul said, Altugius obtusely asked as he looked wide-eyed.
“Why bother lying about something soon to be discovered anyway?”
A faint smile formed on Sungchul’s lips.
“I only said so because there never seems to be an end of people willing to make those short-lived lies.”
Altugius, too, broke into a smile, but it was soon replaced with an expression of deep concern.
“Can I ask a single favor from you?”
“Is it about your Granddaughter?”
“That’s correct. Please take care of Sarasa for me. I don’t mean forever, but her father lives along the frontier borders of the Demon Realm. Far north.”
“He should be active as a mercenary Mage at the ‘Storm Battlefront’ under the alias ‘Deckard.’ He’s a man-child, constantly busying himself in the harsh Demon Realm trying to save the world. Please lead Sarasa to that man. It won’t be the Secret of Cosmomancy, but he shall provide an adequate reward in return.”
Sungchul lowered his head as though in thought.
“Time’s up. It is about time for the midnight prayer to end.”
The annoyed voice of the warden rang out in the distance. Sungchul raised his head once again, then looked towards Altugius. It was a gaze that was like the calm sky of a starry night.
“I am sorry, but I will have to learn the Secret of Cosmomancy.”
Altugius’ face was filled with horror.
“But at this moment…!”
“I will be back. At a more appropriate time.”
Leaving behind these ambiguous words, Sungchul left the dimly lit torture chamber. Altugius looked towards Sungchul’s back with a complicated gaze mixed with terror and anticipation.
‘Just…who is that man?’
He could already figure out that the man was not ordinary, but his limited knowledge could not even guess at what his identity might be. The individual named Sungchul Kim was such a man.
Sarasa was looking at her face in the mirror. One-half retained the beauty of her life, while the other had the grotesque form of a mummified corpse. However, Sarasa did not despair or falter. She calmly asked the man who was facing away from her.
“You want me to begin packing?”
“By noon today, you and your grandfather will be escaping this place together.”
“Will that be possible with your strength? I will do all I can to help,” replied Sarasa.
The eye on the decayed half revealed a sharp gaze. However, Sungchul shook his head.
“You would only be a burden.”
“Do you really think of me as being so weak?”
Sarasa let out a laugh.
At this point, he quietly took out his beloved weapon. Fal Garaz, the most powerful hammer said to be forged by the Dwarven gods caused the very air surrounding it to destabilize and tremble in its sheer presence.
Sarasa who saw the weapon was filled with terror.
There was a single incident that had shaken Other World before her death. It was the earth-shattering news that a devilish man known as the Enemy of the World had destroyed the temple of the Dwarves and had stolen their holy weapon. She had only heard of the name then and learned of its origins and appearance by researching it within the library. The holy weapon that she had seen only through books had graced her with its appearance. The awe and danger she felt now were incomparable to what could be felt through illustrations.
The man holding the weapon finally opened his mouth to speak.
“I am Sungchul Kim.”
It was neither an alias, nor just a man with the same name. He was literally the former ‘10th Champion of the Continent’. The man who is now better known as the ‘Enemy of the World.’
“I…I can’t believe it…Why would…that Sungchul come to us…?”
“I have sworn by my name to rescue you and your grandfather.”
Sarasa gripped her fists tight. What was there to say if none other than the most dangerous man in the world had promised to protect you?
As though it understood Sarasa’s torrent of emotions, the Sky Squirrel within her grasp began to bother her for kibbles. Sarasa stole a peek at her sleeves out of the corner of her eyes and petted the Sky Squirrel’s head.