A foreboding region opened up beneath the entrance that was facing the sky. There was an airship in the air, and Ancient Kingdom soldiers were guarding the entrance. And if that wasn’t enough, a portion of the magicians had set up a barrier there as well.
Sungchul patiently watched their movements. When the sun had set, people were seen crawling out of the dark hole through a lift operated by a crank. There were ten people when they descended, but only seven came out, and one of them had severe injuries that required him to lean on his companions.
“Shit. There are too many monsters. We’ll need an army and not an exploratory team at this rate.”
A youth with an attractive height and a healthy physique spoke as he wiped his blade soaked in blood. The gloomy female mage next to him stood beside him like a shadow.
“Didn’t I say it before? We’ll need at least five Sword Masters before we can break through the area.”
There were five homunculi around her skirt that reached down to her feet, wearing metal masks armed to the teeth.
“Our strength isn’t enough, see?”
“Bring more Sword Masters, you!”
“Lady Mimi’s assessment are absolute, always!”
The five homunculi began to shout as they hopped about distractingly. At that moment, a man descended from the airship above.
There were several dozens of meters of distance between the airship and the ground, but he had jumped off with no hesitation. The ground tremored lightly with a boom! sound; which caused all heads to turn toward him.
“Scout Leader. Mimi Azrael! Report the status of your progress.”
It was a gray-haired Swordsman with a mane and a full beard that was similar to that of a lion’s. The full plate armor that covered his entire body was adorned with white gold, and the man appeared to be of great status. Sungchul instantly recognized the man’s face.
‘It’s Willie Gilford.’
A man that took a spot among the 13 Champions of the Continent. He was hero number 7: Willie Gilford. He was the very first Sword Master among the summoned and had gained great renown throughout the continent through his overwhelming mastery over the sword and his fighting spirit of a lion’s.
Of course, he was Sungchul’s acquaintance. They were together in the battle against the Devil King on the Demonic Realm frontlines. They never shared many words with each other, but Sungchul knew that he was a meticulous strategist despite his magnanimous appearance.
The gloomy woman called Mimi looked at him with depressed eyes and answered him calmly.
“As you can see, we lost half of the exploratory squad.”
“Cause?” Willie spoke as he stroked his sideburns.
“There were too many enemies. Your Majesty added a Sword Master and 5 Sword Adepts to our unit, but their strength was lacking.”
Willie raised his hand, interrupting Mimi, then turned toward the young man and spoke in a growl.
“Mikhael Gilford. Is what she says true?”
The young swordsman named Mikhael looked blankly with a dark expression, then nodded.
“A lot was omitted, but what the witch says is overall the truth.”
The youth’s voice and appearance were similar to William’s. Sungchul could now recognize Mikhael as Willie’s son. A fire lit in his eyes.
‘That’s right. You fuckers must have called it quits because you didn’t get affected by the curse.’
He could still recall the scene clearly. People believed that the Thirteen Champions of the Continent did nothing, and recorded history reflects the fact that the gathering of the Thirteen Champions had remained idle. However, the truth was different.
The Thirteen Champions of the Continent had joined the invasion into the Demonic Realm. They had also managed to force their way through the Demon King Hesthnius Max’s Palace reaching his chamber. If they had torn the door open and entered at that time, the first Calamity would have ended right then. But then a conflict of interest occurred at that moment. Someone spoke up.
“After we kill the Demon King, the Seven Heroes will appear once again. Can we handle the Seven Heroes? What about the next Calamity after we manage to kill them?”
That one line of questioning ruined everything. Sungchul still remembered the face of the woman that had asked the question.
The Second Hero of the Continent and the Master of the Floating Isles, Moderator Aquiroa.
Above all else, he tried to kill the old woman himself, but her Floating Isles was a hidden location under a veil of secrets. He didn’t know the location nor could he find it despite all of his efforts. He had tried many times to determine its location, but it was all for naught. Time passed by as Sungchul was deep in thought.
“Have your men set up camp and remain on standby. I’ll gather all the experts near my area and add them to the unit.”
Willie spoke in a booming voice. Mimi didn’t show much of a reaction, but Mikhael rose up in protest.
“Father, wasn’t this plan supposed to progress in secret? There is a concern that the secret might leak if we bring in outsiders carelessly.”
“There is no concern. Dead men tell no tales.”
Willie pulled his blade from its sheath. A strange blue light poured from the blade. Sungchul who saw this scene thought to himself.
‘He never steps up himself at all costs.’
At Willie’s strength, it would be possible to clean up whatever was underground with ease. However, he was too paranoid to involve himself in such matters. Willie only fought battles that were assured of being a victory. It was this mentality that had lost him countless opportunities but allowed him to never fall into dire straits.
“I’ll return after a week. Set up camp here and defend this location.”
He left most of the guards with the camp at the entrance of the cave and took the airship heading southwards. Whether from whim or with intent, he peeked towards the ridge that Sungchul was hiding in. However, it would have been impossible to find Sungchul who had completely suppressed his presence.
“Was it a fluke? It felt extremely ominous.”
The airship disappeared from his sight, and Sungchul returned to observing the camp.
The female mage named Mimi entered her own barracks with her homunculi and Mikhael took a rest sharing conversation with his subordinates. The airship had left, but the barrier was still formidable, and there were Empathomancy magicians stationed that could make contact with the outside at any time.
Sungchul felt tempted to step out personally, but he resisted the temptation. There was still plenty of time left. There was no need to overexert himself. Also, the second of the two roll calls of the day was fast approaching. Missing a roll call was considered desertion. Aaron that everyone feared was no real match for Sungchul, but Sungchul wanted to stay active within the Suicide Unit for awhile. He sighed in regret and left the scene.
When he returned, the military tent was in an uproar. Three soldiers were tied down to a rack and were being flogged by Aaron. Sungchul could recognize one of them as one of the five that had deserted during the battle. It wasn’t a wise choice to desert in the frontlines of the Demonic Realm. Different from the regions of the rear, deserting the Suicide Unit who were at the forefront of the Demonic frontline meant surviving in the Demon Realm with nothing but their bodies to rely on.
It wasn’t easy to surviving in this land teeming with evil creatures in all directions. They would most likely die or disappear after wandering these barren lands, and even if they did manage to adjust, they would have to lead the life of a primitive animal. Sungchul managed to eat and live freely because of his strength; other ordinary people equated the Demonic Realm with death.
“You traitors had forsaken your brothers in arms to save yourselves. You have added a heavy crime on top of the crimes you’ve already committed. I cannot forgive you, and thus I will kill you to appease the grievances of the spirits of warriors long gone.”
Aaron flogged the three constrained deserters toward the brink of death. However, they did not die. An unexpected guest arrived as they were about to meet their end; the reinforcements from the south. There were about 300 in all.
According to rumors, there was a mass desertion that occurred along the battlefront supervised by the Order of the Iron Blood Knights, and so a portion of them had been sent here. Sungchul eyed one of them and tossed over a warm drink when the time was appropriate.
“Why did the massive desertion happen?”
“Hesthnius Max. The Demon King came out personally on the battlefront.”
The new recruit trembled with fear etched into his face. It all made sense if he was telling the truth. According to the man, Max led an elite army composed of the strongest devils and demons and attacked the forward base to the west operated by the Order of the Iron Blood Knights. They burned 30% of the fortification to the ground, and after a drawn out battle, the Iron Blood Knights suffered a harsh defeat.
The Order of the Iron Blood Knights, who were one of the key players in holding the front line against the Demonkind, were losing control of the battle line they were in charge of.
They were in no immediate danger since the hibernation period had begun, but it would be difficult to hold the line in spring due to having already lost all of their strongholds
“An unfortunate rumor is spreading around.”
After roll call, Sungchul heard about the rumor spreading around the unit from Arkaard.
“Marquess Martin Breggas is preparing a joint force to reinforce the Order of the Iron Blood Knights.”
This was nothing more than a death sentence for the Suicide Unit if the rumors were true due to the fact that the unit was meant to be sent to the bleakest and most dangerous of missions. But this was good news for Sungchul since Deckard, his source of information, was safe in the rear and Sungchul had no one to worry about but himself. Sungchul was also planning on clearing the dungeon defended by the exploration team within a week, no matter who or what awaited within.
The main problem was that the entrance was guarded by the explorers from the Ancient Kingdom, but Sungchul had a solution for even this.
The next day, Sungchul left the rowdy unit behind him and headed into the Demon Realm. There he challenged one of the Demon Lords and escaped after pretending to lose.
Excited at the idea that he defeated the man responsible for reducing Hesthnius Max to spirit form and put him on the run, the Demon Lord gathered his army to give chase. Sungchul had thousands of demons at his tail as he fled toward the exploratory unit’s camp. What happened next was obvious.
The demons that had hounded Sungchul discovered the Exploratory unit and attacked. Sungchul hid in a ravine out of view and watched the scene with a potato as a snack. Sungchul believed that the exploratory would simply retreat, but they chose the other option. Instead of abandoning the dungeon and escaping, they opted to enter the known danger that was the dungeon. The demons did not give chase. The high ranking demons looked once at the entrance, shook their heads, then retreated their army.
“This is the grounds of a race who were tributed to the gods as a sacrifice. We will only share their fate if we follow in.”
The demons fell back, and Sungchul felt great curiosity once again. He felt drawn to this dungeon that had caused even the demons to shake their heads and retreat. However, he chose to fall back again. He chose to head toward the south toward the field hospital that Deckard was committed to and snuck in.
“What is the identity of that dungeon?”
Sungchul asked. He even told Deckard that the entrance of the dungeon was already discovered by the Ancient Kingdom’s scouts and was being actively explored. When Deckard heard the story, he could hide the truth no longer.
“What did you say? The Ancient Kingdom’s scouts already arrived? Shit…!”
He then spilled everything he knew.
“The dungeon is actually the land of a race eaten up by a Calamity.”
“A race eaten up by a Calamity?”
“Races which succumb to the Calamities are enslaved by the Gods. In the case of the ancestors that constructed the underground kingdom, they became the slaves of the Ancient God.”
“The slaves of the Ancient God…”
Deep wrinkles formed in Sungchul’s brow.
There were five main gods within the Other World’s Pantheon. The God of Order that was in charge of the sun and righteousness. The God of Chaos that sought evil and entropy. The God of Mediation that maintained the world as it was. The Ancient God which was the manifestation of the eternal flow of time. Finally, the prearranged deity that was not yet born. It was known that the Ancient God was the most incomprehensible among all of these deities. Sungchul had once fought against the attendants of the Ancient God. They were revolting and twisted existences that he never wanted to see again.
So now we know why the big shots amongst the humans don’t want to end the current Calamity just yet!
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