Mimi had the outward appearance of a woman in her mid-20s. The gleam of her cold blue staring eyes was visible under the hood she wore over her head.
She raised her staff.
“I’ll ask again. Who are you?”
Sungchul pointed toward the cloth number that was attached to his coat. Mimi did not truly understand the meaning behind the number.
“I see. Mr. 34. Ok. How did you get here?”
Mimi looked towards Bertelgia who was flying about behind Sungchul.
“Ms Mimi! She is flying about~yeyo! It’s amazing~yeyo!”
“That’s called a familiar, yeyo. Don’t flap your lips if you’re ignorant~yeyo!”
The homunculi that had been playing about beneath her skirt grew rowdy. When she lifted her staff, The homunculi lowered their head and immediately quieted down. Azrael looked at Sungchul again with an interrogating glare as order returned to the dungeon.
“Now. Your answer is?”
Sungchul looked at her without any trace of hesitation as he answered her in a firm voice.
“…I am currently investigating what is inside this dungeon.”
When she heard his reply, she revealed a cold smile.
“Big balls on this one. I don’t know where you herald from, but I advise you to retreat from here within a week.”
“For what reason?”
“The Seventh Champion of the Continent. Willie Gilford is on his way here.”
Nothing would change whether he was here or not, but Sungchul remained silent.
Mimi looked over at the hole created by Sungchul.
“What is this? Did you perhaps do that?”
Sungchul neither admitted it nor denied it.
“A living book type familiar… you appear to be a magician.”
She had already looked over his stats through the translucent fog. It wasn’t anything impressive. It was why she chose to reveal herself without anyone to support her.
“What’s it to you whether I’m a magician or not?”
Sungchul finally spoke. Mimi looked at Sungchul with a chilling glare before turning around with a nod.
“Chief Investigator Ujira. Use the veil.” she said to one of the homunculi.
Mimi and the five homunculi were then surrounded by an invisible fog which removed them from sight.
“I’ll warn you again, but it’s to your benefit to leave quickly. There are mighty Sword Masters here as well, then in a week’s time…”
She let her words intermingled with hostile intent linger in the air as she disappeared into the darkness. However, Sungchul had the Eye of Truth within his Soul Contract. The figures of Mimi and her five homunculi veiled by the invisible fog reappeared into his sights.
Sungchul hid his presence and quietly tailed Mimi.
She walked along silently like a cat before arriving at a specific area. It was an empty plot that was surrounded by hastily made fortifications. There were about fifteen soldiers and members of the exploratory squad catching their breath.
There were quite a bit of injured left. One of the soldiers was muttering something to himself as he punched the air. Perhaps he had been critically wounded. He was gradually dying by himself in a dark corner as even the magician tending to him had given up. Mimi took off her invisible veil at this point.
“One human died~yeyo!”
“People who bully us getting what they deserve~yeyo!”
The calmed homunculi began to grow rowdy once again.
“Ms Mimi already suggested abandoning the ruins and retreating, but why are these humans so stupid as to ignore her advice~yeyo?”
“At least the day that we become true fairies are arriving sooner due to that~yeyo!”
Annoying voices poured out in all directions from the empty plot. It was at that moment
“Can’t you shut up?!”
One man suddenly shouted. It was Willie Gilford’s son, Mikhael Gilford. The confident youth with an elegant armor that was fitted to his form made his way towards Mimi with anger on his face.
“How many times do I have to tell you to muzzle those fucking Homunculi? Hm? What are you going to do if those monstrous creatures show up again, you damned witch.”
“… Your voice seems to be quite a bit louder?”
Mimi didn’t show any change in her expression even in the face of Mikhael that had engaged her so aggressively. Mikhael glared at her response as though he wanted to tear her apart with his bare teeth for a long while before chewing on his lips and taking practice swings with his sword.
“This was why we shouldn’t have brought a fucking witch! Garbage that uses taboo magic should have always be cut down with a blade!”
“If you cut me down, you might as well put an end to this scouting mission. I’m the only one that knows the way.”
Mikhael’s face twisted a degree further. It was then a man stepped up to hold him back. The man in his forties with a large scar across his face was in a servant’s attire that didn’t suit his solemn expression.
“Young master, there is no good that will come out of this anger.”
“Mmm… Old man Ord.”
Surprisingly, Mikhael looked as though his anger had washed away as the man stepped in. He had an unnaturally rapid change of heart as he looked back toward Mimi with a refreshing smile as he offered her an apology.
“I was in the wrong, Scout Leader. It looks as though the tense situation made me lose control of my temper. It was immature of me.”
Mimi heard his apology, yet made no reaction to it. She instead made a report on her scouting mission with a frozen expression as though she was looking at an inanimate object.
“…I’ll give you my scouting report.”
Mikhael leaned onto a rock as he nodded.
“When I arrived at the source of the noise, I ran across what appeared to be a male human mage.”
“A human? His affiliations?”
Mikhael looked surprised and quickly made his inquiry.
“I can’t determine his affiliations. He called himself number 34. However, he was dressed like a beggar in a pitiful attire of a summoned. He also had a living book familiar.”
“A living book, eh? What a rare type. How is his strength? Is he up to a mid-grade magician?”
“I did peek at his stats, but it wasn’t outstanding. However, I can’t discount the possibility that he might be disguising his stats. It could also be some devil disguised as a human.”
“Devils don’t come to this place. They can’t come here. It is a place crawling with their natural predators.” said Mikhael with a smile.
“I tried to look around for his companions but found nothing.”
The report ended here. Mikael made a gesture for Mimi to stand down before he gathered his subordinates and personal servant to discuss.
“Another explorer. Who do you think sent him?”
“There shouldn’t be any new developments regarding the Underground Kingdom. We should consider all possibilities. It is most likely that he’s from the Human Empire, but we can’t discount the Kingdom of Etteria. No one is more thirsty of magic than the elves.”
“But, if they can find that, they should be able to produce a monster on the level of the Enemy of the World.”
Sungchul, who was quietly hiding in the darkness, eavesdropped on their conversation. He could discern two facts: the exploratory unit within these ruins was seeking a particular item, and the information regarding the Underground Kingdom was publically available.
‘It appears as though Deckard was not the only one to have discovered information relating to the existence of the Underground Kingdom.’
Rather, Deckard’s information was only baby steps at this point. He couldn’t even find the entrance to the Underground Kingdom. It looked as though this exploratory unit knew much more. They knew what was hidden in this dungeon and the dangers lying within. Sungchul could now understand why Willie Gilford had hesitated in stepping in personally. He knew that the Despair of the Abyss had been sighted here. There was no other explanation other than this.
Sungchul left his hiding spot and returned to the darkness of the dungeon. He walked from the entrance back to the path he had created.
When Sungchul arrived at a point devoid of people, Bertelgia spoke again.
“Those Homunculi. It looked as though they were strengthened artificially.”
Sungchul had perceived that those homunculi were different than the average ones, but he didn’t pay much mind to it. At his level, homunculi would always be homunculi.
“But that woman is amazing.” continued Bertelgia
“She must have played around with some grotesque experiments on the bodies of those homunculi, but they still follow her explicitly.”
“Play around with their bodies?”
“Those homunculi. Do you remember that their bodies were completely clad in armor? It isn’t just to protect them. It was probably to prevent them from looking at their own appearances.”
It was nearly nonexistent in Sungchul’s time, but empowered homunculi must have been commonplace during the era Bertelgia was from. The population was decreasing, but they needed the power of magic. They had begun to modify the homunculi that had a human’s intellect to make them prolific for combat and support. The biggest drawback was that the known techniques for strengthening would horrifically disfigure the homunculi’s appearance.
“So that was a thing.”
Sungchul had confronted countless magicians, but he had never seen any that had strengthened homunculi.
“It was probably banned. Such a horrific method was fated to be entered into the list of forbidden spells someday…”
Sungchul who had been listening to Bertelgia’s story in silence finally discovered a red light beyond the darkness. There was a mound of human corpses. The red light emitted from a magic staff held by one of the corpses. Sungchul carefully looked through the bodies.
‘A year? Maybe 2? These bodies are in a better condition than the avian corpses.’
These corpses were mummified upon death and retained much of their former appearance. The cause of death appeared to be suicide. Even the corpses with bluish blemish indicating poisoning had daggers shoved up their throats with their own hand.
Sungchul discovered a worn out diary on the body of the mage dressed most eloquently among the corpses. Parts of the record was too damaged from the fluids leaked from the corpse to be read, but the final page had been preserved. Sungchul read through the last page with a nose full of revolting smells.
Everything is proceeding smoothly. I already await the day that his imperial majesty sounds the news of his victory.
Wesley and Jara, who had met eyes since a while back, asked me to stand in as their officiant. They requested to hold their ceremony in the Audience Chamber of the Nahak King. The audacious ideas of the Summoned often astound me.
Jara had disappeared. Wesley left without notice in search for her. I only pray to the God of Order that everything is ok.
42325 54423 99832 31125 34238
88823 42321 11232 44235 19321
88768 11132 08323 13578 69180
The records ended at this point. Bertelgia who was reading beside him asked with a quizzical expression.
“What are those last set of numbers?”
“It’s an encrypted message.”
Sungchul pulled out a faded book from his Soul Storage.
It was a book printed from a rotary press of the modern world. The old book contained a lot of numbers within, but there was also an explanation proceeding them. It was a solution manual for sending secret messages via encrypted broadcast. Sungchul had received this book directly from the Emperor of the Human Empire, William Quinton Marlboro. Before their relationship deteriorated, anyways.
Sungchul opened the book and began to seek out the random numbers along with the explanation following them to decipher the message. The deciphered message was as follows:
[Third Floor Underground, Existence of Massive Cavern, Large Number of Eyeless Monsters, Attacked, Relay Farewell to Family, This is my final request.]
“What was it trying to say?”
Bertelgia hurried him by poking on his shoulder. Sungchul closed the book and returned it to his Soul Storage before speaking.
“It looks as though there is definitely something underground. Monstrous men without eyes seem to be living there.”
The avian corpses were just the prelude to what was to come. There were creatures more bizarre and grotesque lurking beyond them. Sungchul put down the record to continue his exploration of the dungeon. When he finally discovered the stairs leading down to the floor below, Bertelgia diligently recorded Sungchul’s path in her pages.
Sungchul descended the dark spiral staircase which was littered with skeletons of the avian race. An obsidian door blocked his path at the end of the steps. The Eye of Truth reacted to the magic cast upon it.
‘This is dangerous.’
It was a destructive magic that was powerful enough to cause the entire dungeon to collapse if he activated it carelessly. This was not something that a hammer could solve.
Sungchul approached the door.
[This is a place that only the holy and majestic avian, Nahak, may enter.]
[Display the symbol of the Nahak.]
“What should we do? It doesn’t look as though it’ll just let us pass.”
Bertelgia circled Sungchul’s vicinity while speaking with a concerned voice. Sungchul looked around the door’s surroundings.
Before the door was a small altar with a hole and just below it was an obsidian shard. The obsidian, which was still emitting magical energy, looked just about the right dimension to fit inside the altar hole. Sungchul placed the shard inside the altar as a test. Immediately, magical energies of the altar enveloped the shard then dissipated once more.
[Display the proper symbol]
A sculpture in the form of the avian emitted a red light from his two eyes.
Sungchul retreated for now.
“What should we do now?”
He ignored the bickering of Bertelgia who was following beside him and took a few steps forward.
‘This looks good.’
It was an ordinary bedrock with no reaction to magic whatsoever. Sungchul pulled out Fal Garaz and swiped at the floor. When the hammer struck the ground, the large bedrock cracked and broke off.
As the entire dungeon shook, hundreds of avian corpses appeared before him. Sungchul resumed his work after the one-sided slaughter. A large hole appeared where he had been pounding away with his hammer, and he jumped into the hole.
A weighty landing. The back of the blackened stone door that refused to open stood behind Sungchul.
“Bertelgia. Draw out the map for the second floor starting from here.”
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