Sungchul continued the same way he did on the first floor. However, he noticed something different compared to the walls on the first floor as he worked his way through. There were bones which seemed to belong to some animal or even human.
A pile of bones emerged between the brick and mortar masonry wall. Considering more than a few bones were coming out, Sungchul couldn’t help but be curious.
He stopped working for a moment to peer at the surface of where he broke the wall. There were countless skeletons stacked within. Sungchul gripped the surface with his hand and easily pulled it apart, and when he did, he discovered a skeleton that had managed to keep its original form intact.
Sungchul’s pupils shrank. These were human skeletons trapped in between the walls. They weren’t ones of the avian race. Perhaps, they were buried alive as they were constructing this dungeon. It wasn’t just one or two people, but thousands to tens of thousands of individuals that made up this graveyard.
Sungchul finally said, “It looks as though the Nahak were quite the cruel race.”
“According to legend, the Nahak were known to be an arrogant and cruel race. More than anything, they didn’t have a shred of mercy towards the other races. These corpses were probably once slaves.”
Bertelgia flew about the intact skeleton and explained what she knew.
“Even if that was the case, they did something unimaginable; burying all these living people inside a wall. Those Birdbrains.”
“Why did they do this?” asked Sungchul. There was a gentle fury beneath his voice.
“Couldn’t it be to gather their magical power? You know, using their pain and anguish as nourishment?”
“I would really like to see a living Nahak.”
Sungchul fixed his grip on his hammer as he muttered. His work began once again. The wall fell, and the skeletons within poured onto the floor. This repeated several times until he reached the end of the second floor. Sungchul put his back to a bedrock and took a brief rest. It had been a while since he had used up his strength like this, and he was feeling a bit peckish.
‘Should I make a meal?’
However, this was not a good place to eat. Sungchul doesn’t eat just anywhere.
He turned back towards the path he had created, but then witnessed a strange occurrence along the way. Something was huddled over in the distant darkness, gluttonously eating the bones on the floor.
Bertelgia tensed her body at the definite sound of chewing bone coming from the distance.
“Uuu… What is it this time? I really want to leave now.”
Sungchul walked over to the creature in question without another word. The creature lifted its head as Sungchul drew close, then let out an ear-piercing scream.
It was a sound that wasn’t quite human nor beastly, but almost mechanical in nature. Sungchul acknowledged the intricacies of the sound but focused more on the creature’s appearance. It looked quite human, but the skin was sickly pale, and the face was so grotesquely twisted that it was difficult to look at without grimacing.
The creature’s most striking features were the empty spaces where eyes should have been and the rows of what should be called teeth. The teeth grew randomly and chaotically all over its mouth, and some even punctured through and stuck out of the face tissue.
Bertelgia dropped out of the air as if she had fainted when she saw the hideous appearance of the monster. Sungchul picked her up off the floor and placed her into his pocket before glaring at the creature.
But the creature did not move. It let out a monstrous cry instead and lunged at him
His hammer destroyed the creature’s skull and sent it flying off back into the darkness. The broken teeth scattered made clinging noises as they fell onto the floor.
Sungchul glanced into the darkness. An incalculable number of those creatures approaching this location; silently and stealthily.
Sungchul briefly took a moment to strategize. The question was whether to kill all of the incoming monsters or to simply retreat from here. In the end, he chose to erase his presence and retreat from this place. He was feeling a bit hungry, and it might reduce his long-awaited appetite dealing with the grotesque monsters. He put the gathering creatures behind him and climbed back up through the hole he had created before. There were several members of the exploratory unit loitering outside the hole. When they saw Sungchul, they asked a question out of surprise.
“W-who are you?”
Sungchul looked at every one of their faces. There were five in all. A party composed of two magicians and three soldiers. He couldn’t see Mikhael or Mimi. Sungchul pointed towards the piece of cloth attached to his person then spoke.
“I am number 34.”
“Number… 34? Just what are you doing down here in a place like this?”
“I just came down because I saw a hole. Some fun things seem to be crawling around.”
“Something… fun? Are you talking about the Nahak Skeletons?”
Sungchul shook his head.
“The monsters were blind and had a humanoid form, crawling around in droves..”
The faces of the exploratory unit members who heard Sungchul’s words grew sour.
“It sounds like he’s seen the Cave Elves.”
“Well, they were once existences known as Cave Elves to be exact. Their race was enslaved and brutally exploited by the Nahaks, but after their extinction, it’s the Cave Elves that control the dungeon now. They are strong, persistent, and intelligent. They are extremely dangerous.”
It was at this moment that a piercing shriek rang out.
It was the cry of the blind monsters. The members of the exploratory unit turned pale as sheets, then hurried to leave the place.
“L…let’s return quickly. Scouting, schmouting, we’re all about to die!”
The members of the exploratory unit disappeared into the darkness as if their pants were on fire. Sungchul had given them a small service. He blocked the hole with a large boulder just in case the blind creatures came through it. After blocking his personal entrance Sungchul continued to follow the path he created.
The brunch for the day was fish. Sungchul jumped into the ice-cold water with a harpoon in hand. There were massive dark creatures swimming in the shadowy water. They were known as the Demon Fish and they lived in the seas along the frontlines of the Demon Realm. They were about as large as an adult male. One of the fish discovered Sungchul, opened its maw, then leaped towards him.
The harpoon pierced its forehead. The blood pouring out from its wound dissipated into the water like smoke. The large fish struggled once or twice, but as Sungchul’s fist came down upon its head a few times, it gave up.
Sungchul grabbed the massive fish that was about his size with just his arms. A swarm of sharks that smelled blood in the water began to gather. He grabbed the fish’s gills to tear off its head, which he fed to the sharks, then headed leisurely towards the shore. The cooking utensils were already kept prepared on land.
“Goodness. At least you’re diligent in preparing food.”
Bertelgia, who could not consume food, spoke as such while flapping in the air.
Sungchul pulled out a blade from his Soul Storage. By the bluish light emitting from it, it had to be some legendary sword. There was a beautifully engraved symbol of a lion representing the human empire on its grip. It was a gift from the Emperor that was coveted by every knight within the Human Empire, but for Sungchul, its use was solely for cooking. The blue tinted blade plunged into the silvery scales of the Demonic Fish, then shook in a flashy manner causing all the scales to fall off quickly. When the fish was descaled, Sungchul left with the fish and headed towards the boiling pot.
Within the pot were dried vegetables, fish, mushrooms, and various other things for a soup stock. Sungchul used a ladle to get a taste.
The flavouring was proper. Sungchul sliced off a slab of meat from the fish, sliced it paper thin, then placed it on top of a plate. Chopsticks appeared from within the Soul Storage.
He grabbed a slice of fish, dipped it briefly into the boiling soup, then put it in his mouth. The deep flavour of the soup along with the rich flavour of the fish melted together deliciously in his mouth.
[The score of this recipe is… 63!]
The score appeared before his eyes, but he didn’t mind it. He solemnly gazed out taking in the scenery of the Demon Realm as he continued his meal alone. When he was done with the appetizer, Sungchul added dry noodles to the fish soup that was left to simmer and began to boil the pot.
Once the noodles softened up, Sungchul moved it to a bowl and poured the soup on top. Blowing on the steaming noodles, he gulped it down.
It had a great taste. He could feel his mind and body being reinvigorated.
“Quite the dedication to food. Really. Every meal.”
When the meal ended, Bertelgia began to pout as though she had been waiting for him the entire time.
“It is important to eat well.”
Sungchul grabbed the half-eaten fish by the tail, then tossed it toward the ocean. It made a huge splash and made some waves. He then extinguished the fire beneath his pot and washed his dishes in the ocean. It was a wonderful experience to cook, but doing the dishes was always tedious. Sungchul didn’t particularly like to do it.
“I wish I had a familiar to do my dishes.”
Sungchul muttered to himself as he cleaned the pot and placed it into his Soul Storage.
“Hmph! What are you talking about?! I am a privileged lady that has never soiled her fingers with chores in her life!”
“That doesn’t really sound like something to boast about.”
“Keep a homunculus or two if you want someone around to do your dishes.”
“I don’t have a hobby of keeping around those noisy things.”
“How about a Cave Elf? I think they’ll be quiet as long as they aren’t shrieking.”
“Well… Those monsters might be preferable to a homunculus when it comes to noise.”
Sungchul suddenly recalled the woman that herded around the five homunculi. She held the title of Captain of the Exploratory Unit, but she was simply a puppet. The actual authority seemed to be held by Willie’s son, Mikhael.
‘That woman. Her eyes were fierce.’
He had yet seen her capabilities, but to be placed as the Exploratory Unit’s Captain by Willie personally meant that her abilities would be comparable to a court mage. Someone of that level quietly enduring insult from a greenhorn Sword Master was unheard of, and that is even after taking into consideration the characteristics of the Ancient Kingdom. That group was bound to have problems in the future. Not that he cared one way or the other.
Sungchul, who had satisfied his hunger, returned to the dungeon. However, the dungeon he returned to had changed in several aspects. The blind monsters were now present every corner.
The monsters could not see Sungchul who stood in front of them. They had no eyes. Instead, the monsters differentiated objects through sound and smell.
The monster’s upturned nose began to sniff the air. Sungchul snuck through them like a ghost and headed towards the second-floor entrance. The stone was still in the place he left at. This meant that nothing had left through this hole.
Sungchul changed his path to descend down the stairs. There was a large quantity of Cave Elves lingering around the vicinity of the stairs. He slipped by them soundlessly toward the second floor. When he reached the second floor, he found out why the Cave Elves had been flushed out to the first floor. It was because the immovable black door had been flung open. There was a spherical proof of the Nahak placed in the hole. The spherical mark of the Nahak gave off a brilliant light as it sat in the alcove of the altar.
When Sungchul pulled away the symbol of the Nahak from the altar, the obsidian door immediately shut again. He put away the symbol into his pocket and began to ponder on a question.
‘Just who opened this door?’
Nothing was confirmed. It was at that moment when a sharp shriek began to chorus on the floor above.
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