The situation had quickly grown dire, but Sungchul did not hurry. Instead, he even pulled out a sleeping bag that he rarely used to get a better rest before heading toward the base of the Suicide Unit rather than the dungeon. He asked Prisoner Number 0 Arkaard regarding the current situation, and to his surprise, Arkaard wasn’t aware that a detachment of the Suicide Unit had been redirected to the underground dungeon. All he knew was that the hard-headed Aaron had spun his rusted gears to concoct another foolhardy plan that was assuredly suicidal.
“He led a group of new recruits on a supposed assault on a demon fortress. What did he say? He’ll cut down the required number of missions by 3 on success? He uttered some bullshit that convinced about 80 of those newbies to board the airship.”
Firstly, the destination was wrong. Those that remained believed that Aaron had led the soldiers to the demon fortress, not the underground dungeon. Secondly, the number of soldiers was also different. Arkaard had said 80 men, but Sungchul had only seen about 50 in total. Those missing 30 might have become MIA, but Sungchul could guess the true reason for why they were missing.
‘It seems that he compelled the members of the Suicide Unit into the dungeon through violence and coercion.’
Sungchul headed toward the Underground Kingdom once again. There was a small number of soldiers and an airship defending the entrance. Willie and Aaron were nowhere to be seen, and there was no barrier in place as well. It was most likely because the magicians that had been maintaining a barrier had met their end within the dungeon. The soldiers of the Ancient Kingdom raised their spears and shouted.
“Who goes there?”
At their question, Sungchul pointed toward the ragged cloth number attached to his torso.
“I’m a member of the Suicide Unit.”
“Suicide Unit? They all went in with the Duke. What kind of horseshit are you spouting?”
The two soldiers approached Sungchul and waved their spears threateningly.
“I was a scout sent out by Mr Genghis. I had something to report to him personally, so I followed him here.”
The soldier became less wary when Aaron’s name was mentioned. Their spears shifted toward the sky, but one of the soldiers remained dubious and asked
“Are you really a scout?”
Sungchul nodded. The soldiers huddled together for a brief moment before they decided to let him through. They assumed, by his desire to enter the monster-infested dungeon, that Sungchul had no idea what lied within and even if he was up to something sinister, Willie Gilford the Seventh Continental Champion whose name was recognized throughout the lands was inside the dungeon anyways. He was not someone any ordinary Suicide Unit could oppose. For all these reasons, the soldiers simply opened the way for Sungchul.
“Thank you.” said Sungchul showing a half-hearted gratitude.
If they had attempted communications with an empath or some other method, he would have had to kill them all.
Sungchul took the lift attached to the pulley to enter the dungeon. The scenery had vastly changed since the last time he went in. There were torches installed periodically along the path with a thick rope affixed to rocks to mark the way. There were also food and weapons strewn about the floor. Compared to the trail left behind by the small group that had entered the dungeon before them, this gave off the impression that an army had passed through.
The rope led directly to the second floor. Once he reached the second floor, Sungchul witnessed familiar sights.
“Ugh… could I have some w-water…”
“Save me! Please!”
“Aaack! My leg! My leg!”
Injured soldiers who had been shoved to the side were screaming out in pain. Two priests were tending to them, but it looked woefully lacking. Sungchul moved past the second floor entrance that had been turned into an infirmary and continued following the rope. He observed traces of fierce battles and a mountain of Cave Elf corpses along the way. It seemed while Sungchul was sleeping without a worry in the world on the surface, the Suicide unit members and the Ancient Kingdom’s Sword Masters had battled through the night against the forgotten race which dominated the dungeon and had emerged victorious.
The rope continued down toward the third floor where Willie and Genghis could be seen from the entrance. They didn’t look too amicable.
“This is exactly why I can never come to trust you!”
Willie’s thunderous scorn echoed throughout the dungeon. Sungchul stopped his steps to observe the situation. Mikhael and Mimi stood before Willie with their heads down looking uncomfortable. Willie was reprimanding Mikhael.
“Just how much disappointment am I supposed to endure from an idiot like you?”
Mikhael stood silently with his head down.
“Due to your incompetence, I lost the majority of the Exploratory Unit in a single day. Those magicians took significant investment.”
“I have nothing to say in my defense.”
Sparks of Willie’s anger soon spread over to Mimi as well.
“Mimi Azrael. I had heard that you were in charge of a scouting unit for the Human Empire last year which is why I invested a significant sum into employing you, but what did I get for it? Is this the limit of what you can do?”
Mimi did not stay quiet like Mikhael. She immediately raised her head to defend herself.
“I did not open the second floor door. That man… no, your son was the cause. I do not understand why I must be blamed alongside him.”
“Aren’t you the squad leader? What is a leader? Isn’t it a position of responsibility?”
When she heard those words, Mimi’s face twisted as though it would swell up and explode. Willie must have known it. Mimi had no real authority in this team. Despite this obvious truth, he had chosen to reprimand her all the same. Mimi could not endure it much longer. She pulled out a symbol from her possession and placed it in front of Willie’s feet. It was an extravagant symbol made of gold that represented her as an ally of the Ancient Kingdom.
“Ok. I’ll bear the responsibility for this and remove myself.”
However, Willie’s expression remained frosty.
“How will you take responsibility?”
“Isn’t it enough for me to quit? I’ll return all of the fees that were paid for the contract when I return.”
At that moment, the cold steel of a sword sat right before her tongue. Her face turned white from fear, but she didn’t say anything more. If she had moved her tongue even slightly, the sword aura contained within the blade might have cut it to pieces.
Once Mimi was forced into silence, Willie looked down at the woman below him with a haughty expression.
“In the Ancient Kingdom, taking responsibility means forfeiting your life, mage. Did you think that I would let someone like you to quit midway? Never.”
Willie removed the sword from her mouth, then continued speaking.
“I’ll repeat this so you all can understand. Shut up and listen to it all the way to the end, and once I’ve finished speaking, remove those repulsive little homunculi from my vicinity and lead me to the tomb of the Avian King.”
Mimi had no other option but to nod her head. The humiliation made her head swell, and her legs tremble, but she could do nothing against absolute strength. Willie placed her on display in the front while continuously scolding her with degrading speeches. His derision was never ending.
‘I suppose this is his hobby.’
Unfortunately for Willie, his lectures didn’t last much longer. A short shriek from the rear stopped him from scolding any further. At the same time, Sungchul could feel goosebumps crawling up his back.
“W-what is that?”
“It’s a monster that we’ve never seen before!”
The monstrous creature in the form of an avian that was covered in a layer of mucus appeared from a distance. The Despair of the Abyss. The creature revealed itself once again. However, the Despair of the Abyss didn’t have its eyes set on Sungchul this time. It was headed towards Willie Gilford. The monster walked towards the man who had been blaming and chastising a child of another for the mistakes of his own*. On seeing the approaching monster Willie quickly pulled out his sword.
“Shit. These were actually here. I thought they were talking out of their ass.”
He was deeply startled. He was peerlessly powerful in comparison to Mimi, but to the Despair of the Abyss, he was no different than any other soldier shitting themselves from fear. Despite this, he quickly regained his composure as expected of a man worthy of the title of the Continental Champions.
He held his sword out, which began to emit Sword aura as he pulled something out with his other hand from the Soul Storage. He soon held a small lantern which contained a blue light. He pointed the lantern toward the Despair of the Abyss and spoke in a loud voice.
“Specter, lost and adrift with no knowledge of where you are, swept away by the flow of time and wandering through the ages, Heed me. If you have eyes, lift up your face and gaze into this flame imbued with ancient Moonlight!”
When the blue light drew closer towards it, the creature, who had been steadily moving forward stopped. The creature looked mesmerized by the light and did not make any further movements. People slowly began to regain their senses from the panic, and they could clearly see the dark existence that was even omitted from the legends known as the Despair of the Abyss.
When Sungchul saw this, he muttered softly in regret.
‘Ordinary people are not supposed to look at the Despair of the Abyss…’
The Despair of the Abyss was not only terrifying due to its hideous appearance or its ability to drag beings into oblivion but also because weak minded creatures looking directly at it would lose their minds and go insane. It was difficult to express the levels of horrors that composed this terrifying creature.
One of the Sword Adepts who stood looking directly at the creature suddenly held his head and screamed. Willie Gilford who had been preoccupied in dealing with the creature realized his blunder too late and shouted a warning to all around him.
“Everyone, retreat! Do not put your eyes on this creature!”
However, the command was a moment too late. Many of his men had already looked at the creature and had their minds shattered.
A Dwarven Suicide Unit member suddenly lifted his axe and decapitated his comrade with whom he had just fought alongside. Fountains of blood spurted in every direction, and a bellowing battlecry roared simultaneously in the surroundings.
Wille did not lose his composure in the chaos and continued to face the Despair of the Abyss.
“Begone from my sight! You who are buried by endless time!”
The Despair of the Abyss stood dumbly for a while before he turned his body and disappeared into the darkness. The monstrous existence that had caused the chaos had left, but the chaos had only just begun.
“Calm yourselves, everyone! All those who still hold their sanity hide behind me! Hurry!”
Willie shouted in a thunderous voice with the hope of reigning in the chaos, but it was already far too late. Mad men that had already lost themselves to the insanity were cutting down their comrades in full force, and the situation continued to deteriorate.
At that moment, Sungchul noticed two people fleeing separately into different directions. One of them was Aaron Genghis. He was fleeing with the empath that always accompanied him along the rope toward the exit.
“I thought I had hit a jackpot, but it turned out to be a trap!”
The man had no qualms about abandoning his subordinates, but it looked as though he also didn’t hesitate to abandon his superior.
The other fleeing the chaos was the one that had been wrongly disciplined by Willie Gilford, the female magician.
“…worthless human beings.” said Mimi as she wrapped herself in the invisible veil and continued into the dungeon.
Sungchul had nothing more to see here. He evaded the blades flying in all directions with minimal movements in order to pass by Willie. When he was passing by, Willie unintentionally looked towards Sungchul’s direction.
Looking at Sungchul’s face and the cloth number attached to his coat, Willie turned his attention away. He shouted in a commanding voice instead.
“All those who retain their sanity, listen well. Proceed to retreat to the second floor entrance. All those who wish to live, follow my rear!”
Sungchul ignored the command and stood before the stairs that lead to the third floor. There was nothing in his way. He re-entered the massive corridor inside which he battled the golem.
In the distance, another magic golem lifted its body from the ground. There was a feeling of deja vu, but the result was drastically different.
Sungchul’s Fal Garaz struck against the golem’s head, and it was smashed to pieces in a single blow.
Sungchul didn’t intend to play with it leisurely this time.
‘Training is important, but I cannot afford to take my time.’
There were too many guests to attend to. He didn’t like having too many guests. Sungchul hurried across the corridor and smashed five more golems in a similar manner. It had taken forty minutes last time to deal with an obsidian golem with magic, but now it had taken only three minutes to smash all of them and reach the massive obsidian door.
Sungchul stopped before the door that obstructed his path. The door was rigged to explode. It wasn’t suitable to break through the ceiling like last time either. The booby trap was set not only on the door but also on all sides of the ten meter cube room. It looked as though it was meant to obstruct any path leading down the stairs.
Sungchul put away Fal Garaz and placed the symbol of the Nahak into the altar, but the door did not open.
[You cannot enter with the symbol of the lowly.]
[Return with the symbol of the noble.]
Sungchul felt lost, but at that moment he could feel a faint presence behind him. Sungchul simply waited for them to approach. Finally, the hooded woman underneath the invisible fog revealed herself.
“I guess you might actually be strong?”
Mimi appeared with her homunculi.
*The line refers to a Korean idiom which means that parents often chide children of others instead of blaming their own. Instead of raising their own well preventing the child from making the same mistake, they yell at the other kids unjustly berating them. A case of lack of wisdom and consideration where blind love spoils the child.
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