It was utterly hopeless. Sungchul looked around his surroundings to see countless bodies of Nahak strewn about on the floor, but none of them had hot blood flowing through their veins. However, it would be a waste of too much time and effort to give up now.
Sungchul circled around the area of the burial chamber looking for even the smallest of gaps in the construction, but it couldn’t be found. Forcing it open with his strength would cause an explosion that might cause the entire dungeon to collapse.
‘Is there any other way…’
He knew of only one person that might know something. Mimi Azrael. He needed her. Sungchul immediately took to action. He turned back toward the path of rubbles that he had created and sought out the young woman with five… no, now four homunculi. He soon found a clue. It was the charred remains of a Homunculus. There were similarly charred corpses of a pair of Sword Adepts beside it.
“This woman. They managed to get on her trail.”
Bertelgia said as she saw the remains. Sungchul observed the scattered footprints on the ground. Mimi had fled north, and at least ten people were following behind her. Sungchul followed them quickly toward the dungeon filled with emerald light.
It didn’t take long before he discovered another two soldiers resting on the floor. They were part of the Suicide Unit. They didn’t even have enough energy left to speak and simply nodded towards Sungchul when they saw him as he passed them by.
Soon, he discovered another Homunculus corpse. It couldn’t even be recognized as its corpse was torn to shreds and scattered along the ground. Sungchul discovered another homunculus in a similar state before he found their owner.
What he discovered was a woman in such a pitiful state that her continued survival was a form of punishment itself. Both her hands were nailed to the wall with swords instead of stakes and blood dripped from her body that gathered in a pool beneath her like water from a well.. Three Sword Adepts were gathered around her snickering as they swapped stories.
Sungchul walked up to her.
“Who goes there!”
The three Sword Adepts discovered his presence and pulled out their swords. Sungchul’s response to their question was Fal Garaz.
Wham! Blam! Bam!
He ignored the three corpses with their skulls bashed in and approached Mimi.
“My God… how could anyone do such a thing.”
Bertelgia hid behind Sungchul’s back as though she couldn’t bear to watch. Sungchul pulled out a healing potion and fed it to Mimi.
Anyone else would have simply accepted death, but Mimi was resilient.
She bit down on the bottle’s opening like a hungry baby onto a nipple and struggled to get every last drop. Sungchul gave her another potion as she asked.
“T-thank you… but who are you?”
Sungchul then realized.
Eyes that should have been sparkling from between her disheveled hair had been stabbed and had already lost their light.
‘Darkness leads to fear. Truly a despicable method. I don’t know who’s done it, but it isn’t their first time.’
Sungchul contemplated this as he revealed his identity.
“I’m number 34.”
“Ah… it’s you… I thought as much. Hold on a moment.”
She raised herself in an attempt to talk, but she collapsed before she could fully extend her knees. There was an injury behind her ankle where a knife was used to gouge out a portion of her leg.
“It looks as though your Achilles tendon was removed. That can’t be healed with potions. You’ll have to get it healed by a high priest personally.”
“Shit… shit… those bastards…”
Mimi was collapsed onto the floor while muttering profanities under her breath. Sungchul waited for her to calm down before speaking.
“Who did this? Willie Gilford? Or Mikhael?”
“It was neither. Mikhael only knows how to slap women. It was the butler that he carries around. Who knew that such a quiet old man would know such diabolical torture methods.”
The nightmarish moments flashed by her eyes once again causing her to shudder in fear.
“…we have to hurry. They know everything!”
“About how to find the tomb of the Nahak King. Everything happened in a flash.”
“To open the tomb of the Nahak King, you need the blood of a living Nahak. They can solve that problem?”
“I gave them the location of a living Nahak. They are most likely headed towards that direction.”
“Just where is that exactly?”
Sungchul eyes lit up. Mimi wiped the blood dripping off of her forehead with her sleeve as she spoke.
“Take me with you. I’ll lead the way.”
Sungchul slung her across his back.
“Can you hang on?”
“I am strong enough for that at the very least.”
Reluctantly, Mimi gave Sungchul the information that she held. The location of the last remaining Nahaks. Sungchul’s eyes shook when he heard it.
“They are at the dwelling of the Cave Elves?”
It was difficult to swallow, but even if it was hard to believe, he had no choice but to listen to Mimi. Sungchul stood before the small opening on the entrance to the fourth floor. It looked as though a typhoon had passed through it. There were frightening amounts of Cave Elf corpses strewn about the floor.
Sungchul followed a trail of blood towards the direction the human expedition traveled which led to a massive cavern beyond a dark cave. In this space of utter darkness where not even a single strand of light broke through, there was an uncountable number of huts made of feathers, bones, and hides of insects and reptiles. It was the city of the Cave Elves.
“There is a breeding farm over to the Southeast.”
Mimi spoke as they entered the city.
“A breeding farm?”
It sounded jarring.
Bertelgia shouted. As expected, a mass of Cave Elf warriors stood before Sungchul. Sungchul struck the ground with the demonic weapon Cassandra. Its unique cry resonated in the air causing the Cave Elves to lose their will to fight and flee. They had already acknowledged that this human was not an opponent on their level.
After passing through countless waves of Cave Elf warriors in a similar manner, they ran over to the breeding farm in question. A fishy smell passed by their noses, and they could hear something similar to the cry of a bird. They headed over to the massive tent made of bones and feathers where they finally spotted them.
The beings that inhabited this massive bones cages had the beak and wings of a bird and the body of a human. They were the Nahak.
However, they were locked in cages, making chicken noises.
It wasn’t just the one. The hundreds within this tent were no longer the Nahak of legends that ruled the skies and land, but domesticated beasts. Sungchul could see decapitated Nahak corpses dangling from a corner of the tent designated as the butchery.
Mimi who was being piggy-backed smelled a sharp stench of bird droppings and said,
“After the Nahak kingdom collapsed… the Cave Elves grabbed the children of the Nahaks and raised them as cattle. Here, the Nahaks are immediately thrown into these coops at birth, treated like animals for their eggs, then butchered when they come of age.”
“In some ways, this might have been the ultimate revenge.”
Sungchul spoke as he recalled countless corpses of Cave Elves that had been buried alive within the walls that had broken through.
“Where did you find the clues that lead here?”
Sungchul asked as he looked around his surroundings.
“I focused on the weapons that a few of the Cave Elves were using. They seemed to have been adorned with feathers and beaks.”
“That does seem to be the case.”
The Cave Elf that had appeared before to warn Sungchul was similarly decorated.
“But where would there be a bird in a dungeon this deep? Even if the Cave Elves wandered outside, they would never be able to catch any flying birds with their blindness. This line of questioning led to the correct hypothesis.”
Suddenly, a thought entered Sungchul’s mind.
“You’ve been here before, haven’t you?”
“Why did you fail then?”
“We took too long. Well, before I learned of this truth.”
Sungchul grabbed one of the Nahak within the coop.
It was still a young beast, but it didn’t show any sign of intelligence, similar to the other Nahak. Bertelgia looked around the area surrounding that Nahak with curiosity and spoke.
“Hmmm. This is that Nahak of legends? Looking like this, they aren’t any different from the chicken in a poultry farm.”
Suddenly, the young Nahak made a fuss and began to peck at Bertelgia.
“Hey hey! It hurts, you birdbrain!”
Sungchul looked at the scene and spoke in a firm voice.
“Bertelgia. Get inside my pocket.”
“Because we’re going to move at full speed.”
Bertelgia didn’t say anything more and stuffed herself into his pocket. Sungchul took a deep breath and propelled himself forward with the godlike strength in his body. The Cave Elves couldn’t see it, but they knew that the one they didn’t dare oppose had crossed by their domain.
Sungchul who had returned to the dungeon through the opening stopped his steps and reassessed his directions.
Mimi, who had been on his back, opened her mouth to speak.
“What is it?”
Sungchul didn’t bother looking before replying
“You. You’re really strong. I can feel it. Even though I can’t see it.”
Sungchul could feel a sigh spilling out of her onto his back.
“If it’s small talk you’re after, I’ll have to refuse.”
“The Nahak you’ve caught just now. What is the color of its feather?”
She asked in a different tone.
“Ah, I see.”
“Why do you ask?”
“I was suddenly curious. Last time, we grabbed some blue ones and some white ones.”
Sungchul didn’t feel a need to respond. Mimi already had another question.
“Could I ask a favor?”
“This is the last one. We don’t have time for small talk.”
“Did you perhaps see my homunculus? Not the dead ones, but ones that are still alive.”
“I only saw three dead corpses.”
“I see. That means there’s still one living. No, is it two?”
Mimi suddenly let go of Sungchul’s neck.
Her body fell beside his feet.
“What are you doing?” asked Sungchul as he looked down at her fallen form.
Sungchul looked down at her fallen form and asked.
“I’ll remain here. I don’t want to meet the people that did this to me.”
“They are not on my level.”
“Even if you say that, the fear that has been carved into my body is difficult to erase.”
The blind and lame Mimi looked around as she screamed with a pitiful voice.
“Ujicha! Ujicha! Where are you! Ujicha!”
Sungchul left her behind and moved towards the tomb of the Nahak. As he followed the path that he had created, a square-shaped burial chamber revealed itself. However, there were some unwelcome guests in front of the chamber. They were the soldiers of the Ancient Kingdom. Mikhael Gilford and the man named Odrias stood in the center of them.
“Now, spread the blood of this chick on the altar.”
There was a baby avian fluttering in Odrias’s bloodied hands. It was also white like the one Sungchul had brought.
Odrias slit its throat without hesitation.
Crimson blood spilled from the avian. Odrias held the avian’s bleeding corpse on top of the altar. The concave space on top became filled with blood.
‘Was I a step too late?’
Sungchul observed the situation from a short distance. A geometric pattern formed on the surface of the obsidian burial chamber. It was a magical formation… no, something similar to one.
‘It’s a magical formation I’m not familiar with. Is it some magic technique of the Nahaks?’
The surface began to tremble. Something was about to happen. It was the burial chamber. The blackened square burial chamber split perfectly in half and revealed what lied within. Mikhael clenched both his fists as he looked at the black grave with a face swelling with pride.
“Finally. I did it! I finally did it!”
He approached Odrias while still holding the avian corpse and shouted with his voice filled with happiness.
“Old man Odrias! We did it! We really did it!”
“Not quite. It’s not yet the time to lower your guard. Didn’t I say so before? You can only climb up if you do everything right to the very end.”
“Yes. You did say that.”
Mikhael laughed awkwardly before returning to his tense expression. The rumbling finally stopped. The burial chamber opened. Everyone held their breath as they approached the newly opened chamber. Sungchul quietly moved closer to them.
There were two sarcophagi within the tomb.
“Two sarcophagi? Are there two Kings of the Avians?”
Mikhael scratched his head as he spoke. It was unexpected, but he continued optimistically.
“It’s better with two sarcophagi. More for us to take.”
As his words left his mouth, the two sarcophagi opened. The swordsmen of the Ancient Kingdom held their breath as they watched the sarcophagi open. Suspicion rose in the hearts of all present. The corpses within the two sarcophagi wore extravagant garments with equipment adorned with gems indicating their prestigious heritage, but everyone could see a single critical error. The ones within the sarcophagi were not avians. They were without beaks or wings. They were Cave Elves.
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