Marakia watched Sungchul and his living book craft something from his self-made prison. Sungchul pulled out Eckheart’s portable Alchemic cauldron first. It was usually in a miniature form that would fit into a pocket, but once a hidden feature was activated, it grew to a massive size that even three adults might struggle to move. This was one of the inventions Eckheart had created based on his theory of how Soul Storages worked.
Sungchul crushed the rock with a green glow from the ceiling into the Alchemic cauldron. An ordinary Alchemist might require tools such as a mortar or a mill, but it was unnecessary for Sungchul.
“Now, keep crushing those glowing rocks into powder-yeyo!”
Bertelgia continued chattering away beside him.
“Why are you mimicking a Homunculus?”
Sungchul, who didn’t particularly like the homunculi, glared at Bertelgia as he asked curtly. However, Bertelgia must not have felt particularly threatened.
“It is not a homunculi-yeyo! I am mimicking a fairy-yeyo!”
She continued to imitate a homunculus. Sungchul crushed another glowing rock with his grip as he spoke again.
“If you keep at it, I will stuff you back into the storage.”
It was a calm voice, but he was a man of his words. Bertelgia immediately stopped.
Some time had passed, and a considerable amount of glowing green powder was amassed inside the cauldron.
“Ahem. The glowing rocks possess powerful mana of their own. In other words, it is emitting light on its own due to its abundant mana! We can learn two things from this! Can you guess what they are?”
Sungchul was about to tell her to cut to the chase, but he internally fixed his attitude and began to contemplate on the answer to her question.
“The glowing rocks must be capable of storing mana.”
“And the other?”
“Why does it emit light on its own?”
“Not only can it store mana, but it can also emit the stored mana in some form?”
Bertelgia let out a whistle as she flew around Sungchul once.
“Well, I did give you a hint in the end.”
Sungchul grabbed a handful of the glowing rock powder and took a whiff. It was to activate the Observation ability of the Alchemists. However, the powder was already an Alchemic item created through some ingredients and not an ingredient on its own. Sungchul grabbed one of the intact glowing rocks and stared at it piercingly. An information screen regarding the green glowing rocks appeared before him.
[Glowing Rock (Green)]
Effect: A gem capable of emitting a green light on its own
“It is a level 4 Alchemic Item.”
It was a rather high-level item when taking into consideration that Alchemists capable of creating level 5 items were called professors.
“Yep, correct. It’s a level 4 Alchemic item. The ingredients are fairly rare, and the method of creating them is quite intricate. Looking at how they were able to fill the ceiling with them like stars in the sky, I suppose the legends about the Nahak race wasn’t for nothing.”
When she finished speaking, a sharp laughter could be heard from the other side of the cauldron. It was Marakia within the barrier.
“We, the Nahaks, are one of the most noble of the mortal races. This Underground Kingdom is but one of countless wonders we’ve created. To be surprised by mere glowing stones that serve only as decorations within this palace. Truly absurd.”
He was like a bird trapped in a cage, but his pride had yet to fall. He had lost, but the belief that the Nahak race didn’t share in this loss remained iron-clad in his heart.
Bertelgia looked over at his mocking figure and retorted bluntly.
“So what? They’ve fallen now.”
“Fallen? The Nahak race? Hahaha! Don’t make me laugh, you pitiful book shaped human.”
“Who are you calling pitiful? You birdbrain!”
“My eyes see all. Even that pitiable and pathetic form hidden under the guise of what is visible.”
“Oh, yeah? What do you see?”
Bertelgia snorted, and when she did, Marakia made a sinister smile and looked piercingly toward her. His purple iris contained several complex and exotic magic formations which were shuffling among themselves until one of them rose to the surface and remained fixed in place. It was the All Seeing Eye that saw through all things.
‘Now let’s see.’
He first looked at Bertelgia. A faint figure was lingering behind her appearance as a large book. It was a human girl with a slim stature. The girl had both her eyes closed and was hunched over like a fetus.
‘So that is the true form of the book. She must be hiding her true form in the space between reality and the netherworld and interacting with the world by projecting a false appearance. Truly a complex and creative magic technique for a mere human. I praise thee.’
Marakia’s gaze turned toward Sungchul next, but the moment his All Seeing Eye locoked onto Sungchul, his beak went slack.
‘W…what is that…?!’
All strength in his body left him, and he felt enough trauma to give him a heart attack briefly. Marakia immediately turned away. It was because he saw within the man’s body something that mortals were forbidden from seeing. His heart still showed no sign of settling down.
After quite a bit of time had passed, Marakia spoke with a trembling voice. Sungchul, who was stirring the cauldron with a large spoon, turned his gaze toward Marakia. Marakia tensed up when their gaze met, and spoke in a sonorous voice.
“Just what are you planning?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just what are you planning by bearing that horrible burden onto your flesh?”
Sungchul was silent, but Marakia’s eyes grew fierce and continued with the questioning.
“You. You’ve stood before a god, haven’t you?”
Sungchul finally replied in a calm voice.
“What are you trying to say?”
Marakia laughed weakly and lightly moved his remaining wing. When a single black feather fell slowly onto the floor, he spoke again.
“Me? I don’t have much to say. I have been nicknamed the Final King, but I still was unworthy to stand before a god. Though I do know one thing.”
Marakia spoke on in a low voice filled with dread.
“That all who stand before a god meet a tragic end.”
“The sin of seeing what mortals must never see. The sin of hearing what must not be heard. Finally, the sin of trying to speak of what must not be spoken. It is an age-old teaching that those who commit these sins will face divine punishment far worse than death and the punishment will extend to all eternity.”
Marakia began to laugh like a madman when he finished. Sungchul continued to stir the cauldron silently as he laughed, and a bright light began to pour out of the cauldron soon after.
Sungchul took the final product out of the cauldron. It was a pitch black crystal that seemed to be made of darkness itself. The crystal without lustre felt cold as ice and heavy as a lump of iron. Bertelgia approached the final product and began to observe it. Soon her judgement was made.
“Ahem. Quite good. I only taught you the basic methods, and you managed to make a level 4 item.”
Sungchul immediately began to inspect the black crystal in his hand.
Type: Magic Tool
Note: If dispersed as a powder, spells passing through it will be amplified.
“So it was like that.”
He looked at the Black Crystal as he spoke.
“That is how it is. Alchemy isn’t just for making something new, but also turning something into something else.”
Sungchul stared at the Black Crystal in his hand once again. The glowing crystal that was shining brilliantly now had a dull black surface that seemed to absorb all light. It had only taken but a simple alchemic process to bring about the polar opposite characteristic of this object. Sungchul had felt that the alchemic process had consumed significant amounts of mana, but he took it as a test of his newfound magical prowess.
“Now. Marakia. I’ll be starting up again. It’ll be different this time.”
“Give me your best shot. One who stood before a god.” taunted Marakia from within the barrier.
The Black Crystal became crushed in his hand and turned into fragments. Sungchul waved his hand with the fragments toward Marakia. The fragments in his hand turned to powder and were dispersed around Marakia’s surroundings.
“It’s not even funny. Do you think anything will change with but a simple powder?”
Marakia continued to taunt him, but Bertelgia lightly shook her body from behind Sungchul and muttered angrily toward him.
“It might sting a wee bit more this time!”
Sungchul’s finger was extended toward Marakia within the black dust of the crystal.
He recited the incantation of the spell in his head. A beam of light containing the power of the skies shot out from his fingertip towards Marakia. It wasn’t much different than before up to this point, but everything changed once the beam of light began to interact with the black powder floating about in the air.
As the thin strand of light passed through the gap between the particles of the black powder, it grew thicker and brighter as it transformed mightily. Even Marakia could see the change that had occurred within an instant.
‘What’s this? The magic is being amplified again?!’
The beam of light pierced through his barrier and directly struck him.
Marakia tried to protect himself with his last remaining wing, but the beam penetrated the wing and struck his body. He immediately felt immense trauma and pain coursing through his body, but Marakia continued to callously calculate the damage and the rate of his recovery even through the pain.
‘I can hold on from this much. I can hold on!’
Sungchul was also thinking the same thing. His magic power had been amplified through the black crystal, but it wasn’t enough to bring Marakia to his knees. Even if the difference between victory and defeat was paper thin, the difference in the consequence was night and day. He needed something different. Something more to supplement his power, but something to amplify his magic power in this moment didn’t exist.
The beam of light gradually became thinner. It meant that the effect of Glare was running out. The dark presence that was held within Marakia’s body continued to heal him rapidly even at this moment. It wouldn’t be enough to bend his will even if another Glare was cast.
Deep regret passed through Sungchul’s eyes.
‘Is this my limit?’
It was at that moment when Sungchul’s magic became drastically drained, and a bright message appeared before his eyes.
[The first Echo.]
When the message appeared, another beam of light replaced the fading beam with even more strength and ferocity than before. It wasn’t caused by another Aria. The magic had manifested itself as though it was sentient. When Sungchul saw this, he instantly recalled a class that he had relegated to the back of his mind. The Echo Mage class.
One of the Seven Heroes of legend, Vestiare’s echo overcame the immense gap of time and had manifested itself into the world through Sungchul.
‘Is this an echo…?!’
This new beam of light that had swallowed up the fading beam critically struck Marakia’s recovering wing consecutively.
Marakia’s eyes grew wide as plates. It might have been different if there had been a pause between attacks, but it was another attack even before the first one could end. This was beyond any of his expectations. To make things worse, Sungchul recited another spell in his mind.
The finger that was already shooting out a beam of light shot out another beam. He felt his mana hit rock bottom, but Sungchul did not relent. The fading beam of light, the second beam born from within the first, and a third new beam of light all struck Marakia’s body at the same time. When all three instances of Glare attacked the avian king’s body simultaneously, even the being called the Final King could not bear it much longer.
“S-stop! Stop!!! I concede! Stop!!!”
The urgent shouts of defeat rang out in the tomb, and the barrier collapsed. Sungchul stood before the king of Nahaks sitting defenseless on his knees.
“Now, I will have what I came for.”
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