Chapter 56 – Border of the Demon World (1)
The far northern territory of the demons, otherwise known as the Demonic Realm, resides where fire and ice coexist . The demons were inherently evil creatures that worshipped strength and sought deception as a virtue . They normally were preoccupied onto their own lands with territorial disputes, but once an undisputed champion rose amongst them, they would gather en masse and launch an organized invasion into the continent .
Max Hethnius was a true king of the demonkind born every few centuries and was chosen as a Hero of the Demonic God . He had incredible strength and wicked wit which featured him in the first prophecy of the calamities . However, it was not as though humans and the other races of the Other World were watching idly as the demons stirred .
The Order of the Iron Blood Knights, a body of powerful military might, stood steadfast at the northernmost border of the continent that contained the entrance to the Demonic Realm . Fortifications were made along these borders like a net to prevent the invasion of the demons .
The areas where the demon world and the human world met were called the Demonic Battlefront .
“… . ”
Sungchul now stood upon that very place . He had stepped onto the land of death, where fire and ice danced side-by-side, after having slaughtered countless demons .
‘I just ended up back here again . ’
Sungchul looked at the familiar sunset with cold eyes . The expanse of land was an eyesore filled with a desolate gloom that hung in the air . The stench of sulphur carried by the wind tickled his nose . Sungchul climbed the slope of a mountain and headed towards the human territory .
“What are you going to do now?”
Bertelgia tossed the question into the air from her place in his pocket . Sungchul walked in strides as he answered .
“After a break, I’ll go back to the Demonic Realm to fight against the devils . ”
There were a lot of options, but Sungchul wanted to personally experience the magic he had obtained from Airfruit . He wanted to know how effective he was against the devils as a magician . His policy was to determine his limits and weaknesses early to properly gauge his growth .
Sungchul climbed midway to a rocky mountain facing a frozen sea . In the distance, it looked like one of the many rocky mountains, but it had blackened traces and firewood hidden underneath an ashen cloth along with several pieces of iron scraps of indeterminable purpose, indicating that someone had been here .
He began to grab some firewood along with the iron scraps lying around, as though it was his own home, to fashion himself a decent cooking pot . This place had been one of his former campsites in the past . Sungchul, who was welcomed by neither humans nor demons, had created several hideouts here and along the Demonic Battlefront to rotate and find some rest . Of course, he created his favourite dishes here too .
He approached a massive boulder blocking a cave beyond the camp . It had no sign of intrusion . Only some small bugs called the Demon Louse ran out in surprise . Sungchul took a deep breath and gripped the massive boulder with both hands . He didn’t need things like handles .
Anywhere his fingers sunk into became handles . Sungchul waited briefly with his fingers embedded directly into the boulder until he suddenly lifted it .
“… it’s not even that shocking anymore . ”
Bertelgia flapped in the vicinity while staring blankly at the scene .
The boulder blocking the cave was moved slightly to the side . The blunt shock that had enough force to cause a slight tremor on the ground could be felt beneath Sungchul’s feet . Sungchul brought out a piece of wood burning underneath the pot and used it as a torch to enter the currently opened cave . The cave was filled with various pottery made of clay; They were fermentation pots made by Sungchul’s own hands .
Sungchul found a pot among several pots that had been left to the side with a large stone pressing down on top . He tossed the stone to the side and opened the container . Within the pot was a plant root about the size of a human child that had been pickled bright red . Sungchul’s mouth began to water .
“T-That is the Mandragora?!”
Bertelgia, who had eventually followed into the cave, saw the mysterious plant within the pot and shouted in surprise . Sungchul nodded .
“There is no better delicacy than Kimchi made of this little guy . ”
He pulled off a leaf of the pickled Mandragora kimchi and savoured the flavour in his mouth .[The Score of this Recipe is… 12 points!]
The score was rubbish, but the taste within Sungchul’s mouth was grander than any delicacy .
He closed his eyes and savoured the taste for a bit while Bertelgia hurried out of the cave while muttering to herself .
“My god… to make some weird food out of that precious thing…”
Sungchul cooked some soaked rice in the cooking pot . There was no need for any other side dish . He emptied a bowl of rice while eating some pickled Mandragora with the scenery of the Demonic Realm before him .
After eating his fill, he sat on a flat piece of rock and closed his eyes . The sulphur-infused breeze that flowed through the Demonic Realm lightly brushed his hair . He opened his eyes after his bit of rest and rose from his seat . He began heading toward the Demonic realm .
Demons blocked his path as he approached the corridor connected to the Demonic realm .
They were a lower species known as imps that looked like hairless monkeys, and all they had in their thick skulls were gluttony and evil .
An imp made a threatening gesture with his pitchfork by feigning a stabbing motion in the air .
“Uuu…I hate those things . ”
Bertelgia, who had returned to her normal size, flew off to some high perch where the imps could not reach her . Sungchul scowled at the approaching imps and extended his finger .
Out of his fingertip, a beam of light burst forth toward the imp’s body .
The imp who had been hit thrashed about wildly before his body became charred . The imps who had been making empty threats suddenly rushed toward Sungchul together .
The rusted pitchforks flew toward Sungchul’s body . He dodged the spears with little effort, then activated Glare once again .
The imps who had been pierced by the light hobbled about before dying . After consecutively killing ten imps, the imps who had been full of spirit began to hesitate .
‘It should be making an appearance soon . ’
The earth began to crack, and something came forth from below . With a height of about 5 meters, it was a large demon with an odd appearance of a fish head and the body of a man .
A demon of the abyss . They were one of the gatekeepers guarding the entrance to the Demonic Realm . The only reason why Sungchul bothered to kill the worthless imps was to call out this fellow .
The demon race from the depths below had the intelligence of a fish, but they were infamous for their powerful strength and dexterity along with their incredible vitality . If he could kill one of these monsters that even the magicians of the Royal Court could not overcome, Sungchul judged that he would be able to do meaningful damage to Max .
The Sea Demon began to scream as if to shatter the sky and the earth as its torso was revealed . The imps that had been bellowing a moment ago now scattered into every nook and cranny to escape; Sungchul and the Sea Demon were the only ones remaining on the wild lands .
Its empty fish eyes glared at Sungchul until it suddenly raised its arm into the air to strike him down .
As the fist covered in scales struck the ground, the earth shook in the impact as it shattered the surface launching rubbles in the air .
“Hey, shouldn’t we escape?”
Bertelgia, who had suddenly attached herself to Sungchul’s back, spoke in a meek voice .
“… . ”
Sungchul instead took another step forward .
“Uuuh… it might not even be enough to have 10 lives if you’re with this person . ”
Bertelgia resigned to being in the safest place, Sungchul’s pocket, and shrunk down to a compact size as though she was throwing up her hands .
‘How long will this work for?’
Sungchul didn’t have great expectations . He realised that his magic power didn’t exceed 200, and the magic he was truly in command of was only a third circle magic . The reason he was facing against this demonfolk despite this was to witness his limits with his own two eyes . Sungchul then began to move .
The fish’s eyes continued to track his path . Sungchul dashed beside it and extended a finger toward the Sea Demon .
A beam of light akin to a spear stretched out from the tip of his finger and targeted the demon’s arm .
A dark smoke rose from the Sea Demon’s flesh, but that was it .
The Sea Demon let out a roar before swinging its arm in a frenzy to attack Sungchul .
Slam! Slam! Slam!
The ground shook, and the earth exploded like a fountain . Such an attack was meaningless toward Sungchul . He continued to evade lazily, as though he was on a picnic, and dodged all of its attacks while continuing to experiment with his only offensive magic on various body parts of the Sea Demon .
Arms, legs, torso, face, then eyes .
The Sea Demon’s eyes were seared with a beam of light, but as the fish’s eyelids blinked from the bottom-up, Sungchul’s attack was easily negated .
‘It is still too early . ’
He knew this, but the fact that he couldn’t even manage to scratch the creature was a depressing thought . He needed a stronger magic . He retreated for now .
The Sea Demon roared in the distance and continued to pound the earth . Whether that was a roar of victory or a threatening gesture born of instinct, Sungchul didn’t know .
“Hey, Bertelgia . ”
Sungchul forcefully dragged Bertelgia from his pocket .
“Hear not! See not!”
Bertelgia appeared as though she had clenched her eyes and shut her ears, although it was a question whether a book could do such things .
“Pay attention . ”
When Sungchul shook her a few times, she regained her senses and looked at her surroundings .
“Huh? What about the fish-face?”
“Over there . ”
Sungchul pointed toward the Sea Demon howling in the distance . Bertelgia slid down Sungchul’s hand as though she was melting in comfort, and also let out a sigh of relief .
“Let’s not play such dangerous games anymore . ”
“It’s not dangerous at all . More than that, I have something to ask you . ”
“Is there any Alchemy quest that you’re aware of that can raise magic power by a large margin?”
Bertelgia, who had been drooping against his palm, suddenly perked up and exploded into her original size . She also fluttered before Sungchul with vigour and spoke in a different voice .
“Are you saying that you’re prepared to walk the path of the Creationist?”
“Creationist or whatever is fine . I just need a quest that can bump up my magic power . ”
It wasn’t the time for beggars to be choosers . Sungchul was prepared to do anything it took for him to accomplish his goal .
Bertelgia floated in the air in thought, then spoke without much confidence .
“Mmm… There aren’t many that you can do at your state . ”
“You’re too inexperienced, even if you’ve created a 5th level Alchemic item . I’d recommend making every Alchemic item below the 4th level at least once . ”
“How many are there in total that qualifies?”
“82 items . ”
It was a bleak number .
“Mm . I’ll take back my previous request . ”
Sungchul gave up on it without any hesitation, but the one who jumped up was Bertelgia .
“Hey! Wait a minute! You’ve made up to 12 items below 4th level so far . You just need to synthesise about 70 more items!”
“That’s still too many . ”
“It’s not that many! Not that many at all! It can be easily accomplished if you make a habit of practicing Alchemy in your daily life!”
Sungchul didn’t look convinced, but he decided it might not be bad to follow Bertelgia’s advice .
‘If I synthesize successfully, my magic power and intuition will naturally rise by a small amount . It might not be bad to try one or two on a daily basis as a change of pace . ’
Sungchul thought to use every method possible . However, anything relating to Alchemy was more of a secondary objective . He decided to seek out a certain man after his fight with the Sea Demon .
Altugius’ son and Sarasa’s father . The man going by the alias Deckard . It wasn’t clear what level of mage he truly was, but what was clear was that he was not someone average . It was said that he was looking for a method to stop the Calamity . He had to be desperate to seek out ways to hone his own strength . That is… if he’s anything like Sungchul was 8 years ago .
‘I think Altugius said that he was active as a mercenary mage along the Storm Battlefront?’
The Storm Battlefront . It was a shaky alliance created out of desperation that formed one of the three major factions of the northern continent . Unlike other factions, the Storm Battlefront comprised mainly of dwarves who used their peerless dwarven architecture to create a powerful network of fortifications to block any possible demonic invasion . They also have been known to surpass the withered Order of the Iron Blood Knights as the most powerful faction in the north .
The problem was that Sungchul had poor relations with the dwarves . It was because he had stolen Fal Garaz, an item revered as a divine artifact, from their temple .
‘At the very least, this isn’t somewhere I can use my real name . ’
Dwarves had a historic tradition of recording those that sinned against them in a book of grudges . The name that took the first line of this book of grudges was none other than Sungchul Kim .