Chapter 63 – Underground Kingdom (3)
The day passed . The Suicide Unit was put on high alert in response to the reports of the overall movements of the Devil Army . Aaron gathered the members of the unit to speak .
“All of you know this, that an unexpected army of demons has begun moving southward . According to the Gryphon scouts, the demons have retreated but the possibility of them preparing an ambush can’t be ignored . We need scouts . I am looking for volunteers . ”
It wasn’t easy to look for volunteers in a unit composed mostly of new recruits . Aaron naturally looked towards the veteran members . Sungchul raised his hand .
“Number 34? Aren’t you a greenhorn as well?”
Sungchul shook his head .
“I am better than that . I have also been exploring the vicinity every day anyways . You can leave this to me . ”
There was no reason to hold someone back from volunteering . Aaron assigned Sungchul as a scout then looked for soldiers to support him, but no one stepped up . It was because all the soldiers knew the truth that demons never cleanly retreated in the demonic battlefront . They might have left behind countless traps or ambushes in wait, or even some man-eating demonic beast might be lurking around . It was one thing if the whole army moved, but for a small patrolling party, they would easily become prey to some demonic beast or become a demon’s plaything .
“If you successfully patrol the area once, I’ll count it as a successful mission . Anyone willing to step up?”
Genghis put out an offer that no one in the Suicide Unit could scoff at, but even still, no one volunteered, showing the risk this mission carried .
In the silence, Sungchul spoke to Aaron once again .
“It’s enough with me alone . I’ll be back in 3 days . If not, then consider me dead . ”
“Well, I don’t plan on reducing your number of missions because you volunteered . Is that ok with you?”
Aaron spoke with a dirty grin on his flat face . Sungchul nodded in return .
“Well… It’ll be all the same if I die patrolling, right?”
“You know very well . Ok . Go on then, Number 34 . ”
Sungchul was given a signalling scroll along with some rations and water before he headed out .
‘Looks like I won’t need to join roll call for three days . I don’t know what the scale of that dungeon is, but I should be able to determine its value within three days . ’
Sungchul immediately left and headed towards the dungeon . There were a lot of traps and patrols around the dungeon as expected . Sungchul avoided detection and traps as he snuck his way towards his destination .
He bashed a mob of devils lying in ambush with a pebble, then looked below the rocky mountain . There were only barracks lying abandoned around the dungeon with no traces of human life . The barrier that had been cast everywhere was also shattered and had long since lost its effectiveness . Fortunately, the pulley system operating within the dungeon was still quite active . Unfortunately, there was no way the demons would simply pass it by . They had left behind a devious little trick on the machine . Anyone who operated the machine would be caught in an explosion .
Sungchul didn’t lay a finger on the trap . He jumped down the bleak hole with just his body instead . Utter darkness swallowed him completely as the sensation of falling that numbed his feet pervaded throughout his body . Sungchul could see a faint light within the darkness and threw his fists toward it .
The hard rock crumbled like tofu as half his arm was embedded into it causing his body to become fixed onto the rock wall . Sungchul pulled it out and leaped toward the bright light, which led him into a corridor with no end in sight .
The faded rock wall stained with dirt and green lichen combined together to create a dark atmosphere and a musky smell that could only be found in a charnel house pierced his nose .
“This place… I don’t like it . ”
Bertelgia trembled within his pocket, so Sungchul opened it and spoke .
“From this point, you don’t have to stay inside the pocket . ”
As soon as he finished speaking, Bertelgia popped out of his pocket and flew around vigorously as she regained her normal size .
“Ah~ I wanted this feeling to be more refreshing than it is!”
“Do you know where this place is?”
Bertelgia shook her head at his question .
“Nope . This is my first time here, but I do have information about the Nahak that you guys call the birdmen . ”
“Nahak? What’s that?”
“They are a race that flourished in the Other World in the past but are all extinct now, so you can’t find them anymore . Still, according to legend, they had massive wings which they used to soar the skies and used their beaks engraved with runic letters to control destructive magic at will . ”
“Are they a different race than the birdmen that can be found in the demonic army?”
“I think they might be a distant cousin? The Nahak aren’t this shoddy . ”
As Bertelgia shared her story, Sungchul entered the dungeon one step at a time . There were traces of the exploratory squad all around . Sungchul carefully took each step as he looked at his surroundings . The Eye of Truth observed a magical existence far beyond in the darkness . It was a magic trap . One of a frost attribute . Anyone that accidently steps on it would be overwhelmed by a chill that would freeze the entire body .
‘This was done by a human magician . ’
Footprints were scattered all around the trap . It appeared as though there was a huge commotion here . According to the number of footprints, there looked to be about thirty humans within the dungeon . It was a combined number of both the exploratory squad and the troops prepared for defence . Sungchul continued on .
He could see blood stains . He followed them to find two corpses lying about on the floor . They were the corpses of soldiers . The group must have met a difficult enemy as they couldn’t even observe the proper formality for their dead comrades . Sungchul glared as he continued on, leaving the corpses behind .
“An enemy . ”
Bertelgia spoke briefly . Sungchul sensed the lingering hostility lurking not too far away . With Fal Garaz gripped in his hand, he glared at the existence standing in the darkness and spoke curtly .
“Crawl out . ”
Finally, something revealed itself in the darkness . It was a monster with a human body and the skull of a bird with an endless stream of green pus flowing down its skin . It had no eyes or nose, but it acted as though it was looking at Sungchul . As though it was a normal person . Sungchul knew exactly what it was .
‘It’s a servant of the Ancient God . ’
It wasn’t an opponent that he couldn’t overcome, but it was one that he’d rather not fight . He swung his hammer and spoke briefly .
“Get lost . ”
The stony creature stood blankly while looking at Sungchul before disappearing silently into the darkness .
“Just what is that?”
Bertelgia who had been hiding behind Sungchul slowly popped out with a question .
“It’s a Despair of the Abyss . ’
“A Despair of the Abyss?”
Sungchul nodded .
“When it meets an existence weaker than itself, it tries to drag its victim into its pit regardless of whether the victim is a human or a demon . ”
And even the dead . A deathly stillness surrounded anywhere a Despair of the Abyss claimed as its own .
“Uuu… it’s scarier because I think I know what you mean . ”
Bertelgia trembled once again .
“Do you think the soldiers before were this guy’s doing?”
“Unlikely . Anyone that a Despair of the Abyss drags away is erased from existence . Not even a corpse would be left behind . ”
“Does that mean there are other monsters here too?”
Sungchul nodded as he began to think .
‘The power in my body must have lured this creature . It shouldn’t have revealed itself to the exploratory squad . ’
Sungchul remembered the report that they gave to Willie, if they had run into a Despair of the Abyss, none of them would have been left to tell the tale . Sungchul recalled what a nightmarish existence the things called Despair of the Abyss truly were . Even though they weren’t a match for his current self .
Sungchul continued forth . He continued to discover more corpses of soldiers . One corpse . Two corpses . Then ten corpses . Sungchul could find traces of a fierce battle around each corpse: singe marks from magical flames, carved out walls where a Sword Master’s sword aura would have sliced through, and splinters of shattered spears strewn about the floor . However, he couldn’t find even a single trace of whatever the opposing monster might be . It was truly a strange occurrence . In cases of such large scale battles, it would be normal to see at least a clue about the opposing side .
Sungchul stopped hiding his presence . He pulled out a torch from his Soul Storage, lit it, then began walking in loud footsteps . Surprisingly, he could hear some rustling noise in his surroundings soon after . He could see the teeming mass of monsters beyond the darkness . Two legs and both arms, also a pair of wings . Altogether, it was a disfigured corpse of an avian that walked on six legs .
“… . ”
The avian corpse crawled up silently like a centipede and leaped toward Sungchul . Its head with its lifeless eyes began to peck him fiercely . Sungchul’s Fal Garaz split the air .
When the avian corpse was struck with the destructive blow from Fal Garaz, it disintegrated into dust . Sungchul finally discovered why there were no corpses of the monsters .
‘The musky smell resembling a charnel house must be from the disintegrated corpses . ’
Dozens of Avian corpses began to crawl around like centipedes as they carefully eyed Sungchul .
“Uu! I wanna go back!”
Bertelgia hid in Sungchul’s pocket . Sungchul’s hammer flew with more vigour .
Wham! Wham! Wham!
The grotesque spirits were no match for him . They turned to dust, and the remaining spirits fled into the darkness . Stillness returned to the dungeon .
When the battle ended, Bertelgia left the pocket once more and opened herself up to a page .
A simple map that looked as though it was drawn hurriedly with a pen appeared on the page .
“I tried making a map . ”
“Yep . This dungeon… it doesn’t look small . ”
Sungchul agreed with her on this point, but there was a secret method that could allow him to easily break through this maze .
An opposing wall crumbled and a large hole formed within it . Beyond the wall, there was another corridor . Sungchul walked across the corridor, then swung at another wall . He continued this process until the end of the dungeon appeared .
Bertelgia, who had spent some effort in drawing a map on one of her pages, let out a sigh .
“It’s quite handy if you’re strong… huh?”
Sungchul fixed his grip on the hammer, then turned directions toward the north and began his excavation once again . When a total of four walls were smashed, he stood before a cliff . The pit surrounded in darkness was shrouded in an indeterminate green fog that obstructed his vision of the other side .
Sungchul tossed down a rock and listened for a sound . It was quite a deep pit . He thought as such and turned to a different direction .
“What’s so great about making holes like this?’
Bertelgia spat out a question .
“I’m making my own path . It’s too easy to lose your way in a maze like this . ”
If there was no path, make one . It was Sungchul’s method of solving dungeons . Also, making this kind of a ruckus would draw out existences hidden within the dungeon without forcing him to seek them out .
Before long, he could feel another presence . It was the presence of humans . Sungchul put away Fal Garaz into his Soul Storage and waited for the group of humans to arrive . Beyond the darkness, a female magician surrounded by a translucent fog appeared before him . There were five armor-clad homunculi around her feet . Sungchul was already aware of her presence, but he pretended not to have noticed and continued to stare ahead .
She took some time to observe him . His appearance, attire, equipment, and even his stats . She checked everything that could be secretly observed . After a complete inspection, the female magician removed her magical veil and revealed herself .
“Who are you?”
Asked Mimi Azrael . The leader of the exploratory squad .