An hour passed, and when they were about done, Lee Shin Woo looked over the map, which he’d made with Dana and Seira’s help, and nodded his head.
“Mm. This looks about right.”
“You’re quite good at drawing too, Hero.”
Because it’d been dozens of years since Dana or Seira had last been to the capital, there was no guarantee that their knowledge was reliable. However, once he heard their explanation regarding the capital, he pretty much knew how he should move from then on.
“The structure’s a lot simpler than Bayran, which had traps everywhere. All we need to know is where the fortifications are, where the troops are stationed, and where the palace is… Oh. The source of darkness is beneath the palace!? Then he pretty much does leave it right next to him!”
“Dana told you that already. That the source of darkness couldn’t be moved. So the Emperor just moved right next to it.”
How valuable was it for him to do such a thing!?
“He wanted to monopolize it. Since it’s a treasure that made the underground, which was originally nothing more than a slightly large prison, into an Empire, and so… The Emperor wouldn’t have wanted it to leave his side.”
“Ah, as I thought. Maintaining an Empire this size is abnormal, huh.”
“Of course it is. It’d be impossible with even the surface’s magic engineering.”
“So why is that source thing here?”
Why exactly did such a treasure lay dormant underground? What, did they try to destroy it, but were met by a level 10 dragon or something? No, probably not. Lee Shin Woo grumbled and Dana smiled.
“Of course not. It’s just a huge, everlasting mass of pure energy. Some say it’s a relic left behind during the Age of Gods, before civilization even began. We cannot identify the origins of many level 7 artifacts and up. Please look at it that way.”
“The dungeon’s loot does seem kind of out of place…”
Lee Shin Woo was sure of something. The source of darkness… There was something behind it! Something that was a pain in the ass!
However, there was no point in worrying about that now, so he decided to worry about it later. Getting the Emperor and the Lich away from the source of darkness took priority.
“The remaining problem is… Mm. We need to figure out where exactly the train will take us in the capital.”
“You can just sacrifice one of your Pauls.”
“Mm, that’s a bit… How about I use a golem instead.”
He was reluctant to sacrifice one of the Pauls, as they’d regained a part of their human selves. Lee Shin Woo instead decided to sacrifice one of the remaining level 4 Bronze Golems in his golem squad.
“Alright. We’ve gone over the main issues. Let’s do it as we’ve discussed. I’ll take Senior Prince to the surface right now. …Oh, and Dana, you come to the surface too.”
“I’d like to be with you Hero, but… Ah, is this perhaps related to what you were talking about before?”
Lee Shin Woo grinned, seeing Dana’s eyes gleam with excitement, and said exactly what she wanted to hear.
“I’ll introduce you to the spirits on the surface. You’re plenty strong already, but an Elementalist needs their spirits.”
“Aaaah! Thank you so much, Hero!”
As expected, it was easy to convince her when spirits were involved. The spirits of Bayran had been sacrificed over several years, and she had essentially been the one to kill them, but… perhaps that was why she wanted to meet living spirits so much.
“I’ll take these two to the surface and take a look around, so you guys can all just rest…”
Lee Shin Woo stopped partway. No matter how he looked at it, it didn’t seem like they’d just stay put and rest. Everyone, including Kratia, looked at him, intent on going to the surface.
He supposed it only made sense. They had lived underground for so many years, so how could they not want to see the surface? But why was it that he felt that that wasn’t the only reason? And why did the back of his head sting so much?
“Are you guys fighting something I’m not aware of…? Are you fighting something somewhere else?”
“Probably a fight over love.”
“Kratia, you’re actually Korean, aren’t you?”
Lee Shin Woo ultimately sighed and was forced to take all of them to the surface. Since they were so physically and mentally fatigued from the last battle, he was going to let them rest for a day or two anyway, so it wouldn’t be problematic to his schedule. Plus, the Heaven Door’s Key required much fewer bones and mana than before.
“It really is the night sky.”
With the Heaven Door’s Key, an unbelievable high rank artifact, they could easily ignore the barrier and cross over to the surface; the party arrived in a quiet forest near the capital and were speechless for a time.
A city filled with life, as well as a natural sky with the moon and stars. No matter how much they looked, the party remained mesmerized by the abundance of life.
“Ah, I remember us being like this when we first got here too.”
“To think we’d be able to come to the surface so easily…”
“There was an artifact that could easily break through the barrier like this… My father is truly pitiful.”
“Yeah. Instead of developing the undead curse, he could’ve just gone around killing Steves instead; it would’ve been a lot simpler.”
“He’s a great guy in the neighborhood who always leaves something for me whenever I see him.”
Lee Shin Woo waited for them to calm down and then led them into the capital. Rem accessed the golem network, allowing them to use a path with no one around, so no one noticed them.
After the Emperor had torched his house, the Lawrence shop and Ye Jin Jin (she was operating under the alias, Izuna on the surface) moved closer to the Sun God religion. Of course, that location was reported to Lee Shin Woo beforehand.
“This must be it.”
“It’s quite grand…”
“You normally can’t enter this part of the capital with just money… How many months did this take you to procure?”
“It’s not all that great. Since we’re publicly antagonizing the Emperor.”
To be more specific, he and the Emperor had opposing opinions of what was happening on the surface. Just that would draw the Emperor’s attention, but… Lee Shin Woo hoped his little trick would divert the Emperor’s attention.
“Mr. Shin Woo!”
“It’s been a while.”
Once she was quietly informed of his arrival, the front gate opened and Ye Jin Jin came bursting out.
She looked around, ensuring that the Emperor wasn’t watching, and then jumped into his arms, repeatedly kissing his cheek.
Ye Jin Jin was wearing the Phoenix’s Feather even when she wasn’t fighting, just like she’d been told.
“I’m so glad you’re safe! I missed you!”
“I’m more glad that you’re safe. Good job.”
“As I thought…”
“Tch. How vulgar.”
Seeing that, his party passed judgment and looked at her maliciously. He really couldn’t take this; the mood was stifling! He pretty much knew what they were thinking, but it was precisely because he knew that that he couldn’t understand why they were reacting like this!
Lee Shin Woo thought that he’d have to somehow resolve this issue soon, but then Ye Jin Jin’s blush intensified and she dropped a bombshell.
“You’re going to sleep over today, right? Right?”
“Oh my. Isn’t that Ms. Retadane’s voice…? And who is this extremely beautiful lady… Ah, even Senior Prince is here?”
Only then did Ye Jin Jin notice his party and tilt her head. The women didn’t even introduce themselves and continuously glared at Ye Jin Jin. Lee Shin Woo sighed at the idiotic situation and then said.
“For now, let’s just go in. I’ll explain everything. …Actually, there are some things that I won’t be able to explain to you.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“You’re truly a sinful man, Hero. Hoo.”
And thus, his relationship with Ye Jin Jin was revealed to all. His relationship with her had also caused the mood to worsen.
Thus far, Lee Shin Woo had never formed a relationship with a woman unless it was strictly necessary, so he really wasn’t good at being considerate of other people’s feelings. He couldn’t help but acknowledge that flaw of his.
‘When you really think about it, that’s why I had that issue with Jin.’
He hadn’t matured at all. Lee Shin Woo made small talk, but the mood didn’t improve; he clicked his tongue and thought about it. His only ally in this situation, Prince, just patted his shoulder.
“I guess you’re in the same ship as Lloyd. I’m just glad you’ve finally noticed.”
“That feels really humiliating. Aren’t they in the wrong, not me?”
He’d only known Dana for a day, and it wouldn’t surprise him if Seira hated him as if he were her worst enemy. Lee Shin Woo couldn’t understand these two at all, the two responsible for the current atmosphere.
However, Prince just laughed at him, which frustrated him to no end, and dismissed him.
“Life’s not rational, Junior.”
“Damn it. How could
of all people say something like that…”
“Hey, what did you just say?”
This idiot senior said something wise, which only further pissed him off! Prince then gave some more advice to the grumbling Lee Shin Woo.
“Why don’t you just marry all of them? You can just propose to them after the battle’s over!”
“Could you please not say something so ominous? I’m not planning on starting a family yet.”
Lee Shin Woo immediately shot her down. He saw the women fighting amongst each other with their words, and just sighed and said.
“Jin Jin, how’s the religious order nowadays?”
“Pardon? Ah, the religious order!?”
He couldn’t let them fight any longer when there were more important matters at hand. Ye Jin Jin noticed this immediately, as she looked at him and said.
“They’re fighting well! Mr. Shin Woo… or the Hero Kay’s death caused the factions that oppose the Emperor’s rule to increase in strength. And they’re constantly finding traces of the undead or death energy doing significant damage to the Empire, so… The Sun God religion, which is at the forefront, is getting a lot of support!”
“What about you?”
His question embarrassed Ye Jin Jin a bit.
“I got a bit famous since we went with the concept of a female knight enraged over her lover’s death. No… I might’ve gotten more famous than the Hero Kay.”
“Good. That’s what successful marketing is all about. What about Bisher Moon?”
“He’s still fighting against the Vampires. Sometimes I help out, but there’s only so much I can do at night.”
“Hmm… An opportunity will present itself soon enough.”
The Emperor said he’d send reinforcements. Who would he send? He’d obviously send undead who could freely traverse through the Underground Empire. If that’s the case, he would definitely send the Vampires from the Red Moon.
They were reinforcements to fight Seagald. The reinforcements should be substantial, and if so many forces were sent underground, then it would make it easier for Bisher Moon.
But that wouldn’t solve the fundamental problem. The enemy on the surface, and the enemy underground. He needed an opportunity to kill both of them. And that opportunity…
“If I can kill some of the 12 Generals, then the stage will be set…”
“What’re you planning?”
“What else would a performer be thinking about besides his stage?”
Following Lee Shin Woo’s reunion with Ye Jin Jin, Jin looked at him more sharply than before and retorted. Lee Shin Woo just shrugged his shoulders, replied, and turned around. He was done assessing the situation. There was only one thing left to do.
“Dana, enough with the nonsense and follow me. I’ll introduce you to the spirits.”