Chapter 136 – Underground (2)
Several minutes had passed since they realized which direction the wind road was flowing. Artpe and his party members shared a companionable silence.
The hero’s party was riding a carpet deep into the ground, and they were probably going to die. It might be a death of their own making. It would be too embarrassing to put this story into the hero’s tale.
“Wind is blowing hard.”
“You should hold still. I’m thinking about stopping our progress. I’m wondering if I should bore through the ceiling.”
“The slope isn’t that steep.”
“At this speed, even a one degree gradient is a problem. We might be heading towards the center of the world at ridiculously high speed.”
“However, we won’t die. The Winter Queen intended for this to happen. There is a destination.”
It was uncommon to hear such conviction behind Regina’s words. He looked at the small glutton, who was absorbing the Mana within the wind. He wondered how he should retort. In the end, he shrugged his shoulders as he spoke.
“All right. I’ll trust your words. However, I will also prepare an escape plan.”
Artpe could use the Blink Boot’s option. He could transport to any location he desired. He could use this option once each day. It wouldn’t be too hard to escape from this place if he could use that ability.
However, the problem remained that a day hadn’t passed since he had used that option. This was why the amount of Mana consumed would be dependent on the distance they traveled. If he was rash in using the ability, Artpe might use up all his Mana. He might become a dried up mummy.
“There’s no such thing here.”
It had been a pretty long time since Roa had eaten negative energy. This was why she insisted that she was emaciated. Of course, she was regularly eating other forms of energy, so she was just exaggerating her hardship.
[Nyaa nyaa nyaa-ah.]
“I don’t have anything.”
They were underground, so how could there be any negative energy here! Maybe, if a few hundred thousand year old fossil suddenly woke up as an Undead…..
“······ah. That’s right.”
Roa had been quiet up until now. When Roa started to assert herself, it meant some kind of change was coming. Soon, he was proven right.
Artpe was about to burst out laughing when Sienna tilted her head as she asked her question.
“Did an Undead really show up? I don’t feel the energy that would accompany it.”
“It is the same for me. There is no way I wouldn’t know if there was an Undead nearby.”
“It isn’t an Undead. If you consider our luck, it is probably something much worse.”
He stroked the head of Roa when she stuck her head out from his pocket. She had suddenly regained her vitality. Artpe spoke to his party members.
“It seems Regina was right. The Winter Queen had a specific destination in mind.”
[Nyaa nyaa nyaa-ah.]
“Yes, she might have wanted us to help them.”
At this point, even Artpe picked up on the hints. He had never encountered them in his past life, but he vaguely remembered hearing about them.
“There is only one race that lives this deep underground.”
“A race that lives underground······? We are heading towards them right now?”
Artpe closed his eyes. The wind road was still carrying them at high speeds, and Regina started absorbing the wind at a much faster rate.
“Dwarves. They are like the Elves within the Forest of Eternity. They are one of the other races that boasts a distinguished custom and tradition. They left their land couple hundred years ago to head underground. They are a mythical race that only appears in history.”
He was sure of it now. Artpe’s Read All Creation ability could sense it. At the end of this road, the country of the underground race was waiting for them. He could also feel an evil energy, so there might be other beings beside the Dwarves waiting for Artpe’s party.
“Aren’t dwarves the midget race? They carry around hammers. Moreover, they are supposed to be great fighters and master craftsmen.”
“Koo-hmmm….. That might not be all true.”
At Maetel’s naive question, Vadinet let out a bitter laughter.
“It has been a very long time since the Dwarves made an appearance in our history. I am of this era, so I have only studied up on records of the distant past. These documents only mention the Dwarves in passing. Most of the information know about the Dwarves are inaccurate. The authors of these books mixed in their own imagination, so the information had been distorted in odd ways. I’m sure some of it is correct, but……”
“However, my dad said that Dwarves are an extremely strong race.”
“Ahjussi said that?”
As expected of a wandering merchant, he must have developed the skill to bullshit. However, Artpe didn’t go out of his way to destroy Maetel’s fantasy. He didn’t have to since they would be meeting the Dwarves soon.
Above all else, Artpe didn’t know much about the Dwarves either. In his past life, the Dwarves were never featured in the story of the hero or the Demon King. They had been absent.
At the very least, the Dwarves hadn’t appeared above ground when Artpe, who had been the weakest amongst the Four Heavenly, had died. They might have made an appearance after his death, but he doubted they would have been capable of influencing the tide of war. That was his opinion.
‘However, the Winter Queen guided us to this place, so there must be something here…. Then there is the energy that Roa is responding in a sensitive manner. Maybe, they couldn’t go above ground, because they are fighting this energy.’
It was as if a piece of the puzzle, which he couldn’t solve in his past life, had clicked into place. Artpe was smirking at himself. Maetel, who was grumpy, pulled at his cheek, but he was unresponsive. Roa, who was within Artpe’s arms, was the only one that was letting out a fierce light from her eyes.
[Nyaa nyaa! Nyaa nyaa nyaa nyaa!]
“You should have been this aggressive when we fought against the Four Heavenly King.”
Roa said, ‘It is a sin to point out a woman’s weakness.’, as she scratched his arm. Of course, Artpe snorted at her words.
Regina, who had been silent, spoke up at that moment.
“The road ends. I see a fight in the future.”
“You saw correctly, Regina. Everyone get ready for a fight.”
A purple mass of Mana appeared above Artpe’s palm. It was a phenomena that occurred when he coalesced several thousand strands of Mana String into a ball. It looked very small, but each strand could be expanded using his Materialization spell. There was no way it could be negligible.
“Are you going to destroy the entire underground, Artpe?”
“Can you not look at me like that? You are scaring me.”
“Soon. There is 4 seconds left.”
“Four seconds? There is still no end to this road…koo-ahhhk!?”
When Regina’s words ended, the wind road suddenly accelerated! At the same time, the gentle slope suddenly steepened. The pressure made it seem as if they were being dropped from high altitude!
A large wall suddenly came into view. If they continued along this path, they would crash into the wall! They would be flattened like pancakes! The wind road was coming to an end.
Regina diligently moved her hands to absorb all the Mana, but they were already traveling at high speeds. Regina’s actions didn’t slow down their speed. It really looked as if they were about to die, so Sienna lifted her sledge hammer.
In the next moment…
“Kook. Let’s go!”
Artpe threw the ball of Mana resting atop his palm. In a flash, the ball expanded, and it looked as if would cover the entire wall. The wall was destroyed at an incredible rate, and a path through the wall was created.
“W…what the hell!?”
“Is this perhaps Corrosion magic!?”
She never expected the hero to know such a malicious spell. By the time Vadinet’s eyes turned round, Maetel figured out the identity of the magic. She spoke in a calm manner.
“You wore down the wall using Hyper Rubbing?”
“Your assessment is better than expected.”
“It isn’t anything new anymore.”
It was a method that allowed him to get rid of something with precision. He didn’t have to apply significant outward force to the wall. He just rubbed it until it broke! It consumed a lot of Mana, and it was a very roundabout way to destroy the wall. However, it was all right since he achieved the desired result.
At that moment, Regina retracted both her arms. A vast amount of Mana swirled inside her body. Her abilities were increasing in real time.
“The wind road has stopped. I ate well.”
“Wait a moment. Then you should stop the carpet!”
“This isn’t a carpet! It’s a tent!”
The fact that he had erased a portion of the wall didn’t mean that he could wipe out the speed of the tent! When they passed through the hole in the wall, the party was sent flying towards the floor.
When they were on the wind road, there hadn’t been any turbulence. However, once they lost balance, the tent started to wobble in every direction. In a single second, they started to spin several dozen times!
“This is fun!”
“Confess! Who the heck just fondled my butt!”
“I’m sorry, Artpe-nim!”
The confusion lasted only a moment. The party caught sight of a large open space beneath the wall. Unfortunately, it was filled with other guests.
“Block them! If we block them this day, it’ll be all over!”
“Beat them back! Beat them back!”
There were short warriors gathered in an absurdly large area. Then there were the grotesque monsters! They looked like ashes, which were pressed underneath a pot, had grown to enormous size! He was sure that Roa had reacted to these monsters.
Roa continued to meow within his pocket! The tent fabric opened up wide, and it surrounded the party. It stopped the descent of the party.
“Aht. What the hell is that!? Did another Abyss open!”
The warriors were in the midst of a fierce battle with the monsters. The eyes of the warriors and the monsters turned round when they saw a large ball of something appear in the air.
The atmosphere of the battlefield froze for a brief moment! Artpe carefully opened the corner of the tent fabric, which had been turned into a ball around them. He called out to Roa.
“Roa, are you ok?”
“All right. Do whatever you want.”
It truly had been a long time since she had feasted on a buffet. She was overly excited. She immediately resolved into black fog. Roa let out a roar as she speeded across the air!
The surprised warriors swung their axes on reflex, but she easily dodge all of them. Then Roa pounced on the monsters, which were infused with Demonic energy. She used the technique she had developed over time. She easily ignored the resistance put up by the monsters, and she started sucking out only the Demonic energy.
Horrifying screams that shouldn’t exist in this world filled the square. The monsters despaired when a monster worse than them had made an appearance. She was ruthless as she feasted on the monsters from an unknown origin. The warriors, who had been fighting against the monsters, felt shock and fear when they witnessed Roa’s gluttony. They lost the initiative.
“W….what the hell is that!?”
“Is it the core of the Abyss? It might be trying to eat all the Shadows of the Sinners to ascend to the top! It might be trying to rule the underground!”
The monsters and warriors within the square froze again for an entirely different reason. The large fabric had slowly landed on the ground.
“Whew. We are alive.”
“That’s too bad. I wanted to ride it a little more…..”
“You should remember this, Vadinet.”
Artpe’s party rose from the middle of the fabric, and the warriors flinched once again. The fact that they were emitting a serious amount of energy was secondary to the fact that these new figures were from a completely different race.
“A…are they humans?”
“They came here with that monster over there….. They might be Shadows pretending to be humans!”
“No way. I feel an extremely holy energy from them…..”
“Wait a moment. What if that monster isn’t from the Abyss?”
Even as the short warriors whispered amongst themselves, they raised their weapons towards Artpe’s party. They were wary of Artpe’s party. The warriors were short. They barely reached past 130 centimeters, yet their small bodies were sturdy with muscles. Artpe mumbled his words.
“Well, they are exactly as the book describes.”
“I guess so······.”
Vadinet mumbled in disbelief. At her reaction, Artpe smirked.
It was the moment when they faced the Dwarven race, who had been lost from history.