Chapter 141 – Connection (1)
“I’m not a child. I’m an adult.”
Elrick could feel the gazes of the Dwarves and humans planted squarely on him. He sounded sullen as he tried to set the record straight. However, they weren’t really paying attention to his words.
“But you are small.”
“You are human, yet you are so small.”
“You are smaller than a Dwarf?”
“What the hell happened to you?”
Everyone was confused. Amongst all of them, Maetel was the only one to look at Artpe with worried eyes.
“Artpe, could it be······.”
“I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but the answer is no.”
“That’s strange. Is it perhaps a curse that slows down his growth? No, I can’t pinpoint anything with my power. I’m sure it isn’t a curse…..”
“Yes, it isn’t a curse. I was just born this way.”
The pretty boy Elrick’s expression was excessively sullen. He had to explain his situation several thousand times in the past. Still, there was a smile present at the corner of his mouth. He had been trapped in the armor for a long time. Maybe, he welcomed this tedious moment.
“In return for imprisoning the wearer of the armor, it allowed me to move the armor through my will. I did this despite knowing I would remain cursed…..”
“Understandably, you didn’t want to live a life where you were always treated like a child.”
“It sounds as if you knew about my situation..”
As the owner of the Read All Creation, it wasn’t even work for Artpe to look past the armor. He could see the true form of Elrick.
Artpe didn’t reply, but a bright smile remained on his face. Elrick grumbled saying Artpe was really full of himself. However, his sullen attitude didn’t last long. To be precise, the people around him wouldn’t let him remain in his sullen attitude.
“Elrick, I want to congratulate you on being freed from the armor’s curse!”
“Ah…. Thank you, Bodke.”
It might have been a different story if this was the human realm, but they were in the underground world. The Dwarves were god-fearing race. They possessed a magnanimous and open-minded personality. They were a bit surprised by Elrick’s appearance, but in the next moment, they had approached him. They looked at him with bright smiles on their faces.
“Today the Shadows of Sinners didn’t flood out of the pit! It is a day meant for a celebration!”
“Festival! Let’s have a festival!”
Elrick was surrounded by the Dwarves, and he looked shocked. However, he was able to put on a bright smile. It seemed he was able to leave behind all his past traumas. He let out a genuine laugh. What a beautiful sight it was!
Artpe looked satisfied as he spoke.
“I want you guys to push the festival to tomorrow.”
“Oh my. Artpe is the best at moving in unexpected ways. He is too cool.”
“I also want you to put your armor back on, Elrick.”
“I’ve finally decided to accept my reality, so why are you spoiling it…. Mmmm?”
The young man furrowed his brows. He realized that Artpe hadn’t spoken those words to simply torment him. In the next moment, he realized the meaning behind Artpe’s words. He could feel the energy of hell moving in an uncontrolled manner. It was coming from the holes the Dwarves had always guarded. It was the entrances that they hadn’t dared to enter.
For the past 3 years, he had trained in an extreme environment, and Elrick had grown powerful. However, he didn’t think he could stop this level of energy.
“It seems the resistance within is a bit more fierce than expected.”
“Resistance? Are you sure it isn’t the start to a widespread massacre?”
When one used the word ‘resistance’, it was a word used to describe a struggle put up by an inferior opponent. However, the extremely fierce energy was rampaging below, and it felt like it was coming from a predator. Despite this fact, Artpe spoke in a confident manner.
“There is no way Roa will lose. However…. It seems she’s been delayed. That is why I’m thinking about entering it.”
“Oh oh! He is finally going into the pit!”
“Does this mean he is going to subjugate the Shadows of Sinners?!”
The Dwarves didn’t know that Roa had left first to clear the pit. This was why they cheered when they saw Artpe’s party leave to complete their Quest. On the other hand, Elrick’s face crumpled.
“You are planning on dragging me there.”
“My party acts with one heart and body.”
“One heart and b…body. B…body…. O….one…”
“No, Maetel. You don’t have to look too deeply into such words. It is unnecessary.”
Elrick willingly agreed to join the party, but Artpe’s party hadn’t properly shown their martial prowess to Elrick yet.
This would be a great opportunity. They would showcase each other’s abilities, and this would lead to a higher probability of them working well together in the future. The pit had relatively strong enemies, but there was no way they would die in there. The pit was the ideal test Dungeon.
“The test subjects are all dying······.”
“Artpe, shall I wake up Sienna and Regina?”
“No. Let’s let them rest. The amount of fatigue they had accumulated isn’t insignificant…. Above all else, there is a very small possibility of a new monster spawning while we are inside the pit. A monster might ambush the city.”
He had talked about it, but he knew that the probability of that happening was close to zero percent. However, Artpe didn’t mention that fact. He immediately gathered Maetel, Vadinet, and Elrick, who was putting on his armor with a bitter expression on his face. He was planning on leaving immediately.
“There is no way I won’t be a part of this! This horrible cycle of violence has been going on for a long, long time. You are going to break that cycle, and I cannot stand by without adding my meager strength to the cause!”
“Please take use with you! We’ve grown in skill by facing the Shadows of Sinners! We will show you that we aren’t shrinking violets!”
A segment of the Dwarven population were truly courageous as they offered to combine their forces with Artpe’s party. Artpe put on a kind smile as he spoke.
“You should know your place. If you don’t want to die, you should stay here.”
“Your words aren’t kind at all!”
“If I spoke in vague terms to spare your feelings, you guys might follow us in later. You will waste my time, so it is better to assault you guys with a substantial amount of truth. I sunk your expectations.”
This was how Artpe was successful in settling down the Dwarves. He led his party down the road leading to the pit. There were several dozen holes being guarded by the Dwarves, and all of them were accessible through tunnels. Currently, the underground tunnels were ominously silent, but everyone was focused on what was going on at the heart of the pit.,
“Even if we leave it alone, I think Roa can take care of everything.”
“You are right. However, we have a new party member, and I think it will be a great opportunity for us to work in sync with each other. …also, there is something I’ve been worried about from the beginning.”
That meant he had another reason for going into the pit. Vadinet tilted her head in puzzlement as she asked him a question.
“What are you worried about?”
“It is this underground city and the tunnels. The Dwarves are the caretakers of these holes. The Dwarves built this city underground, and I don’t think these holes coincidentally appeared near their city…. The structure of this underground world feels very artificial.”
“That is….. You are right.”
It was still unknown as to why the Shadows of Sinners were born. The Dwarves didn’t know about their genesis, yet a sense of duty made them block the Shadows. Artpe didn’t think this was caused by them being extremely unlucky in life.
“I have a hypothesis that is compelling.”
The Dwarves disappeared from human history several hundred years ago. They might have lived on the surface until a particular event made them come underground.
“When you say a particular event, do you mean the appearance of the Shadows of Sinners”
“That’s right, Vadinet. I wonder if their initial purpose in coming underground was to block the advance of the Shadows of Sinners. That is what I think.”
“My god. That is a cruel task to undertake. The Dwarves had to shoulder such a burden!”
At her question, Artpe gave a noncommittal shrug as he let out a bitter laughter.
“I have no idea if they volunteered or if they were coerced.”
Artpe didn’t answer that question. He just grinned.
One couldn’t pinpoint when all of this had occurred. It just happened several hundred years ago.
However, he had experienced this pattern several times already.
Any event that happened in the gray area of several hundred years ago always had something to do with the past hero. Artpe wondered if the underground world had something to do with his sunbae-nim. His mind inevitably thought about the past hero.
“In fact, there is a similarity to what happened within the mermaid kingdom of Anaid. If you think about it, the mermaids were keeping guard over the Ancient temple. Then there was the Ancient mermaids that were sealed within the Ancient temple.”
“However, wasn’t the Ancient temple sealed?”
“Such a large scale seal cannot be formed in all locations. If the Ancient temple was a bit larger, it would have been impossible to seal it. If the Ancient Kraken’s power was a little bit stronger, the seal would have been impossible to form. Moreover, the seal was strengthened by using the mermaid kingdom and its roads. These structures acted as support. However, things are different underground. The conditions are too poor. Only the Dwarves could have lasted couple hundred years in this place.”
“You are saying sunbae-nim brought all the Dwarves underground in an attempt to block the Shadows of Sinners?”
“That’s right. From sunbae-nim’s perspective, the Dwarves were the most suitable candidates. It is why the Dwarves remained underground for generations as they slowly declined. He truly made a hero-like decision…..”
“That was a hero-like decision!?”
On top of that, the Shadows of Sinners had a much more ominous stench emanating from them than the Ancient Mermaids. They were much higher in level, and their essence was closer to that of Demonic energy. It was as if they were one step removed from being Demons….
‘Wait a moment······?’
Artpe stopped walking as soon as he had that thought. It had been a truly random thought, yet that thought continued to take root in his head. It started filling his head, and it put him into a state of confusion.
‘No. Wait a moment. That makes no sense. Right? That makes no…..’
It sounded plausible.
“I don’t like it when Artpe keeps all the information to himself.”
“I just suddenly had thought. ······what if the curse research of making the other races into the Demon race was going on for much longer than I thought?”
Until now, Artpe had understandably kept it simple. He had thought the Demonification research was centered around the current Demon King. He thought the Demon King was making all the races into the Demon race, so he could use his Absolute Control ability to dominate everyone! The pieces fit in such a natural manner.
This was why he had excluded the other possibility. It was the possibility of the research being started long before his time. It was started so long ago that the past life Artpe didn’t know about it.
“If that is true, does that mean the research into the Demonification curse….. It was started by an earlier generation Demon King?”
The Ancient Mermaids might have been the result of such an experiment. Artpe had loosely labeled all the forebears of the mermaids as Ancient Mermaids. However, he found out the true ancestors of mermaids were called the Genesis Mermaids.
At that point, he should have realized it. The Ancient Mermaids were a race that was born through artificial means. They were merely the sacrificial lambs of the research for the Demonification curse several hundred years ago!
Still, this didn’t mean there wasn’t any positive news that came out of this. It meant the results of the current research was much more inferior to the results of the past research.
What did that mean?
That meant the research hadn’t occurred in a contiguous manner or maybe, the research had a setback.
“Hey. Are you trying to bring down the morale of the new member? Why in the world are you talking about things I can’t understand?”
“Ah, that’s right. I’m sorry, Elrick. I’ll give you a quick summary. These are the important points. There is the current Demon King and his forces. Then there is another force that is working in isolation from the current Demon King’s forces. There is a high probability that they are the remnant forces of a previous Demon King. The beings inside the pit……”
Artpe’s eyes let out a bright light.
“Shit. Sunbae-nim might have left behind his mark again in this place.”
“I was scolded by Artpe because of sunbae-nim. I hate sunbae-nim.”
Did she mean the moment when the Record Divide was strengthened? Maetel’s words had come out of nowhere. Artpe burst out laughing as he made a declaration to his party.
“We are here. Let’s go in.”
Of course, the number of questions that remained unanswered remained high like a mountain. Why were the forces of the past Demon King unable to run amok in Artpe’s past life? That was the main question he had. However, he couldn’t openly discuss this with his party members, so he firmly shut his mouth.
The party went into the hole. It was a place filled with Roa’s powerful energy and roar. It was also a place filled with the sound of the Shadow’s despair as they tried to resist against Roa.