The moment I decided to assault the prison exit, I had already come to terms with the fact that it would be extremely dangerous, that was why I prepared a ton of fodder beforehand. Essentially, that was what those 10 000 over dogmen and rodents were for.
While both of these races weren’t particularly strong, they were really fecund and that made gathering a huge number of them really easy even with the harsh conditions of the prison.
Speaking of harsh conditions, the issue of supplies was something I had considered as well. Once more, that was why I prepared a ton of fodder beforehand. Not only were these dogs and rats great for suicide missions, they ended up as an alternative food source too. Plus, while conditions were harsh, it wasn’t as if we weren’t able to find food either, it was just hard.
“Gather up the soul flames, let’s see if the exchange array works here as well.”
In order to verify my theory, I had One-eye draw up the hexagram that made up an exchange array. While it might have looked simple on the surface, it actually contained a dimensional magic attribute. In this world, there were six basic attributes comprised of the following six elements, water, fire, wind, earth, light and dark. Other than these six elements, there were also derivative elements such as ice which came from water and thunder which came from wind.
By combining these six elements, one obtained the attribute of dimensional magic. That was what that hexagram represented. My guess was that this exchange array was probably crafted with the Prison of the Dead in mind: not only was it unique, it was painstakingly crafted in such a way that even the most dim witted creatures could use it. Based on this fact alone, one could see that not all devils were muscleheads who only knew how to fight, some of them had brains as well.
(Author: A reader pointed out that the hexagram was used for white magic and the pentagram was the one used by devils. Honestly, I chose a hexagram out of convenience because most people were familiar with it. At the same time, there was that whole setting of the six elements. Lastly, the ones who crafted this array weren’t actually the devils…I’m not sure if that reader is still reading this book or not…regarding the point that the pentagram represented devil magic, the setting I had for it was that there were only five points because the light element was missing.)
The exchange array worked out smoothly, unexpectedly so even. After placing a few souls into the array, they promptly disappeared leaving behind a pile of meat in the center that reeked of blood. Based on that, I came to the conclusion that the prison exit didn’t forbid such exchanges. In that case, we just had to focus on harvesting the fallen souls as soon as possible in order to prevent any further losses.
“Master, the exchange array is working fine.”
“I know.” I then turned around to look at the expressionless Habona: “Do you think we will encounter more of those bone pillars?”
With a placid gaze, she merely answered: “We’ll just have to kill it again.”
‘She wasn’t wrong about that but those pillars were truly an enigma to me. Exactly how they were formed?’
After waiting for One-eye to finish the harvesting, we pressed onwards, leaving behind a hallway of scattered bones in our wake.
Till now, the dogmen had mostly behaved themselves so I didn’t make them scout ahead for us. Instead, I had them assigned to back support, for example they were tasked with moving the corpses of the dead rodents. That’s right, corpses of the rodents.
Truth be told, I only planned on using their corpses for food in dire situations but since these rodents were the first to defy me, it only made sense that I turned my blade towards them.
Along the way, we didn’t encounter any more bone pillars or any enemies at all during those ten minutes. However, that didn’t mean that I let my guard down either. After all, accidents happened when one thought he was safest.
Standing right before us was a strange looking shutter gate. Just as we approached it, the bony shutters gently rose up as it was welcoming us in.
“Get the rodents to enter first.”
Weslin, who had been by my side all this while, promptly commanded a few three-star rodents to investigate what was behind that gate. Of those who were singled out, every single of their ratty faces paled instantly. They knew from experience that such scouting missions weren’t pleasant at all. Just look at that bone pillar not too long ago: before they approached it, it was docile as can be but the moment they dared to approach it…thus, it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that the fear of the unknown was always the most terrifying thing in this world.
Having received their orders, the rodents left with an unwilling look on their faces, ratty arms shoving each other in order to not be the first to pass through the gate. Seeing that cowardly display, Weslin’s face immediately contorted in fury as she endeavored to teach these rodents a violent lesson.
“Don’t hit them, at a time like this, we should employ other methods instead.” I stepped forth and halted her in her tracks; violence couldn’t solve everything after all. Turning towards the ratman translator beside Weslin, I said, “Tell them, go and in scout a little, as long as that person brings me some useful information, I don’t mind releasing him from slavery and allowing him to be my subordinate. However, if they perform a slipshod job of scouting and bring back nothing or perhaps even false information…I’ll make them regret being born.”
Hearing those last few words, the ratman couldn’t help but shudder, eyes filled with terror as it lowered its eyes to avoid my gaze. Fortunately, for him at least, he didn’t forget a single word I said and dutifully tried to persuade his other rat brethren to scout to the best of their abilities.
The moment word got out that they could become a real subordinate under me, their passion skyrocketed. There were even some fearless rats who volunteered to scout ahead for us.
Of these newly energized rodents, Weslin casually picked ten of them and had them enter the area one by one.
As the first rodent took its first steps past the gate, I couldn’t help but worry that the shutters would suddenly slam down on us but thankfully that didn’t happen so that rodent was closely followed up by a second and a third…
Soon, all the scouts had entered the area. From our position, all we could discern was that it was extremely vast and dark. Based on the dimly lit region revealed before me, it was clear that the area ahead was significantly wider than the 15m hallways we just passed through. However, that was the extent of my knowledge thanks to the limited sight range.
A short while passed and all ten of them unexpectedly returned as a whole without any injuries whatsoever as if they had just taken a leisure stroll within and came out…naturally, there wasn’t much useful information to be gained from such a scouting mission.
For example, all they reported was that the area was vast, very empty, a little dark but not blindingly so. Because their intelligence was lacking to begin with, they weren’t really able to glean much information about the area ahead. Going through all ten of them, I mostly heard reports that they couldn’t see the edges of the cavern; there were no walls or exits to be seen like it was a dead end.
‘Dead end? What’s going on here? It can’t be a dead end, that sign clearly stated that this was the [Team] path so there has to be something strange waiting for us ahead. But those ten fodders I sent out all made it back safely…based on that, I can only conclude that leaving and entering through those shutters isn’t restricted.’
With that in mind, the next step would probably be to enter it then. However, before I could send in the army, there was another matter I had to handle.
“All of you have done well, though there was not much important information brought back, I’ve still decided to release you all from slavery to become my direct subordinates. As for what benefits that entails, well, I’m sure you all know already. Also, tell the other slaves that as long as they perform admirably, I’ll make an exception for them and release them from slavery as well.”
Needless to say, the first benefit was that until the fodders were all dead, I wouldn’t send my direct subordinates into battle right away. This was a form of protection for them and a sense of pride as well. At the same time, doing so had the benefit of encouraging these slaves; it gave them a reason to risk their lives.
Ignoring what rippling effects this translated message would have on the rodents, I called on the pouting and obviously bored out of her mind Mimiya.
“Bring these ten Abbadon Rodents to Julia and tell her to gear them up. As for managing them…I’ll leave it to Mo Xixidi for now. Oh right, tell your brother to control himself as much as possible. Who knows how long more this path stretches on so we might end up with a food shortage in the near future.”
“Alright, Mimiya understands.” Having received her orders, she obediently flew off with those ten fortunate rats in tow. While it might seem awfully generous of me to let them off like that, there was a practical reason for my decision.
Having just joined the ranks of my subordinates, there was no way they could fit in right away. Expecting them to join the devils was naturally out of the question, I would be lucky if they didn’t end up as burdens then. Thus I had that freeloader Mo Xixidi manage them. While I called it [managing], it was basically just watching over them and ensuring that they didn’t cause any trouble out of sheer boredom. Of course, if the situation ever demanded it, I would still send them off to be fodder.
After the departure of Mimiya, I had the Abbadon Rodents advance onwards. This time, my plan was to have the first batch of fodder pass through the shutters entirely in order to test out my theory. A moment later, all 3000 of them passed through the gates and yet nothing happened.
‘Is it truly just a normal gate? Unlikely…but is there any other choice but to go in blind at this moment?’
Slightly doubtful, I turned to Habona for her opinion: “What do you think?”
“Enter.” A simple and direct answer.
‘Should I ask Manasha as well?’
As of this moment, the medusas were assigned to the mid section of the army while Numila, Eugenia and Elena were to act as our rear guard along with their harpies. At the same time, they were to watch over the dogmen and the remaining 4000 rodents.
‘Forget it, I doubt Manasha would be able to provide a clear answer as well. Since ancient times, information regarding place had been perfectly covered up so I doubt any of us could provide any useful information. Those that could…they were probably dead by now.’
“Everyone just enter for now. First off, the remaining 4000 rodents will enter, followed by the dogmen, the demonic werewolves, the devils, the lizardmen, the medusas and finally the harpies.” I quickly read out the order we were to enter in. Honestly, it was pretty much the order we were in right now except that the slaves were now placed in front.
Stepping into the unknown, the first thing that struck me was how unremarkable the surroundings were. It was basically an endless field of nothingness. Other than that entrance, there was basically nothing inside the cavern.
‘Wait, that’s not right.’
Putting aside that door, this place was basically a world of pitch blackness but strangely enough, we could still see clearly, although we still couldn’t find a path forward.
The moment the last of the harpies stepped into this strange space, a thunderous boom echoed from behind us, closely followed by the surprised shouts of the harpies.