“So you’re telling me you don’t know about the cursed places filled with grotesque creatures that were man-made right under your feet?” → Shen
The guard’s eyes shone with understanding as his face paled even more while I simply continued asking questions.
“So to understand you also don’t know about the beasts you intentionally freed to use as a cover while you lot prepared to raid the villages and kidnap or kill everyone around?” → Shen
“So to understand you also didn’t know about how you lot thought of how the monsters would be unable to impart such information to anyone because of their hate for humans and vice versa. What a poor guy you are, to do so much yet to not know of your own actions. And you’re even more pitiful for underestimating the vengeful spirit of those monsters.” → Shen
My sarcastic remarks made the guards freeze in place and I was able to read his thought instantly, making me chuckle amused. However, only boiling hate was shining through my eyes.
“So to understand, you lot do know about the laboratories from the underground.” → Shen
The bandits laughed once again with the same fury and hate as from before, making me shake my head while giggling as well. I then took my hood off and asked while glaring sharply at the guard, making him feel the pressure hard enough to bring him and everyone around him to their knees.
“Now tell me. Once you heard about all the atrocities happening down there, you didn’t think of reporting this to the kingdom? Or is the kingdom also affiliated with this?” → Shen
Frozen stiff, the guard couldn’t help but answer obediently as his thoughts were in chaos from the pressure.
“T-the kingdom agreed on having built such u-underground laboratories f-for the-… Ach!”
Just as I was about to hear who was the mastermind behind all of this, the guard suddenly started to tremble uncontrollably and right after-
I activated a barrier around the bandits and myself and right after, the guard’s body exploded into thousands of blood-pikes, stabbing everyone around him to death as even the towers or walls around were now filled with holes, having the pikes penetrate them all the way to the other side.
Some bandits exclaimed while some looked with pale faces at the other dead guards filled with holes.
“T-thanks a lot, Boss.”
“Y-yeah… You saved our bacon there.”
“Damn, these guys have more holes than our base.”
The bandits tried to ease the mood with some light jokes then we started walking inside the fortress, every one of the guards being already dead.
“So… are we going to continue on? Boss Johan. Or we can retreat as all the guards are dead?” → Sabin
Sabin asked while closing up to me who was now staring intently at the corpses.
“Oy Sabin.” → Shen
“Yes, boss?” → Sabin
“Victoria is not a discriminating kingdom, is it?” → Shen
“No, boss.” → Sabin
“Then just what the hell is this?” → Shen
I pointed at the bloody bodies that were turned into quite a gory image, making even Sabin barely be able to look at them.
“Ugh… Eh?” → Sabin
They’re… only humans? → Sabin
He finally understood what I meant by discrimination and thought for a while on his own, only to say with a frown.
“Boss. I really think the kingdom has nothing to do with this.” → Sabin
“If they have or not, I will see that for myself later. Right now, we still have something to do. Prepare your men. From now on, I won’t stop you anymore.” → Shen
At first confused, after seeing my indifferent and cold eyes, Sabin grinned excited as he turned to everyone else and shot out.
“Oy you lot! It’s time to PURGE!” → Sabin
They all roared in a voice and prepared their weapons once again after quickly taking care of their injuries with some bandages. In less than a few minutes, everyone was ready and we departed toward the back of the main tower. Just to be sure, Sabin dashed toward the passed out commander and dealt the finishing blow, then we continued onwards. On the other part of the fortress, right beside the northern walls, a statue of an old man with long hair and beard, stood tall with a thin open book in his hands while reading with a focused look on his face.
“The God of Knowledge, Omniscio? Why is an Eastern God in these parts? Normally this God would be venerated by the ones from Nostrung.”
An older bandit asked confused while reading the name of the immortalized God on the stone pedestal.
Right after, I simply blew the statue with a fist and under it, more stairs going in a spiral downwards inside the deep darkness. The others froze in place as I just blew up the statue of divinity just like that, but I gave it no mind as I explained.
“Down there is what we’re searching. Don’t worry, all the detecting spells and magic circles have been hijacked while I was strolling around like a shadow. As long as I didn’t miss anything, they should not be aware of our intrusion. Even so, be wary and keep it down. If possible, I’d wish to have as few victims as possible.” → Shen
The bandits nodded firmly then followed me and Sabin down the stairs. The spiral was ridiculously long as even after 10 minutes of walking down the stairs, there was still nothing to be seen but darkness and stone-walls. Not even a place for a torch was present, as everyone had to use the simplistic spell [Ball of Light]. Or at least, almost everyone.
“Don’t focus so much chi in one point, brat! What. You wish to blow everyone up?”
“Shaddup! I’m trying my best, ok?!”
“Oy Alan! Your ball of light is making a weird buzzing sound! Stop it, it’s annoying!”
“It’s because his mana is not stable enough. God damn. I told you to train on controlling your mana some more!”
“Say more crap and I’ll stop giving you shitheads any more light. I’ll see you how you’ll trip and fall like some idiots.”
“Sabin! You’re still infusing chi inside that ball?! You’ll blow us all!”
“For the love of all, quiet.” → Shen
Their constant complaints made for a vein to bulge on my forehead as I instantly canceled all their spells for light and create one long string of bubbles of light, going from the last mage named Alan, to the front where Sabin was walking in front with an older Bandit. After seeing how they were finally able to see clearly without any weird noises or danger of blowing up from unstable mana, they continued onwards with calm faces. After another 5 minutes of walking, we finally reached a great hall where a huge door was guarded by two great statues, fully equipped in a red plated armor, with two great halberds that blocked the way toward the door.
“Boss… I have a bad feeling about this…” → Sabin
Sabin got closer to me and whispered warily while glancing around at the great statues. I also stared more intently as I already knew what those things are.
13rd Prince’s golems… Damn that Demon Lord has a role in all of this. → Shen
I instantly remembered about the war between the demon and elven armies, and also the great golems from the Demon Army that were strong enough to rival a Fake God, which is stronger than a Saint, but weaker than a Great Saint. Happily enough, Ashura was able to advance his control over his own powers while we were still sailing on our way toward Alfheim, making him able to have the upper hand against both a Fake God-ranked golem and a Great Saint-ranked demon.
“Sabin. You and your men should stay back while I’ll try to deactivate these things. In case I screw up, you all better run, for this will turn ugly.” → Shen
“In that case, Boss Johan. Please don’t screw up. We only have one life after all.” → Sabin
“I’ll try.” → Shen
I started to feel around and met the golems’ area of detection. As the entire place was of around 100m cube, the golem’s detection area was half of that, making for anyone who got closer than 50m to be instantly viewed as an enemy and struck down by any means possible. What I wished at this moment was to strike both of their cores inside their chests at the same time, without giving them time to activate and, by any chance, make the ones from the other side of the door aware of our presence. At the same time, I had to focus a balanced amount of mana in my hands, so when I would shot an [Energy Beam], it must be strong enough to reach and penetrate their cores, but at the same time, not so strong to penetrate through them and the door, reaching inside the laboratories and alarming the ones inside.
Alright… Let’s try it out. → Shen
I stepped toward the guarded door, right in between the two golems, reaching and keeping the distance of 51m. Afterward, I rose both my pointing fingers and focused the right amount of energy in both of them. Although normally I would be able to focus and shoot such Energy Beams from all my fingers without a problem, focusing the right amount of mana was the tricky part. Sweat formed on my forehead as I felt the fluctuations of energy atop my fingers turn more and more violent as I added more energy. Either it was too strong, either too weak, all of this while I was trying to add the right amount to penetrate the front armor but not to penetrate it all the way back.
Damn it! This is harder than I thought! Grr~! Take this! → Shen
Already annoyed with the fluctuations of energy, I shot out the concentrated mana right at the chest of the golems. One of them had their cores destroyed without a problem, while for the other one it only destroyed the outer shell, leaving a beautifully round red crystal ball to be seen. It suddenly started to shine brighter as the golem started to move when-
With all the speed I was able to muster, I shot out faster than a bullet and penetrated the revealed core with my fist, passing the 51m in less than a second and cracking the core in tiny pieces.
Afterward, the statue stood unmoving as its cores were now completely destroyed.
“W-well that was close.” → Shen
I whipped the sweat from atop my forehead while turning around, only to see the bandits with wide-open eyes and pale faces, some of them even ready to shoot up the stairs.
“I-is it safe now?” → Sabin
Sabin asked unsure as he already took his knives out in case of the worst.
“Yeah… Now I will see what’s up with the door. Maybe it might have some safety system as well.” → Shen
Then I entered meditation in front of the door and tried to separate my consciousness to insert it inside the door. A complicated array appeared just as I touched the door, making me stare at it in a daze.
I’m no professional when it comes to magic circles, but all you need to do to a magic circle to make it stop functioning is to erase just a part of it. By erasing one circle, the circuit will stop functioning and no energy will be able to circulate through it anymore… But this is… → Shen
However, the great array in front of me at this moment was so complicated, so filled with circles and other geometrical forms, that it made me instinctively understand that once I erase the wrong geometrical form, the circuit will malfunction and quite the ugly explosion will take place in the next moment.
Well. I guess this is where we’ll stop with the sneaky operation and go full raiding mode. → Shen
I returned to my body and thought in a laid back manner while preparing to punch a hole through the great door and its magic protection. However, just as I was about to do so.
“Oy Boss, I wonder if this would help us with the door?” → Sabin
Sabin showed me something that looked like a silver card with the God of Knowledge sculpted on it. I stared with big eyes at the card then at Sabin and asked somewhat annoyed.
“And from where did you get that in the first place?” → Shen
“That commander had it on him. I thought that maybe I could get some nice stuff from someone like a commander.” → Sabin
“… And you tell me about it only now, because…?” → Shen
“Err… Sorry. I forgot about it the moment you blew Omniscio’s statue. Not many are able to show such depreciation for gods in this world, you know?” → Sabin
He explained himself with a wiry smile then passed it to me. I took it while thinking that better now than after I blew the door, then inserted it on an imprint that had the same diameters as the card on the door. Right after, the array I saw just now started to shine and spin atop the great gates, and after making more turns and spins, it suddenly stopped and disappeared, making the gates open with a loud creaking sound.
“Welp! There goes our silent raid!” → Shen
I shouted annoyed as the doors made more noise than I could even imagine, thinking that maybe If I blew up the door would be a bit more silent. However, what appeared on the other side was not a great room of experiments filled with madmen that did grotesque things to living beings as I was expecting. But only another great hall that was connected to other smaller halls, each of them having more doors and entrances. Just as everyone entered, the gates closed behind us then I started glancing around, trying to detect anything weird. After feeling nothing out of the norm, I took out a crystal sphere that beautifully shone in purple color. I threw it to Sabin then started coming up with a plan.
“Change of plans. We don’t know what’s hidden behind any of those doors, and neither if they are protected by a spell or magic circle like the main gates. I’ll ask for every single one of you to guard a door in case anyone were to come out and make them spill the beans about this place. The more you find out, the better. Sabin and I will go around and try to find more intel on our own. That orb is actually a monster core of rank S. As long as you connect with it and try to use its powers only to detect the magic fluctuations from magic circles or spells, you should be able to stroll around undetected and also to not get possessed by the monster’s essence.” → Shen
“S-S-S rank monster?” → Sabin
Sabin stuttered baffled then I corrected him annoyed.
“Not SSS. What, you take me for a God-slayer? Only one S. Even SS was hard enough, let alone triple S.” → Shen
“N-no, that’s not it-“ → Sabin
Wait. He fought an SS monster before?! → Sabin
Sabin’s face paled more and more as his mind rushed, only to wake up after my next comment.
“Also, we will be sure to release anything or anyone we find. Be them slaves, beasts, monsters, or whatever you find. You will release them and bring them here.” → Shen
“What if they attack us?” → Sabin
“Try to be quick enough to not get killed, will you? Besides, you already got that orb. What are you afraid of?” → Shen
“True…” → Sabin
Sabin stared at the fierce orb in his hand with more firmness then agreed to take the risk. However, the other bandits weren’t as brave, the veteran that would always talk with Sabin, this time taking a step in front and asking.
“What about us? If any of those more experiments reach these places, we’re done for!”
“And for that, I prepared these.” → Shen
From inside my inventory, I took out more rings then imparted for everyone to have one.
“Eh? What are these- Woah?!”
The veteran put it on and just as he wanted to ask, he found half his body inserted in the ground.
“I-I got shorter?! What the f***?!”
Sabin and the other bandits started laughing, only to find themselves doing the same. Some were burrowed to their ankles, some to their knees, while some even to their necks, being just a talking head on the stone floor.
“B-boss! Just what is this?!” → Alan
The mage Alan asked while panicking as only his head was now visible. I looked at them like at some idiots then explained.
“Those are rings imbued with the spell [Shadow Merging]. A spell I thought of studying after going through more ridiculous moments. Just focus on your shadow and control it to remain on the surface.” → Shen
Then everyone focused and their bodies slowly merged outside their shadows, back to the surface.
“Good. I see you have at least this much control over your own powers. Now try to completely merge with the shadow.” → Shen
Then they slowly sunk inside the shadows, some even stopped breathing.
“No need to keep your breath, guys…” → Shen
I explained plainly as I observed everyone merge deeper and deeper until there remained only a shadow of a bandit.
“Great. Now hide inside the shadows around and wait until someone gets out these doors. As long as you stay one with the shadows, you should not be detected by anything lower than Saint power-rank.” → Shen
Although there was no sound, their ridiculous reactions made me aware of just how excited they were of the offered abilities, swinging their fists in excitement or even kicking, punching in the air, or starting dancing, looking more and more ridiculous.
“Now stop screwing around and get to positions! I find it weird how there was no one to walk these halls until now. Be wary, and in the case of the worst, retreat to the outside and wait for us at the base.” → Shen
The shadows took a straight position as if they understood what I said, then hastily ran and merged inside other shadows from around. Sabin then looked confused and asked.
“Why don’t we make a part of them to go around and gather more info as well? Won’t it be more efficient?” → Sabin
“Although they’re only shadows, going atop a hidden magic circle would still activate it as they still have an aura. The living beings might have a hard time detecting them, but magic circles are made to detect only the aura. The risk of being detected is just too great to make them do such a thing.” → Shen
“I see. Hey, what about me? Won’t you give me one of those rings as well?” → Sabin
“For what? You already know that skill.” → Shen
“Oh~? I’ve been found out?” → Sabin
“For me, you used it in plain view. That was still too slow for my eyes.” → Shen
I grinned at Sabin who had quite the nervous grin on his face. After he saw the speed at which I shot out toward the second golem to silence it, Sabin understood that his speed was indeed slow in comparison with mine.
“Now, move out. We don’t have all the time.” → Shen
“Yes, boss!” → Sabin
Sabin shot out toward the left, where the only iron door was present at the moment, while I rushed toward the right door which was the tallest of them all, and quickly investigated it to be sure there was no trap or spell on it. Detecting nothing, I silently opened the door and inside it, I saw another hall that, this time, it had only 3 other doors, together with a longer hall that reached to other places unknown to me yet. First I walked toward the door from the left. There I saw the same imprint of a card like on the main gate. I used the card I got from Sabin and opened the door with no great difficulty, only to see more cards-like objects that rested on numbered shelves, each shelf having also a code by their side. Going from the lowers ones, they had codes like I-001 then I-002 up to I-999. Even though it said that it continued only up to 999, many more cards were stacked one atop the other on the I shelves as their real numbers were actually in thousands. Afterward, the upper shelves were numbered with F, then E, then D. I had no time to wonder what those letters meant as I tried to inspect what the cards were about. However, just as my consciousness connected with one of the cards, I suddenly felt my head being engulfed with different dark feelings of grudge, hate, pain, fear, sufferings, and so on. I lightly frowned as I cautiously got a hold of a card that fell from the I shelf, then focused some more on it.
“… What in the…” → Shen
What appeared before me was a young humanoid piggled boy. Both hair and skin completely white as he weakly trembled on the cold floor, only a thin sheet of dirty white material covering his otherwise exposed body. His every move on the hard floor would make for wounds to appear on his skin and pale red blood to stain his clothes; If you can even call that thing as such. His face was showing the pain he was feeling as his skin was being ripped under his own pressure while the cold from the floor permeated into his bones.