Chapter 176: Chatting with a Cornered Rat

Before Ryu could answer, Shen’s voice resounded loud and clear with an indifferent tone while continuing to release more E-ranked whiteheads.

“The underground facilities have been destroyed and I’m pretty sure they are still being bombarded by more monsters and a green dragon as we speak. All the researchers have been killed while their work is now with us.” → Shen

“T-their work? What work?”

Another little fox girl with confused and terrified eyes asked instinctively. A while back she also tried to attack Shen, but not because of hate, but rather because of the madness caused by the experiments, activating her primal instincts to hunt and kill. At this moment, she wasn’t even sure how she got where she was now.

Hearing her question, Shen slightly turned and answered normally while glancing with a calm gaze at them.

“You all are their work. Their results. And now you are with us.” → Shen
“And what are you going to do with us?”

Another lion boy asked with sharp eyes, making Shen and Ryu feel like he resembled with Gregor for a moment. Shen then simply turned around and answered in a meek voice.

“That will depend on what you all will wish to do: want to wander around aimlessly, wish to reach a place to call home, to continue fighting, to master your own powers, live the life of a farmer or one of a warrior. All will depend on what your future plans will be.” → Shen
““?!?””

My… future plans…?

Everyone froze in place for good minutes, some being so shocked that even fell down the trees and remained there, shock written in their eyes.

The idea of freedom was just so ridiculous for them who lived all their lives till now underground, that they completely forgot- no. The concept of creating their own future was already non-existent. If anyone asked them before how the future looked like, they would either see themselves as a guinea pig for more experiments and tortures or nothing, as death already took their souls from this world. Whatever the future was reserving for them, it wasn’t up to them to decide as they had no say in anything that happened there.

However, this time is different. They are free. They can think freely, they can make choices, decisions, plans for their own future.

“…”

They all looked at the blue sky and a feeling of helplessness and fear washed over them all, as they now knew nothing of what will happen from now on. Although they were free to choose and decide on their own, they had no idea what they should do, how they should live their free lives. They all saw themselves in the middle of an ocean of possibilities surrounded by seas and with no land in sight, with no goal. Their eyes shone with the fear of tomorrow as nobody knew what will happen from now on, and instinctively they stared at Ryu and Shen with big eyes, expecting them to give out some kind of hints.

Ugh… At least wait until I’ll free everybody else. There are still at least half of the numbers released till now. Just hold on for a while longer, will you?” → Shen
““Y-yes! Yes.””

They all inclined their heads respectfully and started to chat between themselves; at first quietly, then more and more lively, trying to see if anyone has thought of a life-style they thought to be more preferable. However, because they lived most of their lives inside the underground facilities, they all gave out vague ideas like: I want to make my own house, I want to grow animals, I want to make friends. And so on other such plans that for a normal person would seem to be just things which come on their own, while for them it represented their deepest wishes. The idea of making a friend showed to be a great challenge as nobody truly knew what friendship truly means. Some of the more restless children even walked to Ryu who seemed to be more free from the two, and started asking him how is the world outside, how to make a plan for the future, what they can be, and so on other such questions, overwhelming him to the point of feeling like children are actually even scarier than demonic waves.

Ryu threw signals of help toward Shen but he simply ignored him, indirectly telling him that he’s on his own.

Betrayer! → Ryu

He sent Shen a telepathic message then he sat down on a more elevated rock and started narrating to everyone how is this world Sario which, he himself doesn’t know all that well either. To Ryu’s shock and to Shen’s amusement, as Ryu narrated, more and more people of all races, ages, and genders, walked curiously near the group of children and sat down beside them, hearing him with so much interest and amazement in their eyes that it made Ryu feel even more pressured, misinformation being unacceptable.

All of this continued until the next day in the morning. Shen already finished releasing everybody between ranks E and A while Ryu’s circle was now so ridiculously huge, most of them needed to uproot the trees and throw them away. This gave to Shen and Ryu the weird image of a little dragoon girl of rank A who was grabbing a hold of a tree and uproot it then threw it in the distance, outside the nest’s barrier with quite ease. And she wasn’t the only one as more than one hundred such individuals between the ages of 14 and 31 of all races and genders simply made more space around Ryu by simply cleaning the area with either brute force or sharp waves of condensed mana. Although they knew no technique for enchanting their physical power or any kind of spell to use, their ridiculous mana-pool, and brute force was more than made up for it.

“These guys…”

Both Ryu and Shen stared at this group of around 200 people with ranks of B  and A, not sure what to say about this kind of view.

“I think… their ranks have been misplaced…” → Ryu

Ryu thought while thinking that once they are taught the skills, spells, and techniques from inside their library, the total power rank should easily reach Adept Saint power-rank for A graded white-heads, and at least Intermediate Grandmaster for the B and C graded white-heads.

Wait. Just how many copies of books will we need to make so everyone will be able to study? No, let’s not think about troublesome things at the moment. → Ryu

Ryu thought already tired while staring at the ones from the further back who were now sitting atop huge fallen trees, listening intently to his explanations.

Even so… This view is terrifying… → Ryu

Having an army listen to his words like this when everything around looked as if after the war, with downed trees and destroyed vegetation, made Ryu even more uncomfortable while narrating and trying to add beside the new information, things that he already said so the newer ones could understand him better.

He then looked around and he suddenly remembered something Shen told him before they could start.

Hold up. Shen, I think we’re missing something. → Ryu
Are you referring to the mutated ones? → Shen
H-how did you know? → Ryu
I was thinking about the exact same thing as well… Ryu, I’ll go deeper inside the forest and make another field there. I can leave this place to you, okay? → Shen
Huh? Why so suddenly? → Ryu


The remaining cards are ranked S and G. If the ones ranked A are already this ridiculously powerful, I’m really wondering how strong these ranked with S are. As for G, I have my doubts, but I might seriously endanger the ones inside this nest if I released someone dangerous right beside them. → Shen
… Alright, understood. Leave this place to me. → Ryu

While Ryu continued to tell stories after stories of his adventures inside Sario, together with many explanations of all the types of jobs he met along his journey, Shen turned into a shadow and in a blink he disappeared, reappearing a few hundred meters to the North, further away from the others. Right in the middle of the forest, Shen created a new nest just like before, smaller than the first one and prepared to take out an S rank card right under a humongous old tree. Just as he wished to activate it, his knees go weak, needing to support himself to the tree while sweat covered his face and his heart rushed in a panic.

Oh? But is this “guilt” we’re feeling? After the massacre inside the underground arena form the laboratories, now I’m not so sure if those things were only monsters.

“Huff, huff… Quiet. I have no time for you now.” → Shen

From behind the tree he was now supporting himself, a shadow resembling himself but with horns and red eyes, suddenly appeared and started talking with him telepathically. The shadow walked at a smaller tree and sat down with his back on the tree, right in front of Shen. His red eyes sharp and his voice spiteful, the shadow was now talking in contempt.

Although monsters, they had such humanoid forms. I was sure that they were just empty shells, but never would I have thought that they’re the mutated ones I talked about… With a soul, with rational minds!

“I said to shut up, didn’t I?” → Shen

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Shen fell in the same position with the back at the tree, now both looking at one another like in a mirror, trying to calm his rushing heart and trembling hands. Then his eyes widened and his face palled, the shadow immediately giving voice to his thoughts.

He said “thank you” back then… didn’t he…? Empty shells don’t thank others… He was alive. Like me, like Ryu!

“…”

Shen’s heart tightened now remembering the sensation of cutting flesh, of massacring and killing, of ripping the life out of a being with an ego.

I killed many monsters. I got accustomed to blood and seeing guts fly around. I trained in killing living beings even back when I was still searching for the White Mountain Valley. However… killing man, even if mutated, is still a sin.

“I know…” → Shen

And now that I killed man.

“My test… is failed.” → Shen

My test… is failed.

-Rattle, rattle, rattle-

Both he and his shadow felt like crying but there were no tears, felt like screaming but they seemed just too tired to do that, doing the same actions just like in a mirror. He wished to just revolt and scream How was I supposed to know?! But he knew better than anyone that everything he did now would be just a waste of energy and time. As he held his head, his hands dropped, looking at the ground with a broken spirit. The chains around his body tightened and burned the dark aura that seeped through his lowered guard while his shadow continued to give voice to his thoughts.

No. The truth is, I knew from the very beginning. From the moment I heard that one mutated man say “thank you”, I understood that I was already damned. But I still continued. My sword still cut, my mana still swirled and blood was still spilling around as their body-parts smeared the floor. All of this after understanding that it was just too late, jumping to a conclusion to cut down the monster in front of me, unknowing that I was actually cutting myself, only damning my soul to the deepest parts of Hell…

Heh… I guess I’ll be meeting these mad researchers in the afterlife anyway.” → Shen

With a helpless smile, Shen got up and simply shook his head, waving at the shadow once and turning it into a dark mist that disappeared shortly after.

“Ah. F*** it. I damned my soul already anyway so let’s be done with this and get back. I’m too damn tired to care any more than this.” → Shen

Without thinking too much, Shen took out all the 20 S ranked cards and activated them at the same time.

““…””

14 well-built men and 6 enchanting women, all of them of races like human, demon, beastmen of spirit-foxes, tiger, lion, and dragoons, all of them with spiritless eyes, standing tall in front of Shen with a golden ring around their heads.

The same ring as the one on the A-ranked. This one is something like “total control”. But seeing how they are using it only for the stronger individuals, I suppose it’s quite costly to make them. → Shen

Just like to the others, Shen simply waved the card above the golden rings and took them out in a flash.

“Ugh..”
“Agh!”

Some were dizzy while some were having a headache, however, all of them were still on both their legs, standing tall and trying to understand what was happening.

“Very well. The A graded ones collapsed on the floor and even started puking after I took those rings off. No wonder you’re ranked as S.→ Shen

““…””

All 20 of them stared at Shen wary, unable to understand where they were or who he was.

Seeing them so reserved, Shen felt like something wasn’t right. Before he could question them, his eyes suddenly fell on the demon who looked just like Lilia. He had blue skin, two wings and two sharp horns which stabbed at the sky, and two purplish demonic eyes, staring at him intently.

“You… are of dark-humans race?” → Shen
“Dark-humans?”

The demon asked confused then Shen explained, forgetting that only Gods and some other characters actually know of the true name of the so-called demon race.

“I mean demon. You are a demon from Eihwaz, right?” → Shen
“I… don’t know.”
“Right… forgot.” → Shen

It seems that there are some backlashes after using the golden rings. Your memory gets erased. Well, it’s either from that or from the crazy experiments they had to go through. Either way, they have no idea what happened before having the ring on their heads for the first time. → Shen

He scratched his head then he plainly said after stepping and blocking a little shadow that tried to creep to connect to his.

“Well, anyway that. Try not to do anything bothersome now that you’re free, yeah? As long as you’ll behave, nothing will happen to you against your own will.” → Shen
“What are you talking about?”

A woman asked with a frown, unable to understand if this was just another experiment or something else entirely. She tried to retreat her own shadow but Shen won’t let go, continuing to keep his foot atop the shadow.

Shen didn’t feel like answering every little thing so he said such.

“Look, it’s a damn long story, alright? You’ll know everything as long as you’ll behave. Otherwise I’ll-“ → Shen
“You’ll take control over us again, right? But it won’t be so easy!”
“-leave you here! For God’s sake, let me finish!” → Shen

Before Shen could finish, a lion-man clenched his fist and jumped right toward him. In a flash, the area around was pulverized as they were now in the air, above a huge crater of around 100m diameter.

Shen stared annoyed and massaged his temples, feeling some kind of Deja’vu.

I feel like I went through something similar before… Oh right, when I had to fight against the Nostrung Empire’s guardians. However, this time I won’t be so cornered. → Shen

[Devil’s Eyes]

Shen’s eyes flashed red as he sharply stared at every single one of them, analyzing their weakness and trying to understand their characteristics.

First of all, this impatient overgrown cat. → Shen

He looked downward at the lion-man who growled wildly at Shen. He took a jumping position, and in the next second he shot out toward him with a sonic boom breaking the ground even further.

“God, you really don’t want to listen.” → Shen

He rolled his eyes and pointed his palm toward the lighting-fast lion. Just before he could reach in front of him, Shen’s mana swirled then the earth started to succumb.

[Spatial Collapse]

Guh!”

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Just before he could even graze Shen’s cloak, the lion-man felt a sudden gravitational pull which stopped him dead-on from his ascendance and fell with a speed 3 times faster than with how fast he jumped.

-BOOM~!-

The lion-man’s fall made for another crater to form inside the already existed one, making him growl in annoyance as he tried to stand tall under the monstrous pressure. The boulders were flattened while the trees were already dust, but he was able to still stand tall and glared at Shen.

He is an S for a reason. Then let’s just weaken him up with a few ranged skills.

Just as before, he showed out his palm and the clouds suddenly started to gather.

“A storm?”

The lion-man stared amazed at the sky, remembering the natural phenomena that was now unleashing in front of him. However, he knew that what was bound to happen next won’t be natural at all.

“I won’t let you.”

The demon from before suddenly flew toward Shen and in a flash he slashed with his long nails multiple times, turning Shen’s clothes into rags filled with cuts and barely usable. However, his skin had not even a scratch as it was now shining with a metallic luster.

[Iron Body]

“What?! Guh!”

The demon stared baffled at Shen’s unharmed body, then at his broken and bleeding fingers, shock, and terror shining in his eyes.

“How many clothes you think I have, oy… I don’t mind even going with a leaf around, but that would surely bring other kind of problems.”

He then snapped his fingers with one hand while waving downwards his other one toward the demon.

-SNAP~!-

-BOOM!-

A thick lighting pillar struck the lion-man while the demon crashed with the same power on the ground from the ridiculous gravity, rendering both of them unconscious.

One had a ridiculous physical power, while the other one a ridiculous speed. The others must also have an unbalanced body just like these ones. → Shen

He searched around and observed how everyone else was already hiding, ready to strike at the first moment of unawareness.

“You really think you can hide inside my domain? I have no time for hide-and-seek!” → Shen

Shen’s [Devil Eyes] shone again and he was able to see around 17 strings of dark-colored smoke, each representing fear, rage, terror, confusion, and anxiety. Although most of them were quite confident in their own powers, they all saw how easily their other two comrades got defeated, understanding that they had close to no chance. They ran into a direction, but found themselves back inside the same forest, tried to fly away, only to get enveloped by a mist which sent them back. They were all confused and fear slowly crept through their hearts.

Seeing them like this, Shen’s devilish traits tingled as he smiled amused at the panicking trapped rats, thinking if he should subdue them slowly one by one and let the fear engulf their hearts, or take them all out in one go and make them feel the overwhelming difference, feeding on their despairing faces.

Woah there! I’m turning really nasty. I can’t make them too afraid of me if I wish for them to work for Antara. They might listen at first from fear, but after they regain their consciousness, who knows what ideas might swirl inside their heads. → Shen

He tried to calm down his sadistic thoughts and slowly descend. He deactivated his [Devil’s Eyes]  and tried to focus on the nest around, wishing to form a connection with all of them then keep a proper telepathic conversation.

“Alright. I know some of you can hear me, so please listen up and calm down for a second. I only wish to talk-“ → Shen

But just as he touched the ground, from his shadow the woman from before suddenly appeared, ready to thrust her spear-like hand through Shen’s back. Although he knew the position of the others, it seems he was unable to detect her location as she emanated no smoke from inside the shadows.

Not even turning back, Shen grabbed a hold of her hand and scolded annoyed.

“Oy, I said hold up! Are you so stupid to not listen to-“ → Shen

Then another four white-heads made him shut his mouth as he felt killing intent strike him from all four sides. A burly dragoon rushed toward Shen with his sturdy body in front, then a wolf-man right behind him was rushing with nimble moves, jumping toward Shen for a high kick. Behind the two, a dragoon woman was focusing her power between her palms, ready to shot out a powerful energy beam once the other retreated and left Shen in the open. Far from Shen, somewhere in between the undamaged trees, a tiger woman was preparing a spear made of stone, focusing more and more chi inside it and preparing to throw it toward him at full force.

“You lot really can’t listen…” → Shen

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