Episode 211. The Forgotten Ones (3)

His control over the earth attribute, after refusing to hit its maximum level even following his mastery of the wind attribute, finally reached 100.

- Your attribute control has reached its maximum value, and the bond between you and your spirit has become stronger. Your spirit is now able to show more complex expressions and is better able to understand you.

It was a rare source of encouraging news for Seon-Hyeok after being stressed by the refugees.

He paid close attention to the continued messages as he subconsciously clenched his fists.

- Nudar, the highest-tier earth spirit, has evolved into an ancient earth spirit (Dwarf).

He had wondered whether Nudar, already a highest-tier earth spirit, could undergo any transformations, as the only higher beings he knew of were the Spirit Kings.

But contrary to his expectations, the highest-tier was not the ending point of a spirit’s growth.

- Even the powerful highest-tier spirits are unable to fully utilize their abilities in this world. This does not apply to ancient spirits.

- Ancient spirits are not significantly more powerful than the highest-tier spirits, but they are more versatile and are closer to the source of their strength. Ancient spirits are able to more freely use their abilities.

- Ancient spirits are able to stay by their master’s side for as long as they wish. If necessary, ancient spirits are capable of remaining even closer by transforming themselves or integrating themselves into certain objects.

- Ancient spirits merged with objects of this world are able to exert even greater power through these mediums. However, a spirit will suffer terrible damage if the host object is destroyed. It is possible for a bond between spirit and master to break in such instances.

It was a tremendous development considering that until now, Nudar was only able to remain in this world for unusually short periods of time.

“Nice!”

Seon-Hyeok thought a ray of light was shining on his depressing return journey, now that he was finally able to make full use of the highest-tier spirit’s strength.

However, the current situation was too chaotic for him to express his elation right away.

“Report on any deaths or injuries within your group!”

There was a particularly aggressive person among the refugees devastated by the demonic attack and the Qeishas busy recovering their spent arrows.

“Group leaders, what the hell are you doing? You have to move quickly so that we can organize and get moving again! Are you going to slack off among the dead bodies?”

It was John.

“There is no reason for you to get involved with this filth, my Lord. Please remain as you are now. I can handle the grunt work and manage the self-centered refugees.”

While Seon-Hyeok was filled with skepticism about the deeply selfish nature of the refugees, John approached and suggested that he could assume control over them. Already exhausted from handling everything by himself, Seon-Hyeok readily accepted the offer.

“I will never let any trouble befall you, my Lord.”

Following that day, John selected a number of refugees and instructed them to lead smaller groups.

It was astonishingly effective.

John and the group leaders were somewhat rough on the others, but they were equally as effective and established rules among the disorderly refugees.

Of course, this was not without its problems. Even in this environment, some of the leaders became drunk on their own minimal power and began to abuse the others when out of sight.

But John was not naive. Having experienced all of these hardships before, he secretly picked out individuals to be his eyes and ears and placed them in each group to better observe what happened within.

“If you bastards act in that manner, what becomes of our Lord who trusted us and put us in these positions of power? Even at this very moment, he is struggling to save one additional life. You think it’s all good because you’re in a position of safety?”

John’s punishments were ruthless, but thanks to this, there were no instances of the refugees blaming Seon-Hyeok. Rather, they even praised him when the group leaders exploiting them were punished.

It was quite ironic. When treated with warmth and devotion, the refugees complained and complained some more, but now that their treatment deteriorated, they began to praise him instead.

Seon-Hyeok watched all of this unfold from behind the scenes, and he grew convinced that John would be capable of controlling the refugees until they departed this land.

The same was true now.

Thanks to John, the Qeishas were able to focus solely on fighting without worrying about the refugees, and likewise, Seon-Hyeok did not have to panic after every demonic raid.

“One person is injured.”

“There are seventeen injured, but no deaths.”

“There were two deaths and three significant casualties.” 

Seon-Hyeok turned his head with a bitter look when he saw the group leaders reporting their casualties in response to John’s verbal abuse.

Well, he’s doing well.

His methods were far from ideal, but right now, Seon-Hyeok needed a person like him.

He took his eyes off the refugees and summoned Nudar.

“Nudar.”

‘Master.’

The ground rose in response to his call, and Nudar emerged.

“Your appearance…”

The spirit’s appearance was clearly different from before.

The spirit was still short and resembled the mage, Aria Eisen, but unlike before, when she looked like an achromatic earthen doll, she showed an array of natural colors. 

Nudar was colorful, with tones reminiscent of grass and soil, but this was somehow both very familiar and unwelcome to Seon-Hyeok.

“Why of all things…”

The irregularly green and brown appearance was...

“It’s like a frog…”

It looked like the military uniforms of the other world.

‘Yes?’

Unable to understand him, Nudar tilted her head, and this, in turn, gave the appearance of a newly deployed recruit, which brought back even more bad memories.

‘Master?’

Perhaps because his attribute control was now at its limit, Nudar was able to show greater emotions. Sensing the spirit’s confusion, Seon-Hyeok shook his head and shook off his thoughts.

“Never mind. Don’t worry about it.”

After fixing his expression, he asked.

“What are ancient spirits?”

As always, the message only told him the most important details, and alone, it was difficult to get a good grasp of the nature of ancient spirits.

In times like these, it was best to ask the subject in question rather than pondering it alone.

‘There was a time when spirits existed in corporeal form, acting as guardians long before the Qeishas began to serve the Mother Tree. They have since completely disappeared because they lost their gift of eternity in return for remaining in this world. Those are the ancient spirits.’

From Nudar’s lengthy expression, it was difficult to tell whether this was good or bad.

“Isn’t it bad to lose the gift of eternity?”

Nudar shook her head at Seon-Hyeok’s worried question.

‘What is a meaningless sacrifice if it is to gain something much more valuable?’

Seon-Hyeok could not begin to guess what was more valuable than eternal life.

‘Of course, becoming an ancient spirit does not make me inherently stronger. Instead, I am now more free from the laws of this world.’

The highest-tier spirit was powerful enough to singlehandedly block the torgos, a creature he once struggled against, if only for a moment. The problem at that time was that the spirit was restricted in expressing her strength, given the significant drain on her master’s energy.

Nudar explained that this was a result of the spirits’ inability to utilize their own fundamental strength and the need to borrow that of their contractors. Since this evolution to ancient spirit considerably eased these restrictions, Nudar insisted there would be no such situation in the future.

Of course, there was also a problem.

‘Before, I could simply retreat for a moment after taking damage, but now, I must handle everything on my own. It is possible I could completely disappear if I suffer greater damage than I can endure.’

Needing additional strength to escape the Dark Lord’s domain, Nudar’s evolution was welcome news for Seon-Hyeok. However, the more he heard, the more downsides there seemed to be for the spirits themselves.

But strangely, Nudar did not seem at all worried. Perhaps it was a result of the spirit’s confidence in her own strength.

“It’s true.”

Now that he thought about it, the energy drain he experienced now was much less than before. At this rate, he imagined it would not be a burden even if he kept Nudar around for days on end.

‘But this is not an ideal environment for me to remain in. The land contaminated with demonic energy is incompatible with earth spirits - though I could certainly endure it if need be, I see a better option.’

“A better option?”

When Seon-Hyeok tilted his head in confusion, Nudar asked for his understanding.

‘Could I borrow one of your items?’

It was only then that Seon-Hyeok remembered the message suggesting the ancient spirits’ ability to integrate themselves into objects.

“But is there something suitable?”

All he had in his possession at the moment were broken equipment and insignificant trinkets. The only fully-intact object was the spear made from the branch of the Mother Tree.

However, given that the spear was a weapon with the power of the Spirit King, it did not seem to be a suitable host for the ancient spirit.

‘There is.’

Having spoken, Nudar approached and put her hand on something fixed to the side of Redvern’s saddle.

It was the broken spear, left forgotten because Seon-Hyeok could not find a suitable purpose for it after he took it out of the secret vault of the Adenstein royal family.

‘It may have a broken and unseemly appearance now, but in the past, I imagine it was a truly excellent weapon.’

“No matter what it once was, it’s now merely a piece of junk without any purpose - will that really be okay?”

Knowing that significant damage would be dealt to the spirit if their host object was destroyed, Seon-Hyeok could not help but be cautious.

However, contrary to his concerns, Nudar seemed to show a great liking for the broken spear.

‘Humans most likely left this object like this because it was made from a material they could not manage.’

Somehow, there seemed to be an indescribable light in Nudar’s eyes as the spirit looked at the spear.

‘But there is no metal in this world that does not originate from the land itself, and for the dwarves of this land, all metal is as familiar as a part of their own bodies.

The spirit’s stubborn voice was full of confidence.

‘And this is a masterpiece touched by the race of blacksmiths from another time.’

Before the spirit even finished speaking, the broken surface of the spear touched by Nudar began to move.

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