Chapter 533. Stain

Chirp!

Rudy forcefully chirped from the corner of the room.

'My dad won!'

Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!

Rudy flapped its tiny wings.

However, its celebration was premature. 

The shards of light, which had escaped from the ice fragments, fused together into a human-like shape.

It was Dukeram.

This was another of the Tarsonis Armor's special abilities; one that he'd used when he was at the brink of death. 

Full Restore!

It fully restored his HP, MP, and Stamina, and also cured him of all injuries or status ailments. 

'As expected. I knew you wouldn't die that easily.'

Kang Oh immediately rushed at Dukeram and attacked him. It was the perfect opportunity while he was still out of it. 

However...

Swoosh!

A sharp thrust came flying at him. Kang Oh wasn't able to turn his head in time, and a deep wound formed in his forehead, causing huge shards of red light to fall.

"Mm."

Kang Oh's body staggered. He hadn't been expecting that.

Dukeram, who'd returned to his original form, had gotten a hit in with a technique he had never seen before.

Kang Oh touched his forehead and stared at Dukeram.

An injured beast. It didn't seem prudent to attack him right now, so Kang Oh stood his ground.

"You had... another secret move up your sleeve?"

That thrust...

It far surpassed the speed of anything that could be accomplished with a normal skill. He could see the skill effect coating Max Cain's blade too.

Indeed. It seemed like he did have another secret move up his sleeve. He wouldn't be surprised if Dukeram had a few more that he was hiding.

"Hoo." Dukeram sighed. It was as if he were ridding himself of his anger.

Then, he softly said, "...Steel Rain."

"Steel Rain, huh..."

That must be the name of the secret move.

"Is it a series of thrusts?" Kang Oh asked.

"I'm only telling you the name. It's payment for showing you something so unsightly," Dukeram said firmly.

"It has 'rain' in the name, so I'm probably right. Telling me that is enough." Kang Oh grinned. He sure was quick.

Then, Dukeram asked, "I'd like to ask you something in return. The goddess's quest... Does it have anything to do with becoming a Grandmaster?"

Kang Oh widened his eyes. He hadn't been expecting that at all.

'He knows about Grandmasters? How much does he know?'

Was he in the middle of a quest that'll allow him to become a Grandmaster? No, why exactly was he asking him that?

"..." Kang Oh had so much to think about that he couldn't answer him.

"Understood," Dukeram said.

"What?" he instinctively asked.

"I have my answer."

It was clear why Kang Oh couldn't answer him right away. The goddess's quest was connected to becoming a Grandmaster, and he didn't want to give that information away.

'Well, I guess it wasn't a completely fruitless endeavor.'

He had come here to see if Kang Oh had completed the goddess's quest, and gained the ability to become a Grandmaster.

Thus, Dukeram had fulfilled his objective.

'He did seem way too strong.'

There were ranks among Masters too. At the beginning, he assumed that he was a higher rank Master than Kang Oh.

However, Kang Oh was on a completely different level.

'While I was swimming in a small river, he was already in the sea.'

There was no point in fighting him anymore. If they kept fighting, then he would have to reveal all of his trump cards.

Even then, he didn't have much of a chance at beating Kang Oh.

'Especially when I have to fight him one-on-one!'

Kang Oh was pursuing the path of a Grandmaster, while Dukeram strived to become a Dual Master.

However, his second class, Desert Emperor, wasn't good at one-on-one fights.

He could only make full use of it during a large-scale battle.

'I'll see you on the battlefield. It'll be a lot different next time.'

Dukeram stared at Kang Oh once more, and then accepted his defeat.

However, it was a lot harder to say it than he'd expected. It was the first time he'd said it ever since he was born.

"I surr..."

Ultimately, Dukeram wasn't able to say the words and hesitated.

Kang Oh knew what he was trying to say.

"Hey, where do you think you're going!?" Kang Oh threw Sarahoff and Blood at him.

Weapon Bombardment!

However, Dukeram managed to say the line.

"...ender."

Dukeram's body was engulfed in a pillar of light.

Bam, bam!

Blood and Sarahoff had arrived a second too late, and the system protected Dukeram from taking any damage.


[The challenger has surrendered.]

[The Sacred Duel has ended.]

[You have retained ownership of the soul dungeon.]

[You can return to your last known location. Would you like to proceed?]


Swoosh.

Dukeram's form completely disappeared.

"Tch." Kang Oh clicked his tongue.

He regretted the fact that he couldn't finish Dukeram off, and that he'd given him info on how to become a Grandmaster.

There would be nothing more annoying than if the Empire Guild decided to get in his way.

'Haa, I have to become a Grandmaster ASAP.'

What if he was as strong as Valan? Then he would go to the Arabas Kingdom immediately and completely annihilate the Empire Guild.

An individual that surpassed the power of an organization. An invincible individual.

That was what a Grandmaster signified to Kang Oh.

"Rudy, come over here." Kang Oh extended his hand.

Chirp!

A yellow chick flew onto Kang Oh's hand.

"I'm going back to where I was."

A pillar of light surged from beneath his feet.

The landscape changed, and he was back in Mt. Helvert.

* * *

After he lost to Kang Oh, Dukeram immediately checked the ranking board.

1. Dukeram.

2. Kang Oh.

There was no change.

'Looks like it's not such a large difference that one loss will make me switch places with him.'

Dukeram possessed the three eastern kingdoms. That power was still far greater than Kang Oh's.

'I might've lost, but the Empire knows no defeat.'

Besides, he was the one who would become the Empire's Emperor.

Dukeram walked over to Jegal's office.

"Welcome," Jegal said.

"The goddess's quest was a Grandmaster quest."

"Is that so?" Jegal furrowed his brow. That wasn't good news. "How was Kang Oh?"

"He was strong. He was the strongest Master... that I've ever seen. And he'll only become stronger from here on out. After all, the path to becoming a Grandmaster is open to him. I can't even imagine how much stronger he'll become."

The Empire Guild's Masters were split among four categories: beginner, intermediate, high-rank, and elite.

This 'elite' tier only included a few people on the continent. It was reserved for people like Dukeram or Burkan.

On the other hand, those in the 'beginner' tier were only Master in name. They were those who rested on their laurels after becoming a Master; what's worse, some of them even became weaker. Valan called these people 'Fake Masters'.

The Empire Guild's captains were considered Intermediate Masters. They were skilled enough to defeat Beginner Masters before they ascended. But now that they had become Masters, they were considered strong enough to be Intermediate Masters.

High-Rank Masters were individuals like General Dalton, God Spear Kantos, and Spirit Swordsman Erik.

Kang Oh had previously been placed in this spot. After all, he had a firm hold of 2nd place, despite his lack of backers. 

"Mm." Jegal's expression turned dour. However, it wasn't because of Kang Oh; it was due to Dukeram. 

'He lost.'

Dukeram wasn't the type of person to tell you things himself. If he had beaten Kang Oh, then he wouldn't have said so. You would have to ask him to find out.

However, he wouldn't have such a high view of Kang Oh if he had won.

Because he was his right-hand man, Jegal could see right through him. Kang Oh had definitely won their duel.

It was shocking.

He couldn't even imagine someone as perfect as Dukeram losing to someone else. And a stain on the reputation of he who would become emperor of the continent couldn't be allowed.

Jegal decided to erase Kang Oh from the face of the earth no matter what.

"The elite tier. Not only that, but he has limitless growth... We'll have to prepare countermeasures for him."

He planned on using all of their resources to take him down, even if it meant delaying the conquest of the continent.

Dukeram shook his head. "That's not a good idea."

"Then?"

"We'll proceed as planned. Once we conquer the entire continent, even Kang Oh won't be a problem."

"However..." Jegal hesitated. He wanted Dukeram to remain as a perfect individual. Thus, he wanted to get rid of Kang Oh as soon as possible. He even had the power to do so.

"I lost to Kang Oh in the Sacred Duel," Dukeram suddenly said.

"Excuse me?"

It was like he'd been struck by lightning. Jegal wasn't sure if he was hearing things right.

"A Sacred Duel favors Kang Oh more than a Dual Master like me. However, I will win on the battlefield. I will not... lose again," Dukeram proclaimed.

He was no longer the One and Only God. Gods were neither defeated, nor did they have any competition.

However, this failure would make Dukeram an even greater emperor. After all, failure made one better.

"Understood." Jegal bowed his head.

"We'll begin our war of conquest on Friday the 13th. Make sure there aren't any issues."

"Yes, sir!"

"Oh, and one more thing."

"Go ahead."

"Please keep looking for Grandmaster quests."

"Excuse me?"

"Kang Oh isn't a Grandmaster yet. And if we conquer the continent, he will never become one. Then... I will become the first Grandmaster." Dukeram smiled brightly. 

The world only remembered first place. They wouldn't remember Kang Oh if he didn't become a Grandmaster first.

They would conquer the continent and destroy Kang Oh.

'I'll make it so.'

That would be his response to his defeat at Kang Oh's hands.

He paid back twice what was owed. Dukeram was the one who'd created that motto in the first place.

* * *

Before he fought Dukeram, Kang Oh had been searching for a new dungeon.

Lava Demon Eurasis's Ruins!

This dungeon was located in Mt. Helvert, the continent's most dangerous area, and had formed as a result of the Great Change!

The ruins' entrance was rectangular. It was made up of cube-shaped rocks layered atop each other like brick.

Amongst them, there was one particular brick embedded with a crystal. Kang Oh forcefully pushed it in.

Rumble!

Once he pushed the crystal in, the door opened from both sides.


[Entering the Lava Demon Eurasis's Ruins.]


Kang Oh took a step forward, and darkness consumed him.

Chirp!

Even Rudy's cries were masked by the darkness.

A short while later...

Kang Oh walked out of the darkness.

There was a crystal the size of a watermelon embedded in the ceiling. The crystal illuminated his surroundings, so he could see where he was now.

He was in the middle of a passageway filled with murals.

Kang Oh inspected the murals. It was about a specific individual.

The individual had horns on their heads, and wore hot rocks around their body like armor. Lava spilled from the openings between the rocks.

There were also individuals who fought against them.

'Dwarves?'

Dwarves were drawn on the murals. There weren't a lot of races that had such thick, short arms and legs.

Then...

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It had wide shoulders, long arms, but short legs like a giant gorilla. Its eye resembled a cat's eyes; it was as if they were made out of cut topaz. It also had menacing horns at the top of its head. 

It was as if it had come straight out of the mural.

This was the first time he'd ever seen a monster like this.

Kang Oh drew Sarahoff and Ubist, and prepared for battle.

However...!

"Move!"

All of a sudden, a hidden passageway appeared along the wall, and dwarves popped out. 

Then, they began to fight the monster. 

"What the hell is going on?"

What a strange dungeon. 

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