It was a reunion that took place after a long time. The dukes unraveled the years of misunderstandings and grudges and then returned to reality. They first mourned Duke Diworth. The mourning didn’t last long, but the shortness didn’t mean it was insincere.
Despite having little affection for each other and having different ideologies and political stances, Diworth had been a colleague who served the same imperial family. Consequently, it was natural for the dukes to mourn his death. It was just that this was an attitude derived from a minimum of justification.
The dukes didn’t feel sorrow or regret. Wasn’t it strange to feel sadness for the death of a person they didn’t know very well? The dukes operated in different territories and didn’t have much contact with each other unless they had a particularly close relationship.
It was rumored that Diworth had been addicted to alcohol every day since he was middle-aged and he was particularly violent. Additionally, it was said that it was common for him to abuse or kill his soldiers under the guise of military discipline. Diworth’s death was rather cold. It wasn’t a problem to feel regret about. They didn’t know if they should look forward to the future of the Tiphon family, which would be led by his son now.
‘It is right for those who lose their qualification to leave.’
Suddenly, Grenhal wondered what the assessment of him would be when he died. He was afraid to think about this. Morse spoke to Duke Grenhal who was making a bitter expression, “At the very least, I will cry for your death.”
“Hahat, that is very kind of you.”
The time for mourning was over. Duke Grenhal turned his gaze toward Grid. “The moment we return to the empire, we will hold a great funeral for Duke Diworth.”
Diworth might’ve threatened Grid’s life, but the dukes couldn’t compromise about this part. Since he was a duke of the empire, Diworth’s death would be paved with heroism. Grenhal wanted Grid to understand that his words contained this meaning. Understanding what Grenhal meant, Grid nodded. “The work of the empire isn’t something I should interfere with. You don’t have to tell me about it.”
“Thank you for your understanding.”
Now the situation was roughly over. It was time to discuss further exploration of the ruins. In fact, only a few hours ago, the dukes had suggested for the expedition to be discontinued. The followers who had learned six secret techniques were difficult to deal with and also appeared often. Thus, it was better to retreat before their physical strength and mental strength were exhausted. However, things had changed.
“Duke Grenhal!” 10,000 troops led by Marquis Fulbas were running toward them from afar.
“Hmm... There are too many nutrients in the soil, so the crops are rotting quickly...” Additionally, there was Piaro by their side now.
That’s right. The dukes relied on Piaro. It was a habit they had learned from the days when Piaro was the pillar of the empire. Everywhere on the continent, there were powerful people threatening the empire, and the empire had suffered from several major wars. It had been Piaro who emerged and saved the empire. His presence had helped them overcome crises and allowed the people to enjoy peace of mind, including the dukes.
In particular, Duke Grenhal had received great help and considered Piaro as a spiritual mentor. For the dukes, Piaro was such an existence. The belief that Piaro would prevent all future hardships encountered at the ruins gave courage to the dukes.
Despite this, an unexpected figure spoke like he was rebuking their attitude, “We will stop the expedition for a while.”
It was Grid.
The dukes had seen Grid’s greed from the beginning. Grid’s desire for new strength and treasure was stronger than anyone else. They had realized it the moment they witnessed the greed that appeared in his eyes when he saw the Secret Technique Box. Yet he was going to abandon his greed and stop exploring...? At this moment, the empire’s reinforcements had arrived and Piaro had been called. The exploration would be much easier than before, so it was hard to understand why the exploration should stop.
Grid explained to the somewhat puzzled dukes, “I’m worried about the great demon running wild on the continent.”
A little while ago, Grid blamed himself for causing Piaro to feel guilt. Then there was a sense of strangeness when he heard the whispers of his colleagues comforting him. Originally, wasn’t this a place where all communication and teleportation magic was blocked?
Since arriving at the Ruins of the Martial God, the whisper system hadn’t worked. Once Piaro was summoned with the permission of the martial god, this rule collapsed. He didn’t know if it was the martial god’s mistake or not but the whisper system was opened.
Lauel quickly sent whispers to the Overgeared members and heard the news in real time. There was news that Berith had just entered Fort Taleren which was the last gateway to the capital of the Haken Kingdom, and a group of people had gathered to block him. It included Kraugel, Hao, and Alexander. The Overgeared members also reported that the continent’s best spearmen, Kirinus and Rachel, were gathered at the fortress.
Once Lauel received the news, Grid became nervous. There was Zibal and the magic machine Raiders, and Grid didn’t know how much stronger Kraugel had become. Hao had taken a step forward by contracting with Grid, and while Grid didn’t like Alexander, he acknowledged Alexander’s skills. If they were joined by Rachel and Kirinus, who were at least on the level of Grenhal...
‘They might raid Berith without us.’
It couldn’t happen. The reason the Overgeared Guild turned away from the Berith raid was to save as much power as possible, not to concede Berith to others. Even if the other person was Kraugel, Grid had no intention of giving up on Berith. It was an act of neglecting his colleagues.
‘We have to take a share of it!’
Grid looked at the faces of his colleagues. As they crossed the Red Sea and explored the ruins, they had gained between two to six levels. In particular, Faker’s development was remarkable after mastering the secret technique. Yura, who had been pointed out by the martial god, seemed to gain a sense of enlightenment. Euphemina had copied skills that could be called fraudulent from the followers of the martial god.
The journey of the past month had not been in vain.
‘It is enough for now.’
Grid and Lauel had been planning a large-scale raid on Berith. They intended to mobilize the core power of the Overgeared Kingdom, from the hundreds of Overgeared members to Piaro, Mercedes, Jude, Sticks, Noll, Kasim, and Maxong. In fact, they intended to rely on everyone’s power and give them an opportunity to gain experience and levels. Now the proper growth that the key members needed to achieve in order to protect everyone was complete.
‘I achieved my first goal.’
Grid had reached level 399 and could acquire the 200,000 Army Swordsmanship. It was now the time to shift their attention. The priority of the historical site and Berith should be switched. Of course, they couldn’t just leave like this. It would be painful if the dukes got something from the historical site while they were gone.
‘Additionally, one of the Seven Dukes was killed.’
It would be sad. There shouldn’t be any more deaths if a bridge between the empire and Overgeared Kingdom was to be created. The dukes’ deaths weren’t desired. Grid suggested to the dukes, “Stop the exploration for a while and go with us to kill Berith.”
“...?” The dukes responded in an unconvinced manner. The ruins were where they could get the secret techniques of the martial god. On the other hand, Berith was only a modest villain. Was it necessary to say which one should have a higher priority? Time was limited. It was much wiser to remain here and explore the ruins than return to the continent in order to defeat Berith. The value of the ruins was far higher than the rewards from killing Berith.
“I’m also reluctant to say this but... For the empire, it is better to let Berith be more active. The more that other kingdoms receive damage from Berith, the more they will rely on the empire.” Duke Grenhal honestly stated their position.
Grid no longer thought of a way to persuade them. Then Lauel came forward. “The sense of crisis on the continent is already high enough. At this time, if the Overgeared Kingdom comes and defeats Berith, all kingdoms on the continent will praise the Overgeared Kingdom and the empire’s position will weaken.”
“You still don’t know? The reason why King Grid proposed to fight Berith together is to protect the empire’s status as our strong ally. Are you going to kick away His Majesty’s favor?” Lauel deliberately went out hard. He was somewhat forceful.
It was because he calculated that the dukes’ affinity with Grid was high after encountering Piaro. Sure enough, it worked.
“...I hear what you are saying.” Grenhal and Morse nodded. Meanwhile, Basara only made a meaningful smile. She glimpsed the pretense in Lauel’s remarks, but she didn’t reveal it. Basara calculated that it was better to cooperate with the Overgeared Kingdom in this matter in order to achieve a full friendship. There was nothing to lose, and it would be difficult to explore the ruins without the Overgeared Kingdom.
The atmosphere started to flow as intended, and Grid interjected, “Additionally, we can shorten the time it takes for us to cross the Red Sea. The great sage Sticks will arrive here in a moment and take all of us using Mass Teleport.”
“I’ve heard of the great sage’s reputation, but in principle, this is a space where teleportation magic is blocked. It is impossible even for a great sage.”
“No, not anymore. The environment has changed. Try and check using communication magic.”
The story proceeded smoothly. The dukes used communication magic to talk with their family members and confirmed it was possible. Now the group had come to the point where they would unite to defeat Berith. Marquis Fulbas and his troops were stunned by the situation unfolding in front of them.
‘Why are the dukes standing with the enemy king?’
‘The dukes seem too friendly to the Overgeared King...’
‘What the hell is going on... Heok?’
The puzzled Marquis Fulbas and the 10,000 troops looked shocked simultaneously. Grid and the dukes were in the middle of a serious conversation. Then the unidentified man squatting to the side and doing something to the soil approached Grid. They saw his identity.
It was the traitor Piaro. The responses from the 10,000 troops were varied. Those who believed Piaro wasn’t a traitor shook with joy at the return of the old hero while those who regarded Piaro as a traitor were alarmed. Of course, there were far more people in the latter group. The imperial family had declared a long time ago that Piaro was a traitor. They had charged him with the crime of rebellion and killed all of his family members. There was already such a result, so very few people believed that Piaro was actually framed.
Marquis Fulbas was one of those extremely rare people. He was a great noble and had experience building up achievements with Piaro early on. The marquis froze like a stone statue for a moment before his eyes reddened. He noticed the truth when he saw Piaro standing alongside the dukes.
“I’m relieved to see you in good health.”
“...Are your parents still well?”
“Yes, they’ve lost all their teeth, but they are healthy.”
“I believe they will live for a long time. They always opened the barn doors and took care of the people whenever there is a disaster, even if they went skinny from hunger... The people praised them as gods and believed they would be blessed and live a long and healthy life.”
“However, their bellies are fat now, unlike me who was so greedy that I sold my daughter instead of sacrificing myself.”
“If there is someone who opens the barn doors, there must be someone to fill the barn. Don’t you know that? You must’ve had a hard time.”
He was still the same. The short conversation purified the marquis. A hero wasn’t a hero for nothing. However, the marquis was in a position of a servant who shouldn’t doubt His Majesty the Emperor. Thus, Marquis Fulbas had believed the treason instead of doubting it.
“I’m sor... I’m sorry.” Marquis Fulbas lost strength in his legs and shed tears. The nobles, who had recently become distant from him because of someone’s work, also cried with him. The cracks that had just occurred started to mend again.
Huroi, disguised as Earl Baget, frowned. ‘Piaro is trolling...’
How much had Huroi struggled? Then it happened the moment when Huroi banged on his stuffy chest.
-I want to see it, the voice of Martial God Zeratul rang in Grid’s ears. -Can you safely escape from here?
‘What is he saying suddenly?’ The frustrated Grid looked around.
Just then, a group of people approached from afar. They were 100 knights armed with transparent white armor, and the atmosphere they gave off was unusual. Duke Grenhal recognized them and cried out, “Kyle! Four units of reinforcements were supposed to arrive. One of them turned out to be Kyle’s unit...!”
‘Kyle?’ Grid had an expression like he was chewing shit. Kyle was one of the Five Pillars of the empire. In the past, Grid had fought against Kyle face-to-face. If Braham and Mumud hadn’t opened up their power because of the quest at the time... Grid and Agnus would’ve died without being able to cope with Kyle’s overwhelming strength.
Kyle might be the weakest of the Five Pillars, but he was still a threat. He was different from the Seven Dukes as he hadn’t shared a past with Piaro, so he would be thoroughly hostile. The martial god gave an even bigger threat to the nervous Grid.
-He listened to me, unlike you. He acknowledged his shortcomings and climbed the path that I suggested.
-In order to leave this place, you have to beat my new follower.
[A new quest has been created!]
[Follower of the Martial God, Kyle]
One of the Five Pillars, Kyle visited the ruins under the command of the emperor.
Then he met the Martial God.
He believed that the path of martial arts proposed by the martial god was a blessing and became an ardent follower.
Fight and win against him who came running to kill you under the order of the martial god!
Quest Clear Conditions: Kyle’s death or make him flee.
Quest Clear Reward: Free access to the Ruins of the Martial God.
Quest Failure: Level -5. Remove the effect caused by the whim of the martial god (communication and teleportation magic allowed at the ruins). Interest in martial arts will increase.]
It was a level he had worked hard to raise over the past few months. He had finally reached level 399, and the 200,000 Army Swordsmanship was right in front of him. If he failed this quest, he would lose a lot of time and effort that couldn’t be replaced with money. The terrified Grid shouted at Piaro and his colleagues, “We have to stop him!”
“It is you!”
Lightning was released. The gray-haired and one-armed Kyle quickly arrived in front of Grid. Kyle emitted a strong lightning that wasn’t comparable to the past. His presence itself seemed like a natural disaster.
“You dared to ignore the favor of the martial god...! Eh?” Kyle was screaming with a scary expression when he suddenly looked amazed. He saw Grid’s face and recalled an old memory. It was the face of the Undefeated King’s Successor peeking at him from under a straw hat. He could never forget the face of the absolute person who cut off his right arm with overwhelming force.
“...I think I got the wrong person.” Kyle suddenly stepped back.
“...?” Grid was dumbfounded.
“Then I’m going now.” Kyle hurriedly left his position.
[The quest ‘Follower of the Martial God, Kyle’ has been completed!]
[In the future, you can freely access the Ruins of the Martial God!]
There was an awkward silence. Neither Grid or the Martial God could grasp the situation and were quiet for a while. It was silent for a long time when a magic circle was drawn in the air, and Great Sage Sticks appeared. Grid spoke politely to the martial god who was watching him from somewhere, “I-I’m going.”
“Uh, let’s go.”
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