<Chapter 32. Titan's Pride - 1>
[Prince Altania: Everyone else thinks you've been hiding your level all this time.]
He'd finished deploying his soldiers, but before he began hunting Metafel in earnest, Lee Shin Woo contacted Prince through the chatting channel to get a feel for what his seniors, the ones who didn't appear in the chatting channel often (especially Ethan Cruz), were doing.
[Prince Altania: It doesn't matter what I say; they don't believe that you grew that quickly. Lloyd is convinced that you were halfway through level 6 when you first got here. Like that Kratia girl.]
"Well, there's really no problem with them thinking that way..."
[Prince Altania: Moreover, you're close with that girl. They think you're both the same. Of the two, at least you're the one with manners. Apparently, they all think that you didn't want to brag in front of your seniors, so you acted like you were weak.]
"I'm glad they think of me so highly."
[Prince Altania: So what's the truth anyway?]
"What do you think, Senior?"
Lee Shin Woo countered with his own question. Prince pondered briefly and spoke.
[Prince Altania: I think it's the opposite. You were lower than level 4 when you first entered the Empire, weren't you? But you lied because you thought it looked too suspicious to be leveling up so quickly, right?]
"...As expected of you, Senior."
[Prince Altania: Humph, as I thought!]
Prince, who'd briefly seen Lee Shin Woo's unbelievable growth rate firsthand, would know. She swelled with pride at getting to the right conclusion and spoke proudly.
[Prince Altania: I saw it all! You risk your life and boldly charge forward, and when you decide to do something, you follow through, so there's no way your growth rate would be slow! Moreover, you have a growth buff skill. This was probably helpful too.]
This adorable girl tended to genuinely compliment other people when she was in a good mood. It was obvious that she'd be embarrassed later when she remembered what she had said.
[Prince Altania: But there's no helping it. Not risking your life means that you've gotten used to the Underground Empire. That's why Lloyd can't believe that you risked your life so many times and grew. He's not particularly jealous of you per se, but he simply believes that, as a hero, you're too reckless.]
"Jealous? Why would he be jealous of me?"
[Prince Altania: Ah... ah, it's nothing.]
And she also tended to say things without meaning to. Once more, Lee Shin Woo realized that he couldn't tell her his secrets, and decided to move on without focusing on what she'd just said.
"Then that's fine. Please keep training hard until we meet again. Kratia's also training really hard right now."
He was trying to provoke Prince, but it was also true. Since Kratia was taking control of all the mana in the mountain range.
[Prince Altania: Keuk, of course she is. I'll win the next time! Ah, you can't tell Lloyd what I told you, ok? Since everyone else has decided to not worry about your level from now on!]
It was funny that she actually said that they 'wouldn't worry about his level from now on'. Lee Shin Woo finished his chat with Prince and raised his head. He shared his vision with Rem and was able to clearly see where his forces were moving, as well as where the enemy forces were wandering around.
"These guys really are lost. At this rate, they'll actually go outside."
"What do we do if they do leave?"
"Ah, they can't. You see, if they lose track of the flow of mana, then they'll never be able to get out of this mountain range."
Jin pledged that he wouldn't leave Lee Shin Woo's side, and ran across the steep hill. It was all covered with ice, so it was slippery, but Jin used his Steel Heart skill to create Eisen.  He didn't have any problems running, as the iron tool he'd created at the bottom of his feet kept him from slipping.
"But it's really quiet. I can't believe there are thousands of undead following us in these mountains."
"The Giants are engaged in battle. The Chi Pauls are as well. Shino Rendu's really scary. He broke off a cliff to annihilate two corps and is moving on to the next point."
From an outside view, mother nature was silent, but beyond, there was a fierce battle underway even now. Was this also because of the mana? It was, to be honest.
As the space expanded, several places in the mountain range were blocked off, so it was difficult to communicate here, and it was especially difficult to command a huge army like Metafel's.
It would've been difficult for Lee Shin Woo as well, had it not been for his Darkness mana and its resulting links. And if it weren't for him stealing Metafel's magical device (which had split into six pieces), then this operation would've been impossible.
"Chi Paul, just go straight. They're behind that small forest. There's a level 7 elite there. You know that this task is really important, right? The Erem corps will attack from behind simultaneously. Kill them together. If you can kill a level 7 elite, then the strength of their army will lessen."
"Shino, you're charging too fast. If you go that fast, you'll lose valuable troops. For now, just make sure you collect all the loot. There's a squad at 7 o'clock, so kill them and then come back. Remember, you're still weaker than Metafel. Take your time with your revenge; it won't be too late."
[Keuk... I understand.]
Lee Shin Woo ordered his troops whilst riding atop Jin, and watched the Giants carefully, as he couldn't relay his orders to them directly.
The level 5 Giants would draw the enemies' attention, and the level 6 Giants would be responsible for the actual hunting. He knew that their strength may not be sufficient, so he had stationed the level 7 Giants on standby just in case. Lee Shin Woo was looking after them so meticulously that the Giants didn't really sustain many casualties.
[Kuwaaaaaaaaah! How dare you covet the land of the Giants, you lowly humans!]
[How dare you! I'll show you that our fury hasn't waned in the least!]
The Giants reacted to the Imperial Army particularly violently and engaged in battle. While it wasn't difficult for them to overcome their foes, it was difficult to get them to retreat at the right times.
"You've already killed them all! Direct your anger at the Imperial troops over there!"
[Ah, Paul Zero...!]
[Ah, is that so? I got it!]
"Hoo, they're being pushed back over there. Jin, run towards 3 o'clock!"
Lee Shin Woo had to even account for insubordination and somewhat regretted bringing the Giants into the fold (under his command). He moved again and again. His nonexistent eyes surveyed the battlefield and he commanded his troops.
[Kuhahk!? T-The Giants have attacked first...!]
[Reinforcements... Request for reinforcements! General Metafel!]
Were his efforts finally paying off? The enemy forces hadn't realized that they were being attacked, as the Paul Zero Corps, as well as the Giants had been attacking them for three hours now.
But in the midst of that, Lee Shin Woo discovered a bizarre phenomenon, which made him feel uneasy. The undead, which had been wandering around the mountain range, had at some point, begun moving in a more organized fashion.
'As expected... The troops spread out across the mountain range are getting closer and closer to Metafel. What kind of cheat skill is this? They're moving faster than privates being ordered around by their superior.'
Lee Shin Woo couldn't figure out what Metafel's ability was. He would be in trouble if he hadn't asked Kratia for help, in case of a situation like this.
[Kratia Melloi: Shin Woo, this is really boring.]
"It's the most important job, so I'm counting on you."
What was Kratia's job? Her ability to control cold air, which had been amplified to its very limit...
[Keuk... Damn it. Since when did this glacial mountain become so cold?]
[General, the wind's somewhat weak here. Please command the troops to go this way...!]
She dispersed her mana far and wide, and by controlling the cold air, Kratia made it so that Metafel's guards couldn't command the main force while keeping them from finding the right path. She had to stop Metafel from personally commanding his troops at all costs!
[Kratia Melloi: I'd rather fight.]
"If you think you can kill him with your magic, then by all means."
[Kratia Melloi: ...It'd be a bit tough.]
Kratia said honestly. That's because Kratia was well aware of the arcane magic artifact that Metafel wore. Despite her cold air being high rank and a high level, all she could do was hamper his movements a little bit.
Of course, if Kratia's arcane magic actually hit Metafel, then she would have a chance, but he'd counterattack before she had the chance.
[Kratia Melloi: How is it on your end?]
"I did my best, but... It seems like I won't be able to stop the current. I feel like we should just collect the loot while we still have the chance before they regroup. If you feel like you're at your limit, then retreat to a different location and then come back."
[Kratia Melloi: Ok.]
It seemed like Kratia's mood livened up a bit, as he'd essentially given her permission to go wild. Lee Shin Woo finished chatting with her and began moving once more.
There was a setback in his plan because of Metafel's strange morale ability, but in any case, since his strategy had succeeded, he cut down their force of 50,000 by at least 10,000. He'd have to be satisfied with this for now.
"Go back to your territory. Treat your comrades who've been hurt there."
[I got it.]
The Giants' domain, Perlin Elta, was the most heterogeneous space at the center of the mountain range. The level 5 Giant who'd guided him into the village seemed a bit stronger than before, and it wasn't Lee Shin Woo just seeing things.
The bizarre mana that flowed through the entirety of Perlin Elta invigorated the Giants and healed their wounds as well. In more extreme terms, it could be said that their 'existences' would briefly ascend. The reason behind that was easy to ascertain. It was the doing of the frozen Titan's Heart.
'So I'm sure that the Titan's Heart affects the Giant Tribe. But what exactly is it?'
It was bad enough that he had to take on Metafel, but he'd have to study the Titan's Heart as well. Lee Shin Woo smiled bitterly and moved his body.
He'd ordered the Giants to return to Perlin Elta, where their wounds would be healed in the nick of time, so now it was time to take care of his own troops.
"Shino, stop right there! I already have the Giants to worry about for insubordination."
[Keuk, I found traces of another squad while we were returning, so... I'm sorry. We'll return immediately.]
"Good. But it's good that you had the foresight to prepare for an enemy attack and keep the injured safe beforehand. Go back and rest."
First, he would directly order his troops, which were difficult to command, to return. Then, he found the Chi Paul corps, as well as the Erem corps, which were both fighting against the level 7 elite.
Fortunately, they had prioritized safety above all else, so they hadn't sustained many casualties. However, they hadn't succeeded in taking down the level 7 elite yet. Then again, it wouldn't be that easy to take down one of the Imperial Army's level 7 elites.
[Who's commanding you two...! You're not on the same side as that strange guy that appeared yesterday, are you!?]
[Ha, strange guy? You really are a poor judge of character. Then again, your eyes are rotten.]
Lee Shin Woo looked down at the battlefield from a slightly higher area. The Chi Pauls and the Erems were ripping the enemy forces apart, and in the center, the level 7 Chi Paul was fighting against the level 7 elite Corps Commander by itself. It was that guy, the one Lee Shin Woo had met for the first time when he was with Metafel yesterday!
Lee Shin Woo and Jin fell, and the level 7 elite, who was clashing blades with Chi Paul, was unable to resist Lee Shin Woo's 'greeting' and got swept away. Because he'd simultaneously activated both Lightning Sprint and Lightning Shadow, it seemed as though a lightning bolt had fallen from the sky!
[T-This is... the Lightning Shadow General's...?]
"I'll let you see the Lightning Shadow General soon, so stay right there! Ground Lightning!"
Dozens of lightning bolts came from the icy ground and attacked. Even though it was flustered, the level 7 elite managed to dodge the lightning, but Chi Paul, who was holding a giant greatsword that resembled a sharp saw blade, was waiting from behind it.
[Now do you realize how rotten your eyes were?]
[Kuhahk!? If you're truly a knight, then you wouldn't do something as cowardly as...]
Chi Paul didn't listen to it. Lee Shin Woo was the same. Chi Paul had been formed from the fusion of countless knights' souls, so there were no gaps in its sword technique. While defending against Chi Paul's attack, it lost its weapon, and a Breath of the Lightning God fell upon its head once more.
The lightning and the sharp blade immediately broke through its helmet and burrowed into its skull. At that moment, the Corps Commander realized that there was no way it could escape alive.
"Yeah, I'll send him to you soon."
Lee Shin Woo replied with disinterest and exploded the sword burrowed in its body. His skills in handling mana were so great now that even if he exploded the sword right before him, the resulting explosion wouldn't damage him or his allies in the least.
[You have acquired 6,196,550 Perium.]
[You have acquired the Lv7 Ghoul Knight Leader's jawbone.]
Lee Shin Woo snatched the loot and placed it atop Chi Paul's shoulder, who was just starting to straighten himself out and stand up. He was going to use Bone Reinforcement on him.
"This is for you."
[But I didn't take him down by myself...!]
"So after you absorb this, you'll be able to take down a guy like that by yourself next time. Right?"
[...Yes, no matter what!]
Jin watched their exchange and thought that if this were a game, he would've seen a message like [Loyalty + 500] or something. Lee Shin Woo probably just did it because he thought it would've been more efficient to let Chi Paul absorb it than himself!
[Thank you very much, Paul Zero. I feel like I've gotten a lot stronger!]
"Good. If that's the case, then come with me and return. We'll move on to the next battle after everyone's been healed."
After he'd succeeded in his ambush, Lee Shin Woo led his troops and returned to base. Some of the giants had been slain, but none of his own troops; it seemed like his troops' tough undead bodies were helpful, as they were all healed within a few hours.
At the last minute, Kratia had cast widespread ice magic that crumbled the entire mountain and had returned with a refreshed expression. With her help, they had cut down Metafel's forces by 13,000 (including the death of one level 7 elite).
It was a perfect victory.
 E/N: German for Iron, I assume iron calkins or cleats for horses.Previous Chapter Next Chapter