<Chapter 41. The Second Advent of the Sun God - 4>
Lee Shin Woo reaffirmed that a level 8 dungeon was indeed amazing. Since the dungeon was still standing, despite those giant monsters twisting their bodies around and shaking the ground, the ceiling, and the walls!
The ground was especially impressive. These bugs, which possessed extraordinary strength, all groaned in agony, yet they couldn't escape the floor; this was no longer a Cradle of Fire, but a prison.
Whenever the monsters (covered in dark flames and being several meters tall) collided with one another, their black bone armor... no, their black armor would break and fly in every which direction. When their dark flames clashed, they would eat each other and disappear.
If it were a one-on-one battle, then the Dark Flame Ghost, which had eaten the Fire Dragon's Scale Greatsword (in other words, the one Lee Shin Woo was controlling), would be in the lead, but it was fighting two against one right now. Neither side got any sort of lead; their dark flames simply crashed against each other again and again and disappeared. This may not have been Lee Shin Woo's intent, but either way, it was a complete stalemate.
"Good. I've gotten a lot better at controlling bone, so..."
It would be nice if he could focus all his attention on studying the dark flame, but he had something he needed to do beforehand. He needed to collect the non-undead Dark Flame Ghost's, or rather the Desert Ghost's loot! Three level 8 elites had come rushing out after he'd beaten the Desert Ghost, so he hadn't had the opportunity before.
He immediately checked the loot. He'd acquired the Desert Ghost's head armor (in other words, the exoskeleton that enclosed its head), as well as a Flame Wind Bone Core.
"My stats are at 12,564 right now... I need 236 more to level up. Will I level up if I absorb the exoskeleton and the bone core? Still..."
As its name implied, Lee Shin Woo felt a powerful energy consisting of both flame and wind from it. Of course, since it was now bone, he could absorb it.
But there was a reason he hesitated. It seemed to have high compatibility with the Titan Bone Core. He felt as though it could increase the Titan Bone Core's maximum capacity. In other words, the amount of time he'd be able to use the Titan Bone Golem. Furthermore, it should also increase the golem's performance as well.
'...Then, I'll save this for later. If I don't level up, then I'll use it.'
It couldn't be helped; Lee Shin Woo absorbed the Desert Ghost's head exoskeleton. Though not as much as the Flame Wind Core Bone, the exoskeleton retained a large volume of flames; the flames instantaneously spread throughout Lee Shin Woo's body.
[You have absorbed the Lv8 Elite Desert Ghost's Head Exoskeleton. Strength has increased by 10, Health by 50, and Magic by 60. High Rank Fire has become Lv6, and High Rank Fire Resistance has become Lv5. Magic has increased by 40.]
[Kugeugeuk. Gyaahk...! (I can't... escape from here!) - Desert Ghost]
"Only 76 more stats until I level up... Huh? ...Huh!?"
Once he was finished with the Bone Reinforcement, his body shook. Was it due to the sudden rise of his stats? Of course not. He was used to the feeling of his stats rising so sharply. He was just deep inside the Desert Ghost's memories, feeling the depths of its fear and despair.
It was only after he finished going through its memories that he understood why they (the Dark Desert Ghosts) couldn't leave the floor.
"Those guys... They're trapped in a barrier."
"Yeah. They're animals, not trees; they can't live in the ground. It wasn't their original ecosystem."
They weren't born to live like this. Their original names hadn't even been 'Desert Ghost'. They were incredibly rare, parasitic insect monsters that originated from the Mantis Forest. Of course, they were very powerful for parasites, but they were only about level 5 before.
However, their species had a unique trait... if even a portion of their body came into contact with something, they would be able to absorb their power, no matter what it was. They were captured because of the 'no matter what it was' part, and were then trapped inside a barrier and forced to live here along with the ones that would become their 'host'.
Although they couldn't move properly, they continually sucked power and mana from their host. They continued this for hundreds of years. These parasites, which had once been level 5, had suffered so many years to become level 8 elites.
"Level 5 monsters becoming level 8 elites..."
"Yeah. That just goes to show how impressive their host is."
"So their host is down below, huh. Then can't we just let them be and just leave!?"
"I'd like to, but..."
The one who'd put the parasites into this position probably didn't do this to torment them, but to weaken their would-be host. Their barriers were also meant to disallow the parasites' host from escaping.
The exact function of the barrier was... to 'disallow any living being from escaping'. Lee Shin Woo was quite familiar with that type of barrier.
"In other words, this barrier was created by the Magic Emperor. The Emperor from hundreds of years ago. He may even be the Crown Prince who chased out the 2nd prince. He could also be a past or future generation too."
"Then is this a passageway that connects to the underground?"
"If we were to force our way through, then yeah, we'd probably get to the Underground Empire, but it's not an official passageway. If the Underground Empire's at the very bottom, then there's a stratum above it, and the dungeon's underground is above that... The undead curse gradually moved up and managed to affect the underground part of this dungeon."
The barrier here and the barrier in the Underground Empire were strangely different. Not only was its purpose different, but its function was different as well. Since the barrier was created for the sole purpose of trapping the parasites' host.
If that's the case, then why did they waste time and set up a new barrier? The answer was quite simple. The Magic Emperor wasn't powerful enough to move these monsters into the Underground Empire. It seemed like these monsters had originally lived here, and they'd never left ever since.
"They left a bomb right next to the capital."
"On the contrary, they did it because it was close to the capital."
That bastard (the Magic Emperor) was afraid that these parasites would harm his Empire, so he'd left them here and cast a barrier to prevent them from leaving.
In exchange for its limited scope, the barrier was much more powerful than the Underground Empire's barrier. The most representative feature of this barrier was that 'the one trapped within the barrier cannot move'.
However, the parasites were already connected to their host, so even if they couldn't move, they could still suck them dry. The Emperor had probably set it up that way.
"Wait a sec. The fact that they're moving so much now, when they're not supposed to be able to means..."
"Yep. They were able to escape the barrier by becoming undead."
While its main feature was to prevent the living from escaping, it had several other functions as well, so the parasites couldn't leave immediately, even after becoming undead. However, they had cleared the most limiting condition. If Lee Shin Woo hadn't come here, then the barrier would've broken before long.
'Why was the first one we took down not undead...?' he wondered. This was just a hypothesis, but perhaps the barrier had loosened as the undead versions rampaged about, allowing the still living bugs to escape as well.
"...Then, Shin Woo. What if the host has turned undead as well?"
"Mm... Yeah. If they've become undead as well, then they'll be able to break through that barrier soon."
Jin asked, and Lee Shin Woo smiled and agreed. Then, he sighed and gazed at the distant Dark Flame Ghosts, while adding something disturbing.
"They may be sucking their host's strength, but the host's level remains the same. If all goes well, then as they become undead, they may regain a portion of the powers they've lost. Plus, if these guys rampage on the surface, then the undead curse will begin to spread across the Magic Empire in earnest. At that time, the Emperor will have no choice but to intervene personally."
"The situation's this bad, yet the Emperor's not doing anything. What do you think he's doing?"
"I wonder. I want to know too."
Either the previous Emperor's transition of power didn't go smoothly, so the current Emperor didn't know the current state of affairs regarding the dungeon, or... No, no matter how stupid he was, there's no way he could not know. The 12 generals are still managing the dungeon, so he knew about the danger it presented.
But he was bothered by how passive the Emperor's approach to the problem was. It was possible that his subordinates had reported that the threat of the trapped monsters had gone down. He might even think the same regarding the undead curse, that it wasn't a big deal.
'But it pisses me off that this is all just an assumption. As I thought, I have to see the Emperor in person.'
Then, what would he need to do to see the Emperor on short notice? His solution was quite simple. If he killed all of the monsters trapped here, then they would have to summon him to the palace! Honestly, he didn't really have any other choice.
"If we don't kill them here and now, then the surface will be ruined. It'd be nice if they hurt some of the Emperor's forces, but the innocent civilians would be hurt the most."
"I have no idea whether you're a nice guy or an evil bastard. You say you want to save the innocent, but there are probably some innocent people in the Emperor's forces as well."
"But they're prepared to die as part of the military. Moreover, I don't really care whether I'm called a good guy or not. We've settled everything and come to the surface, but I don't want to live in a place where all that exists are the undead."
He wasn't going to be hypocritical. Lee Shin Woo spoke and then looked over the bugs. Their black armor was in tatters, but the binding power was still as strong as ever. To be exact, their health and magic had decreased enough that the reduced binding power of their armor was enough.
Lee Shin Woo explained the situation to Jin and organized his thoughts; meanwhile the bugs continued to fight desperately. His analysis of the dark flame continued to increase.
'As I thought, the dark flame can't be created just because you have both the fire and darkness element. Because they originally had the ability to absorb energy, they were able to fuse the fire and darkness elements and create this new element.'
In other words, whether it was acquired or an innate ability, a fusion element required a 'seed' of power that befitted the fusion element; only by having that could one create a fusion element. This information was incredibly important to Lee Shin Woo.
And what conclusion did he come to?
"Dark flames... If all goes well, I might be able to make them too."
"Heok!? That monstrous ability!? Plus, that name's kind of childish."
"I can't do anything about that..."
He possessed the Bone Reinforcement ability and Absorption abilities, so he already had the seed. Moreover, he'd already experienced the real thing. The feelings relayed by the bone armor were so clear that he felt like his body would be sucked into the dark flames.
'Could I fuse other elements as well? I'd like to acquire them before I fight that guy hidden inside... In any case, I have to focus on the dark flame.'
He thought distressingly, but created darkness and fire in each hand nonetheless. While the pitiful bugs continued to fight amongst each other, Lee Shin Woo thought deeply, bringing all his abilities to the surface and focusing on learning a new element.
[The High Rank Mana Bone skill has become Lv6. Magic has increased by 30.]
[The Mana Acceleration skill have become Lv6. Magic has increased by 10.]
While doing so, he became self-aware.
That he was close to level 8, the realm of dominating magic.Previous Chapter Next Chapter