Chapter 156

Zich struck down an armored gauntlet with Windur. It fell off from the impact, but the armor didn’t stop moving. It stretched out its empty arm towards Zich, and the severed gauntlet flopped on the ground like a fish out of water. Hans, Snoc, and Lyla scowled at the sight. However, Zich swung his Windur again indifferently.

Slice!

An armored hand fell off this time. Its wrist and fingers moved and convulsed as if it were trying to attack Zich individually. Simultaneously, other armored figures rushed towards Zich, and he swung his sword at them. Two armors were flung away, but they all continued to move even after they were sliced apart. This time, however, Zich sliced the joints on their fingers.

Thud!

As the armors joints were ripped apart, the digits of their fingers fell to the ground and stopped moving. Zich moved quickly to break apart the joints of all the fingers and crushed even the wrists that were folding and unfolding repeatedly. Soon, all movements ceased.

Zich stared at his companions and saw that they were fighting the armored figures in their own individual ways. Like Zich, Hans was piercing the armors with his sword and experimenting on how he could stop their movements. Snoc was trapping the armors inside the earth and crushing them from below, while Lyla was freezing all the armors and watching their responses. Finally, Leona watched all of this with a dumbfounded look on her face.

‘She really doesn’t know anything.’

Zich’s companions were probably the strange ones since they followed his order to research methods of killing the armors immediately, even as the armored figures moved by an unknowable, powerful force; but Zich concluded that Leona was the innocent one, since he thought his three companions were demonstrating a normal response. Zich struck an immobilized part of an armored figure, launching it at his companions.

“Break their joints. They'll stop moving then.”

Slice!

Hans moved as soon as he heard Zich’s words. Estellade quickly whirled around in a blinding light. Hans sliced an armored figure and pressed his sword against its every joint. In an instant, one armored figure completely stopped moving.

In comparison, Snoc’s attacks were simple.

Crunch! Cruuunch!

If the armored figures could feel pain and let out sounds, chilling screams would have probably echoed under the earth.

Slid.

The ground trembled and threw up what it had swallowed. Pieces of broken and squashed armors rose out of the surface. But because they hadn’t been ground into dust, a couple of joints survived and kept moving.

Crunch!

Boulders flew onto the surviving pieces and crushed them. But by far, Lyla’s attacks were the most violent. After she froze the armors into place, she cast her spell for the next attack.

Craaash!

Red fire encompassed the frozen armors. It melted the frost in an instant and rose in temperature at an alarming rate.

Clank!

The frozen armored figures broke free and began to move again. They tried to run towards Lyla, but after a couple of steps, they fell to the ground.

Lyla tilted her head and said, “They fell down more easily than I thought.” Then, she canceled her incantation.

Leona continued to stare at all of this with a dumbfounded look on her face. Zich and his companions had helped her in many ways, but she had never thought they were so strong.

‘I-I should also…!’ Leona hurriedly nocked an arrow onto her bow and thought, ‘The joints!’

The metal armors didn’t have as many joints as an actual living being, but they were strong enough to withstand most ordinary arrows. However, Leona also didn’t intend to waste her arrows unnecessarily.

Pop! Pop!

Two arrows blew away both joints in an armored figure’s knees.

Crash!

The armored figure rolled onto the ground, but it began to drag its body forward with its arm. Yet, Leona didn’t even glance at it and pierced the legs of other armored figures. Three armored figures sprawled to the ground. They continued to move, but they were mostly immobilized.

Stomp! Stomp!

Leona walked up to them.

Whoosh!

One of the armored figures swung its sword at Leona, but she easily evaded it.

Sling!

An arrow crushed the joints in its armored arm.

Slililililing!

An array of arrows shot through the arm’s joints perfectly, and the arm completely broke off in an instant.

Clank!

The armored figure tried to grasp Leona with its other hand, but Leona evaded it easily again and picked up the arrows stuck on the ground. Since she had fired them from up close while the armors were on the ground, it was easy for her to retrieve the arrows. Then, Leona pulled back her bowstring again.

Slilililing!

Arrows shot down like a rainstorm, and the armor’s other arm also cracked.

Creak! Creaak!

All it could move were its hip and neck joints now.

Stomp!

Leona stepped on the armored figure that wriggled like a bug, and shot her arrows towards its last remaining joint.

Drop!

As its helmet rolled off, the armored figure’s movements completely stilled. After retrieving all the arrows from the ground, Leona checked the remaining figures. There were still two armored feet and two armored bodies wriggling. Leona nocked an arrow onto her bow again and stomped towards these pieces. It didn’t take long for the rest of them to completely fall into pieces. When Leona broke the last joint, there wasn’t a single armored figure left moving.

*     *    *

“What is this?” Leona asked while searching through the armor she had crushed. “Is this common in the human world?”

“Not at all. The human world isn’t that wild,” Zich said, refraining from adding, ‘…Yet’.

“Somebody probably sent them after hearing that we were looking for a treasure.”

“Are they golems like Lyla said?” After having stayed with them for quite a long time, Leona called out Lyla’s name freely.

“That’s probably not it. They don’t have any trace of magic. Besides, even though golems don’t die easily, they don’t move individual parts separately like that. They normally die when you crack their core, and any parts that break off from the core stop moving, Zich explained.

“Then what are they?”

“I don’t really know,” Zich replied.

Lyla looked down at the pieces of armor sprawled on the ground.

“Let’s go. Even if we keep staring at it, I don’t think we’re going to find a satisfactory answer,” Zich said.

Lyla and Leona stopped staring at the pieces and nodded in response.

“Should I try taking one?” Leona picked up one piece of the armor. 

However, Zich stopped her. “Ms. Leona, we can’t just take stuff we don’t know much about. Moreover, we have more important matters to deal with, right?”

“Ah, yeah.” Leona threw the pieces back down. Then she hummed while thinking of finding treasure, taking her place in front of the group.

They began moving towards their destination again. Zich also put Windur on his back again and followed the rest of his group. Then, he slightly raised his head and stared at the scattered pieces on the ground. He saw something shine among the fragments. 

However, he showed no special reaction except a slight smile and followed the rest of his companions. Like this, they left the pieces of metal, which had once been armor, scattered all over the ground.

*    *    *

Lyla asked Zich, “Golden Castle?” 

“Yes. Demon Person ‘Golden Castle Wips Midas’. I’m sure it’s him.”

While tending the bonfire in front of him with a stick, Zich replied to Lyla’s question. It was deep into the night, and Zich and his companions were camping outside. As soon as they had moved off the path, they began running at an extremely fast pace, so they had traveled way further than a normal person could. Hans and Snoc had left to catch dinner, and Leona also disappeared after saying that she would bring something delicious. 

The only people who were left at the camp were Zich and Lyla, so he decided to talk to Lyla about Midas.

“Is he in your memories?” Zich asked.

“Hmmm, he’s not in my memories.” Lyla shook her head. “Well, even from a glance, he looks like an annoying bastard.”

“You judged well. Just by knowing that, you know 90% of what there is to know about him.” Zich laughed out loud. “As his nickname indicates, he tries to fix all of his problems with money. Even in the Era of Demon People filled with violence and savagery, gold was still used as a currency. With his gold, he was able to maintain an enormous amount of power.”

Before Zich’s regression, Midas had even appeased other Demon People like himself with money.

“He’s the type of person who thinks everything can be solved with gold.”

“Now I understand. It’s not strange for guys like him to ride around in a carriage like that.” Lyla visualized the golden carriage that seemed to be void of all common sense in her mind. “But can you be called a Demon Person with just wealth? During the Era of Demon People, if you didn’t have strength, you would have everything taken away.”

“Of course he had basic fighting abilities. He didn’t receive the title of ‘Demon Person Golden Castle’ for no reason.”

Even though Golden Castle was a cringeworthy name, there was no other name that could explain him as well.

“He’s an alchemist,” Zich said. An alchemist could turn low-level or worthless metals into gold.

“That’s how he became so rich.” Lyla accepted Zich’s explanation.

“His ability to change metals into gold is an impressive ability, but it’s not his only ability,” Zich recalled Midas’ carriage. Even though it was made completely out of gold, the carriage still functioned as a normal carriage. “Out of all the gold he makes, he can exercise complete dominance over any ‘special’ gold he creates.”

Dominance. It was an abstract word. If used on a person, it would mean that Midas could exert his will on that person; if used on an inanimate object, it would mean that he could exert his ownership of that object. However, Zich didn’t seem to be using the word ‘dominance’ in those contexts.

“What kind of dominance?”

“He can control his gold however he wants, and even change its shape or strength. Basically, he has perfect control over his gold.”

“That’s impressive.”

“In his prime, he was even more amazing. His title, Golden Castle, isn’t a metaphor; during the Era of the Demon People, he really did have a castle made out of gold.”

According to eyewitnesses who had seen the castle, when the sun came up, the whole castle reflected the sun’s rays, making it look even grander.

“The castle was his fortress. It was said that his castle was so tough that it was difficult to think that it was made out of gold, and all attacks bounced off its walls. Moreover, with his powers, the whole castle moved according to Midas’ will and changed shape accordingly to fight his enemies. I heard it was a very shocking sight to see the whole castle move and transform like that.”

A terrifying fortress that moved around its surroundings—that was the Golden Castle, and the reason for Wips Midas’ nickname.

“Was he the one who sent us those armored guys? Ah, no. The armor was definitely made out of iron.”

“No, it really was made out of iron, but there was gold-inlaid between the joints of the armor.”

“Then he controlled those guys by moving their joints?”

“Yep.”

“…Will it be all right?” Lyla asked Zich with concern in her voice.

“What do you mean?”

“That kind of guy is after us right now. Based on your words, aren’t we in a really dangerous situation? Thinking about it, you also said he suddenly handed Leona a gold bar. Was that gold bar actually to spy on us?”

“You’ve gotten more perceptive.”

 Zich smirked; this was the reason why he had stopped Leona from taking a piece of the armor. “But there’s no need to worry about it too much. What I said was in the future. It’s very unlikely that he would have that kind of power right now. If he did, then there’s no way we would have heard about him only recently, since he would have been causing chaos wherever he goes. I also have another reason why I think this. But on another note, Lyla, you must have forgotten this one fact.”

Zich stared Lyla in the eye and said confidently, “During that time, I was way more impressive than that guy.” 

“…Yeah, sure.” Lyla was amazed at Zich’s shamelessness. 

*   *   *

It was exactly ten days since Zich and his companions had begun moving. They reached an enormous mountain covered with dense vegetation. Of course, the distance they covered was not possible for ordinary people to cover in ten days. A gigantic waterfall appeared in front of them. It let out hazy mist all around its surroundings and poured great streams of water into a pool in the ground.

It was a mysterious, majestic, and magnificent sight. While his companions were enamored by the breathless sight in front of them, Zich pointed directly at the area behind the waterfall, saying, “That’s our destination.”

A hidden and unknown place with huge amounts of treasure was in front of them.

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