Chapter 28

Lubella felt as if the sky was collapsing on top of her.

She almost fell from suddenly losing strength in her legs. She could barely maintain her balance, and she couldn’t stop her body from shaking.

“Why? But wasn’t the ritual’s strength definitely weakening? And weren’t the numbers of the undead also decreasing?”

“Ah, that’s because I manipulated the surroundings to make it appear that way. I wanted to trick you guys into thinking that the ritual was weakening. How was it? Didn’t I do a good job?”

“You c-controlled it in that…!”

“Yes, I was in control the whole time.” 

Grotim winked at Lubella. 

“When the ritual is finished, I can control the undead without limits. I thought pretty hard about how I could convince you both that the ritual was slowly weakening. In a way, this might be my life’s masterpiece. Seeing how both of you have been tricked so thoroughly, I’m beyond delighted by how well everything has turned out.”

Snap!

Grotim snapped his fingers.

Swoosh! Swoosh!

Something under the lake began to come out in bursts. Soonundead creatures and monsters spread out all over the place and began to surround Zich and Lubella. All of them were powerful, high-level undead creatures and monsters. Lubella couldn’t even react in shock and helplessly watched the undead creatures and monsters surround her and Zich. Her mouth moved, but no sound came out.

“As you can see, I can summon the undead and monsters with no problems.”

The undead creatures and monsters began to advance past the surrounding areas, and Lubella shouted in shock“Are you going to attack the citizens…!”

“Ah, you don’t have to worry. I’m not planning to do that just yet. I’m just sending them further off to expand the surrounding areas. I’m being extra cautious because both of you escaped from me last time.”

Grotim scratched his chin.

“But if you guys try to resist, I might become so surprised that my minions might become too excited.”

As soon as he said this, they heard shouts and screams of people surprised to see the undead creatures and monsters. However, it seemed like Grotim was telling them the truth. For now, the undead creatures and monsters were really just acting as guards to surround them. Lubella breathed a sigh of reliefseeing that there was no human casualty so far; however, she knew the situation could change at any moment.

Looking at the numerous monsters and undead creatures all around her, Lubella shifted her attention back to Zich. While holding his sword, Zich was on guard.

“…What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You told me that what we did would successfully weaken the ritual!”

“Ah, I think I can reply to that question.” Grotim intervened and began talking“From my investigation, it seems like you tried to interrupt the ritual by drawing weird pictures on the statues. You thought the life force embedded into the statue went directly underwater, and the central statue over there controlled everything. That man next to you spouted nonsense that the ritual could be reversed. But as a faithful follower of the great Bellu, I can assure you that there is no way to stop the ritual!”

Grotim’s words completely shattered Lubella’s hopes.

In addition, did he also say that he knew how to return people’s life force to their original bodies? As a Karuwiman, you should have known that it’s impossible. I can’t believe you believed in that man’s ridiculous words.”

According to Grotim, it was impossible to heal Timmy’s younger brother. Lubella grew despondent while thinking of the child’s skeletal body.

“When I first saw those ridiculous drawings on the statues, I had a very good laugh. Did you seriously think that those drawings could be a magic circle? You are much too naïve. Or did you desperately cling to the only solution in front of you while turning away from reality? If that is what happened, I pity you soooo much. Well, I guess even if it sounded like a joke, you must have wanted to believe in that man’s words.”

Grotim gave Zich a look of complete reassurance over his victory. On the other hand, Zich did not respond to him at all.

“…Then, are you saying that you can carry out the ritual right now?”

“Yeah. Everything is ready.”

“Then why did you even waste your time, tricking us into thinking that we were successfully interrupting the ritual!”

“That’s because of youAine Lubella.”

“…Because of me?”

“The Karuwiman Saint Candidate. You are a satisfactory—no, an extraordinary spoil from this master plan. How can I stand still when such a prized possession is in front of me? I have to take you aside and put you in our order.”

Grotim crossed his arms.

“When you first came to the Mayor’s mansion, I was actually overjoyed. I thought Bellu’s will was gracing upon me. But as expected of a vile follower of the God Karuna, you managed to escape from my hands.”

For the first time, his voice expressed clear displeasure.

“When I first tried to capture you, I failed because of the Holy Knights. The second time, I failed because that punk next to you damaged the Key. Honestly, when that man next to you said that he would escape right in front of me, I felt all the energy in my body leave because I thought I would never have another chance to catch you again. But then, he said a very funny thing afterwards.”

At that time, Zich’s words had sounded very foolish to Grotim, but they made him feel hopeful again.

“He said that he knew how to interrupt the ritual and that you’d come back to destroy the main statue.”

When Zich said this, Grotim’s head filled with hope again as he thought that he had another chance to capture Lubella.

“I planned so that both of you would think that you were successfully blocking the ritual and appear in front of me again. Was it not strange? Wasn’t it odd finding the statues so easily when both of you had no idea where they were?

Lubella also thought it was strange. She had quelled down her suspicions by thinking that it was because of how great Zich’s abilities were. But thinking back on it, they found the statues too quickly in such a short amount of time with no clue about their locations.

“In order for you to find the statues easily, I employed many soldiers to guard them. Without knowing that I was leading you on, you did a good job falling right into my trap.”

“…Then you had no plans to stop us in the first place.”

Even if I had ordered my soldiers to capture you, they wouldn’t have been able to find you anyways. And why would I have to do such a useless thing when you two will appear in front of me at the time I want you to do? That’s why I even purposely posted a sloppy drawing of that man so that you two could have an easier time moving around.”

It was like they had been playing in the palm of his hands the whole time.

“But don’t get too disappointed. Because of you, I didn’t employ the ritual right away, and you were able to extend the lives of Porti’s citizens for a few more days. With this, you have done your share.”

“What would have happened if we hadn't come to you?”

“Then it couldn’t have been helped. I would have started the ritual even though you might be swept into it. We were also in a time crunch. We have to finish everything before the Kingdom or Karuwiman begins to interfere with our plans.”

Grotim made a giant smile after he finished talking.

“Did I satisfy your curiosity? I wanted you to come back here because I’m about to execute the ritual. I can’t let you get swept up in it after all the work I put in.”

“That’s why you destroyed the building because it doesn’t matter anymore if you are caught.”

“Yes. It doesn’t matter anyway because everyone in Porti will become our faithful soldiers soon. We don’t have to try anymore.” 

Lubella closed her eyes for a moment. All sorts of emotions and regrets stirred in her mind. However, when she opened her eyes again, Grotim was impressed by the look in her eyes.

“Should I have expected this from a Karuwiman Saint Candidate? In that short amount of time, you calmed yourself down.”

“It’s from all the surprises you planned for me. Thanks to you, I think I was able to maximize my experiences, which was the purpose of this trip.”

“No matter how many experiences they gain, there are a lot of folks who never grow mentally or physically. You certainly might have been the next Saint. It’s really all the better for us. All your work has been meaningless.”

“You never know until the end.” Lubella brought out her staff.

Grotim looked at her with mockery.

“Well, I salute your bravery. I threatened you with the citizen’s lives a moment ago, but I’m not going to hold them hostage. They are all going to be talents for our army anyways. But you can try your best.

Snap!

Grotim snapped his fingers a second time.

Thud!

The undead creatures and monsters began to move in unison towards Lubella and Zich. Their combined force was alarming, and Lubella found herself taking a step back despite her firm resolution.

“Mr. Zich.”

“Yes.”

Zich hadn’t spoken a single word since their first encounter with Grotim. Lubella thought it was because Zich felt guilty about causing them more danger unintentionally. However, Lubella did not blame Zich at all. Even though she would probably have to face horrible pain after she was captured, she wanted to say this to Zich: “I don’t blame you at all.”

Even in this dangerous situation, she smiled at Zich.

“Instead, I am thankful to you. Even though the results ended up being like this, it doesn’t change the fact that you kept trying to help me. No, if you weren’t here, my life might have ended in that dirty alleyway where you found me.”

“What a touching sight.”

Grotim sneered at Lubella’s words, but Lubella completely ignored him.

“Even though it was a little clumsy, I now know for sure that you really tried hard to live a kind life. That dream of yours is really a valuable and precious thing. It’s going to be very hard, but try your best to run away. I will try my best to stop them. And I hope that you continue to work hard towards your dream. Just remember that even though other people laughed at your efforts and dreams, I always cheered for you.”

“Hey, hey. There’s no way I will let him go. Don’t try to take care of him like that. It’s too good for someone like him.”

After mocking Lubella, Grotim switched his attention back to Zich.

“And you should also take responsibility. You kept giving this woman false hope and swung her here and there. Take responsibility by putting your life on the line. If you are a man, you should do at least that much. Even if you didn’t know anything…”

“What is it that I didn’t know?”

Zich finally opened his mouth. Grotim was taken back. Zich’s voice was way too calm despite the situation they were in.

‘Does this punk not know the situation hes in right now?’

It could be true; he was the one who drew those strange, crude drawings as a magic circle on those statues after all. He might not have been a sane person in the first place.

“Those weird drawings that you drew on the statues—I don’t know where you got such a strange idea that those things would work, but all of your efforts were useless. Instead of solving the problem, all you guys did was play right into my hand and drove yourselves into the corner.”

“Ah, that?”

Zich’s voice was still calm. And as if it was nothing, he dropped the bomb.

“I already knew all that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I knew that you were trying to lure Lubella in, so you were helping us get to the statues.”

“…!”

“…!”

Grotim and Lubella were on opposite sides at every possible aspect, but at this moment, they were united in their shock. They looked at Zich with wide eyes. Grotim’s shock seemed to have impacted the undead creatures and monsters because they also stopped.

“…Sigh. I have no time for your nonsense. If that is true, why did you bring Lubella to me?”

“Obviously, it was to end you.”

Zich swung his swords around to make his point, and Grotim scoffed at his words.

“And how would you do that? Do you seriously think you have any chance of victory in this situation?”

Undead creatures and monsters surrounded them. Even though Zich was skilled, it seemed impossible for them to escape.

“It would be impossible with just the two of us.”

This was annoying to admit, but it was true. If Zich was back in his Demon Lord days, he could have destroyed all the undead creatures and monsters in a split second, but it was impossible to do so in his current state. However, it was because he knew all this that Zich made this double-trap plan.

“Did you seriously think I went around drawing those darn magic circles cause I thought they would have some kind of effect on your power?”

“…!”

“…!”

Grotim’s and Lubella’s hearts took another hit.

“…You went around drawing those magic circles even though you knew there was no effect?”

“Yeah.”

“For what purpose?”

Until now, Grotim thought Zich and Lubella were all playing in the palm of his hand and looking down on them. However, if Zich were right, his feeling of superiority would have all been an illusion, and their situations would be completely flipped.

While Zich continued to calmly explain his side of the story, Grotim’s frown began to grow deeper.

“First of all, the reason why we came here is simple. It’s to bring down a bastard like you.”

“Bring me down?”

“Yeah. I didn’t want you to escape and leave an uncomfortable feeling behind.”

Moreover, Zich didn’t want to waste the opportunity to crush Grotim’s spirit and hope. Grotim was silent, but after a few moments, he burst out laughing.

“Hahahahahahah! To bring me down? Are you not able to remember what just came out of your mouth? You told me with your own mouth that it would be impossible for you two to defeat me! And now you just change your mind? Hahahhaha!”

Because of how hard he was laughing, Grotim clutched his stomach, and tears came out of his eyes. Then he wiped his tears and said“As expected, you are not in your right mind. Fine, let’s say that everything is going according to your plan. Then what’s going to happen now? Are you going to say you lied about how it was impossible for just the two of you to beat me?”

“No, that wasn’t a lie. Just the two of us have no chance against you.”

Zich shrugged his shoulders, and the smile did not leave his face.

“As I said, if it was just the two of us.”

“What do you mean? Are you telling me you have a backup or something? Sorry to inform you, but it’s too late for the Kingdom or the Karuwimans to come.”

“But there is one. A backup.”

“What?”

“You said I was mistaken in thinking that I could interrupt the ritual and went around bringing Lubella everywhere. But that was not it. I was trying to buy time all along.”

Grotim’s face, which had been smiling a moment ago, hardened.

“I didn’t warn you that I would be destroying those statues for no reason. I did it because I wanted you to think that we would come back to you. I was trying to make you push the date of the ritual.”

Zich’s voice was lively, and his tone was cheerful. In contrast, Grotim’s face began to worsen slowly.

“I thought you would definitely push the date of the ritual since you would want Lubella—a ‘prized possession.’ You must have helped us so that we could meet you as soon as possible. Well, it was kind of funny how I tricked you into thinking that we were all in the palm of your hand.”

“Mr. Zich, then are you saying that what we did before and even this situation was all according to your plan?”

“Yes, that is what I am saying.”

Lubella’s face was not that different from Grotim’s. No, her face seemed more shocked than his.

“You also tricked me.”

“It’s because I didn’t know how good you were at acting. Aren’t you a bad liar? Also, my plan wouldn’t have been impacted whether or not you knew about this plan.”

Zich’s confident and bold reply made Lubella speechless.

“Didn’t you tell me before? You apologized for doubting my knowledge, and then I told you that there’s no need for you to be sorry.”

“…Was that not just modesty?”

“No, it was not.”

Prepared for the fight of her life, Lubella lost all her strength at Zich’s words.

“D-don’t make me laugh!”

Grotim finally realized that he had been played all along, and his face was bright red.

“A backup! There’s no way you guys have something like that! Look at the situation right now! There’s nobody else but just you two! Stop spouting outright lies!”

“I didn’t lie.”

“Then what is that backup you are talking about!”

“Ah, you want to know?”

It was at that moment.

Boom!

A massive explosion erupted near the mansion. Zich smiled brightly.

“Do you know Belri Weig?”

‘Or do you know him as Tasnia’s Killing Machine?’

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