The carriages passed the border and entered the entrance of the border region. The expedition team got off the carriages and began to march toward the destination.
Not a single monster attacked them during their march. In fact, they didn’t see even a single one of them.
This was because the nearby area was frequented by humans and the members of the Federation. Unlike the Forest of Denial, which bordered the Parasites’ territory, hundreds or even thousands of monster subjugations had already taken place here.
As a result, the expedition team was able to walk without disturbance until the sun set.
“Jesus, it’s almost night. Can those bastards be any slower? What if they’re trying to screw us over by scaring us and preventing us from falling asleep?”
Chohong spat out one complaint after the other, even suggesting that the Federation was going to ambush them after sucking them dry of their stamina.
Seol Jihu didn’t say anything because he knew she was simply grumbling from the boring march.
‘Why aren’t they here yet…?’
In truth, Seol Jihu was rather worried. The words ‘never sleep’ kept weighing on his mind.
They were still far from their destination. At this rate, they would have no choice but to march through the night.
At that moment, Kazuki, who was leading the group, suddenly stopped.
Seol Jihu quickly walked up. Kazuki was glaring with his mouth shut and his eyes straight ahead. It was as if he was saying, ‘Would you look at this?’
And soon, Kazuki spoke quietly.
Everyone expressed concerns at his sudden apology.
“I was trying to be mindful…”
A single bead of cold sweat fell from Kazuki’s cheek.
“But it seems we’re surrounded.”
Seol Jihu took a good look around him. Left, right, forward, and backward. He could only see dense trees and thick grass.
A bleak wind blew.
A short exclamation of awe carried by the wind flowed into their ears.
Seol Jihu’s eyes widened slightly. He couldn’t see anyone, yet he could hear such a clear voice?
“You have excellent senses, human.”
Chohong immediately raised her Thorn of Steel and got into her battle stance. Teresa pulled Chohong back, then shouted.
“Weren’t you contacted by the upper echelon? We are—!”
The voice gave a calm affirmation. Seol Jihu focused on the voice.
“But there’s a slight problem that prevents us from revealing ourselves to you.”
The slightly husky voice wasn’t clear, but it wasn’t unpleasant because it was deep. In fact, it gave off the scent of a powerful warrior.
“Can you stand still without asking any questions or making any demands? Of course, we mean you should do as we say.”
“What bullshit is this?”
Chohong threw Teresa off angrily and raised her mace threateningly. Marcel Ghionea also tightened his grip on his crossbow. The two of them each had their own view of the Federation, but they couldn’t just stand still, being told this after getting surrounded.
“If you don’t agree, we will have to ask you to leave. We will neither attack nor chase after you.”
When the voice spoke as if it wasn’t a big deal, Maria clenched her fists.
“Who are you to tell us what to do!? We’re going somewhere!”
“Then you may continue. But… you will regret it.”
The voice spoke mockingly and nonchalantly.
“Do as you want. But to give you advice for rescuing our comrades, we suggest you go back to Eva immediately. Go to Invidia’s temple without running into humans, if possible.”
This really came out of the blue. But rather than repeating the things the voice said like a parrot, Seol Jihu remembered the condition the Federation had said earlier.
“We aren’t allowed to sleep on our way back either?”
Fufufufu. Subdued laughter rang out.
Seol Jihu pondered. It would have been better if the voice gave a clear explanation, but as the situation stood now, he was at a crossroad. If this were a game, the screen would show something like this.
[Listen to the Federation and stand still obediently.]
[Leave the Foxmen children and continue the expedition.]
[Leave the Foxmen children and return to Eva.]
‘I don’t feel any malice or hostility… in fact, it feels like he’s trying to help us.’
Left with these choices, Seol Jihu activated his Nine Eyes. As soon as he checked the color, he exclaimed in shock.
Red. Immediate Retreat Recommended.
The important thing was that the red color only existed around Seol Jihu and the members of the expedition. The place where the Federation was presumed to be was yellow, and the rest of the region was green.
He had committed a grave blunder.
Since when was the expedition team dyed in red?
‘Could it be?’
Seol Jihu looked down at Haeya, who was in his arms, then immediately made up his mind.
“Chohong, lower your weapon.”
“What? Oi, Seol—”
When Chohong tried to object, Kazuki failed to hold himself back and growled.
“Loosen your shoulders a bit.”
Chohong furrowed her brows, hearing his cold biting remark.
“What? What did you just say?”
“You were capable of separating your public and private life when you were Level 4, so what’s this? Now that you’re a High Ranker, are you suddenly too proud to listen to your leader?”
Chohong shrunk back, sensing the icy needles that were shooting out of Kazuki’s glaring eyes. That was how enraged Kazuki was.
“Not only is this the leader’s decision, but I, the header, am also staying silent. What qualification do you have to keep acting as you please in this expedition?”
Chohong did not know this, but Kazuki had been displeased ever since the group ran into Haeryeo. Even Seol Jihu, the leader of the expedition, asked for and respected his opinions, but Chohong had been ignoring his authority as the header.
Chohong quickly turned purple with rage. But in the end, her mouth, which seemed ready to burst out with all sorts of curses, closed shut.
During an expedition, all decisions were made through the leader and the header’s combined consent. Chohong really didn’t have anything to say once Kazuki brought up this basic rule.
While she fumed, she obediently put her mace down. She then took in a deep breath and spat out.
“Okay. I’ll be more careful in the future.”
Though she was temperamental, cleanly admitting her faults was one of Chohong’s good points.
“May we presume that your staying means you will do as we say?”
Seol Jihu replied back.
“We will accept your help.”
“Good. Then we will send someone over. Stay still and do not move.”
Just like the voice said, someone appeared from the grass.
Seol Jihu couldn’t make out the figure’s face as a spotless white cloth was covering every inch of the figure. It almost seemed as if the figure was a shrine maiden wearing a ceremonial robe.
The only other notable feature was that the figure held a smoked tree branch that seemed to have been struck by lightning.
The figure walked forward, stopping a little way in front of the group.
Silence filled the air. Just as Seol Jihu realized that he was staring at the figure too fixedly, the tree branch suddenly pointed at him.
Seol Jihu placed his hand on his chest as if to ask, ‘Me?’
The figure in front of him slowly nodded.
“Try activating the power of your left bracelet, please.”
Unlike before, the voice was clear and silvery. Now that he got a closer look, the hand holding onto the tree branch was a white-apricot-color.
‘A Sky Fairy?’
That was the first thought that popped up in his head, but Seol Jihu quickly set the thought aside and roused his mana.
Woong! A tri-circular shield formed from his left wrist. Seol Jihu showed the shield off, spinning it side to side, but the figure did not budge.
It was then.
Seol Jihu doubted his eyes. Two of the three circular shields turned to dust and began to scatter away.
The Blessing of the Circum protected its user from three types of attacks: physical, magical, and witchcraft. Of these three, the two shields protecting him from magic and witchcraft were quickly withering away.
“As we thought, you’ve been infected.”
The figure took a few steps forward before carefully reaching her hand out.
Tak, tak. Starting from Seol Jihu, she hit everyone’s foreheads with the tree branch.
Seol Jihu’s bewilderment only lasted a moment. Soon, his eyes widened for a whole other reason. And that was because he felt a refreshing energy spreading from his head down to his body.
He didn’t feel that there was anything wrong with his body before, but he now felt refreshed as if he just got out of the sauna.
“The purification operation has been completed.”
The figure went around the expedition team before turning around and speaking in a terse manner. Seol Jihu noticed that parts of the white cloth covering the figure turned black, almost as if it was scorched by fire.
In the next moment, shadows shot up around them. About ten shadows formed a circle around the expedition team before slowly getting closer.
There was one shadow that took the lead and walked forward with big strides. This figure was a tall woman with thin, sharp ears.
Seol Jihu’s attention was taken away by the woman, whose black hair reached all the way down to her butt.
She was wearing a maroon-colored leather jacket and ivory-colored leather pants. Four daggers were hanging on one side of her hip, and a long sword wrapped in a leather cloth was hanging on the other side. The thing that stood out the most was that her otherwise white face had a black band covering her eyes.
Seol Jihu didn’t know whether it was purely for outward appearance or if there was a reason behind it, but what he couldn’t deny was that she gave off a mysterious aura because of it.
Soon, her knee-high boots with black cleats stopped.
Seol Jihu raised his eyes and turned to the woman standing still with a tree branch. Once he saw her again, he became certain.
The person who appeared first was from a different race than the other ten.
First, their skin color was different. Although they all had white skin tone, the woman holding the tree branch had a healthy tone on her skin.
On the other hand, the ones covering their eyes were pale as if they grew up inside a cave, never having been exposed to sunlight. They were so white that Seol Jihu felt like he was seeing white limestone.
Most importantly, their smell was different. If the woman wearing the ceremonial dress gave off a fruity scent, then the other ten gave off the smell of chlorine similar to that of a swimming pool.
“I see, so you’re the war hero known as the Adversary.”
Seol Jihu groaned. The woman who seemed to be the group’s leader was standing right in front of him. From the back, Seol Jihu could hear Teresa letting out a startled “Oh, my.”
“Let me introduce myself.”
The woman reached out.
“My name is Yuirel Antrum Valenheim.”
Seol Jihu grabbed her hand.
“I’m Seol Jihu.”
“Seol Jihu. Your surname is Seol and your name is Jihu?”
Yuirel gripped his hand lightly before letting go and walking over to Teresa who was staring with widened eyes.
“This is the first time we’re meeting each other. You’re prettier in person.”
“Yes, we’ve only seen each other through communication crystals until now. Thank you for your compliment.”
Teresa also shook hands and laughed delightedly.
“Thank you for the previous war. We recaptured Tigol Fortress with ease thanks to you.”
“Not at all. With this, we’ve repaid the debt for stopping the mutant Orc mass-production plan.”
“Ah, also— I heard. Though it’s a little late, I’m sorry for your loss of Breast Chuchu.”
Teresa breathed out a light sigh.
Seol Jihu furrowed his brows.
No matter how he thought about it, translating it literally, it meant ‘kissing tits’.
Just as he thought, ‘I don’t know who it is, but that’s a stupid name.’
[Like 'em Titties. He said that his surname was Titties and that his given name was Like 'em.]
For some reason, Ian flashed by his brain.
“What a shame. There aren’t many people who understood the Federation like Haramark’s Royal Magician.”
Hearing Yuirel’s regretful comment, Seol Jihu closed his eyes. It seemed Ian really left his mark wherever he went.
Clicking his tongue inwardly, Seol Jihu stared at Yuirel who was having a small conversation with Teresa. The aura she was giving off was no joke, and Seol Jihu had personally felt this when he grabbed her hand.
He couldn’t help but wonder if she was far stronger than she seemed.
“Anyways, this is a surprise. I didn’t think you’d come personally…”
“I was around the border region for a business when I was contacted by the upper echelon. I set everything aside and came here since I was interested.”
Seol Jihu became convinced after what Teresa said. Noticing that Seol Jihu was curious, Kazuki whispered.
“She’s a Cave Fairy. I’m glad.”
As he thought, she wasn’t a Sky Fairy.
“Cave Fairies are similar to humans, and they view us favorably as well.”
“This Yuirel woman must be the Fairy General.”
“The Fairy General?”
“The second-in-command of the Cave Fairies. Think of her as the commander-in-chief. I’m positive. Valenheim is—”
Kazuki closed his mouth, not finishing his sentence. This was because Yuirel turned around and faced Seol Jihu. Seeing Haeya in his embrace, she grinned.
“You little rascals.”
Haeya groaned and dug deeper into Seol Jihu’s embrace. Yuirel giggled.
“Thank you again. These two children’s mother is on her way. We said we would bring them back, but she insisted on coming.”
“I’m glad to bring them back safe and sound. Here—”
Seol Jihu was about to hand Haeya over, but paused. Haeya was refusing to let go.
“W-What’s wrong? It’s time to go back.”
Seol Jihu forced her off and put her down, but Haeya waddled back and clung to his leg.
“You don’t wanna go?”
He tried to console Haeya, but she refused to budge. Rather than liking him a lot, it seemed like she was afraid of the Cave Fairy. Most likely, Foxmen must hate or be unfriendly with the Cave Fairies.
Seol Jihu didn’t know what to do. Seeing this, Yuirel opened her mouth.
“Don’t worry. Worst case, we can grab her by the tail or knock her unconscious.”
…Seol Jihu was beginning to see why Haeya was afraid.
“Hm,” Yuirel stroked the cloth covering her eyes before speaking.
“Setting these two aside, I heard you were going somewhere. May I know why you came all the way here?”
“It’s to go to a place called the Pagoda of Infection.”
Seol Jihu didn’t try to hide where they were going. He knew there was no point with a Sky Fairy in their midst.
“The Pagoda of Infection… you mean, the Pagoda of Dreams?”
“Is that what it’s called in the Federation?”
“Well… I guess they’re both correct names, in a sense.”
Yuirel nodded her head, murmuring to herself.
Seol Jihu gulped. He was thinking that this might be the case, and now he was certain. However, this also meant that the Federation learned of the pagoda first.
But he wasn’t worried. According to Haeryeo, the Pagoda of Dreams was the Federation’s forbidden ground. There was a good chance that the inheritance was still buried, not having been discovered.
“Is it absolutely necessary to go? If possible, I suggest you return.”
“Is there a problem with going?”
“Problem… Are you asking if the Federation is uncomfortable with you going? Well, I don’t really mind.”
Yuirel rubbed the back of her head before sighing.
“But I think it would be a shame if the hero those sparrows revived using their precious Elixeer died in vain.”
With that, Yuirel tilted her head up. She seemed to be savoring the evening glow, even though it shouldn’t be visible.
“Are you going right away?”
Seol Jihu shook his head. It was better to go in the morning than at night.
“Then you’ll probably camp out for the night.”
A light flickered on in Seol Jihu’s eyes. As he wasn’t stupid, he easily understood that she was trying to tell him something. This was the perfect opportunity as he was worried about the lack of information about the place. Not to mention, the number of questions he had only kept growing as the expedition progressed.
“If it’s alright, can you tell us about the Pagoda of Infection in detail?”
“Of course, that’s easy. And to be honest—”
Yuirel nodded her head as though she had been waiting for these words. Then, she turned her gaze down.
Underneath her veiled eyes…
“I wanted to talk to you at least once.”
Red lips that contrasted her peachy skin curled into a seductive smile.Previous Chapter Next Chapter