Chapter 6 Black Forest (4)
The scene was very bizarre.
It was like going back in time.
The explosion of evil resentment had been swelling as if it would swallow the entire lord’s castle.
Suddenly, it appeared to be shrinking.
No, it seemed to disappear from the world completely.
The explosion shrunk indefinitely until it became a small dot and then vanished.
Everyone on the training grounds, including the Chilgeol, stared blankly at the perplexing scene.
They soon turned to Rain Dranil.
She had been standing closest to where the explosion occurred.
The blank stares continued before a sudden interruption.
“Kuhahaha! Rain, how did you do that? When did you master that?!”
Ragno asked with a big smile as he approached in the aftermath of the explosion’s dispersal.
“Miss, are you all right?”
“That was awesome, Rain.”
Rian and Hart followed behind Ragno and opened their mouths.
Rain’s eyes had never left the spot where the explosion disappeared.
She shook her head quietly.
“It wasn’t me.”
There really was nothing she could have done.
When she saw the swelling cultist, she had rushed in with all her might, but it was too late.
All she had been able to do was clench her hand with a wistful look.
“Did you guys really not see…?”
Was it because she was closest?
Of those present, only Rain saw it.
It was a man, just beyond her, seemingly in the explosion.
The man simply grasped his hand slightly, and the entire scene changed.
A foreign darkness surrounded the entire explosion.
Rain was not mistaken.
Rather, she had been able to see it more accurately.
Rain’s eyes followed the back of Zion Harness.
The man walked to his seat as if nothing had happened.
* * *
Six-headed beast tattoo and purification cultists.
And the terror that happened in lord’s castle.
Zion had already read the Frosimar Chronicles and memorised all its contents.
It was easier to exploit his knowledge than show his hand.
Simply defeating other mercenaries is not enough to catch the eyes of the other Chilgeol, including Rain Dranil.
Therefore, he had tracked the location of the cultists before he entered the lord’s castle.
He continued to follow their trail after entering.
Then he waited.
Until they started to act.
He could have prevented it beforehand, but he did not.
If he had done so, he would not have caught Rain Dranil’s eyes.
The cultists launched their terror right on cue.
Zion had already identified their location.
Thus, he easily thwarted the attack.
As a result,
“The people here now are the people participating in this subjugation.
Get used to each other.”
Zion was now sitting in a small meeting room in the Lord’s Castle.
A total of eight people were facing each other across a long table.
Only Rain stood looking down at them.
In the end, only two people were selected from the mercenary recruitment?
Zion thought as he looked around at the people in the small meeting room.
There was a total of five Chilgeol, including Rain Dranil.
Four of them had been judging the mercenaries at the training ground.
The fifth was a woman named Kayla with dark brown hair and a mature appearance.
She had just joined them.
A man in his mid-40s sat next to Kayla, seemingly her acquaintance.
In front of Zion sat an elf woman with scars all over her body.
She had completed the screening during the mercenary recruitment before him.
“Now I’m going to briefly explain the subjugation, so listen carefully.”
Rain’s low voice filled the ears of people in the room, including Zion’s.
“There is an unusual forest between Ruin city and the Saleos Mountains.
A forest where everything that exists, including trees and grass, is blackened.
We call it the ‘Black Forest’.”
None who entered had ever emerged.
Therefore, entrance was prohibited.
This was enforced at the city level.
This was also the place Rain was currently trying to subdue.
At Rain’s words, the scarred elf woman sitting in front of Zion opened her mouth.
She bluntly said, “I already know about the Black Forest.
I want to know what exactly we need to subdue in the black forest and why.”
Rian flinched at the elf’s informal speech and opened his mouth to respond.
However, Rain’s answer was faster.
Doubt stained the scarred elf woman’s face.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of the legend of our family’s founder.”
People nodded at Rain’s words.
Legend had it that a hero had been empowered by a dragon.
The hero, covered in dragon blood, destroyed the evil and built the city of Ruin on top of it.
It was quite a famous legend in the north.
“The truth is… The evil did not die then.
Even our most distinguished founder could only seal it.
That is why Ruin still pays the price for it.
“The Purification cultist.”
Rain’s eyes betrayed that she was shaken by the words flowing from Zion’s mouth.
She had never discussed this outside of her own family.
“…Yes, exactly, the purification ceremony at the end of the Depurant is the price.”
“If it’s a purification ritual… that thing that sends our city’s death row inmates into the black forest, right?”
Rain nodded at Hart’s question, and he stroked his chin with a firm expression.
“Yes, we offer them to the forest to maintain the seal.”
“I wondered why we continued such a barbaric ritual…”
Hart nodded now that he understood.
“Then there is no need for subjugation, is there? They are death row inmates after all.”
“Five a month.”
At Ragno’s words, Rain stretched five fingers in front of him.
“It’s the number of the offerings made to the Black Forest.
What do you think might happen if there were fewer people on death row than this number?”
People who have committed less or even no sins at all are offered.
The numbers of offerings must be met by any means necessary.
Rain had seen them since her childhood, sacrifices being taken to the Black Forest while crying for help.
Juxtaposed with the people in the city excitedly cheering during the festival.
This city was twisted.
The purification ritual was a shackle that maintained this twisted nature.
A shackle firmly secured around Ruin city for hundreds of years.
Rain intended to break free of that shackle.
“And it’s like X.
To give my own people’s lives to a fucking bastard stranger.”
Even if I commit a crime, I punish myself and kill myself.
Rain was confident that she would be the lord if she achieved freedom for Ruin.
“Kuhaha! That’s right! That’s it.
That’s enough of a reason!”
Ragno smacked the table and burst into laughter, agreeing with Rain’s words.
Hart and Kayla nodded to Rain in solidarity.
Rian sighed deeply at her harsh words and actions.
“I don’t know exactly what it is because there’s no information about the existence of that ‘evil’.
One thing for sure is that the strength of the old seals has weakened considerably.”
That’s why Zion was able to look for the opportunity.
“Only a handful of people can enter the Black Forest due to its special magic barrier.
And the people here are the strongest force I can gather right now.”
“I agree with that…”
Kayla, who had only been listening to Rain, opened her mouth.
She pointed at Zion with a long finger and propped her chin up with her other hand.
“I don’t understand why you are including him.”
Though she had not been present during the mercenary recruitment screening, she had heard about the situation.
This man was chosen by Rain, not by screening.
Not only did he not seem to have any discernible aura, but his body looked too weak to be unattended.
“I want to hear the reason.”
The others also looked at Rain.
A group of supernovae who may be the next generation of heavenly beings.
The value of each of their names alone could create a huge force.
They surpassed all other humans in their ability.
As many as five Chilgeol were gathered here.
Kayla’s acquaintances, the middle-aged man and the elf woman, were also well-known for their outstanding skills in the North, despite having slightly fallen off.
She considered Zion too inferior.
She didn’t understand why Rain had chosen him.
At the words of those people, Rain looked at Zion for a while.
She still did not understand.
How was ‘such a thing’ possible?
The memory of earlier came vividly to mind.
She had witnessed the power of Zion.
It was certainly neither magic nor martial arts.
It was something foreign, something outside this world.
Rain was silent for a while, before responding, “…It’s just a feeling.
I feel like I need him.”
“What nonsense are you talking about? Have you been drinking?”
People frowned at him, but Rain’s mouth was no longer open.
I guess she must have a doubt?
A faint smile appeared on Zion’s mouth as he looked at her.
She must have seen his power.
That she didn’t say it was proof she was suspicious of the people here.
It was impossible for a purificationist to enter the lord’s castle during the screening without inside help.
Additionally, the help must have come from someone in a high position.
Rain probably thought the traitor to be among these people.
She was right to think that.
And Zion already knew who the traitor was.
I have no intention of telling her.
All of this was part of Rain Dranir’s ordeal.
Only after this ordeal would she be reborn as a true hero’s companion and dragon-warrior.
“I’ll talk about that later and plan the entry route first, so listen carefully.
On the outskirts of the forest…”
Ignoring Kayla’s watchful gaze, Zion listened to Rain’s words.
* * *
Faint moonlight tinted the garden of the lord’s castle.
In the middle of the deserted garden, there was a huge darkness.
A foreign darkness overpowering the surrounding night.
In that expanding darkness, stars hovered like the universe.
And in the middle of a certain star sat Zion.
The most foreign power in this world that only Zion could wield.
This power negated everything it touched.
It had no form, no characteristics, and no concept.
It did not belong to anything, therefore it could be anything.
The darkness hovering around Zion began to flow down like water.
Soon it seemed to solidify like a rock then become hot like fire.
It’s still not easy to control.
Having settled the darkness, Zion slightly frowned.
He had clearly made unparalleled achievements since first entering the body, but there was no satisfaction in Zion’s eyes.
I still can’t say for sure that I would win against any of the Chilgeol present today.
Obviously, the Chilgeol could be considered the strongest people in the entire world.
It was only natural that Zion, who had just started training, could not best them.
But this didn’t matter to Zion.
Those he would have to face in the future were much stronger than the Chilgeol.
Those future enemies would not wait for Zion to get stronger.
I need to get 2 stars a bit faster.
With two stars he would be able to modify the darkness as he had before.
Things were getting harder and harder.
Nevertheless, Zion’s eyes glinted with anticipation as he got up from his seat.
The harder it was, the greater the joy of breaking it.
It was then–
“You’re using some amazing power, huh?”
Behind Zion came a high, faint voice.
When he looked back, he saw a woman.
She seemed to have just brushed off the dust on her shirt.
She had hair down to her waist and eyes white as snow.
Two bright scarlet pupils, like drops of blood, peered at Zion.
Mysterious yet alluring.
Despite not sensing any killing intent or force from her, Zion’s eyes conveyed his dejection.
Though he had been monitoring everyone in the castle, she had evaded his detection.
Even before him now, the evidence of her presence was very faint.
“How do you do that?”
The woman asks Zion with interest in her eyes.
Zion did not ask who she was.
He already knew.
“Was it already released?”
“What? You know who I am?”
The woman opened her eyes wide as if she was surprised by the words and circled around in place.
“Well, does it matter?”
Then she slowly began to approach Zion.
Her steps are quiet without even the soft padding of careful footsteps.
“Don’t come to the forest.”
Finally, the woman stood in front of Zion.
She smiled so terribly that he got goosebumps.
“If you come, you’ll die.”
The woman’s visage disappeared after uttering those words, as if it were a mirage.
Zion looked at the spot where the woman disappeared.
With a smile forming at the corners of his lips, he muttered,
“It was fun.”
Zion’s words were echoed by the woman as she withdrew.
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