“Yes, at first… I didn't think it was an illusion. I didn't even think about suspecting it; I was just being swept away by the sight ahead of me…."
The knight standing in front of Gregory Griffin, the leader of Calven knights, eagerly explained what had happened.
He was a person who would have been imprisoned in the trial since he had made a mistake, but came back with Airn Pareira.
“I see, I get it.”
The knight commander, who heard the whole story, asked the other person the same question. A bitterness bloomed in his heart.
Among the three kingdoms, the number of people was the smallest in Calven, and yet the number of people who would have been lost was the most in Calven.
As he realized the weak power of Calven, his expression hardened.
However, more intense than those feelings, was the surprise that Airn Pareira gave him.
‘Your presence is strong enough to intervene in the trials of Gods.’
All of Calven’s knights told him the same thing.
When they were feeling frustrated and were filled with anxiety and anguish in the darkness, they saw a spark in the distance.
A spark that gave out a very warm and reassuring light.
Thanks to that, those who were on the verge of losing hope were able to escape the trials of God.
Airn’s golden aura sword acted like a lighthouse for them.
‘… not a lighthouse but also a bonfire.’
Gregory Griffin looked at the young man’s great sword.
A mysterious light that made him feel comfortable the moment he saw it.
He could feel an energy that he had never felt in a Sword Master’s aura.
In the case of Amira Shelton, who was watching it closely, even her face was showing it.
The way she reacted was like a young child.
Shaking his head, the commander approached her.
“You idiot! Think about your age and rank.”
“Ah? Ah! Yes….”
Amira, who felt ashamed, stepped back.
With a stiff face now, she tried to show off her dignity, but still, her face was red.
Gregory clicked his tongue and looked at Perry Martinez.
‘He looks uncomfortable.’
The place which they assumed to be a magician barrier dungeon turned out to be an ancient temple.
And if that wasn’t enough, a young man less than half the old man’s age had saved a lot of people.
Thanks to that, the center of the exploration was Airn Pareira now.
From a magician’s point of view, his self-esteem could be hurt.
‘But the previous trial isn’t everything.’
Thought Gregory Griffin.
It was known that ‘God’s Grace’ that could be obtained from ancient temples, granted powers and abilities which normal humans couldn’t even start to imagine.
However, the reason why there wasn't much information on it was because obtaining it was known to be very difficult.
In such a situation, it wasn’t right for the commander of the exploration to have such a distorted expression.
Thinking that, Gregory approached Perry.
“Calven’s side will soon be done regrouping. When the command is given by the Expedition Commander, we will follow it.”
Perry’s expression softened at the words of Calven’s commander, who treated him like the commander of the expedition even after the events that had occurred.
After thinking for a while, he said.
“Our magicians will use detection magic and proceed first. Sevion, you pick a few knights and ask for an escor…”
The chaotic atmosphere was cleared up.
Perry opened his mouth after confirming that those who had come out were in their right senses and the commotion related to Airn’s entry had calmed down.
“Let’s head this way.”
“We trust Mr. Martinez.”
Under his guidance, the exploration members began to go out again.
Darkness followed them as they walked down the long corridors.
In a dungeon, there are usually guardians who guard the dungeon.
Sometimes, monsters affected by the magical power might appear, and sometimes, in dungeons like a Hero’s Tomb, beings even more mysterious, birthed from their very tombs, would appear.
It was the same for the Ancient temple. 1
This type of dungeon is usually guarded by holy creatures in order to prevent wrongdoers and unqualified ones from taking the power within the dungeon.
However, even the great guardians of the Gods couldn’t push away the current expedition under Perry’s command.
Beams of magical power bloomed in the air along with spells that were cast with magic tools.
The grey spheres shot at the guardians with the magician’s gestures and knocked down the golems made of unidentified minerals.
Sevion Brooks skillfully took advantage of the gap the bombardments of the magicians caused, and destroyed the core of the golems swiftly.
And this was all thanks to the detection magic of the magicians.
He would aim for the red dot marked on the golem’s body and, along with the other knights who were also focused on the cores, kept attacking the golem to prevent it from reconstructing.
Following this strategy, their fifth battle in the dungeon ended smoothly.
Although it was a fight with an absolutely formidable opponent, no one was seriously injured even though defeating each one took a considerable amount of time.
Even if it was called a Dungeon Attack, they were in a situation where no one could refuse since they were cruising through the dungeon rather easily.
However, the current atmosphere of the exploration couldn’t be called good.
“Tch? Did you just say that to me?”
“No. Don’t mind it.”
"I will mind it; you definitely intended to say that to me. Did you not?”
“Ha, then stop holding us back and move ahead.”
The teammates were explicitly pointing out mistakes that could have been overlooked, and were getting angry at things that should have been apologized for.
“No. with my skills, I will only cause trouble to the exploration team.”
“If I had been trapped in the ordeal, I wouldn't have been a burden…”
“I will make a mistake for sure. I am certain that I will make a mistake. I don’t think I have any luck today…”
People kept getting discouraged by the smallest things, and were losing self-confidence.
In the midst of the ever-growing anxiety, the others, too, were beginning to feel fear.
Perry Martinez, who was watching this, had a firm expression.
The guardian protecting the temple wasn’t important now.
Their troubles weren’t done, and the exploration had to move forward.
“What do we do?”
“Is there a way, Lord Martinez?”
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sevion Brooks and Gregory visited the commander.
However, even the three experienced people couldn’t come up with a proper solution.
‘It is a lot worse than I thought.’
Perry Martinez stroked his beard as he watched the expedition team rest.
Not everyone on the exploration were going through trials.
Most of the people who were showing such abnormal symptoms were the people who fell out and couldn’t actually complete the first ordeal, and apart from them, the others were looking good.
The problem was that since they were all in one group, the anxiety, and suspicions of the affected members, continued to corrode the healthy minds as well.
If someone around was constantly expressing dissatisfaction, the person closest to them would also get a whiff of it and be affected by it.
And when it wasn’t a one-time event, but rather, the person next to them constantly repeated it, then what would happen to the exposed one?
Perhaps even a normal person would have no choice but to gradually be dominated by the negative emotions they kept hearing.
Such was the current situation of the exploration.
The amount of burdening feelings that harmed the party would just keep increasing over time.
And those who remain will have to bear the increased burden, and those who couldn’t withstand it, would collapse one after another.
‘Maybe later… Sevion and I, and the three Calven mercenaries will have to carry them all on our backs. To prevent that from happening, those who might be a bad influence need to be thrown away quickly.’
The problem was that he couldn’t just leave people so coldly.
Perry Martinez took a deep breath and brought up an old story.
"This reminds me of the one-eyed man and the 99 blind men."
Sevion Brooks and Gregory Griffin nodded their heads at the same time.
They knew the story.
Instead of killing the 100 people captured during the war, they made 99 people blind and one person one-eyed.
When the captured soldiers were released in that state, the enemy nation had no choice but to consume considerable resources and mental energy to take care of the blind men who had now become something equivalent to burdens for the nation.
It was said that an ancient tyrant, who heard of this method from the Devil, enjoyed using it repeatedly on his enemies.
It was ironic indeed.
The terrible ways of the Devil and the trials of the merciful God were so similar.
‘God, why are we being put through such a trial?’
They couldn’t just abandon the ones who had failed the first trial.
But they couldn't hold onto them either. The anxiety will spread around like a contagious disease, and even the strong faith would perish.
It was then.
Airn Pareira, the blonde young man, who had been quietly guarding the place until then, summoned his great sword.
And he brought out the golden aura from the sword.
The faces of the expedition members brightened considerably.
Perry Martinez looked at Airn’s aura, feeling unhappy and unsatisfied, and thought that it was unfortunate.
He didn’t know what it was or how he did it, but the young man’s energy certainly had the power to relieve the bad mood in people.
However, it wasn’t for that purpose that Airn brought out the Aura Sword.
He turned to Perry Martinez.
"The story of the one-eyed man and 99 blind men…I know it.”
“I also know the identity of the Devil which instigated the ancient tyrant.”
“What do you mean?”
Sevion Brooks asked, but Airn didn’t give him an answer.
Closing his eyes, he continued to concentrate.
He thought it was weird.
No matter how hard this trial was, this method was too cruel.
This energy, which dragged people down to the bottom of the well without any mercy, didn't seem right to be called as a God's Remains type of dungeon.
How was it possible to hide such a disgusting, evil energy so well?
Airn Pareira, who finally understood the identity of the opponent, clenched his teeth.
‘This person has been hiding behind a mask all his life, so this is natural.’
Airn’s sword gave out even more intense light.
The appearance too changed. The Aura Sword, which was in the form of a smooth blade, vibrated like a flame and began to burn the space around it.
It started cutting through the darkness.
The shadows that were filled with lies, deceit, and hypocrisy were torn apart, and a new space appeared.
Everyone realized it as they saw that. That the entire dungeon they had been walking through until then, was nothing more than an illusion.
That everything they firmly believed to be the Trials of Gods, was nothing more than a Demon’s prank.
‘No, please don’t be a demon!’
Perry Martinez gulped.
On a stage made of human bones and flesh, someone in colorful clothes came into view.
What caught their eyes even more than the dwarf's body was the cracked mask of a clown on its face.
And the moment their eyes met, he could feel it.
That there was no such thing as a Demon which couldn’t cause fear.
It was the moment when he, who felt a chill run down his spine, and was about to warn the exploration team.
The clown’s hand moved.
The 15 members of the expedition party who weren’t in good condition were pushed onto the stage.
The people who realized their situation late, tried to scream, but the vines which sprouted out, imprisoned them completely.
Seeing them like that, the clown Devil who was holding his stomach began to laugh and looked at the rest of the people.
“Hehe, huhu, huahaha! Come on! Applaud!”
Clap! Clap! Clap!
The applause of the Devil resounded in the huge cavity.
None of the exploration members were crazy enough to clap hands when their colleagues were kidnapped.
Eyes mixed with anger and fear poured in.
The clown's laughter, which had been in delight, ceased.
As if time had stopped, he looked down at the people below the stage, and then snapped his finger.
And with a rattling sound, one of the prisoner's heads was cut.
Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!
The Clown Devil, who demanded applause again, was filled with anger.
And that angered the people of the expedition party too.
However, no one ran.
Rather, fearful of what the clown's follow-up action would be, some even clapped their hands.
Lulu transformed into her human sorcerer form and looked at her friend with a worried expression.
‘What should I do? What should I do?’
Lulu understood Airn better than anyone.
So, she knew just how difficult this situation was for him.
It was a moment where damage was inevitable, no matter which side he chose.
It was a moment where no matter what decision he made, the scars from it were inevitable.
It would be Airn who would suffer more from this side when compared to the Devil, who seemed strong and terrifying.
For Airn, who was stronger than anyone, but also had a good heart too, there couldn’t have been a more difficult situation than this.
It was at the moment she had thought till there.
The commander of the exploration, Perry Martinez.
Sevion Brooks, the best knight of Palanque.
Even the clown devil grunted its teeth against Airn Pareira, who came at it with a devastating speed.
This was different from the Subjugation battle of the South in the past, where he was engulfed in anger because of being influenced by his past.
Now, however, Airn had tears flowing from his eyes as he wielded the sword, as he bore the weight of his choice entirely by his own will.
- Here the 'Ancient temple' seems to refer to the God's Remains, and the Author himself has used it interchangeably. It was a bit confusing for me but was cleared up by the end of the chapter. If it is revealed in the future that it was not so, it will be corrected.↩
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