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Chapter 256 – Receptacle of Solitude (1)

    Chapter 256 - Receptacle of Solitude (1)

    'The road to hell.'

    These words popped into the minds of the human and beasts the moment they entered.

    The smell of blood entered their noses, and there was flesh at their feet. There was no ventilation in this place, so the rotten air was practically a foggy miasma. One swallow would make gastric juices rise in their mouths.

    As soon as Theodore recognized the situation, he hastily cleansed the surrounding atmosphere with his wind divinity.

    'Wind.'

    The foggy miasma was pushed away, and the two spirits took deep breaths. They were more adversely affected as they were used to the clean air of the Baekun Mountains. The Tiger King's claws tore through the air as she looked up at the black sky. "Dammit, what is this place? My nose feels like it will fall off if I stay here for half a day."

    The White Bear lifted up the black soil and opened his mouth, "It isn't a place that can be made naturally. This poisonous land has its own efficacy, and there is nothing here but a malice that spreads death."

    "So, let's tear it down! Why else did we come into this rotten place?"

    "Don't be too hasty. If the cause of the pollution is within this barrier, we need to remove the cause before destroying it."

    It made sense. If this ward was destroyed, the pollutant might escape and spread poison throughout the Baekun Mountains. Theodore was convinced by the words and persuaded the Tiger King, "In any case, we have to enter the center to destroy this place. Until then, focus on searching."

    "...Tch, do what you want! Males always get along well with each other."

    "Thank you."

    The Tiger King grunted cutely. Then her striped tail moved unhappily, making the Tiger King look no different from a cat. That reminded Theodore, 'Isn't a tiger a type of feline?' Theodore couldn't help laughing. He might've stroked her head if she wasn't so big.

    The three people advanced. Theodore took the lead to purify the air, followed by the spirits. Usually, it wasn't wise for magicians to be in the lead, but it wasn't a problem for Theodore who was proficient in close combat.

    After heading for 10 minutes in one direction, Theodore realized that the space was distorted.

    'Space expansion...? Or was it a partial difference field? Either way, this is a trick that appears in ancient literature.' In Seimei's time, there had been a few people who could do such a trick.

    Theodore constantly spread out his magic power to explore several kilometers at the same time.

    'Creating an independent space and then placing a large number of creatures inside... This is a technique I read about somewhere. It's to... create an army.'

    [Is it okay for this body to say something?]

    "Ack!" Theodore was surprised by the sudden voice and stopped, causing the two spirits following him to look around reflexively. He lifted his palms to calm himself down and turned his consciousness to focus inside himself. The voice wasn't from Gluttony. No, the owner of this mocking and neutral voice was―

    'How did you come out, Seimei?'

    It was Abe no Seimei, the great shaman who pioneered the system of the Art of Onmyōdō. Unlike with Lee Yoonsung, Theodore only had a thin connection with Seimei, so how did he run rampant inside Gluttony?

    [Don't treat a person like a cockroach. This Seimei is rather soft-hearted.]

    'How are you saying such things?'

    [You are still the same. I understand,] Seimei said. Hearing Theodore's attitude urged him to reply, so Seimei explained, [This is a pretty good place to settle. It is completely separate from the world, so I can act autonomously. However, that doesn't mean I can act against you, so don't worry.]

    '...I understand.'

    [By the way, it is well made. Among my disciples, there aren't many who have learned to make this type of ward. It isn't as good as mine but still quite well done.]

    Seimei dismissed Theodore's concerns and borrowed his eyes to look around, praising the capabilities of the shaman who made this place. The creator of this space had exceptional skills. However, Seimei praised himself more.

    [This is the 'Receptacle of Solitude.']

    'Solitude?'

    It was a word which was in Theodore's memories. He had read a few lines about it in a book on shamanism from the Baek Family. Theodore hurriedly recalled the contents and asked, 'Isn't it a jar that insects are placed in to create poison?'

    [You know it? It doesn't need to be insects. It is efficient, so it doesn't matter if it is a poisonous creature like a toad or snake. Furthermore, this space is even more awful.]

    'More awful?'

    [It isn't just poison. Those in this ward slaughter each other to gain power. This idea might be novel, but a blood-crazed slaughterer might be born?]

    The indifferent explanation was terrible. A blood-crazed slaughterer was worse than a demon who avoided killing. Additionally, he said that this space didn't just contain poison. So, the flesh he saw when he first came in were remnants of living creatures... Theodore was about to ask Seimei about that, when the 'answer' appeared.

    Kuaaaack―!

    There was a terrible cry; the roar was a murderous scream. Along with this cry, unknown shapes started to appear all over the place. The dark sky and earth meant that Theodore could see nothing but a hazy shape when he looked at 'them.'

    "...These bastards, what are they?"

    However, the eyes of the beasts were different. The Tiger King was nauseous at the sight of their terrible appearance and opened her 10 claws. The White Bear didn't respond as much as the Tiger King, but he still trembled. "Terrible things!"

    They were half beasts and half humans whose eyes were burning with madness. There were tails that protruded from their parietal lobes or claws coming from cheekbones which tore at their cheeks and caused wounds.

    Even chimeras didn't look this terrible.

    Kyaaaak!

    There was a creature that moved on four legs like a leopard. Unlike its ugly appearance, its speed was comparable to an aura user, and its exposed teeth were sharper than steel blades. However, it picked the wrong opponent this time.

    Kwang!

    A sledgehammer-like fist hit the creature's head. Brain matter flew out, and the monster that had just lost its head fell to the ground.  The Tiger King looked at the substance covering her fist and roared in anger, "Kuheook! This trash dares dirty my skin!!!"

    Did they even understand her words? She let out an intimidating presence and plunged straight into the crowd of monsters. Three or four monsters were thrown back with just one punch, and their bodies were torn apart when the Tiger King used her claws.

    It was a storm of slaughter. Blood spurted out wherever the Tiger King moved to, while the bizarre monsters could only scream.

    '...Amazing. I don't even need to take action.'

    Theodore swiftly investigated some of the dead bodies while admiring the Tiger King's fighting skills. The monsters might've been smashed like scarecrows, but they weren't easy opponents. Their skin was an unknown material that was harder than steel, and they had a remarkable recovery ability.

    Those gathered in this place had the power to wipe out a few knight divisions.

    -User, the silent Gluttony suddenly spoke, -Be vigilant. These creatures are Lust's failures.

    'Failures? Lust doesn't always give birth to good children?'

    -Becoming stronger doesn't necessarily make it a success. As they keep developing, parts outside of the human framework start appearing. Maybe this place is a collection of such failures.

    One wise person once said, 'Be careful not to be swallowed up by the abyss.'

    The context was a little different, but the advice was the same. Progress that had no costs was just a fantasy. Lust couldn't create the strong without having some failures. She extracted only the 'beneficial' genes from the parents and gave it to the child. It wasn't uncommon for these 'benefits' to cause too much instability, breaking down the balance.

    [Hoh, it is rational in many ways.]

    'Seimei.'

    [If there are failures, it is a good idea to recycle. If these offerings are combined into a single mass... Even if they are failures, a considerably strong monster will emerge. At least 1,000 monsters will need to be joined together.]

    As Seimei explained, his knowledge flowed into Theodore's mind. A sacrifice of a species higher than beasts or insects made the Receptacle of Solitude into a poisonous land. This was considered taboo by the ancient shamans.

    Even if these creatures were failures, they were still Lust's children. They devoured each other, and an incomparable creature would be born.

    'Then I have to find it and stop it before that happens.'

    The conclusion Theodore came to was obvious. A difficult monster should be destroyed before it was completed. It was a reasonable answer as a human and magician.

    The Tiger King had almost finished cleaning up all the failures present. It was best to destroy the incomplete creature and then this space. He didn't think it was impossible for three master-level existences to defeat the Solitude, no matter how strong it was.

    [Uh, that reminds me... I'm sorry I didn't tell you this in advance.]

    '...What is it?'

    Seimei's words sounded ominous for some reason.

    [This Solitude is different from the others, right? The strong ones are confined with the weak ones...]

    'Summarize it briefly.'

    [I mean, that tiger girl is killing all the weak ones. From the standpoint of the strong creature, aren't you intercepting its food?]

    'Ah.' Theodore finally understood the meaning of Seimei's words.

    This was a world controlled by 'Solitude.' The weak were eaten by the strong. This cycle was repeated until there was one creature left that ate all the offerings. If so, it would be natural for the person behind this to stimulate hunger and the ability to recognize each other's positions.

    Now, a considerable number of offerings had died at the Tiger King's hands. There was no way that a strong creature suffering from hunger wouldn't recognize this situation!

    ―――――――――――!

    As Theodore realized this, there was a wailing sound. It was the scream of a predator that had lost its prey. The scream contained infinite hunger. It was the incarnation of hatred that had been thrown into the Receptacle of Silence without anything and had devoured its brethren.

    "What the hell is this?" The confused Tiger King asked Theodore hastily.

    "...Hrmm, today is an unlucky day." The White Bear, who had been standing on his feet like a human, slowly fell to the ground on all fours. "It is coming!"

    The presence approaching them was a few hundred meters away. Then some changes occurred in the Tiger King and the White Bear.

    Their appearances which had been a mixture of human and beast were now closer to that of beasts. This was because their innate instincts as animals whispered that it would be dangerous if they didn't confront this enemy with all of their power.

    Soon after, 'it' arrived in front of them.

    "...Tails?"

    The creature was smaller than Theodore had expected. Its body seemed to be similar or just slightly smaller than Theodore's. However, Theodore couldn't verify it that well. There was a black aura burning around the creature's entire body, but there was clearly the shape of tails behind it.

    From left to right, there were eight tails. The monster of Solitude, the creature that contained a terrifying power, stared at Theodore and the two spirits with red eyes.

    "Ugh?" At that moment, Theodore felt the power try to tie him up, and he quickly took action. He was able to see the power trying to tie up his body.

    'Magic eyes. No, snake eyes...?'

    It was said that a person couldn't move if a snake was staring at them. This was a variation of the traditional spell used by shamans, 'Snake Eyes.' An ordinary person would be frozen and couldn't move their feet. If it was severe, they would even have difficulty breathing.

    The creature tried to capture him, but it wouldn't work on a senior magician like Theodore. Still, it was a child of one of the Seven Sins, Lust. The two spirits succeeded in shaking off the spell as well, and the eight-tailed beast just stared at them.

    Perhaps this was the first time its trick was unsuccessful. However, the stalemate only lasted a short time as the creature opened its mouth, ――――――――――!

    Without any negotiations, the fight against Solitude began.
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