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Chapter 288 – Emperor Moves (3)

    Chapter 288 - Emperor Moves (3)

    The magicians, led by Blundell, quickly crossed the walls of Bergen, leaving the deafened people staring stupidly at their backs. They didn't know what was going on, but they knew it wasn't something they could interfere with.

    Kurururung!

    The earth was still shaking violently. Dirt fell from collapsed hills and landslides occurred, spreading the flames and dust further. It increased the height of the obstacles in the path of Theodore's group, but that was all.

    'Ugh, how many times have the magic attacks been shot out...?'

    With Randolph and the two guardians by his side, Theodore looked at the Nadun Mountains that started to come into view.

    Black smoke and flames were rising.

    The giants keeping this spot for hundreds of years were broken like fragile reeds, while the monsters were rushing around like wild beasts. It was like a natural disaster, the eruption of a large volcano, had occurred.

    Even though it was great magic, it didn't have one or two times the power.

    It was at least 10 times the power, a destructive force that could take out the middle of a large mountain range. This was a firepower that no one else except for Veronica, Meltor's ultimate fire magician, could exert.

    Theodore might be able to do one shot, but he didn't have a way to release such strong destructive power in a row.

    "This woman, she's not thinking about other people at all..." Blundell grumbled as he felt the heat in the air and drew water from the area.

    Then he covered the group with a thin protective layer.

    It was a proficiency worthy of the peak of the blue tower. Theodore felt admiration for him when he found that the shield didn't interfere with his breathing and movements. To think he could use a spell this sophisticated in an instant! Theodore had reached the threshold of the water attribute, yet he couldn't do it so perfectly.

    'An 8th circle master, I am still far away.'

    It was a wall beyond a wall. However, Theodore was pleased, rather than frustrated.

    Shortly afterward, the party arrived at the entrance of the mountain range and looked around. Burned trees emitted heat into the sky, while the half-melted and uneven ground made it hard to walk on unless they were cooled and hardened.

    Thanks to Blundell, there were no inconveniences. However, it was uncomfortable to wait in such an environment. Then at that moment...

    "―Oh, you came faster than I thought? I expected it would take a few more days," a cheerful voice rang out from above their heads, belonging to the person who had made the Nadun Mountains like this.

    It was the appearance of the great magician with the lineage of a red dragon, Veronica. She landed on the ground and chuckled when she saw Blundell's wrinkled face. "What, you've just gone and already come back? It must be hard to wander around at your age."

    A vein throbbed on Blundell's head as he countered, "Hey, at least have some manners!"

    "What if I don't want to~? Isn't it hard moving those muscles? Eek, look at them squirm. You should put on looser robes!"

    "Ridiculous! I'm not ashamed of my muscles!"

    For the two pillars of the kingdom, this was the normal conversation between them. However, the expressions of the other magicians changed when they discovered this reality. The two people then belatedly became aware of their lost dignity and closed their mouths.

    Veronica cleared her throat a few times before talking first, "Kuk! Let's stop joking around and talk about the situation."

    "Cough, yes. You must've been in a delaying battle, right?"

    "Yep, I can't deal with so many sword masters alone. I fired off attack skills from a distance that is hard for them to reach. And I have a feeling that I shouldn't approach."

    "Your gut... I shouldn't look down on it."

    Unlike their first frivolous appearance, the two people became serious as they started the discussion.

    According to Veronica, she had chosen to intercept, rather than tighten the defenses around Mana-vil. She could sit quietly and wait for them to arrive, but she was worried about the power of the emperor, as well as the 1st and 2nd swords.

    If possible, she wanted to at least identify the emperor's Aura Ability, but that seemed to have failed.

    However, Veronica's face was shining brightly, rather than shrinking back. "Well, I don't think I can lose with all this power gathered. I just need to take a breather before penetrating the enemy."

    "Is it okay? You must've consumed quite a bit of magic power."

    "The same is true for the other side. I think it will be worse if we wait for my recovery. A sword master's resilience is almost at the level of a troll," she said without exaggerating.

    If a magician required 10 hours to recover from the magic power consumed, then a sword master only needed 2~3 hours to recover their stamina. It was possible that the opponent would be ready if they waited for Veronica's recovery.

    "Red Tower Master."

    "Huh? What is it, Kid?"

    Theodore pulled something out without any hesitation.

    *     *     *

    After approximately 30 minutes of waiting. The heat filling the entire mountain range faded, and the fire started to shrink. It was an environment where they could walk around and breathe, even if they didn't have Blundell's magic.

    However, it wasn't just environmental benefits that Theodore had gotten in those 30 minutes.

    "...Once again, thank you for your help, Captain Theodore. I will repay you for this medicine when we return."

    "W-What, this tree root? I took only half of it, and I've recovered almost all of my magic power?"

    It was the stunning effect of the Thousand Year Knotweed Elixir that Theodore had given out. He was very satisfied with their reactions.

    'The 500-year-old ones aren't as efficient, but they are still good.'

    There was no doubt that he could buy a mansion with the value of one elixir, but he needed to keep supplies for big battles. It was worth investing all the remaining plants if it was possible to restore Veronica's power. Blundell was well aware of the meaning of Theodore's actions and pounded on Theodore's back. "Good! Very good! As His Majesty said, you really are the treasure of our Meltor!"

    "B-Blue Tower Master, i-it hurts."

    "Don't be sorry about today's spending! I will petition the king to give you something of equal value!"

    "T-Thank you?" Theodore's back throbbed from being hit several times by that large hand, and he barely managed to respond.

    Anyway, this was favorable to all of them.

    There were two guardians, a sword master, three tower masters, and Theodore. Additionally, there were the Prime-grade elites following them for secondary assistance. It would be hard for the four sword masters in the mountain range to win.

    The two great magicians came to the same conclusion and raised their voices.

    "Go! We don't need to waste any more time!"

    "That's right. Stay focused. From now on, we will be entering a battlefield where one inch of carelessness isn't allowed."

    They tightened their formation. Randolph and Ellaim were excellent at melee battle and were placed at the forefront, while the strongest Veronica was placed in the middle. Blundell moved in the rear, and Orta, who hadn't completely recovered yet, was a support. Meanwhile, Theodore and Edwin were moving fluidly between different positions.

    It was a formation that allowed them to cope with any situation.

    A heavy silence filled the air as they walked through the desolate landscape, causing Blundell to mutter a few words. Anyone who remembered the Nadun Mountains in the past would react the same way. "...It is quiet. It is hard to think of it as the Nadun Mountains. Will it be able to naturally regain its original appearance?"

    "This won't be enough to stop the enemies. We've wiped out the little ones, but the main players of the Seven Swords are still there. The defensive ability of the 1st and 2nd Swords is unnecessarily high," Veronica gave excuses as to why she had gone so far.

    Theodore inwardly accepted the excuses.

    This destruction was necessary if she wanted to tie up the feet of the 1st Sword, who had blocked Death Gazer on Kural Plains without any injuries, or the 2nd Sword who could cut space. There was no value in preserving the natural environment when facing them.

    "No, I'm not trying to blame you..." Blundell was trying to explain when...

    Wuooooong...!

    Despite there being no warnings, everyone prepared for battle.

    The magic power of the four great magicians oppressed the region, scattering the aura of the wind, fire, and water elementals that were called. No matter who rushed out from beyond the charred grass, Theodore knew that they wouldn't be able to survive.

    'He' stepped forward.

    "...Hah." A pool of blood formed every time he took a step. Blood was flowing from his torn left arm and the hole in the abdomen, ignoring the recovery effect of aura as it soaked into the earth.

    No matter where they looked, he was in a miserable condition. His aura was flickering like a candle about to be blown out. He raised his right arm over his head.

    "Hey, will you save me if I surrender?" Zest Speitem suggested with a desperate expression.

    "...What is going on, 2nd Sword?" Blundell asked as he moved forward, causing Zest to shake his head. Did he mean that it was difficult to explain with his own mouth?

    "I don't know. Why did this happen? Why did he attack us...? I don't want to die like this. So, save me, okay? I will do whatever you want."

    "Him?"

    "D-Damn. It is hard to stand..."

    Flop. Zest's body fell to the ground. The sword master, who should be tougher than steel, found it hard to stand. This meant that his condition was extremely serious. Should they give him first aid?

    While Blundell was feeling baffled by the unknown situation, Zest looked behind him and spoke in a faint voice, "Again, we meet... Kid."

    "...Zest Speitem."

    "I couldn't kill you twice, and now the third encounter... I won't be able to even if I am saved..." The strongest swordsman who guarded the Andras Empire with the 1st Sword chuckled with derision.

    He had missed the opportunity to kill his opponent twice, and now he was begging for his life? If pride had a solid shape, it would've completely shattered at this point. Nevertheless, Zest wanted to live. Theodore looked into Zest's eyes and saw his condition more precisely than anyone else.

    Then Theodore declared in a calm manner, "I'm sorry, but you are already dead. Your wounds can't be repaired by any means."

    "...W-What?"

    "The hole in your abdomen, it isn't a mere flesh wound. It destroyed the soul. Your soul is strong and managed to hold on for a bit in that state, but now... there isn't much left."

    Theodore's ability to see the soul had increased while learning eastern martial arts and shamanism. As such, he was able to see that the hole had been drilled into Zest's soul. It was an injury that couldn't be fixed. The soul and the flesh were completely different concepts. Repairing a broken soul was a feat only possible for a 9th circle magician.

    "...I see..." Zest accepted it with a lighter expression like he could read the truth in Theodore's face and voice. "Damn, that monster... He had such power... Dammit. Rather, if I died by your hands, it... would've been better..."

    "There is much to be said about running away and winning."

    "...Kuk, cheeky, child. Of course... I..."

    Tok, Zest's right hand fell to the ground. It was the end of a sword master, the 2nd of the empire's Seven Swords. Theodore didn't miss the way Zest's soul was drawn somewhere along with his death.

    "That way."

    "You..."

    "There is no time to explain. The one who killed Zest is over there." Theodore was certain and spoke without thinking.

    Something was burning up in his body. Seeing the death of the person, who had almost killed him in the past and had threatened his kingdom, made him angry. Zest shouldn't have died like this.

    Theodore had wanted to kill Zest with his own hands. Or maybe he felt a sense of rapport with him from when they fought? He couldn't know now.

    "...Understood. We will go this way." Blundell followed Theodore's words without asking.

    There was no reasoning for it. He was just convinced by Theodore's previous achievements and current firm conviction. As they moved in the indicated direction, they passed by the body of a woman with white hair. Randolph looked at the strange looking spear and the woman's body with a strange expression.

    Then at the end of the path, they faced him.

    "―You're late."

    He was big. Anyone who saw him would think so. The man sitting on the rock was taller than the average person, and his wide shoulders were magnificent like a mountain. His white-tinged hair reminded them of the snow peaks, and his grandiose voice echoed. He was holding onto a sword that had blood dripping from it.

    Even though he didn't introduce himself, everyone knew who he was. This man was the emperor. He was the peak of the Andras Empire, the emperor who carried the Seven Swords and dyed the north with blood.

    Emperor Kether-anyone born in Meltor couldn't help hating this man. However, Theodore felt confused. He didn't know why, but he felt a strange sense of familiarity from the emperor.

    "Indeed, it was like this."

    The emperor's eyes, which didn't contain a shred of humanity, focused on Theodore. No, it was like he was looking inside Theodore.

    "Indeed, it has been a long time, my brother."

    No one knew the meaning of his words. Why did the emperor of Andras call them brother and why had he killed the 2nd Sword? They didn't know anything and couldn't make a guess. As the fear of the unknown settled upon the magicians, 'it' woke up inside of Theodore.

    -I made a guess, but it truly is him.

    Theodore immediately responded, 'The emperor's brother... Don't tell me...?!'

    -It is as you guessed, User. In the midst of this confusion, Gluttony's voice was as calm as ever. -He is one of the Seven Sins that has been in conflict with me since time immemorial―Invidia, the parasitic grimoire that symbolizes the sin of envy.
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