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Chapter 368 - Choice and Responsibility (1)

    Chapter 368 - Choice and Responsibility (1)

    After checking Wichung's body, the two people searched the castle in case there were any survivors. However, there was none. Only death remained inside and outside the walls.

    Lust hadn't spared anyone except for Wichung, who had been used as a messenger. Brothers held the spears they used to stab each other, and parents held the blanket that strangled their child... This was an artificially created hell. After opening the doors to a few private houses, Theodore accepted the futile reality of Hyungkang Castle.

    "Veronica, please."

    "Yes."

    She didn't need to be told. Veronica let out a deep sigh and produced fire from her fingertips.

    Incinerate.

    Veronica burned down a mansion, and the fire spread to nearby buildings. If left alone, it would set the whole castle on fire. With the corpses and buildings as firewood, an unprecedented cremation began.

    'Cremation... It isn't a sentimental thing.'

    Theodore looked around the burning castle with dry eyes. Hyungkang Castle wasn't very big, but neither was it small. Looking at the total population of the castle, it might be at least 10,000. Just the number of variant corpses alone exceeded that number. If this hell were left alone, it would become the dining place for the variants who would soon come.

    "...What are you going to do?" Veronica asked after she finished spreading the flames.

    "Well, I guess I have to go to that village and see."

    "It might be a trap for you."

    "I don't think so."

    The present Lust didn't have the combat forces to take Theodore's life. If she had such power, she wouldn't have fled Hyungkang Castle before he arrived. Instead, she would've tried a surprise attack. It would be hard to kill Theodore with the defense system of Geongun Castle which had killed Seimei, let alone a trap in a remote village.

    "Perhaps it is true that she has something to say to me."

    The problem was that Lust would need to be prepared for danger when talking to Theodore. It involved the reason why Lust had left Geongun Castle in order to kidnap Sylvia. Unless he knew this reason, Theodore couldn't speak at the same level as Lust.

    "Won't it be a hostage situation?"

    "Considering all the uncertain assumptions, it is likely. Still, it is hard to understand why."

    If Lust offered Sylvia's life, it would be enough to keep Theodore's feet tied up until the heavenly demon was born. However, there was no guarantee that the offer would be accepted. It was illogical for a Seven Sins grimoire to take action for such an uncertain possibility.

    "Well, I can't think of an answer to the problem."

    It was good to think, but this was a time to move. Theodore didn't worry about it anymore and held Veronica in his arms. Her wide eyes which held no resistance were pretty cute. Theodore briefly chuckled before saying, 「 Transition. 」

    Then a light appeared around their bodies.

    Flash!

    The two magicians disappeared from Hyungkang Castle and appeared again 50 kilometers north, near the village that Lust was about to visit. For Theodore who once moved across continents, a distance of 50 kilometers was just like a stone's throw. The two people looked around with a similar expression.

    "This village...?"

    "...Nothing?"

    There was only a wasteland to the north, south, east, and west.

    "No, wait a minute." Theodore wanted to check if Lust had left the wrong coordinates, only to realize a faint discomfort. Mana flowed in a calm but strange direction. There was a distortion of light that couldn't be detected with ordinary vision. Around 30 meters from where the two people were standing, there was a 'boundary' that couldn't be seen through. A ward that even Veronica couldn't detect...?

    'Amazing. An illusion like this... the person who did it must be at least at the 8th circle.' Not long after, Theodore realized that his evaluation was wrong.

    'No, they wouldn't have gotten away from Hyungkang Castle if they were that strong. Tae Rang is on a similar level to a grand master, and he would find it impossible to make this ward.'

    Nevertheless, seeing as this barrier was established, the person who did it was likely to be in possession of an artifact. If broken by force, the barrier would undoubtedly break down. Theodore didn't feel the need to cause hostility. So, instead of attacking the ward, he opened his mouth, "Great monk, if you are inside the ward then please listen."

    It might be funny to talk to air, but he knew his words would be heard by the great monk maintaining the barrier. Theodore's voice continued, "I have been asked by Tae Rang who is in the Baekun Mountains. He asked me for help with Hyungkang Castle, but it has long been captured. My identity will be proven with my companion Veronica, who has been fighting with you for the past few days."

    Despite his persuasion, the ward didn't open.  Instead, he heard a voice in the air, -Impossible. I know the identity of your companion, but how can I trust her mental state?

    "W-What? Hey! Open it immediately! Otherwise, I will blow it away!"

    Unlike the furious Veronica, Theodore just laughed. It seemed he wouldn't be able to persuade the monk with words.

    "It looks like you saw Lust's power. You have no choice but to feel doubt."

    It was a power that made a sword master into a slave at once. Theodore didn't know how the monk overcame the fascination, but if he had seen the scene, then it was natural that he wouldn't believe Veronica.

    'The Heavenly Sword or attack magic is too dangerous... It is appropriate to shake the flow a little bit.'

    This was a ward that focused on secrecy, so its defense was relatively inferior. If attacked with ultimate magic or the god-sword, it would not only be destroyed but the survivors in it would suffer major damage. Theodore thought so and carefully raised both his hands. No intense destructive power or sharp breaking force was necessary. He just gathered his concentration and took away the flow of one point.

    'Break.'

    At a point where nine lines overlapped, a large crack appeared on one side.

    Jjejejeok...!

    There was a line in the foundation of the ward that shouldn't be broken. The same was true no matter how good the ward. If one hole was made with a needle, it would collapse from there. Just like how a dam that failed to overcome the internal water pressure would collapse, the ward that isolated the space would collapse at that point of connection.

    -W-Wait a minute! I understand! I will face you directly, so don't break this ward!

    "I accept."

    -Sigh...

    With one stage left until the collapse, Theodore let go of the power. The monk made a sound, and the crack in the ward started to be filled again. This was because the monk knew it was useless when Theodore could effectively neutralize the ward.

    "Sigh, I am the monk, Taeryun. Who are you?"

    "Theodore Miller, the chief tower master of Meltor."

    "...I didn't believe it when the crimson goddess said it, but you are a real person."

    "Crimson goddess?" It was Theodore's first time hearing this title. Taeryun looked in Veronica's direction. "The crimson flames always fought at the forefront, so the castle's people called her that. The other one is called the blue goddess. Both of them were shy about it."

    "Ack! I told you not to say that!" Veronica cried out indignantly.

    However, the middle-aged man continued without a smirk, "Didn't you say that he is your military superior? Missing information is a felony on the same level as false reporting."

    "Y-You!" Veronica couldn't kill the monk, so she formed tight fists and gritted her teeth. To think that this shameful nickname was actually uttered in front of Theodore! If there was a mouse hole around, Veronica wanted to enter it immediately.

    Of course, Theodore thought that her struggles were cute. "Thank you for complimenting my lover. I heard that the monks are reluctant to engage in worldly affairs, but they are good at speaking."

    "It is useless for someone born as a person to imitate a cloud. I also have to get rid of the prejudice that all zen answers are boring."

    Taeryun's behavior was flexible compared to Tae Rang's. If Tae Rang were here, the ward would've ended up completely broken. Theodore considered Taeryun's eloquent way of speaking while the situation was still unclear. The monk's skills were unknown, but Taeryun was superior to Tae Rang when it came to adaptability.

    "Here, this is something Tae Rang gave me as a token." Before starting the story, Theodore pulled out the token he got from Tae Rang.

    It was a wooden plaque with the word 'Kunlun' carved on it. At first glance, it was a poor piece of craftsmanship. However, perhaps it could only be understood by a monk?  It seemed to be the case as the hardness in Taeryun's eyes softened. "I have been very rude. Please forgive me."

    "The situation was understandable to don't worry about it."

    "I am grateful for your generosity."

    The misunderstanding was cleared up with a few words. Then Theodore opened his mouth, "I have more to talk about. We should be as quick as possible."

    Taeryun must've felt the weight in Theodore's words because he replied with a cautious attitude, "Please tell me. I won't neglect a single word."

    *     *     *

    The long night passed, and the sun came up. Light poured from the horizon on the east, while the flower buds opening announced that day had come. As always, white clouds floated in the blue sky. Sometimes the wind would scatter the clouds in strange shapes. The green leaves and chirping birds were signs of life. It was a cliche morning from a storybook.

    "..." He sat in the middle of the village where everyone had disappeared and waited for the guest who said they would come.

    Meanwhile, he refilled the energy that had been consumed by several battles. The usage of the three artifacts were still mysteries, but their abilities were intact. If he had a few hands-on experiences, he might be able to demonstrate equal or an even better performance than their previous owner.

    He was the master of Gluttony and the unique transcendent of this material world. Theodore was in a perfect state for battle.

    '―She's coming.'

    His senses, sharp enough to catch a dandelion, perceived a presence a few kilometers away. It was coming at a pace that was neither fast nor slow. The presence didn't have much fighting power. Was it a master? If Theodore moved to kill, he would be able to annihilate the presence before they could even recognize the attack. He could also make them talk after getting rid of all their limbs.

    Currently, Theodore was very powerful and very angry.

    Step.

    However, he didn't attack the person who appeared in this place. He gritted his teeth instead. As Gluttony had said last night, there was some leeway for this. He just hoped it wasn't as he thought.  Theodore took a deep breath to control his vision that was distorted by red, trying to suppress the overflowing anger.

    "Hello! Gluttony's owner, hasn't it been a long time?" In a voice that couldn't help being familiar, 'she' had come to talk. "Huh? What is it? Ah, yes. This is the first time you are facing me in this body."

    With a sly manner, the beautiful woman standing there with silver hair made a strange expression. If it hadn't been for the voice, Theodore wouldn't have known it was a smile. A sinister light appeared the eyes of Lust, who had taken possession of Sylvia Adruncus' body.

    Theodore barely endured his anger and asked in a heavy voice, "...Didn't you say you would send an incarnation?"

    "Ah, there was such a promise," Lust spoke like she had forgotten. "That is why I came in this body that I am not used to."

    "...You!"

    "Why are you suddenly acting like a brat? Think about it from my perspective. Is there a better protection for my own neck? Can I trust you? It is impossible. We are the worst grimoires ever, the Seven Sins."

    Sylvia's blue eyes were reddish. Being Lust's terminal was eroding at her body, and she was also robbed of control of it.

    The only comfort was that no apparent change was seen. In a same-sex body where Lust planted her terminal, the erosion would first accelerate by making a placenta. After that, there was no turning back from being one of Lust's people. If Sylvia were in that state, Theodore would've killed her without any conversation.

    "....What do you want?" He cut to the chase.

    Standing before him with a dreadful momentum, Lust wore Sylvia's body and licked her lips sexily. "Okay, shall we weigh the pros and cons?"
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