There it was, the dungeon ‘Gods and Demons’.
Its entrance was a simple cave at the side of a cliff, and a small outpost had been set up at its entrance, probably to restrict the entry of unauthorised personnel.
Since we had been taking care to not overtake the Heroes, we were the last to arrive at that place, which also meant that everyone had appeared on time. The prospect of being punished did work wonders, I guess; the courtesy of the ‘thrashing’ they received on the first day.
“It seems all of you have arrived, and on time.” I looked at them as they huddled together in front of me. “Seems like no one is getting punished.”
They let out sighs of relief as tension left their bodies. I faced Lantz.
“Where is Cecile?”
“There.” He pointed towards the outpost with his chin. “Handling the paperwork.”
As he had said, I indeed could see Cecile conversing with the guards through the window.
“They seem to be questioning her.”
“They have to make sure that we actually are the people the permits say we are.”
The security’s too tight, huh. Well, not exactly. If we wanted, then we could have easily defeated these guards and entered this dungeon, unless-
“Is there a special system that wouldn’t allow us entry through force?”
“Hmm?” His lips curled upwards. “No, no such thing. But even if you did gain entry through force, the Church would immediately notice and issue the highest level of emergency. Three Cardinals would be immediately deployed to capture the perpetrator.”
“After the pope herself, they are people with the highest amount of authority and power within the church. As of now, there are 5 cardinals, each of them as strong as a Commander of the Order of Knights.”
Seriously? As strong as a Commander? Why does the Church need so much power? For its ‘Holy’ Crusades?
“As strong as even you and Liege?”
Liege is the Fae Lord, while Lantz is known as the strongest of humanity. If the Cardinals are stronger than them, then I’ll immediately have to draw up countermeasures for the Church to seize control of it. Though in the worst-case scenario, I might have to destroy them.
“Well….” He smiled wryly. “Let’s just say that you cannot beat them.”
I cannot beat them? Lantz does know that I single-handedly defeated 36 Heroes, and he’s still saying that? Since I’m in Level 2 according to this kingdom’s standards, I guess they must at least be in Level 1. I’ll have to keep an eye on them.
“I see. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Just then, Cecile came back.
“Ah, you are here?”
I hope that the disappointment in her tone was just my imagination.
“Unfortunately, yes. Are we clear to go in now?”
She nodded and rounded up the Heroes. Leige also came down from the skies. It seemed that he would follow us into the dungeon to ensure that none of the Heroes die.
“As we’ve already informed you Heroes, each one of you must pass a Trial before entering the dungeon. We know neither the contents of the Trial nor the consequences of failing it. You must remember to remain on your guards at every point of time. Now, follow me.”
We complied and entered the cave after her.
The entrance to the cave and the path following it were both pretty wide, so we could easily walk in a group. Once safely inside, we got into the formation we had discussed beforehand. The ones at the front were me and Lantz, followed by Phiria and Cecile, then Michael and Sherry and the rest of the Heroes, and finally Leige, who was handling our rear.
I had strictly ordered Leige to interfere only when the Heroes faced a life-threatening situation, or to be more precise, when non-intervention would cause their death for certain. Other than that, they would have to handle everything themselves. He had outright refused at the beginning, but reluctantly agreed after being persuaded by both Lantz and Cecile.
Alongside improving their basic abilities, the past week that was spent training the Heroes should have given them a rough idea of what they lack and what they need to work on. The rest would be handled by the Trial required to enter the dungeon.
With a torch in mine and some others’ hands, we marched on without encountering any monster or trouble. The path was straight, albeit bumpy, and soon enough, a junction came, two paths leading towards two opposite directions. But without any hesitation, Cecile took the road less travelled by, that is, the left one.
That’s when we encountered our problem; the path started to get narrower. At the start, it was only a bit, but then it became narrower and narrower until we were forced to walk in a straight line.
“Cecile, is this really the way we’re supposed to go?” I looked back and asked, and she nodded in return. “All right, then.”
After some time of walking, we saw light; ahead of us was an opening from which light was pouring in. And no matter how you looked at it, that was clearly suspicious.
“Uhhh…. Do we have to go through this way?”
I asked again, and Cecile nodded again. So this time, I looked at Phiria, and she nodded as well.
“Oh well. I’ll be going first. In case I don’t come back, follow Mary’s orders.”
“All the best.”
Phiri waved me goodbye, and after steeling my heart, I stepped in through the opening.
As soon as I entered, blinding light forced me to shut my eyes for a while, and that’s when I felt a distortion in space caused by overwhelmingly dense mana.
Even before I opened my eyes, it was clear that I had been teleported. The atmosphere had changed; the air was cooler and fresher, the rocky smell had vanished, while the ground was harder and more even.
I opened my eyes, and the change in the scenery was so abrupt that it took me by surprise. And why wouldn’t it? After all, it was a scenery I was awfully familiar with.
“Ah, there you are!” A sweet, bell-like voice reached my ears. “We’ve been looking all over for you.”
I turned around after recognising that voice. In front of me was a large round table with seven chairs situated along it. Tea and snacks had been prepared, and it seemed that the participants of this tea party were enjoying themselves.
Six of those seven seats were full, and interestingly, I knew each and every one of them.
One of them had stood up from her seat and was waving her hand, beckoning me to take the empty seat. The moment I saw her, the world slowed down to a crawl. The pair of jet-black wings which seemed to be carved from darkness itself; protruding from her waist, they fluttered with her every movement. Long flowing glossy black hair and black eyes adorned her beautiful face.
I recognised her in an instant, and I understood where I exactly was. So, all that was left for me to do was-
“The very fact that you couldn’t dodge my attack shows how much of a fake you are.”
I said as the women clutched the Tzeeneth which I had impaled her heart with after appearing in front of her.
She mumbled, tears flowing from her wide eyes and blood flowing from her mouth.
“Shut up, Jack.” I said as I swung Tzeeneth, which after cleaving that woman’s torso, also cleaved Jack’s. “What a farce. The real them would have scoffed at such low-level attacks.”
“What are you doing- guh!”
“The same goes for Phiria.”
I flicked off the blood after separating her torso from her head, but alas, I could not do the same with the blood dying my own self. The remaining three; Chloe, Sherry, and Susan, had already fallen from their chairs and had huddled together.
I kicked the table aside and approached them. In the middle was Sherry. With tears flowing from her eyes, she was trembling and sweating profusely. Her eyes were screaming at me to not kill her, her eyes were refusing to recognise the man in front of her as her Sam.
“S-Sam……” Her voice was frail and quavery. “C-come back to your sense- ugh! W-why…..”
Of course, she couldn’t finish her sentence. My hand had already impaled her chest and taken out her heart. I showed it to her, and then crushed it in front of her eyes. At that exact moment, she fell down like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Only Chloe and Susan remained. They had already backed off from me. They stood up, and then started running away. But as if I was going to let them. I hoisted up Tzeeneth, and threw it at Susan with all my might. In the blink of an eye, it impaled her head and finished her off.
Chloe watched the death of her close friend with wide, bloodshot eyes. And as if her body had lost all of its energy, she limply fell down on her eyes. Clutching her head, she muttered like a broken record.
“Please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me………….”
I appeared in front of her. I stretched down a little and grabbed her by her neck, and raised her into the air.
Gasping for breath, she clawed at my hand, scratching it, digging her nails into it to free herself, but her efforts were in vain. I poured all my strength into my grasp, and gripped my hand so hard that I separated her head from her body. I glanced at the dishevelled state of that face, and threw it aside. I retrieved Tzeeneth and once again looked at the barbarous scene I had painted.
And with that, this world ‘closed’.
I was instantly teleported to a hall, somewhere inside the dungeon ‘Gods and Demons’. I raised my head a little, only to find a man sitting on a boulder in front of me.
“Welcome, Samuel Hayden.”