Chapter 368: Choice and Responsibility (1)
After checking Wichung’s body, the two people searched the castle for any more survivors. However, only death remained inside the walls of Hyungkang Castle. 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. It was a hell of a grimoire’s creation. After opening the doors to a few houses, Theo accepted the futile reality.
She didn’t need to be told. Veronica let out a deep sigh and produced fire from her fingertips.
Veronica burned down a mansion, and the fire spread to nearby buildings. If left alone, it would set the whole castle on fire. Corpses and buildings were consigned to the pyre as an unprecedented cremation began.
Cremation... It isn’t a sentimental thing.
Theo looked around the burning castle with dry eyes. Hyungkang Castle wasn’t very big, but neither was it small. It had been home to at least ten thousand people, and the resting place for an equal number of variants. If they had left it alone, it would have been a banquet for any variant who stumbled onto it.
“... 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.”
“I don’t think so.”
Lust didn’t have the combat forces to take Theo’s life at the moment. If she did, she wouldn’t have fled Hyungkang Castle before he arrived and instead tried to ambush him. It would be hard to kill Theo in the same way she had killed Seimei with Geongun Castle’s defense system, let alone a trap in a remote village.
“Perhaps she does have something to say to me.”
The problem was that Lust would need to be prepared for danger when talking to Theo. That might be why Lust had left Geongun Castle in order to kidnap Sylvia. Unless he figured out the grimoire’s reasoning, Theo would be at a disadvantage.
Veronica frowned. “Won’t it be a hostage situation?”
Theo grimaced. “Considering all the uncertain assumptions, it is likely. Still, it is hard to understand why.”
If Lust held Sylvia’s life over his head, it would be enough to keep Theo tied down until the heavenly demon was born. However, there was no guarantee that he would accept that offer, and a Seven Sins grimoire would not be so illogical as to entertain such an uncertain possibility.
“Well, I can’t think of an answer.”
It was good to think, but this was a time for action. Theo didn’t worry about it anymore and held Veronica in his arms. Her wide eyes which held no resistance were pretty cute. Theo briefly chuckled.
「 Transition. 」
Their bodies glowed for a second.
The two magicians disappeared from Hyungkang Castle and appeared fifty kilometers north, near the village that Lust was about to visit. Fifty kilometers was a stone’s throw away for Theo, who had once teleported across continents. The two of them looked around with a similar expression.
There was only a wasteland to the north, south, east, and west.
“No, wait a minute.”
Theo wanted to check if Lust had given them the wrong coordinates, only to realize a faint discomfort. The mana was flowing in a calm, but weird way. There was a distortion of light that couldn’t be detected with ordinary vision. Theo followed the source of the mana to an invisible boundary around thirty meters in front of them. Was this 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.
But Theo 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, since this barrier was established, the person who did it was likely to be in possession of an artifact. If it was broken by force, the barrier would undoubtedly break down. Theo didn’t feel the need to cause hostility.
So he called out, “Great monk, if you are inside the ward then please listen.”
It might be funny to talk into thin air, but he knew the monk maintaining the barrier could hear him.
Theo continued, “I have been asked by Tae Rang, who is currently in Baekun Mountains, to help with Hyungkang Castle, but it has long been captured. My identity can be verified by my companion Veronica, who has been fighting with you for the past few days.”
Despite his words, 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?
Veronica lost her temper. “W-What? Hey! Open it immediately! Otherwise, I will blow it away!”
Theo 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 had transformed a swordmaster into a slave. Theo didn’t know how the monk had broken the infatuation, but if he had seen the scene, then it was natural that he wouldn’t believe Veronica.
The Heavenly Sword or attack spells are too dangerous… I can just nudge the flow a little bit.
This was a ward that focused on camouflage, so its defenses were relatively inferior. If it was attacked with ultimate spells or the god-sword, it would destroy the ward and seriously injure the survivors inside. Theo thought so and carefully raised both his hands. He needed to concentrate in order to arrest the flow of one of the nodes. No intense destructive power or sharp breaking force was necessary.
A large crack appeared on one side of the ward where nine lines overlapped.
Theo had bored a hole into the foundation of the ward, and held it open. As long as he could keep the ward from repairing itself, it would eventually collapse from the destabilization, just like a dam that sprang a leak.
- W-Wait a minute! I understand! I will face you directly, so don’t break this ward!
Theo let go of the power holding the ward open. The monk grunted, and the crack in the ward became a stable door. The monk realized his efforts were useless when Theo 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 Theo’s first time hearing this title.
Taeryun looked in Veronica’s direction. “The crimson flames always fought at the front lines, 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 repeat that name!” Veronica cried out indignantly.
However, the middle-aged man continued impassively, “Didn’t you say that he is your superior in the military? Leaving out 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 had actually been uttered in front of Theo! She wanted to find the closest mouse hole and crawl into it.
Of course, Theo thought that her rage was 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.”
The monk hid a smile. “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 seemed more flexible than Tae Rang. Tae Rang would have rather let the ward break. Theo considered Taeryun’s eloquent way of speaking while the situation was still unclear. The monk’s skills were unknown, but Taeryun was clearly superior to Tae Rang when it came to adaptability.
“Here, this is something Tae Rang gave me as a token.” Before starting the story, Theo 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?
The hardness in Taeryun’s eyes softened. “I have been very rude. Please forgive me.”
“The situation was understandable so don't worry about it.”
“I am grateful for your generosity.”
The misunderstanding was cleared up with a few words.
Theo said, “I have more to talk about. We should be as quick as possible.”
Taeryun must’ve felt the weight in Theo’s words because he replied cautiously, “Please tell me. I won’t neglect a single word.”
The sun rose over the horizon as the long night ended. White clouds scudded across the blue sky, and flowers opened to greet the sunlight and bees. It was a cliche morning from a storybook.
Theo sat in the middle of the village where everyone had disappeared and waited for his guest. He used the time to refill the energy in the artifacts he had on him. Their full abilities were still opaque to him, but they were certainly intact. If he had a little time to experiment, 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. Theo was in a perfect state for battle.
His senses, sharp enough to catch a dandelion floating in the air, perceived a presence a few kilometers away. It was coming at a pace that was neither fast nor slow. The presence didn’t seem to have much fighting power. Was it a master? If Theo 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, Theo was very powerful and very angry.
However, he didn’t attack the person who appeared, and instead gritted his teeth. As Gluttony had said last night, there was some leeway for this. He just hoped it wasn’t as he thought. Theo 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?” She had come to talk in a familiar voice. “Huh? What is it? Ah, yes. This is the first time you are facing me in this body.”
The beautiful woman with silver hair smiled slyly. A sinister light gleamed in Lust’s eyes, who had taken possession of Sylvia Adruncus’ body.
Theo barely controlled 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.”
Theo tensed. “... You!”
“Why are you suddenly acting like a brat? Think about it from my perspective. Is there any better protection for my own neck? Can I trust you? That’s impossible. We are the worst grimoires ever, the Seven Sins.”
Sylvia’s blue eyes were tinged with red. Being Lust’s terminal was eroding her body, and she was also robbed of control. The only comfort was that there didn’t seem to be any apparent change. Usually, the erosion would begin with Lust placing a placenta in her terminal. At that point, there was no turning back from being one of Lust’s people. If Sylvia had been in that state, Theo would’ve killed her without any conversation.
“.... What do you want?” He cut to the chase.
Lust wore Sylvia’s body and licked her lips sexily. “Okay, shall we weigh the pros and cons?”