The emperor had negative feelings about the war against the Overgeared Kingdom. Was it because he hoped that Piaro wouldn’t be swept up in the war? No. The emperor wasn’t foolish enough to allow private feelings to affect the nation. There were several reasonable factors that caused him to have a negative view of the war.
Firstly, he appreciated the value of Overgeared King Grid, who was Pagma's Descendant and had received the title of Hero King. He was a means to help the emperor fulfill his ancestors’ desires to enter the East Continent. Additionally, he found out that Grid had gained Piaro. The emperor acknowledged Grid’s power in many ways and wanted to treat him magnanimously rather than be enemies.
Secondly, there was the fact that 3rd Imperial Prince Benoit was a variable. He couldn’t tell the Seven Dukes that he was worried about his son’s well-being, but Prince Benoit was currently wandering the continent while conducting suspicious rituals. At first, the emperor didn’t know what the rituals were. Then he realized that Belial’s summoning had a direct connection with Benoit. Why was this child so obsessed with summoning the great demons? They were a big threat to the entire continent.
The previously summoned Belial had been relatively low in rank and easily stopped by the Overgeared members. However, if Benoit summoned a high ranking great demon, then it was highly likely some parts of the continent would be destroyed and there was no guarantee the empire would be safe from the threat. He wanted to avoid a depletion of power just in case.
Mercedes in the Overgeared Kingdom wasn’t easy to deal with either.
‘Chensler needs to bring Benoit back quickly.’
Thirdly, he didn’t want to provide an opportunity for 4th Imperial Prince Edan’s magic machines army to be active. Thanks to successfully mining the magic machines, Edan’s faction was growing and the emperor couldn’t leave him unchecked. It was a fact that Edan would make a great achievement if his magic machines army participated in the war. With his birth trauma, it would be the worst if Edan gained a higher position. There was room for him to start a revolt if he became the crown prince.
Fourthly, there was the problem of finances. The empire had many borders because it had territories all over the continent. Many large nations were still loyal to the empire, but the ethnic minorities were rebelling across the continent. Just as the Nero had greatly damaged the empire in the past, the ethnic minorities that survived decades after the empire’s subjugation policy have grown tough. They were like weeds that wouldn’t die. Too many resources would be consumed to ignore them and concentrate on the war with the Overgeared Kingdom. In particular, the giants were a problem.
“...I have a headache.”
The emperor wondered since when the dream of conquering the continent had become so distant. Was it due to the Overgeared Kingdom suddenly being founded one day? Or was it because the empire relied on the existing power structure and failed to respond to the sudden changes? No. Was it because of the indifferent grandmaster? Was it due to the flimsy Five Pillars? Was it because of the boredom of the Seven Dukes?
That also wasn’t it either. It wasn’t something that could be blamed on anyone else.
‘It is all my fault.’
The emperor had been shocked and disheartened by the death of Empress Aria and Piaro’s betrayal occurring in succession, so he hid in the skirts of Empress Marie and turned away from the painful reality. He left behind all of the emperor’s responsibilities. Thus, the empire lost decades.
“I’m not qualified.”
He wasn’t emperor material. He was guilty of betraying the family members who had believed in him and made him the heir. How much would the first emperor lament if he saw the present empire? The emperor rebuked himself and opened the map of the West Continent, which was supposed to be painted in one color by now.
“A carrier pigeon has arrived from Duke Grenhal.”
“A carrier pigeon?”
It was an age where communication with magic was possible. What was the meaning of using a carrier pigeon? Was there an area on the battlefield where magic power was blocked? The emperor admired the magical skills and thorough readiness of the Overgeared Kingdom and confirmed the contents of the carrier pigeon.
There was a brief description about the discovery of the war god’s ruins in the Red Sea. The writer argued that the value of the site was highly appreciated and it was necessary to focus on exploration.
“Hah... Haha.” The emperor was delighted. He believed that the heavens had given him an opportunity to end the meaningless war with the Overgeared Kingdom. By the way, it was a bit absurd. Why was Duke Grenhal in the Red Sea instead of on the battlefield?
‘...Even Duke Grenhal.’
Duke Grenhal was a person who had helped to reduce the excessive expansion of the empress’ faction. Yet he wasn’t aware of the power of the Overgeared Kingdom and fooled around.
It was disappointing because the emperor’s trust in him was greater than the others. The emperor crumpled the letter in an annoyed manner and ordered Bain, “Bring back the advance troops who marched on the Overgeared Kingdom and prepare for the exploration of the Ruins of the War God.”
There would be enormous treasures hidden in the historical site of the war god’s ruins. There were also more dangers lurking. There was no objection to the emperor stopping the war to concentrate on the ruins exploration.
It was a voyage that could be described with several words.
Skunk knew the empire had a great interest in him, but he never imagined the dukes would personally participate in the voyage. Moreover, they willingly gave him the best ships. He read the route with the help of the Compass of Truth, got past the water clan with the resourcefulness of Gold Crown Basara, and then handled the sea monsters with the help of Beast King Morse.
[You have found the Ruins of the War God!]
[It is an achievement that will remain in history!]
[The achievement rewards...]
Skunk achieved a new feat again. It was a great achievement gained a short time after fully exploring the West Continent. Skunk’s heart was full. The companions who believed and followed him along with the Seven Dukes—Skunk saw their faces and felt like the protagonist of his father’s movie. He felt like this was how Grid always felt.
“First...” Skunk confirmed the compensation for discovering the Ruins of the War God and planted a seedling. It would grow into a tree in one year and become his eye. He was cautious. “I heard that there are many dangerous traps and guardians in the ruins. How about waiting here until reinforcements arrive?”
Skunk’s companions were ready to set up barracks at a beach where beautiful white sand shone. They based it on the premise of exploring the ruins with the empire. Skunk’s expedition group wasn’t strong enough to explore the site, and it was likely that all types of players would come here after the world message. It was ideal to cooperate with the imperial forces to explore the site and obtain as much compensation as possible before uninvited guests arrived.
There was a woman with a small crown on her head. The mysterious beauty called Basara, who always had her eyes closed, nodded. “Sir Skunk is right. We should wait and avoid the guardians’ eyes before reinforcements arrive.”
It was a reasonable opinion, but Beast King Morse thought differently. “Me, you, Duke Grenhal. The three of us together should be enough to go against the guardians. I would rather explore the ruins and monopolize the treasures.”
Immortal King Grenhal nodded. “Duke Morse is right. There is danger in the ruins of the war god, but we can overcome it if we join forces.”
The reason why Morse and Grenhal were impatient was that these were relics of the war god, not an ordinary god. War God Zeratul, the sword and shield of Goddess Rebecca, was regarded as the only one capable of dealing with the absolute power of Evil God Yatan. His transcendent power which was given to his ‘followers’ was indirectly described in the war against the Seven Malignant Saints.
[Those who were most active in the subjugation of the Seven Malignant Saints were the followers of the war god. Their martial arts were overwhelming, and the Seven Malignant Saints couldn’t be idle.]
The war god didn’t come personally, but his followers threatened the Seven Malignant Saints. Of course, there were many exaggerations in myths, but it was still great. Grenhal and Morse coveted the war god’s secret techniques that were likely to be sleeping here. They didn’t want to hand them over to anyone else. In particular, Grenhal’s eagerness was great.
‘I can keep the grandmaster in check if I can get a secret technique.’
A person whom even the Seven Dukes couldn’t grasp—the grandmaster was believed to have lived for hundreds of years without dying and that he had stood by emperors of successive generations, making him a threatening existence. The empire might exist now because of his many accomplishments, but his recent activities were far from showing loyalty to the imperial family.
‘It is a problem when a monster with other interests has greater authority than the Seven Dukes.’
The presence of the grandmaster was enough to trigger the bored dukes. No matter how hard they tried to figure it out, a monster whose identity was still unknown was by the emperor’s side. There was no meaning in it if a monster was the one holding the national flag. The existence of a vague risk factor caused them to feel anxious and chaotic, turning away from their complacency. Now things would change.
‘I will become stronger, drive out the grandmaster, and be a new stimulus for the dukes. I will protect the emperor fully.’ Duke Grenhal was determined and vowed this. It was different from when he dealt with a small country called Overgeared.
Basara sighed. She knew there was no way to stop Grenhal. “Okay. We will explore it. Still, let’s look slowly from the outskirts. It will be harder the deeper we enter.”
“That is a good idea. Understood.”
The members of Skunk’s expedition group were upset because the dukes only consulted each other and decided on their own. Dog Woman whispered to Skunk, who didn’t dare intervene in the conversation, “Isn’t this good? They are the Seven Dukes. We can never get rid of them, and we will be able to go through this small island quickly.”
“These are the ruins of the war god, not someone else.” Skunk’s face was pale as he recalled the war god follower who had learned two secret techniques from the Galgunos Temple. “If there are three or four... Perhaps even a duke won’t be able to cope with a war god follower who has learned more secret techniques.”
“There is nothing we can do. Will we be able to cope with an overwhelming enemy that even three of the Seven Dukes can’t handle?”
“Indeed, you are correct.”
In any case, there was no point in talking among themselves. The dukes were already moving into the jungle. Since the knights and soldiers were escorting Skunk, it seemed true that Skunk was important. They had only taken a few steps into the jungle when a fist suddenly flew toward Grenhal, and he defended with his shield. A single punch of the fist struck four times. Every time a strike overlapped, the power doubled. Eventually, the two-headed hippopotamus took a step backward.
“Hah.” Grenhal couldn’t help admiring it. The two-headed hippopotamus was nearly 2.5 tons in weight and had a strength of two ogres. This was the first time Grenhal saw it being pushed back. Grenhal scattered some energy blades. It was a swift counterattack. However, the targeted guardian climbed up the tree to escape and folded his arms. The name over his head was war god follower who had learned five secret techniques.
“Crazy...” Skunk murmured to himself. The two secret technique followers were stronger than high rankers, so it was unclear how strong those who had learned five secret techniques would be. To think that such a monster would appear at the beginning...?
‘Even the name is white.’
This meant it was classified as a regular monster. It showed how high the overall difficulty of the historical site would be.
“He is like a monkey!” Beast King Morse was growling. The saber tiger he always carried with him jumped forward and swung its paws at the follower. The moment the body of the saber tiger touched the branch, a net unfolded and tied up the tiger.
Gold Crown Basara, who still had her eyes closed, muttered, “There are traps in every corner.”
It was a dense jungle. There were countless trees. The leaves and branches were crossed like a spiderweb. Basara sensed the traps installed all over them. As a few troops screamed because of the traps, Basara spoke to Grenhal and Morse, “We have to retreat.”
The traps were the problem. Grenhal decided to follow Basara’s judgment. “That would be good.”
Morse was different. “I’m going to punish this guy!”
He avoided the war god follower as he rescued the saber tiger before turning and kicking out. There was a burst of wind. The kick was sharp, but the war god follower succeeded in defending his knees. Morse didn’t stop. He used his feet like hooks and grabbed the follower’s knees. The follower in the high tree was forcibly pulled by Morse and crashed to the ground. As his hard face touched the ground, the follower flinched.
Skunk’s group watched the process and couldn’t close their mouths. They hadn’t expected the dukes to be so great.
‘I thought it was somewhat exaggerated because Rigal was hit by Grid.’
No. Grid was just too strong. Skunk deeply admired Grid and told Duke Basara, “A few trees have a keyhole. They seem like devices to stop the jungle’s traps... It is a priority to find keys that fit.”
Skunk had thoroughly observed the surroundings during this short period of time. As an explorer who was becoming a legend, he had all types of observation skills and quickly grasped how to escape the jungle traps. The problem was how they were going to get the keys.
‘It will hurt to find clues.’
It wouldn’t be easy as long as there wasn’t a ‘master key’ in the world. In fact, it seemed like this process would take a very long time.