< Treacherous Spirit >
The lord was only able to fend off the evil spirits by swinging his torch, but Leona could scare them away with just a yell.
“What were those spirits?”
Although it was unlucky to talk about spirits, Zin thought that it would be good to explain them to Leona.
“They are spirits that enter the mind of an agitated person. It enters their body and turns them insane. If you don’t pay attention, you will get possessed. As Zin talked, he looked at Ramphil in warning, and Ramphil nodded in response. He had been thinking of various things, allowing the spirit to enter his mind.
“If you have any worries, think about them outside. Only focus on what’s in front of us.”
“Got it. I’m sorry.”
“Alright, let’s go.”
The lord began to lead the way again and the group moved in single file. Ramphil then realized why only the lord was carrying the torch. It was not only meant to brighten the passageway but also to act as a charm to fend off evil spirits. That was the reason the lord could chase off the spirits by swinging the torch.
The lord continued swinging it to fend off other spirits. Ramphil didn’t fully understand sorcery, but he believed that its power could be trusted.
“Isn’t this place considered sacred to sorcerers? Why are there so many spirits roaming around?” Ramphil thought that Heavenly Power Castle should be a place where spirits couldn’t easily approach due to the charms and force fields. He couldn’t believe that there would be so many spirits in the most important area of the castle.
“What the heck are you talking about?” Zin responded as if he had asked a stupid question. “This Heavenly Power Castle is a place where a devil is sealed and this is the entrance to the seal. This place is far from being a sacred place.”
Numerous charms decorated the castle in order to prevent evil spirits from escaping the castle’s heart. The spirits were not actually drawn into the sacred place. Heavenly Power Castle even had a device called the “Heavenly Power Big Rock” that keep evil energy from spreading to surrounding areas. Evil spirits were also drawn around the castle.
The people of the castle had to install many devices and charms in order to live there. One would assume the castle to be a place free of evil spirits, but in reality, it was surrounded by the greatest amount of evil energy.
“…Why are you so close to me?”
Zin quickly glanced back and saw Ramphil and Leona right behind him. It didn’t seem like they were willing to be any farther away from him.
As the group traveled further down the passageway, the torch’s light became weaker. It wasn’t because the oil had run out, but because the darkness had become denser. It stayed around the light, refusing to dissipate easily and swirling with the consistency of mucus.
Although the darkness wasn’t a spirit, it moved like a living organism. Light would normally cast it away, but in this place, the darkness retreated very slowly. It looked unnatural and somewhat freaky.
It became darker as they continued. Everyone gathered around the torch in the lord’s hand.
“The absence of the Heavenly Wind is causing the spirits to freely roam.” Zin said.
“Yes…I thought that the charm was only used to control the weather, but it appears that it was a big factor in containing the evil spirits inside the temple.”
The area near the sealing force was extremely dark. The lord and Zin were silent. They were in a very dangerous situation.
If the torch was extinguished, the animated darkness would start attacking and devouring the group. As part of the environment, it was not an actual monster. Although the light was fending off the darkness, the darkness itself was an inanimate object that had the desire to destroy living things.
As soon as the lord yelled, the torch started to burn stronger, but the darkness only receded by about a foot. The group could stave off the darkness temporarily, but they would end up being engulfed sooner or later.
“There are only three torches left,” the lord said worriedly.
Leona slowly shook her head. “Why didn’t you bring more?”
“It was made with great effort by using a birch tree struck with lightning. The tree is soaked in golden orange oil. I’m afraid this is all I have. I’m sorry.”
The torch he had brought was not an ordinary torch but a tool used to enter the prohibited area. Such a special torch was difficult to mass produce.
“I came down here a year ago, but I didn’t expect things to get worse,” said the lord.
He didn’t think that the darkness would become more dangerous within the span of one year. It seemed ready to devour the torch at any moment.
“What are you going to do, master hunter? We can still return.”
The group had two options: one, they could use the three remaining torches to go down the dark passageway or two, they could head back up and wait until they had enough torches.
Zin didn’t want to take any risks, but waiting to create more torches would take forever. They didn’t have the Heavenly Wind to create storms, so it would be impossible for lightning to strike a birch tree in the near future.
“Hold on. I will go by myself.”
Zin retrieved Phantomvein from the void storage and ran into the darkness. Leona’s gaze followed him, but she couldn’t see anything. The lord also looked into the darkness worriedly.
—Shank! Kyaaaaah! Kweeeeeeh! —
Not for after, a shriek resounded throughout the cavern and Leona became terrified. The monsters’ cries continued, but Zin returned. He seemed to have killed something, although there was no blood on his body and his Phantomvein was clean.
“As soon as we move away from the torch, the darkness begins to form a living organism,” Zin murmured with a serious expression. The lord also became solemn. “It’s a Treacherous Spirit of Darkness. We will not be able to move farther.”
Only swirling darkness could be seen, but as soon as the light was gone, it would form into the shapes of various monsters and then attack like a living being. “Hmm… I can’t believe a Treacherous Spirit settled down here.” The lord murmured with a serious expression.
“What is a Treacherous Spirit?” Leona asked.
“It actually refers to an unclear, abnormal phenomenon. In this case, the whole cave’s darkness became the cause of the abnormal phenomenon.”
In the post-apocalyptic world, there were not only monsters but also strange phenomena. Treacherous Spirits were more dangerous than regular monsters. It was also trickier to fight against.
The Treacherous Spirit of Darkness that dwelled only in dark caves was blocking off the passage to the sealing force. It was ready to attack the group as soon as the cave became dark.
Moving forward was too dangerous with that type of Treacherous Spirit lurking in front of them. It was suicidal to do so and fight against an enemy whose power was significantly magnified.
“We will not be able to defeat it without an exorcism. Let’s head back up.”
The lord could complete an exorcism, but performing such powerful sorcery required a powerful item as well. The group decided to head back and return at a later time.
Suddenly, Leona grabbed Zin’s coat.
“I will go.”
“I knew you would say that, but no.”
“If that thing is similar to a monster, then it won’t attack me, right?”
It was clear that Leona, a witch, would not be attacked by a strange phenomenon or a monster. However, Zin gave her a stern look.
“Stop,” he said. “You can’t do anything down there. How are you going to find the way? You can’t go down only by touching the wall.”
Ramphil nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I can’t see anything with my night vision. I don’t know why you won’t get attacked, but I am against you going down by yourself.”
The dark path appeared dangerous and Ramphil shook his head. Nevertheless, Leona didn’t back down.
“Trust me. Just tell me what I need to do. Mister, you can wait up there.”
As long as the others waited in the area outside the Treacherous Spirit’s influence, the group would be okay without a torch. The only problem was the lack of visibility. The passageway did not branch, so there was no risk of getting lost. It would obviously take a long time before they could return.
“I want to help too.”
Leona wanted to contribute to the team in some way and she was the only person who could help at the moment. She was willing to do it, no matter cost.
Zin knew that Leona was uncomfortable about being protected all the time. He also knew that she had to only be careful of the darkness. She wouldn’t be threatened whatsoever.
However, he was still hesitant to send her into the darkness, even though doing so was the best option at the moment.
Leona was such a troublesome kid. She could have chosen to quietly head back up with the rest of the group. She knew in which situations she had to step up, but it was a particularly tricky situation.
“The seal needs to be handled with extreme caution. I cannot let you do it.”
It was something only a person skilled in sorcery should manage. Letting Leona do it was like letting a kid control a nuclear reactor. When she became gloomy, Zin laid his hand on her head.
“Sorry,” he said. “I would entrust you with the task if you could handle it, but not this time. I’m not being overly protective.”
Leona nodded, knowing that the task was something outside her capabilities. Zin’s apology moved her.
“Got it.” Leona smiled awkwardly and the group started to head back.
The Treacherous Spirit surrounded the seal, so Zin had to figure out a way to get to it. Not all problems could be easily solved.
The group had to return to the temple. The lord used another torch on the way and he had only one left.
“In order to get to the seal and come back safely, we’ll need over twenty torches.”
He had brought six torches with him and had to use four of them. They would need many more, considering the fact that the darkness became denser the deeper they traveled into the cave.
“But now it will be tough to make new torches.”
There was no way to procure lightning-struck birch trees. It was foolish to just wait for lightning to strike.
The path to the seal being blocked off by darkness distressed the lord.
“We should probably perform the exorcism,” Zin suggested.
“Yes, we will need to. An ordinary ceremony will not banish the Treacherous Spirit.”
It would be possible for Zin to head down to the seal if the ordinary torch could fend off the strange phenomenon. The Heavenly Power Temple had many books about sorcery as well as the right environment to conduct the exorcism necessary to defeat the Treacherous Spirit.
For Leona and Ramphil, what Zin and the lord talked about seemed to be something from another world. Ramphil remained silent and listened to the conversation, but Leona wasn’t like him.
“How do you perform an exorcism?” she asked.
“First, you need to pray for over a month in order to avoid disasters,” answered the lord. “After that, you need to start making the tools used in the ceremony, which will take another month.”
Sorcerers would usually become vulnerable to the ceremony that they performed. The Heavenly Power Castle was a place for sorcerers to learn how to perform sorcery safely.
All sorcery required time for preparation.
“Why does it take so long?” Leona asked.
The lord smiled bitterly. “A Treacherous Spirit is an extremely dangerous, rare, and powerful monster. It will take a long time to get rid of it.”
Obviously, such a ceremony would take a long time to prepare. More than two months of preparation were needed.
The cause of all of this trouble was one person.
“It’s because of that idiot,” Zin murmured angrily.
The defensive power of the Heavenly Power Castle was weakened because the crazy successor took the charm with him. The area around the seal was full of evil spirits and more than anything, the Treacherous Spirit was lurking near the seal.
Unfortunately, the team would be held up for over two months. Zin was in a hurry and it was stressful for him to waste that much time.
He wandered around the temple gloomily.
Suddenly, he realized that there was a simple solution.
“Right! If I can retrieve the Heavenly Wind, I can solve the issue.”
He would be able to call lightning to create more torches and the lord could also quickly perform the exorcism using the charm. Zin made up his mind on what to do next.
“If the successor sold it, someone would have it. He could also be carrying it with him.”
“However, the original promise was to return the charm to the emperor’s successor. If we retrieve it, that would break the promise.”
The lord tried to stop him, but he only smiled angrily.
“If that idiot sold the charm, then I am simply retrieving and returning it to the temple. How is that breaking the promise with the emperor?”
Zin clenched his fists as he imagined kicking the successor’s butt.
“And it doesn’t matter even if he is still holding onto it. The emperor might have asked you to give it to the successor, but he didn’t prohibit you from stealing it back.”
“Am I wrong?”
Zin was not necessarily incorrect. Leona and Ramphil realized that he was going to do anything to get the charm back.
“Please bring out the ‘Eight Diagrams,’” Zin ordered the lord without hesitation.
The lord was still puzzled.
He continued, “At this moment, we will track down the Heavenly Wind.”
Zin decided to go to the main continent to track the charm instead of waiting at the castle for two months.
He smiled, looking forward to dealing with the Immortal hunter’s ill-mannered successor.