Chapter 115. Avarice Devours Everything (2)
"I'm Kang Shin, an explorer from Earth. It's nice to meet you."
"Earth? Never heard of it before."
"Damn, just how did he become a Dimensional Mercenary? From a world without any foundation..."
Most of the Dimensional Mercenaries gave me cold glances. Unlike the treatment I had been getting as the Crown Prince, they ignored me after just hearing where I was from. Had they never heard about me before? Did they all have their dungeon explorer communication channels off?
"What level do you think he is?"
"His equipment looks pretty good."
"Are you stupid? You're asking for his level as a Dimensional Mercenary? You're a newbie too, right?"
There were 13 Dimensional Mercenaries other than me. Two additional people had accepted the request after me. There were only 57 Dimensional Mercenaries in the First Dungeon, and 14 of them had taken this request. Everyone seemed to be very active.
A young knight with long black hair approached me.
"I'm Bellode Iraus. As the request said, I am the commander of the Kiros Knights and a Gold rank explorer of the First Dungeon. Thank you for coming, Kang Shin-nim. The first princess has told me a lot about you. If you do your best to save the second princess, you won't be disappointed by the rewards."
"Thank you for having me."
The knight named Bellode gave a very good first impression. He looked kind and stouthearted. Perhaps because of the pressure to save Shina, however, he had a cloudy expression. After greeting the knight, I turned to the other Dimensional Mercenaries to greet them, but they avoided my eyes. It meant they found it bothersome, even though they talked with each other as if to judge me when I arrived. They seemed to be saying that they didn't want to waste their energy on useless exchange of greetings. I found it absurd.
Bellode made a bitter smile, looking at me making a stupefied expression, and said in a quiet voice that only I could hear.
"Please understand. I hear Dimensional Mercenaries become sensitive before missions."
With the danger that came with the job, I wasn't surprised. Plus, I was new. If I spoke out of line, it was easy for them criticize me as a rookie who didn't know what he was saying. I sighed and turned my head. Bellode then led us to a large table in the hall.
Ludia was also nearby. When our eyes met, she humphed and purposely turned her head the other way. At her somewhat expected reaction, I made a bitter smile.
On the table, there was a large map with the Imperial Palace in its center. Bellode took a short baton and pointed it on the map.
"With Kang Shin-nim here, all the Dimensional Mercenaries have arrived. We will do a briefing before we set off. We'll take the shortest path to lead us to the Demon Lord's garrison. As he is injured, the Demon Army is hastily pulling their army back, but if we move quickly with our elite forces, we will be able to catch up to them before they arrive at the Demon Lord's territory."
"Demon Lord's territory, you say. I hear all the peak rank demons are staying there."
"That is true. Until they ascertain their superior position, peak ranked demons prefer not come out of their territory. Since the Hero died... They might just wait until the world starts to collapse before they appear."
"Hm, but still, the Demon Lord is..."
"The Demon Lord received a critical injury. Everyone on the spot saw it. Although we would be unable to take his life, he won't be able to hinder our rescue mission. If you'd like, I can even bet my soul."
I silently listened to the conversation between Bellode and the Dimensional Mercenaries, and memorized the path Bellode showed us. In case everyone left, I would have to go save Shina alone.
Suddenly, someone tapped on my shoulder from behind. When I turned around, I saw Ludia whose face was completely red.
"F-Father and mother... want to see you."
"The emperor and empress!?"
I left the hall with Ludia. I could feel the stinging gazes of the mercenaries behind me. These guys, why were they emitting so much killing intent...!?
"Now that I think about it, I heard that beautiful princess has a boyfriend."
"Right, I heard it was some damned rookie. I didn't think he'd become a Dimensional Mercenary."
"I wish he'd die here."
You guys are all single, aren't you!? And you, why are you glaring at me when you're a girl!?
The emperor and empress were both waiting for me together. Plus, the emperor was wearing golden armor and the empress was wearing a golden silk robe for priestesses. They were undoubtedly wearing such eye-catching clothes on purpose. They wanted the enemy to focus on them.
"Oh, Ludia! Is that young man the one you mentioned?"
The moment the emperor caught sight of us, he exclaimed. I was surprised. He looked to be in his late 20's at most. It felt weird that someone who looked so young was the emperor. Not to mention, he was strong. So he was an explorer before he was the emperor.
Ludia's cheeks turned red at the emperor's words and she shouted.
"I, I didn't say anything! Shina was the one who blabbered about everything!"
"But every time she brought it up, you became excited and raised your voice. Can you show me your face?"
That calm and beautiful voice came from the empress. Just like her husband, she looked like she was only in her late 20's. She seemed to be a priestess of Mitarus just like Ludia, as her robe had similar design as hers.
The emperor was also handsome, but the empress was a real picturesque beauty. She and Ludia looked alike so much that I would believe that she was Ludia in 10 years. If there was one difference, it was her empress-like voluptuous...
"Ludia, there's a chance for you too!"
"Huhu, the two of you get along very well. I'm relieved."
I snapped out of my daze at the empress' laughter.
"Ah, sorry. I'm... Kang Shin, an explorer from Earth."
"I heard you came for Ludia and Shina even though you're a Hero. As an emperor who rules a country and is now in charge of this world, I can only say that it's foolish. But..."
The emperor grinned and hammered my shoulders.
"That's what a man should do! Your ambition, I like it! So? Who do you want!? Will you take both? I doubt Shina or Ludia will refuse!"
"D-Dad! I said that's not it! I don't know about Shina, but not me!"
"You should learn to lie better, my daughter. But I see, you don't want to share your husband with Shina. Then I'll just have to leave it to my son-in-law. Do you like Ludia more?"
"Um... Both Shina and Ludia are my precious friends."
That was all I could say for now. The empress then spoke with a light smile.
"I was also friends with my husband. With my eye, I saw a future with him and said it would never happen, but here I am."
"I'd like to hold a ceremony for you two... but as you can see, we aren't in a situation where that is possible. I apologize, my son-in-law."
Before I noticed, he was addressing me as 'son-in-law.' Lost for words, I looked to Ludia, but she was too busy covering her reddened face with her hands. While the two of us were in panic, the emperor gestured at me to come closer. I approached him.
"I'm going to have to ask you for a favor... If the situation becomes dangerous, please run away with Ludia. Shina is my precious daughter and I'd like to save her if possible... but I can't lose Ludia too."
"... I understand."
Although I wanted to say I'd save Shina no matter what, I couldn't say something I couldn't guarantee in front of the emperor who had such a serious look. The emperor then said with an even more serious expression.
"Also... don't trust anyone other than Ludia and Bellode."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you think the Demon Lord has only been trying to conquer the world with brute force?"
"Everyone on this expedition are elites of the elites, but there might be some who might have been coaxed by the Demon Lord. Other than my daughter, Ludia, Bellode is the only one I can trust. Do not forget this."
Now that I had heard about it, it was obvious. The Demon Lord defeated the Hero. Although he was heavily injured, he was still the winner. In such a situation, it would be strange if no one fell to the Demon Lord's enticement. I couldn't help but feel bitter at the sudden truth I was made to realize.
When I backed away after hearing the emperor's words, he spoke to Ludia and me.
"The Hero died and the world's power has been stolen. New life can no longer be born in this world. This world will slowly but surely wilt. Even so, I don't want to give up. There is just too much on my shoulders for me to throw everything down and kneel... Shina, my precious daughter, is included. I beseech you, my son-in-law and my daughter. Please save Shina."
"Yes, Dad. I will save Shina."
"... I understand."
The world's power has been stolen and new life could no longer be born... I see. That's why the Hero was the core of a world. I finally understood everything about the Heroes. If new life couldn't be born, it was equivalent to the end of a world.
I bit down on my lips and tried to shake off the image of a grim future. The moment the emperor's words ended, the empress gestured at me. When I approached her, she took out a five-colored object from her inventory and handed it to me.
After receiving them, I realized it was half of a sword blade along with the rest of the broken sword. Surprisingly, the sword was still emitting a five-colored light. Although I didn't know what the gem on the sword's hilt was, I got the feeling I wouldn't be able to buy it even if I sold my mansion. Although broken, this sword's value was unquestionable.
[Mitarus' Broken Holysword (God)
Durability - 0/560
Attack - 15,000
Equipment Requirement - Level 90, Hero
Options - All stats + 100, Damage against all demons including the Demon Lord x3. Can acquire all skills. Strength +20%, Speed +20%.
Special skill - Judgement of Light: Collects all light in the world, healing all allies in the battlefield and dealing a great amount of light attribute damage to all enemies in the battlefield or dealing a critical blow to a select target.
Description - A holysword for the Hero, crafted using Luka continent's most precious metal, Lukadion and imbued with the power of Mitarus. It lost its power and broke in the battle against the Demon Lord, and cannot be repaired.]
The world's strongest weapon suddenly appeared! My hands were shaking just holding this weapon!
"I apologize. It's broken, so it can't be used again. However, I believe it can be used in some other way, so I'll give it to you, a Hero of another world. Will you accept it?"
"Can I really accept it?"
"Huhu, who else other than you would take it, son-in-law?"
I heard of the saying 'lucky to have a good friend,' but I didn't think I would get a weapon like this for having one! Plus, when I saw the holysword, I immediately thought of a use for it. After unexpectedly receiving an amazing gift, I bowed to the emperor and empress and left the palace. With her face still red, Ludia followed me like a puppy.
"D-Don't mind what Mom and Dad said! It was just that I've shown no interest in men, so they're saying that because I brought you up once or twice!"
"Yeah, of course. I doubt you even see me as a man, anyways."
Hm? Did I just hear something break? I looked around but everything looked fine. Ludia was only clenching her fists tightly.
After confirming that no one was around, I took out the Gluttony Spear.
"Hm? What are you doing?"
"The holysword your mother gave me, I can't just hold onto it."
"What do you mean?"
I took the broken holysword pieces and brought it against the Gluttony Spear without any hesitation.
The Gluttony Spear then emitted a crazed red aura and swallowed the holysword.
[Crimson Gluttony Spear absorbed Mitarus' Holysword. Growth: 47%]
"Kyaaaak! T-The holysword disappeared!"
"Don't be stupid, Ludia! The holysword is dead! But in my spear! In my heart! It lives on as one!"
This crazy spear's growth only went up by 44% after absorbing a God ranked holysword, but I felt like I caught a glimpse of this spear's future. I let out a satisfactory sigh, and declared to Ludia.
"Remember, Ludia. Avarice swallows everything."
"Don't act cool and say stupid things...!"
This was the conversation we had before our departure.