Episode 222

The World Of Spirits And Humans: Arulia (5)
1 week ago
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“Ta, Taesan!”

Akien, huddled close and trembling inside the carriage, burst into tears upon seeing Taesan.

“Where have you been!”

She had been going crazy during Taesan’s absence.

She woke up in shock due to a sudden spread of a powerful wave of energy.

The force felt near them was strong enough to easily crush them. Feeling threatened for their lives, they frantically searched for Taesan, but he was nowhere to be found.

“Why didn’t you run away? Why were you here?”

“Bu, but without Taesan, I couldn’t……

“Did you wait for me?”

“Yes, yeess… because it was dangerous.”

Akien sobbed and nodded her head.

A slight surprise crossed Taesan’s face.

‘It’s been a long time since someone worried about me.’

Excluding the time when he was a weak Easy Mode player who hadn’t properly acquired any skills in his previous life, this was a first.

Taesan opened his mouth.

“I’m sorry for worrying you, and I wasn’t around because I had something to do.”

“Such powerful energy was surging, what kind of business did you have…

“It was because of me.”

“What?”

[Oh ho.

Barkaza revealed himself beyond the carriage door.

[Are these people accompanying the master? They're weak but good-natured.]

“You can tell that?”

[Spirits are beings of nature. We can read the rough flow of life. Well, for someone as strong as the master, most of it is blocked though.]

Akien’s eyes widened upon seeing Barkaza.

“Wh, what?”

[Pleased to meet you. I am a top-grade spirit with colorful hues, Barkaza. Currently, I am contracted to the individual next to me.]

“Top, top-grade spirit!”

“Barkaza? No way!”

[Lord Barkaza?]

They were astonished. The spirits guarding them and sending cautious glances also seemed greatly surprised.

Taesan waved his hand.

“Let’s try to get some sleep first. Haven’t you all been awake until now?”

“Ah, yes…”

Akien absentmindedly nodded.

They had stayed up all night waiting for Taesan. They should have been tired enough to sleep, but sleep did not come. Eventually, they started moving again in the carriage, half asleep, a few hours later.

Taesan walked outside the carriage. It was because Barkaza was too large to enter the carriage.

Inside the carriage, Akien and her group sneakily glanced at Barkaza. Their faces were full of curiosity, almost driving them mad.

Barkaza murmured with satisfaction.

[Good.]

He seemed to enjoy that Akien and her group were surprised and showing him respect. The ghost snickered.

[Quite a worldly spirit. He's different from those in the labyrinth in an amusing way.]
[Life would be too tedious without such small amusements. Indeed, the human world is more enjoyable than the spirit world.]
[...Lord Barkaza.]

A spirit quietly following them could no longer hold back and spoke up.

[Did you contract with this person?]
[What else does it look like?]
[…This person has killed our kin.]
[So?]

Barkaza countered.

The spirit asked accusingly.

[To contract with someone who has killed our kin. Everyone will condemn you.]
[Condemn me?]

Barkaza laughed.

[Who will condemn me? The King has fulfilled his duty and disappeared. The same goes for the shields and spears. Who, then, will blame and punish me in such circumstances?]
[But…….]
[Of course, if he had maliciously killed our kin, I would have resisted. But he won against our kin through a legitimate fight. Then, I have no intention of being hostile towards him.]

Barkaza turned his body as if there was nothing more to say.

[Conversations with you, who are bound by the notion of being a spirit and willing to forsake your self, are still tiring. Go back.]

The spirits had no choice but to shut their mouths at Barkaza’s firm words.

Barkaza clicked his tongue.

[Spirits are mostly like that. They could afford to be a bit more free.]

“No matter how I look at it, you seem to be the peculiar one.”

[I won't deny that. That's why the shields and spears also had a word or two to say to me.]

“Since you’ve mentioned shields and spears earlier, are they stronger than you?”

[Of course. They are directly under the King.]

“Do your spirit ranks have a hierarchy, and how exactly is it divided?”

[It's not difficult. The weakest among the self-aware spirits are them, the lower spirits. Even though they're considered weak, they possess considerable power compared to ordinary humans.]

Barkaza continued.

[Next are the intermediate spirits. Quite strong. Generally, they are the limit to which spirits can be summoned. Much stronger than the lower ones but still not that impressive. After them are the upper ranking spirits. From here on, it's decent.]

Upper ranking spirits. Taesan had encountered them in the labyrinth. And in this world, he had said there were beings contracted with upper spirits.

[Quite strong. It's safe to say they are at the limit of human power. Then comes me, the top-grade spirit.]

Barkaza boasted.

[Hard to find across the entire spirit world. Those who have contracted with us have made a name for themselves all over the world. Even they would know about me right away.]

Akien, who became the subject of the conversation, was startled.

[Tell me, human. Do you know who I am?]

“…Yes. The spirit of the great king from hundreds of years ago.”

[That's right.]

Barkaza nodded.

[From time to time, there are those born beyond the limits of humans. They contract with us. And next are the spear and shield that protect the King. Directly under the King. Very strong.]

“How do you compare with them?”

[There's no comparison. I wouldn't be able to resist and would be crushed easily.]

“But when fighting me, you said that even the spear and shield wouldn’t be able to easily break through your defense?”

“That’s correct, but… it’s just that. It’s only a matter of time. I’ve sparred with them a few times, but I’ve always been defeated without being able to do anything.”

“That’s how it is.”

Taesan stroked his chin.

“How would they compare to me now?”

[…It's ambiguous.]

Breaking the silence, Barkaza said,

[I do not know the full extent of the master's power. But there was a power I felt at the moment of the contract. The master is monstrously strong. Even if the entire spirit world, excluding the spear and shield, were to attack you, I cannot guarantee our victory.]

Even as he spoke, Barkaza let out a chuckle.

A human against whom all of them combined could not win. Even he could hardly believe such a being truly existed.

[But if compared to them... it would probably be difficult to win.]

“That much?”

[Literally directly under the king. They can't be weak.]

“Then it wasn’t him.”

The spirit that had dwelled in the skeleton, the one who had pressured Taesan with the power of the Spirit King, seemed not to be the spear and shield but a high-level spirit.

“Interesting.”

Taesan smiled slightly.

[And next would be the Spirit King, but... there's not much to say. I also do not know exactly how powerful the king is. I just think he is infinitely strong.]

“I have a rough idea.”

The Spirit King of the labyrinth nearly killed him just with an emotion. He had become stronger since then, but likely nothing had changed.

“The Spirit King, huh.”

Curious, Taesan asked,

“Is it possible to make a contract with any spirit?”

[In theory, it's possible. There are even those who have made contracts with the spear and shield.]

“Then the Spirit King?”

Barkaza hesitated at Taesan’s question.

[That... I do not know. The king is a being that does not involve himself in the mundane world.]

“That’s how it is.”

[What a waste of thought.]

Barkaza dismissed the idea.

[Then, master. I have something to ask.]

“Go ahead.”

[What does it mean that our god has requested something of you?]

“Quite literally. There’s a Spirit God in the labyrinth. She asked me to enter this world and fill the void left by the Spirit King.”

Initially, he had no intention of speaking. Since the spirits were hostile and distrustful, speaking seemed pointless.

However, since Barkaza had made a contract with Taesan and was not hostile, he concluded that there would be no harm in speaking.

[…The god herself to the master.]

Barkaza let out a hollow laugh.

[How ridiculous. The more I hear, the stranger it becomes. What does this 'void' refer to?]

“Those guys.”

Taesan pointed. Darkened spirits were rushing towards the carriage.

Barkaza applauded. Light poured down, crushing the spirits. A cry of astonishment came from inside the carriage.

[The spirits have indeed been acting strangely lately.]

“The old gods have been eyeing this place since the Spirit King vanished.”

[Aha. The banished ones. The old gods, huh?]

“You know about it.”

[I am a relatively old spirit. After the Spirit King vanished, things felt odd, so it was them. The puzzle is solved.]

Barkaza chuckled softly.

[Indeed, master was the right choice. Such a fight from the start. Very satisfying.]

“If you’re satisfied, then that’s good.”

Then it was time for a meal. Even while preparing the meal, Akien and her group kept sneaking glances at Barkaza.

[If you have questions, ask. I will answer.]

At Barkaza’s words, Akien dropped the ladle in surprise.

She cautiously opened her mouth as she handed the ladle to the spirit.

“The great king who ruled the world. Barkaza, who stood by Varian, nobler than anyone and carrying the bloodline of the gods…

[That's a misunderstanding. That one did not carry the bloodline of the gods. He was rather of a slave status.]

“……Huh.”

It was real. A spirit that existed only in history.

‘How could it be.’

Taesan himself possessed no special attributes. It should have been impossible for him to form a contract with a spirit, yet he managed to contract with not just any spirit, but a top-grade one.

Regaining her composure, she asked,

“Great spirit, who is the being in the place we are heading to now?”

The girl inside the orb was a mystery. Nobody in the world knew her identity, only speculations existed.

Barkaza responded to her question.

[Not long ago, the Spirit King fulfilled his duty and vanished. A new Spirit King is taking his place.]

“Then that being is…”

[A new Spirit King to protect Arulia.]

Akien’s face turned pale, and those listening behind her felt the same way.

They had lived alongside spirits, viewing the Spirit King as an object of faith.

Especially their family, which believed in the Spirit King more faithfully than anyone else.

“Then, we are.”

[To have an entity to protect you and to conduct various experiments with it.]

She bit her lip.

[The likes of your power could never affect the king, so the spirits are not paying much attention... It's funny. Using the power given to you by the king to scheme against him. I always think most humans are too selfish.]

Barkaza scoffed, causing Akien’s face to darken.

The carriage continued on indifferently.

And they arrived in front of the orb.

“There are so many people.”

The crowd was vast. Hundreds had gathered around the orb, setting up tents.

Akien spoke in a weakened voice,

“The Bazuk family made a personal request, so people from all over have gathered.”

“Then let’s part ways here.”

“What?”

“It won’t be good for you if it becomes known that you were with me.”

Realizing what Taesan intended to do, Akien said,

“I…”

“Do as you please. There’s no need for you to take unnecessary actions.”

Taesan stamped his foot.

Ignoring the voices trying to hold him back, Taesan made his way towards the orb, weaving through the crowd. A huge barrier surrounded the orb.

“Barkaza.”

[Just wait a moment.]

Barkaza raised his arm towards the barrier.

The barrier slowly crumbled, creating a space for Taesan to enter.

Taesan arrived in front of the orb without anyone stopping him.

Surprisingly, there was nobody by the orb. Everyone was gathered, preparing how to approach the orb.

Taesan touched the orb.

Wooong.

Power flowed through his hand.

It was a heavy natural force. Barkaza let out a sigh of admiration.

[Indeed, she is the king. Even in an incomplete state, this is remarkable.]

Beyond the orb was a little girl.

With blue hair, the girl, dressed in white cloth, was quietly curling up inside the orb.

“Seeing the Spirit King for the second time.”

The Guides of Sin. One of the leaders of that group was the Spirit King of Flame.

And the Spirit King protecting Arulia.

Protecting the being in front of him was Taesan’s purpose for coming here.

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