SYS (Novel) Chapter 367

C367 - Trail (7)

A long time had passed, and the heat continued to emanate from Valeria.

There was no trace of dye left in her hair. A hot torrent surged from her sweaty robe, and her red hair, fluttering in the mana, looked like a bundle of flames.

"Descendant of Histor, huh. Where did you meet that girl?"

"I met her in the lawless city of Mamit."

Jin didn't share more details because Sheila didn't seem too curious.

Sheila's pupils sank.

"Luckily, she's a strong girl who doesn't need your protection. However, not only humans, but all living beings ultimately need to protect each other. There is no life that can exist alone."

It was a sudden conversation, but Jin nodded in agreement. He didn't mind Sheila's words.

"While my friends and your ally suffer, we must consider the variables."

"Are there other matters you're considering apart from Zipple's magicians?"

"This is the land of Vermont. Among my relatives, some might be collaborating with them."

"Well, it's unlikely that the split fragments of their absolute power ended up in a single person like Myla. Vermont... It's very possible."

"Also, there might be something connected to your Runcandel."

"I hope that's not the case. Dealing with both Zipple and Vermont together is headache enough. For now, it's best to assume that we'll definitely only encounter Zipple and Vermont."

Vermont is searching for Temar's body, Jin thought, keeping that fact in mind. There's almost a 100% chance that among the descendants of the Fairy Tribe, someone is colluding with Vermont.

Jin recalled what Kashimir had accidentally overheard as a child about the ancient emperors and counselors: Perhaps their negotiations with the Wantaramo Forest were related to information about the infiltrator.

"Maybe Vermont started searching for Temar's body because a descendant of the Fairy Tribe had leaked information about his tomb from the beginning."

If not, Vermont wouldn't be searching for Temar's Tomb, which even Runcandel might not know about, except for Cyron, Rosa, and some key elders (this was just a conjecture).

"Vermont might send the special forces or the imperial guards. Large-scale troop movements would only announce that there's something in the Wantaramo Forest."

I might come face to face with familiar faces. Jin thought and shrugged.

"Special forces and imperial guards. Are they stronger than you?"

Jin could answer without hesitation.

"The commanders might be stronger than me. However, I can easily subdue those below that rank."

Jin came to this conclusion based on his encounters with the special forces commander, Ratz, and with Alisa, the former commander, during his days as a Provisional Flagbearer.

"There are four of them. They won't all gather at once."

Commander and Subcommander of the Imperial Guard and the Special Forces. If all four of them came at once, even Luna would find it overwhelming, let alone Jin.

"Sheila-nim, how much fighting strength do you have?"

Asking such a question to the descendant of the ruler of the Fairy Tribe felt a bit odd.

However, it was something that needed to be known.

Understanding the strength of allies was only natural.

"Not only Zipple and Vermont, but I might also have to fight the Guardian of the Fourth Tomb."

The Guardian, Zipple, Vermont.

Regardless of which side they fought against first, Jin needed to conserve enough energy to face the final opponent.

Of course, if there were no guardians like in the case of the third tomb, it would be the best scenario, but worst-case scenarios had to be considered.

"Well, I haven't experienced fighting in a long time, so I'm not sure. I just know that I'm not very weak."

"Can you give me a more specific answer?"

At that, Sheila seemed thoughtful, crossed her arms, and closed her eyes.

"...I really don't know. I rarely use strength, even when my people kill intruders."

"Understood."

It seemed he would have to fight without relying on Sheila's strength.

Jin felt a little regretful for not bringing Murakan. There were two reasons why Jin hadn't brought him.

First, it was to assist in Bellop's undercover mission (if it were revealed that Bellop was carrying out Jin's missions, it could become a significant problem).

Secondly, because Valeria hadn't met Murakan yet.

Although their cooperative relationship had improved since then, Jin still felt a little uncomfortable facing Valeria with a powerful ally.

This could cause Valeria to become more cautious, which she had already loosened a bit.

"If the situation becomes desperate, maybe I'll have to create a three-front battle formation."

Jin had a rough plan, but there were too many variables.

He didn't know which enemies they would encounter first, whether they should prioritize facing them or directly finding the tomb, and what would happen if they had to retreat after the enemy discovered their location...

While Jin was pondering, Sheila spoke.

[Jin Runcandel]

"Yes."

[There's one thing I want to tell you. Battles must be conducted in a way that doesn't damage the forest to the point where it can't regenerate.]

The Wantaramo Forest was "public property" of beings at the pinnacle of power.

All of them were consumers of the Royal Melodic Drink.

The fact that Jin and his allies hadn't known about the forest until now wasn't due to ignorance but because powerful beings concealed it to prevent problems from arising within.

If the forest were to be damaged, those beings of unimaginable power would undoubtedly scrutinize the situation and demand proper compensation from the one most responsible.

Jin smiled contentedly.

'Then, whether fighting individually or in a three-front battle formation, I'll have an overwhelming advantage.'

Close combat battles without harming the environment.

Given the nature of the power called "Shadow Energy," there probably wasn't any disposition in which Jin could be more effective than that.

"I understand. In fact, that might be better."

[In that case, good luck to us. Even after a thousand years, the influence of your ancestor still shakes the world.]

"It seems you know my ancestor well."

[I don't remember many details. You've looked into the tombs of the past, so you must know that the Runcandels of that era have been nearly forgotten. However, I clearly remember that Temar's actions at that time had a significant impact on the world.]

Sheila looked Jin in the eyes.

[Now you'll have to replace his shadow. Or project a new shadow called Jin Runcandel onto the world.]

By then, the members of the Cat Tribe and Valeria had finished their work.

"Woo-hoo!"

"We're done...!"

An hour and thirty minutes.

The Cat Tribe members found it hard to believe they had created passages leading to the Red Lake and trap routes to confuse Zipple, all in such a short time.

Fourteen purple entrances they had made shone on the cave walls. Among them, only one was the true passage to the Red Lake; the others were false, leading to the center of the forest.

"The entrances change randomly each time they are used. Unless the Zipple Magicians have incredible luck or are very clever, they won't be able to guess the right one on their first attempt."

With fourteen entrances to choose from, splitting up and entering was the obvious choice.

As Lulu had said, unless they were an astonishingly intelligent group, it was unlikely they would get it right on their first try.

Slam!

Jin handed a canteen to Valeria.

She received it with a dry throat and immediately began gulping it down.

"Jin Runcandel, give me a moment to tune my mana before we depart. It seems we have enough time to spare."

Seeing Valeria stabilizing her mana while sitting cross-legged, Lulu and Miru smiled and gave her a thumbs-up.

"Thanks to her, we saved our artifact."

"We were able to save half of it!"

Lulu and Miru displayed the Divine Claw of the Felic God, of which only half remained, and smiled.

Valeria, swaying a little, got up, and when she staggered, Jin supported her.

"Are you okay?"

"I just got a little dizzy."

She didn't add that she had exerted more effort than expected to protect half of the artifact. It was an action that not even Valeria herself could understand.

Initially, she had offered to help the Cat Tribe members for efficiency reasons, but using more energy than necessary for the sake of the Cat Tribe had been an impulsive decision.

"You can rest for another ten minutes."

"It's not necessary. I know my body. Just keep the promise you made on the way here."

Unlike when she initially offered to help the Cat Tribe, her tone now sounded somewhat assertive.

Valeria had been feeling like she was acting strangely since meeting Jin.

"The last time, you said you had obtained the recording device from the Cat Tribe's hideout... was it actually the tomb of the first Runcandel patriarch?"

"The tomb of the first patriarch was in the Cat Tribe's hideout."

"You're playing with words."

"We're in the stage of getting to know each other, right? You must have many things you haven't told me as well. No, you're probably hiding much more than me. Since I told you about Temar's Tomb, my secrets are almost exhausted."

"Fine. I won't think you deceived me. After hearing your explanation about Temar's Tomb, I can imagine how surprised you must have been when you obtained the Shadow Energy Pearl from Helluram in Joshua Runcandel's mansion."

"It was more surprising when you examined that Shadow Energy Pearl, and it was misinterpreted."

"Anyway, we need to get clues about the Fourth Tomb of Temar from the Cat Tribe... When we discover the Fourth Tomb, let me take a look too. Can you make that happen?"

"I will. It's a promise."

Valeria recalled her conversation with Jin when they arrived at the Wantaramo Forest.

The promise he mentioned referred to entering the tomb together with Jin.

"It's only been a few hours since I had that conversation with Jin Runcandel, and yet I didn't expect to find the fourth tomb so quickly. I thought it would take at least a few months to save the Cat Tribe and get clues from them about the tomb."

Could she confirm new traces left by her ancestors in that tomb?

Alone, without assistance.

Tracking the messages left by her ancestors, retrieving Histor's magic...

These were unspeakably lonely tasks.

At some point, she hadn't realized how lonely it was.

Her life had consisted of practicing magic, finding her ancestors' messages and legacy, and wandering the world since she opened her eyes.

However, now, so easily...

If she anticipated a new discovery about Histor thanks to someone other than herself, and if she found her ancestors' footsteps by someone else's hand...

Then, were the dark and bitter times of the past a futile struggle?

It was because of such thoughts that her tone had sharpened without her realizing.

"...I was a bit touchy."

"It must have been tough. I didn't feel bad, so you don't need to apologize."

Valeria's brow twitched slightly.

"Now we have to enter the passage. It would be fine if I supported you until we reach the Red Lake. If you're not comfortable, let me know," Jin said as he took Valeria's canteen.

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