SYS (Novel) Chapter 429

C429 - Elderly In Crisis (3)

A dark forest where it seemed not even a ray of sunlight could penetrate.

Rumors circulated that this forest was haunted by ghosts and evil spirits.

[Nyaah!]

Jin rode on Shuri and traversed the intricate and dimly lit path of the forest.

He had no other companions with him.

The complexity of the path made him think that a maze might have been a better option.

If it weren't for Shuri, he might have regretted coming here alone.

"Young Master, please take Murakan-nim with you."

"Are you sure about this, Sir? If you go alone and he has ill intentions, securing an escape route won't be easy."

"Is there a reason you have to go alone?"

Before departing, all of Jeremiah's companions had expressed their concerns.

It was because they still didn't fully trust the owner of these lands.

As the forest grew denser, the unsettling and ominous sound heard from all directions became more intense.

Phantom Fortress, huh?

The name suits this place incredibly well.'

It was the first time he saw it in person, but as always, Shuri navigated skillfully without getting lost, and they arrived without incidents.

It's huge and completely black.

That was Jin's immediate impression when he saw the castle-shaped fortress suddenly rise at the edge of the forest.

Not even the thick fog covering the area could hide the strange demonic energy emanating from the Phantom Fortress.

It was difficult to even breathe when standing in front of the castle due to that dreadful aura.

Once again, Jin marveled at having defeated the lord of that enormous castle, Lata Proch.

He sent Shuri back to the ruby and waited for a while by the castle gates.

After a while, the gates creaked open, but he couldn't see who had unlocked the massive iron doors.

He wondered if someone had opened them.

It felt like the wind or a specter had passed through it without more, and what immediately appeared to his sight was not the ordinary interior of a castle but darkness.

Advancing towards it didn't seem different from jumping off a cliff.

However, Jin advanced without putting more strength into his grip on the sword hilt at his waist.

Screech, one felt like traversing a nightmare landscape due to the eerie and chilling sounds of the wind.

Moments later, a dark clearing appeared.

"Twelfth Flagbearer, you've endured much to come here."

Jin heard the familiar voice of Lata Proch.

Jin wondered if Lata had just finished a battle or if he had come to interrogate those imprisoned under the Phantom Fortress.

Lata had a scent of fresh and acrid blood.

"The smell of blood seems to linger here."

"Our job is not exactly pleasant. Aren't you used to it already?"

"I just wanted to mention it."

As they approached, Jin glimpsed Lata's face illuminated by the torch he held.

"You didn't seriously come alone, did you?"

Lata was genuinely surprised that Jin had come alone to the Phantom Fortress.

It wasn't just Lata; all members of the Phantom Mercenary Corps shared the same sentiment.

At least, since Lata became the Leader of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps, or even before when Smarion Proch led the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps, no one had ever come alone to the Phantom Fortress.

Whenever the leaders of Runcandel and Zipple held secret meetings, they always brought a group capable of presenting a meaningful battle.

It was natural.

The Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps had maintained their neutrality to a certain extent...

But it was a faction with significant influence.

Especially in their headquarters, the Phantom Fortress, they held a position among the highest-level neutral factions.

The Phantom Fortress is located in the territory of the Vermont empires...

But they chose to acknowledge its autonomy instead of launching an assault against the Phantom Fortress.

"The Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps has taken risks to fulfill my request, so I should also show a certain level of trust, shouldn't I?" said Jin.

Lata nodded, as if moved by Jin's statement.

Jin felt a bit uneasy about Lata's response, but he didn't show it.

"Of course, it's impressive. Alright, let's draft the contract now."

After sending the elder chiefs away, Lata immediately contacted Jin and asked him to visit the Phantom Fortress.

The reason was to draft a contract for the alliance.

The paper Lata handed him contained the simplest terms of any contracts Jin had seen before.

Additionally, it contained unexpected content.

(Lata Proch and his Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps will recognize Jin Runcandel as their lord, and this matter has the complete agreement of all members of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps)

It was more a promise of loyalty than a contract.

"This is not just an alliance but a blood alliance between the lord and his subjects."

"What... is this?"

Jin decided that he would first form an alliance with the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps and gradually build a strong bond in the future.

He never expected something like this.

"Is there something you don't like?"

"No, it's not that. It's just a bit surprising."

"I respected you at the Emperor Sword Castle, and then I feared Jin Runcandel more than the elders of Runcandel. So, I killed the elders."

The day they met in the Garden of Swords, Lata decided to accept Jin as his lord, convinced it was the only way for the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps to survive in this "new era."

"And I am practically an absolute authority within the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps. My will is essentially the will of all ghosts. The Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps will become the most important force under your command," proclaimed Lata.

There were numerous leaders in the world, but those who received unwavering support from their subordinates were not so common.

Lata was exceptional among them.

No different from his subordinates.

Jin took a dagger from his belt.

He cut his palm and marked the paper with his blood, and Lata did the same.

"I accept, Lata-nim."

"Please, follow me, my lord."

Jin followed Lata to the central hall of the castle, and saw the Phantom mercenaries lined up.

There were probably thousands of mercenaries dressed in black assassin uniforms, maintaining an unwavering posture.

Lata stood before them and raised the sword to salute Jin.

The rest of the Phantom Legion Mercenaries followed suit and raised their swords.

It was the moment Jin became the new master of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps.

It was also the moment the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps abandoned neutrality for the first time.

"I will introduce you to the members one by one."

"Alright."

Jin looked again at the phrase on the paper.

The part that caught his attention the most was:

"This matter has the complete agreement of all members of the Phantom Mercenary Corps."

"Seeing the troops lined up here, it doesn't seem very different from the usual size of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps. Were there many who opposed the idea of forming a blood alliance with me?"

"Some who used to serve my father opposed. The elders, so to speak."

"Neither you nor I get along with the elders. What happened to them?"

"All of them left the Phantom Fortress."

"Do they know any special secrets or vulnerabilities of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps?"

Lata hesitated at that question.

"I didn't expect you to think of that. Yes, they do. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I haven't faced them yet. I'm still trying to locate them."

"It's been several days already, so it's very likely they've sought refuge in other factions for protection."

"I apologize for showing such lax attitude from the beginning."

"No need to apologize. Just in case, I'll also hire someone to search for the elders who fled. Please inform me of any secrets or vulnerabilities of the Phantom Fortress that they may know."

"It's the monster sealed deep in the basement of the Phantom Fortress."

"...Monster?"

Jin expressed his doubt, and Lata continued explaining with a bitter smile.

"We can't deal with that monster right now. It's been locked in the basement for decades. It can't eat anything, yet it's still alive. And the seal that keeps it at bay weakens every year."

"Sounds like a monster straight out of a legend."

"It might be a sudden revelation, but you don't seem particularly surprised."

"I've encountered a demon-core creature sealed before."

Naturally, Jin assumed that what was sealed in the depths of the Phantom Fortress was a demon-core creature.

"How powerful is it that not even members of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps can handle it?"

"It's immeasurable. It's hard to explain... Do you want to go see it for yourself?"

Jin followed Lata downstairs and headed to the basement.

The further they went, the more Jin felt a dreadful, unsettling, and malevolent aura.

"Is this the source of the dense, eerie aura that permeates the entire Phantom Fortress?"

It wasn't just the ghostly aura that spread a suffocating feeling throughout the castle.

"We've arrived."

Reaching the lowest level, they encountered a massive iron door with a red seal engraved on it.

It was a type of seal Jin had never seen before, but he could sense that humans had been used as materials for this seal.

It was a seal with immense containment power.

"This is..."

"I heard it's a seal that was only passed down to the elders, and even the previous leaders of the Phantom Legion didn't know about it. This seal was created by other elders, excluding those who fled, using themselves as materials."

As Jin approached the seal, he felt the weight of the eerie aura pressing strongly on his entire body.

"Are you saying this seal weakens every year?"

"Yes."

Jin now understood why Lata had proposed the blood alliance so quickly.

'If the monster hidden behind this seal is released, the Phantom mercenaries won't be able to survive unless they abandon the castle.'

Of course, the probability of the seal breaking immediately was low, and Lata hadn't proposed the blood alliance solely for that reason.

However, it was undoubtedly an important matter.

"I showed you this place first because this is currently the biggest and only problem the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps is facing. It's shameful, but you could even say that this seal threatens the existence of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps."

Now that they were bound by a blood alliance, they needed to discuss and resolve this problem together.

Although it was an action that revealed vulnerability right after forming the blood alliance, Jin didn't find Lata resentful or laughable.

After all...

Lata had chosen him over figures like Runcandel, Zipple, the Imperial Family, or Kinzelo.

If Lata had allied with Runcandel or Zipple, it probably would have been easier to solve this seal and other problems.

"Indeed... I can feel it just from the eerie aura leaking from the seal. So, what kind of demon creature is sealed inside?"

In response to Jin's question, Lata shook his head.

"No, it's not a demon creature."

"Not a demon creature?"

"The entity sealed inside is my father."

Smarion Proch.

The monster sealed in the depths of the Phantom Fortress was none other than the former Leader of the Phantom Legion Mercenary Corps.

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