I Became the Youngest Disciple of the Martial God
[Translator – Jreaming]
[Proofreader – Gorm]
After we decided on our path, we encountered cultists three more times.
Thankfully, unlike the ones we’d faced previously, these cultists weren’t a big deal, but it was still troubling how their numbers kept increasing. First we fought four, then five, and then seven in our last encounter.
They weren’t easy fights either.
Even ignoring their skill level, the cultists were tricky to deal with because of our numbers disadvantage, the fact that it was nighttime in a dark and shadowy forest, and the fact that they were assassins.
Also, unlike the cultists, who charged us without any fear of death, Arzan and I needed to preserve our strength.
Eventually, after running like that without end, we arrived at our first destination right as the sun was about to rise.
“There it is.”
There, before us, was what looked like a monster’s huge open mouth. It was the huge cave within which we might find the gem beast.
“That’s stu~pidly huge.”
When I’d seen it on the map, I’d expected it to be large, but the pressure I felt from just seeing the cave was immense.
I even thought that it was odd that the mountain hadn’t collapsed with such a huge hole in it.
“I don’t feel the presence of any monsters,” Arzan said, suppressing her tiredness.
Just as she said, the entrance itself looked decently safe, but we wouldn’t actually know anything about the inside of the cave until we went in.
However, considering the size of the entrance, it didn’t seem impossible for us to run away if need be.
Arzan and I stepped inside.
The interior was pretty chilly as well, although not as much as the outside.
Moss was stuck to the stones, and I could see stalactites on the ceiling.
And considering the damp feeling I was getting, this looked to be a limestone cave with an underground water source somewhere.
As I looked at my surroundings, I found a decent spot hidden away in a corner.
The spot was slightly hidden by the rocks, but we would still have a good look at the entrance.
We moved to the spot I’d found, and then I turned to Arzan.
“Now then, butler, take a rest.”
What do you mean you’re fine?
Her eyes were as red as a rabbit’s with how bloodshot they were.
Well, her condition was understandable. She had stayed up for four nights straight and had even fought off the exhaustion from yesterday night through to early morning.
Even though she looked tough on the outside, she had to be on the verge of collapse.
I removed the blanket from my bag and laid it on the floor for her.
“Don’t say that, just sleep. You’ll only be a burden in your current state.”
Arzan hesitated for quite a while before eventually replying with the quietest voice possible, “Understood."
After wrapping herself up in the blanket, she leaned on a suitable wall and began to sleep.
She does all sorts of things.
She should’ve just splayed out on the ground. There was no need to do all that.
Maybe she couldn’t help it because this was the way she’d learned to sleep? It wasn’t like one could change their habits on a dime.
I tutted internally and found a decent place where I could sit in the lotus position.
It wasn’t urgent, but I had things I needed to do as well.
I could feel a burning heat in my inner core. It felt as if I had swallowed a ball of fire.
Honestly, I had nearly died because it was bothering me so much even while we were being chased.
It wasn’t warmth but heat. The difference was minor, but it was an important difference for me, whose focus was entirely on fire ki.
If my internal energy was hot instead of warm, it meant that the energy wasn’t wholly mine.
It was proof that the yang ki that had been injected into me from Osel’s poison hadn’t been completely assimilated yet.
It was also proof that I hadn’t been able to extract all the impurities yet.
For this reason, I quickly started to circulate my energy.
There shouldn’t be any big problems for a bit.
I had been able to use the White Sun Form in this state, but ignoring it and continuing would become dangerous.
I needed to integrate this power into my body and absorb it as true ki.
Thankfully, the process did not take long. About 30 minutes later, I opened my eyes.
Dark smoke escaped my mouth as I exhaled a little. Although it smelled disgusting, it couldn’t be helped since this was the proof I’d neutralized everything.
I don’t think anything happened... huh?
At that moment, I saw Arzan. She was shaking and sweating heavily, and she looked very pale.
The cave wasn’t that cold, but her shivering lips looked drained of blood.
Maybe she was having a nightmare, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.
“I hope that’s not the case...”
I put my hand on Arzan’s and transferred some heat into her body.
As I did, her pale complexion returned a little, and her breathing also stabilized.
I’d had a similar thought before, but she really looked much younger when she wasn’t frowning.
Of course, I didn’t know Arzan’s age. It was just a feeling I got.
She was always in a suit and wearing gloves, and she was rather tall for a woman, so she always looked a lot older. Perhaps she’d created that effect intentionally?
Since it was rude to look at someone’s sleeping face, I turned away from her and went to take a quick look around the cave.
Of course, since I couldn’t move while leaving Arzan behind, I only walked around the vicinity.
I obtained some information and I could make some guesses... but none of them were certain.
About two hours later, Arzan woke up.
Having just woken up, she looked at me with a dazed expression.
This was the first time I’d seen her look so stupid. It honestly fit her more than I’d expected.
In any case, the daze didn’t last for long. Arzan quickly regained her senses, patted down her clothes, and returned to her perfect butler form.
“...My apologies, young master.”
I thought about using what I’d just seen to mess with her a little.
“You don’t need to sleep more?”
“Yes. That was enough.”
She still looked a little tired, but honestly, we weren’t in a situation where I could give her that much more consideration.
I nodded at her answer.
“All right. Then let’s keep going.”
* * * * *
[Translator – Jreaming]
[Proofreader – Gorm]
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* * * * *
Arzan and I officially began to delve deeper into the cave.
Since the cave was a tunnel with only a single straight path, I was able to put away the map and focus more on being aware of my surroundings.
Funnily, we didn’t find any traces of monsters even as we went deeper in. But even so, I kept my guard up just in case.
As we went deeper into the cave, the path started to narrow. In addition, the naturally created stone pillars started to fill the cave, creating a more complicated path.
But even so, the cave was much bigger than most caves, so we weren’t going to get lost any time soon.
However, it wasn’t like there were no problems.
“I think it’s getting colder and colder,” I said.
Something about that really bothered me. I also disliked how this place wasn’t completely dark despite not a single ray of light reaching us from outside.
...I had a feeling I knew why that was, but I didn’t say it aloud. I didn’t want to speak it into existence.
Arzan and I carefully walked for about three hours... and then we reached what looked to be the end of the cave.
Our exit was probably on the other side.
There, at what seemed to be the end, Arzan and I discovered the origin of our ominous feeling.
There was a monster blocking the cave entrance with its body.
It was asleep. Even so, its huge body, which lurched with every breath, made all the other mutants we’d seen on the mountain range look laughable in comparison.
This huge monster had the form of a snake, and its scales were beautiful, as if each one was individually carved from a block of ice.
It was a sparkling gem in the darkness.
I couldn’t help but swear. This was the worst-case scenario.
This wasn’t something we could defeat.
Arzan and I quickly returned to the path we’d come from.
There was no exchange of words or signals; we just made the same decision as if we had planned this beforehand.
Only after we moved somewhere we couldn’t feel the chill of the Sapphire Snake did I blurt out the thought that had been stuck in my head.
“...Are gem beasts all like that? That’s just a wingless dragon.”
Arzan also seemed surprised, but she spoke in her characteristically calm tone.
“That’s not the case. Gem beasts are a very diverse species and cannot be placed into a single category. In addition to their appearance, their characteristics and behaviors also vary.”
“Then why are they all called gem beasts?”
“That’s because of the strange shine given off by specific parts of their bodies... like their eyes, teeth, nails, mane, and scales. It’s a characteristic that can only be found in the mutants of the Gem Mountains.”
“Young master, let’s go back,” Arzan said in a very serious tone. “It’ll be better for us to fight against the cultists.”
“Really? Didn’t Father kill three of those things by himself?”
“That’s different. The gem beasts the family head defeated were the Emerald Scorpion, the Garnet Crocodile, and the Topaz Mouse—among gem beasts, they were all mid- to low-rank monsters. However, the one we just saw was different. It’s at least a few hundred years old... It’s clearly closer to a mythical beast than a monster.”
Oddly enough, Arzan seemed to have a complete understanding of these gem beasts even though she’d had no idea how to deal with a troll.
It was unexpected, but it wasn’t something I needed to concern myself with right now, so I put the thought away for later.
“So is it about an S-rank monster?”
“If we were to rank it the way mercenaries do.”
Honestly, mercenaries ranked things to an unnecessary degree, but the classifications were decently accurate.
I knew that fighting the cultists would be better for us than fighting this gem beast. I knew that...
But for some reason, I’m getting fired up.
I needed to suppress this thought. If I didn’t have even a 1% chance of winning, it wouldn’t be a fight but a gamble.
“I understand. So let’s think about how to break through the other—”
I immediately stopped and took out the map.
Arzan also flinched.
We silently exchanged glances and moved to hide behind a stone pillar.
We stayed as silent as we could, suppressing even the sound of our breathing.
Black silhouettes appeared at the other end of the cave.
They moved without making a sound or letting their presence be known. One might even mistake them for a trick of the light.
Of course, they were no mistake.
The one who had revealed themself first looked around before gesturing with their hand.
Behind them, many different monstrous men appeared.
One, two, three... eight, nine, ten...
I gave up after counting twenty of them. At just a glance, they looked to number at least thirty.
Their clothing was also different from the goons we’d seen before.
The fact that the hoods that covered their bodies were a bit redder tipped me off. I’d heard of them before.
The Demon Lord of the Blood-Lit Moon. Among those who worshiped the flowing blood, the color of their clothing became closer to the color of blood the higher their rank in the organization.
This is fucked.
We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The worst-case scenario had now officially occurred.
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