Stop, Friendly Fire! Chapter 289
<Chapter 52. War's Scenario - 8>
"Now then, the vanguard's up front. Come up if you want to. You and you stay in the back, you go up front..."
"Lee Shin Woo, you're..."
Lee Shin Woo gathered the 27 new undead heroes and began forming a squad out of them. Seeing that, Erian realized one thing: the skeleton hand he'd shown earlier, perhaps that was...
"Are you actually the Heaven Defying General?"
"Erian, that's ridiculous. There's no way he's..."
He figured that by coming to rescue them, his identity would be exposed. After all, it was far too late in the game to be worried about that.
However... before coming here, he'd thought, 'their reactions will be a pain', but looking at them now, that didn't seem all that true.
"Y-You're the Heaven Defying General...?"
Lee Shin Woo quickly affirmed, and Lloyd gaped. Lee Shin Woo grinned and briefly switched his face to that of an undead, and then switched back. Lloyd's mouth had widened so much that it seemed like his jaw and the roof of his mouth would separate.
"As I thought... If that's the case, then everything makes sense. If I hadn't seen your undead transformation just now, then I wouldn't have been sure. Did you always have the ability to transform into an undead? If not, then..."
"It's the opposite. I'm an undead, but I can transform into a human. Well, my human form is perfect, so there's not much difference either way."
"How? No, why...? Why did you...?"
While Erian seemed to get the gist of things, Lloyd was still confused. Lloyd's expression reminded him of Prince, causing him to grin. He then turned around and said.
"Now then, there's a lot I have to tell you. Please follow me."
Without an ounce of hesitation, Lee Shin Woo led the 27 undead heroes, as well as Lloyd, who couldn't accept reality and was tottering around, and Erian to his base.
And thus, Lee Shin Woo had unified the remaining heroes underground, undead or otherwise. Objectively speaking, their forces surpassed the Imperial Army's. ...Perhaps the disparity between their forces was wider than he thought.
"Ha, so we were the only ones out of the loop. I feel stupid for suffering."
"I didn't keep it secret on purpose. Rather, I only told those who were in the same area as me. ...There was the case with Seira too."
"I know what you're trying to say. Could you not look at me like that? How long are you going to use that (past events) against me?"
It inevitably took longer to convince them than Prince. But upon meeting Kratia, as well as Seira, the Banshee, they had no choice but to nod their heads.
Humans were quite simple; even if an individual didn't agree with something, if the majority agreed, then the individual tended to accept the majority's viewpoint.
"Even Prince... If she acknowledged you, then I should too."
"So what's your relationship with Prince anyway, Senior Lloyd?"
"All I know is that the two of them think of their relationship differently."
Lloyd, who'd even gone so far as to send a private message to Prince, was forced to accept the cold, hard truth. Regardless of whether Lee Shin Woo was a good guy or an evil bastard, it was because of him that they had survived. Plus, he now realized that he didn't need to strike him down just because he was an undead.
"So we can't use the chatting channel anymore? But didn't you already kill the Archmage?"
All that was left was explaining the current situation to them. First, he explained that, as a result of killing Seagald, the underground's sun was no more (they just assumed that the night had gotten longer and that the sun wasn't rising). He then explained what he'd done thus far, which of the 12 Generals he'd killed, and explained the details of the final battle concisely.
"We've been shown there's a chance. A chance that an outsider can enter a domain protected by God herself. Of course, all of the heroes are on our side now and the Lich is dead, but... Someone else might try a different approach to tamper with the chatting channel."
So, he requested that they not use the chatting channel, at least until the Emperor was dead and the Underground Empire was completely purified. What's worse, they could no longer use their permits to access the secret shop, so they were speechless.
"Man, this sucks. The curse is directly connected to the source of darkness. It'll be difficult for us until we can figure something out."
"...We can't buy the medicine anymore, and what's worse, we can't buy supplies from the secret shop either."
"That's how it is. Well, it doesn't really matter. Since the final battle is near."
To be honest, Lee Shin Woo could always break through the Archmage's curse and enter the secret shop, but he decided not to tell them that.
If he wanted to bring them to the secret shop, he would have to form a contract with them. Not only was that a pain in the ass, but the final battle was right before them, so bringing them to the secret shop at this point wouldn't do much, if anything. To put it bluntly, he didn't plan on giving them any important assignments.
"I've saved up a lot of supplies, so you won't have to worry about that."
"It's really surprising that you can travel to the surface... How about we go to the surface and group up with Prince?"
"It's a good idea, but it's a bit iffy to bring so many strong people to the surface all at once."
He was lying. Lee Shin Woo was 100% sure that if he sent this anachronic human and Elf to the surface then something bad would happen. Thus, he had to do whatever was necessary to stop them from going. Fortunately, Lloyd was persuaded immediately.
"Is that so? I'd like to purify the undead curse together, but... I guess we could all just go up there after the battle's over."
"Of course. We're really close. ...Really."
"Ooh, the surface... I'd really like to see its natural environment. There might be a lot of spirits up there."
"Ah, now that you mention it..."
The Elf, Erian, was more attuned to the spirits and nature than Lee Shin Woo was. Lee Shin Woo hesitated briefly, but ultimately suggested.
"Senior, would you like to be my partner?"
"Partner? What are you talking about all of a sudden?"
"Once you've purified the Empire, you'll have to settle on the surface. You're not planning to live dangerously fighting monsters forever, are you? That's where I come in! I can offer you a lifelong job. So, for now... well, you'll see what I mean if you follow me."
"What exactly are you talking about..."
She followed him, arriving at the grape vineyard directly connected to their wine factory. He could get there in a flash with the Heaven Door's Key. The atmosphere was completely different, but... Erian quickly noticed. There was no way she wouldn't.
"No, wait. This is... This is the vineyard I entrusted to you!"
[Welcome, Paul Zero... Oh, it's the Elf!]
[It's been a long time since I last saw a living, breathing Elf! Nice to meet you!]
Having noticed him, the Dryads flew towards him, but once they noticed Erian as well, they began to chatter. Whereas, Erian was dumbfounded at the sight of the Dryads.
"How is this possible? To think there were still spirits within the Empire..."
"Do you remember the Forest of Death? There were some Dryads resisting the curse there. I brought them here and cured them of the curse. Because of them, the grapes you raised grew even livelier than before."
"The Forest of Death..."
"At the time, I remember us talking about it in the chatting channel. If that's the case, then that means you were already strong enough to get through the Forest of Death back then..."
Lloyd smiled hollowly. He couldn't even feel his inferiority complex flare. Lee Shin Woo was in a completely different league.
When he realized how outclassed he was, something with him snapped. But he actually felt relieved. He'd had an urge to become stronger, and the undead curse had only intensified that urge, making him impatient. However, that impulse had disappeared right then and there.
'I was a fool. There's no need for me to be more 'hero-like' than someone else...'
Him not feeling frustrated or powerless was just an example of Lloyd's incredible mental fortitude. Once he'd stopped comparing himself to Lee Shin Woo and looked at himself objectively, he became able to do things at his own pace again.
If Lee Shin Woo had known what Lloyd was thinking, then he'd say something like 'he's like a hero straight out of a fairy tale.'
"Wait, the energy from when I raised the grapes is still here!? No, it's not just here, but it's evolved!"
[Hey, Elf. Come over here! There's a place where the grapes aren't growing that well!]
[Spread your elvish energy! It's best if elves look after fruit!]
"I... I understand. Let's go together!"
Erian followed the Dryads and disappeared amidst the field of grape trees. With the Dryad's help, Lee Shin Woo had grown the grapes quite well, but he couldn't match up to an Elf; Elves were masters of the forest and fields, so if they were to intervene, then the quality of the grapes would skyrocket!
As a result, the value of the Kerr Century Elemental Brandy would rise as well. To think that the sole elf on the continent was looking over the grape trees; she was invaluable!
"So please do your best, Senior. They say that a half-elf is born with an elf's authority."
"W-What's with you all of a sudden!? ...I-Is it that obvious?"
"It is that obvious."
Even the most dim-witted of men possessed the ability to spot couples!
Compared to when he'd met them last, he felt something qualitatively different between the two of them. They'd taken at least another step forward. At any rate, if this happens, then...
"By the way, what do you think of one man marrying several women, Senior Lloyd?"
"You have to love one person to the very end. I believe that that's the best I can do as a person and as a man. ...Ahem, I suppose that's Erian right now."
"Why are you not like a hero in this aspect... Err, never mind."
It sounded like Lloyd was criticizing him, or at least, it came off that way. Lee Shin Woo decided to change the subject.
"What do you think of Senior Prince?"
"Prince? She's a good friend. I told you before, didn't I? It would've been hard for me to endure without her."
Lee Shin Woo hesitated briefly, but then he glanced at Erian, who was going around the grape trees, and carefully whispered into Lloyd's ear.
"To be honest, Prince begged me to save you; she was even willing to do anything to ensure your safety."
"Prince really cherishes me that much...?"
"Yes. And Prince is a girl. A girl who's been with you for a very long time."
"She already told me, so I know that... Huh?"
Even the slow-witted Lloyd couldn't misunderstand when Lee Shin Woo was spelling it out for him. Cold sweat flowed down his forehead.
"No, wait. There's no way... Don't joke around, Shin Woo."
"So you get it. Please think about it by yourself. You'll find an answer."
"Hey, wait. Why are you telling me this now!?"
'Why now? I can't be the only one with girl troubles,' Lee Shin Woo thought. However, Lee Shin Woo didn't say anything aloud and merely gave him a thumbs up. Behind him, Lloyd was suffering from the truth that'd been laid bare. Serves him right.
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