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Stop, Friendly Fire! Chapter 49

<Chapter 13. Arema Steelworker - 4>


"A golem...?"

Lee Shin Woo muttered as he saw the message informing them of the identity of the titan before them. He expected him to be an undead that hadn't lost its reasoning, or a human that held out inside of a dungeon so that he could survive, but he hadn't expected him to be a golem...

[Of course I am. What else, besides a golem, could retain its sanity within the Empire?]

[That's why I'm so interested in you two,] the golem added as his eyes lit up. He possessed a human's eyes, skin, face, and hair; he perfectly resembled a human being, so if Lee Shin Woo hadn't learned that information from the message, he wouldn't have known that he was actually a golem.

[Though I'd like to ask you about your identity right at this very moment... the General would like to see you, so follow me for now.]

"What are you going to do?"

"...Let's go."

He couldn't precisely ascertain the situation, but there was something that bothered him. It was the fact that the golem's name was Guillotine 'Steelworker'.

Based on the memories that dwelled within the Original Core, Arema Steelworker was definitely the director. Was it just coincidence that part of his name was similar to the director's? Lee Shin Woo thought that wasn't possible.

'Then, whether it's General Seagald or not isn't the issue here.'

The golem bearing the name of Steelworker was a level 7 powerhouse. If that's the case, then what about the director, Arema Steelworker? He would obviously be an even higher level than the golem... then, wouldn't he be the general the golem's talking about? Lee Shin Woo had definitely miscalculated.

'I didn't think that golems were making other golems. I didn't think that, but... if I think that way, it all makes sense. Golems can't turn into the undead and they shouldn't die of old age either... But it's way too surprising that there's a golem with an innate ego. And a high leveled ego at that.'

[Don't mess with the other doors on the way and just follow straight behind me. Since you could set off a trap.]

"Ah."

"Alright."

Around the time that Lee Shin Woo's head was filled with complications, the golem spoke calmly. Jin, who had been observing the doors that lined the passageway, was shocked and slightly stepped back.

It was so huge that it was difficult to take his eyes off it. There were several roads that branched off from the passageway and even those forked roads branched out into several different paths. Jin wouldn't have known any better, but Lee Shin Woo clearly felt a mass of powerful mana at the end of each of those forked roads.

'Ha..'

Lee Shin Woo just laughed. It made sense how they threw away level 3 or level 4 golems like they were nothing. It was possible for the contents of any one of these several dozen rooms to be able to take down all of those weak golems that were destroyed by Lee Shin Woo and Jin before.

It was possible since they wouldn't lose anything from neglecting the golems or letting them be destroyed. Lee Shin Woo started to become curious as to what their mission was. But for starters, it did seem like they definitely weren't on the side of the Imperial Army, which had degenerated into the undead...

[We've arrived.]

"It's a huge door."

[Consider it an honor. It's not a door that anyone can just enter whenever they wish, aside from the knights that guard the general.]

The door lock looked similar to that of the Anti-Skull's secret facility's, and when Guillotine Steelworker placed his hand on it, a complex mana seal formed atop his hand and released the locking mechanism.

Lee Shin Woo couldn't help but be amazed as he saw the door lock and the mana pattern of the seal intersect and delicately, gradually release the lock. It was an interaction that was worlds apart from Anti-Skull's door lock! It felt like Lee Shin Woo's mana senses had advanced just by watching the process.

[Even if you pay such close attention to it, you probably won't be able to do it yourself so easily. Since it's something only golems can do. Now, go in. The General's waiting for you.]

"Haha."

For a golem, he was quick on the uptake. Lee Shin Woo just smiled bitterly, followed behind him, and stepped into the room.

The first thing he saw was a huge table. Next was the absurdly high ceiling. Finally, what he saw was...

[Lv8 Golem Zero - Golden General Arema Steelworker]

He was a golem that boasted a height of more than six meters even while sitting down.

"Hoh..."

"Ugh."

[How peculiar.]

The general remained seated while examining them and then slowly stood up. When Lee Shin Woo saw that the Golden General, Arema Steelworker, almost touched the ceiling at his full height, he was completely overwhelmed.

He didn't match the Lv5 Treasure Eater in terms of size, but the quality and density of his mana was worlds apart. It was to the point that he'd feel bad comparing that dirty caterpillar to him side by side.

[I don't feel the curse's mana from you at all. This space is filled to the brim with the curse, yet I feel like the curse is bouncing off of you. From an undead, who is neither a human nor a golem. ...Who, exactly, are you?]

"..."

Jin was completely terrified by his strength and stiffened in place. On the other hand, Lee Shin Woo remained silent thinking about how he should respond.

The golem before him was powerful, and possessed a method of observing the flow of mana that far surpassed Lee Shin Woo's own. He even contemplated and acted like a human. The fact that he was a golem didn't matter right now. Lee Shin Woo needed to assume that he was smarter than him in every aspect.

'Can I just tell him the truth? Even that we're heroes as well?'

If the Golden General was hostile to the undead, it wouldn't hurt if they told him they were heroes. Since it would confirm that they were both on the same side.

But there was too much he didn't know about them right now. If they don't understand, they could end up dead and would have just given them unnecessary information. If that's the case, then first... Lee Shin Woo stuck out his nonexistent tongue, licked his nonexistent lips with saliva he didn't even have, and opened his mouth.

"Do you know... about Anti-Skull?"

This was the start of his lies.

[Did you volunteer for the Anti-Skull Project? You even know about that?]

As he thought, the general knew about Anti-Skull. If he were one of the twelve generals like General Seagald, it wouldn't be strange if he knew about the Anti-Skull Project, especially if he was a golem that was immune to the curse.

'But this is a trap.'

Seeing the golem's flashing eyes, Lee Shin Woo decided as such. His body movements, as well as his voice were all extremely natural, but he was a golem. From the very beginning, he was suspicious as to whether he actually had a mind or not. It would be the end if he was so easily tricked by his cordial behavior.

"It seems like we can cut to the chase since you know about their project. I'd made contact with them in the past, but the place where their experiments took place is far away. We went a different way from them."

[You've made contact with them...? Hmm, is that so.]

The golem spoke as if he understood and nodded his head. Of course, Lee Shin Woo still wasn't at ease yet. After all, the general was still suspicious of the two.

Well, it's only natural. Since Lee Shin Woo and Jin just popped up several dozens of years after the Empire's fall. So how could they trust them so easily if they just showed up and said that they were part of some experiment that no one knew about?

[You're not one of General Seagald's men?]

"We worked together with one of the men under his command. Thus, we know about the Anti-Skull Project to some extent, and we participated in the plan, but... we've never actually met General Seagald before."

[Indeed. It's not so easy to learn about Anti-Skull. I'm curious as to who that individual was under General Seagald's command, but... No, it's fine. Since even I don't know everything about Seagald right now.]

However, he couldn't just openly deny him. Because he didn't have any evidence that actually refuted Lee Shin Woo's claims. Especially since Lee Shin Woo knew quite a bit regarding the Anti-Skull Project.

The moment one cleverly mixes lies with the truth, one's words become more persuasive and reassuring. That's why Lee Shin Woo could stand so proud.

[The administrator of that project must've been someone considerably famous. Since he successfully created undead who could completely resist the curse, or absorb it.]

"We're just lucky. Several people died as well. Though we were a success, we ended up sleeping for dozens of years in exchange."

[I understand. Since that ability couldn't have appeared if not for your luck that's close to a miracle from God.]

"I agree. It's only natural that this guy and I were the only successes to the experiment. I lost a lot of memories, a lot of time has passed, and there were several side effects as well, but..."

Did they catch on? When he said a 'miracle from God', Lee Shin Woo momentarily thought as much, yet he responded so naturally, like flowing water. Hearing Lee Shin Woo, Arema Steelworker momentarily hesitated, but soon nodded his head and spoke.

[I apologize. I was overly suspicious of you and I ended up bringing up some unpleasant memories. We'll stop the interrogation here. Since we both share a hatred for the curse that fills the Empire.]

"Of course. If it weren't for that curse, I wouldn't have become like this."

[...Agreed. How unfortunate.]

'Is this guy also hostile to the undead as well... If that's true, then should I disclose that I'm a hero? ...No, let's just leave that out for now. Since it wouldn't hurt.'

Lee Shin Woo just inwardly nodded in response to Arema Steelworker. He'd figured out the general's position and had simultaneously managed to hide his own identity. It wasn't perfect, but the golem was level 8; what's worse, he was one of the 12 generals of the Empire, so it turned out ok. The moment he thought so, his Acting skill leveled up.

[You have completely fooled an overwhelmingly higher leveled target. The Acting skill has become Lv8. Your lies become truth until the moment you yourself say otherwise.]

However, that wasn't all. Lee Shin Woo's continued to read through the messages that had caused his eyes to open wide.

[A Joker conceals everything about themselves, and is one who makes false faces. There is no need for there to be a special reason behind your words or actions. That is what it means to be a Joker. All stats have increased by 5. You have fulfilled a part of the conditions to unlock the Joker's innate skill.]

'It doesn't matter whether you have a reason; just lie your way out first... this is my type of skill.'

If he were to deceive his opponent first, it would become easier to get out of the situation later, even if things went wrong. Since all he needed to do was to say something else and lie to them again! His normal way of thinking and this karma was a perfect fit.

It felt as though he'd found his calling and he seemed pleased, but then, Arema Steelworker moved on to a different topic. This was probably the main topic.

[I'm more surprised that you were able to acquire the rights of a general administrator than the fact that you guys are undead. It should've been impossible even if you were considerably talented...]

"I was curious who the owner of all those golems was. I also wanted to know your intentions as well. I was luckily able to make a forgery of it."

[What you did isn't something you can just pass off as a joke. You should be more confident in yourself. ...More importantly, I want to know what your intentions are. I suppose it's time for you to ask the questions now, huh?]

"There're just simple questions. After all, you said yourself that we share a hatred for the Empire's curse."

[Hahaha! Alright, I'll answer your questions, brave skeleton. Since I have nothing to hide.]

Hearing Lee Shin Woo's polite and bold statement, the general laughed uproariously. It looked so natural that he could hardly believe that he was a golem.

Immediately after, something shocking happened. The golem's body, which was close to 9 meters tall at full height, dwindled in size, and turned into a mere 2 meter tall giant!

[Most people... even Seagald and Leofield knew this as a giant transformation skill, but it's not actually that. It's something that can only be used in the golem high command and is a technique that compresses a golem's body. Were you surprised?]

"Yes..."

He was really surprised. Lee Shin Woo had thought it was only possible because the general was a golem, but there really was a way to turn into a giant! Didn't that mean that a skill existed in this world that could transform him into a giant? His heart began to pound rapidly.

[Most of the citizens of the Empire wouldn't know, but the Golden Army formed by Arema Steelworker was comprised of golems from the very beginning. It was an army created without hesitation to protect the Empire, and in order to create those golems that moved and lived with a clear purpose, we transferred a knight's consciousness into a core; this is the fruit of our efforts at the end of all those experiments.]

"...!?"

[Yes. Our goal was different, but we're both similar aren't we? We were both sacrificed for our experiments. As a result, we were also able to avoid turning into the undead, so it's truly ironic, wouldn't you say?]

Hearing such a shocking story of how the golems came into existence, Lee Shin Woo kept opening and closing his mouth, but then, the Golden General spoke faintly.

[The day after the curse struck, all the living became undead. However, we, who weren't of the living any longer, remained.]

The core had been engraved with loyalty to the Empire, yet that Empire was now gone, so they hadn't known what to do.

[We remained, dozens of years later.]

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