Damn Reincarnation

Chapter 63
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Chapter 63: The Desert (5)

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ㅡㅡㅡ.[1]

The noise that the sandworm made was long, drawn-out, and echoing.

With a loud boom, the wind was sent flying as Wynnyd exploded a hole in its side. Eugene held on tightly to himself as his body was thrown out of the hole.

His surroundings were pitch-dark. This couldn’t be helped. After all, he had crawled through the long, winding body of the sandworm and torn a hole at its tail end before being expelled from it. Since the sandworm had tunneled up from beneath the quicksand, the place where it had come from and where Eugene had now arrived was obviously deep underground.

“Ugh,” Eugene groaned as he got up from where he had fallen.

He had been thrown quite a distance. Eugene was lucky that he hadn’t hit a wall or any sand while flying through the air. He had been prepared to be buried in sand in the worst-case scenario, but as per his prediction, that hadn’t happened.

The only things summoned by that summoning spell were the quicksand terrain and the sandstorm. The sandworm itself hadn’t been summoned. Although it may have been enticed, the sandworm had to have been inhabiting the ground beneath the desert beforehand.

Since that was the case, there would obviously be a sandworm’s nest deep underground. The place where Eugene was standing now was precisely that sandworm’s nest. Eugene looked around with a disgusted expression on his face.

The first place Eugene looked was up top. He could still see the sandworm’s tail wriggling and twitching. He had pierced the sandworm a new anus, but would it die from that? He had no idea. Well, anyway, thanks to it, Eugene had been able to dive underground as he had been hoping to do.

The tunnels underneath the desert were… extensive. But that was also what he had been expecting. They were created by the sandworms burrowing through the ground beneath the desert with their massive bodies. Earthworms would at least have made the soil fertile in the process, but the sandworms didn’t provide any such benefits.

These sandworms sucked up all the water sources beneath the desert, draining any oases. Then the bodily fluids they excreted would solidify the sand as they burrowed, creating these complex and useless tunnel systems deep beneath the desert.

This meant that a sandworm was just a useless, vicious monster. This nest may have also been a water source for what could have become an oasis, but now there wasn’t even a single drop of water left.

In this desert, only one group of people could find a clever use for these useless sandworms.

That would be the wizards.

When wizards reached a certain level of magical power and started hearing people calling them Archwizards from all sides, they often started thinking about creating these things called ‘dungeons.’ Whether it was because they wanted to show off their superiority or to immerse themself in research that they didn’t want others to know about… the reason was unknown.

These ‘dungeons’ were a powerful expression of a wizard’s typical maverick temperament, and the most well-known type of dungeon was the ‘labyrinth.’ The vast and empty deserts were a particularly ideal environment for collaborating with a wizard’s designs for dungeons and labyrinths.

Dungeon Makers.

Most monsters were harmful threats of no benefit to humans, but sandworms were beloved by wizards who chose to settle down in deserts. The sandworms’ nickname of the ‘dungeon makers’ had been given to them by these wizards.

 

—Once you’ve summoned them, they’ll dig beneath the desert of their own volition and create a labyrinth for you. It doesn’t take them that long either. Maybe ten days at most? If you just leave them alone during that time, they will create a complex labyrinth deep underground. Even if there is a water vein nearby, they’ll conveniently clear it up for you, and since they even get rid of all the wildlife above and beneath the surface, how much more convenient can they get? You can just leave them to their work, then, when the right amount of time has passed, you just go down and eradicate the sandworms. After that, all you need to do is to reinforce the labyrinth with magic….

—So what? Are you planning on going to the desert later and making a labyrinth for yourself to live in?

—Are you crazy? I have nothing to be ashamed of, so why would I want to live deep beneath the desert?

 

While recalling a conversation that had taken place long ago, Eugene gauged the distance he had fallen. As he did, he pulled out his map and unfolded it. Although he had fallen deep underground, the location where Eugene was standing was still marked on the map.

‘Looks like… there is a path.’

Eugene’s luck was good.

No, there was no way it could be this good. Eugene’s face contorted. Judging from the map, this underground path lead straight to the vicinity of where Hamel’s hometown had been in the past. Could this really just be called luck?

Well, the desert was vast, and it was still uncertain whether or not this path would lead him all the way to his former hometown.

That said, Eugene still couldn’t let his guard down. The summoning spell had been cast from deep underground, and the ambush site was still nearby. If the Sand Shamans of Nahama were using this nest as a dungeon, he might run into a Sand Shaman or an Assassin somewhere ahead of him.

But until then, there shouldn’t be any problems.

However, there was still the fact that up ahead lay Hamel’s hometown.

The knowledge of Hamel’s grave had never been made known to the world at large. There were no records of what had happened to Hamel’s corpse. Even in the fairy tale Eugene had found in Sienna’s Hall, it hadn’t said whether Hamel’s corpse had been left in Helmuth or whether his companions had taken care of it somehow.

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However, Eugene knew that there was a grave. If Hamel’s grave had to exist anywhere in this world, then the only place it could be was in Hamel’s hometown. Sienna, Anise, Molon, and Vermouth—he didn’t know what they had thought as they dug his grave, but they probably wouldn’t have left the grave of their dead comrade somewhere in Helmuth.

Hamel’s hometown.

It was the place where an ordinary little boy had lost his family and everything he knew, igniting within him a hatred for the monsters and the Demon Kings who had goaded them. From then on, Hamel dropped his farming tools and would only pick up weapons. Recklessly swinging a sword, he would join a mercenary corps that was in need of a camp servant.

That was where Hamel had been born.

‘Since it hasn’t been revealed in the past hundreds of years, it must still be hidden.’

The underground was a perfect hiding place.

‘This is just speculation, but the fact that Anise came to Nahama on the pretext of a pilgrimage… well… she might have just been visiting my grave to pay tribute.’

But would Anise really do something like that?

‘The Kazani desert was created less than two hundred years ago. If you put those facts together, the timing roughly fits. While Nahama’s Sand Shamans were fucking around in there, they might have found my grave… then what if Sienna’s familiar was killed in the process?’

If that were the case, was Nahama involved in Sienna’s disappearance? Or was it Helmuth, who had long since been the force behind Nahama?

Eugene couldn’t tell for sure. Because of that, he would need to take a look for himself.

Eugene headed forward without pulling out his hands, which were still buried in his cloak.

* * *

“Laman Schulhov.”

Laman desperately held onto his hazy consciousness. A few faces were wavering in his blurry vision. He couldn’t see clearly, but the ones who had caught him appeared to be covering their faces with gray masks and wearing turbans on their heads.

These were the Sand Shamans.

“Why did the talented young master of the Lionheart clan come all the way here? And why are you, a warrior of the Emir of Kajitan, acting as a guide for the Lionheart boy?”

“...,” Laman refused to open his tightly clenched lips.

In order to save Eugene, who had been swallowed by the sandworm, Laman had run out onto the quicksand. What Laman had been hoping to accomplish by wading across the quicksand was to slice open the sandworm. Though, such a huge sandworm was an incredibly tough opponent, even for a warrior able to emit sword-force.

Nevertheless, Laman had attempted to save Eugene. When Laman was about to be sucked under the quicksand, it was the wind sent by Eugene that had saved him. That moment was clearly engraved into Laman’s mind.

When some of the wind supporting Eugene’s body had blown over to Laman, Eugene could no longer remain fixed in mid-air and had slowly started to drift. With the suction from the sand tornado that was slowly growing nearby… Eugene had left himself in a state where he couldn’t control his movements.

Then the sandworm had erupted from below.

‘In order to save me… he gave his own life…!’

In fact, if he really thought about it, Laman would realize that Eugene hadn’t been swallowed by the sandworm and had instead leaped in with his own two feet. However, Laman couldn’t imagine such a possibility. Unless you were insane, there was no way that you would throw yourself into the jaws of a sandworm.

In other words, Eugene Lionheart had given his own life in order to save Laman. But why? Laman couldn’t figure out his reasons for this. The only thing that mattered to Laman at that moment was the need to repay this life-saving grace.

“Could Tairi Al-Madani be planning to betray Nahama?” the Sand Shaman asked as he brought his head closer to Laman. “It is his mission to impede those who should not be coming here. For him to fail his mission and instead attach a guide—”

“What are you all doing here, in this place deep underground?” Laman squeezed out a rough voice. “The oasis. It was an illusion, wasn’t it? The sandstorm was also created with magic. Were those all your doing?”

“It seems that you don’t understand your situation,” with a click of his tongue, the Sand Shaman shook his head.

Creak creak creak!

The pressure of the sand binding Laman’s limbs grew even stronger.

Laman gasped in pain, “Gah…!”

“We’re the ones asking questions here,” the Sand Shaman reminded him. “Are you keeping your mouth shut for the sake of your master’s honor? That is pointless, Laman Schulhov. You will die in any case, but since you are going to die, wouldn’t a painless death be better than the torturous demise awaiting you?”

Laman gritted out, “Just kill me…!”

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The Sand Shaman ignored his demand, “Why has Eugene Lionheart come to Kazani? From the moment he entered Nahama, he has moved with a clear purpose. In our view, the only possibility seems to be that he was trying to get the Emir of Kajitan to betray Nahama.”

“Betray…?” Laman’s bloodshot eyes shone as he uttered this word.

Betray. This word confirmed quite a few unfortunate truths for Laman. First, there were Sand Shamans in Kazani. They were creating the sandstorms, forcing the desert to expand. And the Emir of Kajitan not only knew about this, but he was also cooperating with them….

“How dare you invade the territory of another country in such a cheap manner!”

Saliva flew from Laman’s mouth as he suddenly cried out. The Sand Shaman’s eyes furrowed in a frown as he stepped back.

“Invade? I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said the Sand Shaman.

“Why else would all of you, who are supposed to be protecting the royal family, be here?! And that sandstorm…!” Laman angrily accused.

“It seems that you’re making quite a huge mistake. Do you really think that the desertification could be sped up with just our power alone?” the Sand Shaman asked with a snort. “Although I know that warriors are usually ignorant, after hearing such brainless words, I can’t help but be amused. It would take hundreds of Sand Shamans to create a sandstorm large enough to cause desertification.”

Tututuk!

The strength of the sand binding Laman’s body progressively grew stronger.

“Kuuuh…. Then… if that’s the case… why are you… here…?” Laman groaned out his question.

“I have no reason to answer that,” taunted the Sand Shaman.

“If you’re going to kill me anyway, then you should at least tell me the reason for it!”

“Why did Eugene Lionheart come to Kazani?”

“What’s so important about his reasons for doing so?! Lord Eugene has already perished! You… he died because of you!”

“That’s not true,” another Sand Shaman replied to Laman’s accusation with a laugh. “If Eugene Lionheart is dead, then the cause of it is just an accident. He went into a dangerous desert that he shouldn’t have entered and suffered an unavoidable disaster.”

“That’s nonsense!” Laman roared.

“The responsibility for his death will be placed on Tairi Al-Madani’s head,” the Sand Shaman continued. “It’s all because you were the one to guide him here. Although I’ve heard that he’s a favorite of the Patriarch, in the end, he’s just an adopted son from a collateral bloodline. As long as we hand the Lionheart clan the head of a big-city Emir, that should allay their fury.”

Laman cursed, “You sons of bitches!”

The Sand Shaman advised him, “If you want to be of some use to your master, then it would be best for you to confess everything that you know. Depending on the reasons, we might still be able to handle this situation smoothly.”

“Handle it smoothly…? H-hold on. ‘If Eugene Lionheart is dead?’ Does that mean Lord Eugene is still alive?” Laman struggled to keep a hold of his dazed consciousness.

Currently, Laman’s priority wasn’t the Emir of Kajitan, but instead Eugene.

One of the Sand Shaman questioned him, “Are you really prioritizing Eugene Lionheart over your master’s head?”

“It’s obvious that he’s just playing a trick,” the other Sand Shaman observed. “Are you really claiming that the decision to guide Eugene Lionheart was made on your personal whim and not Tairi Al-Madani’s order?”

Laman just desperately demanded, “Where is my lord?!”

“Looks like our words aren’t getting through to him,” one of the Sand Shamans sighed.

The other one asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to just kill him? After all, his life is worthless.”

“No. He might still be of some use as a hostage.”

Although they didn’t know the reason for it, Eugene Lionheart had indeed tried to rescue Laman Schulhov.

The Sand Shamans didn’t question Laman any further and instead gathered together to sit among themselves.

“So, what have you found out?”

“He was eaten whole by a giant sandworm… is it really possible to survive something like that?”

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“A hole has appeared in its tail.”

“So what? Are you saying that after being eaten by a sandworm, he cut a hole in its tail and crawled out?”

The more they looked at the facts, the harder it was for them to believe it. The Sand Shamans snorted in amusement as they shook their heads.

“We can’t just allow him to go wherever he pleases.”

“...The Assassins are exploring the nest. They should catch him soon.”

“And what about after that?”

“...It’s not a good idea to pick a fight with the Lionheart clan. It should be enough to erase his memory and toss him outside Kazani. No, it might actually be better for us to actively show that we’re protecting him. Who knows, we might even be rewarded for our kindness.”

“It’s just a shame that she’s not here. If she were—”

“Shush.”

It happened right at the moment that the terrified Sand Shaman had pursed his lips and shushed his comrade.

Booooom!

A loud roar shook the ground below. The Sand Shamans all got up in alarm. They shut their eyes tightly and resonated their mana with the sand in order to identify what was causing this roar.

The same scene could be seen in each of their darkened fields of view. Dressed in a black cloak, Eugene Lionheart was approaching their location from a place not far from them. With each swing of his silver-blue sword, the magic barrier that barred intruders' entry was being torn apart.

‘What about the Assassins?’

They expanded their field of view to include the path that Eugene had already taken. There were corpses strewn all over the place, both Assassins and Sand Shamans.

‘He’s advancing so fast?’

Each and every Assassin who had remained here at their camp had received enough training to be a considerable threat to even the most skilled warrior. That went for the Sand Shamans as well. This meant they should have had enough power to not be slaughtered by just one person.

What’s more, this was an advantageous battlefield for the Assassins and the Sand Shamans. This nest made by sandworms had already been a complex labyrinth in and of itself, but the Sand Shamans who had started using it decades ago had made this labyrinth even more complicated.

The Assassins who were deployed here were skilled enough to be able to navigate the labyrinth with their eyes and ears closed. In such a situation, it would be difficult for even the most skilled warriors to notice their stealth techniques. Their sudden surprise attacks should have been enough to slice any ordinary warrior’s neck.

The Sand Shamans also had an advantage here. Even though a huge sandstorm like the one they had created on the surface was impossible, in a place like this, where there was sand on all sides as well as above and below, any sand magic cast here would have more power than usual.

Unfortunately for them, Eugene wasn’t a good opponent for them to face.

Since Eugene had been prepared to forcefully barge into the Kazani desert, this meant that he had already accepted that he would have to confront the Assassins and Sand Shamans. He had even been certain that he was going to get attacked by the Assassins back at the oasis and had gone in anyway.

Then he had managed to enter the tunnels deep underground. Eugene had been fairly sure that the Sand Shamans were staying somewhere underground and that the Assassins were hiding here as well.

If Eugene didn’t have the confidence to protect himself from them, he wouldn’t have gone any further.

Assassins and Sand Shamans weren’t the only ones who had an advantage in this labyrinth. Eugene, and Hamel, were used to all kinds of battlefields.

Hamel had even fought Assassins before.

Unlike the Assassins, who had learned their assassination techniques through harsh training, there were many natural assassins among the demonic beasts and demonfolk of Helmuth. There were demonic beasts who could travel from one shadow to another and demonfolk who could stab you in the back without revealing even a trace of their presence.

Being prepared to receive a surprise attack in an unfavorable situation had just become second nature.

Nevertheless, Hamel had survived. With every fucking surprise attack that Hamel had received, the wounds on his body increased one after another. And each time he received a new wound, he grew more familiar with surprise attacks, until one day, the number of injuries he received had stopped increasing.

‘The level of the Assassins here isn’t that great. Their stealth is only at the proficient level… and their control over their mana isn’t amazing either,’ Eugene critiqued.

The most infamous of Nahama’s Assassins weren’t just at this level. The highest grade of Assassins had stealth techniques comparable to that of a demonic beast or demonfolk and were so terrifyingly tenacious that they couldn’t even be considered human beings.

The Assassins that Eugene had faced so far were certainly persistent, but they weren’t all that terrifying.

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‘If this is an important site for Nahama, there should have been better Assassins than these guys.’

The guards here were too weak.

Although there were a lot of Sand Shamans, their skills didn’t seem that great either. If this really was a key part of Nahama’s plans to invade other countries, then more and better-trained troops should have been stationed here.

Even if territorial aggression wasn’t their goal, no matter what other purpose they might have had for being here, if this place was of great value to Nahama, it should have received further support.

But the preparations shown here were just too lacking.

‘Could it be that Nahama… no, that the sultan wasn’t involved in this?’

Eugene’s sharp senses kept a watch over his surroundings. The moment the enemy broke stealth to make an attack, his body would react of its own accord. It wasn’t just that. Eugene also knew how to use stealth. It meant that this labyrinth was not just a convenient battlefield for the Assassins, but for Eugene as well.

Then there was his magic.

The Ring Flame Formula amplified all the mana that Eugene manipulated, including the mana shield he created while operating the formula. Even with the Cloak of Darkness alone, he could easily block spells up to the Fifth Circle, and then his mana shield was added on top of it.

This meant that he could just ignore any spells being cast at his face. Of course, there was no real need for him to just ignore them. Rather than ignoring the attacks and enduring the assault, he much preferred to avoid the spell and counterattack.

“Gak!”

A spell came shooting at him from the front, a sand bullet that had been sculpted to a sharp point. Eugene lifted his cloak up to the spell, swallowing it, and then sent it back along its path. He had managed to calculate the spatial coordinates of his target instantly.

The returning spell crashed right into the Sand Shaman’s chest. Then came a surprise attack.

Eugene had thought he had already killed quite a few of them, but it seemed that there were still a lot of Assassins left. Eugene didn’t even need to move his body to respond to the attack. The wind that was wrapped around his body blocked the Assassin’s blade and then proceeded to rip the Assassin into pieces.

‘The tunnels are slowly getting larger.’

When he spread his senses wide, Eugene could tell that all the Assassins and Sand Shamans scattered all over the underground labyrinth were gathering here.

‘The path also leads here,’ Eugene noted as he checked the map that he was holding in one hand.

Hamel’s hometown was close.

“It feels a lot weirder than I thought it would,” Eugene admitted to himself.

His emotions were turbulent.

“I never thought that I would live to see my own grave.”

The Ring Flame Formula continued to amplify his mana. With each rotation from his ring of Stars, the color of Eugene’s flame was slowly changing.

Eugene continued, “I also never expected to meet grave robbers there.”

“Intruder!” an Assassin cried as he fell from the ceiling, clutching a dagger.

Although it was an obvious surprise attack, the word he shouted strongly agitated Eugene’s already volatile emotions.

“Intruuuuder? This motherfucker!” with a loud scream, Eugene cast a spell.

Fwooosh!

A blue flame wrapped around the Assassin’s body. Eugene had been planning to slowly burn him alive, but the flame magic amplified by his Ring Flame Formula was too strong for that. The Assassin couldn’t even scream properly before he fell apart into ashes.

“You fucking thieving bastards!” Eugene roared as he leaped forwards.

1. This part of the text is left exactly as the author wrote it and seems to be the roar of the sandworm. We believe it is supposed to be a loud, unintelligible, and indescribable sound, which is why the author wrote it as these three dashes. ☜

Openbookworm's Thoughts

Momo: Uh oh. An enraged Eugene is going to be a tough opponent. RIP assassins and shamans.

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