Soulmancer – Chapter 19: Instinct

Jenna sensed an eerie presence lingering above her as if the young demon shared similar struggles. However, this sensation swiftly dissipated, leading her to conclude that Daniel Lan, Northwestern, was perhaps too carefree for such burdens. Despite his occasional lapse in remembering her mage status and his unintentional attempts to take charge, he remained a demon akin to others of his age—distinctive in his own ways. The female mage admired his freedom in decision-making, unburdened by the weight of responsibility and duty, a stark contrast to her…

“Hah!” She exhaled frost slowly as pinpricks of mana seeped through her mana veins, returning to her mana core. Soon, it coursed through her mana arteries, away from the core. Tranquil meditation synchronized each movement of mana with her body’s blood flows, heartbeat, and breathing pattern—a seamless cycle that left her hyper-alert, rejuvenated, and optimized for battle.

‘No, I still need to gather more; I can’t be running low mid-battle.’ She hesitated, considering the importance of reaching a trustworthy mana level. She couldn’t afford a repeat of her past irrational demeanor, which nearly led to her premature death. Losing control of her emotions, a demerit in exchange for her voiceless chant skill, resulted in hastily exhausting her mana. If not for Izel and probably Daniel, she’d be a goner after a single raid. ‘I must prevent that.’


In contrast to her internal turmoil, her outward composure remained unscathed; rather, her level-headed demeanor played a crucial role, mediating with indifference and an air of unconcern—much like a beautiful stone statue, unmoved by the chaos within. The cool breeze gently tousled her long emerald hair, providing a soothing respite to her lingering fatigue.


A shadow flickered overhead, landing in front of her. With her body hyper-alert and her mana nearly recharged, scanning over a 2-meter radius wasn’t a big deal. ‘Daniel?’ She recognized the mana signature—it was the young demon. However, something felt off. Specifically, his demonic power seemed unusually calm, and his body language had become oddly relaxed. It was as though he had experienced an epiphany. As she gently opened her eyes to inspect this shift, she considered if she was overthinking it.

Soon, as bizarre words brushed across her ears…

“Hopefully, we can grow together for the rest of the raid,” the latter smashed both his fists together, wearing a big grin.


… her eyes widened at the authoritative, familiar voice, resonating like her father’s, ‘Islat De. Callen’ — same expression, different stance, yet the same importance. Aye, it conjured the same image; she recalled the day he vanished from ‘Utopia’ in the Mage district. Though his tone was less tense, it exuded confidence, uncompromising determination, and dependability. Still, no one would believe it came from a demon.

‘So, he too made up his mind, huh?’ How could she not grasp the true meaning of those words? Nevertheless, ‘That was too hasty and unexpected.’ Yet, Jenna couldn’t resist, cracking a small smile. Despite being aware that it wasn’t as easy as he had imagined, he did try. This could ultimately spark a change within him. With a deep breath, the female mage continued observing them both, her non-partisan stance clear, retaining her indifference.

However, she remained baffled by the blind man’s actions, which surpassed her expectations, despite facing similar difficulties as hers. ‘Unlike Daniel, though.’ Jenna realized she had to step up her game and wouldn’t lag behind that carefree brat.

‘No, I’ll show them all what a mage from ‘Utopia’ is made of.’ Her sharp green eyes faintly glinted as she gently stood up and approached the young demon.

* * *

“I’ll protect the rear with all my might,” Daniel Lan. Northwestern declared, assuming the role of an unofficial leader within the party. Swiftly, he slammed his shield, securely hanging on his back, to the ground. “And protect the captain.”

‘Oh! He’s changed a bit!’ It remained unbelievable; he no longer sought blind leadership but a commitment to protection. It was a difficult decision that most demons wouldn’t make, but Jenna found it appealing. Her smile widened significantly at his newfound determination.

“Alright. Since we don’t know when the next wave will start, let’s stay alert,” Izel, who had taken a brief rest, reluctantly spoke. He hadn’t anticipated such a development, but he seemed to appreciate how things were falling into place.

“Don’t fret, big brother; safeguarding the party from behind would be too challenging…”

“You keep calling me ‘big brother’,” the blind man interrupted the young demon, shaking his head. “You don’t have to be so formal; you’re a royal demon, ain’t ya? Just call me Izel.”

In the Fortress of Dungeons, Walkers are generally respectful towards the strong, regardless of age. On Eliluam, however, such insolence could lead to arrest by the demon guards. While receiving respectful words is quite sweet, it becomes bothersome in the long run.

“It’s settled; Izel will take the front and lead us,” Jenna wrapped up the conversation.

Three of them nodded in agreement. Eventually, Daniel resumed his designated position at the rear, while Izel took the lead, positioning the once-C-rank mage at the center.

“With our formation settled, let’s get going…!” Izel’s voice trailed off. A sudden curiosity gripped him, causing his attention to dart around. The piled-up corpses and scattered remains seemed to emanate a familiar dark glow.


The mage gazed at the blind man in confusion, observing his movement toward the heaped corpses and mangled Titan Orcs. It was a perplexing sight. Ex-hunters and Walkers typically avoided dead monsters, unlike Daniel, who was now meticulously examining each one. Izel, too, displayed an unusual interest, scrutinizing even the one Jenna had crammed into a jumbled tangle.


Could it be? As Jenna experienced what felt like an epiphany, she wondered if it could be that. “Uh, if you’re checking for fragments, you won’t find any in the Fortress of Dungeons, unless they’re from the Goblin King, which these aren’t,” she explained to Izel, her expression still puzzled.

Izel, although it might seem otherwise, wasn’t focused on finding fragments; rather, he sought something else. He was well aware that monsters in the Fortress thus far didn’t retain fragments, except for the Goblin King, Albino, from the E-rank dungeon raid. However, these fragments, when broken at the end of the raid, weren’t particularly worth a single penny.

“Just give me a sec,” Izel added. “There’s something I’ve got to do.” He walked toward the piled-up, swarming agony of the dead at the rear.

[Special conditions have been met. Activating ‘Soul Assimilation (E)’]

[Effect (1): Transduction has been activated.]

After the resounding simultaneous messages in Izel’s mind, accompanied by deep, dark tendrils that shrouded the atmosphere, unleashing an indefiniteness of turmoil. Steadily, these tendrils seeped into him, but he paid no attention to the puzzled walkers. Instead, he relished the rush of dopamine coursing through his body.

[You have devoured the Essence of (C+) ranked ‘Titan Orcs’]

[You have devoured the Essence of (C+) ranked ‘Titan Orcs’]

[You have devoured the Essence of (C+) ranked ‘Titan Orcs’]

[You have devoured…]

[You have…]


[Capacitance: 14/10.]

Then, an austere ‘mastery growth’ message beeped in his mind.

[Proficiency increased by 5%.]


“Found it,” he exhaled, returning to reality. Izel, feigning nonchalance, traced the outline of a sturdy poison axe among the corpses. His hope lingered on this endeavor quelling any suspicions, even though both Walkers possessed enough shrewdness to sense something amiss, unable to grasp the specifics. Their guts churned with unspoken questions, heads adorned with question marks, yet the inquiries remained unspoken, stifled by curiosity.

Izel, who devoured the transmuted souls of all monsters, neither cared to give them any explanation

‘What a bummer; most of them didn’t glow.’ Unfortunately, for some reason, the diced and jumbled Titan Orcs, even the majority of the piled-up Titan Orcs and mangled giants, didn’t gleam in the dark ambiance—probably because he wasn’t the one who slew them. But, as usual, he mustn’t be greedy and should be glad; he was quite lucky to devour eight essences and merely increase the proficiency of [Soul Assimilation].

‘Should I augment my stats?’ he murmured under his breath. It would be the sixth time he had done that today, but instead of doing that immediately… ‘I will do it later.’

“Mm.” He picked up the black outlined hilt of the poison axe, which he found by chance as he walked back, and handed it over to Daniel.



“Take this. The quality isn’t all that great compared to your Greatsword, but you can at least deal more damage to multiple monsters faster alongside your sword.”

“You… mean like a Tyrant.”

It was an alias of a certain aggressive Hunter who wielded two different weapons on Eliluam.

“You could say that.” Izel let out a light cough.

“Ah… Big bro, I meant Izel. Thanks…” He retorted brightly, “But I think it would probably be more useful in your hands than mine.”

The latter shook his head, “Nah, I can’t use it either. Plus, I don’t need it.” He placed his hand on his shoulder with a sparkle. “You might need it when protecting the rear.”

“Uh, you have a point.” With a light chuckle, Daniel scratched the back of his head.

To be frank, it might appear inappropriate to entrust such a weapon to a demon who could undergo unpredictable changes and potentially become an adversary. However, Izel reasoned that strengthening his party members to secure victory in the raid outweighed excessive caution, which could lead to raid failure.

Without further resistance, the young demon reached for the leather hilt of a dark, finely crafted axe. Its blade subtly dripped with a purple liquid, exuding an ominous aura. A warm smile adorned his face as he accepted the weapon.

“You did well for a human. I’ll make use of it.”

“Haha, it’s nothing. It’s not even mine.”

* * *

As the trio strode down the long, disheveled road amid the haze that obstructed their view, they maintained a low profile while staying alert. Izel couldn’t help but wonder where the other parties might be lurking, yet he considered overthinking such matters to be taboo. He speculated that they should also head toward the seamless gate, slowly disappearing in the haze.

Having covered more than 1,000 km from the starting area, the last wave had occurred in a straight line to their current location. Due to the considerable distance, regardless of their speed, it took them time to traverse it.

‘So the seamless gate was this far,’ the female mage mused. At first glance, the distance didn’t seem this vast, but the faint haze deceived one’s perception. It was a rather irritating illusion. Despite that, the giant Titan Orcs effortlessly covered such distances in the blink of an eye.

Considering the clear blue sky and cool atmosphere, it was easy for anyone to appreciate the overwhelming magnificence of nature. Yet, the deception of the haze made the true distance less noticeable unless observed carefully. In any case, they pressed on. As they reached the midpoint of the gate, the sun overhead began its descent, casting a warm glow over the landscape.


On the edge and alert, Izel sensed an indefiniteness in the rustling of the leaves, feeling that something was amiss. No, everything was definitely strange. He turned his head at Jenna’s cautious voice.


Discovering something awry as well, her eyes gleamed faintly. “It seems the path we’re taking is quite wrong.”

“What?” Baffled, Daniel summoned his demonic power, scattering it around. However, as if blocked by an unseen force, it couldn’t disperse further. “It’s true; the haze strangely thickened.”

Izel’s premonition proved accurate; what were once blustering winds now felt as insignificant as mere whispers. It seemed as if the three of them had been isolated. Only, a black outline of intertwined tendrils panoramaed his [Flawlation], while [Sound Reading] could only discern the vibrations and soundwaves generated by his party mates’ breathing, body language, and footsteps—anything beyond that was nonexistent.

Turning his attention to Jenna, who had initially released a faint interweave of mana underground, he urgently asked, “Can you find a way out?”

Jenna locked eyes with Izel, and just as he inquired, she responded confidently, “With my Mana-Tracking, yes.” It was a pretty reassuring reply that instilled a sense of hope in the challenging situation.



Immediately afterward, a cluster of mana erupted and spanned out. The mage pointed her index finger in a direction only she sensed. Though Izel couldn’t fully manipulate energy like she and Daniel, he could feel the rush of potent mana dissolving the haze at a single point, allowing her to briefly discover the tangled route. This exemplified the principle of ‘Mana-tracking.’

“It’s that way.”


As they followed her guidance, a surge of malevolent energy erupted, hurtling towards them.

[You have discovered one of the possible routes.]

[You have reached the end of the hidden dungeon barrier.]

[You took a different route to exit the barrier.]

[If your predetermined path is wrong, you will fall under the status effect: Lost reality.]

‘Exit a barrier?’ Izel thought in shock. No one realized they were within a barrier until it enveloped them. Such was the impressiveness of this isolated area—it thwarted any Walkers from nearing the Seamless Gate while prolonging their stay.

The current path in front of Izel appeared drastically altered. Dozens of divergent routes lay ahead, requiring one to discern the genuine path. A misstep on the wrong route would trigger the ‘lost reality’ status effect, as the ominous message cautioned.

“I never anticipated this twist in the raid,” Jenna remarked, bravely resisting the surge of malevolent mana sweeping over her.

“Are you suggesting Beelzebub lied or something?” Daniel questioned, shield guarding against troubling mana.

“I don’t believe she lied,” Izel interjected, leading through the storm of sinister mana in the Fortress. “It seems Beelzebub just didn’t spill the beans.”

Simply put, Information control is the norm in the Fortress of Dungeons.

Jenna warned, “Izel, don’t take a wrong step. Follow my guidance precisely; even I can’t save you if you get lost. We’ll all lose the raid.”

Izel, using [Sound Reading], sensed Jenna’s unease as he followed her lead.

* * *


Izel confidently led the group along the predetermined path, unhesitating in his direction. As they reached another crossroad with a dozen paths, Jenna activated her [Mana-Tracking] skill, spinning out her mana to pinpoint the correct direction. Without hesitation, she pointed towards the chosen path, and the blind man, guided by the proficiency of [Mana-Tracking], continued forward.

Utilizing [Flawlation] and [Sound Reading], Izel sensed faint sound waves and frequencies as he walked. The accuracy of the chosen direction was evident. It became clear that [Mana-Tracking] wasn’t a mere half-baked skill incapable of piercing through the barrier surrounding the area. The group moved forward, assured of the precision provided by their skills.


‘How far does this go?’ Anxiously, Daniel looked around as he followed Jenna. Each path seemed to stretch endlessly. Izel, following the mage’s directions, navigated through different paths over ten times. Each time, the young demon sensed the dense haze dissolving slowly.

Time left: 13 hours, 12 minutes.

As the notification appeared at the side of Daniel’s retinas, he continued to follow the group through different paths, anticipating the end…


At the end of the twentieth chosen path, Izel once again faced a crossroads, prompting them to come to a halt.

“Wait, Jenna, there are two paths this time,” he asked, noticing that these crossroads differed from the others.

‘Two paths, huh?’ the mage pondered, swirling her mana-like circuits toward both directions. However, confusion clouded her expression. “What?” Her eyes widened.

“What is it?” Daniel asked.


“Did you discover it?”

Ignoring both questions, the mage decided to confirm what she had just discovered. She extended her mana and activated [Mana-Tracking] to scan back and forth between the paths. Despite the raid being relatively easy so far…

“Damn, it’s not working,” Jenna cursed.

… Her mana failed to find the correct path. She couldn’t let confusion overcome her. Jenna took a deep breath and spoke up, “It seems we all have to depend on the leader for this one.”

“Jenna, is that true?” Daniel’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Are you saying even your [Mana-Tracking] skill was no good here?”

The mage nodded. She could have sworn that her skill was working over the other paths until now.

“Don’t need to worry, Daniel. I’ll find a way.”

“Are you sure? I could find a way too.”

“I know you could, but have faith,” Izel assured the young demon.

Everyone swallowed dry spit; nervousness and tension overcame them. Their lives now depended on one man’s choice. However, both Walkers were rather calm, probably because the blind man had proven himself to be capable. Sweat beaded down Jenna’s forehead; if he chose wrongly, all party members would be lost forever, never to be seen again.

Izel turned around and concentrated on both paths. Which one was real or fake? He wondered which to pick as the tension behind him grew. In the end, he decided to trust his instincts. Through [Flawlation], the left path haze was lighter than the other, and his [Sound Reading] picked up something he had never felt from the other paths.

“I will pick the left path.” He declared.

“Really? How certain are you?” Jenna asked for his full assurance and how he came up with such a choice so fast.

“Probably 70%!” It was truly that high of a percentage. Did he trust his instincts that much? Probably. No, he fully trusted his intuition.


“70%?” Daniel knew it was quite high for a guess; however, “Is it just entirely based on your instinct, Izel?” The young demon anxiously spoke, his expression more pale than grey. Of course, he had guessed “the right path” but wasn’t even 20% sure, so he zipped out his opinion. Also, he initially thought the tension was probably too much, so the blind man hastily decided based on instinct.

“No,” a stern response, “It wasn’t based entirely on my instinct,” Izel added. “The wind.”

* * *

“This wind, you say,” Jenna murmured, uncertain whether to believe the latter. However, If they delayed any further, the other party might slay the Orc Lord, leading to automatic failure either way. She sighed, finally declaring, “I will trust your instinct.”

“Me too,” Daniel’s decision wasn’t hasty either; having witnessed the blind man’s remarkable capabilities, he ultimately chose to place his trust in him. The urgency of the situation also compelled them to avoid any further unnecessary delays.

After all, time is of the essence.

“Thank you for having faith in me.”


With every step, the scenery around them underwent a surprising transformation. The thick, dense forest receded, unveiling a new landscape as if nothing peculiar had occurred.


“Oh… I can’t believe my eyes.”

“Damn. Human, you seem to surprise me more, Muhahaha.” The young demon let out a comical laugh.

“Is it?”

The walkers, now in this unfamiliar landscape, began to explore like tourists, seemingly having forgotten the sinister barrier they had just endured.

The first thing catching their attention was the sky, clearer than any they had seen before. Small pinpricks of stars emerged on the other side, providing clean, refreshing air. Clock towers soared against the backdrop of an orange sun setting over the horizon. A paved road, distinct from the region they had left, added to the beauty of the landscape.

“Woah… The Fortress of Dungeons does know to tease this mage!”

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Izel remarked, the surroundings were dominated by black contours, yet a unique sensation lingered in this unfamiliar forest location. There existed an unmistakable distinction akin to that between heaven and earth.

“This…” Daniel hesitated, placing his shield on the ground, questioning the reality of their recent experiences. “Is this truly the B-rank raid or some kind of barrier?”

“No, I don’t think so. It looks pretty realistic.”

They barely had time to admire the paradise-like scenery before…

The inner Nanzahemir monsters have started mobilizing.

Please kill the dungeon’s target quickly.

It was a way to convey to the Walkers that admiring moments were a luxury. Three of them clicked their tongues in disgust. Unavoidably, they faced a looming event, an elephant in the room they had been sidestepping. The realization lingered in their minds; soon, they would have to kill for survival.

A tense silence fell, hearts engulfed in nervousness.

“I guess it’s about time,” remarked the female mage, noticing the blind man’s tightly clenched fist on his sword’s hilt and the young demon assuming a defensive stance.

Her eyes gleamed, focusing on the urgent task. ‘We must win this raid at any cost,’ she thought. Each member took their position, the tanker resolving to conquer the hurdle and become a proper royal demon. Dying early wasn’t an option; he was determined.

“Well, let’s get going,” announced Izel. Everyone prepared. The raid needed to be completed.

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