The white castle that was located at the center of the sinkhole and the only place that received direct sunlight in the Endable Kingdom.
The White Star who was looking out from the highest point in that castle started to speak.
“Looks like everyone is enjoying themselves.”
He then turned and looked toward a video communication device.
– My liege!
Dark Elf Count Mock was visible on the screen with a stiff expression on his face.
He seemed to be in a section of the forest as he started to speak in a low but confident voice.
– It looks like we will be able to conquer Cale Henituse’s base soon!
“You’re working hard.”
Count Mock was still busy looking around him rather than at the White Star as he continued to speak.
– We don’t see the Tigers here, as I confirmed in my information.
The White Star noticed that Count Mock was not saying anything and just quietly looking at him after hearing his reaction.
The White Star laughed internally seeing the slightly nervous and desperate gaze.
‘I guess he really wants me to approve of his merits.’
The White Star held back a sigh as he started to speak with a serious expression.
“Work hard. I trust you.”
– T, thank you very much!
Count Mock did his best to smile before bowing to the White Star.
“Then I’m hanging up now.”
– …Yes, sir.
The video communication device was immediately turned off.
The White Star looked toward the deactivated video communication device and started to speak.
“His face was quite stiff.”
Chief Priest Marquis Gersey who had been in the corner started to smile.
“He is probably nervous about achieving great merits and moving up to a higher position, my lord.”
“I guess that’s true. Count Mock is extremely greedy for title and power.”
The White Star started to shake his head.
“He needs to be more relaxed.”
He then looked toward the Chief Priest.
“Gersey, how about you relax a bit too? You can’t have any fun just staying here. Why don’t you go out and enjoy the festival?”
“That’s okay, sire. I can’t really relax and enjoy the festival right now.”
“I guess that’s true. You and your people are extremely busy right now.”
Each demonic temple had to hand out a lot of things to the citizens during the festival.
Furthermore, many of the citizens came to visit the temples and look around.
That was why the priests were busier than usual right now.
Gersey started to speak after seeing the White Star’s gaze that seemed to be asking if it was okay that he was here when it was such a busy time.
“I left the festival-related tasks with the Deputy Chief Priest so that I can slack off like this.”
“Ha! The Deputy Chief Priest will be upset if she hears that.”
“Hahaha, do you think so, sire? But I’m just so full of anticipation. I can’t focus on anything else right now.”
Gersey smiled brightly.
“I am extremely looking forward to the true day of the festival.”
The White Star’s gaze sunk down.
Gersey looked at him and continued to speak.
“The last day.”
The last day of the festival.
“That day will be a festival for me.”
The White Star chuckled at Gersey’s comment.
“Gersey, half the people here will die. Is that entertaining?”
“But that means that you will be that much closer to becoming a transcended being, my liege.”
The two of them looked at each other and their smiles became thicker.
The White Star started to speak again in a low voice.
“ ‘Those things’ are safe, right?”
“Yes, sir. They’re fine.”
“And their feed?”
“We are feeding them properly. I do need to go feed them again in an hour though.”
Gersey continued to speak with an expression that seemed to be saying that he was extremely fidgety from excitement.
“I can’t do it, sire. I must go check on the ‘feed.’ Those terrible things cause such a ruckus when we don’t feed them and they are very scary to look at.”
“Aren’t you usually the type to follow the rules?”
The White Star looked at Gersey as if this was odd.
Gersey was the type who was always strict about being on time and following the rules.
He would normally move according to the schedule.
“I’m not sure. I can’t sit still today because I’m so excited. It must be because the moment I’ve been waiting for is one step closer, my lord.”
The White Star chuckled.
“That is called being capricious.”
“Is that so, sire?”
“That’s right. You are being capricious. Mm, I feel bad for making you take care of the feed. It must be hard.”
“It is doable as I am doing it with my trusted subordinates instead of alone. Plus, who else can do it other than me? I have to do it.”
Gersey walked to the door and bowed.
“My liege, please excuse me as I go check on the feed and go underground prior to returning.”
“Until later then, my liege.”
Gersey quietly opened the door and disappeared.
Silence filled the area now that the White Star was alone.
The White Star continued to look out the window once Gersey left.
It was pretty empty around the palace.
However, he could see the citizens of the kingdom enjoying the festival in all directions.
Their excited faces did not bring any joy to the White Star.
It wasn’t as if he could feel or taste anything anyway.
A smile appeared on his face.
“It’ll soon be hell for them.”
The White Star started to imagine his kingdom that will turn into hell.
It would be a glorious step toward the future he desired.
* * *
At that moment, in the Roan Kingdom’s Forest of Darkness…
Count Mock turned toward the hand patting his shoulder.
Informant Bob was smiling warmly.
Choi Han who was standing behind Bob started to speak to Alberu who was still Bob.
“Let’s go in.”
“Yes, yes. We have a lot of things to do.”
Alberu sounded gentle as he started to speak to Mock again.
“Shall we go?”
Mock started to frown.
Alberu slowly whispered to him.
“Ah, I only feel relaxed when people speak respectfully to me.”
Alberu laughed and picked Count Mock up by grabbing the back of his collar.
‘This evil bastard! Does he not know anything about respecting his elders?!’
Mock looked away from Alberu in disgust. It was a small gesture to say that he did not want to speak to this bastard who was drying out the Dark Elf blood.
Of course, there was nobody here who respected his desires.
* * *
Cale was looking at an old house he visited once before at that moment.
“…He was telling the truth. I guess everything Duke Fredo said was true.”
He approached the woman who was truly wowed to see him.
“You are the Deputy Chief Priest?”
“Yes, I’m Deputy Chief Priest Cotton.”
Cotton offered her hand.
“I’m sorry, I don’t dare to grab the enemy’s hand even if we are working together.”
“Is that so?”
She smiled at Cale’s response and lowered her hand.
She licked her lips with her tongue as she did that.
‘Fredo. That Vampire really does his job properly.’
Cale Henituse was next to Solena who brought him here.
Cotton could also see two people behind him who were covered from head to hip with a robe.
She was looking at them while trying to figure out who they were.
“Enough observing. Shouldn’t we get to work?”
She could see Cale’s stoic gaze looking down at her.
‘So, this guy is the one who has been giving the White Star the most trouble? Should I try casting an illusion on him?’
As Cotton had that thought…
“I think we’ve shown enough trust on our side by ignoring the illusion cast on this place. What are you suspicious about that you keep observing us like that?”
Cotton’s eyes opened wide.
‘He realized that there is an illusion?’
However, Cotton was truly shocked at what Cale said next.
“I wish to rescue the Ranger Brigade members as well.”
“…How did you know about that? Did Duke Fredo tell you?”
“Do I need to have heard that from that bastard?”
Cale’s expression was saying that he didn’t need to hear from such a bastard to know that.
‘I saw them with my own eyes instead of hearing it from Fredo. You showed them to me yourself.’
He walked past Cotton who was looking at him in shock, crouched down, and tapped on the ground.
It sounded empty inside.
“I knew this spot seemed weird. I can sense people underground over here.”
Cotton kept her mouth shut.
She didn’t trust everything Cale was saying.
‘Duke Fredo must have told him about it.’
The fact that he knew the exact spot must mean that he knew about it prior to coming here.
She quietly sighed.
“You can rescue them on the way back from destroying the facility. It’s impossible to move so many people even if you rescue them now.”
“But I don’t want to.”
“I’m going to save them now.”
The people standing behind Solena removed their hoods as Cotton started to frown at Cale’s response.
Cotton’s eyes opened wide.
“…Rosalyn! The ancient Dragon!”
The person and Dragon whom even she knew about as they were individuals of interest revealed themselves.
Cotton immediately read Cale’s thoughts.
“…Are you going to teleport them away?”
“…I understand. We will rescue the Ranger Brigade members as you wish, however!”
Cotton continued to speak with a stiff expression.
“We need to get in and destroy it within the hour. Gersey is going to head to the underground facility in one hour.”
“I got it. It won’t take long.”
She opened the door leading into the underground hideout after seeing Cale’s extremely relaxed demeanor.
“The Ranger Brigade members are down here.”
Cotton had an odd expression after hearing Cale thank her, but Cale did not notice as he followed behind Cotton down into the underground area. Solena was behind him while Rosalyn and Eruhaben came behind her.
Bang, baaaaang! Bang!
Unlike last time, the underground area was loud as soon as he walked down.
“You evil bastards! Let us go!”
“Damn it! These chains won’t come off!”
The Ranger Brigade members who saw Cotton through the bars were shouting in anger.
“What the f*ck are you planning to do?!”
“How long are you going to keep us here?!”
They did not hesitate to bare their fangs at Cotton, unlike last time.
It was because it was weird.
She had not responded and continued to feed them properly and let them rest no matter how they reacted.
But that just made them feel even more ominous.
‘She won’t harm us for most actions.’
The Ranger Brigade members who came to that decision were raising their voices because of the fear this weird situation brought them.
One of the members in the cage closest to the hallway shouted toward Cotton who got closer.
“Take these off right now! We will never submit no matter what you do-uh?”
However, his voice trailed off in the end.
He saw a familiar face behind Cotton.
Well, it wasn’t familiar to be accurate. However, he had heard about this person so much from Bud that his ears almost bled and he had seen a picture of this person’s face.
He looked somewhat disrespectful and had bright red hair.
“…Hero Cale Henituse-?”
The brigade member could see the red-haired man starting to frown after hearing his comment.
Cotton responded on his behalf.
“Yes, that hero came here for you guys.”
Silence filled the hallway.
Both the banging on the bars and the shouting had disappeared.
Cale wanted to sigh at how the brigade member addressed him, but he held himself back. Maybe that was the reason, but his lips were tense and his face looked stiff.
He looked around the hallway with that stiff face.
The Ranger Brigade members gasped in admiration as he looked at each of them with a firm gaze.
‘In order to save us-’
He came to the center of the enemy territory to save them?
The hearts of the Ranger Brigade members who had lived peacefully but full of uncertainty in these small cages started to beat wildly.
Cale started to speak at that moment.
“Deputy Chief Priest, open all of the doors. Remove their chains as well.”
It was a firm but calm voice.
However, that made the Ranger Brigade members’ hearts beat even wilder.
However, Cale was not done talking just yet.
“Eruhaben-nim, Miss Rosalyn.”
He said two names the Ranger Brigade members were familiar with and they could see a magic circle that filled the hallway.
The air underground started to shake.
The magic circle Rosalyn cast with Eruhaben supporting her started to glow.
A bright light filled the hallway.
The Ranger Brigade members subconsciously closed their eyes after seeing the bright light.
However, they had to quickly open their eyes again.
“What the hell? Why did these punks get so fat? Why do they look so healthy?”
They heard a voice they’ve longed to hear so much.
It was the light voice they always heard.
However, that voice was slightly shaking.
“Why do you look so shocked?”
Mercenary King Bud and Glenn had appeared together on the teleportation magic circle and were looking at them.
The Ranger Brigade members’ eyes started to tear up. It was the same for Bud who was looking at them.
Bud bit down on his lips realizing that he was tearing up.
‘They’re all healthy.’
The kidnapped Ranger Brigade members looked healthy and did not seem injured at all.
A deep sense of relief filled Bud’s body and the ominous feeling that had been filling his mind started to disappear.
It was at that moment.
Cotton clapped once.
The bars imprisoning the Ranger Brigade members started to open.
Cotton took a key out of her pocket and handed it to Cale.
“You can release the chains with this key.”
Cale handed the key to Bud.
Bud grabbed Cale’s hand that was holding the key with both hands.
“Thank you. I really mean it.”
He truly meant it.
“Shut up with such useless comments.”
Cale grumbled as he slowly removed his hand from Bud’s grasp.
Bud chuckled at Cale who was avoiding his gaze and lightly responded.
“Good. Then let’s quickly get the work started.”
Solena walked over to the confused Cotton and handed her a document.
“There’s been a change of plans.”
Cotton heard Bud’s voice as she responded to Solena in shock.
“I’ll bring Miss Tasha and everybody who is waiting to this spot.”
‘What? The people who are waiting? Who else was coming here?’
Cotton looked toward Cale.
She could see that Cale was smiling.
The second step of Operation Hunt was infiltration.