Necromancer Before Awakening Chapter 17

Chapter 17: Corpse-Eating Ape (2)

When Yoo Rim Lee heard that Kang Sahoo would not summon the giant hound, she was initially flustered but also pleased at the prospect of being able to demonstrate her true value. She had been secretly regretting her inability to perform well during their first encounter at the F-rank gate, where Kang Sahoo’s giant hound had overwhelmed her. Additionally, shocked by his power, she had gathered information on necromancers as diligently as a student preparing for an exam—using the Internet, NewTube, encyclopedias, and even fantasy novels and movies, she extensively compared these details with Kang Sahoo’s abilities and confirmed that he specialized in summoning as a necromancer. Of course, he had used magic when directly catching the F-rank gate boss. However, she concluded that having never seen him freely use abilities involving summoning the dead alongside other magic, his use of such skills would be limited. Her understanding, based on media representations of awakeners, was that they typically had no more than three abilities.

However, now, the firm convictions she had formed over days vanished in minutes upon seeing apes writhing on the ground in front of Kang Sahoo, extinguished like a snuffed candle.

“What, what is this…?” Despite showing no external wounds, the writhing apes clearly had lost their will to fight. No, saying they had lost their will was an understatement. They struggled as if possessed, eyes darting around in terror as they thrashed or shivered, curled up. Some apes even had their jaws hanging open wide enough to dislocate, frozen in expressions of terror.

“This is a Necromancer’s magic, ‘Imprint of Fear.’ It imprints a fear of death,” Kang Sahoo explained kindly, though it did not help her regain her composure.

Magic? Are these magic skills? Then, how many skills does he possess? Just from what he had shown right then included this new ability, that would make four. The summoning skill creating giant hounds. A bone-crushing magic used when he killed the F-rank gate boss. A skill causing blood to backflow and internal organs to rupture. And now, a skill inducing terror and confusion.

Even the first three skills were incredibly potent, and this newly shown ability was no less formidable. “Why do you seem so lost? You can wrap this up now,” Kang Sahoo said, puzzled by Yoo Rim Lee staring blankly at him. The magic he used was solely to imprint an instant fear of death, causing confusion. It had no direct killing effect unless it caused heart failure due to the weakness of the soul (魂) or body (魄), or unless the shock collapsed their psyche. The deaths were from their souls, the 魄, being weak or from their hearts failing, or the shock of mental breakdown overwhelming them. He lacked the physical strength to personally strangle each ape and had no suitable weapon, thus naturally, it would be Yoo Rim Lee’s task.

However, Yoo Rim Lee interpreted his comment differently. ‘He’s probably trying not to embarrass me as we’re now comrades, leaving some of the work for me.’ In her view, for someone as greedy for power or eager to flex authority, it would have been most efficient if he had killed the apes himself. This would have allowed him to gain experience points and boast about single-handedly hunting an F-rank gate intended for two.

Merely leaving her the simple task of cutting through a throat with a dagger. ‘This must be the making of a leader capable of commanding a group.’ Initially, it was Bae Deok Ho, the eldest, who started playfully calling him the leader, followed by Kim Ho Myeong and Kang Ji Ye, but this had been half in jest and half carried along by the mood.

She had never truly regarded him as her leader. People pretending to show kindness but focused on exploiting those who followed them – that was the kind of leader she had come to recognize in her life. Leaders concerned only with boosting their profile and wielding power over their followers.

But now, even when no one else was watching, and despite having the capability to monopolize everything himself, he still cared for her like when they were with others – she genuinely felt that he was indeed her leader.

“…Thank you, Leader,” Yoo Rim Lee bowed slightly in a bow and then, not wanting to keep him waiting, quickly moved to decapitate the apes. Feeling grateful internally, and now genuinely acknowledging him as her leader, she wanted to showcase her abilities and earn his recognition in this regard.

Kang Sahoo, aware of being called the leader but not explicitly addressing it, thought, ‘Must be something like a raid leader.’ Upon searching ‘Hunter Leader’ on NewTube earlier, he realized that groups of hunters referred to their heads as raid leaders. Unsure when he had become such a figure, he nonetheless realized a decision-maker was necessary. And if no one objected to him being the leader, there was no need to force the burdensome title upon others.

He watched as Yoo Rim Lee adeptly finished off the terrified apes, their heads cleanly pierced. ‘Considering future summonings, it’s probably better for Yoo Rim Lee to handle the finishing touches.’

Appearance mattered — turning a monster with only a hole in the neck into a zombie was qualitatively different from converting one torn to pieces. Significantly, by giving her tasks deliberately, he had also been acknowledging her eager approach.

As he stared at the dead apes, a hologram popped up, signaling that the Corpse-Eating Ape refused to enter the ‘Soul Mode’. It could forcefully utilize ‘Soul Mode’, but doing so would affect potential and durability.

Now familiar with the skill of Soul Mode, Kang Sahoo knew that striving for strength meant seeking better methods and thus did not hastily transform the apes into souls like he did with the Forest Lizards before. Instead, he used his necromancer powers, letting the corpses remain

The spirits of the dead that had been lingering were greatly shaken by terror.

A gentle flow of blue and green light emanated.

As Kang Sa-hoo opened his mouth, the spirits were violently disturbed.

[Become a soul force.]

[……!]

The apes, who had become spirits after dying, maintaining only their souls, trembled violently.

From their perspective, it was a succession of incomprehensible events, from the beginning until their death.

Looking suddenly into the eyes of that human brought an overwhelming fear, and they rolled on the ground, unable to fight properly before dying.

It was already frustrating enough, but now this human was directly speaking to and commanding them, the dead.

Rebelling against this absurd situation, the apers resisted, prompting Kang Sa-hoo to nod.

If they were awkwardly powerful beings, they might dream of rebellion while swearing false loyalty.

However, seeing Kang Sa-hoo’s deeper-than-black and profoundly deep disposition, they instinctively resisted.

Certainly, there was a way to forcibly make them into soul forces, but as it greatly reduced durability and potential, Kang Sa-hoo decided to use another method.

[Then, good. Struggle as much as you want.]

The voice of the necromancer that rang the spirits struck the apes.

Already dead, without ears to block, and being in a soul state without a body, that voice was like a whip falling on a naked body.

The apes’ spirits surged like waves with pain and fear, yet Kang Sa-hoo’s words were not finished.

[I assure you. The pain of those who resist will only grow greater. I’ll make you wish you could just vanish.]

At those chilling words and the voice that rang the souls, the apes’ spirits churned once more.

Surprisingly, his voice was not heard after that.

Only eerie green chains appeared before each soul, winding around them like snakes.

Shrieks of agony ripped through as the chained souls howled.

* * *

The glowing light in Kang Sa-hoo’s eyes gradually subsided.

Turning around, he saw Yoo-rim Lee, who had just cut off the breath of all the corpse-eating apes, waiting hesitantly for him.

“You’ve worked hard.”

As Kang Sa-hoo spoke to Yoo-rim, she flinched in surprise and bowed her head.

“It’s all thanks to the captain.”

‘What exactly did I do to deserve thanks?’ He wondered, feeling puzzled as Yoo-rim treated him with undue respect.

Already, she had misunderstood the plans posted in the group chat and burst out in frustration when she couldn’t summon the giant hound.

Yet to Kang Sa-hoo, she had already become a ‘quietly unique colleague,’ so he simply accepted her continuing to thank him.

“Now only the boss remains.”

“Yes, captain.”

Yoo-rim’s eyes sparkled at the mention of the boss.

Perhaps she was eager to handle the boss monster herself.

Having received the consideration to handle the apes herself, she might think he would leave the boss entirely to her if she desired it.

As Yoo-rim spoke respectfully, Kang Sa-hoo looked over at the dead apes and pondered.

“Ms. Yoo-rim. Would you like to try taking on the boss by yourself?”

“Yes, yes?”

Taken aback by the unexpected offer, Yoo-rim stammered.

But he had a gift for sensitively detecting human desires and emotions, given his previous experience in pacifying the souls of the deceased and seeing them off.

“The truth is, I’ve been concerned. From our first meeting at the gate until now, I’ve noticed that you want to test your abilities.”

“……!”

At Kang Sa-hoo’s words, Yoo-rim blushed.

Though the words were true, she didn’t deny them with lies.

She was merely overwhelmed that her captain had an insight that went beyond mere hunting capabilities, right into understanding his own members.

As she remained speechless, Kang Sa-hoo nodded, confirming his thoughts were right.

“Well, I’m also curious. How strong you are, Ms. Yoo-rim. And how much stronger you’ve become since you first awakened as a hunter. You must be curious about that yourself, right?”

“…Yes, captain.”

Her expression revealed awe, but Kang Sa-hoo simply accepted it.

“Then, try it when it’s just the two of us. And when we’re in an F-grade gate, the safest one.”

“But…”

Yoo-rim trailed off.

It wasn’t fear that held her back.

But seeing how Kang Sa-hoo was noticeably stronger than her meant that if she could hunt the boss monster alone, so could he.

This meant more than just offering her a chance to finish off the apes; now he was willing to leave the boss entirely to her.

This was more than just kindness; he was giving her a full chance to prove herself.

But Kang Sa-hoo, watching her with an insightful gaze, simply nodded slightly.

It seemed she felt danger and pressure about taking on the boss monster alone.

Of course, he always considered safety and wouldn’t leave her unsupported.

He would always support her with magic, and in truly critical situations, he might intervene as he had with the King Forest Lizard.

More than that, depending on her performance against the boss, it would decide the responsibilities she would take on in future operations alongside him.

“It’s okay.”

“……!”

As if he had read her mind, Kang Sa-hoo’s words left her staring at him in a daze.

His gaze was steady, sincere.

It was different from any other gaze she had witnessed in others; it was filled with genuine intent.

‘…Can I trust this man?’

As she looked at him with wavering eyes.

Roar-!

As their conversation concluded, a loud cry burst from a large chimney among the collapsed buildings.

First, a long arm protruded, followed by a boss monster with arms and legs longer than other apes, revealing itself.

“I’ll go then.”

“Don’t worry, and don’t be nervous.”

Encouraged by Kang Sa-hoo, Yoo-rim smiled slightly and nodded.

She then vanished like the wind, launching an attack toward one leg of the boss monster in a flash.

Her speed was indeed like the wind.

“Let’s take a good look then.”

As this was a chance to thoroughly assess the capabilities of a colleague he would be hunting with in the future.

Kang Sa-hoo concentrated his attention to truly gauge her abilities.



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