Why I Quit Being the Demon King Chapter 41

Chapter 10. Encountering the Dwarves (2)

“High-quality steel, beautifully patterned folded iron, the premium metal True Silver filled with magical energy, and even Aurum Aves, second only to the strength of dragon bones. Each is highly valued in their own right. As such, every race seeks friendship with the blacksmiths, taking great care never to incur their wrath.”

Alex finished his explanation.

“Even in the Demon Realm, there is no reason to attack them, is that right?”

Zeke asked, followed by comments from Yulgum.

“Couldn’t their techniques just be taken by force?”

Alex shook his head firmly.

“That’s impossible. The blacksmiths would rather die than have their skills stolen. They understand through the ages that nothing is more valuable than their craft.”

Deus stood up from his seat.

“Stop flapping your lips and let’s move. Baseless speculation will get us nowhere.”

“That’s true,” everyone agreed.

They walked past a semi-circular cave into a corridor tangled with pipes until they came upon another hollow.

The scene there was just as tragic.

Dwarves’ corpses were strewn about in every dwelling.

Some seemed to have died midway through tea, slumped over the table still holding their tea cups.

Poison must have taken them in an unexpected moment, snatching their lives away.

Zeke frowned at the sight before him.

“It’s heinous, truly…”

Deus looked around with indifferent eyes.

“Is there meaning to such an act?”

Yulgum, still frowning, said,

“What meaning could there be? It’s the work of a madman! Indiscriminate slaughter, even of children…”

“Let’s move on to the next block,” Deus said, and they continued deeper into the caves.

Zeke trudged heavily; he dreaded encountering more corpses, dreading the premonition of distress and rage it would bring.

The rage of a hero was a power unto itself. His gear, crafted from the scales of dragons, reacted with a faint light to the inner energy he channeled.

Just then—

“It’s you lot!”

A cloud of dust erupted in the corridor.

The walls, floor, and ceiling were riddled with holes, and hundreds of dwarves poured out.

They wore iron armor with gauntlets ending in hook-like claws, and axes with pickaxes attached, a symbol of the dwarf folk.

They brandished their sharp axes in a menacing manner, surrounding the party.

Zeke drew his sword and stood in front of his companions, tensely raising his shield.

Deus placed his hand on Zeke’s sword.

“Easy now, put it away,” he cautioned as Zeke slowly sheathed his blade.

Taking a step forward, Deus approached the relatively diminutive blacksmiths, who stood a mere 120 centimeters tall, barely reaching his navel.

As he approached, a few dwarves raised their axe blades.

They all wore gas masks, making it impossible to truly see their faces. Deus looked them over for a moment before asking,

“Who’s in charge here?”

A man stepped forward from among the dwarves.

“You’re quite the insolent one,” he said.

“Is it you?”

“I am Baron Keilche, the Commander of the Southern Root Knights.”

The man removed his gas mask. The dwarves had rounded faces and short noses, giving them an overall cute appearance.

Despite his stern expression, he lacked any real intimidation.

“Are you the demons spreading poison?”

“What if we say yes?” Deus retorted.

“We’ll kill you!”

“And if we say no?”

“Then we shall ask what you’re doing here.”

“Well, in that case, we didn’t do it.”

“So, what are you doing here? This land belongs to our Southern Root Clan.”

“Do you believe me?”

“Are you lying?”

“What if I say yes?”

“We’ll kill you!”

“And no?”

“We’ll ask what you’re doing here.”

Deus almost laughed, turning his head slightly. What a strange bunch…

“We didn’t spread any poison. We came here to investigate something. Is this explanation sufficient?”

At Deus’s answer, Baron Keilche nodded.

“I understand why you are here. However, this land is our Southern Root Clan’s territory. We cannot allow you to stay.”

“We wish to meet the queen.”

“That is not permitted.”

“Is it up to you to decide? Shouldn’t that be the queen’s will?”

“That’s correct. But currently, finding the culprit who spread the poison is our priority.”

“We wish to inquire about that as well—”

Deus’s sentence was cut short by a sudden earthquake.

The ground shook violently, and part of the cave’s earthen wall collapsed.

Zeke raised his shield to protect Yulgum’s head, as stones pelted the shield without pause.

“It’s a Dirt Dragon!”

One of the dwarves cried out, but his voice was cut short—the monster, a wrinkle-riddled Dirt Dragon, had already consumed him.

Bursting forth from the cave wall, the Dirt Dragon indiscriminately devoured any dwarf in its path.

Baron Keilche yelled orders.

“Knights! Formation for battle! It may be this Dirt Dragon that spreads the poison.”

“Baring their teeth!” shouted the dwarves, their claws ready, unseen below the surface like that of a serpent. It opened its wrinkled maw wide and swallowed dwarves whole. Though they hacked at it with their axes, those swallowed did not return.

Despite the rapid loss of many comrades, the dwarves did not falter, fighting more bravely with every swing of their axes.

Watching from the sidelines, Deus crossed his arms.

“My lord.”

“What?”

“Are we just going to watch?”

“What of it?”

“Don’t you feel it too?”

Alex pointed downward.

“If ‘that one’ acts, all of these dwarves will die.”

“Well, it would make things easier. Without their knight commander, we can go straight to the queen.”

“The goal is not merely to meet her. An act of small kindness could make future discussions smoother, don’t you think?”

“Perhaps.”

“Then—”

“Fine. Send Zeke out.”

“Alone he would strain.”

“Then you go.”

“Me? Sir?”

“Yes, you do it.”

“Oh, surely my dignity need not be sullied here.”

“So shall I take care of it?”

“Well…”

Deus looked at Zeke.

“Zeke.”

“Yes, Lord Deus?”

“It’s your turn.”

“Understood! I’ll help the dwarves!”

“Be careful. There’s something even more fearsome stirring beneath. It’s too much for even you to handle.”

Zeke looked at the earth, wondering what lay below, knowing that Deus’s words were never empty. Drawing his sword, he plunged into the fray among the dwarves.

Although Zeke himself was just a hero barely surpassing the contract grade, the equipment he bore was extraordinary. His sharp blade cut through the Dirt Dragon, spilling black blood with a single stroke.

The dwarves cheered.

“He’s amazing!”

“So strong, lad!”

Baron Keilche, astounded by Zeke’s strength, adjusted the formation.

“Wedged front! Let’s support the boy!”

The dwarves surrounded Zeke, their axes at the ready, forming a shield-minded battle line, allowing Zeke a clear path to strike. Unaccustomed to such collective tactics, Zeke nonetheless understood their intent instinctively and focused on his attacks. His blade, forged from the bones of the Blue Rhino, was exceptionally sharp. It effortlessly shredded the skin of the Dirt Dragon, rapidly slashing its flesh to ribbons. The deep pink beast writhed in pain, its black blood staining the surroundings.

“Be wary, young warrior! The blood of the Dirt Dragon is filled with poison!”

Baron Keilche charged alongside Zeke, flinging his axe into the Dirt Dragon before rolling back to Zeke’s side.

With Zeke and Keilche at the vanguard, the overpowered monster began to retreat, struggling under their assault.

The dwarves roared with joy, and Keilche rallied them for a final blow.

But in that moment, a strange tremor once again shook the underground corridor. Instead of fleeing, the Dirt Dragon shot violently forward.

“Watch out! It’s attacking again!”

Despite the knight commander’s call, Zeke grasped his shield tightly. Yet, the Dirt Dragon’s movement was odd—it was diminishing, not advancing, as if being sucked back instead.

Zeke watched in disbelief, then spun around to see Deus and Yulgum standing side by side, talking quietly.

“Be careful! The real thing is going to show up!”

Baron Keilche didn’t understand the meaning of Zeke’s words, but he did not disregard the young comrade’s warning.

“As the young hero says, don’t let down your guard! Dwarves, grip your axe handles tightly! Tighten the straps on your loosened armor!”

Boom!

From within the walls, the bisected body of the Dirt Dragon was thrown out.

Its snake-like body, nearly 20 meters long, writhed momentarily before collapsing limply to the ground.

From the hole it emerged, a tremendous roar echoed, like a hundred lions and tigers growling simultaneously.

“A hydra.”

Deus casually remarked, to which Yulgum nodded.

“Indeed.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t feel it.”

“I’m human, after all. I just speculated what kind of underground monster could do this to a Dirt Dragon.”

Yulgum looked past Deus. The usually present man was conspicuously absent at this moment.

“Do you plan to put Alex to work?”

“Yes.”

“The Archduke of Pride?”

“That’s right. Now that I think about it, his nickname is Pride. No wonder he can be so insufferable.”

“Yet, he has cause for pride. In terms of combat strength, he is at the top in the Demon Realm. For the likes of a hydra, he wouldn’t even need to lift a finger.”

“He won’t need to use that much power. He enjoys playing tricks in the shadows. Since we’ll be giving Zeke all the credit, he’ll only use just enough strength.”

“Shall we see then? How the Archduke of Pride toys with the hydra.”

The hydra, a name referring to a massive reptilian beast with three or more heads, had at least five distinct species under this category. But for non-biologists, such distinctions were irrelevant. Simply put, any monster that grew more than 5 meters tall with several heads was called a hydra.

Its strength was said to rival that of dragons, and with its body filled with venom, it was not an easy adversary to face. A Class-D hero, leading several companions, could only hope to hunt it down, yet here was Zeke, a novice hero who barely held a Class-B license, standing firm against it.

Rankings, however, were merely numbers on paper.

Zeke drew on courage each time he needed it, glancing into the eyes of Deus, his greatest guardian. Just looking into his eyes seemed to increase his courage a hundredfold.

He felt as if he could face even the Demon King without faltering. A bold spirit surged from deep within him, ready to face any challenge ahead.



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