<Chapter 13. Arema Steelworker – 5>
For golems created by humans, loyalty to their master was paramount. The golems were also created for the purpose of protecting the Emperor.
[However, the Emperor wasn’t satisfied with just ordinary golems. He wanted them to think and move like a normal human being, while also being able to gain karma and grow. Aside from their unwavering loyalty, he wanted every aspect of them to be as close to a human being as possible. Because of that, we began our experiments. To create an absolute fighting force that was loyal only to the Emperor himself…]
They sucked the Empire’s precious resources dry, as well as the souls and magic of several young knights, and at the end of all those sacrifices, they succeeded in creating monsters; the Golden Army that originated from the Golden General, Arema Steelworker.
[There are many who probably don’t know about it. …We lived much longer than the citizens of the Empire could’ve imagined. But by the time the Emperor, who dreamt of immortality, created us, he was already old and decrepit.]
The knights, whose human souls were combined with a golem’s body, certainly were loyal to the Emperor alone, thought like humans, and were also beings who were capable of growth. Above all, they possessed strong bodies and magic, and were able to survive for such a long length of time. They were the best guards for the Emperor.
“The Emperor dreamt of eternal youth and immortality, yet he didn’t think of becoming a golem himself?”
[There was a huge problem. Ultimately, we couldn’t achieve a success rate of 100%.]
The Emperor probably couldn’t take that risk. Lee Shin Woo just laughed. He didn’t plan on attempting to seriously verify Arema Steelworker’s claims; but since he’d become so immersed in his interesting story, he naturally became serious about it.
It wasn’t his intention, but it had a positive effect on the way Arema Steelworker treated Lee Shin Woo. Though Arema’s face softened only slightly, it was enough.
[I knew about the Emperor’s desire for immortality, but because I had pledged absolute loyalty to the Emperor, I couldn’t express any opinions regarding it. And ultimately, the day that horrific curse was completed… the Emperor become undead, and we were freed. Since the spell that restricted our free will didn’t factor in the Emperor becoming an undead.]
“Then, what did you do after you were freed…?”
[I led my subordinates out of the capital and we hid here. The Emperor left me in charge of this place, and it was the only place where we could be safe. The Golem Production Facility.]
They hid? That’s what they decided to do once they’d become free of the Emperor’s control? Without even trying to fight once? Lee Shin Woo noticed that the conversation had taken a strange turn. After all, this was a bit different than what he’d envisioned!
[Aside from us, everyone else became undead, including the other generals who possessed a fighting force equal to mine. I couldn’t win against all of them, and I didn’t want to fight against them either.]
It was such a weak thing to say, compared to how imposing he seemed when they first met. He wanted to ask if he was weaker than General Seagald by any chance, but now wasn’t the time to provoke him. While he was boiling up on the inside, Arema Steelworker cut in.
[We’ve lost our purpose. We have nothing left to direct our loyalty to, and just remain idle, slowly losing our free will over the passage of time. We’re just souls who are unable to sleep, and live underground, gradually rusting away.]
[You, the undead who are able to resist the Empire’s curse. I don’t know who you are, or why you decided to bravely come here.]
At some point, the conversation was coming to an end. Unexpectedly, Arema commended them, and spoke like this.
[We’ve lost our wills and we’re just lingering dolls, so just leave us be and go back.]
That’s a lie. Lee Shin Woo was absolutely sure of it when he heard that. He was a way higher level than him, but unfortunately, his acting was much worse than Lee Shin Woo’s.
It didn’t matter whether he was a golem or not. It didn’t matter if there were faults in his reasoning or not. His incredible intuition that developed with his Acting skill was telling him this. Arema Steelworker had different intentions, and he didn’t want him to interfere, so he was trying to keep him out in advance!
Lee Shin felt like it was time to use his winning move. Right now, concealing his identity or ascertaining their identity wasn’t important compared to this. He decided that he’d extracted all the information he could from them, and that there was still a chance to adjust their relationship!
“I have a request.”
Lee Shin Woo said courageously. As always, Arema Steelworker sported a smile, but he was a golem, so Lee Shin Woo couldn’t trust his expression.
[I was interested in your ability, so I called you here and spoke to you personally, but I can do nothing more for you. I cannot permit anything else. Go back. The next time you make a copy of that seal and use it to intrude, I won’t just sit by and leave you be.]
[Alright. If you’re done talking, shall we go?]
When Arema Steelworker finished softly, but firmly, Guillotine Steelworker approached them whilst emitting a turbulent spirit, as though he would execute them if they didn’t listen.
All he was doing was emitting mana from his entire body; despite that, Lee Shin Woo felt his body go stiff. He knew that he was no match for him.
“I have no intention of…!”
However, Lee Shin Woo utilized Rule of Bone to its very limit, resisting the pressure, and yelled out. In order to achieve his primary objective of coming here!
“I have no intention of stepping into this place, so please allow us to continue using that train! We won’t bother you, and we won’t talk to you. We just want to ride that train to move around. If you allow us to use the train, we’d like some information regarding the destination as well!”
“We’re going to take care of the undead in the underground empire, and those trains will be really helpful in doing so. Ah, I’ll also take care of the golems you’re not using, too!]
[You amazing bastard…]
The unexpected request startled Arema Steelworker. Lee Shin Woo acted like he was asking for something trivial, yet it was actually an extremely brazen request; Guillotine Steelworker was astonished that he’d ask for such a thing, and muttered. He may not look it, but he had made the request after planning everything out.
[You truly are brave. Despite the difference in strength, you…]
“That’s exactly why. We’re nothing compared to you, so that’s why we can speak to you like this. Since we’re nobodies to you, and it won’t hurt you to accept a request from some nobodies.”
Regardless of what Arema Steelworker was thinking about, at the very least, Lee Shin Woo was sure that he was no longer under the Emperor’s command. And though he wasn’t moving proactively, he held no love for the curse that covered the Empire.
In addition, Lee Shin Woo’s intuition told him that based on those feelings, he had some kind of secret plan in the works. Figuring out their identity was likely to ascertain whether they would get in the way of said plan.
“Like I said, all I want is to be able to use the train!”
Lee Shin Woo was well aware of that, so that’s why he made such a suggestion. He roughly understand their situation, so he asked for a little bit of help, on the condition that they don’t bother them. It wasn’t a bad offer for them either, so he thought they’d have no reason to refuse.
But if they did refuse his offer? Then, they would just get the hell out. The idea of ‘Try it. You have nothing to lose’ had lead to this situation.
[General, shall I take care of them?]
[…No, they’re interesting.]
The moment Arema said that, Lee Shin Woo inwardly smiled elatedly. It was exactly the response he’d been hoping for. He’d been acting desperately from the moment they met in order to retain that small ‘favorable impression’ that tinged his voice.
[Fine. Do as he asks. I’ll allow it, on the condition that you not leave the station.]
“Thank you very much.”
[Guillotine, I’m ordering all the golems including you. From this point on, if those two enter headquarters, kill them without mercy. But if they don’t, don’t touch them.]
He seemed dissatisfied, but Guillotine complied obediently and nodded his head. He had no choice but to do so. Based on the flow of mana, it seemed like Guillotine didn’t have any choice in the matter and that Arema was in control.
Was the reason that a golem could become the master of the other golems due to the unnatural nature at which they lost connection with the original master? There was no way of knowing that right now.
[I heard a lot from you, but I haven’t heard your name yet.]
Arema Steelworker said. The reason he hadn’t asked for their names was because he didn’t think they’d see each other again. However, the fact that he’d changed his mind and had asked for their names meant that Arema unconsciously thought that ‘they might meet each other again’.
“My name is Paul Zero.”
Lee Shin Woo replied in an overwhelmingly confident voice. He felt that it was a relief that they hadn’t spoken each other’s names once since they came here, and he lied in a situation where he didn’t think he would.
[Paul Zero… I’ll remember that name. Along with your partner, that is.]
“You’ll be able to hear about me from various parts of the Empire.”
[At the very least, your spirit is impressive. However, the fact that you possess the will to push forward, despite being in an undead body, leaves quite the impression on us. Go as far as you can.]
He’d lied until the very end, and the moment he’d successfully tricked Arema, his Acting skill had unexpectedly leveled up again!
[The Acting skill has become Lv9. Whenever you make a new personality, people suspect you of having multiple personalities.]
Lee Shin Woo remained stiff, even after he’d received permission to use the train, and dragged Jin through the corridor. Guillotine Steelworker sent them off. Perhaps it was because he’d lied so perfectly, but Guillotine didn’t treat Lee Shin Woo too badly.
[Are there a lot of undead like you outside?]
“I’ve met a few of them. They were partial successes from the Anti-Skull Project, though they degenerated into skeletons like me.”
He was instinctively respectful to Arema Steelworker, but spoke comfortably with Guillotine like when they’d first met. It might’ve been because he’d received an order from Arema, but he wasn’t concerned with that.
[On that day, I saw General Seagald’s form and thought that perhaps… So it really was like that. From the very beginning, that guy was damn impressive…]
“As I thought, he maintained his reasoning as well?”
[Well, you did say that you were asleep following the experiment, so you’d be unaware of that disastrous day. You’re right. He was fighting against the Emperor even as an undead. I saw him being restrained by the other generals and him leaving the capital. We were able to leave by taking advantage of that commotion.]
He’d gotten a hold of some great information! Lee Shin Woo only nodded his head, without getting caught. Around that time, Jin, who’d been ‘frozen solid’, slightly bumped Lee Shin Woo with his head. He was timidly complaining that Lee Shin Woo had dragged him all the way here and put him through all that.
[Huh? Now that I think about it, didn’t this guy talk a lot before?]
“He’s too exhausted from putting up with the Golden General.”
[Well, it’s true that the General’s magic is considerable. Then how did you endure it? You were also able to obtain the general administrator’s rights, so who exactly are…]
At that very moment, the train arrived. Lee Shin Woo saw the door connecting the station platform and the passageway completely close and inwardly, slightly, very slightly, breathed a sigh of relief.
He put in a lot of work to get everything to work out, but he couldn’t believe that he’d actually gotten what he wanted. Plus, his Acting skill had even grown! Lee Shin Woo trusted that today’s deceit would bear fruit in the future.
[Take it. It’s the map for each supply line. You can do as you wish with the abandoned golems there.]
As expected, he was right; there was a map. From an outside view, it looked to be just an iron plate, but if he displayed the special mana pattern, the map would appear on top of the plate; it was a relief that it was the type of map that he could use with the general administrative rights.
[Then I’ll get going now. You better keep your promise. Since the General doesn’t lie.]
“I don’t lie either.”
He lied up until the very end and his trustworthy expression (his blazing red goblin fire) seemed to satisfy Guillotine, as he nodded his head and went back. Soon, they couldn’t see him as he had gone through the passageway. Of course, this was still their territory, so they couldn’t afford to be reckless.
When the two were left alone, Lee Shin Woo activated the map and picked the place closest to the outskirts of the Empire, aside from where they had been before. That’s because it was the easiest to handle.
“Alright. Then shall we go?”
“…I’m not dead yet, right?”
“Of course you’re not. We have so many golems left to kill, so you can’t die on me now.”
“You want me to fight again!?”
“Be happy. When we go past there, I’ll give you that (the Bone Original Core).”
“I’m not happy at all, you know!”
The two skeleton heroes unhesitatingly embarked on the train (golem) towards the southern outskirts of the Empire. Like he’d learned from before, he didn’t forget to hold on tight.
The train departed right away. And so, Lee Shin Woo began his trip along the Empire’s railway.