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Chapter 167 – Key

Since the Illusory Realm of the Dullahans was a sealed off map, Nie Yan wasn’t able to use a Return Scroll to escape. However, now that he had Deterrence, he would finally be able to explore the final unexplored area of the map, the shrine!

He headed toward the majestic, ancient shrine in the distance while accompanied by five Headless Horsemen servants which he had successfully bent to his will not long ago. Arriving at his destination, he spotted the several hundred Headless Horsemen in an orderly formation guarding the gates. If anyone were to approach, they would unhesitatingly charge forward with their lances directed at the intruder.

The firmly-shut, six-meter high gates appeared grand and imposing.

He cast Deterrence as he cautiously approached the group of Headless Horsemen.

After making contact with this skill’s sphere of influence, their skeletal mounts trembled before parting way to either side in quick succession.

The formation was split apart like a wedge being driven into a block of wood, opening up a path that led directly to the shrine. It almost resembled a group of soldiers waiting for inspection.

When he saw Deterrence was effective, he sauntered toward the entrance while passing through the crowd of Headless Horsemen.

As he walked up, step by step, he saw on both sides of him a dense cluster of menacing lances. The aura they gave off was thick with murderous intent.

As he ascended the stairs, his five servants followed closely from behind.

Arriving at the entrance, he felt a heavy pressure bearing down on him from the towering gates. He placed both hands on their cold, metal surface and pushed forward.「CREAAAAK!」A groaning sound echoed out as they slowly gave way, allowing for light to flood into the shrine, illuminating the stifling darkness inside.

You’ve discovered the Shrine of Dulla.

To his knowledge, such a being didn’t exist at all in the annals of Atlanta’s history. Just who or what was Dulla… perhaps a deity of an uncommon race worshipped by a small tribe? Either way, he wasn’t going to find an answer by just standing around.

With a sense of curiosity, he walked forward into the shrine where he was greeted by an incomparably spacious hall, lined with white stone slabs on which were engraved ornate patterns. It was strikingly vast, covering an area of about 250,000 square meters which could even accommodate a hundred-knight unit holding drill practice indoors. In the center was a towering pillar that would take three grown men to wrap their arms around. It was so tall the top couldn’t be seen, almost as if it were extending into an endless void.

He strolled toward the central pillar with his five ghastly servants in tow. The only audible sound in the empty hall was their footsteps, echoing into the empty space. Directly ahead was an altar on which were rows of candles, emitting a pale, yellow glow, their flames swaying gently as if they would flicker out of existence at any moment.

Along the way, he noticed a bookshelf beside a nearby column holding thick books. The covers were bound with leather hide and embellished gold leaf, but after the passage of several centuries, they became drab and covered in dust. A few were written in the human language, containing titles such as, “Proof of Sir Dulla’s Guilt,” “The Tale of Sir Dulla,” and so on… while two others were written in an unknown language.

You have uncovered lost records left behind from the ancient Era of Shared Governance. They tell the tale of the famed knight, Sir Dulla.

Removing “Proof of Sir Dulla’s Guilt” from the shelf, he slowly flipped over to a random passage.

“Sir Dulla, do you admit your sins? I judge you in the name of God. May the divine light cleanse your corrupted soul…”

“I do not, you may send me to hell to suffer in eternal damnation…”

From what he gathered, Sir Dulla was once a legendary knight of the Viridian Empire. In the war to banish the dark elves, he had braved through many battles, slaying countless foes before he eventually grew weary of the senseless slaughter. During one of his later campaigns, he spared the lives of two young female dark elves. Later on, it was discovered the blood of dragons coursed through his veins which led to him being summarily executed by the Temple of Light. After taking his head, the bishop had then ordered to have it hung over the city gates. However, no one imagined that soon after… his headless body and dead steed would resurrect and subsequently disappear from the temple grounds. From then on, the legend of the Headless Horseman was passed down through the Viridian Empire with many residents reporting sightings of his silhouette roaming the land.

Nie Yan skimmed through many books before arriving at the last two. As he reached out his hand and took one of them from the shelf, a mysterious energy flowed into his body, followed by a series of words appearing in his mind.

“Sir Dulla, may your soul rest in peace”
– Dark Elf Girl, Sally. You have learned the dark elf language.

He examined the book’s cover. It was a eulogy to appease the restless soul of an undead. He placed it back down after flipping through its contents. It didn’t actually hold any real importance, its worth only to expand upon the lore, but he had learned the dark elf language which was a fruitful reward nevertheless.

He then reached out for the other book. When he grabbed hold of it, he felt a bone-chilling coldness run down his spine. It was as if this book contained a powerful aura of death that seemingly wished to devour all life.

You’ve learned the vanbiya language.

The vanbiya were only a small branch of the undead. They were a group of Necromancers that resided in the Underworld beneath the Viridian Empire. All day long, they slept in gloomy cemeteries that had not the slightest hints of life. They manipulated corpses to spread death and pestilence wherever they passed.

He examined the book.

Sir Dulla’s Book of the Dead (Sub-Legendary)

Properties: Reduce the stats of all living creatures within 50 meters by 50% (owner included). Players who die within the book’s sphere of influence will receive the undead curse (stats −10%) for two days. The owner will also suffer a curse: Strength −2, Physique −2, and Intelligence +10 every 10 days.

The book could be binded after being picked up.

Do you wish to bind this item?

Nie Yan quickly put down the book which was obviously for Necromancers because only they would dare to use such a frightening item. Any Necromancer that became the owner of this book would be walking down an extremely perverse path that would eventually lead them to a very wretched end. Nevertheless, whether or not it could lead to success was very hard to say. The player would lose Strength and Physique every ten days; this definitely wasn’t a joking matter, but their Intelligence would rise considerably. There was a chance it could give rise to an abnormal freak.

Although he had learned the vanbiya language, it wasn’t of any use to him for the time being. However, that might not be the case later on. Knowing a language of the undead would become very useful if he ever encountered a group of hostile undead.

After putting down Sir Dulla’s Book of the Dead, he searched the bookshelf for more books but didn’t find anything else. After which he continued toward the altar.

While slowly making his way over, just below the candles, he saw a black box neatly placed on the center of the altar, its surface finely engraved with exceptionally elegant dark elf characters that resembled a line of finely stitched flowers. Illuminated by the pale candlelight, it gave off a fascinating lustre.

What a strange box!

It was as if a mysterious force was beckoning to him to open it.

He ordered one of his servants to step forward and probe the path ahead. After ensuring there was no danger, only then did he cautiously approach. Upon reaching the altar, he carefully opened the box. After a moment of tense silence, he breathed out a sigh of relief. Fortunately, no trap mechanisms were triggered.

Lined with a deep-crimson cloth, the interior housed a dark golden key. Though only the size of a pinky finger, its design was extremely elaborate, engraved with various bewitching patterns that would make a person exclaim in admiration.

It’s a key! After seeing it, he immediately thought back to the chest outside!

It was most likely the matching key for the treasure chest!

He stored the key away into his bag. A dark gold treasure chest was an incredibly valuable thing. After all, no matter how bad your luck was, it would at least contain a Dark Gold-grade item!

Just at this moment, the gates to the shrine were slammed wide open with a thunderous crash. A towering figure in a full suit of black armour entered into the hall on his steed. It was much larger than the ordinary Headless Horsemen. Its enormous, five-meter-long lance emitted a chilling aura of death.

He inspected this figure with Transcendent Insight.

The Headless Horseman, Sir Dulla (Lord): Level 30
Health: 28,000/28,000

Nie Yan drew in a breath of cold air. He had actually encountered a Level 30 Lord in an enclosed building! He would undoubtedly die if he tried facing off against it. He quickly fetched a Return Scroll out of his bag, so he could escape, but to his dismay, he found that the map was still sealed.

Sir Dulla brandished the lance in his hands and charged forward with his steed, radiating a murderous aura.

Against a Sub-Elite, Elite, and Lord-class monster, Deterrence’s effect was very limited.

Dammit, I’m done for… He quickly ordered his five servants to rush at Sir Dulla to stop his charge.

He was well aware that his servants were absolutely no match for Sir Dulla, but he hoped they would at least buy him some time. However, just as he was about to make a run for it, bony hands erupted out of the floor and firmly grabbed hold of his legs, rendering him incapable of fleeing.

He struggled furiously, but these bony hands had a tight grip on him, leaving him unable to move an inch.

In the next moment, a scene unfolded which caused him to be overtaken by shock. Sir Dulla passed right through his five servants and continued charging at him unhindered. This was simply too strange. Was it merely an illusion?

Sir Dulla was fast approaching. With a lance pointed directly at him, it seemed he was going to be skewered at any moment.

Are you willing to believe that Sir Dulla was innocent?

      Option 2: I need more information to make a decision.
      Option 3: No, even death cannot wipe away Sir Dulla’s sins.

Nie Yan didn’t need long to think as his keen intuition allowed him to come to a decision within seconds. He chose Option 2. Only it embodied the true intention of Conviction… fairness, honour, freedom, courage, wisdom, and so on.

「Shunk!」Sir Dulla’s lance stabbed through his heart as blood splattered everywhere.

Did I make a mistake? Those were his final thoughts before he blacked out.

Not knowing how much time had passed, he awoke in a daze to find that he was laying on the cold stone floor of the shrine ruins. His surroundings were empty and silent. Like he had just come out of a dream, it was as if everything that happened before was never real. Searching through his bag, he breathed a sigh of relief after confirming the Chapter of Courage and Chapter of Freedom were still there. As he checked his status page, he saw the Intermediate Demon Hunter title was there as well. Furthermore, there was a new property, “Just.” Although he didn’t know its uses, since it didn’t seem to give any stat bonuses, he was sure there was no harm in having it.

It seems Sir Dulla’s appearance was just part of the storyline in the quest map….

What made him excited was that he had finally escaped the quest map. He had probably spent six to seven days inside there!

His body felt a little stiff as he crawled back to his feet. Glancing back inside his bag, he spotted the shimmer of a dark golden key!

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