914 The Calling Deep Inside the Mausoleum
Upon seeing Admiral Hell Ludwell's reaction, Klein and the living crew of the Black Tulip could hardly believe their eyes.
He originally imagined two scenarios:
The first was Ludwell requesting help from a Numinous Episcopate demigod to ambush Gehrman Sparrow and the powerhouse backing him. This wasn't impossible since Sequence 7 of the Death pathway was called Spirit Medium. They also had the ability to sense impending danger.
The second was that Admiral Hell hadn't made any preparations. He tried resisting but ended up being easily finished off by Mr. Azik.
Klein's plan was to have Mr. Azik deal with the demigod while he hunted Admiral Hell in the first scenario, so as to obtain his second marionette. If it were the second scenario, he could request Mr. Azik to watch by the side as he controlled his marionette to challenge Ludwell alone. During this process, he would use Creeping Hunger and hide in the shadows, doing his best to stay behind the scenes so as to digest his Marionette potion faster.
To his surprise, Admiral Hell didn't put up a fight at all. He directly prostrated himself and kissed the deck as though he was Azik's most loyal and humble servant.
How are we going to come to blows now… Klein stared ahead blankly, somewhat at a loss for words.
And it was silent across the ship.
Azik raised his hand and pressed down on his silk hat as he walked towards the prostrating Ludwell at a decent pace.
One step. Two steps. Three steps. He stopped in front of Ludwell and said with a deep voice, "What stage has the Numinous Episcopate's Artificial Death Project reached?"
Ludwell kept his forehead peeled to the ground as he hoarsely replied, "Artificial Death can already influence High-Sequence Beyonders who failed their advancements, but it is still unable to reply to prayers and rituals…"
After the description, he slightly raised his torso and took off the black, square-shaped ring from his right hand. Then, with both hands, he offered it in front of him.
Silently, the ring seemed to be dragged by countless spirit bodies as it flew up and landed in Azik's palm.
Azik studied it for a few seconds before wearing it on his left index finger.
Suddenly, a terrifying and profound feeling was emanated from his body. The zombies and skeletons who were either naked or wearing rotten leather armor, genuflected, bowing their heads as though they only dared to look at his boots. The flying wraiths and shadows landed on the deck and clung closely to it. None of them dared to float in midair again.
The other pirates aboard the ship plopped to their knees, plastering their faces to the deck without daring to raise them.
Klein stood to the side, watching Mr. Azik's back and the suddenly empty scene. He turned agape, but he didn't say a word.
Azik took another two steps forward and came to Admiral Hell's side. Then, he turned his body and faced Klein and said to Ludwell, "You shall be his marionette for a year. When the time is up, you can return to the spirit world."
Azik said those words without any inflection, as though he wasn't determining Admiral Hell's life and death or future. Perhaps, to him, this was a trivial matter that didn't need him to care for the thoughts and feelings of the person being ordered.
Ludwell's body shook violently as though he was furious and indignant. But ultimately, he didn't raise his head. He continued keeping his head peeled to the deck.
"Yes, honorable Death Consul."
Just as he said that, ghastly white and dark green mysterious symbols were accentuated as they meshed together, forming an illusory bronze door.
The door rapidly contracted and was imprinted inside Admiral Hell's forehead.
Klein looked in surprise and puzzlement. Only when Mr. Azik nodded at him and pointed to Admiral Hell did he blankly step forward and enter a ten-meter-radius. He began controlling Ludwell's Spirit Body Threads.
The pirate admiral almost leaped up a few times to flail his arms, but none of that happened. Soon, his thoughts turned sluggish as he subconsciously resisted.
After a while, the silver-masked Admiral Hell Ludwell stood up. Bowing his head, he retreated to Klein's side and stood beside Winner Enzo.
Azik watched the entire process in silence before finally slowly saying, "In the Death pathway, high-level Beyonders have extremely suppressive powers over low-level Beyonders."
…I can tell. Back when I threw your copper whistle, even the Sequence 5 Admiral Hell failed to control his undead creatures… Klein nodded gently, indicating that he had taken note of it.
Immediately after that, a zombie which had rotted in several areas rose up. Carrying an azure-blue cufflink, it came before Klein.
It was the Murloc Cufflink he had lost!
Although it's useless for the current me, I've finally gotten it back… As Klein was lost in poignancy, he reached out to retrieve the item that belonged to him.
Then, he saw Mr. Azik walk back and reach out to grab his shoulder.
He hurriedly extended his arms to grab onto the shoulders of his marionettes, Enzo and Ludwell.
All the colors saturated, brightened, and overlapped. Having entered the spirit world, Klein instinctively asked, "Mr. Azik, where do we go next?"
"Berserk Sea," Azik calmly replied.
He paused for a moment and then added, "Give me the copper whistle."
"…Alright." Klein made Enzo take out the iron cigar case and retrieve the ancient cigar case.
Azik reached out and took it before saying in a deep voice, "My intuition tells me that this ring left by Death, together with this copper whistle and myself, should allow us to find the spot in the Berserk Sea where Death perished back then."
Klein subconsciously said, "My dream tells me that it's very dangerous.
"Perhaps we should first find the Numinous Episcopate members who are implementing the Artificial Death Project. We can make decisions after receiving more detailed information from them."
Azik fell silent for a few seconds.
"A voice there is calling out to me."
Klein turned his head to look at Mr. Azik. He saw that this man with soft facial features and weathered eyes had his facial contours furrowed. He no longer had that slight curve to his lips.
Colors flashed by quickly as Azik brought Klein through the pitch-black storm that enveloped the Berserk Sea.
At this moment, the dark square ring and the exquisite ancient brass whistle shimmered slightly, illuminating Azik's face.
This Death Consul who had lived through the Fourth Epoch closed his eyes as he silently listened to a shout that came from an unknown location. Then, he suddenly clenched his right hand.
All the scenery from the nearby spirit world was imploding, turning into a slowly-spinning black vortex whose borders couldn't be seen.
The vortex suddenly burgeoned, devouring Azik, Klein, and his two marionettes.
Klein sensed a sudden and intense sense of dizziness as he nearly vomited on the spot.
He recovered after an unknown period of time, realizing that he was inside a dark, cold mausoleum. Around him were open coffins, and inside them were rotting corpses with white feathers on their backs.
Although I warned Mr. Azik, we still ended up here… Klein was taken aback for a second as he suddenly felt a deep sense of helplessness.
He turned his head to look to the side and saw Azik standing near him. He was staring intently at the flights of stairs that led deep into the mausoleum.
There was a thick black gas emanating in the area as they slowly swirled like smog.
"The one hiding in there might very well be Artificial Death…" Klein couldn't help but warn.
Azik's facial contours were no longer as taut as he curved the corners of his mouth.
"My slumber from before has allowed me to recall many more things. I saw myself seated on a bone throne, and I saw Beyonders and ordinary people lying dead in front of the throne. They hadn't done anything wrong, but they died sudden deaths all the same. One by one, they got up, turning into ghastly undead creatures, undead creatures that pledged allegiance to me.
"And I was just coldly watching them without any emotional fluctuations. I allowed the disaster to spread through the village and into the city.
"This made me feel unlike myself. However, I also knew very well that this might be the real me."
As Death Consul from the Fourth Epoch's Balam Empire…? Klein's lips quivered slightly before he pursed them tightly.
Azik rubbed his temples and continued in an unperturbed tone, "I sense myself returning to that past."