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476 At the Second Level, The Deathly Cries in the Darkness

 Day ▋▋ - ▋▋:▋▋ ▋▋ - Dungeon Stairwell, Stone Fortress, Eastern Mountain, Spirit Dimension

Going through the large door guarded by two gigantic statues, Danaya and Merio took the lead instead.

Unlike the first level of the dungeons, the lower floors were very different. It was not just a straight path but something like a dark maze. The lights were scattered far in between, and the whole floor was dim. The only thing that did not differ was how they constructed the walls, floor, and hallways.

Another thing was that the whole level had more spacious prison cells than the first floor.

As for the lights, it was not because the King was oppressing those in the lower levels. Although they might have done far more severe crimes, that was not the case for the dark floor. It was because those races that were keener to commit those crimes were the residents of the dark.

With the lead of the two, Mark's trio went down a spiral staircase. It was when they reached about ten meters below the first level was when they reached the second level.

And to say, while the majority of the creatures on the first floor looked hideous by human standards, the ones here on the second level were the source of horror.

In fact, at the very first prison cell, what they saw made Mei's and Aephelia's hairs stand up.

The moment they entered, the creature bashed towards the metal bars causing a loud sound. Even Mei, who did not care for most things, flinched and hid behind Mark. Aephelia tried to keep her calm, but she was already holding unto the hem of Mark's clothes.

The creature held onto the bars in a threatening manner. It looked like an emaciated corpse with a pointed face like a dog, long arms, and long, sharp, curved nails. Its eyes glowed predatory red above its large nose. The mouth of the creature was shaped like a death worm's mouth, and it was sticking its long, fat, bloody tongue out like a hungry animal. Its repulsive stench could be smelled despite there seemed to be no source for it.

"Sorry about this, I should have warned."

Danaya said with an apologetic expression. Even though the surroundings were dim, her face could be seen clearly because her body was faintly glowing in the dark.

"HAH!"

Merio, on the other hand, shouted as he bashed his spear unto the metal bars causing another loud sound. It made the creature flee towards the furthest corner of its cell.

"That's a Balbal, isn't it?"

The unfazed Mark asked.

And to that question, Danaya nodded. That made Mark look at the creature with a horrifying appearance with interest.

A Balbal, it was a kind of ghoul that could be seen digging graves and feeding on the corpse inside. Some times, in very rural areas, it would even snatch a dead body that was yet to be buried and was undergoing a funeral. In order for the people to not suspect anything, it would replace the dead bodies with cut Banana trunks enchanted with an illusion that would make anyone look at it think that they were looking at the corpse it took.

"Did that thing also belong to Spirit and Elemental Races? Or is it a Cryptid?"

Aephelia asked. After all, compared to what she had seen so far, this thing seemed to be different.

"Yes and no." It was Mark who replied to her. "It's a Cryptid but also a Spirit. An evil one, though."

Mark then turned to Danaya.

"Does this one have a value to you guys? I don't think that there would be any reason to keep something like this."

It was a good question.

Spirit Races and most Elementals were hostile to Evil Spirits and Demons and vice versa. That said, the former group was rather neutral to most Cryptids. On the other hand, the latter group considered Cryptids as livestock and animals.

But in strange situations, there were Evil Spirits that looked like Cryptids. The Balbal was a good example. In fact, many Evil Spirits looked like Cryptids because of their appearance.

It was despite that truth that many of them were former humans, in a literal sense.

This Balbal and that headless priest could be the same in that sense.

Danaya sighed and replied to Mark's question.

"Normally, none. Although there are Evil Spirits with higher intelligence, this one only had an intellect a bit higher than an animal. These kinds don't really have any value and were being killed on sight. After all, they defile the final resting place of many and feast on the bodies of our precious loved ones. This particular one was caught trying to dig the graves we made for our comrades that died while defending this place."

"This a special case, then?"

Mark asked once more.

"Yes. Actually, the kinds of these creatures are very keen on spatial faults. That is why even though they don't have the ability to own or raise a Spirit Tree, they are able to go back and forth, traveling from the Spirit Dimension to the Mortal World and back. This time, we kept this one in case we had to flee from this world and take our chances in the Mortal World."

"By the way, Gege," Mei spoke. "How can we distinguish which race is which? I'm getting confused a bit."

"That's kinda hard." Mark pinched her left cheek playfully. "All I can say is because of the energy they emit."

That answer of his made Danaya and Merio agree. But then, as Mark continued, they flinched.

"Though there is one way that will work in many of them. If you kill most kinds of Spirits and all kinds of Elementals, they turn to dust. It is also the same for most demons and ghostly Evil Spirits. As for Evil Spirits with a physical body, their bodies rot as if you poured a high intensity of gastric juice on them. As for any of the race that was closer to a Cryptid, even if they died, they leave their bodies behind. It was like Berberokas and Tikbalangs."

Although Danaya and Merio could not deny what he said, they still felt goosebumps considering that he differed races by what kind of corpse they left behind.

"By the way, is it really fine if I take some of the prisoners here and possibly, the third level?"

Mark asked.

"Yes. We already discussed it. Actually, you can choose until you are satisfied. It's not like we have any use for these prisoners. On the first level, the prisoners there could still be pardoned. As for the ones here, they are imprisoned for life. Especially for the ones on the third level, imprisoning them for eternity would not make up for their sins."

Danaya replied with a serene expression. It seemed that aside from the horrifying Balbal in front of them, the rest were unforgivable creatures.

"Then, why not use them as cannon fodder?"

Mark asked a very delicate question.

Since these creatures here were destined to rot, why not send them in the front lines. If they were the ones that were close to the Giant before, maybe, none of the Spirit and Elemental races that participated in the battle had perished.

To that question, however, Danaya and Merio shook their heads.

"It's a matter of pride, Sir," Merio said with a dignified tone. "Our races were proudful warriors. We would rather die fighting in the front than win while hiding behind. Even if we retreat in panic or fear sometimes, we will regroup, and go back charging towards the enemy once more. Unless we have no choice but to flee, that was when we retreat. But never ever we will use our prisoners just to enjoy the safety behind them."

Hearing that, Mark shrugged. He would not deny their belief. Though in his view, it was a waste of resources.

"I want to ask. Although I can understand why you picked those ones on the first level, I wonder why you wanted to also collect people here? I believe that anyone would detest these unforgivable criminals. No one would want to have them serve anyone even as slaves."

Merio's question made Danaya look at Mark. She was also curious.

Mark smiled impishly.

"I don't want them to serve me. I wanted something else. Remember that once you guys gave these criminals to me, their lives are mine. It doesn't matter to you people what I will do with them."

That hint gave the answer.

"You want to kill them? Why?"

Mark did not answer. Instead, he replied with another question.

"I'll let you two choose. Just point at who can die and not. I'll show you why."

That made the two both troubled and relieved at the same time. Mark just gave them the heavy weight of being an executioner. And yet, they were relieved. Since they now knew what Mark would do, it was better if those with lesser crimes spend their sentence and let those with unforgivable crimes perish.

And thus, the selection began.

This day, the prisoners of the second level cowered in fear as they heard the other Races in other prison cells cry their last words of pain. Some of them had already been held in this place for decades and they were already used to the darkness. This time, however, the darkness was rather unsettling.

After killing the first prisoner who was a Boroka, a harpy-like woman but with ugly bat wings, witch-like old face, a serpent-like pair of eyes, and sharp, pointed teeth, they learned why Mark needed to kill them.

As they saw the spherical crystal that plopped out from the Crystal embedded on Mark's arm, they now knew where these crystals containing pure energy came from.

Who would have thought that he was collecting these by killing the members of the races?

They were very fortunate that they did not give Mark any reason to be offended, or else, he would surely not hesitate to kill them just to gain these crystals.

After the first kill, without any choice, they led Mark to the next one.

In every kill, Mark would scrutinize the crystal. He was checking carefully what kind and color the crystal was and what creature he took it from. Then, when Mark killed a Berberoka that terrorized a small Tribe of Duendes before, he tossed the crystal to Aephelia.

Unfortunately, not every person that Danaya and Merio pointed to did not suit Mark's taste. Soon, they learned that he was only killing those with higher magical energy they were the ones with a higher chance of giving him crystals. In fact, they realized that not every kill would result in one. There were several wasted lives that brought out nothing but a lifeless corpse.

Not only Mark had a harvest here. After Mark killed several Spirits that gave him brown colored crystals, he gave Merio two. Danaya also received two after he a Mambukay and even a Tamawo that was the same race as Pefile. Both of them gave him a light green colored crystal.

Danaya and Merio did not want to receive the gifts. After all, it was supposed to be his compensation. Although they knew how precious it was, and considering that a life was lost in getting one, they were not greedy.

They were about to reach the end of the maze where the stairs leading down to the third level were found. The dungeon was made this way in case someone tried to break out. The most dangerous and powerful beings in the dungeon were at the third level. If they managed to break out of their cells, they had to go through two magically enchanted mazes before getting out. It would give the guards and the soldiers enough time to prepare to intercept them.

Danaya and Merio were about to lead Mark to the third level...

But Mark stopped with a frown.

He turned his head towards the west, even though there was nothing there but a wall.

"Is something wrong?"

Danaya asked.

Mark did not reply and closed his eyes for a few seconds.

Everyone kept silent.

When he opened his eyes, he immediately turned to Danaya.

"I'll get the rest at a later date. We have to leave immediately."

His voice had a severe tone. He did not even wait for the reply as he grabbed Mei and Aephelia and turned into a streak of black mist that flew across the maze of the second level.