Chapter 99 - Temple of the Fallen God (2)
He couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a white star like his on Paimon’s forehead.
But Crockta couldn’t ask the question. Paimon’s dark eyes stared into him. He couldn’t move like a gun was aimed at him. It was like Paimon’s eyes were sucking Crockta’s soul into the darkness.
Paimon said, "Maybe, you.”
His tone sunk as he looked Crockta up and down. Crockta felt a chill go down his spine. It was like a swan had noticed that a duck was among its flock.
Paimon spoke to Crockta again. However, he no longer spoke out loud. It was a one-way injection of meaning and emotion into Crockta’s head.
‘You know nothing.’
His head was whirring. Crockta folded his knee to try and withstand it. Paimon’s will shook his head. His harsh rebuke was like a raging storm inside Crockta’s head.
Crockta shook his head and stared at Paimon. Everything was dark. His vision was tinged black. Now he couldn’t see Tiyo or Anor anymore. Crockta was standing alone in a darkness where nothing shone.
‘Apostle of the fallen god,’ Paimon called out. ‘You have the star, but you don’t know anything about them.’
Heat came from his forehead. There was a terrible pain that seemed to be coming from the star mark. Crockta roared and pulled out his greatsword. At that moment, the darkness in front of him blurred.
Crockta wielded Ogre Slayer towards the darkness. Nothing was caught on the blade, but the momentum temporarily shook the darkness. He could feel Paimon taking a step back. But after that, the darkness gathered again. It was a deeper concentration of darkness. In that gap, a force struck Crockta’s abdomen.
‘What happened?’ Paimon’s voice was no longer as gentle or soft as before. It was like a raging beast. His wrath rang in the darkness. ‘Who are you?!’
The darkness gathered once again. It felt like it was trying to crush Crockta. The darkness gathered above Crockta’s head in order to crush him. His instincts sent a warning. Crockta raised his greatsword.
At that moment, something appeared in front of Crockta.
‘You.’ Paimon stopped.
In the darkness, another darkness moved. Crockta could feel his presence. A child made of darkness, just like Paimon, appeared. It was the demon sleeping in his belt.
Paimon murmured with confusion. 'So, no, one of those guys.’
After the demon appeared, the pressure on Crockta faded away. Crockta sighed as he put Ogre Slayer away. Now his breathing returned to normal. His vision was dark but he didn’t feel like he was drowning like before.
Crockta spoke, "What is the star on the forehead?”
Paimon was silent. Crockta could sense it. Paimon had a white star, yet he wasn’t a user.
He was someone that the NPCs called ‘cursed by the stars’. If so, what was the curse of the stars? Was it really a concept created for the convenience of the users?
The demon of the belt that looked like a child whispered out. Paimon eventually nodded. His answer entered Crockta’s head.
‘A stigma showing the blessing of a god. It is the mark of a god’s apostle.’
“What is an apostle?”
‘Those who choose to serve the god and receive the god’s share.’
“Who is the god?”
‘That...’ Paimon said.
‘One who watched the end. One who saw all deaths and mourned the world. That god’s name...’
Paimon opened his mouth. Crockta waited for an answer. The moment that Paimon was able to say the name of the fallen god...
Time was stretched.
The world slowed down. Time was divided. Time was divided then proliferated over and over. Numerous chaotic scenes occurred in between.
In the end...
Crockta stood on a snowy field.
"No,” said Ian.
"This is really...”
He kicked the ground. It was scattered white ash powder.
He hesitantly sat down. The dark blue night sky unfolded endlessly above him.
The land was all white. At first, he thought it was a snowy field. However, he soon realized that the whole land was filled with white ash. The white particles scattered every time he moved. He grabbed a handful and squeezed. The ash ran through his palm and fell down.
A laugh emerged. He laughed out loud.
"This type of thing...”
But the laughter didn’t reach his eyes. Maybe he had a foreboding feeling.
He stared at the distant horizon where the sky and earth met. A shooting star passed in a semicircle above Ian’s head.
Someone spoke from behind him, “Isn’t it pretty?”
Ian turned his head. Gray skin, gray hair, the ash in this place lumped together to form a human figure, a gray woman sitting in the same posture as Ian.
"I wanted to see you.” She laughed. It wasn’t the smile of a person, giving off a sense of heterogeneity.
“Ian. No, shall I call you Crockta?”
She somehow felt familiar to Jung Ian. It was a feeling he had been aware of for a long time.
Thanks to that familiar feeling, he knew her identity. Sometimes she expressed herself to him in her own way. She always watched and sometimes helped, sometimes teased him. She would be ‘it.’ The thing that sustained Elder Lord. The system.
Ian sighed. Ian, connected to Elder Lord, became Crockta and was sucked into the darkness by Paimon, only to fall into a strange world. Then he met the system. He didn’t need to hear the answer to the question of whether Elder Lord was just a game or not.
Ian picked up a pile of ash again and threw it into the air. It blew upwards. The ash fell like snowflakes around Ian and the grey woman. The woman burst out laughing.
"Your guess is correct.”
Ian threw ashes towards her. She didn’t avoid them. She smiled through the white powder.
"Then everything that the users killed in Elder Lord was actually alive in another dimension?”
"I killed things?"
"They aren’t artificial intelligence?”
She looked at Ian. Ian also met her eyes. Everything was grey colored. The eyes were so grey they were close to white. The face imitated human emotions but they weren’t feelings Ian could empathize with.
She slowly replied, "Would that be so different?” An unknown, mocking smile appeared on her face. "If they were all AIs created by computers, what would be different?”
Ian couldn’t answer.
"Just like how humans think ants are insignificant, there are those who think of humans as ants.” She pointed to the sky. Ian looked up at the sky.
Nothing could be seen in the blue sky.
She beckoned. Ian's vision became sharper. Ian could see the numerous white stars hidden in the sky. They were faint stars that went out. The last stop of the stars. They just waited to die before going completely black.
A white dwarf star. The dark blue sky here had countless white dwarfs.
She knocked on Ian's shoulder. Her touch was as light as a feather.
"Death is both sad and equal. It doesn’t matter if the worlds are small, big, or exist elsewhere. That’s it.”
Ian looked at her. She seemed to blend in with the ashes that filled this world.
Ian asked, "What was your purpose for making Elder Lord?”
"I want to go back.”
"To where I originally was.”
"To the world of Elder Lord?”
She nodded. "You have to work hard so I can go back.”
"It is a secret.”
Ian asked again, "Then, are you on Earth right now?”
"That's right. I’ll serve you delicious food if you ever visit.”
She laughed. Ian didn’t laugh.
"As you said, it is sad when life dies. But because of you, a lot of people don’t know that Elder Lord is real, and that they are killing beings of another world.”
"That's right." She made a depressed expression. "I know best since I give the quests.”
“Despite knowing that, you still made Elder Lord?”
"It can't be helped.”
"It is all for the sake of returning to the world of Elder Lord?”
"Why don’t you remain on Earth?”
“It doesn’t matter.” She touched the ash on the floor. It moved through the air. "I have something I need to do.”
Ian rose from his seat. “It doesn’t matter if people of your world die?”
“It can’t be helped.” She looked up at Ian. "As a matter of fact, I wish that your world would kill them harder.”
As she said that, a transparent wall appeared between her and Ian. Ian was surprised and raised a hand to the wall.
“What is this?”
"To stop you from punching me.”
She shook her hips and got up. Her body was so small that she barely reached Ian’s shoulder.
“Either way, it was nice meeting you, Ian. I really wanted to meet you. You are the most special existence out of all those I watch. Honorable Orc Crockta!”
She laughed. Ian brought his face to the wall. Her appearance could be seen through the transparent wall. She smiled and leaned towards Ian. They looked into each other’s eyes with the wall between them. Beyond the wall, the ash grey form seemed like it would melt away at any moment.
“What is your true purpose?”
"Did you lead me here?"
"Something like that. Thank Gordon for me.”
"You have a lot of questions. It is a secret.”
"Your real purpose?"
"I told you. It is a secret.”
Everything was a secret.
Ian frowned. "I’ll tell everybody about Elder Lord.”
“I’m sorry but no one will believe you.”
"There will be some...”
"Using my power, I made it so that no one understands it except for you.”
Ian’s eyes widened. “What?”
"Elder Lord is suspicious in many ways, yet countless people are participating without any doubts. Why? And those living in the world of Elder Lord believe that the users acting like that are just a phenomenon of the curse of the stars. Haven’t you wondered why?”
“Changing one’s awareness is just one of my powers. However, I’ve spent so much power that it is hard now. Pant pant. I can’t stay with you for much longer.”
She waved farewell. The world started to crumble. It was ending.
Ian had so much more he wanted to ask. But he instinctively felt that he only had one last question.
A quick look showed him that she was waving with a smile.
Ian hesitated. “You...”
He had a thought. His speech lengthened. "You don’t seem like a bad person. I can feel it. So...”
“Thank you. I'm glad.”
Ian asked, "Do you need to continue this ‘game’, Elder Lord?”
Ian felt regret as he finished speaking. The question was one that could be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ He would be unable to infer further information from such a simple question. But it was the thing Ian was most curious about.
She said that death was sad. Nevertheless, she was making Elder Lord in the hope that more people died.
What did she see?
Her hand stopped moving upon hearing Ian’s question. The world was collapsing until only she, Ian, and the wall between them remained. They were the only things left.
She smiled and replied, "I was incredibly surprised after falling into Ian’s world. It is a great place. I never imagined that such a place could exist.”
Ian tried to speak but he could no longer open his mouth.
"So I have to do this even more.”
His body stiffened like it was stuffed. Now he could only listen to her.
“I’m sorry. It can't be helped. I hope you will understand. There was a man who made this excuse in your history.” She looked up at the sky with a bittersweet expression. There was nothing. "The sun goes down, but there is still a long way to go, I know there is something wrong but I can’t use any other methods.”
After that, Ian lost consciousness.
Praise the Orc: Glossary Link.
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