The Sword God opened his eyes at the insistent sound. The lion mask that always covered his face was gone. Where was this place? The Sword God wanted to speak but only a whimper escaped from his lips. He’d been mute since birth, and because of that, he’d been bullied his entire life. A disabled person could only survive the Tower by being strong, and so he’d worked extra hard.
Then, the Martial King noticed him, and he became his disciple. He reached a high point in his life and earned a skill called Open Speaking. At that moment, he had been moved to tears—the first and only time he’d ever cried. After that, he used Open Speaking all the time, and he no longer felt any discomfort.
Now, he could feel that his body was severely injured and his magic power was damaged. He couldn’t use Open Speaking, and it was extremely distressing not to be able to speak. He barely managed to push down his confusion and pain, and with an extreme effort, he opened up Open Speaking and said with difficulty, 『Is…anyone…there?』
There was no answer, and his Open Speaking evaporated futilely in the air. Did no one hear? The Sword God forced out his Open Speaking again. 『Anyone there?』
But there was still no response. He grimaced. His subordinates usually followed him wherever he went, just like shadows. No matter how tired he was, they still followed at his heels. They used to ask if he was tired before he even had to call for them. The Sword God was sure that something was wrong. In his ruptured memory, his subordinates were still alive. They had followed him even though they were badly hurt, and the Spear God had carried him on his back. After that…what happened? His head ached as though fangs had sunk into it.
The Sword God frowned. His head was stopping him from thinking, as though it wanted him to rest and not remember what had happened. However, the Sword God pushed even more forcefully to open up his mind. It was clear that he was missing something. He had to remember. As his mind grew clearer, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place: the Summer Queen chasing them, Red Dragon, his subordinates who had thrown themselves in the Summer Queen’s path like moths to a flame, and the collapsing island.
Finally, he remembered the Spear God, who had protected him to the best of his abilities, smiling as he was pierced by arrows and blades. The Sword God was shocked into awareness. When he opened his eyes, they seemed to fill with memories. He remembered being chased, but he didn’t know what happened after that. The Sword God ended up using the last of his energy, and his destroyed Magic Circuit began to move.
Each movement made his body twist in pain, but he endured it. He started by moving his fingers, then he managed to move half of his body. Then finally, his arms, legs, and then he could stand unsteadily. He stretched out a hand to support himself against the wall, and he lifted his heavy head to observe his surroundings. The Sword God realized he was in a tunnel, and he could finally sense the dampness. He forced himself to trudge through the tunnel, his feet splashing through the puddles on the ground.
He moved towards a faraway light as though it were a signpost. Soon, the damp smell disappeared and he emerged from the tunnel. A breeze hit his face, and he felt relieved. However, the sight in front of him made it impossible to smile. There was a line of familiar faces who stood like a wall before the tunnel, blocking enemies from reaching it. The corpses of the enemies lay on the ground—not a single one had managed to penetrate the wall of his subordinates.
There had been a messy fight, and only ruins were left. However, even though they had already breathed their last, his subordinates remained standing with smiles on their faces, as though they were overjoyed that they’d managed to protect the Sword God and fulfilled their mission till the very end. It even seemed that they would continue to protect their master even in death.
At the center was the Spear God, who was in an even worse state than he remembered. There were so many weapons embedded in his body that it was a wonder he’d managed to endure them until his death. He was on one knee with his eyes closed, holding onto a spear for support. Several corpses lay before him as though he’d fought them until the very end.
『Ahhhhhhh!』 The Sword God screamed at the sight. He wanted to shout and vent his emotions, but his throat didn’t make a sound, and for the first time, he cursed his muteness. As the Sword God, he’d calculated every single move, but there was only one person he revealed everything to: the Spear God. His old friend had extended a hand to him even though it drew scorn and contempt. The Sword God remembered the mischievous guy who had enticed him, saying that they should learn a fun game called Mugong together.
And now, he was dead. Strangely, the Spear God was still smiling. He must have been happy that he’d been able to protect his friend, but this only gave the Sword God more pain. He should have run away, what a foolish person he was to give his life up for him. If he had run away to save his skin, at least the Sword God could feel a little bit of hate towards him and sweep him aside. But now, that was impossible.
The Sword God wanted to pull his heart out. If only he could save the Spear God or bring his dead subordinates back to life, he would gladly give it up. But the world wasn’t so kind. The Sword God wept, raising his face to the sky with gritted teeth and clenching his fists. The veins on his reddened face bulged. He felt something on his arm. It was Gungnir, still in its bracelet form. All of his emotions settled down, and he began thinking: he’d set up the Cheonghwado from nothing. Why couldn’t he repeat the same achievement? In fact, he had the confidence to establish something even bigger.
This time, however, the Spear God wouldn’t be with him. But the Sword God thought of a way that the Spear God could accompany him, even in death. 『Always with me. Forever.』
The Sword God slowly stood up, ignoring the pain of his injured body. He approached the Spear God with dry eyes as though he didn’t feel anything. He used his hand to rip into the Spear God’s chest and reveal his cold heart. Without any hesitation, the Sword God put the heart to his face. Crunch. Crunch. His teeth crushed the tough muscle, and even though he felt like vomiting since it was already rotting, the Sword God forced himself to swallow every piece of the Spear God’s heart slowly so that he could digest it properly.
To reestablish the Cheonghwado, he would need more strength than before, which meant he had to resort to prohibited methods. Cannibal was an energy-drain skill that allowed someone to absorb another person’s powers by eating their heart. It was one of the basic skills on the Emerald Tablet Leonte possessed.
The Sword God had never used it, even though it was in his possession. Power gained through shortcuts only came back to hurt the owner, and as someone who prioritized martial training over everything else, it was anathema to him, so he just ignored it. Also, if souls and curses mixed into his magic power, his body might be irretrievably damaged. However, the Sword God didn’t have a choice. It could take years for him to heal himself, and he wouldn’t be able to have his revenge.
Since he couldn’t get his hands on the Philosopher's Stone, this was the only way to activate Gungnir. The Sword God threw away the last of his pride as a martial artist. Fortunately, his friend and his subordinates would provide plenty of materials to help him shoot up higher than he’d ever done before. He was going to make sure that they hadn’t died in vain, and he would return every ounce of pain back to his enemies. Crunch. Crunch.
The sound of the Sword God chewing and swallowing drifted through the field, disturbing its peacefulness.
“You’re leaving?” The Summer Queen frowned at the Bow God, who was bowing to her. She remembered that she had to call him something else now: Jang Wei. It was a strange name like that. He was from some insignificant planet called Earth, and she remembered this fact because Heaven Wing had come from there, too.
“I think we’re done. Are we not?” Jang Wei didn’t belong to the Cheonghwado or Red Dragon. He was a well-known S-ranked mercenary, better known by the name Secret Twilight. Aside from the fact that he was from Earth, not much was known about him. He also changed his face each time he appeared, and it was rumored that no one knew what his real face looked like.
A long time ago, he’d received a job from Red Dragon to climb up the ranks of the Cheonghwado and become Red Dragon’s eyes and ears. Because the Cheonghwado was so difficult to infiltrate, this was the only way they could think of. Over the span of a few years, his ability was recognized in the Cheonghwado, and he was able to gain the position of the Bow God.
From the Summer Queen’s perspective, Jang Wei was a valuable chess piece. He wouldn’t risk betraying them and throwing away years of hard work in the Cheonghwado. When he’d become one of the Martial Gods, he could have cut ties with Red Dragon at any time, but he’d allayed all their suspicions and led them to victory.
However, the victory was a bitter one for the Summer Queen, and with Bahal gone, she would find it difficult to find another henchman. The Summer Queen offered Jang Wei the highest position in the Eighty-One Oculus, but Jang Wei firmly rejected her. He said he didn’t mind doing it as part of a job, but he wouldn’t actually commit himself to serving anyone. He also wondered out loud if they could accept a spy as one of their own after what had happened to the Cheonghwado.
This only made the Summer Queen want him even more. Jang Wei was like a precious treasure. However, the Summer Queen had to reluctantly acquiesce to his wishes. She wasn’t in a position to dictate to anyone at the moment, and the hair she kept twisting around her fingers had gone even bluer. Her Dragon Heart was stopping, and the Summer Queen could feel the danger that her Dragon Heart might turn into stone.
Without a Dragon Heart, she was nothing more than a large lizard, and the magnificence of the Draconic species would disappear. She would just be like the rest of her extinct brethren, and the Summer Queen was terrified of this possibility. She hadn’t felt a drop of fear during the war with Allforone, but she was truly frightened of disappearing.
The Philosopher's Stone and the materials to complete the stone had all vanished, and even though she was still searching through the floors to find the Sword God, she had a feeling that it wouldn't mean that she’d find the Philosopher's Stone, too. Someone else had taken it, the same person who had egged them on to fight each other and left them in chaos. She needed to find out who it was, and fortunately, Jang Wei had this ability as well. “I’ll ask you for the last time: do you really have no intention to serve me? You should know very well what it means to receive my blessing.”
“I already serve a god.”
“I suppose that's a nice way to reject my offer.”
“In that case, I’d like to hire you for another job. There’s no time limit for this, but I’d like you to finish it as quickly as possible. I’ll give you any resource you need. All you have to do is find someone.”
“Who are you looking for?”
The Summer Queen crossed her legs and opened her mouth to speak.
“Another job…” On a path far from the red portal on the seventy-sixth floor, Jang Wei rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “I wonder how long it’ll take this time.”
Jang Wei didn’t want a lot of money. He had already earned a lot, and since he also had the Four Directions Bow, he didn’t need anything else. However, he wanted to quench his thirst—the thirst that always lurked in the back of his mind and made his soul itch. If he couldn’t quench it, he wouldn’t be able to settle anywhere and would be forced to wander around. “I hope it lasts a long time, too.”
A shell necklace glowed under his clothing. He and his comrades had made it when they were still young, but now, it was the source of the thirst that tightened his soul, as though it were waiting for something.Previous Chapter Next Chapter