Chapter 146 - Three Norns (5)

“It’s not easy to see the great Urd like this.” A snake suddenly popped out of a corner of Urd’s dark holy territory and turned into a human.

If you only want to talk bullshit, Hermes, just leave.』 Urd shouted at Hermes in annoyance. However, Hermes only tapped his staff, Herald, on the floor with a laugh.  

You wicked…

Hermes only continued to laugh, and Urd became even more annoyed. She’d been planning to confuse Yeon-woo since there weren’t a lot of people with a messy past like him. Many players entered the Tower with all kinds of regret about the past. Yeon-woo was the best one out of them all. Most players lived with hope. Some wanted to achieve things in the Tower that they couldn’t elsewhere. Others wanted a new life. Some wanted medicine to heal their loved ones. Whatever the reason, they climbed the Tower with hope. It was the life they lived and their present and future.

But Yeon-woo was different. He didn’t have a particular hope. He just climbed the Tower without escaping from the shackles of the past. In fact, he locked them around himself even tighter. Since Urd was a god that saw the past, it was easy for her to pick out memories to test people with. She thought Yeon-woo wouldn’t be able to escape them.

“Don’t you think it’s time you stop misleading people? People like that poor friend over there aren’t playthings.” Hermes turned his head to the door where the person he was talking about stood: Hepburn. She’d been fated to be the queen of the High Elves, but she couldn’t stand up against the scorn of her species and had fallen into a hole.

A woman plodded out of darkness, a leg appearing and disappearing as she moved. Her hair fell to her feet, and her eyes were white and pupil-less. Although she was half-hidden by the darkness, she was clearly a beautiful woman. Soon, she stood face to face with Hermes, her face full of frustration. His smiling face overlapped with Yeon-woo’s laughing one as he’d left her territory.

Yeon-woo had snorted at her. He’d dared snort in front of a god, as if telling her to stop with her bullshit, as if he found her hilarious. He’d snorted as though he couldn’t believe this was all she could do and left.

She had forced out a memory that he’d hidden away, one that was similar to the experiences of his brother. Yeon-woo had been abandoned by his trusted comrades in the middle of enemy territory, and he’d forced his injured body to walk 150 kilometers without any help. That incident had made Yeon-woo lose all his emotions. He discarded hate, anger, revenge—he was like an automation without any feelings. That was the moment that the monster called “Cain” had been born.

Later, he would learn that it had been a misunderstanding, but by that time, it was too late. He never looked at his comrades the same way again, and in fact, he even glowered at them as though he’d kill them if he had the change. He’d forgotten about the whole thing, but she made him relive the memory. She had insinuated that it would happen all over again, and that he should betray first before he was betrayed himself. She whispered in his ear, telling him not to trust anyone and to live with suspicion and doubt. She told him not to live the life his brother had chosen.

Urd thought Yeon-woo wouldn’t be able to escape her trap. Those who sought her all ended up in clutches. That was how she’d collected Hepburn and all her other playthings. However, Yeon-woo had pushed her aside as though her intentions were laughable and obvious. He’d headed straight to the seventeenth floor as if he wouldn’t ever see her again.

Urd couldn’t read his mind. What was he thinking? He was living in the past and couldn’t even hatch a Mythical Beast because he didn’t have any dreams or hopes. How could a guy like that escape her?

“Since you make the string of fate and everything seems like a puppet show, you might not realize that people might be moving according to their own will even though they’re connected to the string.”

“Don’t make me laugh, Hermes. The string is predestined. The beginning and the end have been determined, and fate cannot be avoided. Everything we see was accurate.”

Hermes shrugged. “Well, since we see different paths, I guess we see those who walk on it differently, too.”

Urd ground her teeth. “You Olympus fools are always like that. Usurpers.”

“We overcame it, but none of you have. That’s the difference.”

“Ha! Overcame, my ass. You’re all cowards who stuck a sword in your father’s back and locked him up. Is that what you call ‘overcome’?”

“I always say that this conversation runs in circles.”

Urd bit her lip. Hermes was right. Since they had different domains, they saw different things. Even though they were both gods, they had been created differently.

“It seems like you’ve all been watching that child.” She meant Yeon-woo. 

“It’s not just me. Athena is also interested. Ares and Dionysus as well. In fact, it’s not just us. Everyone is interested.”

Most of the beings on the ninety-eighth floor had been interested in Yeon-woo from the moment he had begun adjusting his inheritance of the Draconic species according to his wishes or when he had the idea to create a Mugong that would help the Magic Circuit that didn’t flow properly. A few of them seriously plotted ways to make him their Apostle. Once he reached the fiftieth floor, which was the minimum requirement to become an Apostle, he would be exhausted from all the offers he would receive. “The demons, too.”

“What?” Urd’s eyes widened at this unexpected information. Unlike the gods, who were interested in the lower floors, it was hard to guess what demons thought. And yet, they were also focused on Yeon-woo.

“There’s rumors that Agares of the East is drooling over him.” Agares was the second-ranked of the Seventy-Two Demon Kings. He symbolized destruction and madness, and he had an endless appetite even for a demon. At the knowledge that even a demon like that was interested, Urd suddenly remembered a piece of memory she’d seen in Yeon-woo’s mind: a message that Laplace had delivered. That nameless demon had to be Agares.

Urd clenched her fist. Why were there so many beings trying to take things away from her? She hated it.

“And most of all...” Hermes smiled and rapped Herald on the ground again. A deep crack formed under the staff and began to spread. The holy territory filled with Urd’s energy began to fall apart, an ashy world appearing in its place. Dozens of gigantic boa constrictors raised their heads. Hiss! Their forked tongues glistened.  

Urd stiffened. Boa constrictors were Magical Beasts that could swallow dragons and gods in a single bite. They were Hermes’s symbol and signified his great strength. “I hope you don’t forget about me. I saw him first. I was already feeling a bit annoyed because other people were trying to take him from me, but cutting in line like this isn’t very nice, is it?”

Urd clenched her fist. Hermes was one of the few gods who could move as he wished through the land of the living and the dead. He could appear in the lower floors, although it required a lot of energy. If she got on his bad side, everything would be over. He could make the boa constrictors eat her, and she wouldn’t be able to say anything. Eventually Urd had to step back. No matter how humiliated she felt, Hermes had the power.

“It’s a relief that you understand what I’m saying.” Hermes smiled brightly and the snakes disappeared back into the ground, glaring at Urd. 

The holy territory returned to the darkness that represented Urd, but her pride didn’t return with it. “Hepburn.”

“Yes, Master.” At Urd’s command, Hepburn appeared in the darkness with her head bowed, the shadow scythe under her chin gone now that Yeon-woo had left.

“Swallow that child. Using any means necessary.” If she couldn’t have it, she would break it. Urd was stubborn like that. Also, she felt uneasy about the things that Hermes had said about Yeon-woo, not to mention how strange it was that he’d made his interest so clear. The Hermes she knew was like the wind—free and impossible to tie down. No matter how strong he grew, he never had any possessiveness or greed, and so his interest in Yeon-woo made her feel slightly alarmed. The expression in his eyes wasn’t of greed, but a protectiveness towards Yeon-woo. It was the expression of someone who wanted to hide something so that it couldn’t be stolen. ‘There’s something going on.’ Urd wondered about the reason behind this interest. She also didn’t like that Athena and Dionysus were interested in Yeon-woo, too.

They were the second generation of Olympus that hadn’t committed any crimes. Since Urd was able to see a god’s past as well, she felt that something was wrong. It was unlike Hermes to speak so much about a player.

Hepburn bowed at the command. While Urd was lost in thought, she closed the door and quietly left. At that moment, Urd felt something sharp and turned her head, about to tell Hepburn to stop. However, before she could speak, Hepburn’s head separated from her body and fell to the floor. A long shadow snatched Hepburn’s soul and disappeared into nothingness. The Guai that she thought had left with Yeon-woo had been hiding in Hepburn’s shadow all this time. It acted as soon as Urd ordered Hepburn to hurt Yeon-woo.

Urd hadn’t even noticed it. Her senses had been dulled by the power that Hermes had left behind. She was too lax, and the consequences were severe. “Aaargh!” Urd couldn’t chase after the Guai, and a terrible pain shook her holy power. Apostles were connected to the spiritual bodies of the gods they served, and it was intensely painful when they were ripped away.

Hepburn had been a precious High Elf that Urd managed to obtain only after a long struggle. Since she was a Superior species, she was priceless, and the backlash was so immense that her divine power was unraveling. Urd had to protect herself on her own.

The darkness shivered. 

On that day, the sixteenth floor was thrown into confusion at the suspension of an oracle. 

***

[This is the 17th floor, the gate of White Winds and Blue Water.]

Yeon-woo entered the next floor through a blue portal. He had officially begun his climb, and he was feeling annoyed from his encounter with Urd. However, as soon as he saw the Guai in the Black Bracelet with Hepburn’s soul, his annoyance melted away like snow.

It was as difficult to get the soul of a Superior species as it was to get a high ranker’s. In fact, it could even be considered much harder, especially if that soul belonged to an Apostle. He wasn’t sure about it, but he had a feeling that Hepburn’s soul was full of holy power from Urd. Yeon-woo couldn’t help already making plans to use that power. ‘Of course, I’ve made enemies out of the Three Norns. It’ll be a nuisance for a while.’ The three temples would likely form a search team to look for Urd’s holy power, perhaps hiring mercenaries or assassins. However, it might end up being a good thing for Yeon-woo. It would be a chance to replenish the souls he’d used up to strengthen Shanon and the others.

Yeon-woo already thought he knew why Urd was trying to get to him. She was trying to get revenge for her younger sister and toy with him. He’d been so offended that he’d kicked the door open on the way out and left the Guai behind, just in case.

Anyway, the things that Urd had pointed out were things he was already aware of. He knew that his past experiences and the betrayal his brother had suffered made him suspicious of others. When he was in Africa, he hadn’t been able to trust others easily, and when he entered the Tower, he doubted everyone. But things had changed; he’d met many people, and his attitude had softened. The last two lines in his brother’s diary had been stamped into his mind: Hyung, you’ve always been my hero. I hope you don’t lose yourself even after I’m gone.

Those words ensured that he wouldn’t embarrass his little brother.

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