‘Benteke is here?’ Yeon-woo checked through the Sea Water Charm once more because he thought he had seen wrong. But it turned out that it was true that Benteke and Triton had appeared. ‘So, Poseidon is attacking first.’
[Poseidon watches you closely.]
Poseidon had expressed his desire to punish Yeon-woo, and it seemed that as soon as Yeon-woo had begun climbing the floors again, he’d notified his Apostle, Benteke.
[Athena encourages you quietly.]
[Hermes protests to Poseidon.]
[Posideon ignores him.]
[Poseidon has announced that he will punish you severely.]
[The opinions of the godly society <Olympus> are split.]
[Many godly societies are watching you.]
[Many demonic societies are interested in the situation.]
[Agares tempts you in a sweet voice that you can use him anytime.]
[Hundun doesn’t say anything.]
[Azrael looks at you expectantly. He hopes for many deaths. He has blessed the power, the ‘3rd Spirit’.]
[The ‘3rd Spirit’ has risen one level due to the blessing.]
Yeon-woo realized the number of gazes on him had grown. This had been a hot topic on the ninety-eighth floor, and they were probably curious how a god planned to punish someone.
‘I wonder how they think of players. Do they think of us as little more than entertainment?’ Yeon-woo thought that was likely. In games, players used avatars, which came from the word avatāra. It meant descent or embodiment, and gods and demons used their avatars to interfere with the mortal world. That meant that everyone, including their avatars, were playthings or non-player characters at the least.
The lower world was only a source of amusement for the gods and demons trapped on the ninety-eighth floor. They didn’t care about it at all, but since they were bored, they liked to interfere. Although Poseidon huffed that he was angry, he was merely punishing him to get some amusement.
[Many gods show mysterious smiles at your thoughts.]
[Many demons burst out laughing. They ask when you will confront Poseidon.]
[Agares stays silent.]
[Azrael has a strange smile.]
He felt a bit annoyed. ‘But it doesn’t matter.’ Yeon-woo released himself from the vision of the Sea Water Charm and spread his Fire Wings. He slowly got up and moved his Spirit Familiars. He didn’t need to worry what other beings thought of him. ‘I can just fight them if I have to.’ Yeon-woo raised his head and kicked off from the ground. Boom!
* * *
Meanwhile, the situation on the river was chaotic.
“Th-there’s a large fleet coming this way!” When the player who had been watching the river for any sea monsters screamed, the crew members, including Heidi, all turned to look.
Heidi’s face stiffened. She quickly ran to the deck and called up a spirit. A wind spirit woke up and pulled visions from far away to her. As their lookout said, dozens of ships were approaching them rapidly, the trident symbol on their masts clear.
Heidi knew what the symbol meant and how it would affect her crew. She tried to shout reassurances at them, but the crew had already frozen.
“Triton! It’s Triton!”
“Why is Poseidon’s clan coming here!”
Not all pirates were the same. Although Triton had taken over the Blue Rose’s position as the ruler of the twenty-eighth floor, they were also on their way to becoming one of the top clans. Their leader, Benteke, was a famed high ranker. When he was the first-mate of the Blue Rose, he was already known for killing all his enemies. As the leader of Triton, he was infamous for his brutality.
It was natural that the crew would be frightened to find out that Triton was speeding to them. Why were they approaching? To loot them? But if that were the case, surely just a couple of ships would do. Why was Benteke bringing his entire force? Had the players done something wrong? Or was there a grudge between the Hoarder and Benteke?
The confusion spread and fear grew with the lack of information. Worrying that things might become too dangerous, Heidi gave her wind spirit an order. ‘Silf!’ The spirit scattered and made Heidi’s voice ring out in the ears of the crew. “Everyone, pull yourselves together!”
The crew all jumped in surprise, but it worked. They quickly pulled themselves together and looked at Heidi anxiously.
“I don’t know what Triton wants, but we can’t stay still either. Everyone, get in position!”
“To your positions!”
“To your positions!”
They began to move. Yeon-woo hadn’t ordered her to do so, but Heidi. Had already assigned each of the crew members a position. She had created a manual with instructions on how to deal with sea monsters which was useful for this situation as well. Still, the crew members couldn’t help feeling scared.
Without Yeon-woo, they didn’t know what to do. In fact, they didn’t know if he could take Triton on even if he were around. There was nothing they could do but look at Triton with trembling gazes.
Heidi used all her magic to wrap different spirits around the ship. She was a healer, so her spirit magic was relatively weak, but she could still control a lot of spirits like most Elves. Triton’s ships appeared in the nervous silence, each ship as large as Yeon-woo’s ghost ship.
They began to circle the ghost ship, which didn’t move. Each time the crew expressed their worries, Heidi reassured them as she kept an eye on Triton. If Triton wanted to destroy them, they wouldn’t bother to surround them first. The ghost ship would be sinking into the river by now. However, Triton hadn’t attacked, which meant they wanted to say something first.
Heidi decided to place her hopes on that. She wished that Yeon-woo would find out that they were in danger and return quickly. At that moment, a ship approached. A man stood under the flag with a trident symbol. His thin figure and sharp eyes were unforgettable, and he shouted in a voice filled with magic power. “The Hoarder! Where is the Hoarder?!”
The crew just glanced at each other without answering. Eventually, Heidi stepped forward. “The Hoarder isn’t here right now.”
The man looked at Heidi with a frown. “Who are you?”
“I’m in charge of the ship while the Hoarder isn’t here. He’ll be back soon, so if you tell me what…”
“You don’t seem to be the One-horned tribe girl that the Hoarder travels with. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter.” The man ignored Heidi and snorted. Heidi bit her lip in humiliation, but she didn’t show anything on her face.
“Actually, it’s better that the Hoarder isn’t here. Everyone, listen!”
The atmosphere shook, and the river churned from the loudness of the man’s voice. The crew of the ghost ship looked at him anxiously, wondering what he was about to say. They could tell from his appearance that he was Benteke’s subordinate, Wolf, who was speaking on behalf of Benteke. “Benteke, the king of the sea I serve, has spoken. He will punish the Hoarder as the gods will.”
The crew members turned pale. Realizing that her hunch was right, Heidi gritted her teeth.
“However, he also said that we will not sacrifice any lambs before the Hoarder is punished. I’ll give you one minute to throw your weapons down and surrender. Those who do not will become food for the sea monster kings along with the Hoarder!”
His words shook everyone. They had one minute to make a life-or-death decision.
“Stop…!” Heidi wanted to tell them not to move and fall for the trap, but it was too late.
“Boat! Is there a boat? A boat!”
The crew ran around busily looking for lifeboats without listening to Heidi. It quickly became chaotic above the deck.
“Fifty-nine! Fifty-eight! Hahaha!” As Wolf counted down, the chaos intensified. The players killed the elderly Cannibal Monster Humans and took their lifeboats. The more impatient ones jumped overboard. Although the acid and poison was dangerous, they thought it would be fine if they protected themselves with magic power as they swam to Triton’s boats.
Heidi did everything she could to stop them. She was sure that Yeon-woo would come if they just held on for a little while, and there was no guarantee that they would be spared even if they surrendered. ‘Triton’s goal is to destroy the ship before the Hoarder comes back! This ship is way stronger than it looks!’
It was a ship that the Cannibal Monster Humans, not Charon, had made. She had never heard or seen of this hidden piece before, so she didn’t know whether or not it had a secret. Was it possible that even Triton wouldn’t be able to destroy it?
However, no one listened to her, and even a few Team Trinity members joined the surrender.
“Sorry, Captain! I want to live!”
The ghost ship, which had been busy just a few minutes ago, was now dead silent. Heidi, Dylan, Jun, a few members of Team Trinity, and the trembling elderly Cannibal Monster Humans were the only ones left on the ship.
Heidi went blank. How could everything she’d painstaking built topple so easily? She hadn’t expected anything from the pirates since they were Yeon-woo’s captives, anyway. However, the members of Team Trinity had been together since the eleventh floor. They were comrades who had fought side-by-side, and because of that, they were special to her. And yet, they’d turned their backs on her as soon as they were threatened. It was as though friendship and camaraderie didn’t exist.
“One-sided trust and expectations always turn into disappointment.” At that moment, she remembered Yeon-woo’s words. She hadn’t thought it was important back then, but now she wondered if he’d known from the start that this would happen and that what she’d built was actually very fragile?
“Heidi.” Dylan gripped Heidi. Only then did she pull herself together. Thwak. She slapped herself, putting the betrayal behind her. She could resent them to her heart’s content after she found a way to survive.
“Everyone, protect your positions until the end! Hang in there until the Hoarder comes back!”
At Heidi’s commands, the remaining crew members all activated barrier skills. Her spirits spread out and created a protective dome. Triton’s cannons blasted away at them, exuding smoke. The blasts thundered towards them, churning the water.
The lifeboats were overwhelmed by the choppy waves. The Players swimming to Triton’s ships sank into the water, and those who managed to arrive shouted urgently.
“The lifeline! Please drop the lifeline!”
“Please, save me! Please!”
But all they received was ridicule.
“Why should we?”
“Wh-what? Didn’t you say you would save us if we surrendered?!”
“We said we would spare you, not rescue you. Kekeke.”
“Yeah. Why would they trust pirates? Is something wrong with their heads?”
The players realized that they had been conned. However, there was nothing they could do, and they all screamed in fright. Boom! Boom! Triton’s cannonballs descended on the ghost ship, hitting the barrier around it. The spirits bustled around to diffuse the impact of the explosions.
Heidi trembled but she forced herself to hold on. The crew helped her with their skills, and as they did, they realized that they needed less magic power than they normally did. ‘It’s a hidden piece! The ship has a function like this!’
Heidi finally understood why Yeon-woo had chosen the Cannibal Monster Humans instead of Charon to build the ship. It had not only managed to withstand the sea king monsters, it also helped the players use less magic power.
Heidi found it much easier to defend the ship. Although a spirit was occasionally destroyed and her magic power was twisted, it was bearable. As she used her spirits, she also healed and buffed the crew members. “Stop them! Do whatever you can!”
The Cannibal Monster Humans also deflected the attacks. Cannons that she hadn’t known about opened on the sides of the ship, and the ghost ship began to shoot out fire. Boom! Boom!
As the attacks from both sides surged, the players floating on the river water were swept away, their screams disappearing.
“This won’t work.” Wolf didn’t like the situation, especially since the ghost ship was still hanging on. He didn’t know how the Hoarder knew about using the Cannibal Monster Humans to build a ship, but he needed to create a mess before the Hoarder returned. “Oh well. Let’s capture the ship then.”
At Wolf’s orders, his ship began to slide towards the ghost ship. He was planning on ramming the boat and getting his crew to take over. Heidi realized what he was trying to do and tried to stop Wolf’s boat, but she couldn’t focus because of the cannonballs raining on the ship.
Wolf’s boat was almost on them.
“They’re going to ram us!” Dylan prepared himself for the impact. At that moment, there was a loud explosion. The river churned once more and a column of water shot up from the impact of the collision. The column had gone straight through Wolf’s ship, and when it splattered down, it left a column of black fire behind.
Wolf’s ship sank into the river in two pieces. It was so sudden that Wolf and the other players of Triton couldn’t do anything.
Yeon-woo stood over the column of fire with his Fire Wings spread.Previous Chapter Next Chapter