『Everything must go smoothly. This is your last chance to prove your loyalty. Understood?』
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
『I hope you’re more useful this time.』
The conversation finally ended. However, Aether couldn’t move. His clenched fists were shaking. ‘How long do I have to suffer this humiliation?’ After failing to get Trismegistus’ Tablet, he had been treated like an outcast. He still had his position as a member of the Senate of Elohim, but the responsibility for Ione’s fell on him alone.
He had been the Ninth Bishop of the Devil Army, but Kindred had put so many limits on him that he couldn’t do much. In the end, he was just a good-for-nothing who was unaffiliated with any group. It wasn’t what he wanted at all. He wanted the Elohim to respect and admire him—and even consider him a potential candidate for the Consul. In the Devil Army, he wanted to become the Heavenly Demon’s servant and have his power in his hand.
He had dreams of reaching the peak in both groups and ruling the Tower. Where had things gone wrong? He couldn’t even hope for anything close to that now. It was difficult just trying to survive in his current position. From what he heard, the new heir of the Family of Life after Ione’s death, Paneth, was suspicious of him.
‘Shit, shit!’ Aether clenched his teeth, his eyes bloodshot. He had scratched his way up by betraying his comrade and his twin sister. He couldn’t fall like this, but he didn’t see how he could get out of danger.
The Elohim was watching him so closely that his connection with the Devil Army might be discovered at any moment. On the Devil Army’s part, Kindred was urging him through telepathy to carry out his task. He tried telling Kindred that his position was in danger, and he had to lie low for the time being.
However, Kindred just scoffed. He said that was Aether’s problem and if Aether couldn’t handle being a bishop, he ought to resign. He’d sent one last message: “A new godly order will descend on the Elohim soon. Investigate and take matters in your own hands if possible.”
‘He’s…telling me to completely betray the Elohim.’ Although he didn’t have any sentimental feelings for the Elohim, it seemed like regardless of whatever he tried, he always ended up betraying someone. He knew that he wouldn’t get anything from backstabbing his comrades. Also, he wasn’t even 100 percent on the Devil Army’s side. He was pretending to follow the Heavenly Demon faithfully, but the truth was that he’d only joined them because of the humiliation that the Elohim was putting him through. He didn’t want to cross over to them completely either.
‘I’m going to be a two-faced bat forever. Hahaha! Jeong-woo, you were right. You really were.’ Aether considered it a curse that Heaven Wing’s ghost had left him, which was why he was full of regret. Would he have avoided his current precarious position if he hadn’t given in to temptation and remained in Arthia? ‘No. I would’ve fallen like Heaven Wing. I made the right decision. I chose the right path. What’s wrong is this dirty world!’
He clenched his teeth. His eyes flashed fiercely. “I’ve already come this far, I can’t go back. I’ll bet everything on this. Everything…!” He had already crossed the river and couldn’t turn back. It wasn’t that hard. He just had to do the same thing he’d already done before. The only difference was that he betrayed Arthia in the past, and now, he was going to betray the Elohim.
‘The question is how I’m going to approach Paneth.’ Once he organized his thoughts, his mind cleared. Plans naturally took shape in his mind. However, there was an important condition before he could push through with his plans: how could he convince the suspicious Paneth?
Paneth was Ione’s adopted daughter, and she was a new power of the Protogenoi species. She was also considered to be a potential Consul member now that they had lost three members to the Spring Queen. If he couldn’t gain her trust, all his plans would be useless. He was deep in thought for a while, but the situation was resolved for him in a way that he never expected.
“Miss Paneth wishes to meet you.”
A message suddenly came for him in the middle of the night. The messenger introduced himself as an errand boy for Paneth.
“The head of Life sent you?”
“Yes. She said she wishes to see you in private.”
Aether narrowed his eyes. Paneth had never requested to meet him like this. He felt wary, but the messenger just stood there silently as if he didn’t know anything and was only waiting for his answer.”
“Fine. I’ll meet her at one in the morning.”
The messenger disappeared with the wind after bowing to him.
Aether swept back his hair. The trigger had been pulled. He no longer had anything to fall back on.
* * *
The Protogenoi species were great gods in the ancient times, but they fell to the lower world after losing their holiness. As time passed, their bloodline grew more diluted, and they even lost their supernatural strength.
Still, they ruled as an important group within the Elohim because they had the noble personality and grace of those who had divine blood. From that point of view, Paneth was the most outstanding person in the Elohim. She had been born to the Family of Birth, and after being adopted into the Family of Life, she naturally became the head of both families. Also, the divine blood in her head exuded holiness that was close to that of her ancestors.
When Paneth had been born, many expectations had been placed on her. She worked hard not to fail them, and with her outstanding abilities and insight, she became the leader of the Protogenoi species now that Ione was gone.
‘I can’t get used to those arrogant eyes, no matter how much I look at them. Damned bitch.’ Aether could barely hold back his frown when he met Paneth.
Whenever he saw those prideful eyes, he thought of women like the Summer Queen, the Spring Queen, and even his dead sister, Hemera. All of them considered themselves above their opponents. Aether always felt his heart stiffen whenever he met women like that. “You summoned me?”
However, he only cursed them in his mind, and he didn’t dare reveal his thoughts. He was always like that. He was weak towards the strong and strong towards the weak. Right now, he had to look good in front of Paneth and alleviate her suspicions before he could make any progress.
However, his mind went blank when Paneth tossed a thick report to him. “Th-this is…”
“Head of Light. This is proof that you were colluding with the Devil Army. I see you became the Ninth Bishop through your diligent work.”
The report that Paneth tossed Aether recorded all the times that he’d contacted the Devil Army and the locations where they’d met. There were even details about the deals they’d made. Aether realized that something had gone wrong and tried to attack Paneth.
It was a skill that condensed light and slaughtered opponents in the blink of an eye. Although Aether knew that it was difficult to kill Paneth, he hoped to injure her and run away. However, before the rays of light exploded, two shadows descended from the sky and cut off his arms.
“Aack!” Aether plopped on the ground, spraying blood. Paneth’s subordinates cut off his legs so he couldn’t resist any further and stuck their swords into his body. “No…!” He trembled. The sword that slid up from under his chin was a special one that the Elohim had created to deal with the Devil Army.
When the sword with holy blood pierced the pineal gland in the center of the brain, the holy blood would cut off the Channel with the Heavenly Demon, which meant Aether had lost all of his power as a bishop.
Paneth looked down at Aether coldly. Aether was trembling in fear. The fact that he was still alive despite the injury to his brain meant that he’d built up a lot of power from the Elohim and the Devil Army. He really had a persistent will to live. She was starting to feel that the situation was contemptible, and there was something pathetic about looking down on him as he lay frozen in fear.
“Even though we weren’t related by blood, Ione was my treasured father. Not only did you kill him, you were trying to sell out our entire clan. Can you really call yourself the head of a family?”
“Shit! What do you know?! You grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth! Do you understand what it feels like to endure insults and beatings your entire life?!” Aether spewed out curses. He should’ve known what was coming when Paneth asked to see him privately. His carelessness had landed him in this situation. However, he still wanted to say everything on his mind before he died.
“Is that all you have to say?” Paneth’s cold tone.
Aether felt his mind focus. Did she have to go this far if she was only taking revenge? She could have killed him on the spot, but her subordinates were only holding him down. Something was up. His desire to live spiked. He still had many things he wanted to do. “S-spare me!”
“Why should I spare you? You’re my father’s enemy.”
“I-I’m not the one who killed Ione! All I did was run away because the Summer Queen was chasing me. The people who killed Ione were the Summer Queen and the Martial King! And the Devil Army! I was only caught in the middle! Spare me! Please, spare me! I’ll do anything, so please…!” Aether didn’t have any other options. He would’ve sold his soul if it meant he would survive.
Paneth’s eyes turned cold. She was embarrassed to be the same species as him. Still, she had gotten the information she wanted. She nodded at the subordinates who were restraining him. One of them nodded and put a firm, metal necklace around Aether’s neck. A lock shut with a click.
“It’s the Golden Headband.”
The Golden Headband was the restraint that had suppressed the Heavenly Demon long ago. The dislike that gods and demons had for it was second only to their dislike for divine iron. How did Paneth get this valuable object?
Paneth just smiled coldly and continued. “From now on, you will be my faithful dog. Bark when I tell you to bark, and crawl when I tell you to crawl. And when I tell you to die, die. That’s the only way you can survive. Well? Do you agree?”
Aether swallowed. He lifted his head to look at Paneth. If he said no, Paneth would probably kill him. There was nothing Aether could do. “I-I agree!”
Paneth’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t realize dogs could talk.”
Aether understood her meaning and crawled over to her feet. Then, he barked, “Woof! Woof-woof!”
“Good. Looks like you got the message.”
“Woof!” There was nothing else Aether could do.
“I’ll give you my first order then. Be our guide to Tartarus.”
* * *
[The person you are trying to summon cannot be found.]
Yeon-woo gripped the Black Bracelet in his hand, standing still as he read the message in the air. Urrrng!Previous Chapter Next Chapter