Kahn stumbled at the pain of his cheek being slapped, but he didn’t fall and regained his balance.
Fortunately, the pieces in his hand didn’t drop to the floor.
Kindred smirked at him.
『Do you think things will change? That I don’t know what you’re thinking?』
『……It’s a misunderstanding.』
『A misunderstanding? Misunderstanding…..』
He hit Kahn’s other cheek. This time, it was so painful that Kahn felt like his neck was twisted. The inside of his mouth was torn, and he could taste blood.
『I really don’t like that word.』
Regardless of Kahn’s condition, Kindred’s eyes were flashing sharply.
『You can use that word for anything. It’s a misunderstanding, I think there’s been a misunderstanding. If you use that word, it excuses you from anything. Right?』
『……Again, it’s all a misunderstanding.』
『Really. What an omnipotent word.』
Kindred flicked his finger. The pieces of the Ruyi Bang in Kahn’s palm floated up and whirled above him.
『Sure. Try doing whatever you want. People should always take the chances they get. You won’t be bored then.』
A man behind Kindred quietly stepped up and held something out. It was a golden sphere.
The sphere began to shine. The pieces whirling above gathered towards it and landed in the hollow parts of the sphere.
The sacrificial vessel slowly took shape. There were hundreds of pieces gathered, so it couldn’t be called a “piece” anymore.
Kahn looked at it with his jaw clenched.
Of the pieces, there were some that the Devil Army used to own, but 40% of it was what he had obtained after going through near-death situations.
For the last few years, he had acted as the Devil Army’s assassin. He killed any descendants the Devil Army discovered and took their pieces. He didn’t even want to think about how many people he had killed in that process.
But every time, Kindred was happier. A bloodied piece would have more grudges. He said there was no better material to finish the vessel.
Kahn may have been a demon, but Kindred was an even greater demon.
The Heavenly Demon? He felt like he knew why the divine being was deep in slumber, not responding to their calls.
Who would like such lunatics?
The current head bishop was the one who disposed of the previous head bishop, Black Dawn, and some other bishops to sit on the throne.
He didn’t have a legitimate tie to the throne, so he had to depend on the Heavenly Demon. No matter how much others called him a heretic, if he received the favor of the Heavenly Demon, he would be legitimate.
But the Heavenly Demon didn’t listen to the head bishop’s desperate pleas. So the head bishop had to use another way.
If the Heavenly Demon didn’t respond, he could find the other faces of the Heavenly Demon and serve them.
Kahn, who was only a sword-wielder, didn’t know the exact teachings of the Devil Army.
However, he did know that whenever the Heavenly Demon was reincarnated through Samsara, he would teach important things to the world or learn something to make his soul even more complete.
He also knew that the Devil Army called those “other faces” of the Heavenly Demon.
It was a term for the previous lives of the Heavenly Demon.
The Monkey King was one of the strongest lives of the Heavenly Demon.
Of course the head bishop desired the Monkey King.
But the real Monkey King had disappeared when the Heavenly Demon entered into a slumber, so bringing his shedding was the wisest choice.
They would do it with the sacrificial ceremony.
Everything was prepared.
The shedding was bound tightly with Divine Iron because he refused to leave the palace, and sacrifices were spread throughout the mountains for his descent.
The altar was prepared. Fire burned in the bronze braziers.
All the officials of the Devil Army—the bishops, diocesan bishops, high priests, normal priests, and honorary priests—were there.
Now, only the prayer ceremony was left.
The moment the descent succeeded, they would immediately exterminate all the insects that dirtied the holy territory in the Five Mountains.
And after that…..
‘Let’s not think about it.’
Kahn shut his eyes.
They probably wouldn’t be able to succeed with the prayer ceremony. He wouldn’t let them. That, in itself, would cause a commotion, but he didn’t want to think about what came next.
『You said the insects in this sacred place have nothing to do with you?』
Kindred opened his mouth, looking at the shining sacrificial vessel.
Kahn opened his shut eyes and bowed.
Sacred place. He was talking about the Monkey King’s Palace.
Yeon-woo’s party and the chasers were insects that needed to be taken care of for daring to step into such a sacred place.
『Then come back after you get rid of them all. Only then will you get what you want.』
Kindred’s gaze turned towards the altar.
In front of the bronze braziers, a robed man was praying. His youthful face could be seen through the slight movement of the robe.
There was a subtle light shining around him. He looked like a saint.
Kahn grit his teeth and bowed.
『Thank you for trusting me.』
『You three, follow him.』
Four, five, six. Three apostles followed Kahn. Kahn left the central palace with them in tow.
Kindred snorted, looking at Kahn walk away, and slowly moved to the finished sacrificial vessel. The remaining third bishop quietly followed him.
『Why are you letting him live? He’s a hunting dog who can’t be used anymore.』
Obviously, the Devil Army wasn’t planning on upholding their promise, even if Kahn did all they asked. Doyle was an important key who would lead them to a new era.
They needed to take care of Kahn quietly.
『Who said I’m letting him live?』
『We’re in front of a holy altar. We’ve already given plenty of sacrifices; is there a need to use dirty blood? It’ll just be bad luck.』
『I didn’t think about it deeply enough.』
The third bishop belatedly realized Kindred’s plans. He was planning on cleaning Kahn up after all the insects were taken care of. Kahn would be tired then, so he wouldn’t be able to avoid it.
『Then let’s begin the ceremony.』
Kindred walked up the five stairs and put the completed sacrificial vessel on the altar.
He wasn’t the one leading the prayer ceremony. His role was only one of a butler who helped the one in charge lead it smoothly.
The man praying in front of the altar slowly took off his robe. Doyle raised his head with pupilless eyes.
Then, he opened his mouth.
『Please answer, other face of the Heavenly Demon.』
* * *
『Aw. Are you okay?』
While leaving through the entrance, Kahn heard Nike’s voice and nodded subtly. It was a small movement, so the bishops next to him didn’t notice.
‘Yeah. I’m fine, so don’t worry.’
Nike had been in Kahn’s mind, quietly resting there. Nike was such an innocent and kind child.
Kahn wondered how a guy like Yeon-woo had been able to meet him.
He must’ve activated Holy Fire because the injury in his mouth quickly healed.
Kahn was about to thank him when Nike carefully spoke up.
『What kind of friend is Doyle?』
Nike wondered if he had asked something he shouldn’t have. But Kahn laughed lightly and answered nonchalantly.
A hateful bastard.
Kahn could feel that Nike was curious about why he was saving him if he was so hateful. His smile deepened.
‘Yeah, he’s hateful. He never listens to me and talks back. I can’t beat him up either. Ugh.’
Kahn began to explain his backstory as he introduced Doyle.
‘It’s a bit boring, but do you want to listen?’
『Yeah! I like stories like this.』
Thinking that Nike was the type of child old-timers would like, Kahn continued.
Kahn was fourteen when he first met Doyle. At the time, things were cold between Kahn and his father, Iron Lion. He coincidentally met a ranker called “Red Skull,” who came as a customer.
Doyle was a ten-year-old child who tagged along.
‘This really dark, old guy. He’s the third bishop.’
Nike was greatly surprised. That meant that he had given his son to the head bishop. Did that make sense?
‘It does. To those lunatics. They probably think it’s nothing to sell their children to gain their god’s favor.’
Nike, who only had good memories of his mother, couldn’t believe it.
‘You can’t attempt to understand this world with logic.’
Kahn’s voice was cynical.
Kahn, who was furious at his father, and Doyle, who was disgusted by his family. It wouldn’t be a mere coincidence that the two met and created a plan in the span of a few hours to work together.
And the two children left a short note saying not to look for them and left.
‘Not much, huh?’
But Nike shook his head. No, Kahn felt like he did.
『It’s like looking at me and Master.』
Kahn felt strange.
『We went through something similar. And Kahn, you’re like Master.』
‘Me? And him? Nah. How can you compare me to such a dry human? Am I not a bit more good-looking, though?’
Kahn made a light joke.
『No. You’re similar. Very.』
Nike spoke firmly.
『Master is the same as you. Wanting to save his little brother. I’m jealous. I wasn’t able to save my older brothers.』
Kahn stopped walking.
『Why did you suddenly stop?』
The bishops behind Kahn frowned, but Kahn didn’t hear them. A shiver went down his spine.
‘What… are you talking about?’
Kahn’s voice was low.
‘He had a little brother?’
『Oh, I’m not supposed to talk about this.』
Nike hesitated for a bit, then began to explain Yeon-woo’s situation, leaving the important parts out.
A little brother who was trapped somewhere. Yeon-woo’s lonely journey to Tartarus. A clue about his brother’s whereabouts and what Yeon-woo did to gain it.
『That’s why Master came here. To find you after getting that letter.』
Kahn’s body trembled. He felt like he had been hammered in the head. Yeon-woo came to save his little brother? That guy? That moment, images of what he had been through with Yeon-woo flashed through his head.
-Sometimes, I’m jealous of you guys.
In the Tutorial, Yeon-woo looked at Doyle and himself with longing eyes. His face was covered by a mask, but his eyes were filled with gloom.
In the Five Mountains, Yeon-woo expressed his pity for his separation from Doyle. Then, Yeon-woo had said that he could tell him anything.
He hadn’t known at the time.
He just thought Yeon-woo must’ve had something going on, too. He never explained his personal business. His mouth was always closed.
However, what kind of emotions were in his eyes when he looked at them? Grief? Pain? Whatever it was, it was deeper than what he had thought.
And. Everything would’ve been painful to Yeon-woo.
‘I forced the guy….. the guy who barely found a clue about his brother to come here?’
They had similar goals.
His shock turned into guilt. The guilt drenched his body, drowning him. It turned into self-hatred.
He looked down at his hands. He couldn’t see them because his sight was gone, but his two hands were shaking.
‘What have I done?’
* * *
『Why are you like this?』
In Yeon-woo’s memory, the Monkey King’s shedding was a confident and proud being. The aura he exuded wouldn’t fall short of Hermes’s.
But right now, his bloodied existence felt faint.
What had happened? And what were those chains around him?
“I don’t know. F***. Don’t ask.”
But he still had his pride, so he whipped his head and grumbled. A thought occurred to Yeon-woo while he was looking at him.
‘In this condition.’
He looked down at his left hand.
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