To be fair, it was understandable that the Martial King would think my request was ridiculous. We’d only ever passed each other a few times during the Ball of Kings, and it was extremely rude of me to visit the One-horned tribe’s village without an invitation. He was already holding himself back a lot.
Also, it wasn’t a surprise that he’d be angry at hearing Allforone’s name. Everyone knew how deep his enmity for Allforone was. I felt the same thing since Allforone had killed all the Draconic species in the Tower. The ancient dragon Kalatus, who was like a father to me, had suffered until the end because of Allforone, and even though he was in the arms of nature now, I could still remember the moment he closed his eyes for the last time in the Dragon's Temple.
“Please.” But that was then. I had to meet Allforone. He never descended from the seventy-seventh floor and was an insurmountable wall for players, crushing my dream of reaching the top of the Tower. All I had left was the elixir, and I couldn’t get it at all.
Even though I was one of the Nine Kings and Arthia had become the equal of the Eight Large Clans, the mysterious elixir was still hard to attain. The reason for that was given to me after I’d achieved so much already. ‘Because Allforone has it.’
I didn’t know why he had it. I only knew that he’d come across it hundreds of years ago. Perhaps he used it back then.
Still, meeting Allforone was something I could only dream of. If we ever met, we would be enemies. I’d only ever seen Allforone twice. The first time was at a time when the war between the Large Clans was so bad that he’d appeared to calm everything down. At the time, I only felt that he was extremely strong, and I couldn’t tell just how great he truly was because my Draconic Eyes weren’t fully developed yet. The second time was different.
After a long search, when I finally had the Superbia and Luxuria Soulstones in my possession, I had been exhilarated at the thought that I could learn Luciel’s power when Allforone suddenly appeared, wrapped in shadows so that his figure was partially hidden.『You again.』
It was hard to tell whether Allforone was a man or a woman, or even if he was young or old. He didn’t speak with his mouth, and he used a language I didn’t know. However, for some reason, I could understand him, and he strangely seemed to know me well.
『Has it been nine times? Ten? You've returned over and over. I thought you’d finally run out of strength to come all the way here, but here you are again. Yes, your fate is twisted, and your life is still short. Nothing has changed at all. Your fate is to fail over and over, and you will continue failing in the future.』
He said things that I didn’t understand and most of them sounded unpleasant. Failure and fate were two of the words I hated most. I was annoyed, but I couldn’t talk back because through the Draconic Eyes, he was too much of an overpowering entity. His existence was bigger than that of the ancient dragon Kalatus, vaster than that of the gods who’d sent me Factors, and more extravagant than that of the demon Agares.
He had a colossal amount of soul power that filled the stage, and he could probably even crush it at a whim. It was as though he were the only existence between the earth and the sky. It was impossible to believe that he was a mortal like me.
Although I hadn’t met too many gods and demons, I could guarantee that none of them could compare to him. He was the world, and the world was him. All the laws in the Tower revolved around him like satellites orbiting a planet.
He was continuing the passion of the Draconic species, the beings who wanted to make all laws of the world theirs. It was at that point that I realized how the great Draconic species had fallen without being able to injure him at all, why no players had been able to pass the seventy-seventh floor in thousands of years, and why gods and demons had been ripped apart when they tried to leave the ninety-eighth floor. Who could stop such an entity?
As soon as those shadowed eyes met mine, I felt my body and soul being split apart.
『Oho! There’s been some improvement. You can look me in the eye now?』
The shadowed eyes were definitely smiling.
『You have the right eyes but you can’t see your own path—what a sad fate. That might be why you still have dreams about finding the path hidden in the darkness. And yet, you still haven’t found the light. What a shame, child. 』
The word “dream” lingered in my mind. I thought of the benefits I still hadn’t been able to use because I didn’t understand. Had Allforone seen them?
『I hope Luciel’s fire can light your path. Right now, it’s just a candle that’ll go out easily. You must grow it and use any means possible. If you use the same methods, you’ll just repeat things over and over. You’ll only get hurt if you keep walking in place.』
Allforone continued talking as though he pitied me.
『I hope his light can illuminate your path.』
And then, Allforone disappeared after saying everything he wanted to say. I didn’t tell anyone about this and tried to puzzle out the meaning of his words. Allforone’s three main skills were Shukuchi, Immortality, and Thousand Li Eyes, but the ancient dragon Kalatus had explained a few more to me: ‘Clairvoyance’.
Allforone could see someone’s future, past, and present. Someone with power like that wouldn’t speak nonsense, but I couldn’t understand what he meant at all. I wanted to ask him about that, as well as about the whereabouts of the elixir. What did he mean when he said I’d fail multiple times?
However, there was no way for me to get to the seventy-seventh floor where Allforone resided. Red Dragon on the seventy-sixth floor would never let me through. I wasn’t on bad terms exactly with the Summer Queen, but things weren’t good between us either.
If I brought up a sensitive topic like Allforone, she would shoot her breath at me without any hesitation.
However, the Martial King was different, and he knew a shortcut to the seventy-seventh floor. The problem was that he didn’t want to help me.
“Do you know about what kind of being Allforone is?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that.
“He’s the Apostle of the Tower. He’s the Tower itself. You think you can stand against that? No way.”
I clenched my teeth. “You’re not going to show me the path to the end?”
The Martial King lifted a corner of his lips. “Why should I? I don’t have the desire nor a reason. Why should I bother?”
“Then…” I spread my Sky Wings open, holding Dragon Slayer in my hands. “I’ll make you.”
* * *
“What’s up with your face?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t ask questions.”
Leonhardt pointed at my face, but I covered it with a grumble. That damned geezer. It wasn’t fair that he’d gone for my eyes as soon as we started. Thanks to him, I returned to the clan house with a black eye like a panda.
The Martial King probably let me off easily, but I still felt wronged. Dammit. ‘There’s something going on there.’ I didn’t know what the Martial King’s relationship to Allforone was, but I was sure of one thing: I didn’t have the power to mess with it.
There was only one option left. I had to climb the Tower with my own strength and meet Allforone then. I grew dizzy just thinking about it. I’d already spent a lot of time in the Tower so far, how much longer would I have to stay? I was worried that Mom’s illness was worsening out of worry for me. Hyung was probably worried, too. But if I returned to Earth, I would be considered an eliminated player, and I wouldn’t be able to return.
“Sadi and Kun Khr are here.”
They were the newest members to join after the clan was founded. Many people were watching and threatening Arthia, and we were preparing for war against the Blood Land since the Gluttony Emperor wanted to prey on me.
Our clan members were visiting different Large Clans to build up allies, and I heard that those two had gone to the Devil Army and the Sea of Time. I wasn’t sure about the Devil Army, but there was a chance with the Sea of Time. However, Leonhardt shook his head dejectedly. “Nothing. Discussions with Blood Land have come to an end too. They want you.” Leonhardt was as famous for his wisdom as his outstanding swordsmanship. If he said the discussions were over, it meant there wasn’t any hope left.
“So in the end, it’s another war for us.” I sighed, leaning back in my chair. It hadn’t been that long since we’d last fought a war, and another one was looming on the horizon. I wasn’t scared, but it would eat away at the time I needed to climb the Tower, and it was extremely frustrating.
* * *
“I’d like to leave the clan.” Kun Khr’s shocking announcement shook Arthia.
“Hey, where did that come from all of a sudden? We were drinking together just fine yesterday.”
“Is it because of Sadi? Why don't you think about it again?”
“No. I thought about it all night. If you’d like to punish me, I’ll accept it gladly.” Kun Khr seemed firm. It was probably because of Sadi, who died in battle some time ago. She and Kun Khr had been lovers and had even been thinking about getting married after the war was over. But now, everything was ruined.
“Hey! Cha Jeong-woo! You can’t just let him go like that!”
“Stay well. Don’t get beaten up. If you do, I’m gonna find you and beat you up again.”
“Thank you for everything.” Kun Khr left after bowing. The other clan members looked disconcerted. We’d managed to endure all the wars because of our close-knit camaraderie, and everyone’s spirits plummeted with his departure.
Also, Kun Khr had been my disciple, which probably made the other members of Arthia feel even more betrayed. Kun Khr looked guilty, but I sent him away with a smile. I should’ve been the one carrying the guilt.
“Hey, hey! Why does everyone look so depressed? It’ll be fine if we just do what we’re supposed to.” I didn’t like the despondent atmosphere, and so I tried to get up, clapping my hands together. “Huh?”
The world spun, and I found myself falling over. When I tried to catch my balance, I couldn’t find any strength in my legs. I could see the clan members running over in a panic, their mouths moving. But I couldn’t hear a single thing because of the ringing in my ears. The world was still spinning, and something poured out of my mouth: a clump of clotted blood and black liquid. The toxic smell of Devil Poison stung my nose, and I felt like something was very wrong with my heart.Previous Chapter Next Chapter