‘It’s time.’ Paneth gritted her teeth as she looked at her party members, her eyes glinting viciously. Poseidon and the other gods were pressuring her heavily.
[Poseidon requests you quickly progress with the quest.]
[Demeter gifts a stronger blessing to you and your party.]
[Hestia looks at you silently.]
[Hera watches you in annoyance.]
When she’d seen the sudden quest window, she thought that her chance had finally come. She had mainly come to Tartarus to search for Yeon-woo on Poseidon’s behalf and, on Demeter, Hestia, and Hera’s orders, judge whether he was a threat to Olympus. At first, she had wondered why she’d been assigned such a mission. The gods promised to fulfill her tribe’s old dreams, but she didn’t understand why superior divine beings from a large society like Olympus were falling all over themselves to get rid of a single player. She believed she could kill the player in question on her own; after all, she was a direct descendant of two important families.
She was confident that other than the Nine Kings, no one would be able to defeat her. In fact, she believed she could match any of the Nine Kings as long as she had the blessings of the four divine beings. But after fighting Yeon-woo on the battlefield multiple times, she realized she’d been mistaken. ‘He’s dangerous. How can a human use divine power?’
The power Yeon-woo used was something mortals couldn’t possess. Even the divine beings of Olympus couldn’t touch his power if he used it properly. At that moment, she understood why Poseidon had been watching Yeon-woo, biding his time for a chance to kill him. ‘Olympus doesn’t want to see him become stronger.’
He was a person who’d caused a commotion, storming through the floors and placing first in almost all the Halls of Fame from the first to the thirty-fourth floors. She couldn’t even imagine how much more powerful he’d grow if he became a ranker, and she was filled with jealousy. It didn’t make sense that a lowly human being with dirty blood could achieve something she couldn’t. And what about the gazes of the transcendents that followed him around?
She had spilled blood, sweat, and tears, just for the attention of the four Olympians, but that apathetic-looking human had gotten everything so easily. In fact, she had to admit to herself that Poseidon was interested in her because of Yeon-woo, not her own accomplishments. She hated it. A mere human was so arrogant just because of the power and attention he had lucked into! His power made a mockery of the path she had walked her whole life, and so Paneth wanted to destroy it. She wanted to become the sword of Poseidon, who continued to urge her to kill him.
‘I feel inferior.’ She had been an elite her entire life, and there was no reason she should feel that way. She needed to get rid of Yeon-woo quickly, and this was her only chance.
Dis Pluto’s formation had been scattered from the heat wave that surged out of Iapetos. Iapetos’ subordinates didn’t fare any better. The entire battlefield was destroyed, but Iapetos continued to shoot out heat waves. No one in front of him could stand straight. Those who did were shredded by the dirt and rocks that flew through the air. Some were scorched, and others died when their respiratory system was burned and destroyed. The air itself shook, and those who couldn’t stand the strong winds were blown away. It was as though the sky had fallen. The only people withstanding the strong winds were Paneth’s party members.
[Poseidon’s blessing, ‘Opposing Storms’, is added to your party.]
[Demeter’s blessing, ‘Epicenter Resistance’, is added to your party.]
The four Olympians were providing blessings to help them prevail. Although the blessings were limited to the duration of the quest, it was enough to strengthen Paneth’s party. Paneth knew the four Olympians would have to face some consequences from the laws of causality, but that didn’t matter to her. She had no reason to refuse when the gods were practically holding their hands.
She also had a clear idea of their target’s location. Yeon-woo had faced Iapetos’ heat wave head-on, and he was likely on the brink of death now or at least critically injured. Their plan was to creep up on Yeon-woo and cut his limbs off, rendering him helpless enough for Paneth to slit his throat. They had been so sure the plan would go smoothly.
However, Paneth couldn’t contact any of her party members. ‘What’s going on?’ The plan rested on speed. They had to use the pandemonium to eliminate Yeon-woo and prevent their allies from witnessing their deed. However, none of her party members had emerged, and the dust clouds were so thick that she couldn’t see anything. Her senses were being blocked by something, as well.
An uneasy thought began to grow as Iapetos lifted his head with a roar. He was now two-thirds the size he had been when he’d first grown, but his aura was still the same. In fact, it had grown more intense and heated than before, as if he were finally unleashing his anger.
As the earth flipped over and sandstorms obscured her view, Paneth’s sensitive nose finally picked up the iron smell of blood. ‘Blood?’ It had leaked into the air when Dis Pluto had been swept away, but this time, something was different. It was faint, but she could smell divine blood that came from her party members.
[Poseidon erupts in wrath, asking what you’re doing.]
[Demeter frowns in dissatisfaction.]
[Hestia abandons her expectations of you.]
[Hera abandons her expectations of you.]
From the messages, Paneth realized that something was off. Just as she was about to investigate, a familiar face appeared through the sandstorm.
“Lady…Paneth.” It was Rossidis, her precious butler and righthand man. He was bloody from head to toe, and he could only gasp, “Run…away.”
She wanted to ask what happened, but before he could reply, something hit him and he exploded. When the pieces of flesh that had once been Rossidis fell to the ground, a man quietly padded over, sword pointing to the ground. Paneth frowned when she recognized him. “You?”
“I wanted to get you rats with my own hands.” Kahn growled, revealing his sharp canines. Just like Rossidis, he was covered in blood, but Paneth realized that it was all from her party members.
“How…?” Paneth couldn’t continue. Her eyelids trembled from shock. They had moved so discreetly, how did they get caught? Aside from that, the intense heat wave had swept over him, but he seemed unharmed. Paneth didn't know Kahn could use Bian—and even had the highest proficiency in the Tower—so she was greatly shocked.
Kahn kicked off from the ground as if didn’t have any reason to answer her questions. His anger at her had already hit a breaking point since Paneth’s party always picked fights and tried to stain his party members’ honor. Now that they had set the stage, he had no reason to reject his role. Furthermore, the Blood Sword in his hand had grown as strong as it could be after absorbing all their blood.
[Description: As it absorbs enemies’ blood, the speed and strength of its attacks increases with a ceiling of 350%.]
Using Bian tripled the strength of his attacks, and therefore, no one could stop Kahn. He dashed forward with the Blood Sword, and Paneth retreated in surprise. With Poseidon’s blessing, she released 〈Storm Rain〉. Boom!
* * *
“Fuck, what is this place?” Aether frowned, looking around. The party members had been moving to attack Yeon-woo, but he’d blacked out and then when he regained consciousness, he found himself somewhere strange.
He was in a dark place that had neither wind nor heat. However, he could see his body as clearly as though a light were shining on it. Eventually, he decided to walk, thinking something would come his way if he did. If this was a unique curse meant for him, the one who cursed him would eventually act, and if it was just a random curse, it would be released soon.
If it was an illusion, his divine blood would wash it away soon, so he didn’t worry. Or else, someone might come to help…or not. “Shit,” he cursed, feeling wronged.
The more he thought about it, the more he felt sorry for himself. He didn’t fit into the Elohim or the Devil Army. He promised himself to live a great life unlike his foolish father, but all he’d gained was the stigma of a traitor and mocking fingers pointing at him. He was a pitiful and pathetic dog.
Yes, that was right. No matter how many times he turned it over in his mind, he truly was little more than a dog. Perhaps he was even worse off. Owners didn’t abandon a dog if it was loyal. Dogs also received love. But no one loved him. He had nowhere to lay his head on and no one to depend on. “Hahaha! Fuck.” A thought suddenly occurred to him. If—just maybe—what if he hadn’t turned his back on Arthia? What if he hadn’t…abandoned Jeong-woo, would he be in a different place in life?
“I didn’t want to be like this, either.” Aether covered his face with his hands. No one was watching, but he didn't want to reveal his expression anyway. “I didn’t want to be like this, either!”
He wanted to be a hero. He wanted to receive cheers and acknowledgement. He wanted a comrade who had his back. That was all he ever wanted. It seemed so easy when he was in Arthia, but after he left that safety net, there was no one to catch him.
People he thought would welcome him turned silent, and those he thought would acknowledge him laughed instead. It was so lonely. He’d once asked himself if he regretted leaving Arthia and thought the answer was no. However, he’d only been lying to himself. He regretted it. He regretted it so much. He longed for the old days when he could laugh without any worries, trust his comrades, accept people’s praise and cheers. He longed for the days when he had been a hero.
“Jeong-woo, I’m sorry. Truly.” Why did people only realize the value of something after it was gone? If he could go back in time, he would do it in a heartbeat. Tears dripped through his fingers.
Just then, he heard a familiar voice. “You haven’t changed.”
Was he hallucinating?
“You only regret that you’ve lost the good things in the past. You want to find an easier path because you’re having a hard time right now. You’re pretending to reflect and regret.”
It wasn’t a hallucination. Aether lifted his face from his hands and shouted with a frightened expression. “Who is it?”
“Yeah. That’s all you were.”
“I asked you to tell me who you are!”
It was Jeong-woo’s voice, so clear that it was as though he were alive. However, that was impossible. “Also…” Just then, the darkness opened up in front of Aether, and someone walked out of the fissure—a man with black eyes and hair wearing a sacred-looking white armor and wings, as though he’d walked out of Aether’s memories.
“You’re…!” Aether’s eyes widened when he realized it wasn’t an illusion. His eyelids trembled.
“I was stupid for thinking you were a real friend.” However, there was one glaring difference from his memories. This friend had always smiled at him, but now he was looking at him with cold eyes and an expressionless face. “So, I want to erase my foolish past, Aether,” Jeong-woo growled.Previous Chapter Next Chapter