“Are you serious…?!” Poseidon was the first to collect his wits. His face had not only turned red, but he was trembling in rage from head to toe. He had been trying to keep his composure since he was in Hades’ territory, but he had reached the end of his patience.
Of course, Hades wasn’t one to care. “Don’t shout, Poseidon. No one here is deaf.” Hades’ smile deepened. “Didn’t you say he’s a mere mortal? How ironic. Since you’ve been bested by that mere mortal several times, what does it make you? A loser? Idiot? Something along those lines?”
“Don’t mock me!”
“Mock? If speaking the truth is mocking you, I’ll do it to no end.” Hades dropped his right hand from under his chin and straightened his back. “The same goes for the rest of you.” His eyes swept over the rest of the gods, which included Hestia, Hera, Demeter, and their subdeities.
It was pathetic that an internal conflict had risen within Olympus all because of the Black King. “A lot of time has already passed. Why can’t you fools let it go? The past is already the past. You don’t have to pay attention to it. Why are you so obsessed?”
“Because the past is not simply the past.” Hera shot up from her seat to defend their position. As Zeus’ wife and the queen of Olympus, she had the right to speak as much as the three brothers, since she had been ruling over Olympus in their stead.
“Then what is it?”
“It was our identity. One that allowed simple shepherds like us to sit on the thrones of Olympus.”
After Kronos had been brought down, the Black King was trapped in the Void, stripped of his power. Not long after, they managed to gain Olympus. But if the Black King rose once more, it would mean that the ember that they believed had already died would ignite again.
It was a root that needed to be pulled up before it could grow. However, Hades snorted as though they were being unreasonable. “We are stronger now and rule over more superior domains compared to the time of the war. We have the throne and our influence. Even if Kronos were resurrected because of the Black King’s return, he would have little of his previous power. They won’t be able to break down the stronghold we built, will they?”
Hera pressed her lips together. Technically, Hades was right. They had brought the Black King down at a time before the Tower’s system had established its current structure. It had been a turbulent time with many fights, and those who occupied the throne changed from one day to the next.
The old godly tribes of the Elohim, such as the Protogenoi and the Vanir, had lost their power during those uncertain times. High Elves, fallen angels, and half-demons were among those that suffered. It was only after the confusion had settled down that multiple societies of gods and demons finally took shape and stabilized the heavenly world.
After the system was established and eons passed, the heavenly world became steady, and a few gods and demons remained part of the system, expanding the influence of the Tower.
The Tower grew larger in scale and accepted new players every day. The gods and demons grew in direct proportion to this.
The Black King was a great being of the past who existed at the beginning of the universe, ruling over darkness, death, and chaos—which was why the gods of Olympus feared him. But now that the order of the universe had been settled, Hades believed that Olympus no longer had any reason to fear him.
“Perhaps we could bring the Black King back as an ally against that cowardly Gaia.” Hades’ words made an odd light shine in the eyes of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Athena—the younger generation. Unlike the old-fashioned older generation, it was clear they believed the Black King was necessary.
“So that it won’t just be a bunch of fools from Olympus,” Hades muttered to himself. Then, he asked Poisedon another question. “Or perhaps you don’t have the confidence to defend the throne you’re sitting on? Is your position that low?”
“Of course, I don’t think any of you will change your minds just because of my words.”
Gods were self-righteous and narrow-minded; they continued on the path they believed was right. Hades observed that even though they had brought Kronos down, they were behaving just like Kronos had in the first place. It was part of the reason why Hades had volunteered to descend to Tartarus in the past; he didn’t want to be associated with such fools. “I will also move forward with my decision. Once that child sheds his skin and actualizes the Black King, I shall promote him to this position, so stop with your complaining.”
The position Hades occupied was essentially the Black King’s, and it seemed fair to return it to its original owner. Poseidon could only glare at Hades, realizing that he couldn’t convince him. “Do you think that bastard will gain divine power?”
Hades recalled the wing of death and the wing of fight that Yeon-woo had used in the war. Death originated from the Black King, but fighting didn’t. It was entirely the child’s possession. His accomplishments were already being recorded in history, and when he received the chance, it wouldn’t take much for them to be turned into legends.
“It’s something that hasn’t occurred in thousands of years, ever since the Tower was erected. Even Allforone couldn’t gain a divine level, but you’re saying that bastard will? Nonsense!”
“That’s not the entire truth, and you know it. Allforone hasn’t become a divine being out of his own choice, and even if there were dozens of you, you wouldn’t be able to defeat Allforone.” Poseidon clenched his fists at the additional humiliation he received from his brother. His veins pulsed as if they would explode any minute, and he was holding back with preternatural effort.
Regardless, Hades continued to ruffle Poseidon’s feathers as if it didn’t matter to him whether Poseidon became angry or not. “The same goes for the other players. Have you taken a proper look at the lower world? There are over ten players who are ready to ascend to a divine level and shed their skins. A few of them are powerful enough to become higher divine beings, but they haven’t been able to accomplish it. Do you know why?”
It was related to what Yeon-woo had been curious about: why were the generals of Dis Pluto at the same level as—or even below—the Nine Kings even though they were divine beings? Why did Astraeus die?
The answer was simple: “Allforone has completely cut off the heavenly world from the lower world, forcing the system’s functions to pause. There is no way players that are bound to it can become divine beings.”
No one could speak at first.
“Does that mean you believe if that child ### can avoid Allforone, he will probably become a divine being?” Among the silent gods, Demeter was the only one who regarded Hades with tranquility. Of the six siblings, she’d always had the calmest temperament, and also, she was Hades’ mother-in-law.
Hades nodded. “To be exact, he’ll be releasing the system from Allforone’s control.” At the silence, he added, “Regardless, that child is going to gain divinity someday in the future.”
Poseidon began shouting, “There’s no way Allforone would allow…!”
Hades cut him off. “No. I believe in him. He’ll do it.” There was a firmness in Hades’ voice. Poseidon and the others were silent, their lips shut tightly together. The younger generation standing a step away from them glanced at each other.
Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus hadn’t made their decision about Yeon-woo yet. Although their goals lined up with those of Athena, Hermes, and Ares, who favored Yeon-woo, they were concerned that it would be difficult for a mortal to succeed to the Black King’s power.
They thought that it would be better for one of them to take Yeon-woo as an Apostle and guide him in using the Black King’s power properly. The only reason they hadn’t attempted it was that they’d seen the Cast of the Black King absorb Azrael. However, if Hades was telling the truth, they no longer needed to worry.
“I can finally hand over this cumbersome crown of the Underworld. I’ll be relieved of all my frustrations, and I’ll feel much lighter.” Hades chuckled as he looked at the gods of Olympus pondering the issue.
Only Poseidon’s eyes flashed with a fierce light. “No. A caterpillar only eats leaves, and a crow only flaps its wings,” he said, meaning that no one could become something that they weren’t. “A mere mortal becoming divine? Impossible. That…makes a mockery of all of us.”
“Mortal, mortal. Aren’t you sick of saying that word? Even though we call ourselves immortals, we aren’t really ones.”
“Still! There are destinies that just cannot be overcome. It’s going against the laws of nature.” Poseidon slowly stood as he continued. “I’m going to fix the laws.”
“You’re going to obstruct me?”
“Think what you want. Right now, we’re working together because we have a common enemy, but I must kill that bastard and bury the Black King again.”
Hades’ sharp canines peeked from his smiling lips. “Are you saying you’ll stand against me?”
“Do you think I can’t?”
Rumble! Hades’ and Poseidon’s holy powers clashed once more, shaking everything around them. The thick tension of a looming fight made it difficult to breathe. The Temple of the King of the Underworld trembled, and dust and stones fell to the ground.
Just then, the door burst open, and a woman walked in. “Stop. What are the elders of Olympus doing?” She was a goddess with an elegant figure, and her dark green hair flowed behind her. Each step she took pushed away the fierce waves of holy power that emanated from Hades and Poseidon. The other gods of Olympus were surprised. No one had known how much she’d changed because she hadn’t returned to the heavenly world during the long period that she waited for her husband. However, the great holy power she had was leagues beyond what she’d possessed in the past. It was possible she was at the same level as her husband, Hades, or perhaps even beyond him.
Although she had just arrived, the atmosphere of the temple shifted completely to her. It was Persephone, the goddess who had attained the two domains of warm spring and cold winter. She was the daughter of the goddess of the earth, Demeter, as well as Hades’ wife. She paused and looked from Hades to Poseidon.
Hades unconsciously trembled as he met Persephone’s eyes. His wife had returned. He had been avoiding her for hundreds of years by pretending to have gone missing so that he could dedicate himself to Tartarus. He knew that they would see each other again after the Feng Shan ceremony. At the sight of her, his heart began to pound quickly.
Like a frozen stream slowly melting in the warm spring sunshine, the cold King of the Underworld seemed to return to the time when he’d experienced the first stirrings of love. However, he was also overcome with ruefulness when he saw Persephone’s eyes. Nothing had changed. Her gaze still didn’t hold any warmth or affection towards him, and it was as heavy as it had always been.
‘I longed for you so much and thought of you every day. However, it seems like you didn’t feel the same way. I thought my ardor would cool after avoiding you for such a long time, but it hasn’t at all…I hoped you’d forgive me, but I suppose I’m still an unpardonable sinner in your eyes. Am I nothing more than the husband you were forced to marry and the King of the Underworld that you have to pay your respects to?’ Hades almost couldn’t stop himself from saying the words out loud.
On the other hand, Poseidon scowled, displeased that his holy power had been scattered. “How dare you stick your nose into a discussion restricted to Olympians? Are you behaving like this because you think your husband will support you?” Poseidon glanced from Persephone to Hades, smirking. Hades' expression stiffened for the first time.
“How pathetic.” However, Persephone just laughed, as if Poseidon wasn’t important enough to give a proper reply to.
Poseidon’s face hardened. “What?”
“My husband is who he is, but I only speak for myself. If it’s more convenient for you to split sides like that, go ahead, although it won’t change how pathetic you are right now.”
“You bitch!” Poseidon couldn’t keep his calm now that he’d been humiliated not just by Hades but also Hades’ wife. He made a move for his trident. Hades was about to get up in surprise, but suddenly, Poseidon was tangled up by tentacles that rose from his shadow and slammed him into the ground. Boom!
“Urk!” He struggled like a frog to escape the shadow’s grip, but the tentacles merely tightened around him. Countless lines grew visible in the shadow, and they opened up to reveal eyes that blinked at him.
Poseidon didn’t even realize he was shivering as a strange anxiety entered his heart. When he forced himself to look up, Persephone was staring at him, her eyes expressionless. She looked even more fearsome like this. Her gaze reminded him of the eternal enemy of all the gods in Olympus, the maternal figure that Titans, Giants, all demonic creatures and ghosts originated from: Mother Earth, Gaia.
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