Mother Earth. From the beginning of time, Mother Earth had gone by different names: Gaia, Ishtar, Hebat, Tiamat, Devi, Ymir, Nuwa, Grandmother Mago…and Vieira Dune. Every legend called her by a different name, a sign of her influence and independence from the societies of gods and demons.
Mother Earth had always existed before the heavenly world had ever formed; in fact, she had come into existence before the universe itself had been properly constructed. And so, she had contributed a great deal to the creation of something from nothing.
She raised mountains, cut hills, and made rivers flow. Then, she birthed life to fill the empty stage. She had the abilities of a god of creation.
However, eventually, Mother Earth grew ostracized from her creations. The universe began to evolve smoothly without her help, and it began to move away from her grasp. As it expanded, it brought forth many stars, and large universes became zones where smaller universes collided. The world began to take on multiple dimensions.
Countless heroes were born in the growing universe, and when they attained holiness from their legends, they gained transcendence. They called themselves gods, demons, dragons, and giants, and they desired to climb even higher.
Mother Earth was displeased. Although she was more of a concept and didn’t have a personal identity, she still believed that the universes and worlds were her children. She saw them as young entities who didn’t know their place and tried to escape her control.
She encompassed everything, but freedom wasn’t in her vocabulary. However, Mother Earth couldn’t act on her desire because of her lack of self. She ended up creating manifestations of herself to punish her misbehaving children, and these took the form of monsters and ghosts that fought bitter wars with the transcendents—the war against great beings immortalized in legends.
Olympus fought a war against Giants from Gaia, Asgard created mountains and hills from the death of the Giant Ymir, Dilmun hunted the vicious dragon Tiamat, the Chan and Jie Sects worked together for the first time to seal Nuwa, L’Infernal gained powers by stealing them from Mother Earth, and so on.
Each universe and world fought with Mother Earth on different fronts at the same time, and the great legends that followed them led to the creation of a single system. Unable to fight multiple battles at the same time, Mother Earth was chased out, and several universes and worlds gained their freedom from her.
The transcendents organized the groups that had formed to fight in the war and ruled over their worlds, although a damned being later trapped them in the heavenly world soon after. Still, Poseidon remembered the glory of the past, when the endless world had been in his hands.
Of course, Mother Earth hadn’t been completely annihilated, and wars erupted regularly. When Poseidon saw a reflection of Mother Earth in Persephone’s eyes, a chill ran down his spine even though the look had only appeared for a split second, making him think he’d been mistaken. He hadn’t felt this kind of terror since they’d defeated his Apostle, Kronos.
Clap! However, his thoughts were interrupted by Demeter, who clapped her hands together. “All right, that’s enough.” Demeter inserted herself between the two gods. “Persephone, why don’t you stop here?”
“Yes, Mother.” Persephone hadn’t seen her mother in a long time and couldn’t deny her request. She also believed that Poseidon had gotten the message, so she took a step back.
The shadows that had wrapped around Poseidon silently withdrew. Plop! Poseidon collapsed on the floor, gasping for air as he glared at Persephone.
Demeter clapped her hands once more to ease the tense atmosphere. “This couple is meeting for the first time in hundreds of years, so they must have a lot to talk about. Why don’t we give them some time to speak in private? After all, tomorrow will be the start of a new Gigantomachia.” Demeter silently sent Hades signals with her eyes before she left, but Hades’ expression was still clouded.
* * *
After the chaotic conference ended, Hades and Persephone were left alone in silence. The fancy beverages and food on the table looked abandoned. Persephone walked around the temple in a leisurely manner and smiled brightly. “Nothing has changed. As expected of you.”
However, Hades just silently watched her from his seat, not uttering a word.
Persephone pouted, looking hurt. “You’re seeing your wife for the first time in such a long while and you don’t have anything to say?”
Hades’ eyelids quivered at the voice he’d thought of every day for the past hundreds of years, the voice that had taught him what love was. “Have you…been well?” His voice shook.
“Do you think I was well? How many wives would be at ease if their husbands don’t return home?”
He wanted to ask if it was the truth but forced himself not to. “Is that so? I apologize.” His eyes drooped sadly, and another heavy silence descended between them.
Persephone laughed softly; her taciturn husband was the same as ever. She looked at him with a composed expression, the smile as warm as spring’s sunlight fading from her face and leaving the coldness of winter behind. “Did you see what I was doing that day?”
Hades pressed his lips together and kept his silence. However, the incident she mentioned replayed in his mind once more. That was the day that he’d left for Tartarus from the Underworld.
“Everything…will be as Great Mother wishes.”
He had seen it purely by accident. He had rushed down to Tartarus after hearing that there was trouble there, and he’d been mired in the battles to defend his holy territories. He returned to the Underworld to clear his head and happened to see Persephone praying alone in their bedroom, kneeling quietly on the floor.
At first, he’d been moved, thinking that his wife had finally opened up her heart to him and prayed for his safe return. But he quickly realized that it was a prayer of worship to another being. He’d never heard of such a thing before—how could a god worship another god?
However, when he felt the holy power that responded, he realized who Persephone had begun serving and what the rebellion of the Giants and Titans were leading to.
“It appears you did see. I wasn’t entirely sure you had…I tried to hide it as best as I could but I suppose I was careless.” She slowly approached him. In her wake, the floor turned black with shadows, like ink staining paper.
The color reminded Hades of himself as he watched her advance. After realizing the truth about Persephone, he had agonized for days. If he let her be, Tartarus wouldn’t be the only place in danger. The entire Underworld, including Erebus, would be at risk.
The reason the Giants and Titans had been locked up in Tartarus was to cut them off from Gaia. However, if Persephone became Gaia’s Apostle and connected them again, it would spell disaster not only for the Underworld but also stretch all the way to Olympus. From that point, it would affect the heavenly world, and the entire ninety-eighth floor would be threatened by Gaia.
The incident that Olympus and other transcendents had tried to stop would rise once more. At that moment, he had understood that he needed to kill Persephone immediately. It didn’t seem like she’d had Gaia’s power for too long, so it was still possible for him to do it. However, he simply couldn’t do it. His hand moved to his sword, but he couldn’t find the strength to pull it out. How could he kill his own wife?
She had been forced to live as his wife all this time because of his one-sided love, and he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her again. There was only one thing he could do: repress the rebellion of the Titans and Giants before Persephone could act. If he could block the entrance to Tartarus, she wouldn’t be able to do anything.
After making his decision, Hades remained in Tartarus, letting hundreds of years pass by. He failed and couldn’t even hang onto his holy territories, much less stamp out the rebellion. When Typhon, another one of Gaia’s Apostles, consumed Kronos’ power, he even grew more influential than Hades.
It was then that Hades’ emotions began to curdle and turn into cynicism. He knew what the inevitable end was, even though he stalled for time. Now that the connection to Olympus had been reinstated, Persephone had descended. The moment that he had pushed back and wanted to avoid had arrived. “You knew everything, and you didn’t tell anyone?” Persephone asked as she approached him. It was the question whose answer had continued to elude her. When Hades didn’t return, she knew that he’d learned of her secret. However, he didn’t tell Olympus at all. If he had, the rebellion wouldn’t have worsened to this point.
“Because I loved you.”
Persephone paused at his calm confession. His eyes blazed even though his voice had been quiet and composed. The gaze in his eyes were painfully familiar to her—it was the same one she’d seen the first time they’d met. He hadn’t said much, but she’d known that her fate would irrevocably change. Before she could refuse, she’d practically been kidnapped and taken to the Underworld and forced to marry him.
She had requested help from her surroundings but had been denied every time. No one wanted to become enemies with the King of the Underworld. They even said it was actually a better situation for her since gods couldn’t enter a marriage of love anyway. However, Persephone never let go of this resentment. The bloom of her youth had been cut short, and she’d been abandoned in an unfamiliar place far from her mother.
Her husband did everything he could to appease her, but nothing placated her indignation. And now, they had reached this point. The sacrifices and deaths of Titans in Tartarus brought her more of Mother Earth’s power.
Whoosh! The shadows rose and tightened around Hades. Despite being at death’s door, Hades didn’t resist. He left his fate in her hands. He had forcibly taken away hers long ago, and now it was her turn.
“You fool.” She softly whispered in his ear. “Nothing will change even if you do that.” A dagger suddenly popped out of Persephone’s hand and pierced Hades in the heart. His blood began to stain the shadows, turning them red as they absorbed him.
『The path is…finally open…』
『Ahh…Great Mother, your daughter…has opened the path of the queen…I shall…greet you soon…』
A multitude of eyes opened in the darkness. Their owners, Titans and Giants, tore through the shadows and poured out. The Gigantomachia had begun.
* * *
Meanwhile, somewhere far away, Yeon-woo’s eyes widened.
“Hm?” The Fury of the Black King around his neck shook, releasing a black light.
[The conditions have been met for a hidden bonus.]
[Bonus: King of the Underworld]
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