By the time Persephone’s shadow reached the cocoon, the Spirit Guai was already retreating after swallowing Hades whole. “How dare you!” Her face twisted in fury, revealing her cruelty. Not only had Yeon-woo rejected her, he’d even stolen Hades away after all the trouble she’d gone through to capture her husband. It was an unforgivable threat, especially since she hadn’t yet absorbed all the holy power within the territory.
Persephone waved her hand, and shadows twisted around her in a tornado-like flurry. However, Yeon-woo managed to intercept her move once more.
[Sky Wings (Temporary)]
He spread both wings open simultaneously, blowing away the rushing shadows between him and Persephone. Boom! Although the power only lasted for a short while, whenever Yeon-woo spread both his wings, he was confident he wouldn’t fall short of most gods. The explosion ruptured through the temple and crushed the marble floors and columns, forcing the building to collapse.
The shadow that expanded from inside the temple threw off the rubble, but Yeon-woo had already escaped. Persephone roared hysterically, “Catch him! Catch him!”
The eyes in the shadow pierced through and emerged to chase after Yeon-woo.
* * *
Yeon-woo dashed away after withdrawing his Sky Wings to save energy and opening his Fire Wings instead. In his arms, he held Hades, who was as pale as a corpse but still continued to breathe. ‘He’s still alive.’
However, it was too soon to feel relieved. Hades’ breath was faint, and it seemed as though it would stop at any moment. Because his holy power had been taken, he was little more than a shell, and the divinity that made up his spiritual body was fragmenting and scattering. At this rate, it was possible that Hades might completely disappear. ‘What should I do?’
He considered taking Hades to Athena and Hermes, but with the war between Olympus and the Titans and Giants going on, he would just end up getting unwelcome attention from those who wanted to swallow up Hades and take his holy territory. ‘And they most likely want to take the columns of light, the stairs to Olympus.’
The Titans and Giants had always desired to escape Tartarus and ascend to Olympus. Now that the gods of Olympus had descended and the stairs were still connected between Tartarus and Olympus, it was their chance. It was all the more reason Yeon-woo had to protect Hades, stop his divinity from disappearing, and help him recover his holy power.
The problem was that Yeon-woo had no idea how to do any of these things. Neither did Jeong-woo. Even though he’d repeated the special benefit multiple times, it was rare to make close connections with gods or demons. Hardly anything was known about transcendents in the first place.
Yeon-woo looked around in hopes of an answer, but none of the gods or demons attempted to help him.
[Agares licks his lips as he looks at your arms.]
[The King of Seven Hells watches you with close attention.]
[Vimalacitra bursts out laughing at the first war between gods in a long while.]
[A small number of gods express concern about Mother Earth.]
Most of them were looking on with amusement, and a few were worried about Mother Earth. As competitors of Olympus, they only saw a large event like this as an opportunity to increase their own influence. Yeon-woo was on his own, and his mind was jumbled with all kinds of thoughts. ‘But…why is Hades in this condition?’
He couldn’t understand it. Hades was one of the higher gods of Olympus. Even if Persephone was Gaia’s Apostle, there was no way they could defeat him like this—he’d been powerful enough to keep Typhon, the Titans, and the Giants at bay for centuries all by himself. Also, it wasn’t as though he didn’t know what Persephone was plotting and had been taken by surprise. ‘Is it possible?’
Just as a thought occurred to Yeon-woo, Hades’ eyelids quivered. He opened his eyes with a grimace, as though he were feeling dizzy. However, he grinned when he saw Yeon-woo’s face. “So we meet like this.” He clucked his tongue and looked behind Yeon-woo at a colossal shadow hot on their heels. Ahead of them, he could see the monstrous Giants Hippolytus and Polybotes. “Did you rescue me?”
Hades shook his head as he understood the situation. He didn’t think he would ever open his eyes again. Was it fortune or misfortune? Regardless of what it was, he was in this situation now. “I see. It failed.” He realized that he hadn’t successfully passed down the throne of the Underworld to Yeon-woo.
It seemed as if the gods and demons of death whose attention was focused on Yeon-woo were still discussing something about him and affecting the system of the Tower to postpone the succession to the throne. Also, that damned Allforone had a hand in it as well. With Allforone blocking Yeon-woo’s ascension to divinity, there was no way Yeon-woo could succeed Hades, and all Hades’ plans had been thwarted.
Hades frowned at Yeon-woo’s question, not understanding what he meant. His divinity was scattering away, and his entire body was screaming in pain because he had lost too much holy power. “What?”
“Why did you try to kill yourself.”
Hades didn’t speak, and silence stretched between them. There was a reason why Persephone had defeated him so effortlessly and why nothing had prevented the Titans and Giants from appearing at the Temple of the King of the Underworld—Hades hadn’t resisted.
This made Yeon-woo feel betrayed. “I know you feel guilty about Persephone. The legend is famous even in the lower world.”
Hades didn’t speak.
“But you know that you’re disappointing those who’ve believed you and followed you, right? You’re making a mockery of our faith.”
Hades’ attempt to unburden himself had pushed others into the path of misfortune. Even though they bickered among themselves, Olympus had descended to help him. Dis Pluto fought for hundreds of years because they trusted him. The residents of the Underworld relied on him. Yeon-woo had opened up to him. Everyone who put their faith in Hades had been hit by a sudden bolt.
“Was giving me the bonus of the throne of the Underworld a consolation for those you would leave behind?”
Of course, Hades hadn’t tried to die without making arrangements for Yeon-woo to succeed as the King of the Underworld. Hades had likely believed that with this position, Yeon-woo would be able to help Dis Pluto and escape Tartarus. He’d left the Titans and Giants alone to keep Olympus on their toes, assuming that Hermes and Athena would be able to stop them. It was also probably that he’d made arrangements for his subordinates so that they could rise again without him. However, no matter what, it was still a betrayal of trust.
“From the start, the only thing I’ve ever done was run away,” Hades spoke with a bitter smile. “On the outside, I pretended to care for everyone and behave responsibly. However, whenever I was faced with a difficult task, I avoided it and ran away.”
Yeon-woo was silent.
“Even during the fight with Kronos, I said I’d already put my younger brother on the throne and stood at the rear. I didn’t want to be bothered to help establish Olympus, so I turned my back and said I’d take care of the Underworld.” Although others might have seen him as a king with incredible power and status, he was only an observer who watched the events of the world go past.
He had done the same thing with Persephone. After he’d fallen in love with her beauty, he’d forced her to marry him even though he knew she’d be miserable in an unfamiliar place. He pretended not to see her suffering, hoping she’d reciprocate his love one day even though he didn’t make any special effort to win it.
When he learned Persephone was working with Gaia, he’d run away again without even trying to convince her to stop. He’d headed to Tartarus to deal with the Titans and Giants, although he knew it wasn’t the reason why Persephone turned her back on him. And even now, although Hades said he loved Persephone, he was still trying to escape because he didn’t like being involved in complicated matters.
“You’re saying you don’t want to be responsible for your mistakes?” Yeon-woo said in a cold voice after listening to Hades.
Hades' smile grew darker. “In a way.”
“Are you still planning on turning your back on everyone who believes in you?”
Hades was silent for a while. He saw the distance between Yeon-woo and the Giants grow smaller. Rumble. He saw Dis Pluto and the gods of Olympus fighting desperately beyond the collapsed temple. A contemplative expression appeared on his face for a moment, followed by a mixture of emotions. He bit his lip and looked down at his hand, which was already half-transparent. His divinity was disappearing, and his holy power was leaking out like water. He wasn’t going to last long.
Yeon-woo looked at Hades with a complex expression on his face. Just a few days ago, the world was at his feet, and now he seemed to be teetering on the edge of a cliff.
“What…do you want me to do?”
“Take responsibility for your actions.” Yeon-woo’s eyes blazed.
Hades opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something then closed it again with a heavy nod. “I will. Can you put me down?”
“Don’t worry about them. Even if I’m little more than dead wood right now, I’m still useful enough for that.” Hades narrowed his eyes and waved his hand.
Boom! The approaching shadows of the Giants and Persephone crashed into an invisible wall.
Boom, boom, boom! They pounded on the barrier, but it didn’t move at all. Yeon-woo could barely even hear the sounds they were making.
Hades quietly freed himself from Yeon-woo’s arms. He took faltering steps, unable to find his balance. Yeon-woo tried to help him, but Hades put up a hand to stop him before he straightened up. At that moment, it looked like the King of the Underworld had returned. It was hard to tell what made him change his mind after he’d already tried to give everything up, but one thing was clear: he was attempting to do something important. “My divinity has already scattered, and I will no longer recover.”
“Then…!” Yeon-woo tried to say something, but Hades cut him off.
“But if I have a clear successor and announce it properly, the pandemonium will be dealt with.” Kashing! Hades pulled out his sword from its sheath.
It was impossible to progress with the bonus because Allforone had blocked the system. There was only one option left: he had to pass down not only the bonus, but also all the power he had in order to force Yeon-woo’s divinity to increase.
Not a single scheming god or demon would be able to stop him. Nor would Allforone, since there had never been a situation in the past when a transcendent gave everything of his to a mortal. However, to Hades, he was only returning everything he’d received from him. He had no regrets about it. And in the future, after Yeon-woo exuviated and gained transcendence—when he properly realized holiness—Dis Pluto would flourish again.
“The transfer of the throne will now begin. The successor ### must kneel and bow to the king to pay his respects.”
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