Jeong-woo’s face was blank at first, then, he stiffly asked, 『What… do you mean?』
The expression in Yvlke’s eyes didn’t change. “As I said…” It was impossible to know what he was thinking. “You won’t be able to find the soul anywhere. It doesn’t exist.”
“It’s possible that…”
『Did it cease to exist?』 Repeating the special benefit multiple times had put extreme stress on his soul and made his vestige body unstable. It occurred to him that it made sense for his soul to disappear from overuse.
“It’s possible.” But Yvlke’s answer was still vague.
『Or…』 Something suddenly occurred to Jeong-woo.『Is it alive somewhere?』
『Hey!』 Jeong-woo couldn’t stand Yvlke’s teasing anymore and shouted.
However, Yvlke only showed him the sparks that were bouncing off his hand. Crackle! “Frankly, I’ve already strained myself just telling you this much. Look at this.”
Jeong-woo was dumbfounded.
“Just by giving you a hint, the system has already begun warning me not to interfere in players’ businesses unnecessarily. Ohyohyohyo! I cannot tell you more. How unfortunate.” Yvlke adjusted his monocle and continued, “Still, there is something I can tell you within my authority. On that day, you were considered dead and logged out.”
Jeong-woo muttered Yvlke’s words to himself. They seemed like gaming terms in a way, but he couldn’t afford to forget them. He had to repeat them to Yeon-woo.
“Technically, what you’re thinking right now might not be completely untrue. Just as ### said, you’re also an existing Cha Jeong-woo.”
『I’m just vestiges left by the special benefit…』
Yvlke shook his finger. “You seem smart but also frustratingly dull at the same time.”
Jeong-woo felt like he was being pulled in by Yvlke’s words.
“Haven’t you heard that souls are commonly divided into spirit and vigor? The spirit is what we normally associate with souls. Beings live and die, and they long to be reincarnated and be reborn—things like that. In that case, what do you suppose vigor is?”
『The traces of the spirit.』
“Beep. Incorrect. It’s the course of one’s life.” Yvlke smiled. “The spirit loses all memories when it’s reincarnated, so can you say that a tabula rasa is really you? You are the result of all memories and choices you’ve made until the present moment. Even if you’re reincarnated, the person who lived your former life and the person who lives your reincarnated life are different. They’re strangers to each other. If so, what is the vigor that records one’s life and experiences?”
Although this could have been just a rambling philosophical theory, Jeong-woo trembled. He possessed Cha Jeong-woo’s history and life path. If Yeon-woo ever found Cha Jeong-woo’s real soul one day, and the soul didn’t have any of the memories, could it really be considered Cha Jeong-woo?
“Straighten your back, and pay attention. Technically, you could be the real Cha Jeong-woo compared to some spirit that might not even be found.”
Jeong-woo bit his lip. Although he was silent, his despondent eyes had grown determined, as if his resolve had hardened. As Jeong-woo turned to look at Yeon-woo, Yvlke didn’t miss the newfound determination in Jeong-woo’s eyes. He could see his will to live.
“I feel happier now seeing you like this. Ohyohyo! Ohyohyohyo!” His smile stretched to his ears.
* * *
Yvlke’s laughter didn’t last long as more people approached him. “Oh dear. This is my first trip in a long while. I have lots to do, and so many to advise. I suppose this is why popular stars are always exhausted. Ohyohyo!”
The Dis Pluto commanders and soldiers stood grimly as Yvlke looked at them. “Greetings to the chief administrator of the Bureau, Yvlke de Servant.”
“Ohyohyo. That name and position are actually already in the past, but it’s nice to be called that. Yes. What seems to be the matter?”
Jerard, the interim commander who had taken Lam’s place, said formally, “I wish to propose a deal to you and the Bureau.”
“Oho. A deal. Fine. What is this deal that you’re speaking of?”
Jerard took a deep breath. He had to be careful with his words if he wanted Dis Pluto and their master to survive. Their master was putting up a good defense against Allforone, but it was ridiculous to think that he was protecting them when they were his spear and shield.
Losing a master once was enough. Of course, making a deal with the Bureau wasn’t ideal, either. The relationship between the heavenly world and the Bureau was like one between cows and chickens. Proposing a deal might cause problems in the future, but there was no time to weigh the pros and cons. “I seek your advice.”
“Hmm. I think it’s obvious what you’ll ask.”
“What do you advise we do to fulfill Allforone’s criteria?” Jerard had made his decision. Allforone had appeared because of the pledge between the heavenly world and the lower world. He considered the presence of Tartarus’ military in the lower world as a violation of the pledge.
Thus, if they upheld the pledge, Allforone would no longer interfere. Although Allforone was known for imposing his sense of righteousness on the players and transcendents, he was equally strict with himself.
“You wish to mollify Allforone, is it?”
“I know it’s not impossible even though it’s not well-known. As the former chief administrator, you must have some insight, and so we seek your advice.”
“You seek my advice…”
“Please advise us.” Jerard and the rest of Dis Pluto bowed.
Yvlke’s eyes widened in surprise, and he laughed. He never imagined that one of the proudest militaries of the heavenly world would lower themselves before him. From what he knew, they hadn’t even served their new master for an entire day, but they were already this loyal to him? ‘As expected of ###. It’s always new and exciting with you. Ohyohyo!’ He chuckled, glad that his judgment of the player he’d watched since the Tutorial wasn’t wrong. “Getting involved in this is a bit…but since it’ll be harder to restore the stage if it’s destroyed further, I’ll give you a hint. There is one way.”
The bowing soldiers lifted their heads. “What…?”
“Before we continue, shouldn’t you show me what you will pay for the advice?”
Jerard used Open Speaking to reply, fearful that someone might overhear, and wet his lips nervously. Yvlke’s eyes widened, then curved happily when he heard. “Oho. Really? That must be a precious and important treasure that cannot be replaced for Dis Pluto.”
“Treasure can only be protected with strength, and we are currently powerless. Rather than having the treasure stolen, it’s preferable to leave it in trustworthy hands.”
“That’s an interesting way to put it. Leave it in trustworthy hands, you say. I never said I’d return it.”
“It doesn’t matter if you use it. It won’t become worthless just because you do. And with our new master…” Jerard turned to Yeon-woo, who clashed against Allforone again with darkness. There was a steady faith in his eyes. “I believe he will recover it someday. Whether as a reward or through some other method.”
“Ohyohyohyo! Good, very good! This kind of confidence is important in the Tower.” Yvlke adjusted his monocle and spoke again. “The advice I can give you is very simple.”
“What is it?”
“The throne of death.” In that moment, as he bared his teeth in a smile, he seemed as cold as a demon. “Think carefully about the trait of the seat ### is sitting in. You’ll quickly find your answer.”
The soldiers of the Underworld tilted their heads in confusion. Then, they straightened their backs when they came to a realization.
“Yes. That’s it. It’s also a good opportunity to test your loyalty.”
* * *
Swish. The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo barely avoided the hand that tried to slice at his neck. He pulled back his left arm. Clank! The chains tightened and Allforone’s hand paused in mid-motion. Yeon-woo unfurled his wings and swung Vigrid powerfully.
[Vigrid-???’s hidden name, ‘Durenal’, is being released.]
[Folklore: Cutting in two with one strike of the sword]
However, Allforone immediately stepped on Shukuchi and managed to avoid it. Vigrid passed through the spot where Allforone had been and sliced the space open. The tall mountains that Yeon-woo had just stepped on were also neatly sliced in half, their halves falling to the sides.
Rumble. As they collapsed, the dust clouds blasted out from the slopes and landslides rumbled down. Yeon-woo used the chains to chase after Allforone, who stood above the fallen mountains and within the dust clouds.
Boom. The two clashed with a thunderous explosion. Darkness and light collided, ripping the sky apart multiple times. The Bone Dragon and Boo/Faust followed up with Breath and various magic against Allforone, but the light that filled the stage nullified all the attacks. Flash! The rays of light even canceled the settings of the stage.
At the same time, Allforone appeared behind the Bone Dragon and brought his foot down on her spine, crushing it. Then, he ripped her wings off and tossed her far away. When Boo/Faust moved to stop him, space twisted, and light refracted in all directions. Boo/Faust made barriers spring up against the prism of light, but they were all destroyed, and his left shoulder was blown away.
Holy power began to creep over Boo/Faust and the Bone Dragon. Allforone attempted to use Shukuchi to quickly defeat his old enemies, but the chains tightened around him again and emptiness opened. The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo was missing half of his body, but he still managed to plant Vigrid in Allforone’s chest, making Allforone frown.
Boom! The two fell from the sky. As Allforone crashed to the ground, he sent up immense dust clouds. All of his internal organs had been crushed, and Vigrid was still skewered through his body. However, he waved his hand like he was unaffected, and Yeon-woo barely managed to avoid the explosion of light.
He landed on the ground, gasping for breath. The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo quickly regenerated his body with darkness as he panted. The fight was too difficult. It wasn’t easy to deal with a monster that could return no matter how many times you killed it. Still, the creature that seemed like Yeon-woo burst out with a maniacal laugh. How long had it been since he’d tasted the outside air? Being able to thrash around to his heart’s content made him feel more refreshed than ever.
The rough edges of his vessel had grown smoother, and unless he was an idiot, he would be able to manipulate it properly even after returning to the Cast. ‘If he acts in a frustrating way like before, I’ll really eat him.’ However, one thing continued to bother him. ‘That damned bastard.’ Pssss.
「That scumbag hasn’t changed. He won’t stay dead at all. What do you plan now?」 The Bone Dragon appeared behind him in a burst of black smoke, extending her wings. Purple energy emanated from the spot where her Dragon Heart should have been and rapidly healed her body.
“And that’s only thirty percent of his strength?”
Allforone was already recovering in the crater. With a hissing sound, ashy fog and auroras began to spread from his location. Allforone still hadn’t left the seventy-seventh floor. Even though his true body was appearing on a different floor, he was manipulating dimensions to allow his body to overlap in different locations. It was commonly understood that most of his power was focused on the seventy-eighth floor and above.
“Ah, it’s fifty percent now.” The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo smirked as he watched the fog weave around Allforone. His canines flashed. He hated Allforone even more than he hated Yeon-woo. Although it was mostly directed towards the being beyond Allforone, since Allforone was of the being’s essence too, it was the same thing to him.
However, it was impossible to subdue Allforone in his current state. He was just stalling for time and nearing his limits. At this rate, Yeon-woo would be completely taken over. This was why mortals were difficult to use. The creature who seemed like Yeon-woo rubbed his lips with his thumb, thinking he needed to come up with something, when Dis Pluto suddenly began to close in on Allforone.
“Hm?” The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo frowned. “What are those things doing?” Perhaps they were trying to help him, but it just looked like suicide to him. Actually, he didn’t care how many of them died, but the problem was Yeon-woo. If they died, Yeon-woo would be affected. It wasn’t the pain of losing them that concerned him, but Hades’ dying request would pose a problem. He needed to complete the conditions in order to properly inherit the throne. After that, his level would increase, and the vessel would become sturdier.
Moreover, the death that Hades ruled over was something that originated from what he embraced. It was a piece that he needed to retrieve anyway, so he had no reason to refuse it now. That was all he wanted. But whatever the case, Allforone was too great of an obstacle, so he wondered whether or not to stop Dis Pluto.
“Ah, they’re trying to do something amusing.” The creature that seemed like Yeon-woo read their determined faces and realized what they were attempting. He laughed his head off. Even he thought it was a crazy ploy.
The smell of death wafted from Dis Pluto. The last condition of the quest was to establish a base camp in a new haven. Yeon-woo had inherited the throne of death, and he also possessed the power of the Black King to use souls. That gave the cornered Dis Pluto a clear and simple solution. “We’ll devote ourselves to the king in death.”
As one, the soldiers of Dis Pluto turned their weapons around and pierced their own hearts.
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