“That’s…?” Hercules looked at the nine-layer shield in astonishment.
Yeon-woo nodded. “It’s Aegis.”
Hercules’ expression hardened for a moment. “Why did it go to you?”
“I don’t know, but Athena is in danger.” Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed. Aegis could withstand and block anything and represented the war goddess Athena. The fact that it was damaged so severely meant… ‘She must have lost a lot of her divine powers. She’s in serious danger.’
Yeon-woo had once owned Aegis, and the shield had likely sought him out because of this. Yeon-woo looked closely to see if there were any other marks, but he couldn’t find anything else.
Sss. Boo oozed out as a black mist from the shadows. The Arch Lich was already several meters in height, and he emanated so much power that it overwhelmed and dominated his surroundings whenever he materialized. 「As…you…command.」Boo’s bony finger touched Aegis lightly. A magic field rolled out like a wave along Aegis’ surface. 「Checking for traces. Searching for thoughts. Restoring memories…」 Boo moved his hand in the air as though he were flipping through a book before he moved his jaws slowly to speak. 「Ath…ena…currently…Erebus…not…there…she…is…Tar-Tartarus…is…here. Danger…she…is…in.」
“Here…!” Everyone was astonished.
Yeon-woo asked with a stiff expression, “Where? Do you know where she is?”
Whoosh! Aegis began to glow once more. Boo raised his hand and stared into empty space. Bam! Aegis began to change its shape and turned into a wounded owl—the animal that represented Athena’s eyes.
Flap. The owl stared at Yeon-woo, flapped its wings, and flew into the sky. It was definitely heading to Athena. Yeon-woo spread his Sky Wings and followed the owl. The rest of the party followed behind him.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
『The shield has been poisoned by the Hydra, so it couldn’t have gone too far. We need to find it, no matter what!』
『Persephone commanded us to capture Athena alive. We can’t let her escape!』
On a hillside in a corner of Tartarus, one of the eight great gods of the Gigantes, Syceus, grimaced as he led his forces to pursue Athena. 『Damn it, putting us through all this trouble. Silly bitch.』
Unlike the other Gigantes who were fighting the Titans at the Temple of the King of the Underworld, he had been given the pathetic task of hunting down someone. However, Mother Earth’s orders were more solemn than those of any oracle. If they managed to capture Athena, the Gigantes would have a huge advantage.
『They probably won’t mind if I have a little bit of fun with Athena before handing her over.』 Syceus licked his dry lips.
Athena had been born from the king of gods Zeus’ head, and she had grown up to be a leader of her generation. Her wisdom had driven the Gigantes into crisis several times in the past, and her majesty had broken their will. Syceus was among those whom she had humiliated in the past.
However, the situation had completely changed. Syceus, had always been secretly infatuated with Athena, and he was overjoyed that he’d have the opportunity to destroy her majesty. As lustful thoughts crowded in his brain, he smiled.
『We’ve found traces of holy power here!』 One of Syceus’ subordinates urgently shouted.
『Where?』 Fearing that he might lose the fleeting trail, Syceus hurried to his subordinate, followed by his troops.
“Wow, sister. It must be great to be so popular, right?” A man watching the Gigantes from a distance murmured quietly to himself before climbing down a tree and looking in a crevice. Athena was inside, breathing raggedly as she applied pressure to the wound on her side to staunch the bleeding.
“Will you…shut your fucking trap, Ares?” Although her swearing was energetic, Athena’s complexion was not very good. Syceus had wounded her with a sword coated in Hydra’s venom, which was so toxic that even gods and demons were afraid of it. Even in her ordinary divine state, the best she would have been able to do was contain the venom, and now that she had lost much of her power in Erebus, she could barely suppress it.
If she used up all her remaining holy power in this manner…she would soon meet her end. Athena found it difficult to even swear at the playful Ares. She was fortunate that the trap she set up managed to divert her pursuers, but it would probably not take long for them to catch on. She needed to find a solution before they did that. ‘I transferred ownership of Aegis using the Tower’s system, but…it may not be enough.’
Did Aegis find Yeon-woo? If he was in Tartarus like she was, her plan would work. Otherwise, Aegis would just wander around pointlessly. Even though Athena used the Tower’s system, she was in Typhon’s holy territory, so it probably wasn’t possible for Aegis to leave Tartarus. If Aegis found Yeon-woo, she hoped that he would use Aegis in her stead. ‘This is all I can do for you now.’
As she thought of Yeon-woo, Athena closed her eyes. Whenever she thought of him, she felt an ache in her heart. She hadn’t sent Aegis as a request for help. She had only wanted to leave a keepsake out of regret for the things that had happened in the past.
In fact, Athena had a good sense of her own limitations. She had moved everyone to Erebus because she wanted to evacuate the elder great gods, like Poseidon, who had lost their drive and will. However, she’d left Erebus because she wanted to stay in Tartarus and fight to the bitter end, hoping for the opportunity to retake Olympus.
‘Kronos…Kronos is the secret weapon that can change the situation. However, it’s too difficult for me to approach Kronos in this condition.’ If she made a move, the Gigantes would quickly discover her whereabouts.
Syceus had helped Persephone bring down the great gods of Olympus, and he had a tremendous amount of power. Most gods would probably be too frightened to challenge him. Deprived of her holy power and majesty, Athena wouldn’t be able to withstand him, especially since she’d fled the heavenly world. Besides, Syceus had a grudge against her, and his tenacity made even Athena tremble.
‘On the positive side, the other Gigantes haven’t come after me. Also, the Titans are nowhere to be seen. Is there something going on?’ When Athena caught herself thinking these thoughts, she smiled bitterly at herself. Despite her condition, she was still trying to understand the enemy’s situation. It was a laughable reaction, considering her present circumstances. ‘I don’t know if this is lucky or not, but I guess I won’t be alone on my path.’
Athena raised her head slightly to look at Ares, who was still cautiously surveying their surroundings. Even though they shared the same blood, they didn’t usually get along with each other. Ares cared mostly about himself and what he could gain, and most of Athena’s memories were filled with his growls of dissatisfaction.
When she thought of it now, Athena felt that Ares was justified to feel that way. Like many of Zeus’ other children, Athena was an illegitimate child, while Ares was a legitimate one birthed by Hera. It was inevitable that Ares would be jealous of the eldest daughter who excelled in everything from academics to martial arts, and even virtue.
They had clashed so often before that at some point, they’d grown reluctant to even meet each other. In fact, they were carrying out this mission together because, in a rare occurrence, they agreed on retaliating against their enemy. When she thought of the past now, Athena felt that they had wasted precious time bickering and clashing with each other. Athena had ignored Ares because of his mercurial personality, but now that she’d spent a few days alone with him, she came to realize that he had a good side, too.
What she’d seen as moodiness was simply his desire to win all the time, and his obstinance came from his ability to make fast decisions about what had to be done. She often got tired of his smugness, but if she considered his point of view, his actions made sense. He was fairly loyal, too.
“How are you feeling? Can you move?” Ares asked Athena after confirming that Syceus and his troops had left the area.
Athena smiled bitterly and shook her head. “No. If I move, it’ll be even more dangerous for me. Thus…” For a moment, the color in Athena’s face came back as she slowly stood, using her spear for support. “I’m going to take Syceus’ idiotic head with me.”
Athena also never forgot a grudge. She had always been a proud goddess, and the heavenly world still talked about the time she’d clashed with her uncle, Poseidon. She could never forgive Syceus, that babbling fool. Even if she died, she would take him with her. Also, if she used herself as bait, Ares might be able to reach Kronos’ corpse.
However, with a stiff expression, Ares took Athena’s spear and forced her to sit on the ground. Athena was about to get angry when he shouted, “What are you planning to do in that shitty condition? Stay here. You won’t have to get your hands dirty, sister. I’ll rip that guy’s face off.”
“What?” She hadn’t been expecting those words. Athena’s eyes widened.
However, Ares just snorted. “How dare such a lowly being say blasphemous words about my sister? It’s not even enough just to kill him. Stay here, and I’ll find a way to get his attention. In the meantime, find a way to heal yourself, then go to Kronos’ corpse.”
“Why are you doing this? Since I’m injured, I should be the one…!”
“It’s unfortunate, but sis is smarter than I am, right? In fact, I couldn’t understand any of the things that you all discussed in Erebus. I only came here because I wanted to smash their faces one last time,” Ares said, a corner of his lips rising. “And you know, I’m muscular, unlike you. Meatheads like me have to do meathead things. Besides, what kind of bait can you be in that state?”
Ares was already heading toward Syceus. Athena tried to chase after him with a shout when Ares suddenly froze. Bam! A large blade protruded from his back.
『What did you say you were going to do to me?』 Syceus appeared out of nowhere in front of Ares, sneering.
Athena also froze. Drip! Ares looked down at the sword that had pierced his heart as blood gushed from his mouth. Hydra’s venom spread quickly throughout his body, just as it had with Athena. Anger swelled in his eyes, and his face twisted from pain. “Y-you…!”
『Didn’t your sister just tell you? Shut your trap.』 Syceus yanked his sword out of Ares and was about to swing for his throat.
At that moment, Athena released all of her remaining power. Sss. Boom! An intense tornado spread around her, shaking the stage. Even if she lost her dignity, she would go down as a warrior, a warrior strong enough to compete with the great gods of Olympus. Her powers pushed Syceus away. Psh…!
『Hahaha! You’ve finally revealed yourself. Yes. This is it. Athena! My Athena! You’re at your most beautiful when you’re being stubborn! Stay like that. That will give me the greatest feeling when I take you down!』
“Crazy bastard, how dare you!” Athena’s power continued to expand. However, the more power she released, the more Syceus’ infatuation with her seemed to grow apparent. The veins along his white forearms swelled up as if they would burst at any moment. In Syceus’ maddened eyes, Athena’s appearance was even more alluring. He laughed more maniacally and swung his sword.
Bam! The force that exploded from the tip of his sword broke through Athena’s power and defenses. Athena tried to draw her power and counterattack. Ugh! However, Hydra’s venom reached her heart, and her body froze at the critical moment. Her magic power stopped functioning, and her divine power was cut off. Her power quickly drained from her body. ‘At a time like this…!’
Athena shut her eyes at Syceus’ approaching blade, but not before something twinkled in the corner of her eye. It was the image of a smiling Yeon-woo. Boom! There was a loud explosion, and a hot breeze swept through Athena’s hair. She opened her eyes and saw Yeon-woo standing in front of her with outstretched wings, just like the way he’d appeared before she shut her eyes.
“Are you OK, Athena?”
“Yeah.” He was back. Athena’s emotions rose irrepressibly as she nodded. A single tear fell from the corner of her eye.Previous Chapter Next Chapter