‘Where is this place…?’ Kronos rubbed his throbbing temples and forced his eyes open.
[This is the 77th floor, the gate of ‘Light’.]
[You do not have permission to be on this floor. Your movements will be severely limited.]
‘The seventy-seventh floor?’ He squinted in confusion.
“You’re up.” Sitting in front of him was an unfamiliar middle-aged man. He looked intelligent and had a faint smile on his face.
“And you are…?”
“Nádasdy Chachette Ferenc. Long, isn’t it? Well, you can just call me Ferenc or address me as ‘Count’. And…” Count Ferenc’s smile deepened. “I also happen to be the person that healed you.”
Kronos was about to ask what he was talking about, but he froze as the memories resurfaced. He had entered the Tutorial to take Jeong-woo back home and saw a strange being surrounded in light. The being was so strong that Kronos didn’t know if he could defeat the being even in his prime. The being suddenly attacked, and Kronos fought back despite not knowing what was going on. In the end, he was defeated quickly, and when he woke up, he was here.
It was a world filled with white light. However, despite what one might expect, it didn’t feel bright or uncomfortable. Instead, it was warm and comforting. If Kronos didn’t need to find Jeong-woo, he would have wanted to stay in a place like that.
As if they had the same thought, many beings wandered the white world, moving without purpose. Where was this place? He was sure it wasn’t the Tutorial.
“This is a prison,” Count Ferenc said.
Kronos turned to him questioningly, and Count Ferenc raised a corner of his mouth. “Your face told me you were wondering where you were.”
“A prison. What do you mean?”
“I mean it literally. This place is a prison for the people that that damned Allforone has caught.” Count Ferenc’s smile seemed a bit melancholy. “This is a world that Allforone created. A kind of Illusory World, if you will…or you can say that this world is Allforone himself. No one can leave or enter without his permission.”
That strange being had to be Allforone. Kronos stiffened. He didn’t understand anything Count Ferenc said, but he realized that he was trapped.
“You seem somewhat familiar. Have we met before…?”
Before Count Ferenc could finish his question, Kronos stood up and began to summon his holy power. Although his exuviation was imperfect, the holy power that had once dominated many godly societies whirled along the spring inside his heart. Sssss.
Count Ferenc was about to say that using holy power was pointless in this place, but his eyes widened when he saw the black holy power spinning around Kronos. The power that he and his wife had sought but never gained was right in front of him. “Why is darkness…?”
All the other beings trapped in the white world turned to them. Kronos released his holy power with all his might. Wisps of it rained down in the white world. Boom! Boom! The world shook with loud explosions.
* * *
“Damn it!” No matter how much holy power he used against the Illusory World, Kronos couldn’t make a single dent. He didn’t even know how much time had passed as he tried.
“You can’t. Not in here.”
Kronos whipped around. Count Ferenc was smiling bitterly. “Do you think the others and I didn’t try? One of us even tried for a hundred years. We even tried working together. But we failed each time. The world didn’t budge. Allforone is just…a monster.” Count Ferenc looked away, and Kronos followed the direction of his gaze. “Sometimes Allforone is generous and lets us see the outside world.”
In one corner, a woman was hugging her knees as she sat on the ground facing a wall. Suddenly, the wall trembled and began to show images from the Tutorial that was currently going on.
“How do I use that?” Kronos frantically asked Count Ferenc for instructions. Then, he shook the wall as the count directed. The wall rippled and showed him what he wanted to see. Jeong-woo was there. Kronos couldn't hear what he was saying, but he could see Jeong-woo was fighting monsters with a half-giant and a pretty girl.
“He must be your kid?”
Kronos couldn’t tear himself away for a while, but eventually, he looked at Count Ferenc.
“I have a kid, too…”
Kronos gritted his teeth.
“Did you come to save your kid?”
“But you got caught by Allforone?”
Kronos nodded heavily. He didn’t know what to do now that he was stuck in an unexpected place. He was already on the cusp of finding stability after so much time spent roaming, but the world wouldn’t leave him alone.
“Oh my…! I see. Then I’ll help you.”
Kronos was speechless.
“I have a child, too. But that damned bastard separated me from her. I can relate to what you’re going through.”
Kronos nodded. He’d just met Count Ferenc, but a father’s love was the same everywhere. He decided to accept the count’s help, even though he wasn’t sure how useful the count would be.
“And most importantly…”
“It looks like you have some relation to the Black King. We’re in the same boat, so I can’t stand by and do nothing.”
Kronos was surprised again. Back when he was active, few had known about the Black King. If it hadn’t been for Uranus’ orders, Kronos wouldn’t have known about him either. “You know the Black King’s darkness?”
“Of course. I once sought it. But I couldn’t attain it.” Even though Count Ferenc was smiling bitterly, he looked at Kronos with eager eyes. “It seems like you’ve managed to do it, however. Why can you use the energy of darkness so easily? What are you?”
“What? Ha! Good joke. The Black King hasn’t had an Apostle since Kronos…!”
“You know me? I suppose my legends haven’t been forgotten and are still being told.”
Count Ferenc’s mouth dropped open and he was speechless for a moment. “Y-you…I-I mean, s-sir…you are Kronos…?”
Kronos chuckled. “Just use regular speech. It’s awkward for me too if you suddenly speak differently.”
“R-right. Ahem! Anyway, you’re quite lucky.” Count Ferenc pounded his chest with his fist and spoke confidently. “You’re talking to the expert on the Black King.”
* * *
Kronos was flabbergasted that Count Ferenc would proclaim himself an expert on the Black King to him, the Black King’s Apostle, but he nodded in acknowledgment after speaking with Count Ferenc further.
Although Kronos was the Black King’s Apostle, he hardly knew a thing about the Black King. All he knew was that the Black King was a being more ancient than Mother Earth, and the concepts of darkness, death, and dreams originated from him.
However, since Count Ferenc had followed the Black King for a long time, he knew a lot more. When Kronos heard the Black King was the first universe of chaos and disorder, he laughed in surprise, but he didn’t doubt the information. It made sense that the Black King was greater than he’d ever thought.
“Fortunately, it seems like your Channel with the Black King hasn’t been disconnected. Is that correct?”
It was all thanks to the springs, which connected him to the Black King.
“That means you can connect to your true body.”
Kronos’ eyes widened. “My true body is…here?”
“You didn’t know? Oh, I suppose you wouldn’t. I heard the Black King’s Apostle was paused in Tartarus before the Tower was even built. Tartarus is located in the hidden stage of the thirtieth floor.”
Kronos clenched his fists. His true body… It was an unexpected ray of hope. Of course, Olympus might learn of his resurrection, but that wasn’t important right now. ‘I might be able to send Jeong-woo back outside and find nectar or ambrosia.’
Kronos grew excited at the idea of being able to save Shin Le-ah as well.
“If you regain your original strength, what do you think the chances of victory are?”
Kronos’ excitement died down as though someone had splashed cold water at his face. He calculated the chances objectively. “Thirty percent.”
“I heard you were near the emperor level. Isn’t thirty percent too low?”
“I actually rounded up. I’ve lost my holy power, divine positions, and faith. It’s incredible that I still have any powers left.” Kronos was relieved that he restored most of his strength during his many lives. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to even reach thirty percent. “But there’s a way we can increase it to forty percent.”
“What is it?”
Kronos explained his plan calmly, and Count Ferenc laughed in shock, his eyes sparkling with amusement. “I see… it will be difficult to get out of here, but our actions will be a huge blow for Allforone.”
They began to set their plan in motion.
* * *
Kronos and Count Ferenc planned on using the resonance of souls and bodies. Kronos couldn’t properly restore his strength while he was trapped in Allforone’s Illusory World. He wasn’t in a situation to look for his true body either. However, souls and bodies were drawn to each other, and if they could be connected for even a short while, Kronos would be able to restore his strength temporarily.
Count Ferenc called the magic he invented the “awl”. “It will use the coordinates of a specific location and connect you there. I created it so I could meet my wife, who’s hiding down there, but I’ll use it for you.”
They only had one chance. Allforone was skilled in magic and powers, so he would likely find countermeasures against the awl even if he saw it only once. Thus, while the seventy-seventh floor and the thirtieth floor were temporarily connected through the awl, Kronos had to regain his strength and defeat Allforone.
Bam! Count Ferenc used all his magic to connect to Tartarus with the awl.
[A path has been created between the 77th floor and the 30th floor due to an unknown cause.]
[Warning! This is not an approved path. You are forbidden to approach it. The system is working to shut down the path.]
[Warning! This is not an approved path. The system may place checks on you if you move to the forbidden floor.]
[Warning! This is not…]
Kronos inhaled the familiar air coming from the collapse space of Tartarus. It was the place where he’d locked up his political enemies, and where he, in turn, had been locked up as well. The air smelled stale, but he was glad to feel it.
[Player ‘Vivasvat’ is descending at the system’s request!]
“What are you doing? Quick!” At Count Ferenc’s shout, Kronos snapped to attention and released his strength to find his true body.
[Your true body is reacting to the request of your ego!]
[A connection has been established between the true body and the ego. A temporary unification has been created.]
[Your holy power is increasing.]
[Your strength is increasing.]
[The springs are rewinding.]
[An independent god ‘Kronos’ is manifesting!]
Kronos felt his conscious mind expand infinitely. The sensations he’d nearly forgotten were returning, along with other things he didn’t want to remember.
You’ve returned, another version of myself.
Do you know how long I’ve waited?
I’ll swallow you this time.
Letters flooded into his head like water. They tried to take over him, just as when he’d gone mad in the past. He could be lost in it again, but he tried to withstand it with superhuman endurance.
‘I have to…rescue Jeong-woo!’ Just a little more! A little more and his plan would succeed! His desperate wish managed to hold off the Demonism’s invasion.
Swoosh! In the meantime, Allforone appeared with a flash of light.
『Foolish!』 Allforne reached out for Kronos, believing that Kronos was trying to take back his divinity. However, that was what Kronos and Count Ferenc wanted him to think.
The seventy-seventh floor was Allforone’s Illusory World, which meant it was Allforone’s holy territory. However, that also meant that it was vulnerable to corruption, and Kronos’ Consciousness could infect it. Kronos was confident he could succeed as long as he regained his strength. There was no way a child who had only been alive for thousands of years could handle the legends he’d built up through eons. He had once been the king of Olympus, with the other divine beings at his feet. He had been on the verge of becoming an emperor, and he was the only Apostle of the mighty Black King.
Allforone and Kronos weren’t even on the same level. As soon as their hands met, the white world was stained with darkness.
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