“Ah! Ah! Ah!” Leonhard cleared his throat a few times. Though his voice had gotten hoarse from lack of use, it still sounded like his voice before he was injured. His physical body had returned to its condition before the Sea of Time punished him. In fact, all the waste and restrictions on his body were now gone, and he felt that parts of his body had even been strengthened. He was even creating magic power at maximum efficiency.
“Are you satisfied?” Yeon-woo looked at Leonhard with a smile.
As he looked at his own reflection in Yeon-woo’s eyes, Leonhard slowly nodded as if he were in a stupor. Yeon-woo had not only reconstructed Leonhardt’s body but also cleansed his soul after Leonhardt made a contract with him as a believer.
“A god’s responsibility is to save believers who are in despair.”
“Have you…become a god?” Leonhard looked at Yeon-woo with disbelief. The things that had happened to him did not make any sense.
The only word Leonhardt could use to describe the situation was “miracle”. Players who existed in the lower world could never achieve these feats. It was like being touched by the hand of a god.
Yeon-woo advised Leonhardt to live a new life and to devote himself to Olympus after asking him to be a believer. If Leonhardt accepted his proposal, he would give him new opportunities. Leonhard had answered yes, and this was the result.
Leonhardt had never had a special affiliation with a higher being before, but he now felt a huge presence supporting him. He realized that Olympus, one of the largest societies in the heavenly world, was now protecting him. The loneliness he felt in the past was now gone, and he had a place to rely on and provide him with a sense of stability. Leonhardt had never expected that a simple contract could give him so much comfort. At the same time, Yeon-woo had grown too distant and awe-inspiring now, a god that he should worship.
“It would have been better if you hadn’t joked about me having to die first.” Leonhardt’s heart had fluttered when Yeon-woo had talked about his death. When he thought about it, even though it was a joke, Yeon-woo had terrified him.
“What is the price…for this?” Leonhardt was certain that there were strings attached since Yeon-woo hated him so much. Besides, Leonhardt could not shake off the guilt that he carried. Everything he had done was to atone for his past.
“You’ll keep working on behalf of Jeong-woo…what else do I need?”
Leonhardt was speechless.
“If you want to do more…” Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed. “After we’re done with this, take back control of the Fantasy Regiment. Separate the Fantasy Regiment from the Sea of Time and build a holy temple for Olympus. That should be enough. You can also nurture some crusaders and paladins as well.”
The larger an organization under the name of a god and the stronger their forces were, the higher a god’s level would become. The change in its mission meant that Arthia was now carrying out actions on Yeon-woo’s behalf, which meant that Yeon-woo’s prestige in the lower world had risen. These all became Yeon-woo’s legends.
“I…I will do so.” Strength returned to Leonhardt’s eyes, which regained a sense of purpose and faith after being immersed in disappointment and despair for so long. Zeal brewed in his eyes, making him seem like a fanatic.
Kahn looked at Leonhardt with an expression of pity as though he were thinking that someone else had been reeled in hook, line, and sinker.
“Aside from that.” Yeon-woo said, interrupting Leonhardt’s thoughts. “You mentioned that this meeting is about capturing the High Guardian who escaped, right?”
“That’s right. We received information that the surviving High Guardian ran off to the sixty-sixth floor. Everyone attending this meeting is embedded in fairly high positions within their respective clans, and we felt that it would be best to cast a net around the escapee.”
Yeon-woo nodded. If the Sea of Time also mobilized the resources and capabilities of all the clans that they had influence over, it would be easier to capture the High Guardian. “Then I’ll have to mix in with this crowd.”
Yeon-woo searched for a person in a leadership position who looked the most inconspicuous. Finally, he saw someone: the person who’d tried to stop Leonhardt when he’d called out to Yeon-woo. “That guy will do.”
[Wine of the Dead]
As soon as Yeon-woo reached out with his hand… Whoosh! Like sand swept away by waves, the person turned into fine particles and collapsed to the ground. His shadow crawled towards Yeon-woo, creeping up through his toes. A gray haze rose up and enveloped Yeon-woo’s torso.
Accompanied by the sound of bones cracking and crunching, Yeon-woo’s face and body changed drastically. Soon, his appearance was that of the person who had disappeared. Yeon-woo created this disguise by removing the vestige of the soul he had absorbed. This allowed Yeon-woo to have the man’s aura, and no one would be able to tell the difference.
Leonhardt looked at Yeon-woo calmly, as if nothing could surprise him. “His name is Lars. He has the lowest rank among the leaders holding this meeting. He’s the one who’s keeping watch over me.”
“Good. That means we can stay together without attracting attention.” Yeon-woo nodded in satisfaction.
“I have a request. When this is over, can I have him?”
“He’s the one who tormented me the most.” Leonhardt’s eyes narrowed, and his expression turned cold. Leonhardt had agreed to become a believer of Olympus, and fortunately, it was a society that didn’t preach love and mercy.
Yeon-woo smiled lightly and nodded in affirmation. “As you wish.”
[All those affected by your shadow are regaining their faculties.]
The operation to intercept and capture the fleeing High Guardian began. The meeting participants started moving. Yeon-woo, Leonhardt, and Kahn quietly mixed in with the crowd and listened to the proceedings.
In a cave on the sixty-sixth floor, gate of the ‘End of the Century City’, Hayang cursed out loud, “Ah! That damn Yvlke.” He put pressure on the wound in his midsection, which continued to drip white blood. He’d been the Snake of the High Guardians and possessed a great deal of knowledge, and he was once known within the Central Bureau as the administrator who could best manage the Tower’s system. However, even Hayang could not do anything to heal his wound, which festered with Gaia’s Curse, which Yvlke had inflicted on him as he’d run away.
“Where the hell did Yvlke get something like this?” Wasn’t Gaia’s Curse only used by Mother Earth? How did a High Guardian manage to use it? Hayang racked his brain to come up with some possibilities, but he could not find any.
Since he’d been on the run for so long, Hayang did not know that Asgard had received Gaia’s Curse from the Sea of Time to eliminate the Martial King. Hayang could only speculate that Yvlke had joined hands with some unknown power, and he regretted that he’d neglected his martial arts training in the past few years. Hayang had believed that he would only have to rely on his brains as a High Guardian, and now the consequences of that decision had caught up to him.
Of course, thanks to his brilliant mind, which had served him well in the Central Bureau, Hayang managed to devise several schemes that helped him escape. Those pushed into a corner could only resent their shortcomings for landing them in such a situation.
“Please hold on a bit longer. If we can just get outside the Tower, we’ll be able to find a solution.” Ananta supported Hayang and repeatedly gave him words of encouragement. If they could make it to the One-horned tribe, they would find a safe place to heal his injury. This wasn’t just wishful thinking. No matter how strong and powerful the Central Bureau was, it would still have difficulty doing anything to the One-horned tribe.
Since the One-horned tribe members were descendants of Shaohao Jintian, the Central Bureau, which claimed to be the successor of the Trinity Wonder, could not do as they wanted to the One-horned tribe.
Ananta also thought that after the Martial King succumbed to Gaia’s Curse, the Psychic Medium might have done some research to come up with an antidote. The problem was that the Central Bureau, led by Yvlke and his crew, were doing whatever they pleased, and the Martial King, who had always prevented Yvlke and his allies from going overboard, was gone.
Ananta thought it would be better for Hayang to leave than stay in the Tower, but it was difficult to escape since the Central Bureau’s eyes were everywhere. The Head Elder had said that he would act as bait and buy them time, but how long would that last?
Tick-tock, tick-tock. Ananta could hear the pocket watch around her neck ticking.
“Hahaha. I sure look pitiful. As a High Guardian, I should be helping players, but you’re helping me instead. If it weren’t for you, I’d be dead by now.” Hayang coughed up blood. After two years of running, he had run out of stamina and magic power. His power was also damaged.
Ananta looked at Hayang with sad eyes. If only she and the others had found him a little sooner. Things wouldn't have ended this way. “Don’t give up now.”
“I’m not giving up.” Hayang spoke with difficulty, but his voice was determined. His eyes, which others saw as cunning, burned with resolution. ‘I can’t die like this. I need to make sure…what the director left behind…’
Hayang grabbed the necklace hidden under his clothing. It was a key—the final security measure that would unlock the Tower system’s source code. It was an item that Klus had left to Hayang after Yvlke’s rebellion. Hayang had escaped the Central Bureau’s grasp with this key thanks to an emergency passage that he’d prepared a long time ago, just in case.
After that initial escape, it had been a succession of close calls. In the meantime, Hayang found out that the Sea of Time was behind Yvlke and his crew, and that their ultimate goal was to replace Allforone. However, possessing this knowledge didn’t change anything.
There was nothing Hayang could do on his own with his injuries. He didn’t have a means to counterattack, and even if he did, he was too focused on not being caught by the Central Bureau. If Brahm had not appeared and saved him two years ago, he would have died. However, his life was still under threat from Gaia’s Curse.
At that moment, they heard someone running urgently into the cave. Hayang turned to see who was coming. Ananta looked, as well. The Head Elder appeared, drenched in blood. The lenses of the Head Elder’s glasses, through which his wise eyes had looked, were now scratched and worn-looking. “The demonic dragon has appeared. I think we should escape from this place as soon as possible.”
Ananta’s expression stiffened when she realized they had to run again. Realizing who was on their trail, Hayang softly muttered a name, “Diablo…”
It was the Dragon. It was widely known that Diablo was the strongest among the High Guardians. Diablo was the first demonic dragon to appear in the world, and he was coming.