Edora nodded calmly as Phante returned, rubbing his aching ribs. He said, "That's why we're here, Dad. I mean, you didn't even bat an eye when Arthia was in trouble. Why is it so urgent this time?”
It was the One-horned tribe’s ironclad rule to always stay neutral, a position that they had taken since ancient times which had allowed them to reign as the strongest clan.
"I wasn’t going to interfere at first, but things have gotten complicated."
Phante and Edora frowned at their father’s words. He was one of the Nine Kings who had the highest status in the Tower, and in terms of sheer strength, he was among the top five—and yet he considered this situation complicated. "To make it short, we are going to join the war as mercenaries."
"Flann said he'd give up his horn. You know what that means. There was nothing I could do. The other elders also gave their consent."
Phante’s and Edora’s eyes widened. The horn that grew on the heads of the One-horned tribe symbolized their honor and pride. Flann was their younger uncle and one of the best warriors of the tribe. Giving up his horn was like renouncing everything he’d achieved so far, and they now understand what their father had meant with his words. "It’s a long story, so let's go inside first."
* * *
"I’m sorry but I don’t know either."
『Hmm…Is that so?』
"Is there anything you can see in the bracelet?" Yeon-woo asked, lifting his head, even though he knew the Phoenix wasn’t physically present.
『Do I see anything? No. I am also puzzled because I can normally see through most objects. But I cannot see anything from that bracelet at all. It is as if…』 The Phoenix paused for a moment to find the right words. 『It is as if the bracelet is shrouded in fog. That’s how it looks to me.』
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. ‘An artifact that even the Phoenix can’t see through. Well, that’s frustrating.'
『But there is one thing I can tell you.』
"What is it?"
『That bracelet is an artifact that represents my antithesis, but at the same time, complements me. Think of it as a mirror.』
'Antithesis? A mirror?' Yeon-woo couldn’t understand these metaphors.
『I am a creature that represents life itself even in death. But that item is made from death and represents death even in life. Life is but one step away from death. That artifact and I possess the power of regeneration and resurrection.』 The Phoenix spoke in a heavy voice. 『Therefore, it can be said that the bracelet and I are mirror images or two sides of the same coin.』
The Phoenix’s explanation was as clear as mud to Yeon-woo, and she laughed mildly as if she understood his thoughts. 『I understand your confusion. Even I do not fully understand what that artifact is.』 Then she made a strange remark. 『But keep my next words in mind because they will help you solve the mysteries of that bracelet.』
"What are they?"
『Although they seem like each other’s antithesis, life and death are not different. They are one.』
"Life and death are one?"
The Phoenix could come back to life even after death because she could control life itself. The Black Bracelet, on the other hand, could control death by collecting souls and converting them into dark energy or Spirit Familiars. From a certain perspective, it could be considered a form of resurrection. Perhaps this was what the Phoenix was talking about, and perhaps it was the key to solving the mysteries of the artifact and even the Black King.
『And I can certainly feel divine power from that shield. Hmm, was it blessed by the goddess of war? Or did she use it herself?』
Yeon-woo's eyes widened in surprise, and the Phoenix continued with a slightly pleased voice. 『I see. You don't want others to know about it. I understand. I will swear a Soul Oath that I will keep your secret』
A Soul Oath was a contract that bound one's soul and destroyed it if it broke the contract. The Phoenix was saying she would never disclose his secret to others.
『You saved my child. It is only right that I accommodate you. But I do wish to examine your shield, so will you allow me to take a look? It has been a while since I have come across a godly artifact.』
Yeon-woo thought it would be fine to show her since she had made a Soul Oath. 'She seems to have some knowledge of godly artifacts. This could be an opportunity to ask her about Aegis.’
Yeon-woo nodded and brought the shield forward. With its nine translucent, light-pink layers, it was just as beautiful as a piece of art, even with the head of an ugly-looking monster embedded in its center.
『That is Medusa.』 Medusa was a Gorgon that petrified creatures who gazed into her eyes. 『I have heard of it and about a brilliant and courageous goddess in Olympus. Her power can defeat the wrongs in the world and bring about justice. This is her artifact, is it not?』
Yeon-woo heard the admiration in the Phoenix's voice and looked at Aegis with Draconic Eyes.
[Description: The nine-layered shield used by Athena, the goddess of war. The shield provides the owner with divine protection and a blessing that blocks most attacks. However, as a godly artifact, it is known to choose its owner. If the owner harbors malevolent thoughts or tarnishes Athena’s honor by committing a hideous crime, it will harm its own owner.]
[* Curse of Gorgon]
[In order to punish the three Gorgon sisters for rebelling against Olympus, Athena ordered her Apostle, Perseus, to kill Medusa. After successfully killing her, Perseus beheaded Medusa and gave her head to Athena, who placed it on this shield. Repels all wickedness and brings the curse of petrification to those who look into her eyes.]
[* Goddess' Weapon]
[Grants the owner a powerful blessing which will protect the owner from physical attacks and unleash an overwhelming aura that can break the opponent's spirit. Also grants blessings to those whom the owner recognizes as allies within a certain range. The blessing boosts one’s stats and morale by 10% and increases resistance against all properties by 15%. The area of effect and the number of recipients increases according to skill proficiency.]
[Ability locked. (Sealed)]
[** This is a unique artifact. No other artifact like this exists in the Tower, and it will be bound to its owner. It cannot be transferred or traded between players.
** Some of the abilities are sealed. You must meet the qualifications or conditions in order to lift the seals.
** Some information cannot be accessed. You must meet the qualifications or conditions in order to view the information.]
It seemed like the description provided by the Phoenix helped him uncover more information about Aegis.
『It must be quite different from the bracelet. Perhaps it’s even better, is it not?』
"Yes, it is." Yeon-woo nodded, trembling with excitement. The shield was even better than what he’d expected. He’d acquired numerous hidden pieces based on the information in his brother’s diary and managed to hoard most of the best artifacts and skills below the eleventh floor. However, Aegis was incomparably better than all of those items combined. It was an artifact that had both defensive and offensive capabilities, and the first option alone, the Curse of Gorgon, not only protected him from dark spells but also petrified his opponents. However, Yeon-woo was especially intrigued by the other option, which allowed him to apply buffs to his allies and debuffs to his enemies. ‘It’s a crowd-control skill.’
Normally, this kind of skill was exclusive to Lords, but even Lords had limitations on their skills. Usually, they could only boost their minions, but Aegis provided buffs to anyone Yeon-woo considered an ally. This meant that Yeon-woo could grant the buff to his Spirit Familiars, his future Mythical Beast, and those who fought alongside him all at the same time.
'There are more options to Aegis than the ones Jeong-woo mentioned in his diary. I don't even have to worry about getting hit by an unexpected knife.’ There weren’t many wielders of godly aftifacts in the Towers, and they were mostly Apostles. As far as he knew, no one possessed an unrestricted godly weapon.
『But due to the original owner’s personality, it seems like the shield has very strict standards.』
Yeon-woo nodded at the Phoenix's words. The restrictions on Aegis were unique because of Athena’s character. According to mythology, she was generous and reasonable, and because of those rare qualities, she was held in high esteem. The shield frowned on malevolent thoughts and anything that could tarnish Athena’s honor, which could pose a problem to Yeon-woo since he’d sworn to avenge his brother’s death. 'This ability to repel wickedness might also be an obstacle.’
Yeon-woo looked at his Spirit Familiars, who had been keeping their distance.
[Your Spirit Familiars are watching one of your possessions fearfully.]
[Affinity of your Spirit Familiars has decreased.]
The spirits had turned their heads away to avoid making eye contact with the Gorgon’s head. The weaker ones were even trembling in fear. When he realized the effect the shield was having on them, Yeon-woo then tried to extract dark element mana but the energy forming in his hand suddenly shattered and vanished with a tinkling sound. Yeon-woo clucked his tongue lightly. 'Aegis doesn’t go well with the Black Bracelet.’
The Black Bracelet utilized dark mana and curses, and Aegis repelled them. It was obvious that the two didn’t go together well. 'Then what about Vigrid?’ Yeon-woo pulled Vigrid out, wondering what would happen when the formerly divine demonic sword met the godly artifact?
Briing! Vigrid started to shake from the holy energy of Aegis.
[The demonic curse that corrupts Vigrid is being dispelled by Aegis.]
[The divine aspect of Vigrid will begin to resurface, but the sword's curse is too intense. More holy energy is required to lift its curse completely.]
‘So that’s what happens to Vigrid.’ Yeon-woo couldn’t help marveling at Aegis’ ability. He’d been searching for ways to remove Vigrid’s curse and restore its power, and it turned out that Aegis was the solution.
『The shield rejects the deathly bracelet but accepts the cursed sword. This is very interesting!』 The Phoenix was greatly amused.
Yeon-woo quickly put his brain to work. ‘There are two weapon combinations I can employ in combat.’ One was his original combat style, which utilized the Magic Bayonet and Carshina’s Dagger as his main weapons while using the Black Bracelet as a backup.
The other combination was using Vigrid’s destructive abilities and Aegis’ crowd-control skill in large-scale battles. Yeon-woo burst into laughter as he planned his tactics.
* * *
The Phoenix’s saw the Despair of the Black King as an ominous item and Aegis as a sacred one. At the same time, she said that the bracelet was more like her, while the shield was quite different. 『As I mentioned earlier, there is only a thin line between me and that bracelet of yours. But the shield and I are polar opposites. A Legendary Beast such as I does not live by the rules of the deities.』 As she looked at Yeon-woo’s puzzled reaction, Phoenix peal of laughter before she continued, 『One thing is for certain, it is not usual for the Tower to grant someone such distinctly different artifacts at the same time. You may want to find out why the Tower has rewarded you with those items.』
Although her words still sounded like a riddle, Yeon-woo thanked the Phoenix for giving him advice.
『Oh, before you go, I have one favor to ask of you.』
Yeon-woo tilted his head to one side.
『My children have hatched out of their shells, including my youngest child, whom you saved.』
‘Already?’ Yeon-woo was shocked at how quickly the eggs had hatched. It would have been a big problem if he had returned her egg even just a little later. He smiled behind his black mask. "Congratulations."
『Thank you. Now, the favor…』The Phoenix paused briefly, then said, 『Will you name my youngest child?』Previous Chapter Next Chapter