Immediately after I returned to Seoul, I began preparing for the future.
First, I purchased an entire block of single houses in Hannam-dong, then I began construction to renovate the basement of these houses.
Though the future was no longer the future I knew, if the general storyline hadn’t changed, then not much time was left until most parts of the world transformed into the Demon Realm.
With the help of Young Dwarf’s Dexterity, I designed the blueprint for an ‘underground city’. Then I used [Buster Call] to summon Genkelope’s Vessel. Together with Genkelope’s ‘maintenance ships’, I began the construction.
Because the blueprint was top notch—this was according to the ship’s crew—and because Yoo Yeonha lent me all of the equipment I needed, the assembly proceeded quickly.
And today, I brought Boss to the construction site.
Jiing— Watching a robot make parts with its laser hands, Boss widened her eyes in awe.
“I’m building this place to prepare for the Demon Realm Transformation.”
“Demon Realm Transformation?”
We needed to begin preparations to overcome the existential crisis and to achieve the happily ever after that we all deserved.
“This is the crystal that can stop the Transformation.”
I took out [Akatrina’s Purification Crystal]. It was something ‘Prihi’ from the recorded past had left to me. However, its effects were limited to a radius of 5km from the crystal.
“This crystal can also purify the soil and the air. With it, we can easily produce crops here in the underground.”
According to Horner— we could even build an ‘artificial sea’ using this crystal. If we could cultivate soil with the crystal and grow crops that could be found in the Tower of the Wish, such as [meat-flavored corn], we wouldn’t have to worry about food shortages.
It was then that I received a video call on my smartwatch.
“Excuse me for a minute, Boss.”
The call was from Yoo Yeonha. I adjust the angle of the smartwatch so that Boss wouldn’t be seen in the screen and answered the call.
Yoo Yeonha appeared in the air as a hologram.
[How’s the construction going? Is everything fine?]
“Yup. I think it’ll be finished in a month.”
The underground city was huge, but Genkelope's crew worked unbelievably fast. Thanks to the [Regeneration Orb] the workers could work continuously without resting.
[Mm. You said you were using the technology of the Genkelope’s Vessel, right?]
Yoo Yeonha nodded and asked cautiously.
[Then could you help me?]
[‘Essential Dynamics’ is working to build underground cities in Seoul, Busan, and Ulsan as well as in the U.S. and Japan.]
“Ah, really? That sounds like a good plan. I’ll help you.”
Yoo Yeonha was as meticulous as always.
[Thank you. I’ll send my people to you later. I have to go now-]
“Ah, give me a moment.”
Suddenly I remembered something. I turned my head to the side and saw Boss, who was glaring at me with a sullen look.
I muted Yoo Yeonha and said, “Boss, the Mountain Sage members are still locked up, right?”
“It’s time to use them.”
With a smirk, I unmuted the smartwatch.
“We’ve been keeping tabs on some wonderful informants.”
Yoo Yeonha’s hologram tilted her head.
“Yeah, they’re called the Mountain Sage.”
Yoo Yeonha was an expert at persuading people. Despite being locked up for six months, the Mountain Sage had yet to reveal who ordered my assassination. Perhaps Yoo Yeonha could persuade them to speak.
[Mountain Sage? The Mountain Sage?!]
Yoo Yeonha’s calm voice became unusually high-pitched.
“I’m pretty sure we’re talking about the same people. They’re incredible.”
Yoo Yeonha’s cheeks were flushed. She would always get extremely excited whenever she discovered talent.
I said with a smile, “You can have them. That is, if you can persuade them.”
[What do you mean by that?]
“I’ll text you the details later.”
Sadly, our call would have to end here. I had no choice. Boss had been staring at me way too intensely for some time.
[Ah, okay. I’ll be waiting for your text.]
Yoo Yeonha clenched her fists and hung up. I turned my gaze to Boss. She was pouting.
“You’ve been on the phone too long. And, I don’t want to hand them over. They tried to kill you.”
Her voice was soaked in anger.
With a soft smile, I put my hand on Boss’s shoulder.
“That’s why I’m handing them over. To find out who was trying to kill me.”
The Mountain Sage members were all immune to mental interventions, and neither torture nor hypnosis worked on them.
But I knew Yoo Yeonha could find a way to break them.
Boss said nothing, but her silence always meant consent. So I slowly reached for her hand.
“Now, should we get something to eat?”
Boss’s gaze traveled down. Looking at our clasped hands, Boss slowly nodded.
I pulled her hand towards the restaurant with her favorite dish— ‘dumplings’.
[The last round of the Gate of Glory Qualification Tournament will be held at the Temple of Justice.]
[It has been a long journey. Now, the remaining 1000 Heroes are heading for the Temple.]
[This will be the last hurdle for the countless Heroes gathered.]
The moment the theme of the 4th round of the Qualification Tournament was announced, the Internet began to overflow with news articles. Everyone on various social media sites was talking about the Tournament, and gambling sites began hosting real-time bets on who would be included in the final 200.
“…These three are the judges?”
And here at the Temple of Justice which was now the center of global attention, Aileen was looking around the waiting room of the judges.
“It’s four in total, including you, Chairman Aileen,” answered her secretary. But Aileen seemed rather dissatisfied with the lineup.
“Good to see you, little one.”
The one who just called Aileen ‘little one’ was ‘Heynckes’ of the Nine Stars. Aileen sat down on a chair, sighing disapprovingly.
“What’s wrong, little one?”
“…Dammit. Stop calling me little one,” snapped Aileen.
But she wasn’t dissatisfied with Heynckes. She considered him well qualified to be the judge of the Tournament. No one would be more suited than an active member of the Nine Stars.
The person she had a problem with was the woman sitting next to Heynckes.
As the Chief Officer of Essence of the Strait, she was known for many things, but as a Hero she was merely a high-intermediate-rank grade-1 at best. Aileen still couldn’t understand why a weakling like Yoo Yeonha was called the ‘Queen of Seoul’ by so many people.
Yoo Yeonha lowered her head with a small smile. Aileen snorted and turned her gaze to the man sitting on the other side of Heynckes.
Yoo Sihyuk, the master of Baekdu Mountain.
He was busy reading a book, not even sparing Aileen a glance. It had been a while since they last saw each other, but he was still as snobby as ever.
“Ah, right. Lord Heynckes.”
At that moment, she heard Yoo Yeonha’s voice. Aileen again shifted her gaze to Yoo Yeonha, who was handing what seemed to be a pill to Heynckes.
“…What’s this?” asked Heynckes. Aileen also stared at the pill with sparkly eyes.
‘Is it vitamins?’ she wondered, when Yoo Yeonha courteously responded, “It’s the cure for your side effect that we talked about before.”
Kim Hajin had passed on the pills he had made to Yoo Yeonha and asked her to distribute them to the Nine Stars who were suffering from serious side effects. Yoo Yeonha gladly accepted.
“…Is this what you tried to give me last time?”
Heynckes stared at the pill for a while before grabbing it and putting it inside his pocket. He then said bashfully, “I do need to stay alive until at least the Demon Realm Gate opens.”
“Thank you for accepting it.”
“…I should be the one thanking you. I really don’t think my heart has a lot of time left, and I’ve been regretting declining your offer last time.”
Aileen turned away from them and began organizing the papers for the meeting. “I like gifts. And pills, too.” She muttered to herself.
…As she neared her 40s, she had recently grown more interested in health.
“Oh, I have a gift for you as well, Chairman Aileen.”
Of course, Yoo Yeonha was not the type to miss such an opportunity.
The gift she prepared for Aileen was a box of top-class medicinal pills. Each pill contained a small amount of [Dimensional Entropy] and was worth at least 100 million won. There were 60 of these pills in the box.
“…H-Hmm. Yeah? I guess I’ll take it, if you so insist.”
Aileen hugged the gift box tightly.
“Well then, should we get on with the meeting? To discuss how we’re gonna judge?”
Yoo Yeonha bit her lips, trying hard not to laugh out loud at Aileen who was beaming in satisfaction.
“Look, we have to pick 200 out of 1000 people. But do we have enough time to meet all the candidates? Of course we don’t. So we should first pick out the most qualified candidates, and-”
“Ah, about that,” Yoo Yeonha intervened.
Because of the gift she had just received, Aileen felt more forgiving than usual. So she casually asked, “What is it?”
Without a word, Yoo Yeonha put forth an envelope.
A black and a golden lotus symbol was embossed on it.
Kim Hajin wrote this letter and left it to Yoo Yeonha, hoping to earn himself a spot in the final 200.
Aileen looked at the envelope—the symbol on the envelope, to be precise—and frowned.
“Yes, it’s a letter from Black Lotus.”
At that moment, Heynckes and Yoo Sihyuk, who had been quite all along, opened their eyes wide.
Yoo Yeonha glanced at them and continued cautiously, “Black Lotus sent this letter to my guild. It appears that he also wants to enter the Gate…. What do you think? I’d like to hear your opinions.”
[Korea — Demon Realm Gate]
Cold wind swept across the land under the gray sky. It was unusual weather for a day in April.
The last round of the Qualification Tournament was over and the entire selection process had ended. Black Lotus was secretly selected as one of the participants.
I came to the site of the Demon Realm Gate when I realized that the deadline of 30 days as denoted by the Gate would be over soon.
Because the area around the Gate had been sealed off to the public, it was very quiet here.
I hid myself in a nearby mountain and looked around. There were many Heroes and Djinns down below. Heroes sought to enter the Gate, and the Djinns wanted to take their place.
Suddenly the wind blew. And with that wind— a certain existence appeared next to me.
“…You’re here,” I muttered.
“Yeah, I am,” Jin Sahyuk said with a nod. On her back, [Alexander III’s Cape] was fluttering boastingly in the wind.
I looked at the people below.
On the Heroes’ side I saw Chae Nayun, Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, Jin Seyeon, Aileen, Yoon Seung-Ah, Rachel, Yoo Jinwoong, Kim Junwoo, Vast Expense, and even Bell… in terms of strength, all of them were qualified to represent humanity.
“I see Bell over there.”
“It’s not only Bell,” Jin Sahyuk remarked in all seriousness, “There are also a lot of Djinns. Inside that gate is where the greatest devil of all time will be born.”
“The greatest devil… are you talking about Bell?”
I took out my bow and arrows. It was just as Jin Sahyuk said. There were too many Djinns here in the mountain range in Hamgyeong-do.
Below the ground, above the ground, even in the sky. They were waiting for their chance to enter the Gate of the Demon Realm.
“Yes. Inside the Gate is where Bell will die and Baal will be born.”
I notched five [Dark Ore Arrows] against the bowstring and shot them.
The arrows flew like a hawk towards the Djinns. Keuk— Keuk— I heard ear-splitting shrieks.
I retrieved the arrows and notched them again. Then I asked Jin Sahyuk, “Does that mean we’re 100% sure that Baal is going to descend?”
“…‘Kill me inside the Gate of the Demon Realm and eliminate Baal.’”
Jin Sahyuk mimicked Bell’s voice. It was quite similar, and a laugh escaped my lips.
“That’s what Bell said.”
“…Yeah, I agree. If Baal does descend, we can’t bring him to Earth. We’ll have to end him in there.”
Baal in my setting was close to God. He would probably be more powerful than Orden and would try to transform the Earth immediately.
That’s why we would have to end everything inside. Once Baal escapes, the Earth would be destroyed for good.
“What are you gonna do, Jin Sahyuk?”
But there was one more thing I needed to ask Jin Sahyuk.
She would need to rely on Baal’s powers if she wanted to connect Akatrina and the Earth. Therefore, if Jin Sahyuk did not give up on her initial goal—to return to her homeland—she would have no choice but to cooperate with Baal.
“Bell and I will take care of that.”
“I’ll make sure it doesn’t cause you a problem, so stay out of it.”
Jin Sahyuk was adamant.
I nodded reluctantly and shot the arrows again. [Dark Ore Arrows] danced in the air as they flew towards the Djinns. They disposed of a dozen Djinns and returned to me.
—Fuck! Someone’s shooting arrows!
—It’s dark arrows! Dark arrows!
—Dark arrows… that means Black Lotus.
—Damn it, that son of a bitch…!
The Djinns, cornered by my surprise attack, initiated Devil Transformation. But that was a bad decision.
Heroes immediately detected the change in their demonic energy. Aileen was the first to jump up in the air and track down the demonic energy. Destroying her enemies with her Spirit Speech, she was as merciless as the Grim Reaper.
—What do you think you’re doing here! Vermins, you’ll be crushed!
And her Spirit Speech crushed the Djinns quite literally. Yoo Sihyuk’s white wolves jumped in, followed by Yoo Jinwoong’s electric strikes and Shin Jonghak’s dark flames.
Watching the scene unfold, I called Jin Sahyuk’s name. She looked at me.
I hesitated, unable to look her in the eye. I opened my mouth then closed it again. It took me a while, but I finally managed to get it out.
I wanted Jin Sahyuk to hear this.
“Can’t you just stay here?”
Jin Sahyuk said nothing.
I waited for her to answer.
But she kept her silence… and suddenly.
The Demon Realm Gate began releasing magic power. The giant magic power shook the earth and spread in all directions. The fight between the Djinns and the Heroes stopped, and runic symbols rose above the slowly opening gate.
I translated it with my Gift.
[The Demon Realm Gate shall determine who among the humans gathered here qualifies to enter it.]
That was all there was.
The moment I finished reading it, however, branch-shaped magic power flowed out from the half-open Gate.
Two of the many branches stretching out in all directions came this way and wrapped around Jin Sahyuk and me.
We didn’t even have time to react.
The branch of magic power bound our bodies tightly and dragged us into the Demon Realm Gate without a moment’s delay.