Chapter 328. The Grand Scheme (1)
Hansoo confirmed who the man was and frowned.
‘… He’s young.’
He didn’t even look twenty.
As Hansoo frowned at this young boy, who should’ve only been at high school or even younger, Kael also frowned.
Where had it gone wrong?
Hansoo should not have been able to reach him.
The spell from the Rangkom’s Stake should’ve hidden him from the Ark-Roa.
The Ark-Roa should’ve eaten the transcendents in quick succession, and then become stronger from the easiest to the hardest targets.
And then finally it would reach Hansoo.
Then he himself would attack them both when they were half-dead from fighting each other.
This was his plan.
But instead, Hansoo had used the team he’d been raising for the Ark-Roa against him.
‘This guy is dangerous. This was why he’d been able to lead Sir Jang Oh to his death.’
Kael tightened his grip on the Rangkom’s Stake.
Whatever. This is good, too.
Since he should use his own hands to deal with his own issues.
— … I’ll leave the rest to you.
Kael thought of Jang Oh’s last wish as he started to gather up strength.
An abnormal world.
And its insane rules.
Outer appearances did not prove the true power of a being.
And as if Kael was trying to prove this, a storm of energy started to rush out from his body.
Hansoo frowned at this.
‘2 star indeed.’
This kid had climbed over the wall too.
And he was different from the ones who’d used the <nursery> to grow stronger.
After completely gathering up his strength, Kael swung the stake at Hansoo.
The white stake, surrounded by a golden aura, aimed for Hansoo’s heart.
And the moment Forked Lightning and the stake collided…
A tremendous explosion occurred as it swept through the surroundings.
And Hansoo laughed as he sensed the tremendous amount of lightning crackling around his body.
‘He gathered a lot of energy into the stake, huh? And this is the Golden Demon’s Reinforcement.’
Golden Demon’s Reinforcement.
Skill rank 19.
The body, after being shrouded by golden light, boasted an ironclad defense and a very solid attack to match.
The golden spear and the white stake clashed, causing countless shockwaves to ring out.
The ground split apart and lightning fell.
Though it was only a clash between two people, the surrounding few hundred meters collapsed and the geography changed.
The red spores seeped out from Hansoo’s body and multiplied inside the boy’s body to melt him down, right as the golden aura charged at Hansoo to smash apart his body.
As Forked Lightning was about to pierce through Kael’s defenses and go through his heart, Kael ignored the spear as he was also aiming for Hansoo’s heart with the stake.
Hansoo quickly retreated to defend the attack, frowning as he looked at the insane boy.
That clash had been completely planned.
The boy had purposely let down his guard around his heart, and then waited for an opening.
All just to kill Hansoo, even if it meant risking his own life.
‘… I’ve never even seen this kid before, why does he hate me so much?’
The boy was too insane for this to be just simple rage.
A resolution to kill him even if it meant losing everything.
Kael, who had been smashing at Hansoo with his golden aura, roared out in rage.
“If you hadn’t pushed Jang Oh that far! If you hadn’t brought the Abyss!”
Kael thought back to two years in the past.
Jang Oh had become a mess after his fight with Hansoo.
He had lost the fight and because he had overdrawn his soul, Taehee had been forced to act out personally, which had caused even more of a backlash.
But Jang Oh had tried to save his villagers despite his condition.
And he would have succeeded.
If the Obelisk hadn’t broken apart, which had caused a new, harsh environment to cover the entire Green Zone.
If the elevator hadn’t fallen into their world, which had brought down countless beasts with it.
— Everyone work hard! We must go up!
Jang Oh and everyone else had tried their best, but it hadn’t been enough.
The damage on Jang Oh’s body had become worse after he’d overexerted himself trying to go up.
And Kael had asked.
As to why they had to try so hard to go up.
Because the ones led by Kang Hansoo were defending the line from a distance.
Though they were slightly damaged from the beasts, they were hunting in relative safety.
But Jang Oh shook his head with a bitter expression.
— No, we are the losers. We are not like them.
Their situations were different.
If they remained… they’d be wiped out.
Because of the winners, they had to go up.
They had to go up and find a new way to survive.
Kael grit his teeth as he thought of the past.
Jang Oh had died.
Fighting while the villagers went up.
He and the villagers could only shed blood and tears, unable to help.
Under Jang Oh’s protection, they had been able to safely gather runes and raise their respective mastery of skills.
But there was a limit to this.
A plant raised in a greenhouse will snap once it meets a storm.
And only when Jang Oh had fallen did they realize that the only ones who could rise up within the storm and face it head on were those who had gained their strength within the storm.
“Fucking… Bastard! It’s all because of you!”
Kael grit his teeth as he pushed Hansoo back more and more.
He had constantly been raising his strength for the day he would meet Hansoo.
He wasn’t dumb.
He realized that the strength gained through training, and not through something like the nursery, was the only true way of becoming really powerful.
He’d realized that fighting in real life-threatening battles was the true way of becoming powerful, so he’d roamed through the entire 4th area to hunt the beasts and absorb their strength.
This was why there were no powerful beasts within the entire 4th area.
Because he had devoured them all.
He had almost died a few times, but he’d been able to reach the 2nd star.
And he had constantly gathered energy into the Rangkom’s stake just in case.
And finally… He had met Hansoo.
The man who had turned Jang Oh into a mess and smashed apart the stage they’d been standing on.
The man whom he’d thought he could easily kill with this painstakingly-gained strength.
Kael grit his teeth as he stared at Hansoo.
The reality was harsh.
His strength was not fake.
He had confirmed it after smashing everyone apart, including the transcendents.
He hadn’t slacked off even after reaching the 2nd star, so he had been confident that he could beat Hansoo, even if Hansoo had become a 2 star.
But what was this?
What of the two years he’d spent training like a maniac?
The golden spear flashed past the stake and smashed into his shoulder.
An attack much more fierce than his own.
And the memories he had been suppressing slowly rose up.
Memories that had been locked away in case they might have been detrimental to his training.
— He… He is not normal. I’ve lost. It’s not a matter of strength, but instead… He’s just better at fighting.
He’d thought of the conversation he had with Jang Oh before his death.
He had beaten Jang Oh who had trained for over twenty years.
For someone who had only been in this zone for a year to become that strong, what would his life have been like?
And then he slowly thought back to the achievements this Hansoo guy had done in the past.
Achievements that he himself would fail even if he had ten lives.
‘… I see.’
Kael fell into despair.
He had been ignoring it until now.
No matter how hard he ran.
There was always someone who was soaring through the skies above him.
That just by simply trying his best didn’t mean he could beat everyone.
As his resolution crumbled, more and more openings appeared.
And his opponent was not somebody who would miss such a thing.
Kael smiled as he felt Hansoo smash his body with his spear, breaking through his reinforcement.
He wasn’t enough.
If he, the runner, was not enough.
He could just ask.
That person who was also soaring through the skies.
Kael closed his eyes and thought of the last conversation he’d had with Jang Oh.
— You… You are now the owner of this soul fragment. Don’t cry. You will do well, you’re a strong kid, believe in yourself.
‘Ah, Mr. Jang Oh, this is the end for me. I have lost already. And… please help me. Clementine.’
The person who he’d idolized more than Jang Oh.
The moment he called out to the person who would be soaring through the skies far above them.
— You’ve done well… This is what clementine told me to tell you. Good job. I’ll take over from this point on.
The voice of the fragment’s owner, Taehee, could be heard inside his mind.
The soul fragment that had been hiding in the corners of his mind started to devour him up from inside.
Above a mountain a bit to the west of the War Fortress.
A blue semi-shaped sphere, four meters in size, had been casted around four people, all of whom sat in the middle.
Two males and two females.
And one of the males, Taesang, looked at the couple in amusement.
‘… So these are Karhal and Ekidu, huh?’
A couple from the legendary era of the past.
The people that man had been searching so hard for.
But he could not figure out the identity of the other person.
This woman who stared into the distance, holding onto a flail which reached down to her feet.
As Taesang looked in confusion at this lady who had basically abducted him into this place.
The lady raised her eyebrows and mumbled:
“Huh? This isn’t good.”
“He was crazier than I thought…”
Ekidu, Karhal, and Taesang finally asked her the question they had been trying to figure out for so long.
“Who are you?”
The mysterious woman who had saved them.
Without the woman, they would’ve been swallowed alive.
Since they had seen how the monster had come searching for them while it hid its aura, and then moving away after failing to find them.
‘… How does she know how to use that anyway?’
The flail in the woman’s hands.
The woman had been using the energy of the mana node with proficiency, which was why they’d been able to watch over the situation from relative safety.
This barrier seemed to disrupt that monster’s senses.
Of course, they still couldn’t approach the monster.
The woman pondered for a moment and then spoke.
“Hmm… Just call me Athena for now. I’ll tell you later.”
It was childish.
But she really liked that name.
“… You’re the last of the twelve? But why are you helping us?”
Athena smiled at the suspicion in Karhal’s words.
“Because it is now time to move.”
Athena muttered as she looked towards the War Fortress in the distance.