Ellelua was one of the major cities representing the Haken Kingdom. Cultural prosperity was built, and it was called the sanctuary of artists as tourists visited it every day. Now, it was still. In the aftermath of Great Demon Berith, it turned into a wasteland. The buildings that inspired the artists and the works of high value were shattered.
A huge magic circle was drawn in the sky where dust was blowing. Dozens of lights fell to the ground, and people could be seen inside the light. They were Grid’s party and the dukes. The other imperial forces remained at the historical site to assist with Skunk’s study.
“Is this Fort Taleren?”
The landscape was a city where everything had crumbled. The Overgeared members cocked their heads at the desolate landscape that showed no traces of people. Berith was said to be raiding Fort Taleren, so they naturally thought their destination was Taleren. Could this place be called a fortress?
Someone approached the puzzled group and explained, “No, this is Ellelua. Fort Taleren is the last bastion of the Haken Kingdom. The moment the war started, they blocked teleportation magic, making it inaccessible by magic. That’s why we chose the city closest to Fort Taleren as the gathering place.”
The explanation sounded like it was read from a script. The identity of this friendly man was the first ranked wind magician, Zednos. Toon, Laella, Ibellin, Zirkan, Coke, and so on—they ranged from the elites to the new members of the artillerymen unit. Hundreds of Overgeared members were gathered behind Zednos. They had gathered here first while Sticks brought Grid’s party over. All of them would be involved in the Berith raid.
“I see. How long will it take to get to the fortress?”
“If the speed buffs are maintained, approximately 10 hours?”
“What? We aren’t soldiers yet we have to march for so long? I don’t want to feel like I’m re-enlisting!”
“I’m envious that you went to the army.”
“If you’re envious, you should get naturalized to South Korea and enlist.”
“That is a little...”
“Hey, isn’t 10 hours too long? Won’t the fortress be occupied before we arrive?”
Through slaughter, Berith collected human souls and used it as a resource to open the gates of hell to summon an army. If he broke through the fortress and reached the capital, there would be plenty of resources for him to summon a new army and the difficulty of the raid would be even higher.
Toban shook his head. “Zibal gathered 30,000 elite soldiers with the nobles of the Haken Kingdom. The fortress is advantageous for defensive battles, and Berith won’t be able to capture it quickly. Additionally, Kraugel, Hao, Alexander, Kirinus, and Rachel will arrive at the fortress one step ahead of us, so we’ll have plenty of time.”
“Toban is correct. We aren’t in a position to worry about the safety of the fortress. We should wish that Berith isn’t raided before we arrive.”
Others might not know it but Kraugel and Zibal were strong people who were of a totally different level. The rankers who could face them could be counted on one hand. There was even the continent’s best spearmen with them... It wouldn’t be strange if Berith was raided before they arrived.
“By the way, what did Kraugel do to get Kirinus and Rachel as colleagues? Didn’t Grid only get named NPCs after he became a noble?”
“Kraugel is Kraugel. He is a monster who has been preempting quests since the beginning... Eh?”
This was their first reunion since the creation of the artillerymen unit, but the gathered Overgeared members quickly shut their mouths. It was because they saw bright gold names. They belatedly discovered the named NPCs with the names of Grenhal, Morse, and Basara around Lauel.
“Why are these people...?”
“Oh, I was late to brag. No, the introduction was late. Please exchange greetings. They are the dukes of the Saharan Empire.”
“Dukes of the empire? Heok!”
“The Seven Dukes?!”
The dukes were an absolute power that couldn’t be touched by players, and they were the most feared dangers of the Overgeared Kingdom. During the war against the empire, the Overgeared members had always been uneasy and frightened because of the dukes. The people who are the leaders of the enemy—why were they here?
Lauel’s colleagues reacted dully.
“Huhuhut... It is thanks to Grid,” Lauel laughed and spoke proudly.
“...” The Overgeared members were speechless. Those who had just praised Kraugel completely erased Kraugel from their minds.
‘Truly God Grid...’
‘Kraugel brought two people while Grid brought three people of the boss-class...’
‘By the way, they look really strong.’
Grenhal and Morse, who were on top of the two-headed hippopotamus and the saber tiger, were impressive at first sight. In particular, Grenhal with his brilliant armor was the ultimate tanker. It was certain that he must be a zombie that a handful of rankers could never knock down.
‘I heard he is called the Immortal King...’
Who would’ve imagined that Grenhal took off his armor when fighting seriously? The Overgeared members misunderstood Grenhal as a tanker and greeted him politely, “It is an honor to be with the dukes. I will entrust my back to you.”
“The companions of the Overgeared King are extraordinary. It is nice to meet you.”
They were allies who would be on the same boat for a while. The dukes were strong allies who would protect them from the mighty enemy, Great Demon Berith. The Overgeared members treated the dukes with great care, and the dukes didn’t lose their politeness. They greeted each other and measured their power. Toban wanted to increase his affinity with the evil eyes king and tried to use gifts, but it was very difficult to build up affinity with the best NPCs.
No matter what means and methods Toban used, his affinity was fixed to zero and there was no progress. The same was true for the others. The dukes of the empire were harder than the evil eyes king. So, how did Grid win their hearts? The group looked at Grid like he was a monster.
Meanwhile, Grid was thinking about something else, ‘The Five Pillars...’
Grid had cleared the SSS grade quest and was granted free access to the Ruins of the War God. It was a tremendous benefit since he could return at any time to the place that required 10 days of sailing. However, he didn’t feel comfortable. He was disheartened when he learned that the potential of the Five Pillars surpassed the dukes.
‘An empty shell that has consumed all their talents.’
This was the expression used by the war god to describe the dukes. The war god wasn’t interested in the dukes. He treated them like nothing. Yet Kyle was different. Kyle was believed to have arrived at the ruins at almost the same time as Marquis Fulbas. He was chosen by the war god after only a few days of coming to the ruins. This meant he was strong enough that the war god coveted him despite considering the dukes insignificant. It was a great pressure considering that Kyle was the weakest of the Five Pillars.
‘The other pillars are more likely to be chosen by the war god.’
Kyle became a follower of the war god and looked stronger than ever. If the other four pillars also became followers, their power might be unbearable.
‘Maybe a yangban level...’
Grid had a headache. He believed that his relationship with the empire would improve after receiving the dukes’ favor and that the dukes would play a big role in the process. However, there was now the war god’s intervention to deal with. He wondered if the dukes could go against the stronger Five Pillars.
‘By the way... why did Kyle pretend not to know me and run away?’
At first, Grid didn’t think Kyle was actually running away. He thought Kyle didn’t recognize him and went on another path. Once Grid regained his composure and looked back, Kyle had clearly run away. The evidence was that the quest was cleared. What was the reason for that?
Grid thought for a long time before recalling the old memories.
“What is this smallfry?”
“A foolish guy like you is showing a violent temper? Do you want to die?”
It was a terrible indifference. In the past, Braham borrowed Grid’s body to fight Mumud and treated Kyle as a rock by the roadside. Kyle, who had lost one arm at the time, seemed to pee in his pants before running off. It was a memory without any distortions.
It was for certain.
‘He remembered my face and panicked.’
Braham’s personality created this butterfly effect. Thanks to it, Grid easily overcame the crisis that was originally difficult to handle. Grid once again realized that Braham’s existence was like light. He made a vow, ‘Once I meet Kyle in the future, I have to go hard against him.’
Trauma was hard to overcome. He knew this terrible fact because he too suffered from trauma. Grid planned to take full advantage of Kyle’s trauma toward Braham. This wasn’t difficult. Grid was famous for being cheap and thoughtless in his past. He would reveal his old personality only in front of Kyle.
‘Kyle might be the key later...’
“Huh?” Grid looked up from where he had been locked in thought for a long time.
It was Lauel. He had used Basara’s advice and Sticks’ wisdom to complete the marching plan. Then he politely told Grid, “Please give an order to depart.”
“Ah.” Grid regained his spirit and gazed at the faces of his colleagues. It ranged from the Overgeared members, the dukes of the empire, and Earl Baget. They were strong and dependable people...
“Who is that person?”
The presence of a stranger was absurd for Grid. He didn’t know why a noble of the empire was here.
Huroi, disguised as Earl Baget, blinked. ‘He doesn’t recognize me...’
The Berith raid meant that the Overgeared Guild summoned all guild members capable of fighting here. Huroi was naturally included. However, Huroi was currently disguised as Earl Baget. Huroi’s appearance couldn’t be seen, so he was replaced by Earl Baget. Huroi thought that Grid would definitely notice his identity based on the circumstances. Yet Grid didn’t know him at all. He didn’t realize that Huroi wasn’t present.
“...” Huroi gritted his teeth as he was filled with sadness. The moment he released his tension, tears of chicken poop flowed down. The suffering he experienced over the past few months passed through his mind.
“Hum hum.” Grid noticed Earl Baget’s identity in hindsight and was embarrassed.
The 70-meter-high canyon and its fully integrated walls were majestic. There was a story that even the empire abandoned its campaign against these walls in the past. It was Fort Taleren. The roars of the soldiers in the fortress echoed.
“Zibal, Zibal, Zibal…”
The soldiers continued to cheer for and praise their former boss who came back with the magic machine.
『 This raid will be different. I’m sure they’ll do well. 』
『 The influence of the former 2nd ranked player is great. I never dreamed that he would rally the nobles of the Haken Kingdom and gather so many elite troops. 』
『 In fact, the army doesn’t mean much. The thing we need to focus on is if Zibal’s own force, or Raiders, will play a role. 』
Broadcasters from all over the world gathered to capture the appearance of the white giant—the 4th National Competition’s PvP winner. The sight of the giant gazing at the horizon while holding a spear that seemed to support the sky was noble and magnificent.
The horizon shook as an army containing thousands of demons appeared. At the forefront was Berith on a sickly horse. He was still bizarre and ugly. The appearance of Raiders became even more sacred. If Berith was a demon who climbed up from hell, then Raiders seemed like an angel descending from the heavenly clouds.
“A relic of the giants,” Berith muttered. The magic machine—a product of recklessness and ignorance which was made to oppose the gods—was a weapon that threatened the great demons. Still, this was only when the giants manipulated it directly. Berith was fully aware that a human’s intelligence couldn’t fully deal with the magic machine.
“It will stop working after a few seconds.”
His army would devour the fortress. It would sink before Berith came forward. Berith’s intelligence meant his guess was a foregone conclusion.
“Let’s go,” Berith commanded the army of 3,000 demons. All types of demons who were at least level 360 started climbing up the canyon.
『 The war will begin! 』
The entire world was breathless. Would Great Demon Berith, who had been trampling on the continent for months, finally be defeated? Or would another kingdom be wiped out? Hundreds of millions of viewers gathered in front of the TV and computers to watch the broadcast, filled with anticipation and anxiety. Then...
‘I don’t need honor and glory this time.’
Zibal climbed onto Raiders’ shoulder and observed the advance of the demon army. Raiders held the ego weapon that had been produced by Panmir a very long time ago, Golden Cudgel. Zibal had been strengthening it with the effects from all sorts of quests and hidden pieces. Now the Golden Cudgel had been enhanced to +8 and contained the ‘amplification’ and ‘penetrating’ effect.
‘I will fight to protect.’
There had been countless conflicts and wars during the history of humanity. Most of the fighting stemmed from greed. Zibal, who had been second in the rankings and head of the Seven Guilds, never denied the history of humanity. Rather, he was deeply sympathetic and only fought for wealth and honor.
However, he had been changing and developing steadily over the past few years, and he was fighting today for new reasons. He was enlightened about the nature of the honor he sought to achieve.
The demons climbed the walls in an instant and bared their sharp teeth at the soldiers. A huge club fell like a spear from Zibal’s giant hand.
“Waaahhhhhhhh!” The soldiers and viewers cheered as the demons turned to grey ash. This was the moment when a new hero was born from frustration, despair, suffering, and adversity.