There was no utopia. There might be situations that satisfied the majority, but it was difficult for a situation to satisfy everyone. Now Kasim was proving it. As Grid and the 10 had great expectations for their future with the new empire, Kasim’s anger reached its peak. Even Regas, who believed that Asura had the scariest face in the world, was frightened by Kasim’s distorted face.
“Your empire considered us ominous just because of our dark skin.”
“We were accused of listening to the movements of the empire because of our big ears and called beasts, instead of humans, because of our long arms.”
“Our women were insulted by the soldiers of your empire who invaded the land. All of our men were killed and dismembered by the knights of your empire. Your imperial nobles kept our royal family in cages and watched them for amusement.”
It wasn’t only Kasim’s family and friends. Everyone had been killed after suffering terrible humiliation. Their country disappeared entirely. Kasim’s eyes shed tears as he recalled those final days while Grenhal was just silent. The ones who inflicted wounds couldn’t mourn for the wounded. He knew that no words could comfort the present Kasim. The Nero massacre—led by 2nd Imperial Prince Dulandal—was one of the worst crimes in the history of the empire, and it had been strongly opposed.
Kasim’s dagger pointed at Grenhal’s neck. “The imperial family you serve.”
“The prince who didn’t even give us his name.”
“I saw him holding my king’s head as a torch while he drank from his glass of wine.”
“Repent? Repent?! The dead will never come back! The dignity that has already been lost can’t be regained! Now you want to relieve your guilt by offering apologies to those who are already dead?”
Blood flowed from the neck of the silent Grenhal. Kasim’s poisonous dagger was digging into Grenhal’s neck.
“Even if you really mean it...! You can’t soothe the souls of those who have already died, even if you reflect on your past mistakes and repent for 10,000 years! Those who have already died will never forgive you!!”
The Overgeared King’s audience hall was very small and shabby compared to the emperor’s. Nevertheless, it was a space that boasted hundreds of square meters. There were countless shadows created by the dozens of pillars, and this was well-suited for Kasim’s power.
Dozens of shadow soldiers surrounded Grenhal, whose face was blue due to the poison. The soldiers held spears in their hands. Kasim roared, “I am the last survivor of the Nero people, Kasim! The empire’s enemy! I am requesting for a duel to the death!”
Was it because of his loyalty to Lord, who he had affectionately served for a long time? Surprisingly, Kasim was composed. Unbelievably, this person who lived to get revenge on the empire maintained his sense of reason in front of one of the heads of the empire—the envoy of the empire.
Kasim requested for a fair duel as he knew that if he hurt Grenhal one-sidedly, the relationship between the empire and the Overgeared Kingdom could collapse miserably. That’s why Kasim hadn’t harmed them when the wounded dukes were escorted to the Overgeared Kingdom not long ago. Kasim himself was unaware of it, but after guarding Lord for more than 10 years, he was already a member of the Overgeared Kingdom.
“Kasim...” That’s why Kasim’s attitude made Grid even sadder.
“Okay,” Grenhal accepted Kasim’s duel request. “Our duel was caused by the empire’s sin against the Nero people. My subordinates will prove that the Overgeared Kingdom wasn’t involved.”
“My Lord!!” Grenhal’s subordinates cried out. They knew that King of Shadows Kasim was the best assassin of this time. They didn’t doubt Grenhal’s ability. However, the opponent wasn’t easy, and it could lead to a big accident. Grenhal’s men wanted Grenhal to avoid a showdown.
“The Nero grudge is a matter for the 2nd Imperial Prince to take responsibility for! You don’t have to be responsible for it!” An impatient subordinate screamed.
Yet Grenhal stood his ground. “Shut up! I am no different from the prince!”
The empire’s policy of genocide had been carried out in the name of the imperial order. Grenhal had joined in many times. He hadn’t commited genocide, but he had seized their territory and taken them captive. After all, he couldn’t refuse an imperial order. The Nero incident was so unusual that it was criticized within the empire and 2nd Prince Dulandal was labeled bad...
Still, those were all excuses. Grenhal was also an object of resentment for someone. Did he have to keep making excuses every time he met a second or third Kasim? It wasn’t possible. Those who sinned deserved to be held accountable. It was only then that the empire could move forward. Didn’t the emperor show them that already?
“I’m Duke Grenhal of the empire.” Grenhal used mana to drive out the poison and took off his armor. “I will glimpse the Nero’s resentment through your sword. I will realize how dreadful and arduous the path of repentance that the empire will walk in the future and suggest to the empire the correct path of repentance.”
“You sure talk very well! If you have any shame, die willingly!” Kasim shouted, and dozens of shadow soldiers stabbed their spears in unison.
Grenhal dodged most of the attacks, but he couldn’t manage all of them and his upper body was wounded. The wounds made Grenhal faster and stronger. As he rushed through the shadow soldiers like a tsunami and reached Kasim, Grenhal shouted, “My death isn’t repentance! If the person who replaces me doesn’t join the path of repentance, then it will be unfortunate as well!”
“I will live and take responsibility!”
The audience hall quickly became a mess. The battle between Kasim, who hid and moved in the darkness, and Grenhal, who had speed and destructive power, was so fierce that they feared the building would collapse. Administration Rabbit was knocking on his abacus. He was preparing in advance the repair fee he would give to Kasim and Grenhal.
The faces of the 10 meritorious retainers distorted as they witnessed the battle unfolding. Jishuka and Peak Sword even let out swear words. They witnessed the full power of an imperial duke as he quickly started to overpower Kasim and realized how insignificant their skills were. So far, the gap between players and named NPCs had been accepted under the excuse of ‘a player’s limitations.’
‘Grid is as strong as the dukes.’
Grid had proved it again and again. The fact was that players had no limits. Their weakness was merely a lack of effort.
‘We are currently too weak to help Grid.’
‘Grid didn’t summon us because of this.’
‘We are shameless.’
The 10 meritorious retainers realized it. They weren’t in a position to worry about Grid. Their concerns were meaningless due to their current gap with Grid’s strength. The time wasted worrying about Grid should be invested in themselves to close the gap.
Lauel had given up on his personal strength since the day the Overgeared Kingdom was founded. Apart from him, the 10 meritorious retainers clenched their fists tightly. All of them were filled with a desire to become stronger quickly.
The result of the duel was decided. The moment his health dropped below 30%, Grenhal had unparalleled strength and smashed through dozens of shadow soldiers. The scattered shadow soldiers returned to their place, and the ragged Kasim slumped down.
Kasim coughed up blood while sitting on the ground and declaring angrily, “Kill me.”
He wanted to take revenge on the empire ruling the world...? It really was an illusory dream. His heart was weak enough to be fascinated by the Overgeared Kingdom that he had been trying to use as a tool of revenge, and his strength was so weak that he couldn’t beat one duke, let alone the empire. It was better to die in peace. Kasim closed his eyes with a wretched heart.
Yet Grenhal said to him, “Survive.”
“Don’t sympathize with me.”
“It isn’t sympathy. I just want to make sure that the empire will walk the right path of repentance.”
“Kukuk, you are frustrating. Didn’t I tell you that it would be useless even if you repent for tens of thousands of years?”
“I also know that the empire can’t be forgiven. This isn’t an act to relieve my guilt.”
“The empire just wishes to not repeat the same mistakes. I hope that a second or third Nero won’t occur.”
“Survive to the end and watch the empire. Warn us not to lose our vigilance. Additionally, regarding the evil deeds that the empire committed against the Nero people... Really... I’m really, deeply sorry,” Grenhal apologised on his knees while bowing deeply to Kasim.
Would some of his feelings be delivered now?
“I...” Kasim’s large black eyes shook. He glimpsed the empire’s sincerity through Grenhal’s attitude and was devastated. Losing all of his motivation instantly, the desire to live slipped out of Kasim’s body. Kasim sensed it. He wouldn’t be able to stand up again. His body, mind, and soul were sinking into the dark depths. Kasim’s eyes became dazed as he looked up at the ceiling.
Lord had been waiting outside the audience hall, hoping that his father’s work would end quickly. The young prince, Kasim’s first disciple and only friend, rushed in. He hugged Kasim’s body that had collapsed like a withered plant.
“Master, live with me!”
“I’ll make you happy!”
It was the intuition of the most talented person in the world. Or was it just because he had been watching Kasim for a long time? Lord noticed Kasim’s crisis and cried out, raising Kasim’s soul that had sunk deeply. Lord’s clear eyes that were like his mother’s captured Kasim’s face.
“Master is the last survivor of the Nero! Once Master dies, the Nero people will disappear!”
“I’ll live with you for a long time! I'll work with you until the Nero people are revived again!”
Lord’s body temperature cooled down and revived Kasim’s heart. Kasim, who believed that revenge was the only reason for his existence, now discovered something. His life wasn’t in vain. If his life was in vain, then he wouldn’t have such a good friend by his side.
When he saw Kasim nod, Grid sighed and sank back against his throne with relief. A new era was healing the ghosts of the old era.