Chapter 171 – Preparations for Darkness (2)
They’d reached the place with Rutia’s help.
According to the main quest’s explanation, it was a place called the heart, but seeing how there wasn’t any construction that resembled a heart, it was probably just a comparative expression.
“I guess that’s it, right?”
“Yes, I think so.”
There was a huge altar.
Fog poured out like a waterfall from the pyramid-like altar, and the fog spread out to the surrounding areas as if it were blood coursing through veins.
‘Is all the fog in the land of Darkness generated here?’ Hyun suddenly thought.
It was probably called the heart because it was the area where the fog was generated and then disappeared again.
“I’ve seen… this place before,” Louise mumbled while going up the stairs.
She’d seen the altar full of dark-red magic circles from where the fog flowed out before.
Hyun accepted Louise’s delusional words.
“When did you see it…?”
“A dream… Yes, I’ve seen it in a dream before.”
Maybe Louise’s memories were starting to return because she was in a familiar place and atmosphere.
Hyun asked a few more questions.
“Did it feel scary…? Or maybe…”
“No, it didn’t feel scary. Rather, it was comfortable.”
Other than that, she didn’t remember anything else.
Finally, they reached the top of the pyramid.
Another Main Quest was generated.
[One step forward. Darkness is going to reach the boundary between a Transcendent and a human.]
– The moment Darkness goes up on the magic circle, a ceremony will begin.
– The ceremony lasts for two hours. During this time, Louise will fall asleep and be in a defenseless state. The only one who can guarantee her safety is you.
– This is the last step of the Main Quest. If you successfully clear this quest, the world’s timeframe will be moved forward.
“It’s finally the last step.”
Hyun took a deep breath after realizing that.
According to the explanation, Louise was going to fall asleep while the ceremony was going on.
Maybe it was the last time he’d be able to see Louise’s face.
Even if the quest succeeded… from Louise’s point of view, she wouldn’t be able to see Hyun for a while.
The timeframe moving forward…
Users and NPCs couldn’t always share the same time.
There was already a gap of five years where Hyun and Louise had been apart. That was something that always happened when there was a turning point in history.
The timeframe would accelerate again—that was what the last part of the quest’s description said.
‘It’s similar to back then.’
Suddenly, Hyun was tempted to hold Louise.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they could do what they’d done until then—hunting until late at night together and just spending time inside the guild house?
But Hyun knew better than anyone that wasn’t possible.
Since she was Darkness, she would inevitably get involved in history.
Maybe he could hide her inside the private room for a while, but that was only a temporary solution.
For example, the Pope could start having suspicions about the Shade Guild and make them public enemies, they could destroy the entire city where the portal was located, or there was a chance that an angel would get involved.
Anyways, Darkness either had to appear before the world or vanish—that was just how Asra and Asrian’s stories were set up.
“Louise…” Hyun said in a serious tone.
“When you wake up, there’s a chance I won’t be here.”
“Didn’t you say you can’t die because you’re a user?”
“Yes, I’m not going to die.”
Hyun explained to her calmly that there would be a change in the timeframe.
“How could that be…! Will I have to wait that long again?!”
“It’s probably going to be shorter this time. If it’s like before…”
The previous Darkness wasn’t Louise. The details of the quest and the event that activated were different from before.
Still, the story’s structure, which said that Darkness recovered her strength step by step, was the same.
“It’ll probably be three years.”
“Still, that’s… quite a long time.”
Hyun realized Louise was holding back tears.
Although her Empathy was restrained, he understood how she was feeling.
Hyun thought it was probably because he had «Assimilated» into her quite a lot.
“When we meet again, you could be older than Ain.”
“No, even if I get older, she’ll probably be the same age as me. Ah, wait, then…?”
Hyun wasn’t sure what Ain was thinking, but she let out a cough.
Hyun couldn’t imagine what a grown-up Louise would look like very well.
“I’ll guess I’ll find out later.”
Since they were about to be attacked by the Heavens, he couldn’t use much time on stuff like that.
After a short conversation, Louise stepped into the magic circle. It was at that moment when the ceremony started from the top of the pyramid.
[Remaining time before Darkness recovers part of her Ego: 119 minutes 58 seconds]
The altar began trembling.
The fog’s vortex became more intense, so Hyun and Ain were forced to jump downwards from the altar.
“Amazing… I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Ain mumbled while looking at the heart of Darkness beating faster.
“Me neither. After all, we were both part of the Heavens before.”
Louise was floating in the air; a thin fog surrounded her body.
Watching Darkness’s awakening would be interesting, but sadly, Hyun and Ain didn’t have time to look at it relaxedly.
“The Knights are going to get here soon.”
If Rutia were right, it would happen in about 30 minutes.
If the Knights saw Louise, they probably wouldn’t let her live.
That meant Hyun and Ain had to block all of the enemies by themselves.
But how? Facing one Holy Knight was already hard. How were they supposed to defend against an entire squadron?
“But can we really stop them? Just the two of us…?”
“Yes, if it goes according to the plan.”
Hyun slowly nodded.
“I finally understood why she asked me to learn «Pray».”
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From the moment they arrived at the heart, Hyun had been thinking of ways to counter the Knights.
A squadron made of Holy Knights and Holy Magicians…
Logically, defeating the squadron sent by the Holy Kingdom with just the two of them was impossible.
That’s right. That was if Rutia hadn’t given him a hint.
“There’s a lot we have to prepare beforehand. Let’s go.”
When Hyun read the description of the new skill, «Possession», he got an idea.
He wasn’t sure if it was going to work or not, but he thought there was a huge chance it would succeed.
Hyun and Ain began quickly to buy the two hours needed for Louise to awaken an Ego.
Unlike the Priests, Holy Knights focused on training, but Shakron was a bit different.
The people that went to pray early in the morning could always see Shakron there.
—A Knight who prayed like a Priest.
But there weren’t many people who knew that he wasn’t praying to emphasize with an Angel…
“How can Mr. Knight be so hard-working?”
One day, a Priest who was cleaning spoke to him. Shakron answered as if he were asking something obvious.
“That’s obviously to obtain strength.”
Praying fortified the Holy Energy of a Holy Knight.
Shakron had never prayed to an angel that wasn’t Truth because praying to other angels wasn’t as effective.
With strength, he obtained power. With that, getting rid of those that bothered him became easier, and he would naturally be praised by the people.
[Darkness began moving in order to devour the world.]
And when Light gave an oracle…
Shakron realized that the biggest opportunity of his life had finally arrived. It was a perfect opportunity to write his name in the books.
He had to bow his head to the Pope and Priests; he also had to say vain things to people he didn’t like.
He’d been able to get to where he was through sheer effort.
Shakron had lost the perfect opportunity because of his useless underlings, so he was more sensitive than ever.
‘No matter what…! I won’t let her go twice!’
His voice reached every member of the squadron through Sacred Power.
“Spread the formation as much as possible. If you find Darkness, report it to me immediately!” Shakron ordered while rushing toward the only route within the canyon that led toward the heart.
They weren’t sure where Darkness would appear again, and once she did, he had to hunt her at all costs, so Shakron was trying to spread the Knights as much as possible.
His aide once again gathered the courage to say to him.
“If we spread the formation, the distance between us will increase too much! Some might die due to the devils… And if Darkness appears again, everyone that’s spread out could get killed…!”
“That’s exactly why we need to spread out. Won’t we be able to figure out Darkness’s location?”
With that answer, the aide discovered that Shakron just didn’t care about the lives of his underlings.
“But… the oracle said that we must destroy the Ruins of Darkness, so we should prioritize the oracle…”
“How noisy,” Shakron said.
“Aren’t we rushing toward where the oracle indicated, or do you want to take command? Can you fight against Darkness?”
“Don’t try to lecture me when you’re so weak. Your role is to be my aid. That’s it.”
The aide remained silent after that. Only the steps of the horses could be heard.
Someone who talked too much despite being weak…
—That was all Shakron thought about his aide. He wouldn’t have brought such a useless person there if it hadn’t been due to a High Priest’s words.
Shakron soon realized he was right.
‘See? I was right.’
The senses of a Holy Knight were beyond those of a normal human.
Shakron’s eyes saw the figure of a little girl who was about a hundred meters in distance.
Her height, body type, face, and how evil Demonic Energy surrounded her…! He immediately realized her identity.
The face he’d seen before was looking at him from a distance.
“As expected, you appeared again!”
“What are you… talking about? W-wait, Captain…!”
The aid had remained silent after the exchange before, but after seeing how the captain was moving out of the formation, he couldn’t help but exclaim in surprise.
Shakron didn’t answer him and just began moving forward.
It was clear that Darkness was in a state where she’d lost most of her strength. He could easily tell he was overwhelmingly stronger than her.
‘This is a gift from the Heavens! The Heavens have given me another opportunity!’
He could use Sacred Power to gather all of the squadrons at any time, so he wasn’t taking a huge risk.
—But he didn’t know when Darkness would disappear.
What if she rose to the skies again…? No, he had to kill her before that happened.
“Ugh, how annoying!”
It was hard to ride a horse to where Darkness was, so Shakron was forced to run there on his own feet.
He was going to kill her and write his name in the Heavens’ grand temple.
“Do you know what the weakness of the Holy Knights is?” He asked as he explained the plan to Ain.
“The Holy Kingdom’s Knights? Is it the fact that they’re all crazy religious people?”
“That’s not their weakness—it’s their strong point.”
“Hmm… Then I’m not sure.”
As Ain shook her head, Hyun answered.
“Their command system is one-sided.”
Ain couldn’t understand with just that, so Hyun kept explaining.
“The Knights can’t move of their own volition—they can’t even think of moving if they don’t receive an order.”
How the Holy Kingdom was organized was similar to a medieval noble society.
Except for a few beings like angels or Transcendents, the Pope was on top of everyone.
In the army, the commander was on top of all soldiers.
Although they could order and report from up to down, from down to up, one could only give information about the current situation.
“We just have to kill the captain. If we do that, the Knights will stop moving for a while.”
One death could paralyze the entire group.
It wasn’t a plan someone who wasn’t as knowledgeable about Asra’s world as Hyun could come up with.
After all, in the modern world, someone would take a higher-up’s place if they disappeared, but in a society where there were ranks, defying authority was a crime as serious as treason.
…But Ain didn’t seem convinced after hearing Hyun’s explanation.
After all, he hadn’t explained the most critical element…
“So… how are we going to kill the captain?”