Team: HH, thursdays, Yahiko (300(0)/12)
『……Everything must go smoothly. This is your last chance to prove your loyalty. Understood?』
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
『I hope you’re useful this time.』
The conversation finally ended. However, Aether couldn’t move. His clenched fists were shaking.
‘How long do I have to suffer this humiliation?’
After failing to get the Trismegistus’s Tablet, he was treated like a wanderer.
He still had his position as a member of the Senate of Elohim, but he was being held responsible for the death of Ione.
In the Devil Army, he received the 9th bishop position, but he was restricted by Kindred from doing anything, so there wasn’t much he could do.
In the end, he became a good-for-nothing, unaffiliated with any group.
That wasn’t the image he wanted.
In Elohim, he wanted to be respected and admired and have people consider him the next Consul member.
In the Devil Army, he wanted to become a servant of the Heavenly Demon and have the power of the Heavenly Emperor in his hand.
He had dreams to reach the peak of both groups and rule the Tower.
But where had things gone wrong?
He couldn’t even hope for something like that; right now, it was difficult to even maintain his current position.
From what he heard, the inheritor of the Family of Life after Ione, Paneth, was suspecting him.
Aether clenched his teeth. His eyes became bloodshot. He had come here by betraying his comrade and his twin sister. He couldn’t fall so futilely like this.
But he didn’t see how he could get out of this danger.
Elohim’s watch became tighter, and his connection with the Devil Army could be caught at any moment.
From the Devil Army, Kindred urged him through telepathy to finish what he had ordered him to do.
He tried telling Kindred that his position was in danger, and he had to lay low to avoid the storm for the time being.
However, Kindred just scoffed.
He said that was Aether’s problem and wasn’t his business. He said that if he couldn’t handle the bishop position, he should resign.
And just now, Kindred sent the last communication message.
-A new godly order will descend upon Elohim soon. See what it is, and take it into your own hands if possible.
‘He’s…..telling me to betray Elohim completely.’
Of course, he didn’t have any lingering feelings for Elohim. No matter how much he tried, he had the blood of a betrayer. However, he knew that he wouldn’t gain anything from backstabbing his comrades.
But the same went for the Devil Army. He pretended like he was faithfully following the Heavenly Demon, but the only reason he had joined them was because of the humiliation he felt in Elohim. He didn’t want to cross over to their side completely either.
‘I’ll forever be a bat. Haha! Hahahaha! Jeong-woo, you were right. You really were.’ [TN: Bats are considered two-faced, not fully dedicating themselves to one side of the other. Here’s a link with more information. https://fablesofaesop.com/the-bat-birds-and-the-beasts.html]
Aether considered it a curse that Heaven Wing’s ghost had left him.
That was why he had regretted things. Would he not be in this foolish position if he didn’t give in to the temptation and remained in Arthia?
‘No. Then I would’ve fallen like Heaven Wing. I made the right decision. I chose the right path. What’s wrong is this dirty world!’
He clenched his teeth. His eyes flashed violently.
“I’ve already come this far….. I can’t go back. I’ll bet everything on this. Everything…..!”
He had already crossed the river and couldn’t turn back. It wasn’t that hard. He just had to do the same thing he did before.
The only difference was that in the past, he betrayed Arthia, and now, it was Elohim.
‘The question is how I’m going to approach Paneth.’
Once he organized his thoughts, his mind cleared up. Plans naturally took shape in his mind.
However, there was an important condition to succeed in his plans.
How was he going to convince Paneth, who looked at him with suspicion all the time?
Paneth was the adopted daughter of Ione, and she was a new growing power of the Protogenoi species. She was also considered to be one of the next Consul members after three positions were opened from their loss to the Spring Queen. If he couldn’t get her trust, all plans would be useless.
He was deep in thought for a while, but things were solved in a way that he never would’ve imagined.
“Miss Paneth wishes to meet you.”
A message suddenly came for him in the middle of the night.
The messenger introduced himself as an errand boy for Paneth.
“The head of Life sent you?”
“Yes. She said she wishes to see you away from anyone’s eyes.”
Aether narrowed his eyes. Paneth had never requested to meet him like this.”
He felt wary, but the messenger just stood there silently, as if he didn’t know anything and only came to receive his answer.
“Fine. I’ll meet her at one in the morning.”
The messenger disappeared in the wind after bowing to him.
Aether swept his hair. The trigger was pulled. He no longer had anywhere to fall back to.
* * *
The Protogenoi species.
Long ago, they were great gods, but they fell to the lower world after losing their holiness. As time went on, their bloodline became fainter, and they even lost their supernatural strength.
Still, they ruled as an important group within Elohim. It was because they had the noble personality and grace of those who had divine blood.
In that aspect, Paneth was the most outstanding person in Elohim.
She had been born to the Family of Birth, and after becoming the adopted daughter of the Family of Life, she naturally became the head of both families.
Also, the divine blood in her head exuded holiness that was close to that of her ancestors.
Naturally, when Paneth was born, the expectations of many people were placed on her.
She worked hard not to disappoint them, and with her outstanding abilities and insight, she was the ‘leader’ of the Protogenoi species with Ione gone.
‘I can’t get used to those arrogant eyes, no matter how much I look at them. Damned b****.’
Aether barely held back his frown when he was meeting Paneth.
There were women that came to mind whenever he saw those proud eyes. The Summer Queen, the Spring Queen, and even his dead sister, Hemera. All of them considered themselves above their opponents.
Aether always felt his heart stiffen whenever he met women like them.
“I heard you called for me.”
However, he only cursed them internally, and he didn’t dare reveal those thoughts. He was always like that. He was weak towards the strong and strong towards the weak.
Right now, he had to look good in front of Paneth. He could only progress with his plans after breaking her suspicions.
But the moment that Paneth tossed him a thick report, Aether’s head turned blank.
“T, This is…..”
“Head of Light. This is proof that you were colluding with the Devil Army. I see you became the ninth bishop through your diligent work.”
The report that Paneth tossed him had all the times that Aether contacted the Devil Army and where he met them. There were even the specific details of the deals he made with them.
Aether realized that something went wrong and tried to attack Paneth.
〈White Light〉. It was a skill that condensed light and slaughtered opponents in the blink of an eye. It might’ve been hard to kill Paneth, but he thought he could injure her and run away in the confusion.
However, before the rays of light exploded, two shadows came from the sky and cut off his arms.
Aether plopped down to the ground spraying blood. Paneth’s two subordinates cut off his legs so he couldn’t resist any further and stuck their swords into his body.
Aether trembled at the reality. The knife in his chin was a special sword that Elohim had created against the Devil Army.
〈Rule Breaker〉. When the sword with Holy Blood was stuck into the Pineal gland under the upper cerebral hemisphere, the Holy Blood would cut off the Channeling with the Heavenly Demon.
Of course he wouldn’t be able to use the power the Heavenly Demon lent him. He would lose all his power as a bishop.
Paneth looked down at Aether coldly. Aether was trembling in fear.
Him being alive, despite his brain being injured, meant that he had stacked up quite a bit of power from Elohim and the Devil Army. He really had a persistent will to live. She was starting to feel pathetic about herself looking down him frozen in fear.
“Even if we weren’t related by blood, Ione was my precious father. But not only did you make his death in vain, you were trying to sell out our entire clan. Can you really call yourself the head of a family?”
“S***! What do you know?! You grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth! Do you understand my situation being pointed at and beat up my entire life?!”
Aether spewed out curses. He should’ve known when Paneth called him out secretly. His carelessness had made his situation come to this. However, he still wanted to say everything on his mind before he died.
“Is that all you have to say?”
Paneth’s cold tone.
Aether felt himself shoot to attention. Did she have to go this far if she was trying to make him pay? She could’ve captured or killed him on the spot.
However, her subordinates were just holding him down. They didn’t do anything else. Something was going on.
Those kinds of thoughts occurred to him. His desire to live spiked. He still had many things he wanted to do.
“S, S, Save me!”
“Why should I save you? You’re my father’s enemy.”
“I, I’m not the one who killed Ione! All I did was run away because the Summer Queen chased me. The people who made Ione like that were the Summer Queen and the Martial King! And the Devil Army! I was only between them! So save me! N, No, please save me! I’ll do anything, so please…..!”
Aether didn’t have any other options. He would’ve sold his soul if it meant he could survive.
Paneth’s eyes turned cold. She was embarrassed to be of the same species as him.
Still, she heard what she wanted. She nodded at the subordinates who were restraining him. One of them nodded and moved something to Aether’s neck.
With the sound of a lock being clicked in place, a firm steel necklace was wrapped around Aether’s neck.
“T, This is…..”
“It’s the Golden Headband.”
“W, W, W…..?”
The Golden Headband. The heavenly bind that was the only way to restrain the Heavenly Demon long ago. It was the item that gods and demons disliked, second only to Divine Iron. How did Paneth get this valuable object?
Paneth just smiled coldly and continued.
“From now on, you will be my faithful dog. Bark when I say to bark, and crawl when I say to crawl. And when I say to die, die. That’s the only way you can survive. How about it? Will you do it?”
Aether swallowed. He lifted his head to look at Paneth.
The moment he said no, Paneth was probably going to kill him. There was nothing Aether could do here.
“I, I’ll do it…..!”
Paneth’s eyes narrowed.
“What kind of dog talks?”
Aether realized what Paneth was saying and crawled over to her feet. Then, he cried out like a dog.
“Woof! Woof woof!”
“Good. Looks like he got the message.”
This was all Aether could do.
“I’ll give you my first order then. Be our guide to Tartarus.”
* * *
[The person you are trying to summon cannot be found.]
The message above his head.
Yeon-woo gripped the Black Bracelet in his hand, standing still.