Michael stood there, stunned and surprised by the executioner's appearance. Unlike their initial encounter, where the angel had been clad in crimson red armor, this time he wore simple white robes adorned with golden lines. His black hair was neatly tied into a ponytail, and his face was clean-shaven. He exuded an air of a classic Chinese main character.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, John," the angel said with a gentle smile. Rurik gawked between Michael and the newcomer.

"Who's this lad?" Rurik asked Michael, his curiosity piqued as the angel turned his gaze toward him. Deep within the angel's eyes, Michael detected an intense, murderous look. It was the look of an ultimate predator, a born killer. In other words, it was the same look Michael saw in his own eyes every time he gazed into a mirror.

"I'm Raphael, John's best friend," the angel quickly introduced himself as Raphael and shook Rurik's hand.

"Huh," Rurik muttered after Raphael shook his hand, looking a bit surprised.

"What's on your mind, Lord Rurik?" Raphael inquired.

"Your hands, lad. You must hold a sword even in your sleep. The hands of a warrior," Rurik observed, amusing Raphael.

"I do practice with weapons now and then," Raphael calmly replied, dismissing Rurik's accurate assumption.

"So, Raphael, what brings you here?" Michael asked, feigning friendship with Raphael.

"Can't a guy visit his best friend and have a drink?" Raphael responded with a smile.

"Why not?" Michael snickered, while Rurik's gaze drifted toward the glass door through which VIPs were entering the Divine Towers. He noticed Arlen waving and entering the building.

"Sorry to break up the reunion, but we need to get inside. Lad, do you have VIP access?" Rurik asked Raphael, thinking he was John's best friend. The dwarven blacksmith had no idea that Raphael was, in fact, an angel sent by the Pantheon to hunt down the God of Darkness, whom Rurik believed to be John.

"I'm afraid not," Raphael replied.

"Pity. Tell you what, why don't you come with us? The Blacksmith Guild pavilion is rather empty, and I hate to see you two separated," Rurik said, delighted at the idea of helping the two friends.

"That's very kind of you to offer, Lord Rurik. I gladly accept. What do you say, John?" Raphael asked.

"Let's continue our conversation inside, Raphael," Michael calmly suggested, all the while concealing the coldness hidden beneath his gaze.

Rurik led the way as the three of them entered the Divine Towers, leaving behind the bustling crowds outside. The grand hall for the VIPs was nothing short of majestic, adorned with towering crystal chandeliers and opulent marble statues. The walls were decorated with intricate golden patterns, and a red carpet stretched across the hall.

As they entered, a beautiful young elf with long, flowing silver hair approached them. She introduced herself with a graceful bow.

"Greetings, esteemed guests. My name is Kera, and I've been assigned to escort you to your VIP pavilion."

Rurik couldn't help but comment on her beauty. "Well, ain't you a sight for sore eyes! Where's Fredar? He's been escorting us for years."

Kera smiled politely. "I'm afraid Fredar has been transferred to our Thunderdale branch recently. I'm here to ensure your comfort during your stay."

"Transferred? What in the seven realms did he do to get transferred?" Rurik was taken aback by this unexpected news.

"I do not have that information, Lord Rurik. But if you would kindly follow me, I'll show you to your pavilion." Kera simply shrugged.

With a hint of confusion lingering on his face, Rurik nodded, and the group followed Kera deeper into the Divine Towers.

They followed Kera as she led them through the hall, beginning their ascent up the majestic staircase that would take them to their VIP pavilion. The steps were made of polished marble, and the intricate carvings on the railings depicted scenes from the history of the Divine Towers.

Raphael, walking calmly between Michael and Rurik, decided to strike up a conversation. "I've heard that the war between God Rainar and God Kranar is worsening by the day."

Rurik sighed, his mind still partly preoccupied with Fredar's unexpected transfer. "Poor Fredar. Thunderdale is in the middle of that mess."

Kera, who was leading the way, overheard their conversation. She turned and reassured them, "The Divine Towers take great care to protect its employees during these times of conflict. We have been informed that the Pantheon is working diligently to bring an end to the war soon."

Michael couldn't help but snicker slightly at her words, his tone dripping with sarcasm. "Oh, I'm sure they will." His cynicism regarding the Pantheon's intentions was evident in his voice, though Kera seemed oblivious to it as they continued their climb.

After their climb up the grand staircase, they reached a long corridor adorned with intricate tapestries depicting legendary battles of gods and heroes. At the end of the corridor, two majestic doors stood, each adorned with the emblem of a different prestigious organization.

Kera led them to the door marked with the Blacksmith Guild's emblem. She turned to face them with a warm smile and said,

"If you require anything during the auction, simply ring the bell inside." With a polite nod, she opened the door, revealing a spacious and opulent room.

The room had mirrored glass along one wall, providing a clear view overlooking the expansive auction theater below. Plush, comfortable sofas and armchairs were arranged elegantly around the room. On a table before them, various beverages were laid out, from fine wines to exotic elixirs.

An expensive rug adorned the floor beneath their feet, its intricate patterns adding to the room's luxurious ambiance. A cozy fireplace crackled with magical flames, providing warmth and a comforting glow. Runes embedded in the walls regulated the room's temperature, ensuring it was always pleasant, regardless of the weather outside.

The trio entered the room and instinctively made their way to the glass wall overlooking the crescent shaped Hall, where rows upon rows of seats were neatly arranged for the commoners. Other VIP pavilions flanked theirs, all offering a similar breathtaking view of the expansive theater. The grand stage was hidden beneath a massive red cloth, building anticipation for the grand unveiling.

Rurik leaned against the glass, gazing out at the sea of people. "There seem to be even more folks here than the last auction," he remarked, his tone a mix of surprise and curiosity.

Rurik sighed and shook his head. "If I'm going to make it through this, I need a drink." He left his friends at the glass wall and headed toward the table with beverages, leaving Michael and Raphael momentarily alone.

"Aren't you going to ask me how I found you, John?" Raphael's friendly smile disappeared from his face as he questioned Michael.

Until now, Vedora remained silent atop Michael's shoulder, uttering no word. They were afraid that the angel would see through their disguise. However, Raphael paid no mind to Vedora as his focus solely remained on Michael.

"If I asked, would you tell me?" Michael snickered.

"Probably not. You see, John, I've been hunting down rogue gods longer than you can imagine. After doing this for thousands of years, you grow tired, and the hunt becomes boring. So, I hoped the infamous God of Darkness would give me some challenge. But I have to tell you, John, I am profoundly unimpressed by you," Raphael said, with a hint of pride and arrogance in his voice. However, Raphael had the ability and power to back his arrogance.

"Now that you've found me, what are you planning to do?" Michael asked.

"I can tell you are depending on Goddess Seshat's array to save yourself. But, John, you cannot stay here forever. Once you step outside her domain, I'll be waiting," Raphael calmly said.

"I'm disappointed, Raphael. I thought the Pantheon would send more angels after me once they know I am here in their own realm," Michael stated, using the angel's obvious fake name.

In response, Raphael just laughed.

"Oh, John. The Pantheon has more important matters. I can assure you, even five thousand years ago, you weren't at the top of their priority list." said Raphael.

"So it's just me and you, huh?" Michael snickered.

"Yes, and I hope you up your game. Because the more bored I get, the faster I end this hunt," Raphael said coldly.

"You know, Raphael, the reason why I wasn't at the top of your priority list five thousand years ago, and now, is because I am the god of darkness. It's my nature to work in the shadows. If you know what's good for you, you should really abandon this so-called hunt and run for your life," Michael warned. As he spoke, Michael released a bit of his godly aura, causing the lights in the room to flicker.

"Damn it. What's happening?" Rurik, who was pouring a drink for himself and drinking, asked, looking at the orbs flickering.

"Nothing, my friends. Seems like the runes are malfunctioning," Raphael said, clearly undeterred by Michael's godly powers.

Suddenly, a loud bell rang through the hall, echoing its chimes, and a voice announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, the auction will begin in ten minutes. Please make your way to your seats."

"Why don't we enjoy the auction together?" Raphael suggested, seemingly nonchalant.

Michael knew that Raphael was trying to keep a close eye on him, eager to discern what he might be planning to buy. He had a gut feeling that Raphael's intention for being here at this auction went beyond merely tracking him down. There was more to this angel's presence than met the eye.