1

Dudududududu!

As he looked up at the noisy helicopter, Specter smirked.

‘Oh, geez. They got here really fast...’

When he slowly closed both eyes, the situation from a few days ago came to mind in the darkness. Back then, he was furious after seeing the news about the Big 6.

"You crazy bastards!"

"You don't understand, do you?"

“What’s there to understand? Does this make sense!?"

"…So there's one thing I need you to do for me." Shim Deok-Gu gestured to Seo Jun-Ho to come to him and whispered in his ear, "This is all a show."

"…What?"

"It's a show, a show. Everything from the Big 6 smearing and biting each other in recent weeks—they have all been a show."

Seo Jun-Ho looked at him in confusion. "They don’t have anything better to do? Why on Earth are they doing that?”

"There's no way that the Big 6 doesn't know what we know."

Shim Deok-Gu first calmed down the excited Seo Jun-Ho by holding his palms up.

"Whoa, whoa, just calm down and listen. Do you want some orange juice?”

"Am I a child that I would drink that and calm down?”

With a crumpled face, Seo Jun-Ho (27, male) calmed down after drinking orange juice. Shim Deok-Gu watched the scene while holding back his laughter and spoke before his friend got angry again.

"I told you a while ago, didn't I? The fiends are moving suspiciously."

"…You said they didn't go up to the 3rd floor, but they also didn't get more active on the 2nd floor.”

"Yeah, it’s like the calm before the storm.”

The crucial thing was that it was impossible that the Big 6 had no idea about the information that the Players Association had found.

"They were nervous, too. We can't attack the 3rd floor with our backs feeling uncomfortable."

"So you threw a bait?"

"I threw a very appetizing bait."

While Seo Jun-Ho was training like crazy under the Thunder God, it became widely known that the Big 6 were focused on attacking each other on the 3rd floor.

‘There have been quite a few incidents that ruined feelings between them.’

Strange places, limited hunting grounds, and rival guilds—these were plenty enough conditions for Players on edge to explode. They actually quarreled several times, and each time it happened, reporters would write articles like fish meeting water. Therefore, no one doubted the authenticity of the articles, especially since the Big 6 had been quarreling with each other for the past twenty-six years.

"…Is this your handiwork?”

Seo Jun-Ho looked at Shim Deok-Gu with an unexpected expression, but Shim Deok-Gu shook his head.

"No, it's Master Son Chae-Won who came up with this."

"Oh, the Silent Moon?" It was a tactic that came from her, who was known to be resourceful. Interested, Seo Jun-Ho asked as he buried himself in the backrest, "So, what exactly are you aiming for?"

"The Big 6 thought the fiends are aiming for Earth."

"Earth?" Seo Jun-Ho opened his eyes wide. He smirked and waved. "The fiends act like they’re thoughtless, but they're not really brainless."

There were many Players on Earth. There were no restrictions on movement between floors, so some fiends would come down to Earth every night.

"If they aim for Earth in a half-assed way, they'll just get themselves wiped out.”

"I know, but we’re afraid of the miniuscle possibility of them succeeding.” Shim Deok-Gu asked with a serious look, "I'm asking now after all this time, but Jun-Ho, what do you think of the Big 6?"

"Idiots who haven't been able to clear the 2nd floor in twenty-five years."

Shim Deok-Gu smiled bitterly at the harsh evaluation.

"I have nothing to say about that, but... You know, but the world is not a game."

“…”

Seo Jun-Ho blinked. He knew that fact better than anyone.

"They are called Players, but they are people who live in this world more faithfully than anyone else,” Shim Deok-Gu said.

People couldn’t just drop from the sky. They had parents who gave birth to them, and they had human relationships they had built as they grew up.

"I want to say that those people are not so incompetent enough to leave Earth empty and unguarded."

"…Well, I was just saying it. There are many good people in the world," Seo Jun-Ho muttered, turning his head. It was the best six guilds made by talented people, so there was no way that only idiots were in those guilds. "In other words, these articles are fakes to catch the Fiend Association.”

"Right. Since it seems like the Fiend Association is hiding and biding its time, we’re trying to deliberately show them an opening."

"…I see."

Since the other side didn’t want to take action, the Players had to move first. It certainly wasn't a bad idea.

"So what is it? That you need me to do."

"Jun-Ho, your... No, I need to borrow some of Specter’s influence."

He was a figure from decades ago, but he still had a strong influence. His public criticism of the Big 6 would give heavy weight to the authenticity of the articles.

"Hmm, the Fiend Association isn't full of idiots either so I don't know if they're going to be fooled.”

"Of course, they might not be fooled like you said. But there should at least be a minimal response."

This ambiguous confrontation couldn’t last forever. After all, the Players had to keep moving up.

"... All right. Since you've done a good job setting the stage, this great actor will do his best."

That evening, Seo Jun-Ho wore a mask and expressed his anger toward the Big 6 in front of the media.

***

“…”

The Heavenly Demon’s eyes moved slowly. Specter was already in a state where he couldn’t fight any longer.

‘Do you feel better seeing your allies? Your tensions have relaxed, too.’

The Heavenly Demon’s eyes toward him were full of regret.

‘... I should have killed him right away, instead of offering him blood.’

A last-minute display of mercy and greed was what messed things up.

‘I still have a long way to go.’

The Heavenly Demon let out a jubilant breath. Finding that there was still room for further growth was a meaningful discovery for a warrior. He looked around and said, "…You guys flocked here in droves."

"Huhu, isn't our prey a big shot?" The Hallem Guild's Guild Master Milphage said with a giant halberd over his shoulder.

In fact, even the Big 6 couldn’t predict anything about today.

‘I expected that the Fiend Association would make a move on Earth if they were shown an opening, but...’

‘I didn't expect that the Heavenly Demon himself would lead the executives down in person.’’

‘This is a lot bigger than I thought... This is like a whale, not a fish.’

At the same time, the Players were excited. If they could catch the man in front of them, they would be able to win the war against the fiends.

'The Heavenly Demon is missing an arm.’

‘Did Specter-nim cut it off?’

‘…I can't believe he’s done what the Heavens couldn't do many years ago all by himself...’

'He lives up to his name. It's a lifetime honor to be here tonight.’

For a while, the veteran Players steadied their breathing. All those who looked into the indifferent eyes of the Heavenly Demon had to gulp their own saliva. Just from looking into those eyes, they could feel the darkness within them.

“Heavenly Demon.” Shin Sung-Hyung took out a baton and declared coldly, "Die here."

"…Such harsh words.”

Dududududu!

The Heavenly Demon thought as he looked up at the helicopters flying under the moonlit clouds.

'I didn't expect it to be this dark tonight...’

Noise was coming from all sides. Looking at the Players that had gathered like wild dogs for him, he smiled weakly.

***

No one counted exactly how many hours the battle had lasted. It was a long fight, and it felt like it lasted at least ten hours. As a result, the baseball stadium was ruined. More than eighty percent of the stands had disappeared, and the roads outside were clearly visible through the large holes in the walls. Among the Players in the Big 6, seven veterans died, and the number of Players with serious injuries reached over seventy.

"Gasp, gasp…”

"…Monster."

Surrounded by three Heavens, Kim Woo-Joong, Shin Sung-Hyung, Wei Chun-Hak, the Heavenly Demon resisted until the last moment. It was as if the emotion of tenacity met malice and had personified.

“…”

The Heavenly Demon’s hair, which had been as beautiful and white as silk, had become tangled and dirty with blood and sweat. He glanced down at his chest as he breathed roughly.

‘I've felt it for years, but...’

Kim Woo-Joong’s sword was especially sharp. If given enough time, the Heavenly Demon thought he could become a man who could sever the Heavenly Demon’s neck on his own.

'Of course, that won’t happen tonight.’

Kim Woo-Joong was still too weak. However, even if it wasn’t something he had accomplished on his own, his sword still managed to touch the Heavenly Demon tonight.

"Ughh…!"

The Heavenly Demon smiled brightly as dark red blood poured from his mouth. When he smiled with his white teeth soaked in blood, his figure appeared bizarre and eerie.

"Today… I praise your victory…"

"…We will continue to win," Kim Woo-Joong muttered in exhaustion. He didn’t even want to give his opponent enough time to utter his last words.

Baaaang!

When Kim Woo-Joong injected a lot of magic into the blade of his sword, the Heavenly Demon’s heart exploded.

“…”

The Heavenly Demon, who had remained smiling until death, slowly closed his unfocused eyes. The three Heavens stood there, as they found themselves unable to move. They felt like if they took their eyes off of him for a moment, the Heavenly Demon would rise again as if his injuries had been a lie.

"Did he die?"

"He's dead."

"…Is he really dead?"

"Yes, he's dead."

"But check it again. Just in case…”

"Master, he’s really, really dead."

Amid Shin Sung-Hyun’s repeated doubts, a Goblin Guild member spoke in tears. The Heavenly Demon was finally dead. They had finally defeated the devilish man who seemed like he would never die. He was like homework that the Players seemed like they would never be able solve.

"Is that so…?"

Shin Sung-Hyung's body staggered. He thought he had narrowed the gap during the last six years, but he was mistaken.

‘Kim Woo-Joong and I have become much stronger than before, but…’

The opponent was literally like the heavens itself. He felt an indescribable gulf between the Heavenly Demon and himself.

"Whoa! I really almost died.”

Milphage felt the same emotion as Shin Sung-Hyung as he wiped the sweat off his forehead.

"He's the scum of the world, but I can't help but acknowledge his talent. He was amazing.”

“…”

Everyone was silent, but their silence meant affirmation. While everyone was distracted, Kim Woo-Joong spoke, "Oh right, please bring Specter-nim this way."

He hurriedly took an elixir out of his Inventory. When they arrived here, Specter was already in bad shape.

‘It’s only to be expected since he fought against that monstrous Heavenly Demon alone.’

His eyes turned to the dead Heavenly Demon’s arm. If he fought against an uninjured Heavenly Demon on his own, would he be able to sever the latter’s arm?

‘…’

He couldn’t quite come up with an answer. Specter’s existence had never felt as large as it was today.

"Finally, will he show his face?"

As the Players carefully approached Specter, Milphage showed interest. However, he was immediately restrained by Kim Woo-Joong's sword.

"Stay away."

"…Hey, what’re you doing against a comrade you just fought with? Let's just take a peek at his face."

"He’s not someone who should be treated like that."

"If we take a little peek by ourselves and keep our mouths shut, no one will know. You're curious, anyway, right?”

“…”

Kim Woo-Joong's eyes staring at Milphage were as cold and as hard as a glacier. Feeling sad, Milphage turned his head to find a comrade to share his sentiment with.

"Ku, why are you looking at me again? Your face looks like a constipated puppy," Wei Chun-Hak said with a deep smile. As per usual after a battle, he lit a cigarette between his mouth.

Although he was not a member of the Big 6, he was here today in his capacity as a Heaven.

"Hey, mercenary. Let me give you a piece of advice. Try not to pick a fight with Kim Woo-Joong today. He’s in the best condition."

“It’s not mercenary, but Mercenary King. Then..."

Milphage's head turned to Shin Sung-Hyung. Wei Chun-Hak spoke coldly with his signature chic look, "Grow up, mercenary."

"I said it’s the Mercenary King. Why does everyone forget to say that one word?" Milphage muttered sadly as he let out steam from his nose. "I got it, I got it! Do as you please. Instead!"

When they looked over, he continued, coughing, "Please make sure it doesn’t reach Specter-nim’s ears that I wanted to see his face secretly today..."

"Kukuku, such a quick change in attitude."

While Wei Chun-Hak was laughing, Kim Woo-Joong asked the Guild Master of Silver Constellation for a favor.

"Ms. Christine, please."

The westerner, dressed in a white priest's uniform and holding a long scepter, raised her hand above Specter's body. After a while, the hand turned bright golden thanks to the divine power, but her expression did not look any better.

"He is seriously injured. I can't completely cure him with my divine power."

"Is it that bad? His external injuries don't look that bad..."

"Please think about who his opponent was. He seemed to have used all his strength till the last drop. He will probably have to stay at home without moving for at least a year.”

"A year..."

The moment everyone swallowed with regret, the sky opened wide and something began to fall in piles. The first person to notice the unexpected incident was Shin Sung-Hyung, as he was very sensitive when it came to magic.

"...Cards?"

"I will block it!"

The Guardian Knight Ha In-Ho ran out with a huge shield from his back, and he promptly deployed a magic barrier.

Booooom!

Thick smoke covered the ground as if a fighter jet had bombarded the area. The destructive power was so strong it was hard to think that it came from a pile of cards that had fallen to the floor.

"Cough! Cough!"

"Damn, do something about the smoke!”

"Where's the enemy?"

Shin Sung-Hyung hurriedly sucked the smoke into space. Fortunately, no one was injured thanks to Ha In-Ho's quick response.

"Good job."

"Thank you, but Master...”

Ha In-Ho's expression darkened as he looked somewhere. In the place where his gaze was directed, the Heavenly Demon’s body, which was present just a few moments ago, had completely disappeared.

"Isaac Dvor…"

The fifth Heaven, the Magician of Death, had stolen the Heavenly Demon’s body.

This fact made the Players contemplate.

***

Isaac Dvor appeared in Russia's Red Square. In the midst of the battle between the fiends and the Players, he carefully laid down the Heavenly Demon.

"There is still too much work left to do for you to close your eyes already."

“…”

A dead man couldn’t speak. But after a while, the Heavenly Demon, whose heart had been pierced, slowly opened his eyes. He looked up at Isaac and asked in a hoarse voice, "…What time is it?"

"It has been about half an hour since you died. I was surprised that the signal indicating your life suddenly turned off."

"I showed you my bad side.”

As the Heavenly Demon raised his upper body, one could see his heart slowly regenerating in his open chest. He swept back his bloodstained hair with his one remaining arm.

"I didn't expect to lose my precious life there."

"Were the Heavens that strong?"

"They have become more or less useful.” The Heavenly Demon rose slowly and asked, "What about Nazad and Valencia?"

"They said that they have successfully fulfilled their orders and will be joining us shortly."

"That's fine, then.” The Heavenly Demon slowly nodded as he swept his gaze at the bloody red square. "Everything we wished for has come true."

Beyond the pointed spire of the Kremlin, the sun was rising to clear the darkness. An incomprehensible smile appeared on the Heavenly Demon’s lips at that sight.