Horizon was dead, but none of the Players could say that they had already won.
The strongest Count of the Underworld, Orpheus, was still standing, after all.
"A useless fool till the end."
Horizon would have exploded in fury if he had heard Orpheus’ words.
‘Things went off track, but... it doesn't matter.’
He never had any expectations to begin with, so the disappointment wasn't that great.
Actually, Horizon’s death wouldn't significantly affect the overall situation.
Orpheus was convinced that even if he were to die, the situation wouldn’t change that much.
‘We've already taken over the 7th Floor, the 8th Floor, and the 9th Floor. Those Floors have nothing but demons.’
They were demons from all over the universe, and they had responded to the Archduke’s call. Orpheus couldn’t even count just how many demons had gathered under the Archduke’s banner, and those demons were waiting for their turn to enter the lower Floors.
‘They’ve decided to throw themselves into battle where they virtually have zero chances of winning.’
Orpheus swept his contemptuous gaze across the humans.
"Kill everything that isn't a demon," he said coldly.
"Get your act together and move quickly! We'll all die at this rate!"
"Move to your designated positions!"
The Players moved in a frenzy.
Their role was to deal with the demons while the elite Players confronted Orpheus.
‘But... c-can we even face them?’
Gong Ju-Ha absentmindedly looked up at the massive dimensional rift. Demons poured out endlessly from the rift, and it was no longer possible to count just how many Demons had arrived. Gong Ju-Ha felt like he was witnessing the end of the world.
"Hmm." Her eyebrows trembled. For a moment, she thought it was fortunate that they weren’t on Earth.
She was jolted awake by someone shaking her shoulders.
"We have to hurry and move now!"
"Oh, yeah." She nodded and looked back at the members of Goblin Guild’s Team 2. She reckoned that what she was feeling at the moment had to be similar to what parents felt whenever they had to send their child to a battlefield.
The way they looked at her made Gong Ju-Ha feel as if she were their mother hen, and the overwhelming emotions made her feel a dull ache in her heart. Perhaps that was why she talked more than usual.
“Wait for me there, and don’t die.”
"If you die, I’ll deduct your wages, and you’ll have to listen to my nagging for three years."
"What? There’s still more? What kind of evil team is this?"
"I still have to listen to your nagging in the afterlife? Geez. I don’t wanna die."
Their grumblings made her feel sad. Was it because she might never see them again?
Gong Ju-Ha bit her lips and held back the tears forming in her eyes as she nodded with determination. "Go ahead and joke around all you want from now on. You won't hear any nagging from me. Just don’t die."
It seemed that her will managed to reach them as they nodded heavily.
"Please be careful as well, Princess."
"He’s a true monster, just like the rumors said. Please don't be careful."
"If I survive, I'll definitely mess around more than usual. Don't nag me by then."
As screams began to echo from all over the city, Ha In-ho raised his hand.
"All right! From now on, I’m the leader of Team 2! Follow me, everyone! Move out!"
He calmly led the team away.
He was aware that he couldn't stay lost in the mood forever.
"Where the heck is our Ju-Ha... Ah,?there she is."
Gong Ju-Ha saw familiar faces at their rendezvous point.
"Sorry for being late."
"No, it’s okay. It's fine. We have to wait until the Players are done making space for us, anyway." Skaya lifted the blinds on the window. The city was on fire, and there was absolute pandemonium within its confines.
Gong Ju-Ha carved the harrowing sight into the retina of her eye.
"The number of surviving Players will increase the quicker we dispatch Orpheus,” said Skaya.
“Can we even kill him?" asked Shin Sung-Hyun.
Skaya nodded and swept her gaze across everyone. “It’s doable."
Skaya and Rahmadat.
Kim Woo-Joong and Shin Sung-Hyun.
Finally, Gong Ju-Ha and Seo Jun-Sik.
The team was made up of just six Players, but they were unstoppable.
"This combination is something I carefully thought out. There's no better combination than this."
If these six Players failed to kill Orpheus, the situation would remain hopeless, even if a few Star Destruction Stage Players were to join the battle from somewhere. In addition, Players like Baek Geon-Woo, Gilberto, and Wei Chun-Hak were more powerful against a crowd of enemies rather than fighting a single enemy.
"Uh... What about me?" Gong Ju-Ha pointed to her own face.
Her Ruler of Flames (S) was also great when dealing with multiple opponents.
"Princess, you have great synergy with Woo-Joong and Sung-Hyun, so we picked you."
Ruler of Flames truly had excellent synergy with Cutter of Flames.
Similarly, the Controller of Space, who could twist the trajectory of flames in many different ways, synergized greatly with the Ruler of Flames as well. Of course, the reason these things were possible was due to the training the trio had done together.
"We'll have to wait at least thirty more minutes."
Orpheus had entered the city’s old castle, where True Vampire Tepes used to live.
"The entry phase has been decided, so please make sure to remember it."
Skaya suspended a hologram in the air.
The team members nodded.
"I’ve memorized it."
"I've been there once, so it won't be difficult."
"...All right, let's all get our nerves in order."
With that, the team members dispersed throughout the hotel room.
Skaya sat down and stored her spells into catalysts for the upcoming battle while Rahmadat lay on the bed to rest. Kim Woo-Joong and Shin Sung-Hyun were talking to each other about something.
The nervous Gong Ju-Ha washed her face several times in the bathroom.
Her pallid visage made it obvious that she was incredibly nervous.
"What's wrong? Nervous?"
"...You scared me."
Gong Ju-Ha nodded slightly to Seo Jun-Sik leaning on the bathroom wall.
"Of course, I'm nervous. It’s a bit embarrassing to say this, but the future of humanity is in our hands."
"Why say it like it’s something new? It has always been like that."
"... It's a different kind of pressure—different kind of pressure."
The upcoming battle would most likely decide everything, so the pressure felt different to Gong Ju-Ha. She looked at him with drooping shoulders.
"Why do you sound like you’re fine with it? Is it because you’re Seo Jun-Ho's clone?"
"Well, if I were the Original, I’m sure he’ll make sure he’s calm during something like this." Seo Jun-Sik smiled softly and added, "But I bet he wouldn’t be able to smile like me. He’s more serious and meticulous than you think."
“What about you, Jun-Sik? How come you’re so calm and casual? You should be more serious,” said Gong Ju-Ha. She was worried that Seo Jun-Sik might take the upcoming battle seriously.
"Hmm, I should be more serious, huh?" Seo Jun-Sik pondered briefly before shaking his head. "Nah, I don’t want to. I don’t think that attitude fits me.”
"Is that so?" Gong Ju-Ha frowned and left the bathroom. She sat down on the sofa and took several deep breaths to calm herself down. For some reason, Seo Jun-Sik’s presence always made her feel nervous.
"It's about time."
Thirty minutes later, the team got up.
"It should take us 2 minutes and 31 seconds to reach Orpheus. No one should fall behind, but if someone falls behind…”
They would be left behind.
Those words were left unsaid, but everyone nodded in agreement.
Orpheus of Vain.
The Players had fought him numerous times over the past two years, and they had long understood his power and flaws.
‘His power is clear. He is capable of using the power of vain, and his power of vain annihilates everything it touches.’
To be more precise, the power of vain reduced everything it touched to nothingness.
The target would cease to exist.
‘As for his weaknesses, I’m not sure...’
However, Skaya eventually learned something about him.
‘Is he really omnipotent?’
If Orpheus were omnipotent, why couldn’t he conquer the 9th Floor? Why had he settled as one of the four Counts without defeating Horizon, Gorgon, and Lavue to become the one and only ruler of the Underworld?
Why had he given up the Floor Master position to Specter?
‘It doesn’t make sense, so he definitely has flaws.’
Skaya had fought Orpheus dozens of times before, and she had witnessed hundreds of lives turn into nothingness by his hands.
‘He's always so nonchalant.’
The ferocity of the battle didn’t matter, Orpheus had always never pursued those retreating from the battle. He would simply stare at them for a moment before looking away.
‘If I’m correct…’
Orpheus’ power of vain had a massive flaw.
A massive pillar of fire rose toward Orpheus.
Orpheus reached out with his hand to stop it, but a rift in space opened and swallowed the entire pillar of fire.
‘It’s coming from behind.’
A rift in space opened behind Orpheus.
However, the rift spat out not one but six divided pillars of fire.
At the same time, Kim Woo-Joong and Rahmadat rushed toward him from both flanks.
Not a single sound echoed…
The power of vain turned every attack into nothingness, but it was fine.
"...You were right, Skaya!" shouted Seo Jun-Sik. He had just used Wheel of Time to observe the moment of collision. "Hands! He can only wield the power of vain using his hands! And he can’t move his legs while using the power of vain!”
Orpheus looked like he could freely wield the power of vain, but it wasn’t the case.
He was simply too fast for people to see his movements clearly.
In other words, Orpheus would simply move his arms at breakneck speeds to defend himself using the power of vain
His arms moved so fast, and his movements were so fluid that Seo Jun-Sik had to use Wheel of Time dozens of times over the past two years in tandem with the power to freeze just to capture Orpheus’ minute movements.
"...Well done, Jun-Sik." Skaya bit her lip upon recalling the many lives that perished without leaving even a corpse under Orpheus’ cursed power. No, perhaps everyone present here could still remember them.
‘The puzzle you’ve sacrificed your lives to complete is finally complete.’
The sacrifice of hundreds of Players had finally paid off.
“Ha…” Orpheus let out a sigh. He despised and held humans in contempt, but he couldn't quite look down on them. ‘Annoying pests.’
Humans inflicted the greatest harm on each other compared to many other races, but they would always unite in the face of a common enemy. They would gather like a massive swarm of ants or hornets toward a single goal.
"I’m sure they’re not aware of it, but they’re advancing their fates…” Orpheus took a stance as the power of vain enveloped his hands. It seemed that the battle this time would last for quite a while.
Seventeen hours later, the conditions of the team members were indescribable.
However, Orpheus wasn’t exactly in the best shape either.
"Haaa, puff…" Orpheus’ visage was hidden by his blood-soaked hair draping over his face. He swept his gaze across the Players as he sat on the stone steps of the old castle ruins. His legs had been severed, and he had lost one eye.
In other words, the battle was practically over.
However, everyone was aware that a battle wasn’t over until the enemy was dead.
Unfortunately, there was one single obstacle to the Player’s victory.
"I think he’s planning to stay there until the demons outside claim victory."
"Yeah, I think he’s waiting for the demons to completely wipe out the resistance army."
Orpheus’ hands were still intact, and he remained resolute as he sat quietly on the stone steps. The Players had been attacking him from afar, but Orpheus’ power of vain was still as potent as when the battle had just started.
“He’s determined to take at least one of us down with him."
Orpheus’ remaining eye shone in a determined light. It was clear that he wouldn’t allow himself to die without taking one of the Players with him. It was a strange standoff, indeed, and Seo Jun-Sik finally made his move.
All eyes turned toward him; Seo Jun-Sik smiled wryly and said, "Why so serious, everyone? I'm just a clone, you know?"
Everyone remained silent. They knew he was Seo Jun-Ho’s clone, but they had been fighting together on the battlefield for more than two years now.
"His power of vain may erase your very existence."
"Well, yeah. I suppose that could happen." Seo Jun-Sik nodded. After all, even Sung-Jun's clone had apparently disappeared in a similar manner, so it was possible.
"But still, once Original comes back and..." His gaze swept over the team before continuing. “And if he finds out that one of you died while he was gone, I’m sure he’s going to be sad—really sad.”
"If we're talking about the Seo Jun-Ho that we know, I think he’s going to be sad as well if you disappear"
"Well, that's true. We always bicker, but he took care of me pretty well."
Seo Jun-Sik, who was thinking about the Original while looking up, turned to Gong Ju-Ha.
"You asked earlier, right? Ah,?was it yesterday? Why I’m so calm and casual?"
"No need to explain. You’re not exactly wrong."
But there was a reason behind it…
"Original… his personality’s really nasty."
"He knows I love sushi, but he rarely buys it for me, and he has a ton of money, you know!" His Original also knew that he liked orange juice, but the fridge was filled with nothing but cold brew coffee and black tea.
"Why are you bringing that up?"
"I’m saying that guy is like my hometown. I eventually have to look back at him and return to him."
Seo Jun-Sik’s calm and casual personality belonged to Seo Jun-Ho. He had been exactly like Seo Jun-Sik before he became a Player—back when he still trusted people without doubting them.
"So I can't become serious..." Otherwise, he might forget what he was like before the demon army’s invasion. Seo Jun-Sik had to avoid that at all costs. Seo Jun-Sik pulled out a blue spear from his Inventory.
"Let's go, Fake Dragon."
The original White Dragon was with his Original. The White Dragon in his hand was just an imitation of the original, so he named it Fake Dragon—fake like himself.
"Heh." Seo Jun-Sik's lips curled up. He aimed the tip of his spear at Orpheus and spoke, "Here I come."
Seo Jun-Sik took the lead. The scornful power of darkness enveloped him as he tore through space and reappeared in front of Orpheus.
"Ugh!" Orpheus quickly enveloped his hand with the power of vain.
'It doesn’t feel good that I can only take a clone down with me, but...'
It was better than nothing. He caught White Dragon with one hand.
The power to scorn was reduced to nothingness.
Seo Jun-Sik reckoned that his Original would have lasted longer than him—no, the tables would have turned, and his scornful darkness would have devoured Orpheus’ power of vain.
However, Seo Jun-Sik was simply too weak to resist Orpheus’ power of vain.
“Now!” Seo Jun-Sik roared.
Meanwhile, Orpheus grabbed Seo Jun-Sik’s hand.
"Let's hold hands and go down this stage together…" said Seo Jun-Sik with a snicker.
Orpheus grinned wryly. The idea of dying with this bastard was hardly appealing, but he smiled at Seo Jun-Sik and asked, "What are you talking about?"
How could they go down the stage together when Seo Jun-Sik’s figure was already starting to disappear into nothingness? However, two figures quickly appeared behind Orpheus and punched him.
Orpheus spat a mouthful of pitch-black blood.
A dazzling sword light severed both of his arms from his shoulders.
He collapsed and stared at the burning ceiling in a daze.
"You all... are still going to die"
"Just shut up and die. Stop talking nonsense,” growled Rahmadat.
However, Orpheus’ smile hung on his lips as he muttered, “Fools. Do you really think that there are only two Star Destruction Stage demons left throughout the universe?”
Everyone's gaze was drawn to the hole in the burning ceiling.
The dawn parted, giving way to the rising sun as the world was enveloped by a terrifying amount of energy.
"Damn it, t-this can't..."
"No way. Are they all...?"
More than a hundred Star Destruction Stage demons were approaching them.
Orpheus glanced at the astonished Players and chuckled. "The Archduke... is impartial."
The Archduke gave him and Horizon the chance to seize the glory of conquering the lower Floors.
"But Horizon is dead, and I... I’m dying."
The Star Destruction Stage demons who had been waiting on the upper Floors no longer had any reason to wait. From now on, they would descend and wreak havoc like rampaging bulls.
Everyone's mouths were tightly sealed at the harsh and cold reality.
Meanwhile, Seo Jun-Sik's arm was finally reduced to nothingness.
He smiled bitterly and bid farewell to them. "Damn it. It doesn’t feel good leaving you guys just like this. Please… stay strong, you guys."
The power of vain rushed toward Seo Jun-Sik, and he closed his eyes to greet death.
The ceiling abruptly collapsed, and a beam of darkness landed on the ground.
"Are you really going to leave them with the burden just to rest in peace?”
The darkness took the shape of a certain individual, and he approached Seo Jun-Sik.
"I don’t remember teaching you that."
"Huh? You, you... you!"
"Nice to see you, Jun-Sik." Seo Jun-Ho grinned upon seeing Seo Jun-Sik’s eyes that had gone as wide as saucer plates. He then placed his hand on Seo Jun-Sik's forehead and muttered, "Wheel of Time."