I let out a sigh of relief when I saw Scarlet properly intercepting the attack from the human assailant. In truth, the placement of her arrival had not been a coincidence at all. I had asked Aurivy to interfere with the coordinates of her transfer, such that she would directly appear in the path of the man’s attack.
There was a little danger for Scarlet, but I knew it wouldn’t be at the level where it would instantly kill her. I just needed the transfer’s side-effect of distorting space to redirect the attack for a brief moment. After that, everything would naturally take care of itself.
“Now… why is that man so angry at Fafnir?” I muttered to myself, cycling back through the records over a hundred years while following this man. He had been present, hiding in the distance and watching when Fafnir helped Bella escape from the half-god pursuing the Unknown domain. Before that, he had been working to train himself in a secluded forest to reach the Divine Soul stage.
It was at this point that I noticed he made this progress without ever achieving the perfect body, which would have made his climb all the more difficult. Yet, even this far back, I couldn’t find any trace of him having any encounter with Fafnir that would explain this grudge.
I kept going back further, until I found my answer. In truth… there really was no grudge between the two. Not in reality. But that man was not aware of that fact, as someone else had led him to believe that there was.
I watched a female druid overlooking a mountain pass, watching a caravan of wagons moving through the area. Even back then, it was rare to find people moving between cities in this manner, due to the convenience of the portals and dangers of traveling on foot.
Her lips crooked up as she waved her hand. The air shook to sound like a dragon’s roar while rocks dislodged themselves from the mountain, tumbling towards the caravan below.
Naturally, those who dared to travel by land were capable of defending against such basic tactics. However, as they mustered their power to divert the rocks, a third-tier spell diagram appeared at their feet, sealing their ki and mana. With that brief moment of confusion, the rocks came crashing down.
Only those with truly powerful bodies were able to survive the crushing power of the giant rocks. One such man was using his body to shield the form of a young boy, apparently the man’s son. The boy shouted and cried for his father to move, but his father’s legs had been crushed.
As the woman descended the mountain, she cast a sickly green bolt of energy at those that remained alive, directly culling them as she approached the sheltered boy. Above the palm of her hand, a smaller spell diagram had formed, one still at the third tier. The boy struggled beneath his father’s frame, but was unable to break free before she arrived and pressed the spell into his forehead.
“The Holy Dragon Fafnir brutally slaughtered your father and his men.” The woman spoke in a soft tone as the boy’s eyes seemed to gloss over, entering a form of trance. “As you were passing by, he demanded your goods and your women, but your father bravely refused. Your father pleaded to the Keeper’s Dragon to show mercy, and was repaid with death.”
After she finished speaking, she stood and cast a teleportation spell to leave the area. By the time the boy was lucid again, there was no sign of her presence. Only the seed of hatred that had been planted in his heart.
I followed the woman in the records now, watching as she did similar activities dozens of times. Not all of them targeted Fafnir. In fact, some of them targeted local kings or queens, some she aimed at the gods themselves. A few were targeted at Tsubaki, even.
Her purpose, when viewed from the surface, seemed to simply be to cultivate hatred against powerful figures of authority. She would use whatever target was most convenient for the given situation.
As I followed her forward through time, my finger was just itching to hit the smite button. I wanted to see what had happened within this last century that a figure such as her would still be hidden. And then, I found my answer, in a way I hadn’t entirely expected.
While the woman was off to find her next target, a red-haired felyn appeared before her. I could immediately recognize the figure of Terra, and the cold fury within her seemingly calm eyes. Thinking back, she explained the power she had used on the enemy goddess in great detail during the last invasion.
At first, I simply thought that was the knowledge of the power from her own imagination and the workings of the system. But now, it seemed like there was something more. In Terra’s hand was a tattered, old book. One that had seen centuries of wear already.
“We meet again, oh Goddess.” The woman spoke in a sarcastic tone, clearly pleased to see Terra, and not in the least afraid. “Have you come to ask me to return to the musty old tome of yours? I’m sorry, but I really must refuse.”
“Thirty-seven.” Terra spoke in a calm tone. “Four people directly reading your story, and spreading it to thirty-three others. Thirty-seven lifelines for you to hold onto and keep your legend alive.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s more than that by now.” The woman grinned. “Those thirty-some probably already told a few others as well. There should be hundreds by now. Plus all those I’ve personally encountered along the way.”
“No… only thirty-seven.” Terra replied, making the woman freeze up briefly. “They never had the chance to tell anyone else. Of them… thirty-six have already died. The last one is resting in a coma, living only through a spell set to prolong his life. And you were so careful not to leave too deep an impression on others so far, weren’t you?”
Terra took a step forward, golden light seeping out of her skin. “You made me kill thirty-seven people to put the seal back in place. Thirty-seven innocent lives, each with their own fates. But it was either them, or the millions of deaths you would cause if left to wander free.”
“Didn’t you say only thirty-six had died?” The woman asked with a raised eyebrow, before noticing markings that had begun to appear across her skin. Her eyes opened wide in shock at the familiar sight.
“Sorry, but his life support just failed. Bit of a mana siphon that disrupted any active spells in the area.” Terra watched as the woman turned into countless letters, before flying into the book again. Once the woman had been sealed in the book again, Terra vanished, appearing above a bubbling pit of lava.
Perhaps destroying the book while she was unsealed would free her from it, and that was why Terra had to go through all that trouble. Now that she was back, it was clear Terra wasn’t giving her another second chance. With a light toss, she directly threw the book into the pit below her.
Okay… so I don’t have to smite. I muttered, shaking my head. By now, I was able to piece together the story. This woman had angered Terra in the past to such a degree that she sealed her in a book. But at the time, Terra felt it was safe enough to store her among other books, hiding in plain sight. The downside of her power hadn’t been fully discovered yet.
Eventually, four people came across the book and began to read it, interested in the tale of an unknown figure. This caused her to be released once again, this time with a grudge against the gods. The four people began to tell their friends about the story while Terra tracked them down and arranged accidents for them.
Even as a goddess, she couldn’t just directly descend to kill innocent people. Her reputation would be dragged through the mud if she did so, and that was why it took so long. Long enough for the woman to brainwash dozens, if not hundreds of people into believing that they had been wronged by those in power.
I let out a faint sigh, shaking my head. At this point, the source of the problem with Fafnir was already killed. It was no longer possible to bring her forward and solve this mess. I could try to have it explained to the man that he had been deceived, but… I highly doubted that he would listen to me.
This was a grudge held for over a hundred year, one that had become the cornerstone of his entire existence, fueling him to withstand inhuman levels of pain. Telling him that it had all been a lie would be as good as killing him directly.
“So you saw that, huh?” Terra asked, her voice suddenly appearing behind me while her arms wrapped around my waist. I could feel her head leaning against my shoulder.
“Yeah… Though, I have to ask, why didn’t you do something about the people she targeted, as well?”
“A grudge, no matter how big, will usually not drive a person to such lengths.” She explained in a soft tone. “Of the people Leora turned, only three of them still allow that grudge to drive their actions to this day. Two of them already completed their grudge, killing the local rulers that they had been set against. Only he was given such a grand goal and still lives with his grudge.”
“I thought it kinder to let fate take its course, allow their hearts to cleanse themselves with time and offer them the chance to live peacefully. Was my decision wrong?”
I shook my head, turning around to look into her green eyes. “No, it wasn’t. I just wanted to understand.” My hand came up to caress her cheek, and I saw a smile spreading over her face.
Scarlet, the newly ascended Goddess of Ki, glanced down to herself to examine her own power. “So this is what it is like…” As a goddess that ruled over a primary energy, she shared a similar power as Ryone. Whereas the Goddess of Magic could use her divinity to fuel an unlimited reservoir of mana, so too could Scarlet generate unlimited ki, as long as she had the divine energy to fuel herself.
“Congratulations on your ascension.” Tsubaki spoke with a small smile. As Scarlet was the only other subordinate deity to the Keeper, she saw the two of them as having a more equal position. Of course, with Scarlet still being the daughter of the Keeper, she would always be elevated in Tsubaki’s eyes. But at least now that difference didn’t feel as large as before.
“I couldn’t have done it without you.” Scarlet commented, looking towards Tsubaki in a strange manner. “It is… odd. The aura of blood around you has shifted. It hasn’t gone away, or even weakened, but it feels different now. As if the blood you have taken no longer feels real to you. Is everything alright, Lady Tsubaki?”
Tsubaki was surprised by the comment, thinking back a bit before shaking her head. “That should be because the ‘blood’ you see now is me repeating my trials within a virtual environment.”
“Is that so…” Scarlet muttered, musing aloud. “I suppose it would make sense. Then, I would like to offer you a gift while I am here, if you choose to accept it.”
Tsubaki looked at her curiously, prompting her to continue. “Summon your familiar, if you would be so kind. I have been told that she created a core of ki in herself much as I did with mana. To deepen the bond you share, I would convert her ki into elemental ki of light.”
“You can do that?” Tsubaki asked in surprise, having never heard of anyone with elemental ki that had manifested as light.
“I can now. If there can be ki of darkness and space, why can there not be ki of light?” Scarlet asked with a small smile. “As long as you do not object to this, that is.”
Tsubaki shook her head quickly, calling Dana over. While this gift in itself wasn’t so important, it was still a gift from the daughter of the Keeper. As long as it wasn’t something harmful, Tsubaki wouldn’t outright refuse.
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