Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 39
Before an intensely heated furnace…
Vulcaro stared at the finalized crystal, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead.
“… It’s beautiful.”
He had crafted a lot of equipment and refined countless gems before, but he couldn’t help but be impressed. He wondered if he had truly refined this crystal himself.
The onyx-colored crystal radiated a mystical, darkness-like light. And despite it only being the size of a fingernail after being refined, light shone through its thousands of facets.
Seeing that graceful light, Vulcaro couldn’t help but put on a gentle smile. It truly was dazzling, so much so that one would never tire of looking at it.
Vulcaro remembered having seen an alluring light like this before.
‘I want to complete it.’
Vulcaro started to feel an overwhelming desire to create a fully finished product with this crystal. He wanted not just to refine it, but to create an item that could handle its full power. That was his greed as a blacksmith.
Vulcaro placed the crystal on a thick cloth, and wrapped it up.
“It’s probably impossible.”
Vulcaro raised his head. The equipment on the wall was vibrating ever so slightly.
Vulcaro grabbed the hammer he had placed off to the side. He gripped it differently than when he was forging equipment.
He got up from his spot, limping as he walked outside.
“… It had to be today of all days.”
Vulcaro had known this would eventually come, but he walked on thinking how great it would have been if he had been able to have just one more day.
* * *
Hundreds of players marched in rhythm.
The slums were in chaos. People who made this place their home, unable to climb to the next floor, hid to protect themselves.
“What’s all this?”
“Did something happen around here?”
The oncoming players were armed with swords and spears. And all of their clothes were decorated with the symbol of Olympus, a tall mountain.
In front of this group, a player wrapped in red cloth walked alongside Agamemnon.
“To be in such a foul-smelling place…” Agamemnon frowned at the awful stench that filled the slums. “No wonder we couldn’t find him until now.”
Agamemnon stared at a building covered in tattered cloth. As he pointed his hand towards it, the hundreds of players behind him got into formation.
The players surrounded the building, preparing their weapons.
“And you’re certain this is the place?” Agamemnon asked his subordinate, his voice filled with skepticism.
The subordinate got close, nodding, his eyes having changed to a blue color. He answered, “I am certain, sir.”
His eyes spelled his doubts.
Hearing the sound of someone walking with a limp, Agamemnon smiled as he nodded.
“So we are in the right place.”
A rough-looking, muscular man walked out of the cloth-covered entrance. Holding a hammer in one hand, the man wasn’t wearing any proper equipment. And the hammer in his hand looked like a standard blacksmith’s hammer.
“You’re causing a scene in the neighborhood. What brings you guys here?”
“Surely that’s a rhetorical question.”
Agamemnon pointed the tip of his sword at Vulcaro’s neck.
After hearing Agamemnon, the players of Olympus that had surrounded the workshop started murmuring.
“The blacksmith of Olympus?”
“I heard he refused to make a weapon and ran off with the property of Olympus…”
There was a rumour going around that their mission was to capture Hephaestus alive. But once this was confirmed by Agamemnon, their faces changed in an instant.
“H-How are we supposed to capture a Ranker?”
“No matter how many people we have on our side…”
Hephaestus was the greatest blacksmith in Olympus—no, in the entire Tower. And he was a Ranker that had climbed to the top of the Tower.
Meanwhile, the people that Agamemnon had brought were players that hadn’t even managed to clear the 10th Floor. Though they massively outnumbered him, there was a great difference in power.
“Fear not. A Ranker’s power is severely restricted on the 1st Floor.”
“What? I ran off with their property?”
Hephaestus let out a baffled laughter.
Vulcaro, or rather, Hephaestus slammed the air with his hammer. The hammer struck against the thin air and created a massive sound blast, shaking the eardrums of the nearby players.
It was a deafening boom. Hephaestus’s powers made the entire place shake.
“Now stop making me laugh and come at me. I’ll smash all of your heads.”
His confidence made the surrounding players take a step back. They knew that if they were hit by that hammer, not just their heads, but their entire bodies would shatter.
Despite this, Agamemnon laughed at Hephaestus’s actions.
“You’re a Ranker that got crippled after being punished by the Ruler of the Skies. Can you really call yourself a Ranker while wearing almost nothing?”
Agamemnon’s subordinate took a closer looking at Hephaestus’s leg. Agamemnon was right. Hephaestus was disabled. Even when he was walking out of the workshop, he looked like he might fall over at any moment.
Agamemnon gave a signal and the man wrapped in red came forward.
“We also have a Ranker on our side.”
The man had orange eyes, flaming red hair, and pure white skin. He was wrapped in a red cloth.
Hephaestus’s eyes widened after recognizing the man.
Chryses. He was a player that had climbed the Tower while being sponsored by the High Ranker Apollo. He was a rookie that was fairly well known in Olympus. Hephaestus had also seen him a few times.
“So you’ve become a Ranker.”
“I didn’t think I’d end up fighting against you.”
Chryses stretched out his hand, forming a crimson spear.
Hephaestus muttered to himself. He didn’t expect that they would bring a Ranker from Olympus just to catch him.
“If you guys cause a scene here with a Ranker on the 1st Floor, the penalty will be nothing to scoff at.”
Players of the upper floors had their powers restricted on the lower floors. And if they used too much power, even if it was restricted, a ‘penalty’ was applied to them. Worst case scenario, an Administrator would show up to personally intervene in the situation.
“That doesn’t matter. I might be a Ranker, but you’re a Ranker as well.”
Hephaestus frowned at Chryses’s answer. Though he might be using his powers on the 1st Floor, it was directed at Hephaestus, another Ranker. So it was true that Chryses didn’t have to worry much about the penalty.
“You guys sure are good at coming up with sly tactics.”
Hephaestus’s body started turning hot and red, and he started emitting a blue light from his eyes. His massive mana turned into heat, turning his vicinity into a sauna.
The tension was thick.
Hephaestus swung his hammer, finally speaking.
“… Come at me.”
The hammer hit the air, and fire appeared all around Vulcaro.
Players started dropping dead. The fight between Chryses and Hephaestus descended the entire area into absolute chaos.
“I used to respect you.”
Chyses’s fiery hands grabbed Hephaestus’s hammer.
“You became a Ranker thousands of years ago, and instead of desiring more power, you followed your creed and wielded your hammer instead of a sword.”
“Is that the only reason why you respected me?”
The hammer heated up even more intensely. It was to the point that Chryses, who could manipulate fire, had to let go, unable to handle its sizzling heat.
Arrows and spears rained down, and Hephaestus knocked them away by swinging his hammer.
Pshk, pshk, pshk—!
Chryses was impaled by the ricocheting arrows and spears.
Holding back his scream, Chryses slowly backed off.
Hephaestus swung his hammer down in the direction opposite of Chryses. The shockwave created from hitting the air blew players’ heads and crushed their bodies and armor.
Players screamed in agony.
Blood started pouring from Hephaestus’s body. It was the Tower’s penalty.
Though he was attacked first, they were players of a floor much lower than Hephaestus. Regardless of the circumstances, Hephaestus couldn’t avoid the Tower’s penalty being applied to him for attacking them.
Hephaestus started wobbling. He already had a crippled leg, and now in addition to the penalty, he was having a hard time even standing.
Chryses pulled out the arrows and spears that had impaled him before approaching Hephaestus once again.
“I had respected the part of you that, despite being a Ranker, could drop everything and give up on power for your own creed.”
There was no aggression in his eyes, yet he once again wielded the flaming crimson spear in his hands.
“Cut the crap.”
Hephaestus’s hammer let out a cry. It was a vibration that shook the air.
Chryses could instinctively feel that this attack was going to be the climax of this fight.
“… I don’t want to fight against you.”
Chryses enveloped his body with fire. It was enough heat to melt the ground.
The entire area was filled with Chryses and Hephaestus’s mana.
The moment Hephaestus limped a single step toward Chryses…
Chryses took the form of fire and charged at Hephaestus as if he was a chariot.
It was a great collision of mana.
“You’ll get caught up in it!”
Their collision burned all the nearby players into a crisp. Their fire attribute mana burnt the atmosphere into nothing.
Agamemnon swallowed his spit.
‘The result is…’
The flames started receding. As the heat and smoke started dispersing, the aftermath of their collision was revealed.
Hephaestus’s arm was slowly turning gray, like stone.
“It’s something you made.”
The fire subsided, revealing Chryses holding a steel shield with the head of Medusa on it.
“It’s Aegis. It might only be a replica, but it’s enough to bind you.”
Hephaestus’s entire body had turned gray.
「Aegis」 was Olympus’s greatest binding item. Not only was it the greatest shield, but it also held the power of the monster Medusa. That’s how the worn-out Hephaestus was able to be turned into stone.
As soon as he fully turned to stone, Hephaestus fell over on his side due to his crippled leg.
Witnessing this sight, Agamemnon mumbled while trembling with joy, “It’s… finally over.”
There were over a hundred fatalities, and Chryses received fatal injuries, but he was still satisfied with the results. Because he had managed to capture Hephaestus, the criminal.
“Drag him away.”
Following his order, his subordinates that had shied away from the battle approached the petrified Hephaestus.
And that’s when a voice interrupted them.
“I can’t let you do that.”
A player suddenly jumped in, and cut the feet off the subordinates that were approaching Hephaestus.
Their ankles were cleanly cut.
Agamemnon glared furiously as his subordinates cried in pain, rolling around on the ground.
The reckless guy that jumped in the midst of a battle between two Rankers and hundreds of players…
“What brings such wretched folks to an important place such as this?”
It was the new player Kim YuWon. He was now standing in front of them.