Return To Player Chapter 221

TO ACCESS EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND SUPPORT THIS NOVEL, CLICK HERE !

Chapter 221: Self-Awareness (4)

‘I must hurry to Lynn.’

Feeling Lynn’s divine presence from afar, I grew increasingly anxious.

It was because Bango’s divine presence, which had been hidden, had appeared at the location where Lynn was.

And after several clashes, it had quietened down.

Fortunately, Lynn’s divine presence hadn’t disappeared, but it was clear that she was having a hard time.

No matter how capable Lynn was, fighting Bango alone was too much for her.

“What a leisurely pace. To be distracted in this situation.”

As I heard a relaxed voice, the Bow King’s arrow, infused with mana, sliced through the wind towards me.

If it were a simple arrow, there would be no issue, but the problem was that the entire arrow was made of mana.

Simple physical barriers couldn’t stop it due to its ability to easily penetrate—without a defense of mana, it was indefensible.

‘Of course, I have other ways.’

Ping ping ping!

After reading the trajectory of the arrows chasing me, I opened a void in space.

The arrows were sucked into the spatial rift that had opened in the air and disappeared.

This void space couldn’t contain living beings, but it could hold everything else.

No matter how much guiding ability the arrows had, if I opened a void space right before them, they inevitably had to enter.

Thanks to that, dealing with the Bow King wasn’t difficult, but the advancing wave of ice that was freezing the ground proved quite troublesome.

‘Had I lost my footing, it would have been dangerous.’

The Bow King’s unrelenting barrage, along with the Ice and Snow King controlling various types of ice and pressuring from all sides, was powerful. If I hadn’t covered my whole body with protective energy, my skin would have instantly been frozen solid.

To be honest, even breathing was considerably painful now.

‘They’re strong after all.’

No matter how much Petroya’s betrayers claim, the name “Seven Heroes” wouldn’t disappear.

If it were me from the first timeline, I wouldn’t have attempted to fight them head-on.

However, it’s not that I can’t deal with them.

Honestly, if I wanted to, I could have taken them down easily.

Having defeated Nyarlathotep and reached the highest divine stature, it was possible for me to now forcefully suppress them with power.

The only reason I couldn’t do so was because there was one who would interfere.

“You look like you have a lot to say.”

The man behind the Ice and Snow King and Bow King observed the situation quietly.

Giant King Imir smiled gently at me.

“There’s a lot to be said. It’s not permitted for the head of the Publishers to meddle with another star so freely, is it? Even if you wear the hat of an administrator.”

“Ho, you even know about the administrator? Certainly, as a Publisher living off points earned through the system, I can’t meddle with another star freely. To do that, permission from the system is required. Either there must be a significant issue to move me, or a corresponding price must be paid.”

Even a Publisher, who lives off the system, isn’t free of it.

After all, having ‘that position’ means being somewhat bound to the system.

“But interfering this much is just fine. Even with restrictions, if I can’t exert at least this much power, there’s no reason to remain the head of the Publishers.”

Such interference is minor.

Certainly, the power used by Imir pales in comparison to his full strength.

If he had been serious, we wouldn’t be able to converse like this.

“What’s your intention?”

“Intention?”

“Your purpose for coming here to see me, despite the limited power you can exert. Manifesting here alone must have consumed a considerable amount of power, right? You must have a time limit?”

“Of course. A mere 30 minutes.”

Imir responded candidly.

His demeanor was surprisingly friendly for someone obstructing his own work.

“I’ve come to make you a simple offer.”

He interrupted the Bow King and Ice and Snow King who were attempting to charge at me.

“I’ve been watching what you’ve been doing. Astonishing, each and every one. In my long time watching over numerous games, I’ve never seen anyone seize a game on their own or use a foreign god as an avatar.”

“That sounds about right.”

“I rate you highly for just that reason. This time, you’ve toppled Nyarlathotep.”

“That was just good luck.”

If Edra from the first timeline hadn’t appeared, I could have forced Nyarlathotep to back down but not killed him.

“Hmm, is that so? However, luck is also a part of strength. I’ve been watching you and pondered over two choices: to completely erase you or to make you one of us.”

“…And?”

“The former seems like it would entail a significant loss on our end. Therefore, I’ve decided on the latter.”

“You’ve decided on the latter?”

“I’ll prepare a place for you among the Publishers.”

His amethyst eyes captured me.

“We’ll even recognize Earth as its own independent game. But in exchange, I hope you’ll join the Publishers. Ah, was it Lynn Taylor? I’d like to include that child as well.”

“What?”

“It should be beneficial for you, shouldn’t it? There’s nothing good in continuing to fight against us. I promise I’ll consider your convenience and withdraw completely from Earth.”

The offer was certainly tempting.

And Imir’s words were surely sincere.

Yet…

“No.”

“…Ho, what’s the reason?”

“Do I need to say it to you?”

“That’s true.”

Imir shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated manner, pretending to be disappointed.

“It’s not a wise choice. Are you relieved because I can only stay here for 30 minutes? The next Goddess of Justice fighting Bango won’t survive.”

“So, you’re the one who changed the terrain of the fortress. The divine presence and magic were undetectable because you used the power of the key?”

“Haha, correct. Since I had to consider rejection, I wanted to dispose of at least one nuisance in advance.”

Imir laughed heartily, but my mouth went dry.

While engaging in casual conversation, my concerns for Lynn persisted.

“If you regret it, I might consider withdrawing.”

“No. My thoughts haven’t changed.”

“Is that so? A pity. Your choice is as good as leading that child to her death.”

He slowly raised his hand.

Then the Bow King and Ice and Snow King, who had been staying behind, stepped forward again.

“Can you break through us and reach that child? Or do you think Lynn Taylor can hold out for 30 minutes? Impossible either way.”

“You are.”

In response to Imir’s smirk, I smiled back and spoke up.

“Do you know what attributes Lynn has?”

“…?”

“Of course, you don’t know. Even a Publisher can’t see a player’s stats.”

Indeed, Imir wasn’t wrong.

There was an insurmountable gap between Lynn and Bango, and breaking through two heroes assisted by Imir would be a difficult task for me.

However, Imir didn’t know Lynn’s attributes, and probably neither did Bango.

“Then, there’s a fair chance.”

Imir’s words weren’t wrong, but they weren’t the correct answer either.

***

Lynn had never deeply pondered the concepts of good and evil.

She simply carried a vague idea that she was the Goddess of Justice chosen by Astraea and had to fulfill that role.

“Is this the justice you’ve chosen that goes against the order of the world? Surely, there will be many sacrifices, but that is necessary.”

Lynn couldn’t counter Bango’s words.

The scales in her hand were affirming Bango’s stance.

The Libra sword would not transform into a sword unless it judged the opponent as evil.

She could not pass judgment.

In Lynn’s inventory, there was a spare sword made by Siwoo, but it would simply break easily in Bango’s grip. Without Libra, she couldn’t even properly fight Bango.

‘If I wielded Libra, could I win?’

Frankly, she had no confidence.

Even just the ability to rewind time shattered Lynn’s confidence.

That was cheating. To be able to wind back time at will and start over.

With that ability, no matter what skills she mastered, they would all be useless.

“Come to this side, Lynn Taylor. If you’re the Goddess of Justice, you shouldn’t be swayed by trivial human emotions.”

She wanted to deny it.

If there was even a grain of lie or a sliver of malevolence in his words, she would have denied it.

His words were truthful, and his intentions were for the good of the world.

He truly sought the welfare of the world.

‘Goddess, what should I do?’

Though she continuously called to Astraea, no answer came.

Certainly, the goddess was listening, so why wasn’t she responding?

“Nothing is more fearsome than a fool’s justice. You are still young and have much to learn. Let us teach you. You must understand what is right and what benefits the world.”

He extended his hand.

Lynn just stared at it silently.

If she wanted to befit the divine role granted by Astraea, maybe it was right to take that hand.

That thought crossed her mind.

Yet, Lynn couldn’t bring herself to grasp that hand.

She instinctively shook her head.

She denied Bango’s words and thoughts.

“I refuse! I will never follow you!”

“For what reason?”

She couldn’t answer.

It was a reflexive rejection, with no particular reason behind it.

Bango looked at Lynn and slowly retracted his hand.

“Is it the human nature, after all? The position of the Goddess of Justice is not suited for an emotional being.”

As he gazed at Lynn’s frozen face, he had no choice but to consider another option.

This girl indeed possessed great talent.

But she couldn’t abandon human emotions. Even as the Goddess of Justice, she refused to follow the dictate of the world’s order.

That was not right.

The title of the Goddess of Justice did not suit her.

“A new Goddess of Justice is needed.”

“…!!”

The tranquil form of Bango disappeared.

Lynn reflexively kicked toward her right side.

“I’m just respecting your choice.”

If they couldn’t agree, she had no choice but to kill.

Bango, who caught Lynn’s kick, seemed to say just that.

‘Don’t panic!’

As she extracted her leg from Bango’s grip, Lynn pulled out a spare sword from her inventory and gripped it in her left hand.

It would have been better if she could have used Libra, but it still remained in the form of scales in her right hand.

A piercing pain came from her abdomen, but Lynn clenched her teeth and charged at Bango.

Clang!

Her thrust aimed at his chest, but his figure had already vanished.

Instead, her sword shattered and flew away.

Simultaneously, Bango’s attacks aimed at her abdomen and waist, but this time she managed to block them.

‘Again.’

The time had clearly rewound just before.

Lynn’s sword had certainly reached Bango’s chest.

But when she came to her senses, it was already broken.

‘Again. Just do it again.’

Ever since becoming one with Astraea, Lynn had never felt powerless.

Until now.

Clang!

Her sword shattered again.

No matter her attack, Bango’s body remained unscathed.

Why? Why wasn’t it working?

Boom!

“Aaah!”

When she came to, Bango’s foot was pressing her down.

With Lynn’s small head under his foot, he pressed down hard.

She tried to stand, but couldn’t push away the foot stepping on her head.

“Do you fight as the Goddess of Justice without even grasping the concept of ‘justice’?”

Their lifespans, from the beginning, were different.

As were their races—Giants and mere humans.

Normally, such a fight wouldn’t even be possible.

“Indeed, you should not call yourself the Goddess of Justice. You are not a goddess. You are human. A mere human claiming ‘justice’!”

Boom! Bang!

Bango’s foot violently stomped on the back of Lynn’s head. It rose up and down, pounding several times.

The barrier protecting Lynn, made of divine and magical power, slowly crumbled.

How much longer could she endure? The repeated blows to her head made her consciousness gradually fade.

Then, at that moment.

A familiar voice reached her ears.

「Therefore, what I have held onto until now, I wish to return to all of you.」

Someone spoke.

No, not quite.

Her darkening mind cleared up as the memories of the past flitted by.

Right, it was like the light before death.

「The justice of humanity that I have guarded.」

The image of Astraea descending to Earth appeared before her eyes.

It was that day.

The day she fought Aldebaran.

The day Lynn and Astraea became one.

In front of the trembling Lynn, Astraea quietly approached and smiled.

She reached out and said,

「Lynn Taylor. From now on, you are the justice of humanity.」

The justice of humanity.

Why did Astraea say that?

──Justice needs a standard.

Suddenly, Bango’s words came to mind.

Justice needs a standard, and the Goddess of Justice must follow the world’s order.

‘That’s it.’

She finally realized.

Astraea had given Lynn the standard of justice.

Not a justice for the world or the universe.

Humanity.

What Astraea granted Lynn was justice for humanity.

The world’s order? The system maintaining the universe?

Such things didn’t matter.

Yes, they never mattered.

She hadn’t realized that simple truth all this time.

Kuwoong!

“Hm?”

Bango, who was stamping on Lynn’s head, frowned at the strange sensation felt under his foot.

Surely, Lynn’s head, which had been powerless under his foot, lifted slightly.

“Now you resist? With your battered body, what can you do?”

The barrier protecting Lynn’s body was almost gone.

Just a couple more times, and she couldn’t maintain it any longer.

‘What’s this power?’

Bango’s foot, pressing down on her head, slowly started to push away.

As he put more strength into it, it remained unmoved.

Moreover, a circular band began to reappear above Lynn’s head.

This wasn’t a phenomenon that appeared because she was the Goddess of Justice.

It was the shape of a crown, only possible for a keyholder administrator to possess.

Until now, since it was just a circular band, he hadn’t paid much attention, but now it was different.

“…Your words were right.”

Lynn, clutching Bango’s ankle, pushed it aside and slowly raised her head.

Her golden eyes flared like flames.

The circular band that was beginning to manifest clearly above Lynn’s head started to transform.

All this time, Lynn had misunderstood.

She thought, because she was the Goddess of Justice, she had to make the right choices.

“If I was truly the Goddess of Justice, I should’ve followed you.”

For the sake of the world, it would be right to maintain the system and follow the Publishers.

But she didn’t want to. Lynn was human.

“I was mistaken. I thought I had to change what I believed in because I became the Goddess of Justice. Into something bigger… when there was absolutely no need to.”

Slowly. She rose from her knees.

The body of Bango, who stood in her way, wavered and was thrust aside.

To him, looking at her confused, she pointed the Libra in her right hand once again.

Creak.

Then, the scales that hadn’t moved before began to slowly tilt.

Bit by bit.

Ever so slightly.

Creeeak!!

The scales of judgment tilted perfectly.

──Towards evil.

TO ACCESS EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND SUPPORT THIS NOVEL, CLICK HERE !



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *