Return To Player Chapter 224

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# 224

224. Treason (3)

“Euk!”

Libra had shattered.

Had Rin not thrown her head back the instant Libra broke, her skull would have been crushed.

Even just a graze from the forehead was enough to send her head reeling and blood gushing forth.

‘…My defenses have weakened.’

Whether it was due to being repeatedly struck by Ban-go’s fists or not, the barrier surrounding her had diminished in strength.

Though she continuously replenished her power using the Key’s energy, even that had its limits.

Her rapidly strengthened body was screaming in protest.

She wondered if pouring more magical power or divinity into it would put her life at risk.

Crack.

She grasped the broken half of Libra.

The hand holding the sword shook uncontrollably.

Not out of fear or terror, but because her physical limits had been reached.

‘…It’s okay.’

Rin looked at Ban-go standing before her.

The aura of terror that had enveloped him seemed to have faded somewhat after Libra’s fracture.

Grip.

As she tightened her hold on the sword, the trembling ceased.

Yes, she still had the strength to fight.

Ban-go found Rin’s resolve incomprehensible.

‘How can a human do this?’

She should have reached her limits long ago.

Yet she hadn’t fallen.

Even after shattering the symbol of justice, her will remained unbroken.

‘Human, to think a mere human…’

Merely fighting for the justice of humanity.

A god-defying traitor who, despite possessing the qualifications of the goddess of justice, had forsaken the world.

Much like Rin had gripped onto her sword, Ban-go too clenched his fist.

Their feet moved forward simultaneously, without waiting to see who would take the first step.

Golden light burst forth from the halved Libra, stretching about one meter long.

‘The light of the blade can’t be maintained forever.’

If the battle continued this way, victory would be his.

Clang! Clatter!

In a flash, fists and sword collided hundreds of times.

Golden particles scattered like pollen, the blade of Libra growing duller with each moment.

Rin’s sword slid off Ban-go’s fist, aiming for his shoulder

Right before the blade touched skin, it was repelled backward.

Time rewound, and Rin traced her movements back to where they started.

Conversely, Ban-go’s body moved in an entirely different direction than before.

Instead of the extended right hand, he swung his left, aiming for Rin’s face.

However, Rin was different from when she first experienced the loop.

She pursued the faint emanations of Ban-go’s fear.

She grasped the flow of time.

She twisted the unyielding time and moved her head to the right to dodge the punch.

Shreek!

Ban-go’s fist grazed Rin’s cheek, leaving behind a trace of blood droplets.

She had avoided it by mere millimeters.

Had she failed to move through the looping time, she would be dead.

But there was no sign of faltering in Rin’s eyes.

As if it was something she knew she could always accomplish.

‘Aren’t you frightened?’

Ban-go was not an immortal like Imiru.

Despite his immortality and command of the Key, he had lost to Imiru in battle.

But being a primeval giant, he possessed eternal life, and his flesh was made of material stronger than anything else.

Thus, Ban-go knew not death.

However, he understood just how frightening it could be to mortals.

After all, he too was a living being.

‘Weren’t you just a child?’

A somewhat timid ordinary girl.

Yet, why didn’t she retreat?

‘Why?’

Each collision of sword and fist caused the earth itself to tremble as if an earthquake had struck.

Only when the earth could no longer withstand their power did they separate.

‘Why can the goddess of justice who has abandoned justice fight to this extent?’

Just a moment ago, Ban-go would have charged at her immediately.

But for some reason, hesitancy had crept into his movements.

This wavering stemmed from a fear of the unknown.

Though she should have fallen, she did not.

And little by little, Rin was still growing stronger.

Her eyes sparked more brightly than before.

The light of the crown did not dim.

Surely, Rin, who had abandoned justice, should have been unable to use the powers of a goddess of justice.

Yet Libra emitted an aurora like that of stars, shining more brightly than anything.

It was undeniably the pure color of justice.

Looking at it, Ban-go’s heart stirred restlessly.

The fading fear began to rise again, little by little.

‘I see it!’

He could feel the opponent’s fear clearly.

Rin didn’t miss the opportunity.

With a step forward, the ground exploded like a bomb beneath her.

Through the ripping sound, Rin, enveloped in light, quickly closed the distance with Ban-go.

‘This can’t be!’

Ban-go, not expecting Rin to rush in like this, momentarily leaped back.

His mind shouted that she was only a human, yet his heart disagreed.

Once fear took hold, it didn’t easily recede.

It wasn’t an unusual thing.

Humans may fear even a small mouse.

Though a stomp could kill it, when a mouse bares its tiny teeth and attacks, some run away.

For Ban-go, it was as if the mouse wouldn’t die no matter how many times it was stomped.

No matter how he tried to crush it, it wouldn’t die.

Rin saw the fear clearly in Ban-go’s eyes.

‘I mustn’t miss this chance!’

A tiny bit of panic.

An iota of fear.

All of these little things together formed a small opportunity.

Ban-go was powerful.

In both body and technique, she couldn’t catch up.

If they continued the fight, Rin would lose her life before she ever fully caught up to Ban-go.

She knew this. That’s why it was terrifying.

Because Rin was still a child.

‘Rin, you can do anything.’

Sehan had told her.

She could do anything.

She carried all the potential of humanity.

A possibility to become greater than anyone else.

The goddess of justice, Astraea, had entrusted her with everything.

The justice she had always upheld.

The justice of humanity.

She had always been protected.

Sehan might not think so, but Rin felt it.

She had lived a safe and comfortable existence.

Even after gaining power, it remained the same.

Rin always exerted just as much strength as she could in a safe place.

Her father never scolded her for this.

He was only sad, always saying that if he had her power…

Then there would be no need for Rin to fight.

But she refused to accept that.

If she possessed everything, it was her responsibility to act.

Not someone else’s.

I have to.

Her golden eyes shone brightly, and Rin’s body accelerated.

Surpassing the speed of sound, chasing the light, a golden streak extended behind her.

She ran after the retreating Ban-go in one breath.

‘This is the last.’

Ban-go instinctively felt it was the girl’s final flame.

If he extinguished this flame, she wouldn’t rise again.

He had to shake her off.

That was his resolution, but he couldn’t do it.

No matter what, he couldn’t shake off the newly-awakened young deity.

“A mere human, I can’t shake off a mere human?!”

I, Ban-go.

“Don’t mess with me──!!”

Click.

The mainspring that moved the world began to turn.

The clock’s hands moved, and time rewound.

Broken ground was repaired, the blowing wind pushed back.

Clouds, sky, the earth – everything moved in reverse, retracing history.

“Don’t you dare defy me!”

Yet Rin’s body didn’t budge an inch.

She pursued the increasing terror inside Ban-go. That was the path to killing a god.

She ran down that path.

If she derailed from this path, she would fail and die.

Aldebaran told her.

A ‘bug’, he said.

Ban-go had also labeled her a bug.

‘If I truly am a bug!’

Then stepping outside the laws of the world should be simple.

Like a salmon swimming upstream, she ascended against the flow of time.

Climbing and climbing, she rose against the cascading waterfall of time.

And when she felt there was nowhere left to climb,

Ban-go was there.

Just a few dozen meters ahead.

No barrier stood between them now.

With wide-eyes full of shock, Rin, driven by anger, shouted toward Ban-go.

“Enough with the ‘human, human’—it’s infuriating!!”

With her right arm raised high, even though the distance was yet too far for her sword to reach, the sight of Rin lifting her sword defiantly caused Ban-go to generate power throughout his body.

No use reversing time.

That bug-like entity continued to follow him, no matter what power he used.

Then face it head-on, he must.

“Foolish one!!”

When he parried this attack, victory would be his.

Ban-go steadied his shaking heart and took his stance.

A purple glow emanated from the complementary colors embedded in his head and chest.

A colossal power gathered, enough to obliterate a star.

‘Even if Petraia flies away, it can’t be helped.’

There will surely be a god that dies, and he will face tremendous penalties from the other gods and the system.

Perhaps punishments near to the brink of death.

But the woman before him must die at all costs.

“You’re the foolish one.”

Rin clenched her jaw fiercely.

She already had an inkling of Ban-go’s thoughts.

He intended to eradicate her along with a star.

Drawing back Libra, which was still raised, she swung it mightily toward Ban-go.

It was not a swing, but a motion to throw.

Libra, leaving Rin’s hand, flew straight at Ban-go.

“What?!”

Not expecting Rin to suddenly hurl Libra, Ban-go deftly moved his hand to deflect it.

Since Libra was Rin’s only weapon, Ban-go hadn’t anticipated her to throw it.

As a result, his defensive posture slightly crumbled.

In an embarrassingly brief instant, no longer than that momentary gap, Rin arrived right before Ban-go.

‘What use is it to come barehanded?’

A foolish act, Ban-go thought, but his gaze stiffened upon seeing Rin’s hand.

In what should have been an empty hand now held a sword.

Why was there a sword?

And one that looked strangely familiar.

That was precisely what the crow, who Imiru cared about, had wielded.

The Shadow Sword, Pragarah.

That was the name he remembered.

‘Impossible.’

At that moment, Ban-go saw the black space opened up right behind Rin.

A legacy skill of the Dream Witch Idra: the Void Space.

As the Void Space opened and Pragarah emerged, Rin had thrown Libra.

“Haah!”

Rin gripped Pragarah, and stardust gathered along the blade’s edge.

The assembled stardust formed a pillar of golden light that shot towards the sky.

Piercing clouds and cleaving the sky.

The sword of justice to judge evil.

It descended vertically towards Ban-go.

“……!!”

Ban-go crossed his arms and raised them above his head.

The blade of light collided between his forearms.

It was heavy. Extremely heavy, but bearable.

The blade only slightly penetrated his forearms.

He had not been cut by the blade of light.

‘I’ve won.’

Now he needed to push it back and bring down Rin Taylor, who had expended all her strength.

With that thought, as he lifted his head, he met smoldering golden eyes.

The foolish, unyielding eyes of a human.

Usually, he would have sneered at them, but now, they were terrifying.

“Don’t look down on me.”

She poured more strength into her hand that held the blade of light.

The golden glow grew stronger.

Brighter and brighter, illuminating the gradually darkening world like the sun, turning from gold to white.

The light even whitened the night sky.

Ban-go realized.

There was nothing he could do now to stop it.

The white sword, if it tried to turn back the time, would even split that time apart.

“Disappear──!!”

The halted white sword plummeted vertically.

There was nothing left to stop it.

***

“Kim Sehan.”

After the white sword fell, Imiru stood looking in the direction where Ban-go and Rin had vanished, murmuring that name almost vacantly.

Despite his renowned title as the King of Giants, his voice lacked any power.

He might have been concerned that if he defied the system and came at full power, he might not hold back, but ultimately, Imiru did not do so.

“This will be our last meeting.”

He said that and quietly disappeared.

Probably fleeing to the Publisher.

‘The last, is it…’

It essentially meant he planned to mobilize all the Publisher’s power to destroy me, along with Earth.

It was anticipated. It was an eventuality that had to be faced.

Even if I had sided with him, Earth would not have remained unharmed.

“Good work.”

I gently picked up Rin, who had fallen.

Her breath was faint, and her body was a mass of wounds.

Yet she still clutched Pragarah in her hand and no sign of the shattered Libra was found.

Likely it returned to its rightful place on the Left. Having been split in half during the battle with Ban-go, it would take time to heal.

I felt sorry for Rin.

If I had just a bit more power, she wouldn’t have had to fight.

If only I could have wielded the Key.

“…Oh.”

Pragarah in Rin’s hand clattered to the ground.

Though the blade was in perfect condition a moment ago, it now looked as if it had melted like metal in fire.

‘It will take some time to restore.’

With one arm holding Rin, I picked up the fallen Pragarah.

Unlike Libra, which had been cleaved in two, this one had its blade completely melted, so it seemed it would take much longer to recover.

[The Shadow Sword Pragarah has received an immense amount of divine power and all seals have been released!]

[The sword evolves as the goddess’s powers imbue it!]

“Eh?”

As soon as I picked up Pragarah, a series of notifications popped up.

==

Flying Star Sword Pragarah (SS)

A divine sword imbued with the power of a goddess.

It can fly at near-light speeds and its force can pierce stars.

Once a day, it can call upon the goddess’s power to unleash the Judgment Sword, White Night.

After use, Pragarah cannot be wielded until it is restored, at which point it can be used again.

==

Due to Rin holding Pragarah and using an enormous blade of light, all the seals that had been locked until now were released.

It even evolved.

It became far more powerful than the original Pragarah.

“Wow…”

I was at a loss for words with this unexpected boon.

The blade of light, or rather, the technique that had bisected Ban-go in the end, was now usable.

‘Judgment Sword, White Night.’

Even the name appealed to my taste.

Truly, Rin was a blessing sent by the heavens to me.

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