Return To Player Chapter 294

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Return To Player

Chapter 294: Preparations for the End (1)

As the pure white figure of the girl plummeted from the sky, Se-Han moved quickly to catch her, but Ji-Soo was even faster. With a single stride, Ji-Soo flew to where Azazel was, firmly embracing her as they landed on the ground. Azazel’s face, cradled in Ji-Soo’s arms, was infinitely peaceful.

‘She hasn’t died.’

As the Demon King, Ji-Soo could discern Azazel’s condition. Unleashing her mighty powers had taken its toll on her as well. The sight of her not dying even after the previous battle with Azathoth was miraculously surprising. Parts of her pale skin were so desiccated and cracked it seemed they would crumble at any moment.

Ji-Soo normally didn’t show much concern for others, but somehow, he found himself worried about Azazel, perhaps due to something she had said earlier.

“There’s no need for concern.”

“Lucifer?”

While continuously checking on Azazel, Lucifer approached with a calm tone. It seemed he had been there for a while without their notice.

“Given it’s Azazel herself, if you just leave her be, she’ll recover on her own. That child is not so fragile.”

“Still, it looks as if she might stop breathing any moment now.”

“Indeed, she may sleep for quite a long time, considering the amount of power she displayed…”

Lucifer looked at the peaceful, sleeping face of Azazel with serenity. He had been watching over her since she was still a child. In fact, it was Lucifer who had brought her from the human world to the demon realm.

“I never thought I would see her like this.”

The Azazel he first encountered was always staring up at the sky – a young demon alone in a dilapidated hut, with no one to care for her. Even Lucifer didn’t know why she was there. It was miraculous how Azazel, a hybrid of angel and demon, could live in the human world without causing any trouble. That Azazel didn’t understand anything, not even the reason for her existence; she had no choice but to fall into sloth. Though she had defeated the demon of sloth, it all happened somewhat by chance.

Now, to think she used her power for the sake of others…

“Lucifer. What about Shub-Niggurath?”

Lost in thoughts, Lucifer was questioned by Ji-Soo. Curiosity sparked about why Lucifer was present, considering he had been dealing with Shub-Niggurath up until now.

“As you can see.”

Lucifer pointed at the sky with his finger. There, looking down upon the earth with a distorted face, was a boy – once the most supreme god, the king of outer gods – and beside him stood Shub-Niggurath, as if guarding him.

‘Azathoth… What now?’

Se-Han, too, narrowed his eyes as he watched over Azathoth. His physical condition was still not well, so it wouldn’t be convenient if Azathoth acted ruthlessly.

“A wrathful father would want to sweep away all here.”

Idra spoke with tense tones. Given Azathoth’s display of behavior before, it wouldn’t be strange to think that way. However, Se-Han thought differently.

“No, I doubt that will happen.”

“What?”

“Azazel may have been wounded, but Azathoth wasn’t unscathed either.”

If it were the ‘infinitely powerful outer god’ of before, it wouldn’t have mattered. But now, he had become a very powerful mortal. The power Azazel used against him was a manifestation of his infinite abilities, and she had cut through it all to plant a shard of mortality into Azathoth’s heart. The shard of mortality had been absorbed into his body, leaving no visible wound, but his power was recovering very slowly.

It would take a long time for him to regain his original strength. Idra, who knew Azathoth’s powers well, was late in realizing this and widened his eyes in surprise.

“You’re saying now is the chance to kill the father?”

“It’s fifty-fifty. Azathoth knows it too.”

Azathoth’s power was severely weakened. Given this, he had no choice but to utilize the power of the half of the system and the key he had stashed away.

Azathoth had two options: either confront all the gods and demons present in a desperation move or find a way to remove the seal containing the fragment of his power using the key and the system’s power.

“But he won’t make a desperate move.”

“Why?”

“Just by looking at Shub-Niggurath standing guard over Azathoth, you can tell.”

For the first time, Azathoth felt death. The being who never knew death now, for the very first time, pondered his own potential demise. Even if Azathoth had a more than 90 percent chance of winning, he wouldn’t strike first.

“Argh!!”

As Se-Han predicted, Azathoth could not easily deal out punishment to the loathsome beings on Earth. On the planet were numerous gods. If he couldn’t wipe them out all at once, he might end up having to fight all those gods and demons. Another option was to call upon other outer gods, but Azathoth’s pride wouldn’t allow it.

To think that Azathoth would have to borrow the strength of others because his was lacking…

“…Let’s go back, Shub-Niggurath.”

“What? Father, are you suggesting we leave those creatures behind and return?”

“I said let’s go. When have you ever been in a position to suggest anything to me?”

Subdued by Azathoth’s fierce words, Shub-Niggurath closed her mouth. This was not the reaction expected of a ‘god’. It was extremely emotional, almost like…

‘Human… No. What am I thinking?’

Shub-Niggurath did not know what fragment was embedded in Azazel. However, she slightly noticed the anomaly within Azathoth. The absolute presence she always felt from Azathoth had blurred.

“Open the gate, Shub-Niggurath.”

“Understood.”

Bowing, Shub-Niggurath gestured towards the void, opening a black door. As the portal to outer space opened, the corpses that filled the land began to dissolve like black paint. They were the remains of the many outer beings and fragments of the outer gods that Azazel had slain. Shub-Niggurath personally guided her kin back to their original world. Azathoth disapproved of her actions but needed Shub-Niggurath’s power at this moment.

‘…I will return.’

Azathoth stepped into the doorway after casting a glance at the beings on Earth. Suppressing the rage boiling within, he gritted his teeth.

‘Definitely.’

Once he rid himself of the strange power infesting his body in outer space, he would return. Then, he would turn this small star and perhaps even the universe itself to dust.

Fwoosh!

The black door disappeared without a trace, and Azathoth and the outer gods vanished from view. Those left behind stared blankly at the sky, continually watching, wary that the monster might return. But as time passed, the sky remained tranquil. The scene before, as if it had all been an illusion.

“…It’s over.”

It was unclear whose voice it was. But with that statement, the surviving players on Earth began to cheer.

“We did it! It’s over! We’re alive!”

“We won!!”

A thunderous cheer spread as battered individuals hugged, cried, and laughed. There were no systems, no publishers – the game that had been Earth was no more.

***

Though they had won the battle, the damage was significant. Seoul, in particular, having seen repeated large-scale battles, was practically a wasteland, with barely any buildings left standing. It would be problematic for those who had evacuated to return in such a state, but unexpectedly, it was the gods who resolved this problem.

“Aiding the reconstruction of humanity is our duty as well. Ah, that takes me back quite a stretch.”

Zeus folded his arms and nodded. If one knew even a little about Greek mythology, they might have found Zeus’s statement absurd, but Se-Han chose not to remark. There was no point in criticizing help.

‘Thanks to him, the other gods are also pitching in with the restoration.’

With Olympus moving into action, other gods on Earth began to aid humans without hesitation, spurred by the mindset of ‘If even the Olympians are helping, why shouldn’t we?’ With divine powers at play, the destroyed cities were astonishingly quick to be rebuilt. And the most active among them was none other than Ji-Soo.

“Brother, Gangnam area has been restored.”

“Did you rebuild it exactly as it was?”

“Yes.”

Above Ji-Soo’s head glittered a black crown – the Key of the Demon Realm. Its embedded power was significantly different from the half of the key that Imirna and Rin had possessed. Despite not being in the demon realm, it allowed her to effortlessly restore buildings to their original state with a mere gesture.

With the situation as such, Rin, relatively embarrassed, didn’t seem to have much to do. Having returned the key to Se-Han, she found no special role for herself.

“It seems I haven’t been very active this time…”

“You helped capture the outer gods.”

“Yeah, but…”

Back in her child form, Rin sat sulkily, hugging a doll. It wasn’t surprising to see her react this way since she’d overslept and woken up late.

“From the start, I preferred that you, still young, wouldn’t have to partake in such battles anyway.”

“That can’t be helped.”

Rin is the goddess of justice. The guardian of humanity’s justice. It wouldn’t make sense for her to stand idly by.

“…Anyway, it’s likely there’ll be another fight soon.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you later.”

Se-Han patted Rin’s head with a smirk. Right now, it was fine for them to revel in the victory. After all, Rin must have had some faint awareness.

That not killing Azathoth, who had fled to his realm, meant that nothing had truly ended.

***

“Ah, now I can finally take a breather.”

Despite an extremely robust body and mental fortitude that should preclude any feeling of fatigue, Ji-Soo appeared distinctly worn out. Perhaps it was a habit lingering from her ordinary human days.

“Your Majesty, here’s your iced coffee.”

“Leave.”

“Yes.”

Ji-Soo reclined comfortably on the sofa as Lucifer appeared behind her. He offered a cold iced coffee prepared who knows when. Ji-Soo responded curtly, seemingly baffled by Lucifer’s swift disappearance after speaking.

“When did you even come in, that one?”

“And you, why are you so nonchalant about entering my room?”

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Plus, it seems that lady isn’t around at the moment.”

By that lady, she meant Idra. While Ji-Soo seemed to be warming up to her somewhat, she was truly indifferent to others. The exception was, perhaps, Azazel, who received the closest thing to Ji-Soo’s affection.

“How is Azazel?”

“She’s still asleep. According to Lucifer, she’ll need to sleep quite a long time.”

“How long?”

“If it’s short, maybe about a hundred years.”

“…A hundred years?”

That amount of time itself was staggering.

“…Well, given the power she used, it’s not so surprising.”

“Yes. Nonetheless, using the power of the key could make it quicker.”

“That would be a relief. I have no wish to be beholden to Shin Ja-Woon.”

After all, with a lifespan so ample, a century or so would be bearable. Given his loyalty, he’d surely handle it well.

“I wish them both well too.”

“So do I.”

Might it be that the grand event from the Lunatic King’s wedding will only come to pass in a hundred years’ time? But what to do in the meantime? I had considered Azazel’s absence from battle, but the reality hit hard nonetheless. A champion like her could hardly be found elsewhere.

“And Se-Han, shouldn’t we pick a date by now?”

“…For what?”

Caught off guard by Ji-Soo’s suggestion, I couldn’t hide my confusion. Set a date? Had I agreed to meet someone recently? I had just met with the UN and Arthur, and also brought back Min-A, who I had negligently left with the Publisher…

“Our wedding.”

“I thought we still needed to prepare for… wait, what?”

Meeting my incredulous gaze, Ji-Soo’s cheeks flushed slightly.

“Considering how desperately you saved me, I thought you’d made up your mind. There’s only one thing left to do, right?”

“That’s, well, true but…”

While Idra was important to me, in terms of a more romantic love, Ji-Soo seemed more appropriate. I had avoided these feelings due to the urgency of our situation, but I could no longer ignore them. But this was abrupt—marriage?

As I struggled to find words and simply gazed at Ji-Soo, she continued with a truly joyful expression.

“Then it’s settled.”

Ji-Soo chuckled.

“…Isn’t it?”

As she spoke, Ji-Soo’s eyes gleamed with a rare red hue.

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