h.e.l.l was a real region in Satisfy. Players perceived h.e.l.l as a s.p.a.ce, not a concept. There was only a difference in the degree of recognition—a high level hunting ground or a prohibited area that should never be approached.
The perception of the expedition members was also very important. They regarded the figurative h.e.l.l and the actual existence of h.e.l.l in Satisfy as separate things. It was naturally like this, even if they weren’t aware of it. It was only after personally experiencing it that they understood.
h.e.l.l wasn’t just a hunting place where powerful demonic creatures and demons haunted, and where great demons often appeared. It was the h.e.l.l that they knew. An unbearably painful and distressing environment. Even if there were no demons here, wouldn’t they be unable to last a long time?
The scene that entered their field of view, the wind brus.h.i.+ng against their skin, the ground their feet stepped on, the sound that penetrated their ears, and the air that entered their lungs. It was disgusting without any exceptions. Just standing still and breathing would cause their minds and body to scream with pain. It was because this was a world built only with wickedness.
“…I think I’m going crazy.” The full moon, the swirling red stars in the overcast sky, and the thousands of eyes monitoring them. Pon murmured as he blankly stared up at the creepy night of h.e.l.l. It was an honest thought.
If Regas hadn’t shown a smile on the way here, if Vantner hadn’t instigated compet.i.tion, if Jishuka hadn’t fired the sharp shots, if Ruby hadn’t wrapped him in warm energy, and if Yura’s back had collapsed even once as she led everyone. Pon would’ve already drowned in the wickedness. He would’ve fled from here even if he had accepted the obvious death that could be avoided.
The environment of the 20th h.e.l.l was that harsh. The strange landscapes that made him dizzy wherever he s.h.i.+fted his gaze, the horrible screams that entered his ears even if he covered them, the touch of the ground that made his body fluttered every time he stepped on it, the stench that made it hard to breathe, and the polluted air that made food rot the moment it was taken out.
Pon found it hard to hold on. In fact, from the time the expedition began to five days later, his mentality was at the limit. He had thought about giving up dozens of times a day. Now they were on the ninth day, and… he felt like he was going crazy.
Every time Pon’s complexion turned haggard, Vantner would reprimand him as a ‘cowardly guy’ to provoke him. It wasn’t known from when it happened, but Vantner now closed his mouth. His blank gaze was fixed on the wriggling ground. He didn’t dare look up at the sky. He thought he would scream the moment he met the eyes of the h.e.l.l moon.
The 10 meritorious retainers of the Overgeared Kingdom, Ruby, Ibellin, Zednos, Laella, and c.o.ke. The three generals and Oasis of Valhalla. Red Sage Haster and Sword Saint Kraugel. There were only a handful of elites left in the expedition. It was a lacking situation that couldn’t be done even if they pa.s.sionately united. Most of them had lost their words and were trying to hold onto their mental state. It wasn’t known when they could see the demonic creatures again.
Oasis was reminded of how strong the demonic creatures of the 23rd h.e.l.l were and bit his fingernails. The Undefeated King’s Sheath was sending a warning.
–At times like this, you should do something, halfling.I no longer want you to be undefeated, but I can’t tolerate you helplessly accepting death.
‘You aren’t a human anyway. Hiik! The sword will fall out. Don’t move. I understand, I understand! I wasn’t thinking about dying in the first place.’
Oasis had inherited some of the Undefeated King’s swordsmans.h.i.+p. In other words, he took a power he wasn’t qualified for. Penalties were given in reaction to his actions. Every time he died, the Undefeated King’s Sheath punished him and he was forced to log out. He also couldn’t access the game for 24 hours. All players in the world were allowed up to two deaths per day, while Oasis had only one life per day.
‘It wasn’t like this the first time…’
It was the penalty from being killed two times in a row during the war with Saharan. It was shocking because it was the first time he had died two times in a row. Then his mental state was completely destroyed once the penalty was added. He was a closed up person for a while. He feared that the more deaths he faced, the greater the penalty. For Oasis, death was more real and fearful.
‘I don’t want to die.’
Force and mental strength wasn’t necessarily proportional. In particular, rookies had their own unique spirit. Oasis recalled what Yura had said before leaving the black crystal castle.
“We won’t be going back until we get to the 21st h.e.l.l. I won’t open the h.e.l.l gate even if you beg me, so be prepared.”
The true h.e.l.l started with the 21st h.e.l.l. Yura thought they needed to adapt to the 21st h.e.l.l at least in order to prepare for the great human and demon war. It was an advance with no way back. From the time they arrived at the 23rd h.e.l.l, there were only around 20 expedition members left. They started from the 25th h.e.l.l with the black crystal castle, but that was it.
Among the more than 300 members selected by Lauel, a considerable number of them were trampled to death by the demonic creatures when crossing the two h.e.l.ls or fled because they couldn’t endure the fear. The much harsher environment than expected brought the situation to this point.
The remaining expedition members felt a greater sense of burden but Oasis’ spirit was sharpened. There were now only two gateways until their destination. All they had to do was break through the 23rd and 22nd h.e.l.ls. The moment the rest of them arrived at their destination, they would play a leading role in victory of the great human and demon war. He wanted to be one of them. Giving up now…
It happened when Oasis wanted to encourage the group…
“Yura, are you okay?” There was a clear voice that didn’t suit the tired atmosphere. It was Jishuka. She had the Breaking Evil Arrow. She wore her auspicious ‘power’ around her right arm and looked free from the evil of h.e.l.l. She wasn’t affected by the harsh environment and maintained a clear eye.
“Of course.” Yura’s voice that answered her was calm. The people who could function normally in h.e.l.l were definitely different.
“I’m also fine!” Ruby’s voice was also strong. This was the majesty of the Saintess. The so-called ‘Grid’s women’ present were the hopes of the expedition.
Kraugel was quiet because he was reticent, but it seemed there was no problem with him. Additionally, there was Haster. He had never been agitated since he reigned as the emperor of e-sports. He had years of experience. It was said he was greatly disgraced after becoming a victim of the ‘hidden cla.s.s hunting,’ but he seemed to have recovered from the wound.
Oasis gained hope while looking at the faces of those who were fine and shouted vigorously, “I can do it as well!”
“Oh~ Ares didn’t live in vain.” Jishuka laughed. She was laughing at the three generals who claimed to be Ares’ left and right arms.
Grand General Luck of Valhalla, who felt a great sense of pride in his own strength, couldn’t reply to Jishuka and shut up. He was ashamed. He was suffering from even breathing. Rather than setting an example for a newcomer (Oasis), he was a fool relying on others.
“You don’t look good when cowering.”
“…Laugh to your heart’s content.”
The silent Luck responded to Kraugel. It wasn’t because he didn’t like Kraugel. It was because his pride was hurt. In the past, he tried to hurt Kraugel, but Kraugel cared about him like this didn’t matter. Thus, he was more embarra.s.sed and made an unnatural response.
Kraugel told him while pa.s.sing by, “I don’t laugh at others.”
Yura rose to announce the end of the break.
Luck glared at Kraugel’s back as he approached her side and cursed. He spoke swear words to blame himself. He felt ashamed when compared to Kraugel now, especially when he had laughed at the Kraugel who became Sword Saint and had his level reset to 1.
‘Dammit, let’s cheer up and do well.’
Jishuka’s taunt about Oasis being better than him was absolutely reasonable. He didn’t want to sit here and fall behind Oasis. He awakened and showed great skills. Jishuka even left her back to him.
“Right. Luck should be like this. You were called a powerful man on the level of Hao. Now you look a lot worse than Hao.”
“Bah, don’t compare me to the coward who didn’t even apply for this expedition.”
“Hao did apply. Lauel refused him.”
“What? Why would he do that when he accepted Haster? Aren’t you guys close?”
“He was sent to persuade the half-draconian king.”
“Ah, is that so…”
The people who shrank back no longer existed. There was clear comradely love between the expedition members as they made their way through the waves of demonic creatures. It was because Yura, Jishuka, Ruby, and Kraugel properly caught the center, while Oasis set an example that didn’t match his skills.
The struggles of the generals of Valhalla provoked the Overgeared Guild members. Pon overcame the pain and Vantner overcame the horror. As Regas coordinated the fight among them, they formed a circular link and swept away the demonic creatures in a fan shape. Every time Peak Sword’s sword fired a brilliant sword light, dozens of demonic creatures turned to ash without being aware of their deaths. Euphemina, Zednos, and Laella’s magic destroyed the enemy camp while the Tyrant attacked like raging waves. Every time Chris’ sword fell with the weight of a great mountain, a demon’s body exploded.
“Wow. As expected of our brother.”
“We are strong as well!”
Ibellin, c.o.ke, and Oasis also played a good part. They finished it neatly by blocking the paths of the demonic creatures who scattered after losing their commanders. Just in time, another demon appeared with a new corps, but was immediately a.s.sa.s.sinated by Faker. Then Jishuka’s rain of arrows wiped away the remnants.
Yura and Kraugel were always at the forefront. With Ruby’s heals and buffs from behind, they moved forward without hesitation and expanded the human power in h.e.l.l.
“Haster! You fall back to the rear! Why are you swaying in the front instead of using magic as a support in the back?”
“……” Unfortunately, Haster died along the way… The morale of the party didn’t drop.
A few hours pa.s.sed. The expression of the expedition team was much brighter than before as they prepared to camp in the 22nd h.e.l.l. It was one step closer to the record of Grid and the messengers who reached the 20th h.e.l.l.
Of course, the h.e.l.ls that the expedition visited had lost their ruler. Unlike Grid, the difficulty was much easier because there was no direct confrontation with the great demons. Yura had considered this while looking at the possibilities of the expedition. It was great that an exploration team consisting only of players arrived at the 22nd h.e.l.l despite the gradually increasing penalty.
‘At least those here will play well in the great human and demon war.’
Yura once again explained to her colleagues, who were building the camp, “Our goal is to survive in the 21st h.e.l.l for a long time. I plan to stay in the 21st h.e.l.l until the great human and demon war starts, so try to acc.u.mulate your skills here.”
“When will the great human and demon war start?”
“Who knows? It could be in a few days or it could be a few months later.”
“…That, the food won’t last. The food I prepared is almost rotting.”
“You can stop by the neutral area and resupply. I can go to the human world alone.”
“How are we supposed to hold on for 40 minutes without you? No. Don’t go alone.”
“It is ugly, Pon! You are no longer my rival!”
“Do you still have a sense of rivalry with me? Is it because you have no hair that there is no shame?”
The Overgeared members were as energetic as the first day they arrived in h.e.l.l. Then their morale fell to the bottom again after just half a day.
The demons of the 22nd h.e.l.l were as powerful as named bosses of the human world. It wasn’t possible to kill them quickly and the number of demonic creatures acc.u.mulated without being controlled.
‘This is the limit.’
Finally, they would be free from this tiring place. Some people were willing to accept death.
[Overgeared G.o.d Grid is writing the 13th epic.]
A world message emerged. After the short epic, the news of the birth of the first myth cla.s.s enriched the party’s vision and consciousness.
“…Do you know G.o.d Grid?” The first person to rally was Peak Sword.
Then Yura, Jishuka, Ruby, Kraugel, and the Overgeared members…
They regained the morale and motivation they had lost one by one. They raised their lowered weapons and fiercely resisted the demons. From now on, it was the realm of tenacity. They destroyed evil with strength and cut at the demons’ necks.
Curiously, Grid had always been like this. He played the role of leader from a far away place, supporting his colleagues. It was why the present Overgeared Guild existed.
The next day.
During the time when the logged out Grid was sleeping sweetly, the exploration team had reached the 21st h.e.l.l. It was a moment that proved their minimum qualification to be active in the great human and demon war. It was the prelude to the desperate survival game. It was the hidden story of the heroes who guarded the world along with Grid.