Having heard Phantero’s words, Vulcan barely managed to recall what Phantaero said in the past when they met at the Graveyard of the Cursed.
‘If he finds the Holy Sword, he said that he will definitely come to find me to show me the sword before leaving, even if it means making an inquiry to the Oracle…’
Vulcan thought it was just a meaningless gesture for the sake of the mood at the time.
Vulcan looked at Phantaero and said,
“By any chance, did you actually inquire the Oracle…”
“That’s right. I asked them to tell me right away when they learn about your whereabouts. I was well aware that you have many enemies. I wanted to help you.”
Listening to Phantaero’s calm voice, Vulcan felt the tip of his nose aching. He also felt his inside overcoming with emotions.
Vulcan met Phantaero over one hundred years ago. Also, they only met for a brief time, less than a week.
It could be even said that they were just strangers to each other.
However, for that, Phantaero came all this way and saved Vulcan, meanwhile even mentioning the distant promise he casually made a long time ago so Vulcan would feel better about why Phantaero came here.
‘Of course, friendship between people cannot be measured by the length of the time they spent together, but…’
Still, Vulcan wondered how many people he knew in his life who would sincerely act upon Vulcan’s sake.
On top of this, Vulcan had formed nothing but badblood after another ever since he came up to Act 2.
It was obvious why Vulcan thought the world of Phantaero’s generosity.
Because of this, Vulcan could not help himself but to ask,
“I know this is an odd question for me to ask since I owe you my life…”
“Um? What is it?”
“Why did you come to save me?”
“… Um. Should there be a reason to come and save a friend? Honestly, I would have not done anything if I didn’t have the Holy Sword since I would have been no help to you at all without this. Now, with the Holy Sword, there is almost nobody in Act 2 that I cannot not handle. I had no reason to just sit back and watch when I could afford to help you.’
Phantaero gave Vulcan quite a long explanation.
It seemed Vulcan was not quite getting it. Having noticed the look on Vulcan’s face, Phantaero asked back,
“What is it? Do you think it is odd that I came to save you?”
“It is just that this is the first.”
“This is the first time for me to have anyone coming to help me without expecting something in return, so…”
Vulcan said in a rather sad and bitter tone.
Vulcan looked like a child at an orphanage who got to hold a present for the first time in his life and was surprised by receiving one.
He was grateful. However, he was also anxious if the sudden grace that dropped on him from above may require a price that he must pay.
In a way, it was obvious why Vulcan was feeling this way.
Vulcan was sent to strange new worlds when he was only 20 years old. Since then, he continued blood splattering battles after battles without being able to establish deep relationships with anyone.
Let alone proper relationships with people based on friendship and trust, Vulcan had to be thankful with others for not having animosity toward him. His life was such an abnormal one.
Even The Six and Jake, the people who Vulcan could say as his closest associates, interacted with Vulcan because they had something they wanted. It could not be said that even those people befriended Vulcan purely based on good will.
‘Other than Big Bro Dokgo Hoo… I guess this is the first time.’
Vulcan’s gratitude toward Dokgo Hoo’s friendship deepened all of sudden.
While Vulcan was lost in all of these thoughts, Phantaero smiled big toward him.
Just looking at the smile made Vulcan feel great. The smile deserved another person smiling back at him. It was that refreshing.
“You are thinking a little differently than I am. This is not a generosity without reward.”
“Pardon? Ah… there is a price…”
Vulcan looked surprised. Phantaero looked at Vulcan, shook his head and continued.
“No, I already received the reward from you. I suppose I could say that I’m here to repay you for it.”
“What do you mean…”
Vulcan looked puzzled.
Phantaero continued to just stare at Vulcan. He then cleared his neck and said with a sincere look on his face.
“I gained hope from watching you. That was the reward.”
Vulcan was not expecting such words.
He looked dumbfounded.
It seemed Phantaero was amused by Vulcan’s reaction. He had a light laughter and said,
“Vulcan, honestly, by the time I met you, I actually had almost given up on finding the Holy Sword. Well, I did tell you that I planned on searching dangerous areas after obtaining the Blue Dragon’s Breath, but I didn’t expect much. The people of the lower dimension all have their eyes on me and rely on me for hope, so I couldn’t afford to just sit around and do nothing, right? So, I was just acting like I was working hard at least.”
“However, you were different from me. You were facing a situation far worse than mine. I thought finding the Holy Sword alone was extremely difficult, but you have to clear the Act 2… Just hearing it made me feel like I might puke. You get it, right? Even among the proud and mighty Dragonians and Demi-gods of Act 2, only a handful of them reach the godhood, yet you are attempting it with a body of a feeble human being… On top of this, you are a Player. I thought you would come to face the reality soon and just settle in this world for good because I thought you didn’t stance a chance. However, you didn’t do what I expected.”
Having said this much, Phantaero pierced the ground with the Holy Sword and plummeted on the ground.
Now, he almost leveled his eyes with Vulcan. Phantaero continued.
“You were different from me. You weren’t just forcing yourself to move to act like you were trying to live up to the expectations of others. You really believed that it was possible for you to clear the Act 2. I saw you taking each step up the stairs as you planned. I really felt it when I saw the Vitality Marbles that you collected from Act 1. Ah, this friend genuinely believes he can do this. He does not have the power of the Brave Hero like I do. He does not have the trust and encouragement from many people either… He is at a situation that is far more desperate and hopeless, yet he still shows sincere efforts.”
“You worked hard, and you work hard some more. You were not thinking about if things were going to work or not. You continued to work diligently. I was able to gain the strength to go on from watching you. I could say that I was reborn. Of course, there were many hardships in the way. I barely managed to overcome death a few times, and the despair came back to find me several times, but still… One hundred years ago, despite going up against a huge organization called Bae Su Jin, I heard that you didn’t back down, and instead, you dealt them a significant strike. I regained the will to continue after hearing the story about you. Actually, now that I’m explaining all these, I feel embarrassed. I’m keep on saying that I gained courage from watching someone who is at a worse situation than me… Haha!”
Having said this much, Phantaero extended his right hand toward Vulcan.
He was requesting a handshake from Vulcan.
Receiving sincere gaze from Phantaero, Vulcan put away everything that he was going to say earlier. Instead, he quietly grabbed Phantaero’s hand.
His hand was rugged, full of callous. Vulcan could feel holy energy from his hand.
It was warm. It made a person’s heart strong. It felt like he was receiving encouragement from several tens of thousands of people. Receiving that energy, Vulcan lightly closed his eyes.
That was because Vulcan didn’t want to show his reddened eyes.
By the time Vulcan barely managed to calm his emotion and look at Phantaeo’s face, Phantaero said,
“Since I was able to succeed, I know you can too.”
“… Thank you. Really… thank you so much.”
After finishing the handshake, Vulcan filled his words with sincerity and said to Phantaero.
Phantaero felt embarrassed to hear that. He scratched the back of his head and looked away.
“Haha. Well, this is… We somehow ended up indulging in emotions. Anyway, I really do mean what I said. I’m not just saying it to encourage you. Now that I see you… You have become incredibly strong. If I didn’t have the Holy Sword, I don’t think I would stand a chance against you. You are incredible… At the current growth rate, you won’t just clear the Act 2. I think you might be able to clear it in fastest record time.”
“Do you know what the fastest clear record?”
Vulcan wondered if there was going to be an additional reward if he cleared it while beating the fastest record.
However, Phantaero shook his head.
“I don’t know very well about that, but… I think it is about five hundred years. If you stop by at a pub, I think there might be someone who knows… Now that I mentioned it, instead of staying here, why don’t we return to the Espo City? Let’s continue talking about the rest there.”
Phantaero got up and dusted off his rear.
Thanks to the potion, Vulcan had recovered enough now to move. He followed suit, got up, and stopped Phantaero who was about to tear up the return scroll paper.
“Pleas wait. There is something left to do.”
“Um? What is it? By any chance, is there more bastards that you need to eradicate?”
Having heard Vulcan’s words, Phantaero showed gleam in his eyes and was about to grab his Holy Sword again.
However, Vulcan shook his head and stopped Phantaero.
“There are more, but… It won’t matter if I handled them myself later. This is something more important.”
Phantaero was puzzled. Going past him, Vulcan took slow steps, and Phantaero moved his gaze toward where Vulcan headed.
‘I don’t see anything?’
All he could see were the gigantic crater that Yur Dong-bin made, a pillar-like land mass at the center which used to have the Bae Su Jin’s base on the top, and rubbles.
Vulcan was already quite far away. Phantaero shouted toward Vulcan,
“Hey! What is the important business? I don’t see anything in particular that stands out!”
“There is! Mr. Phantaero, please come over here too. You don’t need to help me. It’s just that Fowaru might come back, so I would like you to please keep watch for me!”
“Hm… I will.”
Phantaero drew the Holy Sword from the ground. He dashed and caught up to where Vulcan was.
Before long, Vulcan reached where Bae Su Jin’s base used to be. He started to clear up the rubbles one by one with magic.
Vulcan was doing it very carefully like an archeologist who was excavating an ancient site. That invoked curiosity in Phantaero.
He pierced the ground with the Holy Sword again. Standing as if he was leaning on a wall, Phantaero tossed a question at Vulcan,
“Why are you cleaning up the rubbles?”
“I fought them until my head almost burst. I should get a spoil at least, right? A Player gets an item or a quest reward after a battle, but a fight like this don’t have anything, so I’m disappointed. I decided to go find one myself.”
“… Hm… You often mention reward and almost make a song out of it. I think it is because you are a Player.”
Vulcan used magic to lift a huge boulder. He nodded and responded,
“I cannot say that… I am not influenced by it. By the way, why did you let Fowaru escape? It would be better to completely eliminate badblood so there would be no troubles later.”
“I didn’t let him escape. I could not catch him. I have become stronger because I have obtained the power of the Holy Sword, but… I am slow… That bastard was incredibly fast. It would have been difficult to catch up to him. What is it? Are you worried?”
Vulcan shook his head.
It bothered him a little, but Vulcan still had plenty of Vitality Marbles anyway, so it didn’t matter much to him.
Vulcan just needed to rest for a while at the Espo City while the Blue Dragon recovered. Everything was going to be solved with that.
Vulcan was about to tell Phantaero that there was nothing to worry about. However, he found a book that was buried under the rubbles, and lost his attention to it.
Vulcan used magic to carefully clean up the rubbles and brought his hand toward the book.
It seemed the book had a protection spell cast on it. It didn’t even have a scratch on it.
Vulcan used the SYSTEM to check the information on the book. He put on a smile on his face.
“Looks like I won’t be going back empty handed.”
* * *
A far from the obliterated base of Bae Su Jin, there was something watching them.
Burying most of its body on the ground, only a single lens-like eye was peeking out.
It was closer to a machine than a living being. It was an utterly lifeless Chimera that was made for the sole purpose of surveillance.
Concerned about being discovered, it was maintaining a great distance from Vulcan and Phantaero.
Even after Vulcan searched the rubbles for a long time and left the scene with Phantaero by using the return scroll, the thing maintained its position without any movement.
That was because its master, the Chimera Maker, lost all motivation and lying on the sofa.
Holding his breath, he was watching the battle that took place there so far. He sighed big and said,
“… I’m just gonna quit.”
To hunt Vulcan, the Chimera Maker put in the effort and even created more powerful Chimeras through the past 100 years. However…
Now, the bastard had become too great of a being. Vulcan was no longer within the Chimera Maker’s reach.
“I should just… look for other ones.”
Chewing on the cookies loudly, the old man turned to look at screens of other places broadcasted by Chimeras.