[You have defeated Asura’s Fragments.]
The power of the Overgeared Empire was greatly dispersed. It had little room since he had to be wary of hell and heaven, as well as the local nobles. Valhalla was a barrier against the Red Sea, but it wasn’t possible to completely ignore the Hwan Kingdom.
This didn’t mean that the eyes and ears of the Overgeared Guild were closed off. The rankers who witnessed Rose’s appearance and chased her reported her location in real time. There were many advantages to showing sincerity to the Overgeared Guild whenever the opportunity came. Thanks to this, Grid had been tracking Rose and quickly grasped the overall situation.
A small country town...
Agnus, who tried to protect the people from an unidentified demon, and Rose who cooperated with him. Saving the people was the first priority, so Grid fought the demon first.
Asura—it was a demon with the same name as the realm that martial artists wanted to reach, or the god of fighting that some monks served. Grid felt very reluctant from his perspective where he speculated that Asura was a legendary martial artist or human god. The fact that he gave a lot of experience made Grid even more uncomfortable.
‘Did Asura have his soul mortgaged to Baal like Pagma and Alex?’
He felt too complete for his soul to be taken away...
Grid frowned at the negative thoughts, only to become startled. It was because Agnus burned and incinerated the fragments of Asura that had been torn apart like a rag. Every time a fragment disappeared, additional experience was given to Grid. It was proof that Grid hadn’t completely eliminated Asura.
‘I thought I got rid of him?’
He naturally had to think so. The system ruled Asura’s death. It provided Grid with a reasonable amount of experience points. Yet it turned out he was still alive? It meant that Asura possessed a series of passive skills that deceived death. Another possibility was that every one of these shadows was Asura’s body.
‘No matter what is the case, Agnus was aware of it?’
"Kill me." Agnus extended his neck.
After being repeatedly killed and weakened by Faker and abandoned by Baal, he was definitely weak compared to his prime. There were no rumors of him causing an incident recently. Then Grid saw him trying to protect people...
"Why should I do so?"
Grid stared at Agnus’ skinny neck before putting away his sword. Technically, Grid had little justification to kill Agnus. Most of the bad memories were actually cleared up when Agnus saved Irene and Lord. Faker even paid it back dozens of times. Why did Grid force Faker to join the hell expedition rather than staying by Lord’s side? It was partly because Faker’s growth was important, but the desire to spare Faker’s Kill List skill was greater. Today’s Agnus wasn’t worthy enough for Faker to constantly chase and kill him.
"...Don’t do it if you don’t want to." Agnus didn’t force it. It was surprising since it was expected that he would go crazy due to his hurt ego, such as saying ‘Am I not even worthy of being killed?’
Hundreds of villagers who belatedly regained their minds discovered Grid and rushed over, bowing their heads. The empire was ridiculously wide. Additionally, the emperor described in the portraits or the words of the imperial palace tended to be beautified. It was safe to say that it was normal for the people living on the outskirts to not recognize the emperor when they encountered him.
However, the people of the Overgeared Empire could recognize the emperor’s face immediately, even if they were slash-and-burn farmers living in the mountains. It was because Grid was a god before he was the emperor. They were too familiar with his divine portraits, statues, and temples that didn’t need beautification.
Grid looked closely at the attitudes of the people who bowed their heads. He saw their relief when sneakily looking at Agnus and figured out what type of person Agnus was to them.
‘He has changed.’
It was said that people didn’t change easily. In particular, it was argued that the more evil or lazy a person was, the more difficult it was to correct it because they were used to living a free and easy life. However, Grid didn’t agree with this argument. It was a case where he changed himself. He believed that others could change just as much as he did.
He trusted Agnus even more. A man with a past he never would’ve been able to bear. He wasn’t completely corrupted even after being bullied by ugly trash and losing the woman he loved. Grid had seen him instinctively show kindness to others.
"Agnus, I know what type of person you are to them."
The people who were relieved and rejoiced after confirming that Agnus was unharmed—Grid’s eyes toward them were warm, so Agnus shut his mouth without looking for any excuses.
Grid suggested to him, "Can you talk to me for a while?"
Agnus had clearly handed the fragments of Asura that Grid had almost spared. It was evidence that he had a good understanding of demons as the previous Baal’s Contractor.
Come to think of it, the player who knew Baal best was definitely Agnus. Grid needed Agnus’ knowledge.
"I don’t want to..."
"This town is the empire’s territory. Don’t you have to change your citizenship if you want to live here? It will be troublesome if there is a sudden crack down and you get caught up as an illegal immigrant."
His authority was used in an important manner. Grid easily dug into the weakness of Agnus, who lost his citizenship from the time he became the enemy of the continent.
"I-It is shabby, but I will take you to my house." It happened as the chief of the village was guiding Grid and Agnus...
"G-Grid!" Rose chased after Grid. She reduced her body back to human size and covered the horns on her forehead with both hands. It was an effort to look as human as possible to Grid, who was sure to hate demons.
"Lord A-Amoract... No! That Amoract wants me to tell you in a very respectful manner that she has something to say to you! Hehe!"
"...Let’s hear it."
Grid recalled the scene of Rose trying to save the people and gave her some leeway. After a while, Grid sat facing Agnus and Rose and felt strange. The former Baal’s Contractor and a great demon was sitting across from him. He thought that the world had changed a lot.
"Say it first." Grid glanced at Rose and Rose sprang up from her seat. It was a display that was similar to military discipline. Her eyes, which normally flashed with slyness, shone like stars.
"It is an honor to have the opportunity to meet Grid, whom I’ve always admired! If you allow me, I would like to take a proof shot... the great demons don’t have screenshot or video-taking features... Ahahat..."
The great demons were in a position where they were completely hostile to humans. Leaking events from hell to the surface could put hell at a great disadvantage, so there were many restrictions on filming and communication functions. It was a huge penalty considering that Rose’s hobby was once to post proof shots from dessert shops onto social media.
Therefore, Rose hoped for things to go well. She wanted to seize this opportunity since she had received a lot of losses by becoming a great demon. It was why she gave up her pride and bowed to Grid at this moment.
"Just get to the point." It was Agnus, not Grid, who urged Rose. He was uncomfortable with this position and didn’t intend to silently listen to Rose’s nonsense.
Rose inwardly cursed Agnus while speaking with a smiling face. She rubbed her hands together and Grid thought she resembled the dung flies he saw at his grandfather’s house in the countryside. "Y-Yes. How dare people like us take away Grid’s valuable time? To start with, Amoract believes that Baal should be kept in check. Grid, you know that Baal is a psychopath, right? The one who turned hell into what it is now is none other than Baal..."
Grid looked at Agnus.
He thought Agnus would naturally be angry at Rose’s attitude of quietly tying Agnus to herself. Yet surprisingly, Agnus’ expression didn’t change. It was an attitude where he didn’t care no matter what type of treatment he received. Despite this, his eyes were alive. At the very least, he didn’t seem like he was lost and wandering, so Grid couldn’t help being relieved.
‘I said I hated him.’
The past, which now felt extremely distant. Memories of his fierce battles with Agnus crossed his mind. He suddenly had a question.
Agnus, who was declining unlike those days, and himself, who had become incomparably stronger than he was in those days. Which one was normal? Both were abnormal, but... Grid thought he was a bit weirder.
‘How did I become so strong?’
He felt like he had come too far by himself. There was a sudden rush of incomprehensible anxiety and loneliness.
"Baal has always been a thorn in Amoract’s neck. It just so happened that you declared that you would purify hell. Amoract, who has always been interested in your achievements and virtues, is completely fascinated. She thinks she can trust you and work together with you. She wants to work with you to get rid of Baal..."
Grid’s consciousness gradually subsided as Rose continued speaking.
Since when did I become such a unique person? I have come too far to simply dismiss it as a result of hard work. I miss the days when I was competing with other players. A time when there were many rivals I was resentful of, felt jealous of, or sometimes relied on. I think I had a lot more fun back then...
The sudden voice brought Grid’s mind back.
Agnus was staring at him from across the table. "You seem to be mistaken about something when looking at me, but don’t do any memory correction. I have never been equal to you for a single moment. There is no reason for you to feel any type of emotion through my fallen appearance."
Agnus had always suffered from loneliness and anxiety. This meant he could easily read the emotions contained in Grid’s slightly trembling eyes. As for the basis of those emotions—
"From the beginning, there was only one monster, Kraugel, on the same eye level as you."
He is the darling of talent that caused me to feel the first frustration in this world. He will surely come back as your competitor one day. It is still too early to be disappointed. Your loneliness and anxiety are premature.
Agnus closed his mouth and swallowed down these words. It was because he would be embarrassed if he talked any longer.
From a long time ago, just looking at this guy called Grid made him feel emotional. He believed it was antipathy toward the man who stood tall, unlike Agnus, despite his tough past. However, looking at Grid now, Agnus didn’t think the only feelings he had were antipathy.
Grid realized it when he saw Agnus covering his forehead and smiled slightly. "Thank you."
"...C-Can I keep talking?" Rose didn’t wait for permission and continued desperately. She explained to Grid the benefits of working with Amoract in as much detail as possible. In the first place, the reason why Amoract wanted a sheet of paper and a pen was to send a letter to Grid.
It was an alliance proposal letter. If Rose succeeded in forming an alliance with Grid here then the need to obtain paper and pen would disappear. It was obvious that the value of the quest reward would be much higher.
"I know everything," Grid cut off Rose’s words in the middle.
"The one who cooperated with Baal to make hell what it is now is Amoract. In the process, Beriache was banished."
"The Great Demon of Conflict. How can I trust and hold hands with the one who isolated Beriache and Baal and induced internal strife? Do you have any guarantee that I will get the desired result in the future even if I join hands with her and succeed in killing Baal?"
"Ah, that... Hehe, I would appreciate it if you could give me a chance to explain." Rose was very flustered by this situation. She didn’t know that Grid knew so much about hell. How did he know the facts that she only recently learned? Of course, Rose didn’t outwardly show her embarrassment. She kept as calm as possible while her mind spun quickly.
Grid didn’t give her any time. He followed Lauel’s advice sent through whispers and spoke straight away, "Rose, do you have any intention of becoming a spy on our side?"
"I, a demon..."
"If you don’t like it, then die once."
Agnus had a thought as he watched the situation from the sidelines.
This is how that poisonous bastard reached this place. This is how he became the supreme one. Then isn’t it shameful to feel lonely...?