Overgeared God’s Affection was a poisoned chalice. Technological advancement might be beneficial to the growth of the nation, but it was right to be wary of the power of religion becoming very strong. Every nation apart from the Overgeared Kingdom wasn’t happy with the Overgeared God’s Affection. They couldn’t turn a blind eye to it.
Intellectuals insisted that ‘God’ Grid should be served properly. Some politicians made negative comments, saying that it was an act of betraying the goddess of light and would cause great confusion in society the moment they confronted the faith they had served for hundreds of years. However, this was just a minority opinion.
Now it wasn’t just all the blacksmiths who wanted to live in the Overgeared Kingdom, but all the technical experts. It was a coincidence that the technical experts were about to be taken away the moment that people were reading the atmosphere of the churches of the three gods. Above all, the three gods had lost the faith of a number of people.
Most of the wise nations declared that they would serve the Overgeared God. This was the reaction of the neutral kingdoms, not the ‘allied’ ones. The allied nations, who vowed to fight with the Overgeared Kingdom in the great human and demon war, had originally been friendly with the Overgeared Kingdom and there was no internal conflict. They showed absolute trust in Grid and immediately expanded Grid’s temples while designating the Overgeared God Church as a state religion.
However, there was a problem. The subject of Overgeared God’s Affection was limited to the ‘territory directly governed by Grid.’
That’s right. No matter how passionately they served the Overgeared God and built the temple, it was impossible to receive the Overgeared God’s Affection as long as they weren’t part of the Overgeared Kingdom. Kingdoms were forced to change routes. The government took temporary measures such as banning the emigration of technical experts or paying them a high price. The compulsion decree was a meaningless offense since it couldn’t tie up a player’s feet. Still, there was no other way.
“...I implore you.”
The Saharan Empire had a hunch that the situation couldn’t be resolved on their own. Therefore, Immortal King Grenhal visited the Overgeared Kingdom in person and bowed his head.
“At this rate, most technical experts will leave the empire. The people will be anxious.”
This was going too far. All player technical experts might leave the empire, but the NPC technical experts would remain. They were true people who were bound by the law and regarded the empire as their homeland. However, technology was necessary in all fields. A decrease in the number of technical experts meant that the development power of the nation was weakened. Kingdoms that lost their technical experts would be forced to regress.
“Raise your head.”
Grid put down his hammer, but the sound of hammering still echoed constantly in the smithy. 30 God Hands were making items. The first thing Grid did after returning from the Red Sea was to innovate the God Hands and mass produce them. Since the restriction on the quantity of Greed had disappeared, his labor force had to be secured first. Much of the Greed he had was used as a material for the God Hands.
The innovated God Hands inherited 60% of their master’s strength and dexterity stats, and reproduced their master’s unique skill with 40% strength (performance). They even possessed the ‘Craftsman Blacksmith Skill.’ Grid’s mana was consumed every time the God Hands made an item but it wasn’t a big problem. Grid’s mana and mana recovery were so high.
[Your God Hand (3) has succeeded in producing a new item.]
[Your God Hand (19) has succeeded in producing a new item.]
[Your God Hand (6) has succeeded...]
“I have been talking with the prime minister for two days. The Overgeared Kingdom wouldn’t allow the technical experts to flow in unconditionally.”
Duke Grenhal had the power to control the world above 10,000 people while being below one person. Even so, he showed trust and goodwill to the Overgeared Kingdom due to his relationship with Grid. He attended big and small events such as the graduation ceremony of the Overgeared Academy and Lord’s coming of age ceremony, helping to increase the Overgeared Kingdom’s international presence.
Duke Grenhal did play a role in Grid and Lauel’s decision to not unconditionally accept technical experts from other nations. Of course, it didn’t mean that this policy was decided purely ‘in light of the other kingdoms’ positions.’
Lauel looked at the situation realistically. It was physically difficult for the Overgeared Kingdom to accommodate all the technical experts on the continent. They would surely be unable to control prices of some items and land and housing prices would rise sharply, causing economic turmoil. It wasn’t good to have security problems ahead of the great human and demon war.
It was better for the influx of a large number of population to be carried out slowly. There was no reason to rush. The Overgeared Kingdom could now afford it, unlike the days when they tried to bring one more blacksmith to the Overgeared Kingdom.
Lauel was also convinced that people were more likely to be crazy about rice cakes they couldn’t eat. The more the Overgeared Kingdom prevented the influx of technical experts, the more the technical experts would want the Overgeared God’s Affection and the royal families would struggle to control them over time. Once the royal families of each nation came to the conclusion that ‘there is no other way but to cooperate with the Overgeared Kingdom,’ Lauel painted an image that he was doing them a favor in advance and chose a more friendly way.
The influx of technical experts wasn’t necessary right now. In fact, it was only an annoyance. Therefore, they would win favor from other nations and prevent the influx of technical experts for a while.
Unsurprisingly, Grid listened to Lauel’s comments. Grid had absolute confidence in the genius who grew the Overgeared Kingdom this far. Sometimes he ignored Lauel when this person was talking nonsense... it was the story of the black dragon or something.
“We need to live together. By now, official letters should’ve arrived at all the nations on the continent, including the empire. It is an official letter stating we don’t want to steal technical experts from other nations.”
“Oh...! Ohhhh! How wonderful...!”
“Don’t be so moved. I’m not going to turn my back on skilled craftsmen. My position is that the unity of the continent is important, but I can’t stand still when it comes to the development of my home kingdom.”
“Truly! I understand! It is good enough now. Your generosity is like the wide sea!”
Grid knew the look in Grenhal’s eyes. It looked like the eyes of the people who deified him.
‘I’m a bit embarrassed.’
Grid had a guilty conscience every time he acted according to Lauel’s will.
It was after Grenhal left.
Grid focused on his work again in anticipation of the day when voices started to emerge in the Saharan Empire about ‘let’s make the Overgeared Kingdom a new empire.’ Then he suddenly noticed a disturbance. The guild chat window was quickly being updated.
Haster had fallen out of the hell expedition team two days ago and now he was asking to be sent back to hell.
Haster’s reputation had been greatly reduced and he was a target of ridicule. He had been absent for a long time and it was impressive to see him apply for the hell expedition. Lauel rated his strength as not too bad. Additionally, he accepted Haster in the expedition because he had been told that the Red Sage of the previous generation Red Knights was a great figure.
The result was a failure. Surviving until the 22nd Hell was a great thing, but it didn’t meet expectations. Haster once again left a stigma on the title of Red Sage. It wouldn’t be strange if Winfred, his mentor and 1st Knight of the former Red Knights, exploded in anger in the underworld.
That wasn’t all. Haster even destroyed his reputation as the emperor of e-sports. He even defiled the name of Kraugel, whom he had once defeated. Of course, Kraugel’s level had been reset when he was defeated by Haster, but... Kraugel was the one who was most disappointed with Haster, who showed less than expectations.
-Then without shame, he wants to go to hell again.
Some of the Overgeared members reacted badly. Rather than detesting or denouncing Haster, they seemed to feel sorry for him. They were the ones who had expectations of Haster. The longer their game experience, the more they were disappointed because there was a time when they idolized Haster. They seemed to feel a certain sense of loss.
Mercedes had recently been keen on training. It was said that she didn’t rest from dawn to afternoon, but she stayed by Grid’s side again at night. Nevertheless, there was no tiredness on her face at all. On the contrary, she was lively.
‘What are those scrolls?’
A bunch of thick papers were inserted into the belt that originally held the secondary weapons meant as extra lives? He wondered what their identity was. Due to this, the weapons tied to the shield rattled. Now Grid’s concern was separate.
“What exactly is the ability of the former Red Sage compared to Piaro and Asmophel?”
“Lord Winfred had his own role so it is hard to compare him to the two. I heard he performed independently on any assignment.”
“He was called sage so it means he must be very knowledgeable. It can’t just be the level of strength?”
“He is worse in a melee than Asmophel or Singuled, but there are more weapons to deal with. The magic he invented himself can catch great magicians off guard... that is all I know. I’m sorry I can’t give you an accurate answer.”
“No, that is enough.”
Mercedes was a young girl when the former generation of Red Knights was active. It would be difficult for her to measure the skills of the 1st Knight at the time, even with the power of Keen Insight. Her memories would be blurred.
“Can you go and get me the man called Haster? If he resists, don’t kill him.”
“As you command.”
For Mercedes, Grid’s command was the law that was more important than anything else in the world. She immediately unfolded her silver wings and quickly disappeared over the wall. Anyone who saw this scene would think that a great demon or martial god follower had appeared.
After 10 minutes, Grid and his God Hands had made eight items.
“I brought him.” Mercedes returned. She was holding Haster by his neck.
Grid told her not to kill him so it seemed he had been beaten until the verge of death.
“Did you resist?” Grid asked the wounded Haster like it was ridiculous.
Haster’s eyes were deep and still as he answered, “I didn’t resist. I just asked for a confrontation. I thought it was a valuable opportunity because her skills are so well known.” It was hard for him to deny it. No, he clearly felt that he shouldn’t deny it.
Haster’s attitude was softer than it was in the past. It didn’t mean that he used to be wild in the earlier days. Even when they first met, his attitude wasn’t bad. He had been polite to Grid, who was much younger than himself. He was once the best player, but he seemed to respect other players. This was what Grid felt the first day he saw Haster. It was just that there was no malice in his eyes. There was a feeling of resignation.
‘Did he lose motivation after being hunted by the hidden class hunters? No, a person who wasn’t motivated wouldn’t apply for the hell expedition and wouldn’t make a fuss about wanting to return. What is with this person?’
Grid didn’t know the fact that Haster once had a favorable attitude toward himself. This was thrown away immediately after meeting Hurent. In any case, even his short past was embarrassing and he became extremely humble in front of Grid. To be honest, he also felt awkward making eye contact.
“So how was it?”
“She truly is strong.”
It was a meaningless question. Haster was unilaterally trampled. He had become a rag while Mercedes didn’t have the smallest wound. Even her secondary weapons were still attached to her shields. The unidentified scrolls were safe.
-It is strange.
Mercedes sent him a sound transmission.
-He used Sir Winfred’s techniques, but he is still very weak.
-Is there no talent?
-That’s not it.It is the feeling of wearing clothes that don’t fit on purpose.
-Is he in the process of changing his combat style?
-It is more unnatural than that.I think we need to watch a bit more to figure out his intentions.
-What would he be like if he is dressed in the right clothing?
-He is still weak.
...It was a bit disappointing. Mercedes’ assessment using her Keen Insight was very accurate. If she made mistakes, then there would be problems with Grid’s safety. Of course, it wasn’t known if that was true these days.
Grid looked at Haster with a subtle expression for a while before soon getting to the point. “Do you want to return to the hell expedition?”
“That’s right. I’ll do my best this time, so I hope you give me a chance.”
“Do you think it is worth wasting Yura’s time?”
Haster couldn’t answer. He was now able to objectively evaluate his own skills. Why should Yura leave her spot to take himself back to hell? No. It would only cause inconvenience to the expedition team. But...
“I know it is a nuisance, but I want to come back without any shame.” Haster believed in his own possibilities. His prime might be over and his physical state and judgment weren’t as good, but he didn’t want to deny the power of the Red Sage and the power of the seven malignant saints. It was a sin to cause these powers to rot. “Even if it is just the size of a meal... I’ll be sure to help you in the great human and demon war.”
“Do you think the great human and demon war is a crisis?”
“......? Of course. Isn’t the Overgeared Kingdom preparing so hard because you think this? Master Winfred said that I should be wary of the beings of hell.”
“Why do you want to be active in the great human and demon war?”
“Of course, it is because of my honor.”
‘It is better to be honest.’
The potential of the Red Sage was demonstrated by the former Red Knights. This was why Grid thought he should meet Haster. Grid wanted to see and judge him directly.
At this moment, he confirmed Haster’s aspirations. There was no reason not to help at a time when even a single missing hand was disappointing. What if he helped Haster only to be stabbed in the back later? It was a silly question. He was no longer at a level to worry about a player’s betrayal. If he was still afraid of players, then he wouldn’t be able to rescue Hexetia. What an idiot would he be if he became stronger and couldn’t trust himself? All Grid needed now was trust, not doubt. Trust in himself and others.
“I understand. I’ll persuade Yura. However, there is a condition.” Grid had eight God Hands next to him as he sent Haster a sparring application. There was no penalty for dying in a spar. “Fight and win.”
“Haha... Are you asking me to fight an AI?” Haster couldn’t help laughing. The God Hands—it might be the representative item of Grid, but the limitation was that it couldn’t carry out delicate orders. Haster had repeatedly seen Grid’s countless battles released on the Internet but he had little admiration for the power of the God Hands. In fact, the number of times the God Hands played a key role was small. It might be different in the early days, but the current God Hands weren’t Grid’s main force. They were just secondary items.
“I’m confident I’ll be able to fight all 30 of them, let alone eight. But... I understand.”
Haster laughed bitterly as he realized how far he had fallen and accepted the test. He followed the eight God Hands into an open space. Grid remained in the smithy and started working again. Four minutes later...
Haster returned in tatters and requested, “8 against 1 won’t work from the beginning. 6 against 1, no, I would like to start with 3 against 1 and adjust gradually.”
He was able to evaluate his skills objectively. Grid nodded silently. In fact, he had been watching the battle using Barbatos’ Vision. Mercedes had also been watching from the window. Both of them looked like they were familiar with voyeurism.