Chapter 331: Chapter 331
Hercules’s tightly wound nerve caught numerous noises coming from his surroundings.
Then, suddenly, a sound came from behind him, but he couldn’t turn around to take a look because Su-hyeun’s figure was still visible in front of him, albeit only as a faint silhouette.
“Which one is real?” he asked inwardly.
He felt the sensation of an oncoming knife.
Hercules urgently swung his club to deflect the incoming blade.
A thin but long line of blood was left behind on his arm. Hercules frowned and quickly took several steps back.
But right at that very moment…
“Wrap him up and strike down…”
Pure-white clouds that had gathered in the surroundings suddenly wrapped around Hercules’s body.
“Dammit! Again…?” Hercules inwardly cursed.
Lightning flooded the surroundings, which paralyzed Hercules on the spot. Clouds were everywhere, and that meant he had no place to evade this attack.
Hercules hurriedly defended against the sword strike that was flying in from somewhere.
Not only the power contained in the strike itself was rather concerning, but Hercules’s body had also been paralyzed, so he couldn’t assume the correct defensive postures at all.
Despite his original intention of deflecting the sword strike, in the end, he was forced back by his opponent’s strength and had to take a couple of steps back. Unsurprisingly, Hercules’s eyes opened wider from the sheer shock of it all.
“I was forced back?”
If he was in a normal state, something like this wouldn’t have happened. However, regardless of whether he wanted to make excuses about this or that, it was still the first time that he had been pushed back by his opponent’s strength.
It was an unfamiliar first-time experience indeed.
Hercules, who barely managed to defend against Su-hyeun’s sword strike, roused up the last vestiges of his strength.
It was a true mystery just where he could summon so much strength like this. Even as the end neared, Hercules forgot about his paralyzed body and took the heaviest, strongest swing he had performed so far with his club.
But at that moment…
The very instant his club collided against Su-hyeun’s sword, the weapon he had been using almost half of his entire life shattered into bits, and its resulting debris scattered in every direction.
The club with many cracks running through it had broken apart due to the sudden explosion of Hercules’s strength at the final moment.
“Didn’t I say it? I always fight in the surest way to win.”
Su-hyeun wielded his sword, and wounds accumulated rapidly on Hercules’s body.
Thanks to Hercules’s ridiculously tough body and the excellent defense afforded by the lion’s hide, none of the sword wounds were deep enough to be grievous, but the situation was similar to how light drizzle would eventually soak your clothes inside out.
Hercules’s body was already full of small injuries by then.
He fell on one knee.
He tried so hard to not falter, but he no longer had any stamina left to stay upright.
Even if that wasn’t the case, his whole body was paralyzed, and just moving one of his fingers proved to be immensely difficult. His other knee was also precariously faltering and barely holding up.
More than anything, though, he had lost too much blood.
“Did you think you could win as long as you got close to me?” Su-hyeun asked, which only caused Hercules to grit his teeth.
That was indeed true. Hercules mistakenly believed that to be the case after fighting against Su-hyeun who repeatedly distanced himself and threw spears from out of his reach while also relying on other means to keep him at bay.
As long as the distance between them would close, then Hercules believed that he could easily subdue Su-hyeun.
But that wasn’t it.
“The reason why he kept creating distance wasn’t that he was weak in a close-quarter battle, but because I’m weak in the long-distance battle, wasn’t it?” he realized.
Without a doubt, he had never encountered an opponent as adept as Su-hyeun at unleashing long-distance attacks until now.
Magicians with so-so abilities were never much of a challenge to Hercules anyway, and as for the Giants, most of the time, they favored fighting in an old-fashioned way, relying on physical strength alone.
Because of these factors, Hercules didn’t know how to respond to the type of battle where spears kept flying in from a distance and his stamina was constantly being shaved away.
“No, even if that’s all true…”
Hercules looked down at his palms that were currently trembling nonstop from the impact forces.
“What is the meaning of this?”
He just couldn’t accept it.
With time, Su-hyeun gradually got better at handling his powers.
No matter how exhausted Hercules was and how paralyzed he was from the lightning, it was still no ordinary feat to be able to push him back with sheer strength alone, especially so when his opponent was still so young. Also, to think he had already acquired the godhood of strength, fire, and even cloud.
On top of that, he seemed to be far more proficient at handling the godhood of cloud than the godhood of fire. From the way he used the clouds to defend himself to using them to occupy and control the surrounding space, everything seemed really natural to him.
“Are you feeling exhausted now?” Su-hyeun asked as he walking closer to him. He wiped away the sweat trickling down his forehead.
The battle might have unfolded as he planned, but that didn’t mean it was easy.
He had to repeatedly do the same thing without making a single mistake, and in the process, he had to expend a lot of magical energy as well. Therefore, it was unsurprising he felt tired himself.
Of course, there was no doubt that it was still the surest method.
“Well then, can we have an earnest conversation now?”
“Yes. Let’s talk.”
“Weren’t you trying to kill me?”
“If that had been my aim, I wouldn’t have taken such a roundabout way,” Su-hyeun replied as if to say, what kind of dumb things are you saying? “Get a hold of yourself and think. Think about what you were trying to do.”
“I—I only wished to get stronger…”
For a brief moment there, Hercules’s atmosphere changed. His eyes which were filled with dense killing intent suddenly showed signs of confusion.
Why was this?
Su-hyeun was definitely trying to kill him. At least, that was what Hercules believed.
No one could be trusted. The only one he could believe in was himself, and only by getting stronger could he protect “them.”
Hercules’s expression contorted so much.
The pain that was assaulting his head significantly worsened. Maybe because his stamina was at rock bottom and his body was a mess, his headache grew to the point where he found it difficult to endure.
He held his head with his hands and went down on his knees. It felt like something that had been forcibly suppressed inside his head was endlessly thrashing about.
He held on and began clawing at his head, which felt like it would explode at any second, before barely managing to squeak some words out.
“Just who…was I…”
The tone of his voice had changed.
The killing intent lessened, and the glare in his eyes had changed, although only by a little.
Did his body ending up in a mess have the desired effect? Su-hyeun didn’t know the reason for the change currently happening to Hercules, but he welcomed it nevertheless.
“Trying to protect?”
He couldn’t remember it.
Some faces entered his mind, but they were too blurry. He knew that he was trying to protect something, and for that purpose, he needed strength.
That’s what he remembered, and he also recalled trying to kill someone to take their powers away to achieve his goal…
“Hale, Palaemon, Megara,” Su-hyeun said their names one at a time. “Those are the names of your children and your wife.”
“Just what has happened to you? Why were you suddenly trying to murder your own kids?” Su-hyeun’s voice sunk even lower.
He requested the Bull Demon King to protect Hercules’s children Hale and Palaemon.
And as per his request, the Bull Demon King did suppress Hercules, which could only mean that the demigod actually tried to harm his own kids.
This was too lamentable.
Su-hyeun witnessed how the demigod behaved while he was with his family. Then, he recalled Hercules from the 43rd floor—the one with the aggressive and overbearing personality.
The only reason why Hercules could change into someone this warm and caring was because of his family, but somewhat ironically, to protect them, he chose to kill them instead.
“Hale, Palaemon, Megara…”
The whites returned to Hercules’s eyes.
His now-opened eyes looked down at his own hands.
His hands were stained with blood. He remembered himself trying to grab Hale and Palaemon with these blood-soaked hands.
Hercules stared at his blood-stained hands before covering up his face.
He got his reasoning back, and even the voice that was coming from somewhere deep inside him disappeared. The unknown strength that filled him a little while ago was gone, and in its place, his paralyzed reasoning came back in full force.
Perhaps ironically, though, his memories didn’t go anywhere. He could still recall the horrible thing he almost ended up doing.
He recalled Hale and Palaemon.
He indeed attempted to devour his own two children.
Rather than just remembering everything, his mind began functioning properly now, and he was instantly sickened by his own thoughts. He retched and began emptying out everything in his stomach.
Hercules fell down on the spot and vomited painfully while howling out in tears.
* * *
Hercules howled and cried until sunset. As the cold night descended, he stopped and raised his head, perhaps finally running out of energy to continue.
Su-hyeun had been waiting without a word until then. He helped Hercules stand up. He was wondering worriedly about what to do in case the demigod lost his reasoning again, but much to his relief, no such thing happened.
“I’d like to wash up first.”
Those were the very first words Hercules spoke.
His regenerative ability was so outstanding that all the injuries on various parts of his body had mostly healed by now. However, there was no helping the blood staining his figure.
Hercules washed in a river nearby, and Su-hyeun roused up the divine Flame to dry the demigod’s wet clothes.
Afterward, Hercules returned home.
“Aren’t you planning to go inside?” the Bull Demon King asked Su-hyeun. The latter hadn’t entered the house and was simply leaning his back against the building’s exterior.
Su-hyeun nodded before casting his gaze lower to the ground. “I don’t want to see it anymore, you see.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been looking at a person’s crying face for a whole day, you know. And it will be Miss Megara’s turn to cry now.”
She, unfortunately, had to witness Hercules’s change in appearance.
She saw his hands that threatened to harm their children, and she felt the murderous aura that leaked out of his eyes. That moment must have been her first time to witness her husband sneak back home with bloodstains on both his hands and with his face like that.
“No one in this world would want to show you their crying selves, you know.”
Sure enough, sobbing sounds could be heard coming from the house.
Hercules’s voice could also be heard. He was trying to soothe Megara and worked extra hard to pacify the two still-immature children, Hale and Palaemon.
“Indeed, you’re right.”
The Bull Demon King also leaned against the wall and stood next to Su-hyeun.
For a while, they silently listened to the sounds of a sobbing family.
Su-hyeun wordlessly glanced at the shadows of two people cast on the window. The silhouettes belonged to the wide-shouldered and hulking physique of Hercules who was currently hugging Megara tightly.
For some reason, though, his once-broad and dependable back looked indescribably small and helpless today.
Even though he shed tears for the whole day, Hercules still cried again. He could only repeat, “I’m sorry,” over and over again.
Su-hyeun’s heart ached. He felt terrible despite knowing that he would never be able to even guess one-one hundredth of what Hercules and his family were going through right now.
Hercules was probably feeling a pain severe enough to rip his heart to pieces.
“You shouldn’t pity them too much,” said the Bull Demon King as he looked at Su-hyeun who was sharing the family’s grief. “Shedding tears is proof that you’re releasing your pain outside and letting it go. We should let them be so that they could work through their pain and cry together.”
Su-hyeun nodded and, while sighing deeply, raised his head.
But right at that moment…
“Rain?” he thought.
His eyes caught sight of a single small raindrop falling from the sky.
This drop fell ever so slowly.
But the weather didn’t look like it would rain, though? Su-hyeun unconsciously reached out and caught the raindrop on his palm.
The rainwater pooled on his palm.
It felt strange. For a drop of rain that fell on this rather chilly day, it felt too warm.
However, it wasn’t a drop of rain.
[You have acquired “A God’s Tear.”]
It was none other than a teardrop of the god Hercules.