Chapter 324: Star, Gaia’s Curse (6)

Chang-Sun felt as if someone had poured a bucket of ice water over his head. Cha Ye-Eun and <Deus Ex Machina>... If his assumption was correct, those two were clearly related somehow, so it was understandable how disapproving <Deus Ex Machina> was of him.0

“Machina, this is…!” Chang-Sun said immediately.0

 

『Does your girlfriend know you do this? Should I tell on you to her?』0

 

“I was just trying to find out how exactly she got infected with [Gaia’s Curse]...!” Chang-Sun protested.1

 

『You’re making excuses now? Wow, you’re the worst.』0

 

It was a bad idea for Chang-Sun to say anything further, as it would only make <Deus Ex Machina> think even less of him. For some reason, Chang-Sun could feel sweat forming on his back, feeling a different kind of anxiety from when he encountered powerful enemies.0

 

『Do better, okay?』0

 

“…Yes, Machina,” Chang-Sun said, nodding fervently. He felt as if all the goodwill he had earned from <Deus Ex Machina> had disappeared.0

* * *0

After the incident, the golden machine eyes on the ceiling remained glued to Chang-Sun no matter what he did.0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

Of course, he watched while Chang-Sun was reading a book…0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

Even when Mephistopheles was teaching Chang-Sun about the Four Steps of Abyss…0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

Even when Chang-Sun was merely quietly sorting out the gnosis he had acquired for the day…0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

Even when Chang-Sun was sleeping, eating…0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

…or going to the bathroom, <Deus Ex Machina> kept surveilling Chang-Sun.0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ is watching you!]0

 

“Do you really have to follow me here too?!” Chang-Sun complained, thinking <Deus Ex Machina> would find out about the color of his underwear at this rate.0

However, the answer he got was…0

 

『I don’t know what you’re talking about. If someone heard you, they would think I was a Peeping Tom or something. My eyes are everywhere because the ‘Changgong Library’ is technically my divine ground, so I’m quite offended that you’re making a fuss about it. Besides, I really also don’t want to tail a guy and watch everything he does, okay? There was nothing to see anyway.』1

 

“…!” Chang-Sun’s fists shook in anger.0

He had been getting the impression for some time now that <Deus Ex Machina> undoubtedly knew how to provoke people quite well. It made Chang-Sun wonder whether <Deus Ex Machina> was really the Mediator who maintained the balance of the universe.4

 

『What? You want to punch me? Whoa, look at your temper, to be willing to beat up the librarian of this place. Sure, let’s go for a round if you want. Deal?』0

 

Chang-Sun knew he would only get the tar beaten out of him if he said yes to the offer. Thus, he put down his still-trembling fists and turned in the opposite direction, saying, “…No, thank you.”0

Regardless of everything else, it was true that Chang-Sun was the one who had committed a big mistake first, so he thought it would be best to just deal with it. However…0

 

『Hey, are you sulking now? Sulking? Man, you’re reallyy narrow-minded.』0

 

…the problem was that <Deus Ex Machina> had no intention of stopping.0

 

『Are you pouting? Huh? Huh? Why aren’t you saying anything?』0

 

<Deus Ex Machina> tenaciously followed Chang-Sun, who tried desperately to escape from him. Chang-Sun quickly walked to the far side of the library, but the machine eyes continued to follow him.0

 

『Whoa! You’re really sulking over just this? Seriously? Hey, alright. Sorry. I’m sorry. This generous and broad-minded hyung is sorry, so please accept my apology. Huh? Huh?』0

 

‘I can’t hear anything. I can’t hear anything…’ Chang-Sun repeated several times in his mind.0

Although he wanted to cover his ears, <Deus Ex Machina> was using Mind Transmission, which directly entered Chang-Sun’s soul and prevented that from working. The only option Chang-Sun had was to ignore <Deus Ex Machina> by thinking about other things.0

Chang-Sun gradually began to pick up his pace.0

 

『Still, this hyung is more experienced in life than you, so if I can say one thing, there’s a line people shouldn’t cross no matter how curious they are. It’s said that patience … That’s why, in the past, I…』0

 

‘Arrgghhh!’ Chang-Sun wanted to escape from the hellish torment of endless surveillance and talking. In the end, he went to Mephistopheles and asked him to do something.0

“…Don’t involve me in these matters between you two. I don’t want to get into something this nerve-wracking,” Mephistopheles said, firmly rejecting Chang-Sun’s request.0

<Deus Ex Machina> made fun of Chang-Sun non-stop. Despite the fact that Mephistopheles looked the same as <Deus Ex Machina>, he seemed very calm in contrast; however, Chang-Sun noticed the vigilance in Mephistopheles’ eyes behind his glasses. It seemed that Mephistopheles was already well aware of what <Deus Ex Machina> was like.0

‘Shit…’ Chang-Sun thought, falling into despair because of the butterfly effect that had started with his mistake. ‘How is he the Mediator of All Creation and Embodiment of Benevolence…? I would have understood it if <Deus Ex Machina> were called the Petty King.’0

Chang-Sun could not help but sigh. It seemed he had no way to escape from the endless surveillance of <Deus Ex Machina> until he got out of the ‘Changgong Library’.0

“Tsk!” Finding Chang-Sun pathetic, Mephistopheles quietly clicked his tongue and put down the book he was reading for a moment. He said, “Let me give you some advice.”0

“…?”0

“You and Machina aren’t so different,” Mephistopheles said.0

“…What kind of horrible comparison is that?” Chang-Sun replied, wincing.0

Despite Chang-Sun’s reaction, Mephistopheles did not blink an eye as he continued, “It’s true. Do you remember that I classified you as an unexpected variable at first?”0

Chang-Sun nodded and said, “You said it was because I took after the person you used to serve a lot.”0

“Yes, so I thought you were his symbol, or a remaining fragment of him without his memories,” Mephistopheles said.0

“…”0

“That’s how much you resemble my master, so it’s obvious how similar you are to Machina, his brother,” Mephistopheles continued.0

“…Not all brothers have similar personalities,” Chang-Sun said.0

“They’re twins,” Mephistopheles replied.0

“Maybe they’re fraternal twins…!” Chang-Sun protested.0

“They’re identical twins,” Mephistopheles replied concisely.1

“…”0

“They’re identical twins born with the same DNA and traits,” Mephistopheles added.0

Chang-Sun felt quite wronged to hear that he resembled the Petty King.1

“It’s said that similar beings are bound to hate each other, but if one is far stronger than the other… the other one has to yield,” Mephistopheles said with a shrug.0

Tap, tap.0

Mephistopheles lightly tapped Chang-Sun’s shoulder, but it seemed more as if he were trying to intimidate Chang-Sun to do better, rather than cheering Chang-Sun up.0

“I still have a lot left to teach, so I don’t want to find another place.”0

In other words, he was telling Chang-Sun to give in to <Deus Ex Machina>. Chang-Sun became depressed, as he was indisputably the weak one here.0

* * *0

[You have accumulated new gnosis!]0

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ asks you why it took you so long to realize the meaning of ‘Terra’, teasing you for being a slowpoke.]0

…0

[You have accumulated new gnosis!]0

[‘Deus Ex Machina” yawns for a long time, saying that you will never be able to get out of the library at this speed.]0

…0

[You have accumulated new gnosis!]0

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ says that when he was your age, he pulled all-nighters and finished over ten tasks per day. He advises you to work harder, as youngsters nowadays lack willpower and do not put much effort into their work.]0

…0

 

Not paying attention to <Deus Ex Machina>, who was nagging him like an old man, Chang-Sun resumed analyzing [Gaia’s Curse] and reached several conclusions.0

‘[Gaia’s Curse]... is winter,’ Chang-Sun thought.0

<Deus Ex Machina> had certainly said that the Mother Terra Celestial was a personification of Terra, being an Ancient Celestial and Conceptual Celestial. Faith in her as a god had become the main foundation of the primordial religions.0

Terra was an existence that brought both blessings and tribulations to people. Farmers grew seeds and harvested crops, while nomads raised their livestock. However, in times of drought and cold snaps, crops would be ruined, and all the livestock would die. After going through disasters, people would suffer from starvation due to a lack of food.0

That was why religions based on Terra had a stronger influence in slower-developing civilizations, and were close to primordial religions. [Gaia’s Curse] originated from such concepts. Just as crops and livestock could die upon encountering drought and cold, Terra could freely bring death to the beings that lived on the land.0

Those were the reasons why Chang-Sun had concluded that [Gaia’s Curse] was like winter. During winter, crops were unable to grow, fallen leaves rotted, and animals went into hibernation. Thus, if [Gaia’s Curse] could bring ‘winter’ to Celestials, it would not be difficult to make them face death.0

‘The problem is that almost no one can escape this kind of winter.’0

In the end, many Celestials had been born from Terra, so unless they were Ancient Celestials who had awakened at around a similar time as the Mother Terra Celestial, it was safe to assume that no one could be freed from [Gaia’s Curse].0

‘So there is… no way to undo the curse.’0

That was the final conclusion Chang-Sun reached. Although the result of his search was quite dismal, he did not give up.0

‘But there is a way to overcome the curse. If winter is causing a problem, I should make spring come,’ Chang-Sun thought as his gaze turned sharp.0

He could not undo [Gaia’s Curse], so he could only overcome it… In some way, it was a reckless idea, but Chang-Sun deemed it possible. Snakes that went into hibernation woke up in spring, and farmers spread seeds on their farmland after the snow melted, waiting for rice to grow. With the flow of time, one would be able to overcome the restrictions of Terra.0

‘In order to make it possible, I need three things.’ Chang-Sun quickly made a list in his head. ‘First is a sample large enough to analyze the ingredients, but that isn’t the difficult part.’0

Chang-Sun already knew someone who knew how to use [Gaia’s Curse]; it was Antares, the ‘Scorpio’. As he had an old feud with Antares to settle, he could just capture Antares. Besides, Jörmungandr and Serket in the United Army would be able to help Chang-Sun in analysis.0

‘The second part also isn’t hard, since I just need a supporter with a Divine Rank pertaining to spring or fertility.’0

Chang-Sun would have no problem finding such a supporter if he put his mind to it, but…0

‘The problem is the third part…’ he thought as he looked upward.0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ asks you what you are looking at him for.]0

 

“Phew!” Chang-Sun let out a long sigh.0

He needed the advice of <Deus Ex Machina> for the last part, but the prospect of receiving help from him seemed quite unlikely. Quite a long time had passed after the incident, but <Deus Ex Machina> still acted the same way around Chang-Sun.0

By now, Chang-Sun had a feeling that those who got on the wrong side of <Deus Ex Machina> would never be able to rest easy at night for the rest of their lives. Chang-Sun actually pitied such people, but since he did not want to end up like them, he had to find a way to pacify <Deus Ex Machina>. For that reason, there was one matter he had to settle with <Deus Ex Machina>.0

Inhaling and exhaling quietly to calm himself, Chang-Sun said, “Machina.”0

 

『What?』0

 

<Deus Ex Machina> still sounded sullen.0

‘Petty King,’ Chang-Sun muttered in his mind before preparing to speak again.0

 

『If you’re going to ask me a favor, the least you can do is not badmouth me in your mind.』0

 

“Ah, you heard that?” Chang-Sun replied.0

 

『Of course, I’m called the Mediator of All Creation for a reason. No matter what you think, I always know…!』0

 

“Judging from how you became more sulky after reading my thoughts, it looks like you really are the Petty King,” Chang-Sun interrupted casually.0

 

『What did you say, asshole?』0

 

“Hmm. Or…” Chang-Sun paused before deciding to be as shameless as possible. “Small-Minded King?”0

 

『You fucker…!』0

 

The golden machine eyes contorted, and Chang-Sun could see the corners of the eyes trembling. His provocation had to have worked.0

‘I knew it,’ Chang-Sun thought delightedly.0

Perhaps because he had been living as an absolute being for a long time, provocations seemed to work quite well on <Deus Ex Machina>. Well, it was understandable; who could possibly talk back to a being such as him?0

‘I can.’0

Chang-Sun had spent his whole life smashing eggs against rocks[1] and had even started the <Myth War>, so what he was doing right now was nothing. Besides, he was sure that <Deus Ex Machina> would not—no, could not harm him. Aside from any negative feelings <Deus Ex Machina> had for Chang-Sun…0

“Machina,” Chang-Sun said seriously as he looked upward.0

 

『Why do you keep calling my name…?!』0

 

“Aren’t you doing this because you’re feeling guilty about Ye-Eun?” Chang-Sun asked.0

 

『…!』0

 

“You’re feeling guilty because you couldn’t stop her from getting infected with [Gaia’s Curse] due to the law of causality,” Chang-Sun continued.0

 

『…』0

 

Silence filled the air for a moment.0

 

『…Fuck.』0

 

<Deus Ex Machina> grumbled quietly.0

 

[‘Deus Ex Machina’ has descended!]0

 

Rumble!0

A lightning bolt struck in front of Chang-Sun, and <Deus Ex Machina> revealed himself. The more Chang-Sun looked at him, the more he thought <Deus Ex Machina> resembled Cha Ye-Eun.0

“You noticed?” <Deus Ex Machina> asked with a sullen look.0

“It would have been stranger to have not noticed at this point,” Chang-Sun said, his gaze turning sharp as he continued, “Isn’t that right, hyung-nim?”1

“…Don’t call me that,” <Deus Ex Machina> snapped.0

“You’re my brother-in-law[2], so we should sort out what we should call each other. Isn’t that right, hyung-nim?”0

“Don’t say that!” <Deus Ex Machina> screamed.1

1. This is a Korean idiom about doing something foolish and impossible which you will only suffer losses from. ☜

2. Even before actually getting married, Koreans call their lovers’ family members in-laws to show how much they care about their lovers. There is a specific name for every in-law, and ‘hyung-nim’ is actually the term used to refer to the older brother of one’s wife. ☜

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