The Hero Returns - Chapter 319

Chapter 319: Chapter 319


Act 4


Apollo was the god in charge of the sun and fire. According to the myth, he was a god that rode on a chariot to guide the sunrise and was a being who was able to manifest anywhere as long as there was a flame burning.


And Phaethon claimed that he was the real son of the sun god Apollo.


“This guy is the son of Lord Apollo? Really?”


At Hercules’s probing stare, Phaethon simply nodded his head. Just like Su-hyeun, the burly demigod was suspicious of this golden-haired young man’s true identity.


Hercules continued, “And how do you intend to prove that claim?”


“Is there a reason for me to prove myself to you?”


The question was countered with another question.


Hercules’s expression crumpled ever so slightly. He uncrossed his arms and stood upright next. “It’s not up to you whether you want to prove it or not.”


Crack—


His joints popped noisily as he clenched his fist tightly. “I’ll be the one to judge you, after all.”


“Oh, so you want to blindly rely on your physical strength once more to solve your problems?”


“Once more, you say? You speak as if you know about me.”


“Of course, I do. This may be our first meeting, but I’ve already heard tales of your many accomplishments. The killing of the Nemean lion, suppressing Cerberus…you relied on your brute physical strength to overcome them.”


“So what about it?”


“There’s a limit to showing off while relying on pure strength alone. Although you are the son of Zeus, in the end, half of your blood comes from a human, does it not?” Phaethon smirked. “Despite your best efforts, you’re still nothing more than a half-blood.”


“You really…wish to die by my…” Hercules’s expression turned truly murderous.


Rumble—


Suddenly, the ground rumbled.


But it wasn’t a natural phenomenon like an earthquake. Hercules was far too familiar with the source of this rumbling. It was the same for Su-hyeun, as he had come to experience it a few times by now as well.


It was coming from the footsteps of the Giants.


“Great timing,” growled Hercules while glaring at Phaethon. “Now, prove it to me. Prove to me that you’re better than me, punk.”


* * *


The Giants were huge—absolutely massive, in fact.


Never mind the fact that one could easily make out their appearances from afar, the intense pressure they gave off when crowded together exceeded anyone’s wildest imaginations.


Tens of thousands of soldiers had come, but this number was meaningless in the presence of the Giants.


It didn’t matter whether the number of tens or hundreds of thousands. When facing a massive “mountain,” whether you were human or ant, you would still come across as tiny and inconsequential in the end.


“U—uwah…”


“T—those…those are the Giants…”


“Aren’t they far bigger than what we’ve been told?!”


“No, it’s as they said. But after seeing it with my own eyes, this is…”


Su-hyeun and Hercules stood around observing the dozens of Giants from a distance. The demigod locked his gaze on a Giant with two eyes visible among the horde and spoke, “Three Gigantes, is it? I see that several fairly tough individuals are here today.”


“The ones you mentioned earlier, they haven’t shown up, right?” Su-hyeun asked.


“If those creatures showed up, I wouldn’t have left these soldiers to their devices. Failing to kill one and letting it slip away would be more than enough to devastate a kingdom in no time, after all.”


Giant, then Gigantes, and finally, Colossus—these three were the different classes of Giants that Hercules had come up with.


The Giants boasted the biggest sizes, while the Gigantes were comparatively smaller but slightly quicker and stronger, and finally, there were the few-in-number but as strong as low-ranked gods, the Colossi.


Although no Colossus had shown up this time, a handful of Gigantes-class giant monsters were mixed in among the invading group.


“How about it, then? Hey, mister son of the sun god, are you still up for it?”


“Watch closely and witness it for yourself.”


Rumble—


Phaethon glanced at Hercules once and then his body transformed into a roaring flame. “Witness what the true descendant of a god is like.”


Shu-wuwu—


After transforming into a flame, Phaethon’s figure then flew directly toward the Giants in the distance. Su-hyeun found the ability to turn into a flame rather mystifying and observed the distancing Phaethon more closely.


“That’s a pretty unique ability, isn’t it?” he said.


“Even then, it’s some lukewarm flame, nothing more,” Hercules retorted with an unimpressed expression on his face.


Lukewarm? While making a dumbfounded expression at the demigod’s reply, Su-hyeun stared at Hercules. Even if the latter wasn’t impressed by Phaethon’s antics, one had to admit that this was well past the level of being “lukewarm” at this point.


Hercules asked Su-hyeun, “And what about you, friend? Are you going to spectate from afar, or—?”


“Well, I’ll spectate from somewhere a bit closer instead.”


Gya-ong—!


Su-hyeun quickly summoned Miru out and finished his preparations to leave and then turned his attention back to Hercules. “Apologies, but Mister Hercules, you are too heavy, and it might be a little difficult for Miru to give you a ride.”


“A dragon, is it? I thought you only commanded the undead, but you also had a summoned creature like this one?”


“If you’re not planning to join in the fun now, I’ll go on ahead first. Let’s go, Miru.”


Gya-ong—


At Su-hyeun’s call, Miru began shooting forward right away. Hercules watched the duo fly like a thunderbolt to catch up to Phaethon, and he began chuckling wryly.


“Looks like I’ve been jumping around with another dude on my back for no reason.”


Boom—!


Hercules then powerfully kicked the ground and leaped high.


And so, Su-hyeun and Hercules began their observation of how Phaethon would fight off the race of the Giants.


* * *


Rumble, ruuumble—


A massive wave of flames blanketed the skies.


A rain of flames in varying shades and sizes descended and burned the bodies of the Giants. Even then, the massive creatures still managed to spot Phaethon’s real body and angrily swung their huge arms at him.


Puh-hwack—


Shu-shushushu—


But just before the huge hand could grab the flame, the flame enveloped the Giant’s hand first instead.


Hiss, sizzle—


Its pale skin turned crimson from the heat, and Phaethon’s flames scorched the Giant’s body pitch-black in no time.


“Burn to ashes, you abominable Giant bastards—!”


Rumbleeeee—


Pow-pow-pow-powwww—!


Accompanying his near-hysterical roar, hundreds and thousands of pillars made out of pure flames exploded all around him.


The Giants, with their bodies stabbed through and scorched by the flame pillars, began collapsing on the ground one by one.


Soon, Phaethon’s flames enveloped the entire surroundings. In other words, massive space seemingly made of fire had materialized.


And this flame instantly swallowed up the Giants.


“…It seems that his claim of him being Lord Apollo’s son might be true,” Hercules muttered while observing the battle.


“Why do you think that?” Su-hyeun asked back.


“That technique of his that allows him to assimilate with fire is definitely something permitted only to gods related to fire. No matter how excellent you are as a magician, you still can’t utilize the techniques of the gods.”


“If that technique is permitted to all the gods related to fire, then it can be someone other than Apollo, can’t it?”


“Well, sure. That’s also true. Still, the possibility is there, regardless. Even then…” Hercules frowned deeply and continued to murmur, “Something about this just feels off.”


Su-hyeun nodded at the last part of Hercules’s observation.


For sure, something about Phaethon’s ability didn’t feel right. It wasn’t as if the ability itself was defective or anything like that, but more like the “identity” of the ability came across as rather suspicious.


“By the way, are you planning to stay down there?” Su-hyeun then asked.


“Can’t be helped, now can it? I don’t have the power of flight like this dragon fellow here. Even though I can jump up quite high.”


Hercules was currently holding on to Miru’s paw to dangle in the air. Miru was barely managing to stay afloat in the sky at the demigod’s weight.


Su-hyeun could only sigh while thinking that if he knew how things would turn out, he should’ve just asked the demigod to climb on top even if there wasn’t enough room for both of them. He then shifted his gaze back to Phaethon.


“Although it is amazing, something about it does feel different,” he thought.


The sight of Phaethon combating the Giants was certainly deserving of a round of applause. For one, the soldiers watching on from the distance were no longer gripped by fear after witnessing his display of power.


Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.


If a battle against an unknown enemy, or even against those Colossi Hercules had spoken of earlier, was waiting in the near future, then Phaethon would certainly provide a powerful additional combat force, after all.


But this vague feeling of disharmony coming from him left behind a strangely sour aftertaste. It was as if Su-hyeun had missed something crucial here.


Rumble—


It was then that something hot awakened inside Su-hyeun.


An indigo-colored flame rumbled, and at the same time, the divine Flame roused up from his hand.


This happened outside of Su-hyeun’s control.


Then, a voice entered his mind. “Come, get closer,” it said.


Was it the Somersault cloud? Or the Palm Leaf?


No, it was neither of them. This voice was completely different from those two. Su-hyeun’s brows shot up greatly.


“What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?” Hercules asked in confusion when Su-hyeun suddenly roused up his divine Flame.


Without a doubt, it was Phaethon’s job to fight the battle this time. He needed to prove that he could take the place of Hercules in the future battles against the Giants.


If he failed to accomplish this, Hercules was thinking of rushing toward the so-called Holy Kingdom and grab the collars of the pope living there or something.


Su-hyeun patted Miru’s head and spoke, “Looks like I’ll have to hop over there for a little bit.”


Gya-ong—?


“You have to hop over where?”


Just as both Miru and Hercules formed puzzled expressions…


Rumble—


Su-hyeun’s figure vanished after transforming into a flame right there on the spot.


* * *


Sizzle—


His flesh was getting cooked.


Su-hyeun had enveloped his body with various skills, but Phaethon’s flames were still hot enough to break through their defenses.


In the end, Su-hyeun, who used “Leap” to enter the space of fire, had no choice but to rely on Somersault cloud’s defensive capabilities.


Shu-wu, shu-wuwu—


Once the Somersault cloud wrapped around him in a thin layer, the choking heat seemed to lesson to some degree.


“And he said this is lukewarm?”


Su-hyeun realized how straightforwardly nonsensical the declaration of Hercules from earlier was.


“Well, that dude is also a bona fide monster, after all.”


While fighting the Giants together for the past 15 days, Su-hyeun had learned that Hercules was rather very strong.


However, that observation was strictly confined to the realm of physical strength.


Even then, they hadn’t fought against a Colossus-class Giant yet, so it was hard to fully figure out the depth of his strength, and even in the area of his stamina, Hercules had yet to reveal where his limits were.


Therefore, when Hercules labeled Phaethon’s flames as merely “lukewarm,” Su-hyeun gained an important clue to help him re-evaluate the durability of Hercules’s body.


If that wasn’t him bluffing, then not only his physical strength but also his stamina and the sturdiness of his body should all be considered infinitely close to an actual god’s.


Rumble—


Su-hyeun entered the crimson waves of flames Phaethon had created.


Phaethon was currently battling Gigantes inside this space. The monsters with two eyes were different from other Giants in that they possessed a functioning ego.


One of the Gigantes was already dead. Two of them remained.


“How did you get in here?”


Phaethon turned his head toward Su-hyeun.


The remaining Gigantes were unable to rashly pounce on Phaethon at the moment and found themselves trapped within the fire arena he created.


Two Gigantes wouldn’t present much of a threat in this situation, it seemed.


“This guy is also pretty exhausted,” Su-hyeun quietly observed.


He discovered large droplets of sweat trickling down Phaethon’s forehead.


He couldn’t tell if this young man was the real son of the sun god Apollo, but there was little doubt that the latter did possess some kind of godhood-rivaling authority. Therefore, someone like that wouldn’t be breaking a sweat from the high temperature.


It could only mean that fatigue was catching up to him.


“I asked you how you managed to enter this place!”


“You don’t have to shout. I can hear you just fine. And if you must know, I simply entered, that’s all.”


“…Simply entered?”


“Why do you sound as if no one can enter here no matter what? These flames aren’t all that powerful, anyway. With only this much, it wouldn’t just be me but even Hercules can easily waltz in here,” Su-hyeun replied in an apathetic voice as if to imply that something dumb had been asked of him.


And then…


“Besides all that, does anyone else know about it too?” Su-hyeun narrowed his eyes and peered right through Phaethon’s facade. “…That you’re not a god’s descendant but a regular human being?”