Max played with his beard as Lucien made his choice.
"I'll ask you again," Max said with a serious expression on his face. "You want a random High-Tier Skill as your freebie, correct?"
"Yes." Lucien nodded. "I choose this one, Your Excellency."
The Angel who had her arms crossed over her chest raised an eyebrow when she heard Lucien's choice. Clearly, she didn't expect the young man to choose this option.
"Understood." Max smiled and clapped his hands thrice.
(A/N: I know a lot of you may be disappointed with his choice, but keep reading. A surprise is waiting in the next few chapters).
Suddenly, the form in Lucien's hand was set ablaze. The embers flew towards the young man's chest and merged with his body. However, Max wasn't finished yet.
The form that Lucien had filled up earlier burst into flames, and its remains also flew towards his body.
The young man felt his body become warm as an unknown power surged within his soul. While he was still basking in the afterglow of the surreal experience, he suddenly found himself floating in space, underneath the countless galaxies that he had seen a while ago.
Standing on his right was Max, the God of Gamblers, and standing on his left was Himea, the b*tchy angel who was suffering from her terminally bad personality.
"Lucien, do you know why I chose you out of the countless souls in the multiverse to become the first candidate to take part in the Heaven's Gate Project?" Max asked as he stared into the young man's eyes.
"No," Lucien answered. He also didn't know why he was chosen to participate in the Heaven's Gate Project.
Max smiled as he patted Lucien's shoulder. "It's because you struggled to live until the bitter end. You could have given up anytime, but you didn't choose the easy way out and end your life with your own hands."
Lucien looked back at the old man with a serious expression on his face. "That is because I am a coward. I'm afraid of death, so I struggled to live until the end. There's nothing glorious about it."
Max chuckled as he ruffled the young man's head. "Perhaps you are right, but you are not a coward. Living requires courage, and I pray that you will be courageous in your next life."
Lucien looked up at the old man who was smiling back at him. This was the first time that someone had told him to live.
When he was still alive, he grew up always hearing the words "You're just baggage. You should just die" or "You were a mistake. You shouldn't have been born."
These words were said to him over and over again. Thinking back, there were times when he wanted to end his own life in order to escape that living hell. However, he was afraid of death.
Truly afraid of death, so he struggled to live until the bitter end.
Lucien bit his lip because he felt like crying. He didn't know if souls could cry, but he would be damned if he let others see him cry.
A few minutes passed before he finally regained his composure. He then looked up at the God of Gamblers and asked the question that had been on his mind since he entered this unknown space, shrouded in mystery.
"Your Excellency, you still haven't said what the purpose of the Heaven's Gate project is," Lucien said. "Can you please tell me what it is?"
"Lucien, the goal of the Heaven's Gate Project is to change the Fate of a world. You are the chosen one that will usher in a new era that will lead it to a better and brighter tomorrow."
"I don't think I'm qualified to take on such a big responsibility…"
"Beautiful women are waiting for you in that world! If you're lucky, you can even have more than one wife!"
"Leave this to me, Your Excellency!" his attitude completely flipped and Lucien patted his chest as if he was a general that was about to go to war. "You chose the right man for the job. I'll conquer the world for you!"
"World Conquest? Sure! I will allow it! A man should dream big after all! You either go all in or go home crying! Hahahaha!"
The angel stared at the two useless lust driven idiots with scorn as she summoned a giant cannon. Her patience was already at its limit and she wanted to end this job as soon as possible.
When Max saw the Angel's expression, a bitter smile appeared on his face as he made a gesture for Lucien to come closer.
"Come, Lucien," Max ordered. "It's time for you to start your journey."
The God of Gamblers waved his hand and a door appeared in front of them. He then opened it and walked inside, dragging the boy along with him.
The Angel followed behind the two and closed the door behind her. They were headed to the testing area where the Hyper-Super-Mega-Rebirth-Cannon was waiting for them.
"Wow!" Lucien's eyes sparkled as he looked at the giant cannon in front of him. "T-This is so cool!"
Max laughed and patted the boy's shoulder because he was very pleased with his reaction.
"This thing cost a lot to build," Max said with a smile. "Himea, dear, can you start up the cannon and check if everything is ready?"
"Okay," the Angel replied.
She then went towards the control panel and started pushing the buttons to let the cannon warm up and gather energy. While she was doing this task, Max was busy telling Lucien about how the cannon was made.
"The name of this cannon is Hyper-Super-Mega-Rebirth-Cannon, SIMP for short," Max stated. "Beautiful isn't it?"
"Um? Sir Max, isn't it supposed to be HSMRC instead of SIMP?" Lucien asked back.
"Boy, don't sweat the small stuff. If I say this is a SIMP Cannon, it is a SIMP Cannon."
Himea rolled her eyes at the God of Gamblers who was talking crap as always. If not for the fact that Max had taken care of her ever since she was born, she might have left him to serve other Gods who were more "normal", and didn't have mental issues.
After checking the status of the cannon, Himea deemed that everything was in order.
"Your Excellency, the status of the cannon is all green," Himea reported. "We can start anytime."
Max nodded. He then patted Lucien's shoulder to tell the boy that the time had come.
"Lucien, are you ready?" Max asked in a teasing tone. "Your new journey is about to begin."
"I'm ready," Lucien answered.
"Good! Now, time to load you into the cannon."
"Um, Sir, how will you do tha—aahh!"
Lucien wasn't even able to finish his words when Max grabbed his waist and flew up the tip of the cannon.
"Fire in the hole," Max shouted as he tossed Lucien's body inside the barrel of the Cannon.
Soon, a loud thud was heard followed by an "Ouch!". Which made Max laugh out loud.
"Boy, are you fine?" Max asked, "Does it hurt?"
"I'm not fine!" Lucien shouted back. Clearly, he didn't expect that he would be tossed like a cannonball inside the cannon. "It hurts!"
"It's good to know that you're fine. Any last words?"
Max snickered as he gave Himea the okay signal.
"Heaven's Gate Project initiated," Himea said as she started tapping on the keypads of the control panel. "Setting course…"
The SIMP Cannon suddenly turned to its right side, aiming at a purple galaxy in the distance.
After the coordinates had been properly calibrated, Himea opened the glass casing that held the firing mechanism of the cannon. "Sir, Cannon is ready to fire!"
"Start the countdown!" Max ordered.
Himea nodded. "Starting countdown. Ten, nine, eight, seven…
The beautiful angel pressed the red button, instantly starting the firing sequence.
Lucien found himself turning into a ball of light as dense layers of concentrated magical energy wrapped around him.
Not long after, a giant ball of energy appeared on the cannon's tip. It then started to gather the power of Divinity in order to shoot Lucien's soul across the multiverse.
An electrical current snaked around the body of the cannon and smoke started to appear in some places. Clearly, this was not a good sign and it made the God of Gamblers, as well as the angel, anxious.
As if confirming their fears, a series of warning sounds started to spread across the testing area, telling them that something was terribly wrong with the cannon.
"Stop the firing sequence now!" Max ordered. He didn't anticipate something going wrong with his prized cannon at the last minute. He then raised his hand to wrap Lucien's soul in his Divinity to protect it from any form of damage.
However, before his Divinity could reach the boy, the firing sequence was completed. With a loud rumbling sound, a beam of magical energy streaked across the Celestial Realm, followed by a loud explosion.
The cannon exploded and shattered into a thousand pieces, sending metal shards flying everywhere.
Max teleported in front of Himea and used his Divine powers to create a shield to protect both of them.
After the chaotic situation calmed down, the God of Gamblers looked at the wreckage in front of him before shifting his attention toward the sky.
In the Heavens, a blue comet streaked towards the purple galaxy creating a trail of light.
"What is Lucien's status?" Max asked as he stared at the equipment that was still working.
Himea typed on the keyboard and brought out the status of Lucien's Soul.
"No… this can't be happening…," Max couldn't believe the result of the images that appeared in front of him.
Lucien's soul had received serious injury during the firing sequence and was on the verge of breaking. Only the safety mechanisms that Max had added to the cannon on a whim were keeping his soul from disintegrating completely.
"Y-Your Excellency, I'm afraid that Lucien wouldn't be able to undergo a normal rebirth in his current state," Himea started to panic. "In the worst case scenario, his soul might cease to exist."
Max took a deep breath because he was fully aware of Lucien's current situation. However, there was nothing he could do. The world he had sent the boy to was a world that had been abandoned by the Gods.
Right now, there was only one person that could help them and that person was none other than Max's best friend, Eriol, the God of Games.
"Himea, look for Eriol," Max ordered as his body floated in the air. "Once you find him, explain our situation. He will know what to do."
Himea could see the resignation on Max's face and it made her feel anxious.
"Your Excellency, where are you going?" Himea asked.
"This is my fault," Max replied as he gathered his Divinity around his body. "The least I can do is to ensure that Lucien's soul won't cease to exist."
As soon as he finished his declaration the God of Gamblers transformed into a golden comet and shot towards the Blue Comet that had started to enter the purple galaxy.
This was a race against time, and the God of Gamblers was betting everything he had to save the boy he had chosen to save this world.