I wasn’t there. But we were.
Yeon-woo felt his consciousness fade away with the Demonism’s laughter. It wasn’t that it had disappeared, but rather, it felt as though he were immersed in something, like being neck-deep in pitch-black seawater. No matter how much he instinctively struggled, it seemed like he might drown at any time. However, after a while, he found himself swimming as comfortably as though he were in a familiar pool.
When he managed to pull himself together, he realized that the vast ocean was all his consciousness. He felt an ease and sense of infiniteness that he couldn’t put his finger on. Limitless power surged from his body, as the purple energy created by the harmonization of the Dragon Heart and Philosopher’s Stone finally raged around properly for the first time in a long while.
Swoosh! Black energy stirred around him, and purple residue flowed down his body. Winds whirled around the expansive stage, so strong that anyone who didn’t use magic power would be uprooted. For some time, Allforone’s pressure, which had filled the stage, vanished.
Yeon-woo stood tall, emanating a ferocious aura as his Sky Wings glowed purple and unfurled as though they would reach the sky. It seemed almost unreal that his body had been devastated with fatigue just a few moments ago. He had a sensation that was different from anything he’d ever felt. The feeling of the power of the throne after manifesting the gods and demons of death couldn’t even compare. The power of the throne dealt with death, but now he felt as though he were controlling something even beyond that. It seemed like an abyss that stretched out for eternity.
He wanted to run free and destroy everything with this uncontainable power! “Keekeekeek.” Yeon-woo was in such a good mood that he began laughing shrilly without even realizing it. His eyes widened. ‘Has my laughter always sounded like this?’
“Keekeekeek. The outside air is, mm, yes. Good. Very good.” He didn’t even notice that he was muttering to himself, a proud smile on his face. He exhaled deeply, delighting in the fresh air.
His body felt cramped as though he’d been asleep for a long time, but it didn’t matter. It was wonderful to stretch. Although the stage was filled with Allforone’s presence, it was the happiest place he’d been. It seemed like his vessel was doing better than he thought.
“Keekeekeek.” It was only when he burst out into laughter once more that Yeon-woo realized that he was Cha Yeon-woo and not Cha Yeon-woo at the same time.
His consciousness was still that of Cha Yeon-woo, but everything else—actions, habits, instincts, and subconscious—was now the Demonism. However, on closer inspection, even his consciousness had been infiltrated by the Demonism. The delight he felt in the fresh air and the impulse to destroy didn’t belong to him. However: ‘Who cares?’
The entity that was Yeon-woo and not Yeon-woo grinned and stretched his neck to the left. His baleful eyes glowed purple behind the demonic-looking mask that seemed to have grown even more monstrous. “It doesn’t matter if I can get rid of that damned bastard.” Muttering to himself, Yeon-woo curved his fingers into claws and slashed horizontally. The space that his fingers raked through cracked like glass, breaking apart and sending five different shockwaves shooting up the sky.
Boom! With an explosive sound, the fog and auroras in the sky were torn apart to reveal the invisible barrier around Jeong-woo and Allforone.
“Found you, damned bastard.” Yeon-woo laughed coldly at Allforone’s barrier. He looked past Jeong-woo, spread his purple wings, and rushed to the sky, leaving behind an extraordinary sonic boom that made the ground quake. The stage was in chaos once more.
* * *
It hadn’t been that long since Jeong-woo first realized that he wasn’t entirely real. His body had faded a few times, but he assumed that it was because his soul had deteriorated so much from repeating the special benefit in the Soulstone.
“You’ll get better soon.”
“I haven’t said anything at all. If someone could hear us, they would think I was dying of worry. I know I’ll be fine without you having to tell me, geez.”
Although Yeon-woo had appeared calm, inside, he’d been anxious that Jeong-woo might disappear. And yet, he’d still tried to comfort Jeong-woo. Even though Jeong-woo grumbled and sulked, he still felt comforted. Also, his body would begin to solidify again whenever he rested, just as his brother said,, so he truly believed that he’d be able to recover as well.
After he stabilized, he thought it might be possible to create a temporary body like Brahm’s homunculus. ‘And then I’ll be able to climb the floors with my brother. We could even aim past the seventy-seventh floor.’
He didn’t even think about taking revenge. His brother always finished what he set out to do, and he was sure he wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes if given the chance. He only wanted to cut off all the things that tied him down and climb the floors to the noisy heavenly world beyond Allforone together with his brother, new lover, and daughter he’d never known about.
He thought they could even go past the heavenly world to the ninety-ninth floor and get to the very top: the 100th floor. He already knew the wish he would make: ‘Please make everyone happy.’
It was a small wish, but it was the most important one to him. However, he wasn’t really Jeong-woo. ‘Now, all those things are impossible.’ He was only a likeness, as Allforone said. He was a combination of different vestiges which rose from an amalgamation of the letters and data from his continuous special benefit.
There had been so much data that it had taken on a divine nature and assumed Jeong-woo’s form to create its shape. He was the diary itself.
Jeong-woo had already suspected this before his battle with Aether. The letters he glimpsed around his scattering spirit body were definitely from the diary. The same letters that caused him pain and bound him in the Soulstone were actually inside his body; they were the very components he was made of, just like flesh and blood.
His brother had probably already known about this for a while. In hindsight, Yeon-woo’s words and expressions had betrayed his knowledge. As Yeon-woo had worried about him, he’d also been filled with anxiety that Jeong-woo would find out the truth one day and be sent reeling into shock and despair. Yeon-woo had clearly put in a lot of effort not to show his worries.
‘But that was pretty strange too. What a bad liar.’ Jeong-woo grinned as he thought of how obvious his brother had been. He’d heard that Yeon-woo had managed to con a lot of people, and he couldn’t imagine how he’d managed to pull that off.
However, the biggest mystery was where the real Jeong-woo was. It was also the only part that had been cut off from his special benefit, too. Since the ancient dragon Kalatus was still alive and he couldn’t remember anything that happened after he made the diary, he had to assume this issue was related somehow. ‘Poor Yeon-woo, in the end, he’s back at square one.’
Jeong-woo remembered Yeon-woo’s joy in finding his lost brother. How devastated he must have been when he discovered the truth. And yet, he’d tried to comfort his brother’s vestige instead. There was no one more pitiful, and Jeong-woo wanted to help him somehow. He might blubber on and one, but he still wanted to help his bad-tempered but good-hearted brother in the end.
At least it was a relief that he wouldn’t have to see a grown man cry. Jeong-woo unleashed the letters that made up his body. The sentences and paragraphs became chains that spread across the illusory world and tied Allforone up.
『You know nothing will change even if you do this, correct?』 Allforone said from the center of the illusory world as he watched the letters appear.
Jeong-woo was trying to infect the illusory world with data from his diary. Since illusory worlds were made up of the thoughts of their creators, they would be destroyed if they were infected with data from someone else.
Although it was impossible for an ordinary being to create an illusory world, if they did, they would be severely damaged if their illusory world were taken away. However, for someone like Allforone, who could use Thousand Li Eyes, an illusory world could be easily discarded and a new one made.
This meant that even if Jeong-woo sacrificed himself to block the illusory world, Allforone could whip up a new one and stop Yeon-woo again. However, Jeon-woo was already aware of this. 『I know.』
He had once been a player who’d tried to surpass Allforone like the Martial King, the Summer Queen, and the other Nine Kings. Of course he knew everything that could be learned about Allforone, and in the end, he’d come to one conclusion: Allforone was untouchable. 『But I can buy some time at least, right?』
『Buy some time?』
『Even someone like you can’t make a new illusory world that quickly.』
Allforone laughed in disbelief. 『Is that all? What if I use Shukuchi? All I would have to do is manifest myself.』
But Jeong-woo’s eyes were still tranquil. 『I know that you’re in no state to do that.』
Allforone didn’t respond.
『Those who need to know are already aware that the opposition of the progenitor gods and creator gods has become stronger recently. Your hands have been tied for the first time.』
Allforone remained silent.
『So, I’ll at least be able to buy some time for my brother to escape.』
『And if I chase after him?』
『I know you will, but I believe that my brother will find a solution before you catch up to him. He’ll find a way to evade both you and the system. He just needs some time right now because he’s tired.』 Jeong-woo’s smile deepened. 『He has quite a lot of tricks up his sleeve. That bad temper didn’t come from nowhere.』
『Hmph!』 Allforone was silent. If this was Jeong-woo’s plan, then it was true that Allforone would be in a difficult position. There was nothing more troublesome than dealing with people unafraid to sacrifice themselves.
Even though Jeong-woo was a vestige, he had self-awareness. He was probably scared of dying, but he didn’t hesitate to throw forward to save his brother.
Allforone couldn’t personally appear on the thirty-fifth floor, but that didn’t mean he could just let them be. As he’d said, there could be no exceptions.
『Oh well. I like you and respect you, but…I can’t just let you alone.』
Jeong-woo tensed. Things were getting serious, and even if he fought to his fullest against Allforone’s mind power alone, it would be hard. The only thing he was hoping for was that he would have an impact on Allforone, no matter how small. That would give Yeon-woo enough time to escape. ‘Use that time to run away. Please.’
Jeong-woo clutched Dragon Slayer tightly. His Sky Wings unfurled as he dashed into the illusory world, the letters in his wake increasing in number. Just as he and Allforone were about to clash, the ashy fog and auroras trembled. Then, they were ripped away. Boom!
『Huh?』 Since they were in a world that Allforone had created, it was impossible to impact it. Allforone seemed surprised too, and turned towards the direction of the shockwave. Jeong-woo stopped flying and turned around, hoping it wasn’t what he thought it was. His face stiffened as he saw Yeon-woo—or an entity like Yeon-woo—standing there with a vicious aura and radiating an ominous purple energy. 『Hyung, how’d you…!』
Jeong-woo was about to shout at him to return, but the entity that looked like Yeon-woo growled and cut him off. “Who says you’re not real, you idiot!”
“You’re my brother. No matter what bullshit anyone says, you’re my brother, and that fact doesn’t change.”
Jeong-woo’s eyes shook. Yeon-woo’s eyes flashed with a purple light that looked insane.
“Stop with that bullshit and come back. Now!” Yeon-woo spread his right hand and made a grasping motion, as if he had no intention of listening to what Jeong-woo had to say. A vortex appeared in the air, sucking in Jeong-woo’s body. It happened so fast that he didn’t even have a chance to avoid it.
At the same time, Yeon-woo glowered at Allforone’s gaze beyond the illusory world. He unfurled his wings to leave the ashy fog with Jeong-woo. Allforone quickly projected his mind power to catch the brothers, and the ashy fog gathered to chase after Yeon-woo. It was his opportunity to take care of the irregulars once and for all.
“Faust. Block him.”
However, on Yeon-woo’s orders, space split between them, and two Inferno Sights, blazing more majestically than ever, appeared. Yeon-woo’s unification with the Demonism had temporarily restored Boo’s memories and abilities from his past life, and now he stretched his hand out towards his old enemy.
Boom! The explosion blew away Allforone’s fog. Yeon-woo’s attacks didn’t end there. The Cast of the Black King suddenly trembled from the activation of a power.
[Summoning of the Dead has activated.]
[Who will you summon?]
At that moment, the sky opened up.
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