<Chapter 46. Death's Companion - 4>
"Oh, granny's got a nice voice!"
He was really worried about Prince and Kratia too, but with Jin and Arema fighting against the Annihilation Flame Sword God, he should have enough time. Moreover, Kratia had harmonized with her orb, temporarily boosting her abilities above their limit, so she wouldn't die, regardless of how the situation progressed.
'I have to focus on saving this old lady now.'
Lee Shin Woo observed the disparate energy deep within her and his expression soured. He'd learned three innate elements, so he'd thought it would be easy to save her, but things were a lot different from what he'd expected.
"Seagald, you bastard."
Seagald hadn't killed his sister just because he was a crazy bastard.
He inflicted a grievous injury onto Seira and had simultaneously infused Annihilation Flame into her. The Annihilation Flame and the undead curse, which would transform one into the undead depending on how close they were to death, had overlapped and had become something else entirely. And that was...
That's right. He thought he'd felt this energy before, but it was similar to Seagald Von Retadane's mana. In other words, this was a ceremony that turned someone into a member of Anti-Skull. Seagald had attempted to kill his sister and induct her into Anti-Skull!
He said something about 'losing her way' or that he'd 'show her the right path', but how could Anti-Skull be the right path!? He was willing to go so far as to kill his own little sister to ensure that she was on his side!?
'As I thought, all these undead bastards are crazy! ...But wait a sec.'
But as the different energies interfered with each other, Lee Shin Woo came to another realization. The Annihilation Flame element had eliminated a portion of the undead curse's mana and had changed its inherent properties, creating something entirely new... It was similar to his Pauls' mana. He felt as though he was struck by lightning when he came to a realization.
'Was the reason they came into contact with the Pauls to perfect the Anti-Skull experiment...? So I'm the reason Anti-Skull was perfected?'
His Pauls had told him that they'd met with Seagald, yet they had left unscathed. If that's the case, then why did they come into contact with Pauls that weren't under the direct command of the Heaven Defying General? It made sense if they were used as data to perfect the Anti-Skull test.
If that's the case, then was the reason Seagald chose now to act because he'd gotten inspiration from the way Lee Shin Woo created the Pauls and managed to complete the Anti-Skull test? So he'd led his own little sister to Bayran, and had even led the other forces here to cause chaos!
"If you were smart enough to make that call, then you should've just told your little sister how to live. You may have copied my methods, but at the end of the day, you're still undead...!"
Once he understood Seira's condition, he attempted to reverse her condition with each of his innate elements one-by-one.
He tried Dark Shadow first. It would've been easy if he could sever cause-and-effect, reversing her death, but... He'd somewhat expected this himself, but he wasn't at the level where he could do that yet. It was similar to bringing a dead person back to life. If he could do this, then he would've given Jin a human body already.
He tried his Dark Flame next. He wanted to 'steal' the curse that ate away at her, but because of what Seagald had done, her mana, the undead curse, and Seagald's Annihilation Flame element were mixing together and becoming something else entirely. Unless he stole all of her mana, there was nothing he could do.
If he were to steal all of her mana, she would vanish without a trace. The Shining Flame was also out of the question using the same logic.
'What about light? Eh, this won't work either. Seagald's Annihilation Flame element devoured Seira's light and actually became stronger. He prepared this specifically for Seira... Though my darkness should work.'
So long as the curse was, at its core, based on the darkness element, it had no choice but to be controlled by it. Lee Shin Woo had already achieved peak darkness mastery, and if he linked himself with Seira's mana, which filled her body to the brim and was bursting, then he could cause her mana to change in a completely different direction!
...But it would still change her into an undead. He would stop her from becoming a part of Anti-Skull, but would in-turn turn her into an undead like the Pauls.
'Then... What other options do I have? Sacrifice?'
In the past, when he'd saved Ye Jin Jin, he'd gained a skill called Sacrifice due to his karma. It was a skill that allowed him to kill himself to save someone on the brink of death.
He'd accumulated 164 lives as if they were mileage, so he decided to test out the skill. But then...
[The target is changing due to a status ailment. Thus, you cannot target them with this skill.]
"How can you call this a status ailment!? You said I could save someone on the brink of death! She's clearly dying! So does it only work when they're dying from something physical!? A case like that'd be hard to find. What a shitty skill!"
As expected of Anti-Skull's leader. Lee Shin Woo had mastered several abilities, yet even he was hard-pressed to deal with this.
Then again, it was because Seagald was this skilled that he was able to free the undead from the curse and turn them into Anti-Skull in the first place! He was so skilled that it pissed Lee Shin Woo off!
'...Alright. Let's give up on saving her. Granny, you lived a long life.'
He boldly decided to give up on her. Plus, he didn't really cherish her enough to risk his life to save her. He just thought that it'd be better to save her. But because it wouldn't work, he had to give up on it!
But if he just left her like this, she would definitely become a powerful ally to Seagald in the future (for a level 8, she didn't seem like much, but she might get stronger as an undead), so rather than let that happen, it would be better to kill her here and now.
And if it were possible, then...
"Sseup. What should I do with you..."
Even now, Seira was doing her best to resist the transformation, but her screams were getting louder and louder. The Annihilation Flame element, which was attempting to remake her, the undead curse, which had undergone a special evolution that made it more offensive, and her own mana, which wasn't capable of mounting a proper resistance and was being influenced by the two...
'Why did he have to pierce her heart, not only infusing his Annihilation Flame element into her, but also contaminating all of her veins and arteries. ...This bastard. He even anticipated my intervention.'
Moreover, Seira was the hero that had operated in the Underground Empire the longest, so she had accumulated the most of the undead curse within her body. All those factors worked together to cause the worst possible outcome.
In any case, she wouldn't last long. Her body wouldn't survive, so he had to make a decision fast. ...In the end, he only really had one option.
'I guess I have no choice. I have to do it.'
Lee Shin Woo extended his hand with a truly regretful expression and placed it upon her chest wound. His hand emitted a deep darkness and was absorbed into her wound; at the same time, he took hold of her seizing body.
Eventually, the darkness spread, taking hold over their surroundings as well! Lee Shin Woo wasn't aware of this, but time slowed within this space.
"Alright. Let's talk first. It won't be too late to make a decision afterwards."
Because of the shock to her mind and body, it was impossible to hold a proper conversation with her. However, if he were to connect them together with his darkness element, then he would be able to talk to her mentally, like how he talked to Jin or his subordinates.
[Undead! Get away from me this instant!]
He succeeded in his attempt. She didn't scream; rather, he could feel her intent. Although it wasn't very kind to him.
[You're no longer alive, either. You'll become an undead soon. You'll be together with your older brother. Aren't you happy?]
[I don't want to... I don't want to! I don't want to become an undead!]
Why was it that he decided to tease someone endlessly whenever he could? Because of his unnecessary jab, Seira's seizures intensified noticeably!
[I'd rather die than become an undead! Kill me! I said kill me!]
[Then who'll save the Empire? You were always preaching about God or what not; are you going to abandon your calling as a hero?]
[Lee Shin Woo will... He'll save the Empire.]
Lee Shin Woo hesitated. He hadn't even imagined that she'd bring him up. Is it because she didn't need to hesitate and could just speak her mind? Like always, she continued with a lengthy speech.
[I regret not being able to take down the Emperor and my older brother with my own hands, but he should be able to stop them.]
[He's still only level 8.]
[He's different from me, and the other heroes. Unlike me, who indiscriminately hates the undead due to the undead curse, he considers even the undead as chess pieces. He'll do everything in his power to completely destroy the Underground Empire...!]
No way. She'd unexpectedly assessed him perfectly!? Lee Shin Woo had no intention of dating her or something as frivolous as that, but he didn't think she had such a favorable opinion of him!
[An undead's existence is wrong. And the Underground Empire is even worse, as they're attempting to use their strength to take over the surface as well. It was my fate to stop them from leaving the underground, but... It's fine now since Lee Shin Woo is there. So just kill me, Undead.]
[It seems like you know a part of the truth. If you know why they're trying to invade the surface, then why didn't you join them?]
[I hate the surface too, but...!]
[Ooh, as I thought.]
Lee Shin Woo was actually having a lot of fun right now. Seira, who had hidden all of her feelings before, was pouring her heart and soul out to Lee Shin Woo. He just regretted that he didn't have a bowl of popcorn with him.
[I hate them. The Emperor who banished us underground and the God who abandoned us! But if, in the process of escaping to the surface, it means that we have to hurt innocent people on the surface and he has to put his little sister's close friend and his fiance into such a miserable state, then... I'd rather bury the Empire and its empty greed, so that humanity can live on!]
[Fiance...? Ah, the princess was Seagald's fiance, huh. I understand.]
Lee Shin Woo decided to reflect on his statement of Seira being an insane woman. She was definitely insane, but she was still a hero who had her own thoughts and feelings. ...Was there some hope here?
[If that's the case, then you don't hate the undead. You hate the undead curse, and the Undead Emperor's forces, who seek to invade the surface. Why do you hate even me, who is against them and seeks to destroy the undead curse? Think calmly. Can't we become friends?]
[The undead curse... Ah, now that I've become neither dead nor alive, I can say this clearly. ...That I can never join hands with the undead!]
[Seriously, why not?]
Seira seized once more. Her own mana, light, the undead curse, and the Annihilation Flame element mixed together, causing a reaction between them and blazed violently. If Lee Shin Woo's darkness element hadn't blended into it and hadn't kept her stable, then she would've already turned into a member of Anti-Skull.
[There are no undead free of the undead curse! Even my older brother, who searched for a way to resist it for dozens of years, stabbed my chest! My older brother, who could wield the light better than anyone else, was unable to avoid the effects of the curse, so no one can escape its effects! We have to bury everything, so that nothing comes out. That's the only way the world can continue on!]
[Is that really what you think?]
[Yes! So now, please... If you're truly cooperating with Lee Shin Woo, then... If you're even acting as though you are, then just kill me! I said, kill me!]
Lee Shin Woo unleashed even more darkness, forcing a connection between them, and for the first time, the Annihilation Flame element began to wane. The undead curse, which had mutated and was eating away at her, instantaneously lost its strength, and Seira's own light mana and Lee Shin Woo's darkness mixed together and became murky.
This was the start of their 'contract'.
[I can't just let you go like this, Senior.]
[What... L-Lee Shin Woo?]
It hadn't lasted very long, but their face-to-face talk had at least come to an end.
Lee Shin Woo made his decision. He would make this troublesome granny into his ally... Into an undead.Previous Chapter Next Chapter