A blade-like killing intent filled the reddish-black temple. It belonged to only one existence, and the existence’s killing intent and demonic energy mixed together to form demonic flames.
The devil, Plucas, chided Chae Joochul’s foolishness. However, Chae Joochul remained silent. Facing the existence known as a devil, Chae Joochul didn’t feel any strong emotion. If anything, Chae Joochul felt disappointment. Disappointment that he was this way.
Seeing this, Plucas became angry.
The devil released demonic energy, still sitting on his throne. His demonic energy quickly took the form of a hand and shot forward. Though a terrifying amount of demonic energy was burning in the devil’s hand, Chae Joochul only raised his cane to block the blast.
The magic power infused in the cane clashed with the devil’s demonic energy, sending currents of energy crackling out in all directions. The devil continued to move his hand of demonic energy. It stretched out towards Chae Joochul’s arm but appeared by his head in the next moment; it tried to grab Chae Joochul’s neck but appeared by his leg in the next moment. Plucas’ strange hand of demonic energy warped through space as it attacked in all directions.
However, Chae Joochul responded calmly and thoroughly. He blocked the devil’s attacks and tried to read the pattern in his movements. He didn’t need to cast barrier or use qi reinforcement. With just his cane, he blocked all attacks.
Since a single hand from the devil was unable to threaten Chae Joochul, the battle entered a stalemate.
Even so, the devil remained sitting. Chae Joochul carefully studied his throne. Did he think he could fight while staying seated, or did he have no other choice? There was a big difference between the two.
The devil knew this as well, so he stayed silent. There was no change in his expression. The human, whose body Plucas had taken over, showed neither sorrow nor frustration.
Suddenly, the devil shot out a huge blast of demonic energy. Chae Joochul formed a barrier with magic power and received the attack head on. At the same time, his magic power surged. There was no need for any preparatory movements. Chae Joochul gathered the magic power he needed in an instant and blasted it forward.
However, the wave of magic power didn’t reach Plucas. Just like Chae Joochul had done previously with his magic power, the devil formed a spherical dome with his demonic energy to protect his body.
Chae Joochul concentrated magic power into his cane. The Immortal’s cane became a catalyst that sucked in magic power, and soon he released the terrifying magic power in an instant.
A beam of magic power shot towards Plucas— However, he scattered it with only a single wave of his hand.
Until this point, neither the devil nor the Immortal had let out a single groan or pant.
Under the heavy silence, the devil’s hand suddenly multiplied. Several hands wiggled out from the back of the throne, making him resemble the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva. Soon, a weapon was placed on the devil’s formerly empty hand.
It was a scythe, one that a god of death would carry.
When Chae Joochul saw this, he immediately knew that he would not survive a single slash from this weapon. As such, Chae Joochul also released his magic power to the fullest.
The Immortal’s brilliant magic power rose up in the devil’s temple. Some portions glistened like water droplets, some burned like flames, some wavered like the wind, and some were solid like rocks.
The devil remained silent, and the Immortal’s light brightened up the devil’s den.
The Immortal’s magic power engulfed the surroundings, carrying the properties of the four elements.
This was a type of large-scale restricted field that only the Immortal could form. Standing in this domain possessing the power of nature, Chae Joochul struck his cane down on the ground.
Immediately, Chae Joochul’s magic power exploded. A huge torrent of fire, earth, wind, and water swept through the temple and stormed towards Plucas, who reached out with his hand.
Dozens of demonic energy hands shot out, charging towards Chae Joochul while obstructing his path of escape. In a split second, Chae Joochul weighed his options calmly. Left, right, and behind would all lead to death, so there was only one answer.
Chae Joochul kicked off the ground and shot forward towards the direction of the devil. Several hands chased him from behind and from both sides, but only a tiny fraction of them came from the front.
However, a black scythe swung down from this direction. His body was already in the air. Chae Joochul had to make a choice.
Of course, the outcome was already decided.
Chae Joochul no longer possessed any ‘emotion’ to obstruct him. As such, he showed no hesitation in giving his flesh to cut the bone. As he did not hesitate, he was able to escape from the devil’s clutches. Chae Joochul sacrificed his side and arrived in front of Plucas.
An enormous amount of magic power condensed on his fist. The magic power of the four elements blazing inside the temple also shot towards the devil. Magic power that facilated Chae Joochul’s blood flow boiled, and his sense of time slowed down significantly.
Chae Joochul muttered as he thrust his fist out. The boundless magic power around his hand approached the devil’s stomach.
The vigorous magic power shattered the devil’s demonic energy, and the magic power forming the Immortal’s domain captured the devil’s body.
Plucas’ eyes widened, and Chae Joochul stared into his eyes directly.
Chae Joochul’s eyes were as emotionless as ever. The devil also stared at Chae Joochul with similar eyes. They resembled each other in emotionlessness, but the situation they were in was vastly different.
“…A human with no heart.”
Eventually, Plucas muttered his judgment of Chae Joochul. Plucas stared deep into Chae Joochul’s eyes, which were devoid of emotions and functioned like a machine.
Then, Chae Joochul made a small smile. Even he was unable to understand the meaning behind it. But the smile soon disappeared, and Chae Joochul emotionlessly continued the words he began to say before.
“For you have not stayed on this planet for long…”
Chae Joochul placed his hand on the devil’s head.
“And for you are too arrogant to heed this one’s words…”
Then, he grabbed the horns protruding out from the devil’s head.
“You seem not to know the age-old saying, that ‘humans are scarier than ghosts.’”
Crack, crack…. With rough rupturing noises, the horn was broken off. Even so, the devil seemed full of leisure. Chae Joochul infused his magic power into the devil’s body.
Chae Joochul’s magic power became fire and ice that clashed inside the devil’s body.
The devil could feel the two contradicting elements clashing inside his body. He knew this was the end.
The Immortal’s opposing magic power exploded, tearing the devil’s limbs apart. The human body that the devil had taken over no longer looked like a body.
Just like that, the temple turned silent.
The demonic energy entangled with magic power disappeared, and only the smell of splattered blood tickled Chae Joochul’s nose.
However, Chae Joochul didn’t mind.
He stared at the devil’s horn in his hand. It was emitting large amounts of demonic energy. It was clearly an item with many applications, both politically and technologically.
Suddenly, he felt pain in his side. It was the place cut by the devil’s scythe. Chae Joochul infused his magic power into it.
But, as expected, it couldn’t be healed. He also had an instinctive feeling that it wouldn't heal naturally for the rest of his life.
Chae Joochul looked at the devil once again. His corpse was all over the temple, but each piece was burning up under Chae Joochul’s magic power.
With its head destroyed, limbs torn apart, and hands and feet scorched, not even a devil should be capable of returning alive.
That was enough.
Chae Joochul walked out of the temple with his hand on his wound. He remained cold even as he continued to lose blood from the painful injury. To enjoy longevity, he was sponsoring a child with the Authority of Healing. If he visited her, she should be able to fix even the most fatal wound….
The sound of footsteps became distant, and Plucas continued to remain dead.
However, when time passed and Chae Joochul’s presence completely disappeared…
Plucas, hanging onto his consciousness, opened one eye. The devil’s eye was stuck to the sole of the foot of his incarnation, who was now mostly a pile of ash. The devil blinked and began to restore his body.
A devil couldn’t be killed easily. Once descended successfully, a devil couldn’t be annihilated. It had eternal life, unlike humans. This was the reason humans from countless planets lost to devils and had their homeland transformed into the Demon Realm….
Plucas revealed the reason he was calm in the face of death. He slowly resurrected himself.
It was then.
“That old man just said that humans are scarier than ghosts.”
A frivolous voice suddenly rang out. The devil’s eye shot open and turned to the direction of the sound.
Its bloodshot eyes captured a dark figure. The man who soon appeared stared down at him.
“I think the same way.”
An ominous sound flowed into the devil’s ear.
Although his heart had not regenerated yet, he felt his heart sink clearly.
“So just think of me as a ghost. One that devours existences like you.”
Next, cold steel touched the devil’s eye. From the empty muzzle, a fierce current of air flowed.
It was then that Plucas lost his composure. He had felt the chilling god-slaying energy undulating inside the muzzle.
—Y-You, H-Human, listen to me….
Annihilation of existence. The devil knew instinctively that this was imminent.
“Don’t be scared.”
The man’s finger went on the trigger. With a grin, he continued.
“It’ll be over in the blink of an eye.”
The devil’s desperate cry resounded, but the man easily pulled the trigger.
Just like that, the bullet was fired.
Plucas died silently without a sound. Without leaving behind a trace, he scattered into the air as ash.
The metal that annihilated the devil flowed into the man’s pocket. Soon, a fierce bird of prey landed on his shoulder.
The man, Kim Hajin, thoroughly retrieved even the tiniest crumbs the devil left behind. Then, he spoke leisurely.
“Let’s go straight to the 28th floor.”
Countless messages were filling his sight. They were new yet familiar messages.
[You gain 300SP for killing a devil!]
[2 Devil Annihilation – You made an amazing achievement!]
[By annihilating two devils, you obtain an Authority.]
[Master Sharpshooter has been promoted to grade-2! Grade-1 is now within arm’s reach!]
[By killing Plucas…]
[28F – Demon Metropolis]
Aileen and her party were walking on muddy ground. The Demon Realm’s scenery wasn’t fit for human habitation. Its black soil stuck to their shoes like a sticky gel, and the air carried dense demonic energy that hurt their throat whenever they breathed.
Aileen and the others wandered for a long time in this place. As they did not have the system’s help, they could not return to Earth, and if they wanted to leave, it would have to be through the Colosseum. So once they left, there would be no way to come back.
“So… you think that’s the place?”
After walking for seemingly an endless period of time, they found something resembling a giant castle. Historically, castles were places where kings or those of similar status stayed. Since the king of the Demon Realm should be the Demon King, the ‘Demon King who wanted a challenge’ that Black Lotus was talking about should be in that castle.
“I believe so.”
Jin Seyeon answered.
“By the way, he said we had to clear it, right? Where did he go?”
Aileen grumbled unhappily. She expected Black Lotus to continue being their pathfinder, but he had disappeared while she was distracted.
The way he disappeared was even more dumbfounding. No one knew where or how he disappeared. They couldn’t even feel a slight flow of magic power. Black Lotus had simply vanished like he never existed in the first place.
“We should thank him for helping us escape the Colosseum.”
Jin Seyeon said as she stared at the faraway castle. As Jin Seyeon had even obtained a new technique thanks to Black Lotus’ help, she could easily let him off the hook for the Chameleon Troupe’s past deed. After all, he shouldn’t have been their member when the Kwang-Oh Incident happened.
“Senior Jin Seyeon is right. Asking for more would be like asking your savior to pay for your meals.”
Kim Suho nodded and agreed with Jin Seyeon.
“…Yeah, make me the bad guy.”
“That’s not what we meant. For now, let’s get moving. We don’t have time to rest.”
Aileen pouted but still listened to Jin Seyeon anyways. The party quickly re-entered the forest.
“Proceed as slowly and as stealthily as possible.”
Naturally, Jin Seyeon served as their pathfinder. As they were in a ‘city’, there were main streets that led to destinations, but they couldn’t choose such an open path. Jin Seyeon chose to take a roundabout way through the forest.
“…Argh, these things keep touching me.”
The forest was full of thorny vines that wiggled like they were alive, and the demonic trees with eyes constantly spat out magic power or dropped bugs on top of them. Annoyed by the incessant harassment, Aileen released her magic power to use Spirit Speech.
“Try not to use Spirit Speech as much as possible. Magic power is too noticeable.”
When Jin Seyeon stopped her, Aileen furrowed her brows.
“Who do you think I am?”
She shot back and cleared her throat. She was preparing to use Spirit Speech.
“My magic power will not leave behind any trace.”
Her Spirit Speech activated, and Aileen’s magic power became traceless.
“Oh… Amazing, Lady Aileen.”
“Huhum, this is simple. I’m not like you. Oh right, didn’t you get demolished by Black Lotus in an archery battle?”
This time, not even Jin Seyeon could ignore Aileen’s taunting. Jin Seyeon frowned.
“…Your Spirit Speech didn’t work on Black Lotus either.”
“What? Who did you hear that from?”
“I saw it myself. Plus, I lost because of attribute disadvantage. Black Lotus said it himself. That we would have been equal if I used null-attribute instead of luminous-attribute.”
“Hmph, if I fought properly, I would have crushed him too. It’s because I tried to make him take his hood off that….”
…While Jin Seyeon and Aileen were bickering with each other, Kim Suho was having a completely different thought, about Black Lotus’ identity.
‘Strange. No matter how much I think, it’s strange,’ Kim Suho thought.
When he was with Black Lotus, he felt a sense of incongruity. If he had to describe this feeling, it would be… ‘familiarity’.
He felt Black Lotus was familiar. Although it was faint at first, the feeling became clearer as they spent more time together.
‘If I’m not going crazy, I must have met Black Lotus somewhere….’
A cold spark grazed Kim Suho, who was deeply in thought.
‘Could it be?’
Although the possibility was miniscule, what if Black Lotus was also from the Otherworld?
At the same time, Kim Suho remembered the last time he met Jin Sahyuk.
Back then, she acted like she knew Black Lotus. If he remembered correctly, she said, ‘there’s someone I want to kill more than you,’ as she sneered as usual.
Right, that was what she said.
‘If my theory is correct, then the pieces of the puzzle fits. It explains why, even with his strength, he revealed his identity only after entering the Tower of Wish, and why he helped me, who killed his comrade, ‘Chameleon Troupe’s Kaita’, multiple times….’
Jin Sahyuk, Kim Suho, and Black Lotus.
As this thought stretched out in his mind into countless branches, Kim Suho’s face turned more and more serious.
“Suho? Hey, Kim Suho?”
Jin Seyeon held Kim Suho’s shoulder.
“What are you thinking about?”
As it was obvious that he was lying, Jin Seyeon stared at him fixedly. For some reason, she felt like she knew what he was worried about.
“Did you remember something about Black Lotus?”
Jin Seyeon asked. She was also someone with a grudge against the Chameleon Troupe, so Kim Suho couldn’t pretend he was oblivious.
Kim Suho stared into her eyes. The Divine Archer’s eyes were shining beautifully as always.
But he couldn’t reveal his secret so easily, not even to the most trustworthy person.
“It’s nothing, really…. Anyways, for now….”
Kim Suho smiled and shook his head. Then, he took out Misteltein. The time for battle had arrived.
“Let’s take care of these guys first.”
Immediately afterwards, countless monsters popped out of the bushes around them. They were completely different than the monsters they knew. The Demon Realm’s monsters all looked extraordinary.
[Korea, Seoul, Essence of the Strait’s ‘Essential Hospital’]
Essential Hospital. It was the hospital Essence of the Strait acquired two years ago. It was originally called Samhan College Hospital, as it was part of Samhan College. Just like the college it took its name after, it wasn’t famous.
As part of an investment effort, Yoo Yeonha had acquired Samhan College as well. Her reasoning was that the future of a guild was determined by how many talented people it had, and so she wanted to raise non-Hero talents directly.
Before acquiring the hospital and the college, Yoo Yeonha had asked Kim Hajin what he thought. Although she had enough funds with just the guild’s money, she wanted to rope Kim Hajin in if possible. She felt his overwhelming academic results and intelligence would come in use at the college.
Kim Hajin had accepted her request easily. He invested most of the money he possessed, becoming the number one individual investor. From this, Yoo Yeonha could feel how much trust he had in her.
In any case, Essence of the Strait acquired Samhan College with Kim Hajin’s investment and changed its name to Essential College. As the college only had a short history, no one cared for the change in its name. In fact, it brought them greater fame and recognition.
In the hospital created with Kim Hajin’s trust… Yoo Yeonha sighed as she thought about Kim Hajin.
As soon as Yoo Jinwoong’s Master-rank Promotion Ceremony ended, Yoo Yeonha took a leave from work and became hospitalized. She simply wasn’t in a state to do any work.
—Breaking news, a ‘devil’ has supposedly descended on Earth. It is being widely reported all over the globe. We know that devils tempt humans from the mental realm, creating Djinns. But they have never shown themselves in the physical world… until now.
In the empty VIP room, only the sound of a news anchor resounded.
—Chae Joochul the Immortal said in a recent press conference that he has killed a devil, presenting the devil’s horn as proof. From the enormous amount of demonic energy congealed in the horn and the Immortal’s reputation, experts do not doubt his words.
The world became noisier.
Chae Joochul, who murdered a ‘devil’.
Aileen and Kim Suho, who were near the peak of the Tower of Wish.
Chameleon Troupe, who had taken over a quarter of Pandemonium, and the humanoid monsters that appeared there.
Yoo Yeonha saw these reports with empty eyes. None of them talked about Kim Hajin. He had left this world quietly.
“…Hic, why do you always do things alone?”
Yoo Yeonha wiped off the tears in her eyes and turned on her smartwatch. She checked the hundreds of messages she sent to Kim Hajin. There was no reply, and while scrolling up, she saw the last message Kim Hajin sent her.
[By the way, you’re still investing in weapons and defense research, right?]
Rather than a message, it was more of a reminder that he often sent. He would always nag at her to invest money and effort into national defense and weaponry, saying, ‘As the majority shareholder Kim Hajin…’
—With the appearance of a devil and humanoid monster, issues about national defense have come to the forefront of public debate. As a result, Essential Armory, Essential Dynamics, and other Essence of the Strait subsidiaries that focused on weapon development and defense research saw a huge boost in their stock value…
Did he expect this to happen as well?
“He really is incredibly smart.”
The word ‘exceptional’ didn’t begin to describe him. As far as Yoo Yeonha was concerned, she was only able to achieve her current success because Kim Hajin was by her side.
Two knocks rang out as Yoo Yeonha’s eyes started to water up more.
The door opened. As expected, the person behind the door was Yoo Jinwoong. The suit he was wearing for the promotion ceremony was gone, and he now looked like a normal father.
“…Yeonha, are you feeling better?”
Yoo Jinwoong stepped in and sat down next to Yoo Yeonha’s bed. Looking at her father who looked emaciated from worry and nervousness, Yoo Yeonha fell in thought.
“What exactly happened? Did someone do something horrible to you?”
Yoo Yeonha didn’t answer to her father’s trembling voice.
“T-Tell me what happened so Daddy can help you.”
Yoo Yeonha knew hating her father wouldn’t change anything. No one could help resolve this issue.
“Y-Yeah, I’m here. Feel free to talk.”
Even so, Yoo Yeonha refused to restrain herself any longer. She mustered up great courage to say the next few words.
“Do you remember the Kwang-Oh Incident?”
Hearing this, Yoo Jinwoong’s face stiffened. Yoo Yeonha felt pain in her heart, feeling like she became her father’s enemy.
“You do, right?”
She grabbed hold of her weakening heart with unyielding will. She no longer wanted to wait.
She regretted it after learning about his death. She knew she would continue to regret it for the rest of her life.
If only she trusted him a little more, if she told him the truth of the incident, repented, and stayed with him…
“That was your doing, Dad.”
Then he would still be alive.
“Yeonha, what are you….”
“Do you remember the baby who was born that day inside the Kwang-Oh Evacuation Shelter? I read your diary.”
The baby who appeared in the diary.
The man her father had left alive because he thought about her.
Although she had already lost him, that didn’t mean she could hide the truth forever.
Reason had always played a huge role in Yoo Yeonha’s life. However, if only for this moment, Yoo Yeonha wanted to be true to her feelings.
“…became someone who was precious to me….”
As such, she muttered as she sobbed quietly.
“…But he died.”
Her cries became a cold nail that dug into Yoo Jinwoong’s heart.
As a father, Yoo Jinwoong was struck with an overwhelming shock.
Author's Note: The child with the Authority of Healing first appeared in chapter 12.