Chapter 167. Skirmish (2)

The day the army arrived at the fortress went by without much to note, but when the next morning dawned, the fortress became busy.

Haramark’s soldiers were absorbed in latching the fortress gates, inspecting the participating Earthlings and assigning them to different positions, and checking to see whether everything else was in order.

If Teresa was the Chief Commander of Haramark’s forces, then the right to command the Earthlings belonged to Cinzia.

Under the request of the Haramark Royal Family, Cinzia summoned Magicians and Priests without leaving even a single one behind. As these classes were more effective in greater numbers and played a pivotal role in any war, the Royal Family and Cinzia had agreed to manage them together.

Cinzia even selected skilled snipers and placed them around the wall. During this process, Maria and Marcel Ghionea had to leave the team.

Seol Jihu was a little sour about losing two of his reliable comrades, but it wasn’t anything unexpected.

This wasn’t a small battle. An intense battle of an immense scale was bound to erupt, so it was only proper for people to be positioned based on their classes.

And since Maria promised to prioritize Carpe Diem’s members, Seol Jihu quickly lost all feelings of regret.

Next, Cinzia ordered the Earthlings to form groups of ten.

Earthlings weren’t trained soldiers who were proficient in organized warfare. Not only did they lack formal military training, but they were also unfamiliar with formations and rules.

Rather than going for a half-baked attempt at forming a military, both Cinzia and the Haramark Royal Family agreed it would be much more efficient for familiar people to form teams and fight independently.

The allied team of Carpe Diem and Blood Line originally consisted of 14 people. However, with Maria, Marcel Ghionea, and two members of Oh Rahee’s team being repositioned for the same reason, they were left with exactly ten members.

The group consisting of three High-Rank Warriors and seven Level 4s was one of the strongest groups among the Earthlings.

Then, after they organized themselves a little, a scouting report arrived a few days later.

The Parasite army had apparently increased their marching speed toward Arden Valley.

Word by word, the scout reported, ‘The Parasites are advancing toward Arden Valley as if to devour it!’

The moment of battle was quickly approaching.

“Eat to your heart’s content while you can.”

At dawn with chilly air flowing about, Chohong spoke as she placed ham and cheese between two slices of bread.

Seol Jihu, who was blankly staring at the walls the entire time, flinched.

“When the war begins, you will barely have time to breathe. The Parasites always employ a do-or-die method. When you begin killing them one by one, you start getting hungry quickly.”

“She’s right. Even if you don’t have an appetite, it’s best to fill your stomach. That will loosen up your body a bit.”

Huu, huu. Hugo chimed in as he blew air on a spoonful of soup before drinking it.

Chohong finished making her sandwich and handed it to Seol Jihu. When she gestured at him to take it, Seol Jihu took it and put it into his mouth without a word of complaint.

Chohong hummed and began to make more sandwiches.

Once breakfast ended, Seol Jihu led his comrades to their assigned position on the wall. Eventually, the dimly lit dawn melted away as the sun peaked its head over the horizon.

The sun slowly climbed up the sky until it hung in the middle and was directly above the fortress. Even though several hours had gone by, Haramark’s infantry stood in straight lines and stared outside the fortress walls without the slightest hint of movement.

The thousands of spears pointing toward the sky reflected the light of the sun and shone brilliantly. This magnificent sight would certainly cause anyone watching to marvel in awe.

It was then.

Seol Jihu’s eyes that were quietly observing the distance, twitched.

He could see a faint dot that rose up a dust cloud, expanding in size in the blink of an eye until it filled his entire view.

An invisible vibration reached the fortress through the air, causing it to shake.

BBOOOO-! The sound of a horn rang out from the watchtower.

It signaled the appearance of an enemy. Immediately, the bustling grew louder.

Soon, black seawater erupted in the distance.

Between the valley and beyond the mountain, the Parasite army began to appear in all directions. Turning the sky and the earth black, they rushed in like a tidal wave.

“Here they come.”

Phi Sora muttered, and Seol Jihu could hear it as well. Just hearing the rumbles from feet stomping on the ground sent shivers down his spine.

The horn resounded again. It was signaling everyone to prepare for battle.

The distance between the two armies reduced to several kilometers in just a blink of an eye. Thanks to eating the Golden Wind Phoenix, Seol Jihu’s eyesight had improved tremendously, allowing him to distinguish each entity clearly.

He could see Bugs and Cockroaches.

But there were Parasites he had never seen before and even ten Medusas built with all kinds of corpses.

The most noteworthy one, however, was the elephant-like creature that was the main source of all the rumbling. To be precise, this odd mammoth-like monster had nine serpent heads attached to its humongous body.

“Fuck… there’s even a Hydra.”

“Hydra?”

“They’re high-ranked species even among the Parasites’ high-ranked species. They’re difficult to kill and use something similar to magic….”

Chohong scratched her head with an annoyed look.

Just like Arbor Muto said, the Parasites had no tactics or strategies. They put forward an army easily surpassing ten thousand heads and were rushing in like an angry wave.

Right. The war had already begun. From the moment the enemy entered the valley.

Seol Jihu swallowed the saliva pooling in his mouth and looked around. Teresa was standing on the fortress wall, staring out at the enemy coldly.

Why was she standing still even though the enemy had entered their range of fire?

At that moment, the unpleasant sound of Cockroaches flapping their wings rang out.

Seol Jihu was familiar with this noise. After flying at a low altitude, the Cockroaches shot up to the sky simultaneously.

Like a swarm of locusts wanting to devour everything in their path, they stormed forward intensely.

It was as clear as daylight that the castle walls would become chaotic if they got any closer.

‘At least fire some arrows!’

“Target the Cockroaches! Everyone, load!”

A familiar voice struck his ears.

Kiririk—!

The sound of bowstrings being pulled rang out from the new weapon Arbor Muto talked about.

Six of seven soldiers were stationed around each colossal ballista, operating the pulleys.

Arbor Muto stared at the sky and shouted at the top of his lungs.

“From the left! In order! FIRE—!”

Tong, tong, tong, tong! Heavy noises resounded, and giant boomerang blades shot out starting from the left.

The blades spun like a windmill fan and drew arcs in the air. The moment they sliced through the swarm of Cockroaches rushing in like starving beasts, Seol Jihu’s eyes brightened.

Kagagak—!

The unpleasant sound only lasted a moment.

The Cockroach swarm became sprinkles of flesh as if they had been put through a grinder.

There was no other way to put it. The violently spinning blades had broken through the Cockroaches carapace and torn them apart.

It was mind-blowingly refreshing to see such a massive swarm of monsters being ground up completely.

But that wasn’t the end. After flying through the wall of Cockroaches, although the boomerang blades lost a bit of their rotational force, they still spun and descended diagonally to the ground.

Then they cut through the dense army of Parasites flooding in until they struck the ground or ran out of power.

Remnants of Cockroaches rained down on the severed bodies of grounded Parasites.

Waaaaaaaaah!

A loud roar erupted. Screams from the fortress shook the entire land.

“Uhahaha! Amazing! That was amazing!”

“Woaaah! Woaaaaaaah!”

Chohong and Hugo exclaimed loudly, waving their weapons, and even Seol Jihu screamed at the top of his lungs.

Kiyaaaaaaa!

On the other hand, the Medusas grew enraged. They were irritated that the advance party they sent in had been decimated without any result.

Next, the ten Medusas opened their mouths, and scarlet sparks of light flickered inside.

“Flamebreaths!”

Along with this shout, ten adult-sized fireballs shot out of the Medusa’s mouths.

They flew forward, leaving behind a long trail of fire in the air. However, the Priests, who had their spells prepared, created barriers that blocked the fireballs before they could even reach the fortress.

“FIRE!”

Meanwhile, the ballistas had finished reloading.

The second round of attacks was aimed at the monsters on the ground. Boomerang blades hurled toward the Parasites like a fierce storm.

Seol Jihu could not hide his joy as he stared at the blades sweeping through the battlefield.

He couldn’t help but wonder how the Empire could fall so soon when they had created dozens of such powerful, effective weapons. However, he didn’t have the time to think about such questions.

The terrifying Parasite army was being swept away helplessly.

Seol Jihu felt the doubt in his heart asking ‘Can we win?’ slowly tilting towards ‘Yes’.

The hope that everyone could win and return alive welled up in his heart.

On the other hand, the Medusas glaring at the fortress hatefully screamed once more. Then the central troops that had faltered for a moment stepped on the corpses of their kins and marched forward.

It was then that Teresa’s complexion changed.

“Damn it.”

She should be happy at the power of humanity’s new weapon, but she cursed angrily and tightened her grip on the crystal ball in her hand.

“What’s wrong?”

When Ian asked, Teresa let out a short sigh before murmuring with a hoarse voice.

“…Nests have been found.”

Ian’s eyes widened. As Teresa knew about the Parasites’ nature, she had ordered the scouts to search the valley once more rather than return.

And sure enough, the scouts belatedly discovered several Nests camped in a gorge. They must have taken root secretly during the march.

“Didn’t the scouts not find anything before?”

“The Parasites hid them well. After all, the Nests are the Parasites’ treasures.”

Hearing this, Ian clicked his tongue and asked.

“If we form a detached force and task them with eliminating the Nests—”

“They’ll get devoured as soon as they get near. The Nests already have incredible fighting power. But what’s more worrisome is that the Parasites wouldn’t have left the Nests alone.”

Teresa spoke sharply.

“Then what should we do? Focus on defending the fortress? Or—”

Teresa became conflicted. At that moment, light flickered in her communication crystal. A report came in that more Nests had been found.

With this, a total of nine mid-ranked Nests and one high-ranked Nest were confirmed.

“Ah, fuck!”

Teresa’s fair mouth finally spat out a harsh curse.

“Those crazy fuckers! A high-rank Nest!?”

The number of mid-ranked Nests was surprising enough, but the bigger problem was that a high-ranked Nest had taken root.

In the worst-case scenario, in just a few days, they might lose the fortress that took several months of painstaking effort to construct.

If the Medusas were the pregnant mothers giving birth to low-ranked species, then the Nests were like the mothers of those mothers.

Giving birth to mothers, area control, land decay, corpse absorption, and parasite production… as the Nests had all sorts of abilities, they were like trustworthy mothers for the Parasites. Of course, that wasn’t the case for anyone facing them.

According to the rumors, even Tigol Fortress, which withstood the onslaught of five of the Seven Armies, could not withstand the power of 200 Nests and fell.

Ian made a bitter expression.

“We have no other choice.”

Teresa glared at the Hydras standing tall at the backline of the Parasite army and spoke.

“Damn it! I was wondering why they were standing still…. It was to protect the path to the Nests. Ian, how is the spell going?”

Ian glanced at the five Magicians standing above a star-shaped magic circle.

“Given the scale of the spell, it will take some time.”

Teresa grit her teeth.

“Fuck, I guess we have no other choice then. We’ll have to do it the textbook way. Sanctus!”

“Yes, I’ll get ready immediately.”

A man wrought with stab wounds who was standing next to Ian and Teresa the entire time gave orders immediately.

The wall grew louder. The firmly standing infantry marched down in an orderly fashion and gathered in front of the fortress gate.

It was the same with Earthlings who were assigned to the interception group. Upon hearing the order, Seol Jihu went down with his comrades.

Leaving a little distance from the soldiers waiting in front of the gate, he waited along with other Earthlings.

‘What happened?’

He did not know what was going on, but the situation had suddenly fallen into disorder.

Two commands had been passed down. One was for them to wait until the infantry cleared a path. The second was to take this path to eliminate the Medusas.

Other commands would supposedly be passed down depending on the situation.

Although he heard that the fortress would cover for them as much as possible, he couldn’t help but tilt his head.

“All Archers, LOAD—!”

At Teresa’s shout, the Archers standing on the fortress wall all nocked their arrows and aimed their bows high.

“FIRE—!”

When a clear, ringing voice resounded, hundreds of arrows shot up simultaneously.

Looking up at the arrows disappearing beyond the fortress wall, Seol Jihu snapped out of his daze at a loud resounding sound coming from the front.

The soldiers had lifted the latch and were opening the sealed gate.

As the gate slowly opened, Seol Jihu saw the continuation of arrows raining down and Parasites rushing towards them through the rain.

Seeing the battlefield from the ground and not from above gave him pressure on a different level.

“CHAAARGE!”

Jan Sanctus roared, and the infantry raced forward. As soon as they left the fortress gate, they split in two before charging at the enemies on two fronts.

The moment the two armies collided, Seol Jihu furrowed his brows.

The recoil from the clash was so great that he saw soldiers fully equipped in heavy armor fly up to the sky.

Even so, Haramark’s elite infantry managed to stick their shields on the ground, stabbing their spears forward and forming a battlefront.

Of course, as long as they didn’t receive further reinforcement, they would not be able to last forever.

Seol Jihu gripped his Ice Spear.

Seeing the bloody battle unfolding before him and realizing that he would have to jump in the middle of it, his heart began to pound.

“Wait. Don’t jump out on your own.” Chohong placed her hand on Seol Jihu’s trembling shoulder and said, “It’s not our turn yet.”

“Why? Are you nervous?” Phi Sora cracked her neck from side to side and asked. Then, she spoke confidently, “Don’t worry. Just stay behind me, Dear.”

Oh Rahee smirked, “Don’t get scared.” She fiddled with the ends of her hair as she usually did. The corner of her mouth curled up. “You lose a war when you get scared.”

All three women spoke to help the youth relax, but unfortunately, Seol Jihu was busy letting their words in through one ear and out the other.

After all, what he was thinking was completely different than what they were expecting.

‘Ah. This feeling…’

A strange sense of déjà vu welled up.

At this moment, Seol Jihu finally realized the identity of the emotion that had been bothering him since he entered the valley.

His blood curdled, and his lower abdomen tensed up. His mouth clattered, causing his teeth to strike against each other. Unable to withstand the ecstasy, his arms and legs shook.

His entire body heated up and seemed ready to erupt.

This was it.

Seol Jihu was wanting this.

After the first murder he committed in Stage 3 in a fit of rage, something inside of him that had been released from its shackles subconsciously consumed his entire body.

Soon.

Cinzia’s sortie command fell. At the same time, Seol Jihu subconsciously kicked off the ground harder than he needed to.

When he left the fortress gate in the blink of an eye, his restricted field of vision widened instantly, and the vast battlefield entered his view.

Feeling a mysterious sense of freedom, Seol Jihu shot forward with enough intensity to make his hair fly backward.

He had no idea that his Ice Spear was emitting a golden aura.

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