Chapter 173. Despair, and.

Seol Jihu didn’t move thoughtlessly. No, it was more correct to say he couldn’t.

Given the enemy he was facing, he had to be even more cautious.

‘Damn it… Just how….’

…In truth, he knew the result would be the same regardless of whether he was careless or cautious.

He wasn’t even in a situation where he could buy time.

He had to fight, knowing that he would die. He finally understood what it felt like to be a soldier heading into battle.

“If you won’t come, I will.”

Step. Undying Diligence walked forward.

Seol Jihu realized he could no longer stand still.

If his only choice was to die, he figured he would give his all. Dealing an effective blow might be too much to ask, but if he died without making a single attempt, he felt like he would regret it as he drew his last breath.

When his thoughts reached this point, a tiny bean-sized courage emerged in his heart.

Seol Jihu fixed his posture and tightly grabbed his spear with his trembling hands. Undying Diligence nodded his head.

“Good. That’s what I like to see.”

Seol Jihu shot his eyes open before kicking off the ground. Shouting to shake off fear, he squeezed out every ounce of his strength and thrust forward.

The Ice Spear scattered golden particles of light as it cut through the air. But Undying Diligence remained standing in the same spot, avoiding the attack just by tilting his head to the side.

Seol Jihu must have expected this response, as he immediately changed his attack from a thrust to a strike.

In that instant, Undying Diligence’s knees bent at a right angle. His upper body tilted severely, and Seol Jihu’s spear only struck the empty air.

As if he had been waiting for this moment, Seol Jihu immediately cut down with his spear, but….

“Stop playing around.”

Undying Diligence muttered coldly before using his arm touching the ground as a pivot to spin.

Seol Jihu’s spear grazed his ribs and stabbed the ground.

Rising up like a swallow, Undying Diligence dusted his hand.

“Is that all?”

Seol Jihu’s eyes shook violently.

Setting aside his opponent’s physical abilities that surpassed his wildest imagination… Thrust, Slice, and Cut — he had performed the techniques he was most confident in, yet he had failed to even graze Undying Diligence’s hair.

Not to mention, Undying Diligence had only avoided his attacks and did not even attempt to counterattack in any way.

It was almost as if he was being tested.

Seol Jihu quickly pulled out his spear. Just as he was about to take a step back, he paused.

He was rather close to Undying Diligence.

Since it looked like Undying Diligence had no desire to attack…

Pang! He activated the Festina Earring.

Using the wind enveloping himself, Seol Jihu rushed forward with a gust. After closing the distance in an instant, he curled his body. And just like when he defeated the Orc Champion, he thrust his spear using the springing force of Flash Step.

It was then….

‘Ah.’

He suddenly met a pair of indifferent eyes. An undefinable sense of despair flit past his head. It was as if it was telling him, ‘This isn’t right.’

However, he had already spread his body, and his spear was traveling up.

Undying Diligence raised his finger.

Tak! The finger easily blocked the spear tip that was emanating anti-evil energy. No matter how hard Seol Jihu tried to push his spear forward, it refused to budge.

And when Undying Diligence bent his finger slightly, Seol Jihu felt his center of gravity shift down.

The moment Seol Jihu fell on his butt, he was stunned. He had expected as much, but imagination and reality were completely different.

When he looked up in a daze, he saw a withered face that had lost all interest.

Undying Diligence calmly examined his finger. It was slightly burnt as though someone had extinguished a cigarette on it.

“Just a fool who has the anti-evil power only….”

He rubbed his index finger with his thumb and clicked his tongue.

Their target was a Star who even the Queen they served was afraid of. This Star was more valuable than the Tigol Fortress they conquered through an all-out war.

Naturally, this Star had to have power that would surprise him.

As this was what Undying Diligence thought, it was reasonable for him to judge the ‘current’ Seol Jihu to be lacking.

“It’s a shame, but since you made the choice, I guess there is nothing I can do.”

The moment he raised his foot to crush Seol Jihu like an insect—

Tududuk! Undying Diligence’s neck made a frightening sound while twisting back.

Flone, who was helping out Seol Jihu’s comrades, had raced back after seeing Seol Jihu in danger.

“Hoh.”

Undying Diligence stared at the ghost glaring at him and exclaimed.

“Right. You were here as well.”

Poof! With a grin, Undying Diligence transformed into a mist and shot up into the air. Flone chased after him right away.

Red and black mists drew spirals in the air while emanating a terrifying energy.

“Flone!”

Seol Jihu shot up and created a Mana Spear, but he couldn’t bring himself to throw it. Because Flone was fighting too close to Undying Diligence, there was a chance he would accidentally hit her.

[Die! Dieeeee!]

Flone attacked Undying Diligence with violent hand movements, but she didn’t perform any better than Seol Jihu.

“Your strength is decent…”

Undying Diligence was appraising her attacks while dodging them by paper-thin margins.

“But you lack experience.”

Undying Diligence revealed himself from the mist and smiled brightly.

“Like a young lady tackling a problem with overconfidence, not knowing how the world works.”

As if to destroy his blabbering mouth, Flone clawed at him viciously. However, Undying Diligence reached out and easily snatched her hand.

[!?]

Having been grabbed when she hadn’t even materialized, Flone struggled in a fluster.

[Eek! Eeeeeeek!]

Undying Diligence smiled like he was watching a child throw a tantrum. Then, he poured his energy into his hand.

From the part making contact with Flone, a blood-colored aura seeped in and dyed the black smoke red.

[Aaaaaaaack!]

Flone let out a shrill shriek. The color of her smoke became light, and it began to fall from the sky.

“You must be at least a couple hundred years old…. You’re worthy of being absorbed.”

As Undying Diligence descended slowly, a satisfied smile appeared on his face. He was obtaining an unexpected gain, so it was obvious why he would be happy.

Undying Diligence reached towards Flone, who was lying limp on the ground, twitching.

Seol Jihu burst out with a roar of frustration.

“Floneeee!”

Bellowing loudly, he blindly rushed forward. Undying Diligence glanced at the youth as a hint of irritation flashed across his face.

“Annoying!”

His arm darted sideways like a dragon.

That was the end. Seol Jihu’s vision suddenly darkened, and when he opened his eyes back up, he realized he was staring at the sky.

Flying through the sky— Thud! He struck the ground.

“Kuhuk!”

Fresh blood spurted out of his mouth.

And….

“Kuk.”

The pain…

“Huaaaaaak!”

…came earlier than he thought it would.

From the hole in his chest, fresh blood poured out. Seol Jihu bounced on the ground several times before finally coming to a stop. His limbs flailed left and right, and his body trembled.

“Huk! Huuk!”

As Seol Jihu panted out of breath, a shadow was cast over him.

“Well, still…”

Undying Diligence walked toward him and raised his foot. Since the youth possessed the anti-evil attribute, making sure he was dead was the right thing to do.

“Since you brought me such an excellent nutrient, I’ll send you off painlessly.”

And just as he was about to slam his foot down, a knight cut between them with her heater shield held up.

The silver shield flashed with a holy aura.

“Keuk—!”

Teresa furrowed her brows as she was pushed back.

Undying Diligence opened his mouth with a surprised expression.

“Oho! Princess of Haramark, have you gotten stronger since the last time we met? No.”

Looking at the holy aura flowing around her longsword and shield, he made an understanding look.

“I see, you didn’t get stronger but got a couple of useful weapons.”

“Take him and run! Hurry!”

Ignoring Undying Diligence’s comment, Teresa turned her head half-way and shouted.

Undying Diligence’s eyebrows perked up. A blonde-haired girl ran up to the youth convulsing sporadically and began to frantically chant a spell.

“Miss Maria!”

“Fuck! Shut up!”

“Hurry!”

“You think I’m staying here for fun!? He has to be able to move before we can do anything!”

‘Take him and run?’

With the fortress conquered, there was nowhere they could run to. To be precise, they would be killed even if they ran.

But the one saying this was the princess who chose to fight rather than escape. Naturally, Undying Diligence felt that it was a bit out of place.

And it wasn’t just the princess.

“Uwaaaaaah!”

A black warrior charged in with a shining halberd in hand. Undying Diligence waited apathetically before swinging his fist like a bolt of lightning and sending him flying.

“You bastard!”

Next, he kicked the chin of a battle maiden swinging her mace. He then grabbed the longswords of two swordswomen attacking from the left and right and pulled them together.

Oh Rahee and Phi Sora clashed together before being knocked back.

“Hm….”

Undying Diligence tilted his head as he stared at the four Warriors groaning on the ground around him.

As soon as he knocked out the human carrying anti-evil attribute, Haramark’s princess and the surrounding warriors had rushed in to help.

Clearly, they were all trying to save that one youth.

As the concept of camaraderie did not exist in Undying Diligence’s mind, he couldn’t help but imagine a certain possibility.

And thinking about it now, he had heard that their target was a dead Star, not a shining Star.

‘A dead Star….’

Undying Diligence’s evaluation of Seol Jihu had plummeted, but it began to rise once again. Although it was only an intuition, he felt like there was something about the youth he didn’t get.

He was intrigued once again. So, he turned to a few of his subordinates who were in the middle of killing a group of soldiers, and opened his mouth.

“Stop.”

Four Nosferatus stopped immediately and stood still.

Undying Diligence slowly walked towards Teresa, who was the only one left standing.

“Fuck! Fuck!’

Maria was cursing meaninglessly while focusing on healing Seol Jihu.

She screamed with a pressing voice.

“Get up! Snap out of it!! You son of a bitch, wake up!”

She was using one healing spell after the other, but the wound in his chest was still closing slowly.

Whatever it was that injured him, it seemed to have a power capable of hindering recovery.

And when Seol Jihu finally coughed out a breath of air…

“Please, please…! Hieeeek!”

The desperately pleading Maria suddenly let out a shriek. She scurried back crazily.

It was because Undying Diligence was walking towards her while holding Teresa by her neck.

Although Seol Jihu had partially recovered, he had yet to recover from his state of shock.

When Undying Diligence reached out and grabbed him by his neck, he was pulled up seamlessly. Although Undying Diligence could have killed him here and now, his diligent personality pushed him to see things through to the end.

To be more precise, he sought efficiency.

He could clearly see that the Parasites had taken over the battlefield. Their only remaining task was to search for the Star.

To do this, they would have to scour the fortress or track every single escapee. And this would naturally take time.

On the other hand, if they could finish off their main objective, the rest could be left to their underlings. It was Undying Diligence’s plan to return to Tigol Fortress with the other two Army Commanders as soon as they accomplished their mission.

After all, the faster they returned to the fortress, the greater the chance they would have to protect it.

And for that reason, their target— the dead Star— had to be in this place.

So, he looked back and forth between Seol Jihu and Teresa.

“Is this that human? If not, do you know who it is?”

If it were the former, Seol Jihu would be taken away. If it were the latter, Seol Jihu would be killed.

Knowing this, Teresa only glared hatefully. Undying Diligence promptly threw her to the side as if he hadn’t expected anything.

“She’s a gift for the Queen. Do not kill her.”

With that, he began to walk towards the girl who was kneeling on the ground with both of her arms tied together.

“Answer.”

A Nosferatu forcefully raised Phi Sora’s head.

Undying Diligence shook the hand that was holding Seol Jihu.

“Is this that human?”

Phi Sora looked up with a pair of trembling eyes before opening her mouth with difficulty.

“So….”

“So?”

“…So fucking ugly….”

Phi Sora sniggered as if she had gone mad. Undying Diligence snorted and slammed her with his elbow.

Her neck turned over 90 degrees to the side, and her upper body lifelessly sagged down.

“Is this—”

“Ptui!”

Chohong spat before Undying Diligence could even finish his question.

When the bloody spit got on his uniform, Undying Diligence slammed her head down with his heel.

Blood spurted out from Chohong’s seven orifices.

Undying Diligence calmly took out a handkerchief and wiped off the spit from his uniform.

And when he found the Priest with her head kissing the ground, trembling with her hands cupped together, a conspicuous light flickered in his eyes.

“Answer. You just have to give a confirmation.”

Undying Diligence spoke in a benevolent tone.

“If you answer, I will let you live. This, I promise.”

Maria’s trembling slowly subsided.

The patiently waiting Undying Diligence suddenly blinked his eyes.

Now that he took a closer look, he could see an altar beneath her feet. A cross-shaped artifact was slowly scattering away as ash.

Mor Te Oculorum Meorum!

Maria shot her head up and shouted.

“Mjolnir!”

As Undying Diligence had tilted his head down at the most opportune moment, a large hammer of light directly struck his face.

“…Huuu.”

Undying Diligence sighed as he dusted off the crackling electricity on his face.

“Kwuek—!”

When his foot pierced Maria’s solar plexus, she yelped and passed out like a frog.

Undying Diligence retracted his foot. Seeing the stream of blood flowing through the rocks on the ground, he smacked his lips.

“Should I have kept the guy from before alive…?”

In the end, he muttered, “I guess there’s no choice now.” And just as he put more strength into his grip.

“Should I answer that question for you?”

A cheerful voice rang out.

Undying Diligence’s nose twitched. He saw a fistful of dust shining with silvery light, being scattered around him.

‘This dust…’

Explosion!

In the next instant, the dust exploded with a brilliant light, swallowing Undying Diligence’s face.

“Heup—!”

When Undying Diligence subconsciously took in a breath, the fire quickly subsided. Next, he shook his head strongly, shrugged his shoulders, and turned his body.

An old man with his white beard grown out long was standing there, aiming a staff at him.

“Magician… where did you get this dust?”

“By luck?”

Ian smiled. The Nosferatus quickly showed signs of movement, but Undying Diligence waved his hand to stop them.

“Do you have more of it?”

“Of course not. Because you guys have been so thorough in destroying it, I didn’t even get to see it! I could only acquire a tiny amount thanks to divine fortune. I’m sure you know this better than anyone else, so why ask?”

“…You’re right. But to think you managed to obtain even a tiny amount… you’re quite talented.”

“Thank you for the compliment. Anyways.”

Ian stroked his beard and furrowed his brows.

“How strange. According to the Empire’s historical records, Moon Light was one of the weapons developed to combat the Parasite Queen and her Army Commanders, being one of the few effective tools that—”

“That is indeed true. Crushing a jewel containing rare mana, putting the pieces in a goblet containing holy water, and using the moonlight to balance the two energies — a fusion and condensation of mana and holy power. It was an excellent idea.”

“You say this, but it doesn’t seem to have done much.”

“I wouldn’t say it was completely ineffective.”

When Undying Diligence blew his nose, a lump of blood came out.

“It worked, though just a little bit.”

He wiped his face before staring at Ian.

“A Magician should know about the law of equivalent exchange.”

He was telling Ian to answer his question now that he answered his.

However, Ian waved his hand.

“You’re doing the math wrong. That was something I already knew, and you answered on your own. Don’t expect me to buy into your forced sales pitch.”

“Forced sales pitch, you say…. Well, I don’t see why not.”

Undying Diligence walked forward. Ian chuckled and turned his staff over.

Soram!

The ground rumbled, and pillars of earth shot up.

Undying Diligence stretched his foot out, and he moved in an instant, leaving behind an afterimage.

Spiral!

The surfaces of the pillars of earth distorted. Next, dozens of thorns shot out.

However, Undying Diligence crushed through them with his body and stood directly in front of Ian.

“Since you put on an interesting show and displayed the audacity to talk to me, I will give you another chance. Answer.”

“My friend, isn’t it common sense to ask a question if you want an answer?”

Undying Diligence’s complexion darkened. He lifted Seol Jihu up and opened his mouth.

“There are only two things you can say from now on. Yes, or no.”

“I don’t know.”

Puk! An arm penetrated Ian’s thin stomach. When Undying Diligence stirred up Ian’s insides, Ian took in a deep breath.

“Do you feel like speaking now?”

Ian’s face contorted painfully. But rather than answering, he hurriedly grabbed the enemy’s arm with his aged hands.

Seeing the old man struggle to escape, Undying Diligence raised an eyebrow. And at that moment, Ian shouted past his shoulders.

“Now! Receiver of the Divine Vestige!”

“What—”

Undying Diligence turned back in a startle. However, the scenery behind him was the same. The subordinates he had ordered to stand still were still standing there.

As he turned back front, he saw Ian grinning and throwing a small pouch.

“Heh, gotcha.”

A fistful of moonlit dust burst out from the pouch.

Undying Diligence’s eyes shot open.

Explosion!

BOOM! A glittering brilliance erupted with a sacred blaze, sticking to Undying Diligence’s face.

“Keeeeuu!”

For the first time, Undying Diligence screamed. He wrapped his hands around his face and staggered back.

Ian caught the falling Seol Jihu and quickly dragged him out of the range of the explosion.

“Y-You old insect…!”

Undying Diligence screamed in a pained rage, and the boiling flames were extinguished instantly.

“Fine. I will just kill everyone!”

Putting Seol Jihu down, Ian prepared a gale-type spell to blow the enemy back. At the same time, a bitter look surfaced on his face.

‘Damned old village head.’

Seeing the enemy flying over like a swallow, he cursed Arbor Muto, not knowing whether he was dead or alive.

‘Couldn’t you have brought more of this stuff with you when you escaped?’

A fist slammed down on Ian’s bitterly smiling face.

Indiscriminate pummeling ensued. After striking Ian’s face five, six times, Undying Diligence kicked his stomach hard.

Beaten severely, Ian fell on top of Seol Jihu without uttering a single cry.

“I will kill you both!”

A reddish-black mist of blood rose up behind Undying Diligence as if to reflect his soaring rage. Just as he was about to swing his hand and slap the old man to death…

“!”

Undying Diligence suddenly tilted his head in a startle.

At the same time, a jade-colored spear containing a holy aura shot down from the sky.

[KUAAAAAA!]

A terrifying scream rang out.

“….Hm?”

Vulgar Chastity, who was leisurely spectating the battlefield from the sky, narrowed her eyes.

“This aura….”

With a serious look, she slowly scoured the area before fixating her gaze on one spot.

When their queen’s spirit changed greatly, the surrounding succubi flapped their wings and flew up in the sky.

At the same time…

“Valiant effort.”

Unsightly Humility praised Cinzia, who was rammed against the fortress gate. The two of them seemed to have battled fiercely, as half of Unsightly Humility’s helmet was gone alongside his skull.

On the other hand, Cinzia was clutching onto her stomach, which was turning red with blood, and glaring at the enemy with her face drenched in sweat.

“You only had a single Servant helping you, yet you managed to fend off my elite knights and even injured me to this degree. Your feat is certainly worthy of praise. So don’t be too disappointed.”

Unsightly Humility spoke as he took a big bite out of the human leg in his hand.

Cinzia bit her lip as she saw Agnes collapsed in front of the spectral horse with her legs ripped out.

Unsightly Humility chewed on the flesh dripping with blood before tossing it to the side.

“Humans are indeed tasty. Well, now that I have filled my stomach, it’s time to—”

As he was talking, his skull suddenly turned back.

“…Eh?”

His mouth dropped open as unfinished pieces of Agnes’ leg fell out.

“Oho… Now this is unexpected.”

The three Army Commanders were all looking in one direction — at Dawn Peak.

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