Chapter 175. The Second Coming (2)

Like a candle that had run through the wick, like a pooled liquid drying out and disappearing… the critically wavering light in Ian’s eyes quickly subsided. And after turning into a dot in an instant, it eventually disappeared altogether.

With their light extinguished, Ian’s eyes quickly grew dimmer. Seol Jihu’s heart sank.

“I…”

When Seol Jihu called Ian’s name, his head slouched down and slowly gave way. Seol Jihu reached out subconsciously and held his frail shoulders in a hurry.

He felt like this would really be the end if he let Ian fall. That this would be their farewell.

But even when he forcefully straightened his falling body, nothing changed. Ian’s head lifelessly slouched down. A faint smile was still adorning his aged face.

Smiling with his eyes half-closed, he looked comfortable and relaxed. It was almost as if he had a dream before falling asleep.

It was a short dream, but having it even for a moment made me happy— that was what his face seemed to say.

And Seol Jihu endlessly looked down at this face in a daze.

“Master Ian.”

His hoarse voice called the old man. However, he couldn’t hear Ian’s reply. Even when he shook his shoulders, only his head bobbed.

[Sorry, sorry. I got held up slightly. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Haramark, and the streets felt so refreshingly open, you see.]

“Master Ian!”

[My friend, well… by any chance… do you like titties?]

“Master Ian?”

[Aiya. So what, you’re not gonna do it?]

“Master Ian.”

[Then I will answer you. As everyone’s representative—]

“Master Ian….”

[Yes. You are certainly worth it.]

The more he talked and the more he confirmed Ian’s unresponsiveness, the more Seol Jihu’s eyes got out of shape. Ba-Thump—

His heart started pounding. Enveloped by an indescribable sense of déjà vu, Seol Jihu carefully placed his hand on his beating heart.

A stinging pain that seemed to tear his heart apart flooded in.

After staring disbelievingly with a grimace…

“…Priest.”

He murmured quietly.

“Priest— I’ll bring a Priest. Wait… wait just a bit.”

Clutching onto his pounding heart, he turned back. Pulling against the ground with his elbows, he slowly crawled out. Soon, he left the destroyed watchtower and stood up while staggering. In that moment—

“H…!”

He swallowed his words calling for help.

“Save us!”

It was because a piercing shout had struck his ears.

Beneath the fortress wall, a female Priest in a dirtied white robe was running away.

Seol Jihu recognized her face.

It was Mary Rhine, the female Priest who had participated in the Delphinion Laboratory rescue mission.

Although Seol Jihu was lucky enough to spot a Priest, he didn’t dare to call her over. This was because two Nosferatus were chasing after the frantically fleeing Priest.

“Somebody help…!”

The Nosferatus finally pounced on her. One violently pressed down on her back, while the other grabbed onto her ankles and crushed them, and Mary Rhine shrieked in despair.

“Rhine!”

Erica Lawrence, the Level 6 Imperial Knight who masterfully wielded a fiery longsword, shouted. A few smoked corpses could be seen underneath her feet, but there were even more Nosferatus attacking her from all directions.

At that moment, one Nosferatu took advantage of her momentary loss of focus and successfully dug its fangs in her neck.

The startled Erica Lawrence flailed her arms violently, but her elbows only struck the empty air. Her enraged frowning face slowly transformed into that of ecstasy.

Eventually, she shuddered and let go of the longsword in her hand. The moment she fell to her knees, the group of Nosferatus pounced on her.

It was a gruesome and wretched sight.

After watching this scene unfold from a distance, Seol Jihu’s legs gave out, and his body swayed. He staggered to regain his balance, but that was when something squishy touched his foot.

“Ah…”

It wasn’t just underneath the fortress wall that chaos was breaking out.

Headless soldiers and Earthlings whose body had become partially mummified. Standing on the now-lifeless, corpse-filled wall, completely swept away by death… Seol Jihu looked around the area in a daze.

The Nosferatus, having infiltrated the fortress and sweeping through with a frightening force.

Vulgar Chastity, leading her army and fiercely storming the fortress gate.

The succubus army, busily flying above Dawn Peak.

The Medusas, screaming resentfully and commanding the Parasite army, and the nine-headed Hydra, spitting out breaths of all colors and forms at the fortress.

90 degrees, 180 degrees, 270 degrees, 360 degrees.

No matter where he looked, it was total pandemonium.

Ian was right. Although reinforcements had arrived, the tide of battle had not turned. The inevitable had only been delayed for a moment.

Seeing what looked like the end of the world, Seol Jihu’s mind grew more and more chaotic. Unable to endure it any longer, he shot his eyes open, plugged his ears, and began to run blindly.

Even he didn’t know why he was running.

‘Everyone… is dead….’

When the shock of witnessing an unacceptable reality that surpassed his mental limit mixed with his forgotten guilt, Seol Jihu truly felt like he’d lose his mind.

And so, not knowing what to do, Seol Jihu ran like an aimless bullet. He could feel something squishy and sticky on his feet, but Seol Jihu continued to run with bloodshot eyes, like a beast driven to a cliff.

Eventually, he shut his eyes.

If he couldn’t see this horrible sight, if he couldn’t hear these piercing screams— anywhere was fine.

At that moment, he suddenly felt his foot slip, and his body lost its balance.

Seol Jihu screamed.

Splash!

“Keuk!”

A sickening smell of blood stung his nose. The pounding in his chest got worse. When dizziness crept up his head, his stomach churned and he wanted to vomit.

As he floundered on the ground flowing with blood and bits and pieces of flesh, he suddenly caught sight of a familiar back.

If he wasn’t mistaken, that was Chohong.

Seol Jihu paused and strained his ears. He could hear a faint groan coming from the bloody body. Seol Jihu crossed the mountain of corpses and the sea of blood to flip over the woman lying face-down.

“Heuk—”

As soon as he saw her face, an agitated groan escaped his mouth.

Her face was drenched from the blood pouring out of her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and even her neck and chest areas were dyed red. It was as if she had washed her face in blood.

If she hadn’t opened her eyes, Seol Jihu might have had trouble recognizing her.

However, Chohong narrowly opened her eyes and grinned.

“You’re alive….”

Her voice wasn’t as energetic as usual but much more enervated.

‘No way.’

Seol Jihu’s pounding heart began to hammer his body.

“He must have… thought… I was dead… cough!

Chohong let out a harsh cough, seemingly having choked on something while talking.

As Chohong writhed in pain, Seol Jihu held onto her hands tightly. He could tell her hands were unusually cold.

“But…”

Her coughing stopped.

“Why… did you come back…? You… moron….”

Panting heavily to take in air…

“…But then again…”

Chohong smirked.

“That’s just like you….”

It was something he had heard before. Seol Jihu’s eyes grew larger. He also put more strength into his hands, bringing Chohong’s hands to his forehead.

“Hey… can you… do me… a favor…”

Chohong’s eyebrows trembled as she struggled to open her mouth.

“Kill me….”

Seol Jihu frowned as hard as he could and bit his lower lip hard enough to make it bleed.

“It hurts so much… I’d rather… huh?”

Chohong stopped in the middle of her sentence and blinked a couple times.

“Oh… it doesn’t hurt anymore….”

She must have gotten the chills as she suddenly shuddered.

“Ah… it’s so cold….”

Eventually, she breathed out a long sigh and slowly closed her eyes. Chohong’s hands escaped Seol Jihu’s grasp.

Looking at her chest, which was still puffing up and down, Seol Jihu fell into a deep self-hatred.

[But then again… that’s just like you…]

The Chohong, who saved him from the Nest back at Ramman Village, and the Chohong now, who was drenched in blood, overlapped in his sight.

“Chohong!”

Seol Jihu activated Nine Eyes, thinking ‘What if?’ It wasn’t that he expected Nine Eyes to do anything about this situation. But he hoped it would.

Because that was the only thing he could do. Because that was the only thing he could currently rely on.

But in the next instant, Seol Jihu blanked completely.

The entire world turned black.

Escape Immediately.

Even the Nine Eyes, his last resort, was telling him to hurry up and escape. That running away was the only answer.

“Ha… haha….”

He was frustrated. So frustrated that tears began to pool around his eyes. And at the same time, it was so damn funny. He laughed at himself for only being able to watch as his comrades died.

He had put in such painstaking efforts to never have to experience something like this again… but in the end, he couldn’t do anything again.

He was helpless as Chohong was dying right in front of him.

‘Punishment….’

Driven to such a corner, he even thought that this situation was him being punished.

Right, punishment. That was the only way he could justify something like this happening.

This had to be a divine punishment handed to him for what he had done to his family.

Cause and effect. Seol Jihu had chosen the law of causality to guide him in his life in Paradise.

But this law didn’t only apply to others. Seol Jihu wasn’t an exception.

‘I….’

He was lost in the world of gambling. He turned his back on his family and betrayed his girlfriend dozens of times.

He wasted every day of his life. It was truly the life of a trash. And since he lived like trash, it was only natural that he died like one.

‘But….’

To be honest, he wanted to change. He knew it was already too late, but he wanted to change anyways.

‘That’s why.’

He had chosen another reality to change his pathetic reality. Even then, it was the same story.

Risking his life to be the bait, volunteering himself for a job he didn’t need to do and enduring all sorts of pain to escape, surpassing his limits while withstanding hellish training— it was all useless.

He wondered if salvation would come at the end of the tunnel, but in front of overwhelming power, in front of a large force, he was forced to his knees helplessly.

He wanted to deny it, but reality was telling him thus:

Why are you trying to change now?

Can trash like you be recycled?

You’re unable to do anything, both on Earth and in Paradise.

Trash like you should meet a trash-like ending.

Right. In the end, he had failed. No matter how much he struggled and thrashed, reality did not change.

No matter what he did, reality was the same.

“….”

Tears began to flow from his eyes. A sense of helplessness he never wanted to experience again took over his body.

Seol Jihu dropped his head without a word.

From dispirited to disheartened, from disheartened to despair, and from despair… to acceptance.

‘Rather than living like this….’

It’s better to die.

Why try to break a boulder with an egg?

Rather than running away like a coward and being tormented by guilt every day…

It’s better to die.

When his thoughts reached this far, his chest suddenly calmed down.

‘I… don’t care… anymore.’

He grabbed his icy spear with his trembling hand. Slowly picking it up, he grabbed it in reverse and aimed it at his neck.

A sorrowful smile spread across his face.

He wasn’t being forced. Seol Jihu was making this choice himself.

Finally, just as he put strength into his hand…

[My friend, why are you in such a rush to decide?]

Ian’s chuckling voice echoed in his ears.

Hearing this, his half-closed eyes shot open.

Clang! And his spear fell down.

Seol Jihu quickly looked around the area. However, Ian was nowhere to be seen.

It was just that the conversation he had with Ian after returning from the Banquet brushed past his head.

[You see, Seol, humans always make choices while they live. Whether that be in the past, the present, or the future.]

Then, he suddenly wondered.

‘I…’

Has there ever been a time he made a choice out of his own will?

‘I…’

…To be honest, he was afraid.

And he knew it.

That what he was doing now wasn’t a choice he made on his own.

That he was making this decision because he was terrified and pushed into a difficult situation.

Looking back, his entire life had been like that.

He relied on the Nine Eyes almost out of habit before he thought for himself.

He always decided after seeing the color and never tried to deviate from the given choices.

But…

Who was to say that the Nine Eyes was always right?

Just because the Nine Eyes showed a color, did he have to follow that choice?

[Life isn’t a game you can see the ending of after clicking on one or two choices, is it?]

The Golden Commandment also did not guarantee a good result.

It was the same for the colors of danger.

Just like when he saw the Do Not Approach color in Ramman Village. Just like when he succeeded in the Tutorial’s Impossible-difficulty mission.

Even if he didn’t retreat, even if he didn’t escape immediately…

The result wasn’t so bad.

…Right. Even a predetermined destiny could be changed with an insignificant choice.

The Nine Eyes certainly wasn’t wrong. But it wasn’t right either.

The Nine Eyes was also a choice.

It was up to Seol Jihu to make a decision, act on it, and work to accomplish a certain goal.

Thinking about it, the answer was already there.

[Isn’t it surprising? That such a trivial choice can change your fate completely!]

All colors came together as one.

The moment Seol Jihu realized this, he became dazed.

Suddenly, a deafening ringing noise began to resound in his ears.

He couldn’t hear any sound. No shrieks, howls, or screams.

An electrifying sensation flowed through his body. From the bottom of his heart, an emotion that had not existed before welled up, making cold veins boil with blood.

Seol Jihu grabbed his dropped spear and slowly raised his body.

Then, he slowly raised his hand in the air.

He knew it was too late to do anything at this point.

In the first place, he didn’t think changing fate would be so easy.

Just how far could he go? For once, while he was alive, he wanted to trust his choice.

And so…

[You used 9 Ability Points]

[Your Mana stat increases from Intermediate (High) to High (High).]

**


[Ah–!]

The Parasite Queen who was sitting on the Corrupted Throne shot up from her seat in shock.

As she observed the movements of the constellations, her jaw dropped from the sheer shock of a change she hadn’t anticipated.

On the other hand…

[Hoh…!]

Gula exclaimed in awe.

As she endlessly observed the stars, she finally caught sight of an omen she had been waiting for.

A grey star that was wriggling like a sleeping dragon suddenly began to spin, creating a terrifying whirlpool.

It wasn’t spinning at a simple rate of a few spins a second.

Tens, hundreds, no, thousands…!

A stored-up power so terrifying that not even a god dared to estimate began to rage!

When this unbelievably boundless energy finally exploded, a quaking of the stars— a Stellar Earthquake— erupted.

When the galaxy shook from this magnificent stretch, the hundreds of thousands of affected stars changed their movements.

That wasn’t the end.

The grey mold-like shell coating the star couldn’t withstand the shock and crumbled down.

And when the erupting energy gradually came together and concentrated around one point—!

Anguish flashed across the Parasite Queen’s face, while joy flashed across Gula’s.

From the center of the star losing its surface layer, starlight brighter than that of any other stars was born.

Although it was only a tiny ember now, what the star was incubating was undoubtedly light.

This star had lost its light and died. It had failed to regain its light even after painstaking effort and hardship.

But seeing the undeniable brilliance, the two Goddesses residing in different areas shouted simultaneously.

[The dead star…!]

Was shining, once again.

**


Ba-Thump! Seol Jihu’s heart pounded louder than ever before.

The ringing inside him seemed to separate his body and soul. He could feel the energy inside him growing exponentially.

Drunk on the boundless energy of unprecedented scale surging inside him, Seol Jihu glared at the black-and-white world.

Teresa had told him to run.

Chohong had asked him why he came back.

The Nine Eyes was recommending that he escape immediately.

Ian had told him to endure.

But Seol Jihu didn’t do so.

He didn’t want to.

Even if he would fall and crumble again— he refused to let others make his choice.

For once, he wanted to do what his heart told him to do.

For once, he wanted to know his true self.

And so…

[Innate Ability, ‘Future Vision’, has been activated.]

He didn’t hold back this time.

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