Chapter 177. Deceit

The moment Seol Jihu contrived a plan and ascertained his goal, the vigor he was giving off subsided. The terrifying, chilling pressure and the numbing killing intent disappeared as though they had been washed clean.

Mary Rhine spat out the breath she’d been holding in and realized something.

‘Could it be?’

Although she wasn’t sure of the specifics, she was worried that whatever Awakening Skill the youth used had run out of time.

However, Seol Jihu jumped down from the fortress wall without a response. Still in a daze, Mary Rhine continued to watch the youth’s forward march as he single-handedly stormed through the wave of monsters.

Mary Rhine wasn’t the only one watching Seol Jihu.

‘Hm?’

The Executor of Superbia, who was in the middle of loading his next attack, glanced sideways. It was because he had suddenly seen blood spurting out like a fountain in the distance.

Although he was far away from where the incident took place, as someone who had reached the apex of the path of Archers, the Star of Pride could see the scene as though he was right there.

‘What? Who the hell is he?’

The Archer made a confused face. Seeing as how the mysterious youth was single-handedly charging through the Parasites’ clean-up party, he seemed to have some skill. But what he was doing just didn’t make any sense.

Unless he had gone mad from the terror of the war, there was no reason he would do something like that. There had to be a reason.

Without stopping his hand movements, the Star of Pride turned his gaze to where the youth was heading. As far as he could tell, the youth seemed to be a High Ranker at the very least.

Soon, his face contorted.

‘That crazy guy. Is he out of his mind?’

If it looked like the youth had an intriguing plan, the Star of Pride was more than willing to support him. But when he saw where the youth was headed, his desire to help disappeared completely.

This was because Seol Jihu was heading to the fiercest battlefield in the entire valley. Even a True High Ranker would easily be killed in this place.

Right. It was where the Sacred Empress and Undying Diligence were having a bloody battle.

The moment the Sacred Empress appeared, the two of them had left the fortress wall and started using the entire valley as a stage for their fierce battle. But the fight was hardly a one-on-one battle as Undying Diligence also had dozens of Nosferatus supporting him.

At a glance, it looked like the Sacred Empress was driving Undying Diligence into a corner, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The young woman tried to approach Undying Diligence while steadily fending off the Nosferatus that were attacking her without regard for their lives. However, Undying Diligence focused on avoiding her and absorbed any Nosferatu that was struck down.

It was a simple story. Undying Diligence had suffered a heavy injury due to the Sacred Empress’ sudden spear throw. In his normal state, he could have simply dodged the attack, but because a certain old Magician struck him with a fistful of Moon Light dust, his numbed senses had failed to detect the attack in time.

He managed to perform emergency treatment by retracting the portion of his energy that was being used to entrap an evil spirit he planned to absorb later, but he judged that continuing to fight in his weakened state was a bad idea.

As such, he called the Nosferatus as he moved away from the fortress. They could be used to make the Sacred Empress waste her strength, and while they bought time for Undying Diligence to heal, their corpses could also be used for his recovery. All in all, it was killing two birds with one stone.

And now, this plan had come to fruition. Compared to when the fight first broke out, Undying Diligence’s wounds had healed significantly.

Although the Sacred Empress was still full of energy, Undying Diligence didn’t miss the drops of sweat that began to form on her forehead.

‘Just a bit more.’

He planned to maintain the current situation and attack without hesitation once he judged that he had recovered enough. He had no doubt that today would be the day the Sacred Empress died.

It was at this moment that Undying Diligence spotted a man running in their direction.

‘He’s…’

His face was familiar. It was the man with anti-evil energy, whom he suspected to be the Star that the Queen was searching for. Although the thought quickly went away when he saw his lousy skills, a tiny suspicion still remained in his heart.

‘He didn’t die?’

Although Undying Diligence slapped him like swatting a fly, he had done so with the intention of killing him. And so, he was a little surprised that the human was alive, and seeing him vigorously break through the army of corpses, he wanted to praise him somewhat.

But that was the only compliment he had for the youth.

Seeing as how he was screaming with his eyes shot open, he seemed to be more than a little furious. Undying Diligence couldn’t help but smirk. It was like seeing a puppy chasing after him with its tail standing tall.

On the other hand, a strong look of disdain surfaced on his face.

It was obvious at first glance. From the way the youth’s eyes were rolled back, Undying Diligence could tell he was storming forward in fury due to the death of a comrade.

It was a common sight. Whether it be a beastman or a human being, he often experienced these emotional insects become agitated and courageous just before dying. They would always utter nonsense like being unable to forgive him or of their fight only starting now.

Undying Diligence detested such creatures the most.

With such an overwhelming difference in power, a simple Awakening should be nowhere enough to make up the difference. There was no need to even mention the ones that went on rampages. After all, insects who attacked without regard for their lives were the easiest to kill.

The trickier opponents were those like the Sacred Empress. No provocations got through them, and they maintained their composure throughout the entirety of the battle, making only the necessary moves—

It was then. Undying Diligence turned his head in a hurry.

A jade-colored spear grazed the tip of his nose. While he had taken his eyes off for one second, the Sacred Empress had finally pierced through the meat shields and dealt a piercing blow. Cold sweat formed on Undying Diligence’s back as he realized his plan had almost been nullified.

‘This damned bitch.’

Undying Diligence gritted his teeth and quickly jumped back. The youth was no longer on his mind as he focused solely on the Sacred Empress.

Of course, he didn’t forget to send six Nosferatus after Seol Jihu. Two should be more than enough, but Undying Diligence wanted to be sure.

After receiving their leader’s command, the group of Nosferatus broke away from the ongoing battle and rushed toward the new enemy. Just as they reached their claws and fangs out to the ignorant fool who didn’t know to fear death—

Whish!

They passed through the enemy. No, perhaps it was more accurate to say they phased through him.

They didn’t feel anything on their claws. If they had to describe it, they could only say that it felt like a strong headwind blew past them. No blood spurted out, and the enemy’s figure scattered away like mist.

The six Nosferatus became dazed. When they turned around, they saw the enemy running far off in the distance.

After utilizing Ethereal Shift[1] to maneuver past the Nosferatus, Seol Jihu glared at Undying Diligence.

Things had been smooth sailing until now. But because the next step determined the success or failure of his plan, he could not allow even a single mistake.

Pang!

The moment Festina Earring activated, a familiar gust of wind blew.

In an instant, Seol Jihu roused his mana and pushed it against the course of the air. When he reversed the swirling current, a terrifying repulsive force erupted.

Enduring this clamor, he stomped down on the ground with his left foot.

Boom!

A current of electricity erupted from the bottom of his feet, surging up his legs and spreading throughout his body.

But when he blocked its advance with mana and reversed it forcefully, the aimless electric current rampaged wildly. Flames sparked around his skin as a powerful backlash stirred inside him.

Mysterious symptoms rapidly appeared as the force of the recoil billowed inside him. Not only did his skin puff up like a balloon, but his muscles, blood vessels, and smaller veins were also twisted as they expanded.

Seol Jihu swallowed a groan as he endured the sensation of his body exploding. Then, he kicked off the ground and flew up once more.

Finally, when he tried to curl his arms and legs in the air, a fierce pain powerful enough to make him faint returned.

The techniques he planned to use had a set flow that had to be followed. Since he forcefully reversed this flow to amplify their power, a counter-reaction was only natural.

His muscles, which were now like a spring compressed to its limit, screamed in agony. The moment he let his guard down even a tiny bit and let his muscles burst, they would undoubtedly fly around like a punctured balloon.

Seol Jihu withstood this pain with superhuman endurance and succeeded in bending his trembling arms and legs.

‘One at a time.’

He took a short breath.

When he released the energy he was suppressing, the negligible vigor emanating from him transformed instantly. The mana he was suppressing surged up violently, emitting out vicious killing intent.

Next, he aimed this mana at Undying Diligence and opened the internal pathway he was frantically blocking.

The repressed wind and electric current went on a frenzy as they exploded. Only when these two energies came together from the inside and outside extremes did Seol Jihu finally spread his body open.

The elastic force he was holding in exploded forth and accelerated the already outpouring dual energies.

BOOM!

A terrifying boom that a simple Flash Step could never reproduce resounded. At the same time, Seol Jihu’s eyes shot open. As his arms thrust his spear, they entered the realm of supersonic speed that the human body couldn’t endure. Naturally, a tearing pain swept over him.

Acceleration, acceleration, and yet another acceleration. He shot forward at extreme speed.

His target flinched. Turning around reflexively, Undying Diligence spotted an afterimage.

His expression remained calm for only a moment. When he saw that the afterimage wasn’t dragging a long tail but quickly shrinking, he furrowed his brows.

The afterimage was failing to follow the true image?

Undying Diligence had missed two things.

The first was about the Awakening Skill that Seol Jihu was using. Berserk did indeed increase his battle prowess, but it did not have a side-effect of making him lose his reason.

The second was that, having received Future Vision’s experience and knowledge, Seol Jihu was making use of his personality.

It was already too late when he spotted Seol Jihu transforming into a flash of light and rushing in like a bolt of lightning. Undying Diligence’s expression became dyed with stupor.

Level 7 Highlander, Class Ability
Basic Spear Technique — Thrust (EX)

Psh! Blood spurted.

Undying Diligence looked down at his chest in disbelief.

A golden spear had penetrated his back and was poking out of his left chest. When the cold metal pierced his heart, which had almost finished recovering, his eyes flickered open.

“What….”

Undying Diligence creaked his head back with a completely lost expression.

He was then able to see a youth placing his chin on his shoulder and smiling brightly.

“It’s been a while, eh?”

Seol Jihu pulled his spear up and twisted it roughly. Undying Diligence groaned loudly and bent his back.

“You—”

Swallowing a deep breath, Undying Diligence finally recognized the enemy.

“It’s you.”

His trembling lips muttered.

“You… it was you. The one my Queen mentioned….”

“Yep.”

Seol Jihu took his chin off. He acknowledged his identity lightly, his mouth still curled up in a smile. Then, he suddenly turned serious.

“It’s me, you motherfucker.”

The moment his eyes shot open, anti-evil energy burst out from his body. A power incomparable to that of the past’s flowed through the spear shaft, pouring into Undying Diligence.

Pzzt, pzzzzzt!

“Keuheuk!”

Undying Diligence’s eyes turned bloodshot. Gritting his teeth, he raised his hand. When he roused his blood-colored energy to drive out the lightning, Seol Jihu refused to give in and poured out even more mana.

A battle of two energies. A group of Nosferatus belatedly pounced, but even Seol Jihu’s hair was out of their reach. Because of the enormous amount of anti-evil energy surging around him, the Nosferatus were burning up the moment they drew near him.

Naturally, this technique consumed an enormous amount of mana. However, Seol Jihu didn’t stop. Given the opportunity, he didn’t hesitate to scrape up every ounce of mana in his body.

“Keuheuuuu!”

Still, Undying Diligence bitterly held on with a grimace. Just as he was about to seize the spear shaft—

Puk!

Another spear cold-heartedly pierced his heart. Unlike the youth’s icy spear, this jade-colored spear entered through the chest and came out from the back.

“Keeeeeeeuu!”

The hand that was about to grab the spear shaft pawed the air.

With a grunt, Undying Diligence gazed at the white traditional-clothed woman who was now right in front of him. The Sacred Empress had attacked after the pressure on her suddenly decreased.

She looked taken aback by Seol Jihu’s sudden appearance, but she wasn’t an idiot who would miss this golden opportunity.

She placed her left palm on Undying Diligence’s chest and chanted. As if it was finally waking up, green energy began to shoot out from the Sacred Empress’ body like a tsunami. Her mana flowed through her spear shaft like water and drenched Undying Diligence’s insides.

Lightning and holy water.

Like Seol Jihu’s lightning anti-evil energy, the Sacred Empress’ holy water was at the apex of anti-evil energies. Naturally, they were a good match for each other. Like missing twins reuniting after being apart for years, the two energies quickly mixed together in harmony.

After a brief moment of pushing and pulling, the two energies joined together, and the scale finally tipped. Flowing through the jade-colored energy soaking Undying Diligence’s insides, the golden lightning energy erupted into a terrifying, infinite electric discharge.

PZZZZZZZZZT!

Joined as one, the two energies drove back the blood-colored energy desperately fighting back until finally breaking through the skin. The moment golden lightning began to crackle from his body, Undying Diligence could no longer restrain himself.

He bent his back and his arms aimlessly spread open.

*

KUAAAAAAAAK!

A ghastly scream rang out.

It was so loud and thunderous…

“Hm?”

That Unsightly Humility…

“H- Hm?”

And Vulgar Chastity could hear it from their location.

The unthinkable had happened.

Undying Diligence’s vitality was rapidly diminishing. It was hard to believe that the Sacred Empress was pushing him to such a degree.

In other words, there had to be an unexpected element, one that the two Army Commanders could not ignore, just like when the Executors appeared.

Although they were on the verge of breaking through the fortress gate, Unsightly Humility left his army behind and turned around without hesitation.

Vulgar Chastity did the same. Glaring at Seo Yuhui, who was staring at her calmly, she left her army behind and spread her wings.

They knew this wasn’t necessarily the right choice.

But if Undying Diligence were to perish, they wouldn’t be able to call this war a victory even if they won.

Undying Diligence was truly in a state of shock. From the moment he was struck by the sudden ambush, he felt like he had continually been hit with a megaton storm.

If he was in his peak condition, he was confident that he would have at least been evenly matched. There was even a chance that he may have had the upper hand.

Of course, speculations were of no help at this point. He had made the wrong assumptions about the youth and focused solely on the Sacred Empress. This irreversible result was something that he had brought about all by himself.

It wasn’t just that his plan had been foiled. Never mind killing two birds with one stone, he was about to lose everything he had.

Pang!

Unable to endure any longer, Undying Diligence used Mistification to escape. However, Seol Jihu immediately chased after him and thrust his spear.

The Sacred Empress did the same. As if they had formulated a plan beforehand, the duo rushed in at the perfect moment and swung their spears viciously.

It was only possible if they had a method of attacking the mist and if they knew that vampires’ defenses decreased when they were in their mist form.

“Kuhaaaa—!”

The unbearable pain forced Undying Diligence to cancel his Mistification.

“Pierce his heart again—!”

Seol Jihu shouted loudly. Seeing the youth chasing after him like a demon, Undying Diligence hastily blocked the gaping hole in his chest.

But in the next moment, the blue blade was right in front of his eyes.

Pat!

When the spear blade stabbed his eye, blood burst out like a fountain.

Seol Jihu pulled his spear out. As if wasting even a single second was unacceptable, he flashed his hand again. He didn’t even try to touch Undying Diligence’s heart, which the enemy was so desperately protecting. Eyes, head, solar plexus, and even the area between his thighs— Seol Jihu assaulted his vital points like a vicious demon.

Tottering back, Undying Diligence suddenly clenched his teeth.

“That’s…!”

His claw cut through the air. As Seol Jihu was attacking without seeing what was behind him, he hurriedly bent his knees.

“Enough!”

With a kick, Undying Diligence sent the curled up Seol Jihu flying. At the same time, as if to say ‘who do you think you’re kicking?’, a furious kick immersed in green mana flew in.

When the Sacred Empress kicked the hand covering the chest, the hand sunk in along with the feeling of bones breaking.

“Krrrk!”

Undying Diligence rolled on the ground as blood foamed from his mouth. By the time he came to a stop, fresh blood had drenched the ground to a red carpet.

“What the hell are you guys doing—!?”

Barely picking himself back up, Undying Diligence roared furiously and searched for the Nosferatus.

It was at that moment…


1. A movement technique in which the user moves so fast that it looks as if there are two of him at the same time.

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