As Seol Jihu and Baek Haeju were attacking from the front and back, an intense light burst out from Twisted Kindness’ body. The light was so dazzling that it was almost blinding.
As a consequence, Seol Jihu plummeted to the ground like a suddenly dropping elevator.
The cause of the intense light and the enormous surge of energy was none other than divinity.
The power of a god burned the spiderweb in an instant and even pushed Seol Jihu down easily.
It was the same for Baek Haeju. Swept away by the sudden storm, she fell like a kite.
Seol Jihu lamented as he kicked the ground. Success was at the tip of his finger, so he couldn’t help but get disappointed when it disappeared like a mirage.
They should have sealed the deal while Twisted Kindness had her guard down. Unfortunately, their one and only chance came to an end in vain.
Most likely, their previous tactic would not work a second time.
‘We need to get back to Tigol Fortress as soon as possible…’
Again, this expedition did not end at just defeating the two Army Commanders. Taking into account the time it would take to rescue the Spirit Realm and resurrect the World Tree, they were already too far behind schedule.
The problem was that they couldn’t even deal with the Army Commanders in front of them.
Seol Jihu bit his lip and looked up at the sky. The light had subsided before he noticed, and Twisted Kindness was standing tall and glaring down at him. Judging by her noticeably flushed cheeks and neck, she must be enraged without a doubt.
The situation had only become more difficult. Since she was almost defeated, she probably would not continue going easy on them.
And indeed, Twisted Kindness’ heart was beating with rage. The previous action of releasing energy was done subconsciously by her survival instinct. In other words, her senses had judged that the previous attack could have been fatal.
When was the last time she felt a threat to her life since fully absorbing a divinity?
She couldn’t even remember.
Twisted Kindness’ mouth turned crooked at the sensation she had not felt in a long time.
"…I’ll take back what I said earlier."
She calmly spoke.
"It wasn’t because you got lucky or because the circumstances lined up. Bringing such circumstances about and achieving a goal should certainly be considered as part of one’s ability. You are worthy of having exterminated Undying Diligence."
Twisted Kindness’ evaluation of him went up, but Seol Jihu did not look happy in the slightest.
Just as he thought, Twisted Kindness’ tone made it clear that she would no longer be going easy on them.
Twisted Kindness’ heart was beating quickly, but her head was calmly analyzing the situation.
Her personal philosophy was that a battle was an exchange of resources. The outcome of a battle was decided by the amount of energy, techniques, and physical prowess one had and by how efficiently they used them.
There was a simple reason that Twisted Kindness had acted with such leisure until now. None of her enemies were ever capable of handling her resources.
Only Baek Haeju could to a certain degree. Other than her, no one was able to lay a finger on her, so all she had to do was pour all her resources onto one person.
But with Seol Jihu rejoining the battle, the situation had changed.
Although she couldn’t understand how he suddenly became so strong, what she knew for certain was that her opponents’ resources had increased by a significant amount.
If they used their resources in an effective manner like before, the same situation as before could happen again. Not to mention, there was no guarantee what the Star of Lust and Avarice would do.
Such was the nature of a battle against many. Now having to pay attention to two people at once, Twisted Kindness felt a slight apprehension.
But the solution was simple. She simply had to increase her budget and acquire more resources, just like her enemies.
She had two methods of doing so.
The first was to call an ally of her own.
The Unicorn raised its head after suddenly having its name called out. Until now, the Fourth Army Commander had been quietly spectating the battle from Twisted Kindness’ threat.
Of course, he wasn’t just watching and was also treating his wounds.
"Join the battle."
"I will take back what I said before. Don’t just sit there and help. I need your strength."
Raging Temperance was taken aback.
"I won’t repeat myself again."
Twisted Kindness still had a commanding tone but asked for assistance first after having acted alone thus far.
Raging Temperance was surprised seeing the firmly speaking Twisted Kindness. Then, he stared at the expedition team with a renewed gaze. He couldn’t help but wonder just how amazing they must be to make this proud and egotistical dragon go back on her words.
In the next moment, the Fourth Army Commander got up. Though he wanted to mock Twisted Kindness, he could tell how serious she was.
She wouldn’t be asking for his help just to have an easier time.
‘Don’t tell me…’
It must be because she saw a slight possibility, no matter how slim, of the unthinkable happening.
"Fine. From now on, I will help as well."
Just like that, the spectating Raging Temperance announced his return to battle.
The faces of the expedition team members paled. It really felt like they were being kicked while down.
But that wasn’t all. Twisted Kindness still had another method.
"I get it now."
She stared at Seol Jihu with a deep gaze and spoke.
"I understand the Queen’s intent. I’ve never seen a constellation like you. You are truly an absurd Star."
She said something he couldn’t quite understand.
"The Queen was right. It might have been better to just leave you be."
Speaking with strength—
"But she also said this."
She crossed her hands over and grabbed the swords by her waist. The twin swords were unsheathed with a swish. They looked like ordinary longswords on the surface. However, they were dripping with blood despite being revealed to the world only now.
The twin swords looked incredibly ominous.
"A salmon swimming upstream cannot change the flow of water, no matter how much it rampages."
Next, neatly bringing her legs together in the air, Twisted Kindness held the twin swords in a reverse grip and slowly raised her arms.
"Right. No matter how incredible of a constellation you are—"
Standing just like a cross…
"In the end, you will only be one of the many Stars in the vast universe."
She spread out her wings in full.
"Heaven and Earth, All Creation."
And simultaneously looking down at Seol Jihu, her pupils abruptly slit open vertically.
"I will put everything on the line and return you to the void!"
On the other hand, at the Tigol Fortress, the Federation was in a bloody battle that the word ‘horrific’ could not even begin to describe. One would be able to smell the blood just by looking at the gruesome sight.
The mess started from the walls. All sorts of flying creatures were rampaging in the sky. Although the Beastmen ran around brandishing their sharp claws and the Cave Fairies fought back by launching themselves into the air, they were at odds against the sheer number of enemies.
No matter how many they killed, there was no end in sight. Even the sky looked black from the swarm of parasites.
At that moment, a Cave Fairy, stabbed by the claws of a pterosaur, was pulled into the sky, screaming. When the pterosaur dropped her, she fell while flailing her arms until she hit the ground and shattered her bones and organs. Her ruined body soon became food for the starving parasites.
With the walls being like this, the sight below was even more of a spectacle.
Corpses were piled up on top of each other, forming an enormous mountain. And swarming corpses and parasites were stepping on this mountain to climb up like a rising tide.
“Stop them! Stop theeeeem!”
Sky Fairies were madly firing one arrow after the other, but it was futile in the face of such an overwhelming number. In fact, they only became targets for the Evil Phantoms that sniped them from a distance, and their perforated bodies fell and became part of the mountain of corpses.
With the situation being like this, it was only natural for the defending Federation members to contact the higher-ups for reinforcements every minute.
“T-The Thunder is ready!”
A new Thunder arrived at the perfect moment. It was crafted by the Dwarves only a moment ago.
Gabriel bit her lower lip. Though this was good news, she fully knew it would only extinguish the fire for a moment. It would blaze up again once the Nests and reproductive species gave birth to new soldiers.
This was the reason that the five armies had yet to join the battle. With the World Tree gone, the Thunder was the only way the Federation could ‘somewhat’ deal with the Army Commanders.
The Federation knew this as well, and that was why they tried their hardest to procure as many of them as possible. Still…
They were starting to run low.
But that didn’t mean they could sit back and watch the current development continue.
Judging that there was no other choice, Gabriel clenched her teeth and shouted.
“Detonate the Thunder!”
Soon after the order fell, a thunderous explosion burst out from every direction of the fortress.
The sky regained its original color as the black creatures filling the sky were wiped away by a blue ray of light.
But that only lasted a moment.
Soon, new troops flooded in from the distance like hail.
However, they did not have the time to despair.
“The western wall…!”
“The eastern watchtower fell! We need to send reinforcements as soon as possible…!”
Requests for reinforcements came from every side.
Gabriel couldn’t blame them. The harsh reality was that every place was on the brink of collapse.
The problem was that she had no means to help. She had run out of reinforcements to send and Thunders to detonate.
‘So this is it…’
It was easy to see. She could tell just by looking at the wall right in front of her. The corpses of the Federation army were sprawled everywhere, and it was rare to see anyone standing in one piece.
‘There’s… there’s no way out…’
Staring blankly at the sky as it darkened once more, Gabriel gently closed her eyes. She could finally see the end that seemed far out of reach at first.
‘Should we retreat?’
In the end, such thought crossed her mind, fully knowing what would happen to Paradise once they gave up on Tigol Fortress.
The moment Gabriel opened her closed eyes and meekly gazed beyond the fortress…
The corpse army had stopped its march. The parasites had also stopped and were turning their bodies in one direction.
Just what happened?
As Gabriel reflexively turned in the direction that the enemy was facing, she became dazed.
She had no other choice.
In the distant mountain ridge, shadows began to appear one by one.
As the sound of a bugle rang out in the next moment, the battlefield turned silent in an instant.
Before she noticed, the shadows stretched horizontally and filled the entire mountain ridge.
The sound of a bugle echoed out once again.
As Gabriel snapped out of her daze, she heard the sound of footsteps running toward her in a hurry.
“Urgent news! Urgent news!”
The Sky Fairy that rushed toward her prostrated before Gabriel.
“The communication…! The communication line reconnected!”
Gabriel asked back in a daze.
“Yes! Eva has sent reinforcements…!”
A Beastman whose fur was drenched in blood asked in disbelief. He couldn’t be blamed as humanity had turned a blind eye while the Beastman Alliance collapsed and had refused every request the Federation made thus far.
“Eva sent reinforcements? Impossible! You must be joking!”
When the Beastman asked again, the Sky Fairy raised her trembling arm. Above her palm was a communication crystal that was lit up.
The surrounding gazes all gathered on the crystal ball, which was showing a cavalry standing in straight lines.
Gabriel’s eyes widened. If her eyes weren’t lying to her, the person standing at the head of the army was a human. A human riding a horse, her pink hair fluttering in the wind.
“It really is…”
The Beastman shut his mouth. They had been on the verge of despair.
“…It’s not just Eva.”
The sniffling of the Sky Fairy broke the silence.
“Odor, Grazia, Caligo, and Haramark all sent reinforcements.”
With teary eyes…
“Furthermore, these five cities have issued draft calls to all Earthlings. Even Executors came. Three of them!”
And trembling lips…
“The humans have… sent reinforcements!”
Looking around at the higher-ups who were still in disbelief…
With a voice choked with tears, she spoke again.
“…has answered the Federation’s call for help!”
The fuse of war that was on the brink of blowing out was rekindled.
At the same time.
“Sacrifice your bodies.”
“Go die, I mean. Hurry.”
The Spirits fell into disarray at Little Chick’s words.
[H-Huh? Just like that?]
As a question was about to come out, Little Chick raised its voice.
“I thought I made this clear! I don’t have any time to explain!”
“Why? Are you suddenly afraid of death?”
[What did you say!?]
Little Chick’s mocking comment angered the Spirits.
“Unless you’re complete idiots, you must know why only the two of us came here.”
“The humans who came to help you are fighting with their lives on the line. They are relying on us to succeed.”
“If you really want an explanation, I’ll give it to you. But just know this. The longer we take, the higher the probability of us failing.”
The Spirits fell silent at Little Chick’s intimidation.
“What’s your decision?”
When Little Chick urged for an answer…
[…We just have to go fight?]
One Spirit carefully asked.
“That’s right. Fight. Fight to the bitter end. Even if you die, don’t die so easily. Resist until the very last moment. Resist, and resist again! Only then can you die. Make sure they are solely focused on you.”
[That’s all we need to do?]
“That’s enough. It’s also the only thing you guys can do. Now hurry!”
At Little Chick’s urging, the Spirits turned around.
The Spirits gathered at the center of this world began to charge toward the lake.
Naturally, the Nests began to react. They must have seen the Spirits flying in from all directions as hundreds of tentacles resting on the surface of the lake shot up.
Marcel Ghionea watched the battle at the lake unfold with a look of devastation.
This couldn’t even be called a battle.
The Spirits were being slaughtered by the tentacles and dropping like flies. No matter how he looked at it, it was closer to a one-sided massacre.
Little Chick spoke to him at that moment.
“I hear your sniping skills are top-notch. Archer of Steel is your title, isn’t it?”
Hearing this, Marcel Ghionea got down on the ground amidst the chaos. Not only was it too late to turn back, but he also realized what Little Chick was trying to do.
“Good. Then before you nock your arrow, tie the things you got from Partner to the arrow.”
“…The seed and the sedges?”
“If my prediction is correct, the Spirit Kings should be inside those Nests.”
Marcel Ghionea flinched while preparing to snipe.
“I’m certain. I heard that monster mention an experiment. The Parasites must have concocted a plan that uses the Spirits.”
In that case, the experiment most likely must be the Parasitization of Spirits.
Marcel Ghionea’s face distorted. That was one thing that should not be allowed. They had to stop it no matter what!
“If their plan ends in success, the outcome will be devastating. But it looks like they haven’t succeeded yet. This might be our chance.”
Marcel Ghionea asked as he tightly tied the seed and the sedges to his arrow.
Little Chick pointed at the middle of the five Nests.
“Because the main body is still remaining.”
“You mean the World Tree is still alive?”
“No, I never said that. I said it’s remaining.”
Little Chick continued.
“There’s no need to think so hard. Imagine that there is a dead person in front of you. But we have a miracle potion that can revive the dead. Then all we need to do is feed the potion to the dead person.”
Marcel Ghionea finally understood what Little Chick was asking from him.
It wanted him to shoot an arrow tied to the seed and the sedges and hit the World Tree.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have questions. All sorts of possibilities flashed by his head. Even if the World Tree revived, what if the Nests surrounding it got stronger as a result?
“All I have to do is hit the mark?”
“As long as you can make the arrow dig into it.”
Those words were enough.
Marcel Ghionea nocked the arrow and readied his posture.
If he was going to do this, it was better to get it over with as soon as possible. After all, the chances of them being discovered would go up as the number of Spirits dwindled.
But in truth, this was a near-impossible task.
Hitting a stationary target was nothing difficult, but the path his arrow needed to take to get there was too steep.
Not only did it need to break through the hundreds of tentacles flying about in the air, but it also had to miss the Spirits.
In the finals of a soccer game drawing the eyes of the entire world, a professional player going into overtime after completing forty-five minutes of the second half at a 2:3 disadvantage, and then stepping onto the penalty box for a game-deciding goal— could this be what he feels then?
An immense pressure pressed down on Marcel Ghionea. However, this wasn’t a matter where he could ask if he could do it. No, it was a matter that he had to do it, a matter that had to be done.
As such, Marcel Ghionea shook off any idle thoughts. Once he emptied his mind and focused, every cell in his body woke up and wriggled.
As he slowly breathed in, the cold air seeped into his lungs and turned his body cold.
Next, everything became faint. The sounds agitating his mind scattered away, and the tentacles throwing his narrowed eyes into chaos hazily changed.
And so, the moment a withered tree filled his sight.
The moment his restrained breath leaked out and halted.
The moment his hair slightly blew in the wind.
A subdued breath, an unshaking hand, and a gently blowing wind, the moment everything perfectly fell into place, Marcel Ghionea’s right eye shot open.
At the same time, his ice-cold finger let go of the bowstring.
With a short sonic wave, the mastlike arrow shot forward.
It was a fantastic shot without even the slightest trembling.
In place of Seol Jihu and the expedition team, the arrow of steel carrying the wish of the Federation and humanity flew toward the World Tree.