Chapter 336. The Twisting Gears

Seol Jihu closed his eyes in that instant as a huge burst of light exploded in front of him along with the roaring breath. Crackling sounds blazed up around his ears. He could not hear nor feel anything other than this sound.

Soon, as Seol Jihu opened up his eyes, they slowly widened.

Kwaaaaaaaa!

The breath was still being fired. However, it wasn’t reaching the expedition team.

Was it about eight meters long? Its upper body, which included its neck, was long like that of a giraffe, and its lower body was slim like that of a deer. It had a long, five-colored tail that stretched-out like the tail of a peacock, and it had the jaw of a swallow and the beak of a chicken.

This beautiful and noble bird resembling a phoenix was floating in front of the expedition team. Covering itself with its wings, it was taking on the frightening breath and withstanding it.

“We’re back!”

At that moment, a voice that was short of breath struck their ears.

“Sorry for being late! But we tried to come back as quickly as possible…!”

Marcel Ghionea was panting on his knees, beads of sweat dripping from his head like rain.

This could only mean one thing.

‘That’s Little Chick?’

Seol Jihu blinked rapidly.

Twisted Kindness was no different. She was flapping her large bone wings, staring in astonishment.

—Who the hell…

She couldn’t finish saying the words, ‘are you?’

The situation was simply too ludicrous.

Realizing that capturing both rabbits would be too difficult, she had chosen to focus on Seol Jihu. Although she attacked in a bit of a hurry, she was still on the brink of success.

—….

However, just at the last moment, a bony bird had appeared out of nowhere and blocked it.

—Fu…

This wasn’t the first time or even the second time that this happened. How could there be such coincidences in the world?

—Fucking hell…

At this point, she was beginning to wonder whether this planet called Paradise was actually taking this man’s side.

She was so dumbfounded that she stopped her breath subconsciously.

The enemy was still in good shape. Although half of its body became dyed in the color of her breath, this color was quickly devoured by scarlet flames.

Then, the eyes of the phoenix that regained its original colors sharpened in a flash, and then it shot toward Twisted Kindness with a vigorous flapping of its wings.

—Keuk!

As Twisted Kindness reluctantly accepted the challenge, two mighty existences clashed in the air.

Twisted Kindness, flying up in an instant, breathed out again. At the same time, she suddenly descended and slammed down onto the phoenix.

Koong!

The earth jumped from the heavy impact.

However, despite successfully slamming down on the phoenix, Twisted Kindness felt her legs become hot.

She wasn’t mistaken. The phoenix’s long, giraffe-like neck peeked out. Turning its head and facing Twisted Kindness, it opened its mouth, and a wave of bright red flames shot out of its beak.

—!?

Twisted Kindness was greatly astonished. Her bones, enveloped by the flames, were melting down while giving off white steam.

Even when she tried to extinguish them in fright, they rekindled in the next instant and tormented her endlessly. Though she had returned to her true form in a weakened state, this was still too hard to believe.

—You…!

Twisted Kindness hurriedly flew back and whipped her tail fiercely.

[Ack!]

The phoenix screamed as well. Of course, it didn’t just lie there and take the attack.

[That hurt, you damned parasitic lizard!]

Swinging its blazing wing, it clawed at Twisted Kindness.

Chiiik! A fair amount of steam billowed out from the lacerated bones.

—Damn it!

After fighting at close quarters like so, Twisted Kindness breathed out one more time and quickly flew up. Meanwhile, she glanced down at the ground, wondering if she could kill Seol Jihu. However, she was forced to give up at the very next moment.

It was because the phoenix had noticed her intent and instantly blocked her path. To make matters worse, the expedition team began to move once again. Seol Jihu had snapped out of his daze and ordered the group to aid the phoenix.

Now looking very bitter and resentful, Twisted Kindness glared at the phoenix with killing intent.

Still, she accepted what was an undeniable truth. The strange bird was not a simple Spirit Beast. She could tell at least this much from their short exchange.

Its immortal attribute was one thing, but what bothered her the most was that its energy was the polar opposite of her own.

As someone who had turned into a Bone Dragon in the process of accepting the evil attribute, the phoenix was an almost perfect counter to her.

It would be a different story if she fought it from the start in her peak condition. However, in her current worn-down state, it was not an opponent she could finish off in a short period of time.

Flying to the side to dodge another wave of flames, Twisted Kindness subconsciously thought about retreating. Realizing this, her teeth clattered with bitterness, yet she could not deny this reality.

Now, there was only one thing she was sure about. It was that the resources of her opponents surpassed her own with the appearance of the phoenix.

On any other day, she would have chosen to escape without even thinking about it. But the reason she was staying even while knowing that she could not reach that man was simply because she couldn’t believe it.

—Keuk!

I have to run away with my tail between my legs without having accomplished anything?

Really?

Unable to throw away her regret, Twisted Kindness circled around the air and looked back at Seol Jihu.

Turning the tables at a critical moment should be something anyone could do. Even a few seconds was fine. If a small gap appeared, she would seize the chance and strike a fatal blow to Seol Jihu.

It was then.

Twisted Kindness, who was glancing at the ground while focusing on dodging the phoenix’s attacks, suddenly stopped flying.

It had no choice as every single cell in her body reacted to the undulation of energy coming from a far distance.

A terrifying power rivaling a god slowly encroached upon the land as if to assert its original ownership over it.

This phenomenon could only mean one thing.

—Ah…!

The World Tree had fully revived. To be precise, it should have finished its evolution to adulthood!

She had shouldered all sorts of danger to get rid of Raging Temperance. As a result, she couldn’t do a thing about a single phoenix and was busy dodging its attacks. Another being rivaling, no, surpassing Raging Temperance would be joining this battle?

It wouldn’t even end there. Since the World Tree regained its energy, the Spirit Kings and the remaining Spirits should regain their strength soon.

Once Twisted Kindness’ thoughts reached here, she immediately made up her mind.

To retreat.

Now that things had come to this, there was nothing to even think about. If she hesitated any longer, escaping might not be an option as the World Tree would surely hinder it after reclaiming dominance over this world.

—Uuuuuuggghhh!

And so, she roused her energy to open the door to Paradise, but she winced again. A thought suddenly crossed her mind.

—Ah!

Looking back, there was one thing she had to do no matter what. Yes, she failed to conquer the Spirit Realm. Yes, she failed to kill or even stop Seol Jihu. But even if she must fall back, she could not do so without retrieving Temperance’s ‘divinity’.

Otherwise, she would not have the face to stand before the Parasite Queen.

—Argh…! You’re of no help even in death!!

Recalling Raging Temperance, Twisted Kindness gritted her teeth.

—Damn it! Damn it!!

On the other hand, she turned her body, blaming herself for not killing Seol Jihu when she had the chance.

She was in an advantageous spot distance-wise. It would be too absurd if she could not achieve even this. And so, she swooped down, charging toward Temperance’s divinity at peak speed.

Seol Jihu, who was chasing Twisted Kindness with his eyes, frowned. She seemed to be aiming for him just a second ago, but now she was suddenly flying in the opposite direction.

‘…Huh?’

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened after turning to the direction that Twisted Kindness was flying to.

It was where Raging Temperance perished.

In that place, there was something emitting a pure light.

The brilliant light was clearly visible even with the distance between them.

At that instant, for some unknown reason—

“STOP HER!!!!”

Seol Jihu shouted at the top of his lungs and even activated the Festina Earrings.

He had a feeling that he had to stop her no matter what.

Even though he ran with the Festina Earring activated three times, he still could not catch up to Twisted Kindness, who was disregarding all else and flying at her top speed. In fact, she was widening the gap bit by bit.

However, at that moment—

Rumbleeeee!

The light of dawn broke through as the sky split in half. From the gap, dazzling clusters of light emerged.

Level 8, Atera’s Saintess — Requiem of Stars.

Starlights summoned by Seo Yuhui rained down like a meteor shower. The raining starlights perfectly fell in front of Twisted Kindness’ path.

To break through or to turn back?

Twisted Kindness chose the former.

Protecting herself as much as possible with magic, she ran straight through the starlights.

—Keeeeuuu!!

A bone-shattering pain crept up wherever the starlights struck, but she withstood the pain with her superhuman endurance and did not stop flying. However, she could not stop herself from slowing down.

Spitting out a groan, Twisted Kindness reached out with her hand.

Zwoooong!

Then, the space in front of Temperance’s divinity split open, and the dark cosmos revealed itself.

Her plan was simple. She would continue on her path, retrieve Temperance’s divinity, and then immediately escape this world.

—Just a little bit more…!

Seeing Twisted Kindness passing through the starlights, Seol Jihu’s eyes shot open.

“Please…!”

Stopping his desperately running legs and doing a run-up, he threw the Spear of Purity with all his might.

—!

Feeling the spear aiming for the back of her head, Twisted Kindness quickly twisted her body. Since it wasn’t an area of effect attack like the Requiem of Stars, she judged that there was no need to change the course or take the risk.

Whoooosh!

Just as she expected, the Spear of Purity brushed past her by a small margin. However, her body tilted to the side because of it, and a green spear that flew in at the next moment struck her wing.

—Aaaaack!

Twisted Kindness spat out a scream.

The one who shot the spear was Baek Haeju. After seeing Seol Jihu’s spear throw, she had predicted Twisted Kindness’ movement and shot her own spear forward, finishing all calculations in a split second.

As a result, Twisted Kindness’ wing was torn apart, and she heavily tilted to the side.

The madly chasing phoenix did not miss this golden opportunity. It swooped down and slammed into the Bone Dragon.

Just like she’d done to him.

[Have a taste of your own medicine!]

—Kuaack! Kuaaaack!

The price of being hit by the unexpected spear attack was huge. Not only did she fall to the ground, she even got a pesky being hassling her. And although she was not aware of it, threads containing holy power were coiling around her legs.

The entire expedition team was obstructing Twisted Kindness.

“Don’t let her take that thing!”

Seol Jihu fell behind for a bit from having to throw his spear, so he yelled at the Archers running ahead of him.

Hearing this, Twisted Kindness grew more impatient.

—KUAAAAAAAH!

Struggling fiercely, she shook off the crazily attacking phoenix and got up. Not having the time to deal with her opponents, she planned to head straight to the divinity. However…

—What!?

What she saw was the Spear of Purity, making a U-turn and flying toward her.

Thwack! Colliding with the spear, Twisted Kindness’ head greatly tilted back.

—Kkeuk!

She tried to kick off the ground even in such a state, but her legs refused to listen. Agnes was giving her all, pulling on the threads connected to the Bone Dragon’s legs.

Of course, it wasn’t enough to make Twisted Kindness budge, especially considering the difference in their weight and power, but it certainly delayed her timing for a moment.

—Uwaaaaaah!

Snap, snap! Using her strength to cut off the strings, Twisted Kindness belatedly kicked off the ground. She felt several impacts on her back, but did not look back. Reaching out toward the divinity shining on the ground, she threw herself forward, mustering up every ounce of strength left in her body!

—Almost… there…!

And in the very next moment, before her fingertips reached the light—

“Uryaaaaa!”

Something cut in diagonally and brushed past her hand like a storm.

Twisted Kindness clenching her hand and the storm getting away by a hair’s breadth happened simultaneously.

—Ah…!

Twisted Kindness, who was planning to cross over to space with the power of inertia, stopped at the very last moment.

Looking back in a hurry, she saw a bob-haired woman rolling on the ground and getting farther away.

“Uhyahya! Now that’s thrilling!”

Level 6 Archer, Hoshino Urara.

She somersaulted up and checked the hand that was cupping over her chest. Something was sitting in the pool of light radiating from her hand.

Seeing this, she smiled brightly and gave the dazed Bone Dragon a thumbs up.

Then, she spoke solemnly.

“You were truly close, O Mighty Dragon.”

—You…

“But the final winner is I! Hoshino~ Urara!”

Then, she raised her hand with a sidelong glance.

“…Want it?”

—H-Hand that over this instant!!

Twisted Kindness shouted unwittingly.

“NO!”

But Hoshino Urara stuck out her lower lip.

Opening her eyes odiously, she shook her hand as if to show off the object she was holding.

“I snatched it~ I snatched it~”

Twisted Kindness’ eyes went up sharply.

“You can’t have it~ You can’t have it~”

Hoshino Urara began to dance on one leg.

—This bitch…!

Twisted Kindness burst into a fit of rage.

“Uhehehehe! Everyone~! Come here and look! There’s a skeletal lizard throwing a fit!”

Hoshino Urara turned her body and escaped while cackling uproariously.

Twisted Kindness completely lost her temper and wanted to chase after Hoshino Urara. She would not be content until she retrieved Temperance’s divinity and drank the blood of that wicked wench!

Crack, craaack!

If the sound of the distorting space did not stop her, she really might have done so.

Looking back by chance, Twisted Kindness clenched her teeth. The door she had forcefully opened was crumpling up and closing.

—The World Tree…!

The phoenix and the rest of the expedition team had caught up as well and were flooding in from all directions.

Now clearly was not the time to be focused on a single deranged bitch.

—Uwaaaaarrgh! Uwaaaaaaargh!

In the end, she banged her head against the ground in frustration before throwing herself toward the closing door.

“Ah, wait! Come here! I was just playing! You can have this!”

Hoshino Urara provoked her once again, but Twisted Kindness did not fall for it a second time.

—I will not forget this! I will not!

She entered the door in a hurry.

—Especially you…!

Then she disappeared with those final words.

At the same time, the spatial rift closed completely.

And thus, the two Army Commanders who almost razed the Spirit Realm to the ground disappeared.

The Fourth Army Commander, Raging Temperance, perished. And the Seventh Army Commander, Twisted Kindness, retreated.

With that, the gears of fate turning under the Parasite Queen’s plan fell out of place for the second time.

**


Same time.

[?]

The Parasite Queen, who was sitting on her throne watching the war at Tigol Fortress, flinched.

[What?]

An ominous feeling swept through her body. She could not quite put her finger around it, but if she had to describe it, she would call it a faint fetal movement.

The Parasite Queen, who had not taken her eyes off the projection, tilted her head back for the first time.

[Don’t tell me…]

Looking up at the celestial bodies, the Queen’s face waned.

There was a clear reason why the Parasite Queen sent Twisted Kindness to the Spirit Realm.

It was because she was worried, even with the Fourth Army Commander being there. Although the chances were slim, she wanted to eliminate any variable that would hinder her plans.

Excluding herself, Twisted Kindness was worthy of being called the strongest existence in Paradise.

She believed that the Seventh Army Commander would be enough to take care of any unexpected variable.

That was the case.

But just now…

[…What?]

Something that should not and could not happen, happened.

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