Chapter 339. Freeze, World! (3)

An untimely festival started in the Spirit Realm.

While it wasn’t a joyful banquet full of meat, alcohol, and dancing, the area surrounding the central lake was bustling with activity.

This was nothing surprising. The world had been on the brink of ruin. But with the death and retreat of the two Army Commanders, the world had regained its peace.

And was that all?

Thanks to the revived World Tree’s quick growth to adulthood, the Spirit Kings had also recovered their powers. With the rebirth of the Spirits that returned to void, how could they not be happy?

At one moment, the rejoicing Spirits all turned to one direction. The commotion stopped, replaced by murmurings.

Flap… Flap…

Under the flapping wings of the phoenix descending from the sky, a group of humans was hurriedly running up.

They were the saviors of the Spirit Realm, who risked their lives to fight the Army Commanders.

The young Spirits’ eyes lit up.

Seol Jihu ran.

He was surprised to see the enormous tree that did not fully enter his line of sight and the group of Spirits that had suddenly multiplied, but he did not stop running.

Now, there was only a single step remaining.

Tigol Fortress must be in the middle of a bitter fight, so there was no time to be enjoying their victory with leisure.

If they dilly-dallied for too long and let the fortress fall by being a few minutes late, it would be his greatest regret.

So when Seol Jihu saw the five existences presumed to be the Spirit Kings, he shouted at the top of his lungs.

“Tigol Fortress!”

Jumping into the lake, he shouted again.

“The pathway connected to Tigol Fortress—!”

However, he couldn’t finish his sentence as several Spirits flew into his embrace as soon as he entered the water.

“W-Wait!”

[Human! He’s one of those humans!]

“Ah! Hey!”

[Wow! Wooooow!]

“Now’s not the time for that…!”

[Thank you! Thank you so much!!]

“Move out of the way!”

[Ah…! Aaaang—!]

Seol Jihu shook his arm in a hurry, and the Spirit that was pushed back blinked in shock before bursting into tears.

“Ah, jeez…!”

[Stop.]

At that moment, a low voice resounded in the area.

The Spirits all froze and fell silent. Even the sorrowfully sobbing red Spirit stopped crying.

[Please forgive them, human.]

Seol turned. A red blazing giant was looking down at him from the sky.

[Fire Spirits are true to their feelings by nature, especially in situations where they’re moved emotionally beyond their control.]

Seol Jihu had never seen this giant before, but it was easy to tell that this was the Fire Spirit King, Ifrit, from the powerful energy he had.

“…I didn’t do it on purpose.”

As he petted the quietly sobbing Spirit’s head, the Spirit smiled softly as if it never cried.

Seol Jihu sighed before looking up at Ifrit with a burning gaze.

[…I know.]

Ifrit nodded his head, seemingly understanding why Seol Jihu was in such a rush.

[After reaching adulthood, the World Tree helped your group pressure the Army Commander. It then regained control over the Spirit Realm and then immediately poured out its energy for the birth of new life.]

‘Birth of new life?’

Looking around his surroundings, Seol Jihu went ‘Ah’. He was wondering where so many Spirits came from. High-ranked Spirits that were incomparable to lowest and low-ranked Spirits were looking at him from a distance.

[That process has ended just now as well.]

Smiling sweetly, Sylphid continued where Ifrit left off. She no longer sounded feeble as the refreshing feeling of the wind could be felt from her voice.

[All that is left now is…]

Ssss, ssss!

As Sylphid was talking, the branches of the tree suddenly shook.

When Seol Jihu turned to the center of the lake, his expression slowly changed.

The sense of urgency inside him disappeared, and surprise took its place.

Standing there was an enormous, magnificent ash tree that easily overlooked the entire lake. It stood majestically, looking like it was holding up the sky, and its viridescent leaves gave off a heavenly aura.

There was also an apple-red fruit hanging on the top of the tree, looking ever so succulent. Together with the amber lights fluttering around the tree, almost as if dancing, the picturesque scenery was enough to draw out the awe of anyone watching.

The beautiful, noble appearance of the World Tree left Seol Jihu speechless as well.

At that moment, one of the branches gently moved down. It headed straight for Seol Jihu as if to point at him, and the leaves hanging on the twig rustled softly.

It was almost like it was bashfully beckoning him to come closer.

A gentle wind then blew as Sylphid waved her hand with a chortle.

“Uuuuh…”

As a result, both Seol Jihu and the expedition team members behind him were pushed across the lake.

Once they landed in front of the World Tree, the tree’s branches came down and tightly embraced Seol Jihu.

Rustling up to him, the leaves tickled his cheeks. It was like a newborn baby recognizing its mother and running to her embrace.

[You’re mistaken, World Tree-nim. He is indeed the one who helped you be born, but he’s human. He isn’t your father.]

Sylphid said something Seol Jihu couldn’t understand, so he just stayed still.

To be honest, it felt pretty good. When he took a deep breath of the refreshing air of the leaves, he felt his vertigo disappear like it was being purified.

Ssss….

‘…Huh?’

No, it wasn’t just a feeling.

When the gently glowing light fell on Seol Jihu and the other members of the expedition team, their bodies really underwent a change.

Both small and big wounds vanished, new skin sprouted up, and vitality coursed through their fatigued bodies. Pure, clean energy surged up from the bottom of their bodies and filled up like river water.

Seol Jihu moaned quietly as clean mana boiled up and soothed his screaming mana circuit. It wasn’t until something plopped down on his head that he snapped out of his stupor.

Seol Jihu did a double-take before taking the thing rolling down from his head with both hands.

What hit his head was none other than the apple-red fruit that was hanging on top of the WorldTree.

[Oh my.]

Sylphid, who was watching with delight, exclaimed quietly.

[That is the first fruit of the World Tree, which can only be made after it reaches adulthood… It must have really taken a liking to you.]

Seol Jihu fiddled with the fruit that felt cool.

‘It sounds like it’s amazing…’

He acknowledged the World Tree’s expression of gratitude and was also thankful that it gave him such a precious gift.

But that wasn’t what was important right now.

[Worry not, human.]

Noticing how anxious Seol Jihu was, Ifrit answered his worries calmly.

[Do you see the lights floating around World Tree-nim?]

“Y-Yes.”

[World Tree-nim is already in the process of doing what you desire. It started as soon as it finished giving birth to new life.]

‘That means…’

Seol Jihu nodded his head unwittingly.

He wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but it sounded like the World Tree was doing its best.

‘I’m glad to hear that, but…’

Seol Jihu asked.

“How long will it take?”

[I’m not sure. Connecting to the Middle World and creating a new avatar in Tigol Fortress isn’t all that easy.]

Though he said this, Ifrit gave a gentle smile.

[But World Tree-nim is an existence rivaling a god.]

[And because it just reached adulthood, its power is at its prime. It won’t take long. A few more minutes should be enough.]

A few more minutes…

Though it wouldn’t satisfy him even if he could go right this moment, Seol Jihu swallowed his words as it sounded like that was the best-case scenario.

[Anyway, to think it would give you the first Yggdrasil… I didn’t expect that.]

[He certainly has the qualification to receive it.]

[I acknowledge it.]

Ifrit nodded in agreement before fixing his posture.

[Since World Tree-nim acknowledged you, it is only right that we also express our gratitude and respect.]

Starting with Ifrit, the remaining four Spirit Kings moved.

Sylphid bowed politely with her hands cupped over her bellybutton, Ea curtsied elegantly with her hand over her chest, and the others each expressed their gratitude in their own way.

It wasn’t just the Spirit Kings.

The nearby Spirits that served the Kings also bowed.

Seol Jihu scratched his cheek. He felt the Spirits’ heartfelt sincerity, but situations like this always made him feel awkward.

[You revived the god we serve and saved the world we live in. You have the qualification to receive our admiration and worship.]

Ifrit emphasized once again before suddenly asking.

[Is there anything you want in particular?]

“Anything I want?”

[We want to repay you for everything you’ve done. We will not hesitate to grant any wish as long as it is within our capabilities.]

Seol Jihu fell into deep thought.

Even if he was asked for something he wanted, there really wasn’t anything in particular.

The one thing he could think of was asking the Spirits to give their all in fighting the Parasites, but they seemed eager to do so already.

“I don’t know. I can’t really think of—”

But before he could finish, something butted in from the side.

Turning around reflexively, Seol Jihu saw the phoenix craning its long neck and jumped in fright.

“W-What’s up?”

—Partner, lend me your ear.

The phoenix quickly whispered, and Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

“Hmm?”

—You can repeat what I said word by word.

“But what does that mean?”

—What do you think? They’re magical words that will force those fools’ hands. This world cannot continue like this. A change is necessary.

Seol Jihu looked up at the Spirit Kings with a confused expression.

“Um, there isn’t anything I want in particular, but… kuhum.”

Clearing his throat, he relayed what he heard.

“I’d like you to forgive the Cave Fairies now.”

Hearing this, Baek Haeju furrowed her brows and shot her head toward Seol Jihu.

[….]

The Spirit Kings did not answer right away.

After a short moment of lull, Ifrit crossed his arms and sighed.

[Teaching him useless things…]

—Useless?

The Phoenix frowned.

—Fools. Do you plan to dwell on the past after the near-irrecoverable tragedy this world suffered?

[But.]

—But, my ass. The Spirit Realm was saved. That was thanks to my partner and his companions.

The phoenix did not raise its voice, but its mocking tone was clear.

—But these guys have to leave soon. What if the Parasites attack again? What are you going to do then?

[That won’t happen.]

—That won’t happen? What, you’re going to ask for help again?

Ifrit shut his mouth.

—As you know, our saving the Spirit Realm this time was thanks to luck, a miracle that happens through multiple overlapping coincidences!

[Mm…]

—If you all weren’t so stubborn, we wouldn’t have needed to come here in the first place. Do you have any idea how many things we need to take care of in the Middle World? We don’t have time to be devoting our attention to this place!

[….]

—If you refuse to compromise and suffer a similar mishap again… then the Spirit Realm will have no choice but to face total destruction. Remember that, idiots.

Ifrit smacked his lips at the phoenix’s sharp rebuke.

[I have nothing to say…]

[I accept that request.]

As Ifrit muttered bitterly, the Water Spirit King, Aqua, spoke in a serene voice.

[What Arcus-nim said is right. We made full preparations before facing the Army Commanders, but we were defeated too easily in the end.]

[Indeed. If we do not change, the same thing will easily happen again.]

Sylphid agreed with Aqua and also accepted the request.

[That is one thing we must prevent from happening. The Cave Fairies’ sin cannot be washed away, but we must unseal the two lords in spite of that.]

With this, two Spirit Kings had voted in favor of Seol Jihu’s request.

Ifrit turned to the remaining two.

[Well… The Cave Fairies and Sky Fairies are already cooperating in the Middle World. I agree that we must prioritize our common enemy first.]

The Earth Spirit King agreed reluctantly in a somewhat ambiguous way.

Ea did not say anything. She simply hmphed and turned away. It was clear that she was reluctant, but she seemed to understand that it couldn’t be helped.

[Since a majority of the Spirit Kings agreed… Huuu.]

Ifrit breathed out another deep sigh before looking down at Seol Jihu with a deep gaze.

[Human, no, our savior.]

He continued in a clear voice while still hesitating slightly.

[Is that truly what you wish?]

“Yes, please forgive the Cave Fairies now.”

Seol Jihu nodded immediately.

[In that case… let it be so. After all, it is our savior’s request… and one that is ultimately for our benefit.]

Then, after a moment of hesitation, he spoke with determination.

[…We accept your request!]

Baek Haeju and a few others widened their eyes in disbelief.

[I, Ifrit, representing all Spirits, hereby promise to forgive the Cave Fairies.]

[From hereon, Ophinü Odor shall be unsealed, thereby liberating Diffidem Odor as well.]

[But note, this is not by our will, but wholly by the request of our savior.]

Philip Muller’s jaw dropped. Seo Yuhui and Agnes also stared at Seol Jihu with dazed expressions.

It was because they knew the background story— about what happened in the past, why the Fairies split, and why the Cave Fairies became blind and wrapped their eyes with cloths.

However, the Spirit Kings had just accepted Seol Jihu’s request and made an oath to forgive the Cave Fairies.

The deeply rooted enmity between the Fairies that no one could solve for the past thousands of years had just been resolved.

At the very least, it should have resulted in a tremendous amount of contribution points.

—…Hmph.

The phoenix snorted.

—Good, you finally learned what’s important.

“Thank you.”

Despite saying thanks, Seol Jihu still had a confused expression from the lack of knowledge he had about the Fairies and the Spirits’ past.

“I’m not sure about the details… but I hope you don’t think too badly about this decision. As the saying goes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend.”

[The enemy of your enemy is your friend…]

Ifrit repeated Seol Jihu’s words and then chuckled.

[That is indeed the perfect saying for this situation.]

As soon as Ifrit finished speaking, the branches of the World Tree, including the ones embracing Seol Jihu, slowly shot up.

Woooooong!

A vigorous sound then resounded out, and the five Spirit Kings simultaneously turned.

At the same time, Seol Jihu’s vision turned bright yellow.

Chohong shouted.

“The World Tree…!”

…was shining.

The glowing lights around the World Tree had gathered together, and the entirety of the ash tree was emitting a brilliant golden light.

That wasn’t all. As if to resonate with this phenomenon, the bodies of the expedition team members were shining in the same light.

Seol Jihu slowly raised his hands.

His shining hands scattered into a fine spray of light and fluttered into the air. The light swerved up and was absorbed by the World Tree.

“This is…”

[The preparations must be done.]

Ifrit said quietly before tilting his head up.

[Yes, it’s done.]

Next, as Seol Jihu and the other expedition members looked up—

Kwaaaaaaaa!

The entire World Tree suddenly transformed into a giant cluster of light and shot up into the sky.

In the blink of an eye, a magnificent pillar of light was erected, piercing through the sky and disappearing into outer space.

By this point, half of Seol Jihu’s body had scattered. As his consciousness slowly grew faint, he felt himself get sucked into the far distance.

As even his vision turned white…

[Thank you. For giving us a chance to get revenge.]

What Seol Jihu could hear…

[See you in Tigol Fortress…!]

…was Ifrit’s dignified voice shouting out.

**


Meanwhile, at Tigol Fortress, the Federation and humanity were in a fierce battle that could only be described as total chaos.

A bloody battle had broken out once the Parasites started an all-out attack.

“The Banshees are coming!”

“What?”

Gabriel hurriedly looked beyond the fortress wall. Just as she heard, hideous souls were rushing toward the fortress at frightening speeds.

“They’re suddenly charging head-on…? No.”

Gabriel gritted her teeth.

“Prepare the Thunders! Construct a fire net!”

She bit her lip in anxiety even as she gave the command.

At last, the Parasites’ main force arrived at the fortress.

One side trying to break through, one side trying to stop them.

The former having an overwhelming advantage did not need to be mentioned.

But that didn’t mean the disadvantaged side would sit by and do nothing.

“Fire!”

Gabriel commanded the Federation’s soldiers to shoot, and Sky Fairies soared up carrying Thunders in their hands.

KIAAAAAAAA!

The Banshees screamed as if they were not afraid of death.

Flash!

A huge flash of light seized the sky, followed by a sonic boom that reverberated through the land.

“Keeeeu!”

“Aaaaack!”

Members of the Federation near the epicenter of the sonic boom collapsed screaming.

Everyone covered their ears and convulsed sporadically while frowning.

“Euuuu…!”

Gabriel staggered as well.

The explosive boom of the Thunders being muffled slightly was the only saving grace.

She held onto the wall and steadied herself, but she furrowed her brows seeing the wave of Succubi flying in from the vanishing flash of light.

Just as she was about to react—

“?”

She paused.

Instead of attacking, the succubi leisurely cut across the sky.

They each picked up a random corpse, passed the fortress wall, and flew toward the highest point of Tigol Fortress.

“What…”

Gabriel dazedly stared at Vulgar Chastity.

‘Don’t tell me.’

Then, her eyes shot open as she suddenly realized Vulgar Chastity’s intention.

“STOP HEEEEER!”

As she shouted from the top of her lungs, the soldiers arranged in the pathway leading to the peak hurried out.

But when Fallen Angels and Sky Fairies spread their wings to fly up, the succubi threw down the corpses in their hands as if they had been waiting for this moment.

Plop, plop! The falling corpses vomited out reddish-black blood. The flowing blood began to seethe before bubbling up into monsters.

These were Blood Golems, the army of Abhorrent Charity.

Guooooooo!

As the Blood Golems howled fiercely and charged forward, a chaotic battle broke out in the middle of the pathway.

Meanwhile, Vulgar Chastity led the succubi and flew away to the highest point of the centermost area of the fortress, where the World Tree was located.

Gabriel didn’t understand why the Parasites were using their precious army in such a wasteful, inefficient manner to aim for the World Tree that was already dead.

She dropped her hand helplessly. She wanted to say something, but no words came out.

Whatever the Parasites’ intention may be, she had allowed them to enter the fortress.

Two armies, in fact!

Though their actions were outside of her expectations, she really couldn’t do anything about them breaking through while ignoring everything else.

“….”

Gabriel suddenly laughed while thinking, ‘Should we have used the Thunders more sparingly?’

In truth, she knew.

She knew that Tigol Fortress, without the protection of the World Tree and the power of Spirits, was nothing but a huge wall that would easily crumble if the enemy attacked seriously.

That was why Gabriel didn’t say anything.

Since this incident would force them to face their enemies from within the walls, it was clear that they wouldn’t last long.

In other words, whatever resistance they put up from now on would be meaningless.

Rumble!

At that moment, the stone statue on the cliffside changed color and fell, as if to foretell the future that the Federation would soon face.

Yuirel’s eyes waned as she saw this sight.

It showed that the Nests’ infestation had reached the fortress.

“Already….”

Fighting against four armies was already a difficult task. Now, the walls were starting to fall.

Koong!

The sound of the statue falling to the ground and shattering, mixed with the screams and shrieks ringing out in all directions, sounded like the prelude to doom.

“This is…”

Yuirel dropped her head and sighed.

“Really… the end…”

Each word that eked out of her throat was filled with despair.

In the end, she blankly stared at the succubi as they flew away.

“If only we had the power of the Spirits…!”

Suddenly, a Sky Fairy fell to her knees as she lamented out loud.

Her eyes resentfully looking up at the World Tree, waned…

“Heheuk!”

Then she erupted into tears.

Perhaps because her despair and frustration were so evident, her tears quickly spread to her surroundings.

“Keuk…!”

Heavily injured Beastmen panting from their wounds also cried in indignation.

“Heuk… kkeuk…”

And the Dwarves, busily crafting new Thunders even at such a moment, also filled up with tears.

Sobs began to reverberate throughout the fortress.

They still thought about resisting until the bitter end, but they couldn’t stop the tears from welling up.

Because they felt that this was the end, just like Yuirel said.

*


Vulgar Chastity didn’t stop until she reached the vantage point overlooking the entire fortress.

From this place, the entire fortress seemed to fit inside her hand.

The same went for the dead tree standing in the middle of the fortress.

‘What is it?’

She tilted her head after confirming the state of the World Tree.

The tree was dried up in a pitiful state, just as she predicted.

‘It’s still the same, so why…’

She saw hundreds of soldiers and a large stele protecting the World Tree, but they didn’t seem all that threatening.

No matter how she looked at the situation, it didn’t warrant sacrificing Exploding Patience’s army to the Thunders and throwing Abhorrent Charity's army in the middle of the fortress.

‘No.’

However, Vulgar Chastity soon shook her head.

The Queen must have her reason.

There was no need for a mere servant such as herself to question her.

What she needed to do now was appease the Queen’s fury as quickly as possible.

Although the faintly shining stele was a little disturbing, Vulgar Chastity paid no attention to it and spread out her arms.

Then—

“BURN!”

The moment she released the energy compressed within her—!

BOOOOOM!

A huge pillar of fire shot up from the bottom of the dead tree and enveloped it completely.

That wasn’t all. Lava broke through the earth and jutted out like a fountain. A banquet of flames set the entire fortress ablaze!

“Ahahahahahaha!”

Inside the pillars of fire soaring up to the sky, Vulgar Chastity leaned back and laughed her head off.

“Did you see that, My Queen!?”

Turning around with a beaming smile, she pointed down while looking at the huge image in the sky.

“Look! The World Tree and the fortress are burning!”

Tigol Fortress was a sea of flames, just like she said. The World Tree was also turning black as it was cooked by the fire.

“Wait just a little bit longer, Queen! I, Vulgar Chastity, shall fulfill your command and total this fortress once and for all—!”

Blurting out proudly, Vulgar Chastity waved her hand and signaled at her succubi army.

“Now! Everyone…!”

It was then.

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