Chapter 350. The End of the War (4)

Their conversation lasted longer than he expected, and the celebration was already underway when he got out.

There were groups of people, some small and some large, scattered all over the vast fortress. Everyone was laughing, drinking, and enjoying themselves.

When he turned his eyes to a particularly loud spot, he saw people of various races rolling on the ground, laughing.

At the center of their attention was Hoshino Urara.

“And… KWAAAA! The beam hit her hard, and she stumbled like this….”

She wobbled as she mimicked Twisted Kindness being attacked by Raging Temperance.

They seemed to be talking about the battle she fought in the Spirit Realm.

“She’s an interesting person.”

Gabriel muttered.

Seol Jihu didn’t respond. His mind was still occupied with the unexpected proposal he’d received a moment ago.

Gabriel asked as they slowly entered the scene of the festival.

“Are you uncomfortable?”

“No, that’s not it.”

Seol Jihu said after a moment of reflection.

“I think it’s a generous offer. Humanity does need to change.”

“Perhaps the word ‘revolution’ would be more fitting. Some Earthlings might think the plan is too radical. Isn’t that what you’re worried about?”

“It’s not that I’m worried, but…. I actually have a question.”

“What is it? Do ask.”

“Is it okay? It’s about the Fallen Angels.”

“Us? Now that interests me even more.”

“I heard the Fallen Angels are foreign to Paradise, just like the Parasites.”

Gabriel almost stopped but managed to keep walking.

“How did the Fallen Angels end up in Paradise?”

Gabriel smiled bitterly.

“Ah. This is why you should never make a promise when you’re in a good mood.”

She said in a vaguely regretful tone and glanced at Seol Jihu.

“It’s not exactly a secret, but… do you really want to know?”

“Yes. Personally, I’ve always wondered about it.”

“I see. I guess I don’t have any choice. It’s a bit of a long story. Are you okay with that?”

Seol Jihu nodded.

Gabriel gave a deep sigh and licked her lips.

“Where should I start….”

After a moment of silence, she continued.

“Once upon a time, there was a great war. To put it simply, it was a war between the angels and the demons.”

Her voice was full of regret.

Seol Jihu listened to the narrative silently.

“It was a devastating war, where Authorities like the one the Parasite Queen used yesterday were ubiquitous.”

“The two sides fought fiercely for a long time. But in the end, the demons triumphed over the angels. The angels retreated to their sanctuary, their home — the Celestial Realm — and began plotting revenge. At the same time, the demons tried to invade the Celestial Realm in order to seal their victory. It was the beginning of a whole new war.”

“What the angels came up with then was — summoning proxies. They had to protect the Celestial Realm no matter what, but they themselves lacked the power to do so. So they forcefully summoned proxies to fight for them.”

‘Proxies?’

Seol Jihu tilted his head curiously.

The word ‘forcefully’ bothered him.

“What do you think?”

Suddenly, Gabriel turned to him and asked.

“Let’s say you’ve just been discharged from the army. You’re so happy to finally go home and you fall asleep on the train. Then, when you open your eyes again, you’re in a whole new world, against your will.”

Forced into a situation where there’s no dream or hope, fighting against the demons as a proxy for the angels, unable to return home and barely surviving everyday….

What would he think of the ones who put himself in such a situation?

Seol Jihu’s face unwittingly warped into a heavy frown.

“Son of a bitch….”

He immediately regretted saying it out loud, but the water had already spilled.

But, he meant what he said.

To be summoned forcefully on the day of his discharge… Seol Jihu felt sorry for that guy, whoever he was.

“Son of a bitch… yes, the angels must have been exactly that. From Martial God’s perspective, that is.”

Gabriel didn’t seem to mind Seol Jihu’s harsh words.

“And those sons of bitches soon paid the price.”

“Price?”

“Yes. At one point, one proxy became ridiculously powerful. His power was enough to threaten not only the angels but also the demons.”

“Ooh.”

“Hey, you… nevermind. Anyway, that proxy quickly climbed to the top and began pursuing a vendetta against the angels and the demons. He and his followers first invaded Infernal Realm, the home of the demons, and then the Celestial Realm, the home of the angels.”

“I see.”

“For the record, the Infernal Realm surrendered immediately without putting up a fight.”

Gabriel snorted.

“It was pathetic, really. They begged him, ‘Wasn’t killing the Seven Archdemons and Fourteen Demon Lords enough? We’re victims, too! Please spare our lives! We’ll do anything! We can even become your dogs!’ Well, the Martial God bought it, and he accepted their surrender under certain conditions.”

“And the Celestial Realm?”

“Destroyed.”

Gabriel answered simply.

However, contrary to her tone, her face was grim.

“We sent him a formal apology, and he replied by sending us a short letter and the head of the angel we’d sent as a messenger. The letter said… What was it again? ‘Demons, I can forgive. But you, never.’ Something like that.”

“Then….”

“That’s right. The Martial God invaded the Celestial Realm. Using infernal flames and the infernal army, he destroyed everything and captured all angels. He even brought the angels who fell in battle back to life.”

Gabriel bit her lower lip.

“And then… The Martial God threw all the angels he captured into the Infernal Realm. He then ordered the demons to torment the angels with unimaginable pain and humiliation. He didn’t want the demons to kill us. He wanted us to suffer forever. He told the demons that he would decide whether or not to accept their surrender, depending on how well they carry out his orders.”

“And then what happened?”

“What do you think?”

Gabriel answered curtly.

“That’s when hell began. After untold torture and humiliation, we angels fell from grace, and….”

Judging from her expression, it couldn’t have been a thrilling experience. Gabriel continued hesitantly.

“What could we have done? We became slaves to the demons whom we despised so much, until one day we were given a chance.”

“Chance?”

“Paradise.”

Gabriel pointed at the sky, and then at the earth.

“You see, there was actually an angel who turned over to the Martial God’s side before all of this happened. I guess she took pity on us and begged the Martial God.”

“To forgive you?”

“Not quite. She probably asked him to give us another chance. Well, they seemed like a happy couple, so I’m guessing he couldn’t ignore her request.”

A chance.

Seol Jihu thought for a moment and then said.

“No way.”

The corner of Gabriel’s mouth slanted upward.

“That’s right. The Martial God robbed us of all our Authorities and power and then mentioned Paradise. He told us that the Parasite Queen was disturbing the peace of this planet and ordered us to take care of her. At least that’s what he said. He probably just wanted us to suffer the same pain he did.”

Gabriel stopped moving.

“And so we came to this planet by force.”

She looked up at the stars in the night sky and shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s the end of my story. What do you think?”

Seol Jihu was speechless.

In truth, he had hoped for a fairytale-like story in which a righteous alien race helped humans fight against the evil atrocities of the Parasite Queen.

“….”

But the reality was far beyond his imagination.

“Don't feel sorry for us. Like I told you, we’re just paying for what we’ve done.”

Gabriel emphasized.

“What’s important is that we Fallen Angels have no choice but to help Paradise. We’re going to do everything we can to grab the chance given to us, even if it was the Martial God’s empty words. I’d rather bite off my tongue and kill myself than become the demons’ slave again.”

Seol Jihu nodded slowly.

“I see. You’re definitely on our side.”

“Yes. We’re both fighting this war for the survival of our people, so you don’t have to worry about betrayal. Earthlings are an exception… but maybe that’ll change after tonight.”

Gabriel smacked her lips and shook her head, to indicate she didn’t want to talk on this subject anymore.

“Well then.”

Gabriel cast a quick glance about the fortress and gave an enigmatic smile.

“Now that I’ve satisfied your curiosity, I’d like to go enjoy the festival…. Will you be alright without me?”

“?”

“Since yesterday, you’ve become a hero to the Federation. I’m sure there isn’t a soul in this fortress that doesn’t know your name.”

Seol Jihu tilted his head. He still wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.

“Some races may want to express their gratitude in their own way. They don’t mean any harm, that’s just their culture. So don’t think too badly of them.”

Gabriel left with the same enigmatic smile.

Though clueless at first, Seol Jihu quickly came to a realization.

He noticed a strange presence nearby.

A number of foreign races were surrounding him.

First he saw a group of beauties led by a Foxman with foxy eyes and a voluptuous figure. He then saw the little brats, including Haeryeo and Haeya. The group of white and yellow rice cakes was also joyfully wagging their tails at him.

They were all waiting thirstily for a chance to talk to him.

“Hello….”

The Foxman beauty was the first to speak.

Blushing coyly, she approached him with a smile on her face.

“If it's not too much trouble, could you come with us for a moment….”

“Wait~ Hold on~”

It was then that pink-colored hair fluttered before Seol Jihu’s eyes.

Suddenly, Teresa came out of nowhere. She seemed to have been following him for a while.

The Foxman beauty gave a small frown.

“Who are you?”

“Teresa Hussey, the Princess of Haramark.”

Said Teresa confidently as she placed her hand on Seol Jihu’s shoulder.

“And this man right here is the royal son to the King of Haramark. That means he’s the king’s son-in-law. And I’m Haramark’s only princess…. Do you understand now?”

‘When did I become the king’s son-in-law?’

Seol Jihu turned to Teresa with a puzzled look.

The Foxman beauty seemed perplexed as well.

“A-And?”

“What do you mean ‘and’? He’s married, is what I’m saying.”

“I think you misunderstood. We just want to talk to him.”

“Oh, come on. Quit playing games. You and I both know better. Sure, it starts out with just talking, but then one thing leads to another, and suddenly you’re moaning under him.”

Teresa folded her arms.

“I respect your culture, and I’d like for you to respect ours. Where he comes from, monogamy is the law. If you sleep with a woman who isn’t your wife, you’re criticized by your peers and even punishable by law. Surely you don’t want anything bad to happen to the Federation’s hero, do you?”

Teresa said all this very quickly, as if not to give her a chance to refute.

Baffled, the Foxman beauty failed to find the right words and shut her mouth.

“Tsk.”

Finally she clicked her tongue and turned around, and the rest of the beauty corps left with her in regret.

“Hmph.”

Teresa watched them leave, her eyes full of contempt. She then glanced sideways.

“Hey, guys. You heard me, right?”

She threw the little ones a gentle smile and waved them away with an impatient gesture.

“Pooh!”

“Pink hag!”

Haeryeo, Haeya, and the rest of the little ones left sulking.

“Kkiiing!”

The group of white rice cakes and yellow rice cakes also turned away with a grunt.

“Those brats. What do they know?”

Teresa snorted and took Seol Jihu’s hand in hers as he stood dazed.

“What took you so long? What did you guys talk about?”

“Stuff… important stuff. I’ll tell you later.”

“Did the fairies ask you to marry them in exchange for the Blessing of the Spirits?”

“Uh… they did, but Gabriel turned them down for me.”

“Good. Now Haramark will ally with the Fallen Angels.”

Teresa pulled Seol Jihu’s hand and began to walk.

“Princess? Where are we going?”

“To somewhere where there isn’t any trouble.”

“Okay, but why are you holding a knife?”

“Mister Seol Jihu. Clearly you have no idea how dangerous this situation is. The Federation, especially the Cave Fairies and the Beastmen Association, are not the type to plan ahead. They just go for it.”

“Go for it?”

“That’s right. Didn’t you see it earlier? They were basically throwing themselves at you.”

Teresa opened her eyes wide, keeping a lookout, and Seol Jihu looked back regretfully.

The truth was….

‘I wanted to try chewing on them again….’

He regretted not being able to play with the mochi-like fuzzballs.


*

The next morning, humanity left Tigol Fortress.

They began the long journey home and the Federation saw them off.

Just before they set off, however, there was a small incident in which the World Tree grabbed Seol Jihu and refused to let go. Some then demanded humanity to leave Seol Jihu behind, and the situation almost turned into a fight. But in the end, everything worked out well and Seol Jihu was released and set out on his way to Eva.

But there was one thing he left behind.

He decided to place the Stele of Evaluation from the Pagoda of Dreams next to the World Tree.

It was done, of course, with Roselle’s consent. Seol Jihu asked her in his dream and Roselle readily agreed.

The Federation had no reason to decline.

Roselle would be a great asset to the Federation should the Parasites attempt to invade Tigol Fortress again.

Their bodies were tired from the fierce battle, but their steps were as light as a feather.

Everyone was agog with excitement. This was their first major victory against the Parasites.

Their pace naturally quickened, and before they knew it, Eva was just around the corner.

That night, humanity stopped within a day’s distance to Eva and set up camp in the woods.

Everyone gathered around the fire and a lively conversation ensued. The main topic of discussion was contribution points.

Judging from everything that had happened, it seemed clear that many people would be promoted to High Rankers.

Seol Jihu also had high expectations.

‘Level 6 is a given. I could probably shoot for Level 7, too…. Maybe they’ll let me skip the test as well.’

He had long dreamed of becoming a Unique Ranker. He worried that the excitement and anticipation would keep him awake at night.

And his prediction became a reality. After hours of tossing and turning, Seol Jihu crawled out of his tent.

He couldn’t sleep, and he was feeling hungry.

He wanted a quick snack before going back to bed.

The campsite was silent.

Because he was traveling with an army, he didn’t have to worry about keeping a night watch.

Wondering what to eat, Seol Jihu inadvertently turned his gaze to the side.

‘That’s….’

It was then that he noticed a woman, dressed in a white traditional robe, leaning back against a tree with her eyes closed.

“Miss Baek Haeju?”

Baek Haeju opened her eyes slightly, and their eyes met.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“….”

The woman bowed her head slightly without saying a word.

She closed her eyes again.

It didn’t seem like she was sleeping. She just seemed lost in thought.

‘She’s a strange one.’

Looking at Baek Haeju’s expressionless face, Seol Jihu gave a small sigh.

Often, she seemed emotionless, but she would sometimes casually call his name or even joke around during battles. And then— it was back to this again. She would become as quiet as she was now.

In fact, today, Seol Jihu and several others tried striking up a conversation with her all during the trip, but Baek Haeju barely said a word back.

Because of her seemingly cold demeanor, she was often seen alone than with a group of people.

Although, she seemed perfectly content with her situation….

‘Still, I’m grateful to her.’

Seol Jihu concluded.

He then hummed to himself as he took out the black belt he had received from Teresa.

“Ramen is the best late-night snack.”

Ever since he suffered from hunger and thirst during the Delphinion Duchy Laboratory Escape, he had made a habit of stockpiling food.

Belt infused with preservation magic was undoubtedly the best place to store food.

“La la la, ramen, la la la la….”

Seol Jihu hummed as he made a fire and took out ramen and bottled water.

‘Water boils between 97°C and 99°C. It has to be exactly 550ml.... Wait, I think I poured a little more. And now I wait exactly 4 minutes….’

He put in more effort than usual.

Seol Jihu’s lips curved into a smile as he watched the noodles cook to a perfect yellow.

The soft-boiled egg on top of the ramen made his mouth water.

‘Thank you for the food.’

Seol Jihu prayed with his hands together before picking up the chopsticks.

“Huu— Huu—”

He cut the egg in half and grabbed it with the noodles.

After blowing on the steaming noodles, he slowly brought it to his open mouth.

It was then.

“Huu…. Hmm?”

Seol Jihu blinked curiously.

A shadow was cast over the bonfire that had just been lit.

He looked back unwittingly, and….

“…”

Baek Haeju, who had been sitting under a tree, was suddenly standing next to him. Her eyes were fixed on… the ramen, and not Seol Jihu.

“Miss Baek Haeju?”

“….”

Baek Haeju didn’t answer.

She just stood there staring at the ramen.

Her nostrils flared slightly from the ramen’s spicy aroma.

Standing there with an expressionless face, she looked a little scary.

It might just be his imagination, but she was giving off an intense aura.

‘Does she… want the ramen?’

Seol Jihu scratched his head.

He was kind of surprised.

He hadn’t asked because he thought she would decline.

“Uh….”

Confused, Seol Jihu handed over the chopsticks in his hand to Baek Haeju.

“Would you like to have some?”

Baek Haeju’s eyes turned to the chopsticks.

She gave Seol Jihu a quick glance and then stared at the ramen again.

“….”

Gulp

The sound of her swallowing resounded in the air.

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