Chapter 429. Supernova (3)

Clang!

A metallic sound rang out.

“Keuk!”

And a breathy gasp escaped Unsightly Humility’s mouth.

The amount of force exerted by the spear far exceeded his imagination.

Heroic Spirit — pulling out a mountain with strength and covering the world with aura.

Unsightly Humility had never been subject to such enormous force, not only when he was alive, but even after he became the King of Death Knights.

His joints that were strengthened when he first became an undead began to creak, and even his soul began to throb.

“Keuuuu…!”

He managed to block the blow, but that was all.

The weight continued to crush down on him even as he tried to push the spear away with all his might.

Then, all of a sudden, the pressure eased…

Whoosh!

And an alarmingly powerful force cut through the air and rushed toward his left.

Unsightly Humility quickly raised his divinity and twisted his body.

Clang!

“!?”

A metallic sound echoed once again, and Unsightly Humility’s upper body quickly bent to the right.

In addition to his divinity, the Army Commander tried to counteract the enemy’s attack by adding rotational force to his arm. Still, his longsword stopped in the air as if it had run into a mountain, and his body was pushed back.

Even his horse’s legs were bent as it struggled to hold out against the blow.

‘Am I…’

Dreaming?

Unsightly Humility muttered to himself.

He, who was granted the position of the Second Army Commander in recognition of his close-ranged combat skills, was losing.

And it wasn’t like he let his guard down. He was careful to encircle the enemy first, cutting off his routes of withdrawal, then attacked with all his might from the start, even utilizing his divinity.

Furthermore, the corrupted soil which they stood on, belonged to the Queen. It continuously energized those under her command and took vitality away from her enemies.

Despite such advantages, however, he had just lost in a battle of pure strength.

Clang! Before he could do anything, the spear once again descended toward him at the speed of light.

Unsightly Humility moved his arms instinctively, but his longsword slipped from his grasp and swirled in the air.

He managed to block the strike twice, but the third time he couldn’t hold out any longer.

As unbelievable as it was, he wasn’t even given time to think.

Kwang, kwang, kwang! Craaaack!

A dozen invisible spears pierced through his body, crushing his black armor and breaking his bones.

Unsightly Humility fell from his saddle and rolled on the ground.

[Hrrrrnnnnng!]

The spectral horse, sensing his master was in danger, quickly lifted its front feet.

The first thing Unsightly Humility saw when he came to his senses was his horse falling to the ground with a white spear stuck in its throat.

And then….

Spark!

When the eyes of the two men met, large streams of electricity gushed out of Seol Jihu’s body.

He rushed toward Unsightly Humility, like a savage beast chasing its prey.

‘This is….’

As the pair of crimson eyes approached him at an incredible speed, the Army Commander concluded—It can’t be helped.

He had not expected to release his divinity so early, and against only one person.

But he had to because otherwise, he would perish even before he had a chance to use his divinity.

Compared to Vulgar Chastity, his reaction was quick and decisive.

Boom!

But just before Unsightly Humility released his divinity, he heard the sound of air exploding and stopped.

Seol Jihu, who had been rushing at him until just a few seconds ago, was gone.

He felt as if he had been haunted by an illusion.

Unsightly Humility looked around quickly and saw Seol Jihu standing far away with a look of regret.

With his body turned halfway around, Seol Jihu seemed to have stopped while running away from the scene.

Unsightly Humility felt a chill run down his spine.

If he had released his divinity without stopping, Seol Jihu would have fled as quickly as possible.

All would have been well if he caught Seol Jihu, but what if he couldn’t and ran out of time?

He would have entered a groggy state and become a dog chasing after a butterfly.

‘This man….’

He finally realized that the reason Seol Jihu came at him with all his might from the beginning was to induce him to release his divinity.

Unsightly Humility clenched his teeth.

He would not be so anxious, had his opponent rushed in without tactics.

There were millions of ways to deal with an opponent eager to show off his strength.

But Seol Jihu was rational at the same time as he was wild.

Nicely put, he was smart. Badly put, he was deceitful.

His attack on his enemies’ weaknesses was so precise that it called for applause.

Of course, from the standpoint of the target, he was a despicable man who deserved to be torn into a million pieces.

‘I can’t. This position….’

Unsightly Humility thought he was ready, but it turned out he wasn’t.

He quickly analyzed the situation and gave the order to charge.

Half of his army that was still alive began to rush toward Seol Jihu like a moth flying to the fire.

Unsightly Humility turned around and fled the scene.

He knew his soldiers didn’t stand a chance against his opponent. Their only purpose was to buy time for his escape.

In short, it was a crushing defeat on his part.

While running away, Unsightly Humility glanced behind his shoulder.

The Spear of Purity was dancing.

One movement of the arm killed a dozen parasites. Streams of sword qi gushing out from the white spearhead devoured the surging darkness.

Single-handedly overpowering a thousand enemies, Seol Jihu’s skills were indeed unparalleled in the world.

In a way, the brutal massacre was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

‘The First Army Commander was right.’

Unsightly Humility thought as he increased the distance between himself and his enemy.

He admitted— now, even the Army Commanders could not look down on the Brightest Star.

Still, he did not doubt that if the Parasites concentrated all their resources on Seol Jihu, he would not be able to escape.

He might be swimming against the current, but he was still a small fish. As long as he was in the Queen’s territory, he couldn’t possibly change the direction of the current.

But, Unsightly Humility admitted that a change in the speed of the current was needed.

‘I have to let everyone know.’

He had no intention of letting the fish escape the river.

*


The expedition team, divided into groups of three, was running in their respective directions.

Philip Muller’s prediction came true. Two of the seven parties received no attack from the Five Armies that arrived in Via Lactea.

One of the two parties was Baek Haeju’s, with Kazuki and Maria serving as decoys.

“What’s wrong?”

Kazuki asked.

Baek Haeju, who was running in the lead, kept looking back. Her speed slowed down until she came to a full stop.

“…Something’s not right.”

“Not right?”

“No. I’m not too concerned that the Five Armies aren’t chasing us. But—”

“Do we have time for this?”

Maria interrupted in a sharp tone.

“How’s that gonna change anything?”

“But….”

“We predicted from the start that the enemy might not try to chase two of the groups. We’re lucky, so what? Considering your role in this mission, shouldn’t you be running even harder now?”

Her voice sounded slightly nervous as if urging Baek Haeju to start running again.

“Or… What? You can’t possibly mean you want to go back now.”

Because Baek Haeju still seemed hesitant, Maria’s voice became sharp again.

Then suddenly, a look of determination crossed Baek Haeju’s face.

“Is it possible that I—”

“If you’re suggesting we take the stele and go on without you, I refuse.”

Maria snapped.

“Kazuki and I are only decoys to be thrown away. Don’t you know that?”

“That’s enough. I don’t understand what’s so strange, but….”

Kazuki spoke carefully.

“By going back, you’re likely to put the person you’re trying to help in even more danger. Not only that, but you also risk putting the entire expedition team in danger.”

“.…”

“I’m sure you know this already.”

“What if he’s already in danger?”

Baek Haeju, who had been quiet for a while, quickly retorted.

“What?”

Kazuki raised his eyebrows.

The reason she wants to go back is that the person she wants to help is already in danger?

“…The answer is still a no.”

Kazuki did have a sense of whom she might be referring to but shook his head nonetheless.

“I have absolutely no intention of turning back, but—if a different party was in our position, then yes, they could choose to go back.”

“….”

“But, we can’t.”

Kazuki continued in a determined manner.

“Maria and I can’t take on your role because we don’t have access to a Dimensional Pocket. And if you were to go back with that in your space, you’ll endanger not only our party but the entire humanity.”

That’s right—Seol Jihu had left the stele in Baek Haeju’s care.

Seo Yuhui wrapped the stele in sacred cloth to mask most of the darkness and hid it in Baek Haeju’s Dimensional Pocket.

This was something only she could do because the other two in her team were Level 5 and Level 6, respectively.

“Even if no one is chasing us right now, there’s no guarantee it will stay this way. Think about what Representative said before we split up.”

Kazuki urged earnestly.

[Miss Baek Haeju.]

Baek Haeju closed her eyes.

[Please.]

A deep sigh escaped her mouth.

Though her face was still full of worries and regrets as she glanced over her shoulder….

“…I understand.”

…At last, she forced herself to face forward.

The strange premonition lingered in her heart, but right now, she couldn’t be sure of anything.

She could only hope that all her worries would be for nothing.

Around the same time….

“Stop.”

Agnes, who had been running in the lead, suddenly came to a halt.

She frowned while staring in one direction before quickly glancing around.

Soon she found a large boulder nearby and hastened her steps toward it.

Seo Yuhui and Oh Rahee followed behind and hid behind the boulder.

The three lowered themselves and held their breath. Soon, a long procession linking the sky and the earth appeared from afar.

It was an army of parasites and corpses.

“Again….”

Oh Rahee muttered in a stifled voice.

Fortunately, they were not being chased by the Army Commanders, but this was already the third time they encountered a returning Parasite Army.

It was unlikely that the soldiers deployed near the border had already come this far.

These armies were probably on their way to the border when they got called back. So running into them in itself was only natural.

But Seo Yuhui seemed suspicious, carefully observing the direction of the enemy’s movement.

It was then.

“!”

Suddenly, a flying parasite turned its head toward her.

Seo Yuhui leaned back in surprise.

‘Did it notice?’

She thought their eyes met.

Her heart was pounding hard and fast.

She began preparing a holy spell in case the Parasites began to attack them, but nothing happened.

Agnes, too, was watching the parasite with a nervous face but didn’t move.

Am I mistaken? Seo Yuhui muttered to herself and slowly tilted her head again.

And then—she saw.

She saw the flying parasite that had been looking in her direction, turn its head as if their presence did not alarm it at all.

Seo Yuhui furrowed her brow.

This time, she wasn’t mistaken.

“They’re gone.”

Agnes hurriedly got to her feet.

“…For a second there, I thought we were fucked.”

Oh Rahee let out a sigh of relief.

“Looks like we’re doing pretty well. Are we just lucky, or….”

“I think we’re lucky.”

Agnes replied, pushing up her glasses.

“One thing bothers me, though.”

“The direction.”

A low voice interrupted her.

Agnes glanced down quickly.

Seo Yuhui was shaking a little.

“All the armies we’ve passed so far were heading in the same direction.”

“…You’re right.”

Agnes nodded.

“And they’re not sparing even a second to look for us. It looks like they’re heading somewhere in a hurry.”

Seo Yuhui’s face turned pale.

Because the direction the Parasites were going coincided with Seol Jihu’s party’s escape route.

“Anyway, we should get going.”

“I want to go back.”

Agnes paused while turning around and opened her eyes wide.

So did Oh Rahee. A look of disbelief crossed her face.

“What did I just… hear her say?”

“I won’t ask you to accompany me. I’ll go by myself if I have to.”

Seo Yuhui’s voice was low and clear.

Only then did Agnes realize she was serious, and her eyes turned sharp.

“Do you realize the kind of danger your decision could put the rest of the party and us in?”

“Aren't the three of us decoys anyway?”

Seo Yuhui replied sharply.

“And those in danger may not be the whole team. It could just be three.”

“What do you mean…?”

Agnes’ voice waned. She’d had this bad feeling for a while now.

Seo Yuhui hurried to her feet without saying anything.

She wouldn’t have made such a drastic decision if she wasn’t sure.

But what just happened convinced her that she was right.

Their eyes had clearly met, but the flying parasite left without hesitation, even though an army of that size could easily have confronted the three of them.

Of course, if their goal were to retrieve the stele, it would make sense for them to ignore the three, but at this point, it was simply impossible for them to know the whereabouts of the stele.

Most importantly, Baek Haeju’s party’s escape route was far from that of Seol Jihu’s party.

“…I’m sorry.”

Seo Yuhui bowed her head and apologized.

Agnes and Oh Rahee remained silent.

They had so much to say but saw the steely determination in Seo Yuhui’s eyes.

The atmosphere surrounding her was one that neither dared approach.

“I know I’m acting selfishly. And I’ll pay for my actions if I can make it back alive. But—”

Seo Yuhui raised her head and spoke firmly.

“I’d rather die with him than make the same mistake again.”

After declaring so, Seo Yuhui set out for the path that the Parasite Army had just passed.

*


Seol Jihu was running, paying particular attention to his surroundings.

Twice.

That was the number of times he encountered a new Parasite army after annihilating Unsightly Humility’s army.

Of course, both were made up of only lower-ranked and mid-ranked parasites and corpses, but what was important was that such incidents had already occurred three times.

That Seol Jihu was moving fast meant that the distance between him and the returning Parasite Armies was rapidly decreasing.

Not even a day had passed, and there had already been so many encounters. He didn’t know what to expect or how many more he’d run into in the next couple of days.

That wasn’t his only concern.

Once, he tried to avoid the Parasites but failed. They pursued him as if their lives depended on it, and a new army appeared on the road he had chosen to avoid the earlier army.

This could only mean that the Parasites were coming at him from all directions, and was proof that Unsightly Humility had been telling him the truth.

For example, like now.

Bzzzzz!

He heard the buzzing of bees on the left.

Hundreds of Bugs and Cockroaches appeared on the left road.

‘A piece of cake.’

He thought, but when he turned his eyes to the right, he changed his mind.

Hundreds of enemies had appeared on his right. They knelt on the ground and aimed their bows at him.

It was an army of Evil Phantoms, said to be able to crush even a Level 6 with a single attack.

Koong, koong, koong…!

That wasn’t all.

Suddenly, thumping footsteps began to shake the earth.

Seol Jihu turned his gaze to the left again and saw nine-headed monsters emerge behind the herd of Bugs and Cockroaches.

It wasn’t just one; there were a dozen.

They were Hydras, considered one of the most advanced forms of upper-ranked Parasites.

If this were all, though, he would still be confident that he could somehow escape this situation.

Flone had already had an experience with the Evil Phantoms. He planned to ask her to handle the Evil Phantoms while he took care of Hydras.

But when he turned his head forward, Seol Jihu’s mind became blank with shock.

He saw the elite armies led by the Army Commanders appear in the distance.

Two of the Six Armies were coming.

Together with them, the Fifth and the Sixth Army Commanders appeared, as if everything wasn’t already too much for him.

Vulgar Chastity and Exploding Patience stopped flying as soon as they discovered Seol Jihu.

The two pairs of eyes glistened with a thirst for vengeance against the humiliation they suffered in his hands at Scheherazade.

Without lowering their guard, the two began to raise their energy, with some distance between them and the enemy.

‘…Do these guys not know what being moderate is?’

Seol Jihu flashed his fang in a smile.

Not long after, a human and the Parasite army clashed violently.

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