Side Story 52. Monster and Monster (2)

Seol Jihu left.

—Here. I gave her some of my energy, but I don’t think it helped that much.

The phoenix flew over to the expedition team and put Yi Seol-Ah down on the ground.

“Seol-Ah… Seol-Ah….”

Seo Yuhui hurried to Yi Seol-Ah’s side and quickly took out an Elixeer that Seol Jihu had bought using a Divine Wish.

“Cure Critical Wounds.”

She even chanted a high-ranked healing spell, but Yi Seol-Ah remained as still as a rock. Even when her injured eyes regenerated and her other wounds slowly healed, she showed no signs of regaining consciousness.

“If the Elixeer doesn’t work… I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do at this point.”

Taihi, who had been watching quietly, whispered in a dejected voice.

“All living things have a fundamental core that allows them to retain their own existence. If that core is drained, then…. Ah, if only the World Tree could lend her holy power!”

Seo Yuhui turned to the World Tree. The tree was still struggling to stay alive, relying on the light Seo Yuhui had created, and seemed far too busy to do anything else.

“Oh well. I guess we can only pray that Seol Jihu kills her attacker as soon as possible.”

Cinzia said simply.

“Not that we have any time to spare.”

It was just as she said. The group of grotesque shadow creatures summoned by the enemy was already beginning to move. There were so many of them that the entire area looked black from afar.

“That’s a lot. It wouldn’t be fun if they could regenerate themselves.”

Cinzia muttered, glancing up at the sky. The phoenix was slowly circling over their heads, preparing to launch his attack.

Seol Jihu’s absence was undoubtedly a big loss, but no one seemed too worried. It wasn’t like no one came to replace him, and one of them even had a bottle of holy water.

“Do you want to play a game?”

Cinzia asked, staring at the waves of enemies rushing toward them.

“Whoever kills the most wins. The loser has to grant the winner one wish. What do you say?”

Baek Haeju glanced at Cinzia. She wondered why Cinzia would suggest such a thing. ‘Is she trying to help me relax? Or….’ A look of suspicion crossed her face.

“For example, if I lose… I'd be happy to support you.”

Cinzia continued with a chuckle.

“You see, I heard you’ve been falling behind the Star of Lust lately.”

One of Baek Haeju’s eyebrows instantly shot up.

“Seol Jihu owes us big time for this. He’s all about give and take, so I’m sure he’ll gladly do me a favor later.”

‘So?’ Baek Haeju’s expression seemed to say.

“Think about it. If you win, I could put in a good word for you, or even send him out on a mission with no one else but you.”

“Or you could get some counseling if you’d rather have that. We’ve got a relationship expert, you see.” Cinzia pointed at Agnes and smirked.

Baek Haeju slowly tilted her head. She appeared deep in thought for a few moments. Then suddenly, the apathy in her eyes changed to something else.

Cinzia smiled.

“How about it?”

“All right. Let’s get started right away.”

Baek Haeju disappeared before Cinzia fully registered her answer. Surprised, Cinzia clicked her tongue as she watched Baek Haeju charge alone toward the enemy.

“I didn’t think she’d actually do it…. I wonder, if I ever fall in love, will I be like her? What do you think? Agnes.”

“I don’t know. I can’t imagine you, out of all people, smiling or acting cute to impress a man.”

Agnes shook her head.

“I applaud you for pushing us to bring out our best, but remember, you’ll have to take responsibility for your lies.”

“It hurts me to hear you say that. You’ve known me long enough to know that I consider all bets sacred. I will keep my promise.”

“Not that.”

Agnes pushed her glasses up and lowered her posture.

“The truth is, I’ve never been in a relationship with anyone.”

Saying so, she immediately dashed forward.

Cinzia stood dazed for a moment then soon broke out in laughter as she ordered the Valkyries to attack. White Tiger kicked off the ground with four legs. Philip Muller summoned several magic circles, and Yuirel and Taihi each summoned their spirit army. The phoenix opened his beak wide at the ground.

Soon, a roar of cries and ear-splitting screams rent the air.


*


Meanwhile, Seol Jihu was moving at an incredible pace. He had no problem finding the way even without an archer’s guidance. He had memorized all the secret passageways in advance, and whenever he encountered a passage that seemed too complicated, he just punched his way through and kept going forward.

After traveling through a long tunnel, Seol Jihu finally reached the second floor. There, he saw it—the base camp set up by Team 1. The traces of his comrades.

“…”

Seol Jihu paused briefly but soon resumed running toward the darkness lying deeper underground.

He thought as he ran. A wish worth Heaven-rank 6 didn’t work. Divinities even higher than that also didn’t work. But when he briefly collided with the enemy above the ground, he felt he could easily defeat it with the phoenix’s help. The enemy just wasn’t as strong as the Parasite Queen.

So then—what happened? No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t figure out the reason for the contradiction. Finally, he decided there was only one thing he could do. He had to face the enemy. The truth would wait for him there.

Whoosh!

Lightning from his legs quickly flashed across the passage. Seol Jihu’s eyes, staring straight ahead, also glowed piercingly.

His destination was just around the corner.


*


Around the same time….

The deepest core of the second floor was shrouded in silence. Darkness obscured everything from view. Only the faint sound of someone groaning in pain like an injured beast could be heard from time to time.

Suddenly something moved in the shadows. It climbed up the wall and rubbed itself against the air. No—not the air. It seemed to be stroking someone’s head. Its long black hair swayed a little whenever it moved. And then, the darkness was absorbed into the head.

“…Ah!”

A small exclamation rang out.

“Ah, ah…. Ah…!”

A figure flinched and jerked in the dark, almost as if their brain was being probed.

And soon….

Crack! Craaaack!

There was a sound of shattered bones and flesh regenerating. The strange groans also stopped. Huhuhuhu. A satisfied laugh filled the air as something rose from its seat.

It was then. Something suddenly turned its head. The moment it realized someone was approaching at a rapid pace—KWANG! The stone gate shattered to pieces with a loud bang.

Seol Jihu emerged through the wreckage of the door. He initially appeared confused because when he first discovered the door at the end of the stairs, he thought he would have to go down further. Then suddenly, his face hardened. This room was darker than anywhere else, but Seol Jihu, who had consumed the Golden Wind Phoenix, could still see faintly ahead.

It was an unbelievable sight. The first thing he saw was his comrades. Both Team 1 and the rescue team were tied to the ceiling with chains. These chains seemed to have been made in a special way, for they even restrained Roselle, who was a remnant will.

And the creature that did this to his comrades was standing in the middle of the room, looking down at Seol Jihu.

Pzzzt!

Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed because the enemy suddenly turned opaque and began to wobble like scan lines on a TV screen. It was only after Seol Jihu roused his mana to enhance his eyesight that it became clear again.

The creature was about 3 to 4 meters tall. Its long, disheveled hair hung below its waist like a chain. Inside its mouth, which took up most of its face, were multiple rows of teeth, like a shark. Below its neck were several pieces of bamboo glued together to mimic the human body.

It was a repulsive-looking creature. And powerful, too. Seol Jihu sensed that it was strong enough to easily overpower one or two Army Commanders in their divinity-released state.

‘It’s him.’

There was no doubt in his mind that this creature was the one he fought briefly above ground. He saw that its fingers were webbed. The problem was that its arm that had been cut off had grown back, and—there was someone hanging from the tip of the creature’s fingers.

“Ah….”

Again, a groan broke out.

Eun Yuri trembled. Both her arms had been torn off by the creature. Her head moved up little by little with a creaking sound as if some invisible force were controlling her. Her eyes, half-closed and lifeless, stared at Seol Jihu.

“Ah…. Uu…. Ah….”

Tears began to well up in Eun Yuri’s eyes.

Seol Jihu’s eyes tensed. He clenched his teeth, shut his eyes, and dropped his head as if to hold back his rage.

—Kkikik!

Suddenly, he heard a laugh.

Eun Yuri, who opened her mouth to speak, suddenly shook violently from side to side.

The creature was playing with Eun Yuri like she was a toy.

—Ke-Kekekeke! Kehehehehehe!

Its mouth opened even wider as it cackled mockingly at Seol Jihu. At the same time, it was rejoicing. How could it not? An appetizing prey had voluntarily walked into its lair all by himself. This prey seemed stronger than all the other prey that had come before him, but the creature wasn’t the least bit worried. There was no way that it, an advanced form of life personally crafted by a god, would lose to such an insignificant species.

The creature withdrew its hand from Eun Yuri’s head. Once its fingers came out of her skull, Eun Yuri lost consciousness, and the chains tied to her body lifted her back into the air.

—Kehee…!

The creature looked at Seol Jihu with drool dripping from its mouth. Their earlier brawl had somewhat exhausted the creature, but that was all right. It had already recovered most of its energy through the captured prey. Now, all it had to do was catch him—then it could do so much more than just open the door….

—Kkik?

The creature flinched.

With a sigh, Seol Jihu took a step forward and raised the Spear of Purity in front of him.

And at that moment, everything—even the darkness that filled the room—quieted down. Like a flooding river that destroys dams and races beyond them, an incredibly powerful stream of energy was released from Seol Jihu’s body with the intent to swallow everything.

His rank was changing. The human’s divinity, whom the creature considered to be a lowly being, was growing at a rapid pace.

Finally, when the spear exuding a sharp aura turned toward it, the creature unwittingly took a step back.

It was immediately struck with shock.

I felt… fear? Me? Against such an inferior being?

The creature could neither believe nor accept it. It opened its mouth wide to shake off the unpleasant feeling that it had never felt before.

—KIAAAAAAAAAA!

An ear-splitting shriek rang through the air.

When the echo of the scream ceased, and silence once again filled the room, in that brief moment—Seol Jihu raised his head.

The creature could see it clearly. The pair of eyes glaring at it in the dark grew redder until finally, their color became a vivid blood-red. Seol Jihu, holding the Spear of Purity, lowered his body into position.

Level 9 Divine Spear, Awakening Skill — Berserk.

HUAAAAAAAA!

A deafening roar shook the air.

At the same time….

FLASH!

A brilliant light erupted from Seol Jihu’s entire body.

Spear God Activated.

Seol Jihu clutched the Spear of Purity in his hand and shot forward.

The two monsters clashed violently against each other in the air.

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