Side Story 55. Poison With Poison, Evil With Evil (2)

—…is one.

Zero Code’s voice resounded.

“One?”

—Yes. All you have to do is lend him one of your belongings. That should be enough. The rest is up to the Golden Constellation.

Kim Soohyun blinked.


*


Around the same time….

The commotion on the ground abruptly stopped, and silence returned to the battlefield. Evidence of fierce fighting could be seen everywhere, and the expedition team appeared worn out. At the front, Baek Haeju’s white robe was stained black with the blood of the alien monsters.

“Is it over?”

White Tiger looked dumbfounded as he glanced around. His reaction was only natural. The enemies had suddenly disappeared without any warning in the middle of their fight, almost as though they had never existed from the beginning. He had fought enough battles to realize that this could mean only one thing: the puppeteer controlling the shadow monsters was dead. Which meant….

“Looks like Seol Jihu succeeded.”

Cinzia said calmly. Although some were relieved by the news, Philip Muller appeared doubtful. This felt too easy. Of course, that in itself was not a problem. In fact, if he hadn’t known anything, his instincts would not have raised the red flag. But he knew that their opponent was supposed to be stronger than the Parasite Queen. It was strange that this battle lasted for a shorter period than their final battle against the Parasites. Then again, this result would make sense if, for example, the enemy had a fatal weakness and Seol Jihu just happened to strike the correct spot. Still….

Philip Muller organized his thoughts and turned to the World Tree, scrutinizing it. The World Tree had not been able to help them so far, but if their enemy had truly perished, it would have no problem recovering itself. Fortunately, the tree was quickly regaining its former form. The shriveled branches stretched out and began to glow. Dark clouds disappeared from the sky, and the sun shone brightly once again.

“Hmm….”

Perhaps I was overreacting. Philip Muller muttered to himself and closed his eyes. He was finally able to relax. And then, just as he was about to drop his guard….

Kooong.

The earth shook.

The sudden and violent shaking threw everyone off their feet.

“What the….”

Yuirel quickly regained her balance and looked around, but nothing seemed out of place to her.

“W-World Tree-nim!”

Suddenly, Taihi shouted in surprise. Everyone turned to the World Tree, and their eyes immediately widened. The World Tree was withering again at a rapid pace. Leaves fell and branches dried, to the point where they began to snap. It was as if the tree was curling itself up in response to a sudden and unpredictable disaster.

Ppiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

The World Tree cried out in pain.

“The sky is…!”

Even the sky that had brightened suddenly darkened again as black clouds gathered overhead. It was as if someone had just hit the rewind button. And then, there was another earthquake. This time it didn’t end with just one shake.

Koong! Kurrrrr!

Something was rising to the surface from deep beneath the ground. The earth shook and trembled violently.

“What’s going on!?”

Someone shouted, but no one could answer. All everyone could do was gather inside Seo Yuhui’s barrier and watch the catastrophe unfold.

“Jihu…!”

Seo Yuhui pulled Yi Seol-Ah close in her arms and watched the ground with worried eyes. The sounds and vibrations were getting closer and closer to them every second. And soon enough….

Rumble!

The ground cracked open and bulged upward.

KWAAANG!

An enormous structure soared above the earth’s surface, like a whale jumping up into the air from the ocean. This structure appeared to be a temple. It had come from the second floor of the underground ruins, but the expedition team, who had no way of knowing this, looked puzzled.

Suddenly, the outer walls of the temple collapsed and began to fall one after another.

KWANG! KWANG! KWANG! KWANG!

A series of explosions erupted, and smoke rose into the sky. Once the dust settled, the four walls laid on the ground like carpets, and the temple’s interior was revealed at their center.

“Over there…!”

White Tiger found Seol Jihu stuck on the ground and opened his mouth to tell everyone, but stopped before even a word escaped his lips. He turned his head and looked up at the sky. He couldn’t see anything, but his animal instinct told him that, at this very moment, an absolutely and utterly terrifying being was looking down at him from above.

The Executors also sensed it. They couldn’t explain how or why, but they knew that a higher being, unrecognizable with human sight and powerful enough to consider the Seven Sins as mere insects, was watching them.

It was around this time that Seol Jihu finally regained consciousness.

‘Ugh…. Keuk…?’

Seol Jihu opened his eyes with difficulty and then widened them in surprise. The last thing he remembered was the ceiling exploding. He must have passed out after that because he had no memory of what followed. He woke up to find himself above ground once again.

KUOOOOOOO!

Suddenly, a deafening roar resounded through the sky. This jolted Seol Jihu back to reality. He quickly looked up with a frown. The image appeared relatively clear to his eyes. A giant lump of smoke with storms whirling in circles across it, like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

‘It’s him.’

He knew as soon as he laid eyes on it.

‘It’s always been him.’

The creature was nothing more than a pawn. He was the one who had been after Paradise all this time. Not even the Parasite Queen could stop him, so of course, the Seven Sins couldn’t stop him.

‘Damn it.’

It was one thing after another, but Seol Jihu chose to stand up instead of panicking. The opponent had already turned down his request to leave. Now he had no choice but to fight him.

‘The odds are against me if I face him head-on. I have to find his weakness…. Huh?’

But soon, Seol Jihu was greeted by a difficult situation.

‘The Spear of Purity is…!’

It was broken. More precisely, it had been snapped in half. Only the shaft without the head remained in his hand. It seemed to have been occurred during the explosion.

‘Where…!’

Seol Jihu quickly looked around. It wasn’t long before he discovered the other half of his spear, not on the ground but above his head. The ceiling had collapsed along with the four walls, but the Spear of Purity was still stuck in its place, at the center of an enormous magic circle spreading for miles.

‘The Otherworldly God Summoning Circle!’

Every time the Spear of Purity flickered, the circle flared in response.

Creeeak!

The magic circle resumed spinning to complete the summoning, but instead of turning, it creaked and grated like a cogwheel with something stuck inside. The spear at its center seemed to be playing the role of that something.

Seol Jihu was relieved to see that the Spear of Purity was still working despite being snapped in half—but there was no time to rejoice. The fact remained unchanged that the otherworldly god had been summoned. He could fight without a weapon, but he would be a lot weaker, considering how powerful the Spear of Purity was.

‘Of all times….’

Realizing that he was about to begin what could be the toughest battle of his life without a weapon, Seol Jihu bit his lower lip.


*


Meanwhile, two beings were watching him from space beyond the atmosphere.

“…I see.”

Kim Soohyun lowered his head slightly as he observed the situation below.

“So this is why Suna was so worried.”

—….

“That will be a tough opponent to beat. The situation doesn’t look promising.”

—It’s not too late yet.

Zero Code spoke calmly.

—The universal principles and the law of causality established by the Goddess of Parasitism are still in place.

—Also, his decision to strike the core of the summoning circle has been effective.

—Then again, we have to give it to the otherworldly god for descending despite all the obstacles.

Kim Soohyun nodded as he listened when suddenly his eyes tensed. The otherworldly god who had descended on Paradise noticed his presence. And it was rejoicing, despite all the circumstances. The otherworldly god rejoiced at the emergence of new prey, who looked as appetizing as the Golden Constellation.

“…He sure is confident, isn’t he?”

Kim Soohyun scoffed, and his eyes narrowed. In the past, he would have immediately confronted the otherworldly god just for looking down on him. But right now, he was without Hwajung and also without the will to intervene.

“I’m still not sure if this is the right thing to do.”

—You shouldn’t worry.

Zero Code replied.

—The Golden Constellation reclaimed his destiny and became the Divine Spear. But his original fate would have led him down the path of the Spear Demon. That is, if someone hadn’t paved the way for him in advance and if he had walked the path that he was supposed to walk.

Kim Soohyun sighed at Zero Code’s words.

“I don’t know….”

He raised his arm and reached into the air.

“But if you say so.”

He took out something long from his dimensional pocket.

“If doing as you say will break the restrictions—”

He spun it in his hand and looked down below.

“And help that man….”

And then...

“This is a small price to pay.”

He threw it as hard as he could—toward Seol Jihu.


*


Whoosh!

Seol Jihu, who was about to rush out to strike the enemy before the Spear of Purity ran out of power, suddenly stopped.

Pak!

Something fell from the sky and hit the ground with full force. At first, he thought it was the otherworldly god’s attack. But closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t. In front of Seol Jihu was…

‘A spear?’

…A spear. There was nothing special about its appearance. A plain spearhead and a plain shaft were all there was. But Seol Jihu couldn’t take his eyes off the faint crimson glow surrounding it.

‘This spear….’

Sura Demon Spear, a divine weapon personally crafted by the God of Destruction for the star bearing the fate of self-destruction. A sacred weapon used in Ragnarok and accepted only as a myth.

This great spear killed countless numbers of ancient gods during the war of the gods that lasted more than a thousand years. However, in return, Sura was plunged into endless darkness. The accumulated evil eroded Sura until finally, the spear lost its divinity and turned vile, becoming a demonic spear known as Sura Demon Spear that constantly sought blood and destruction.

The evil lurking in Sura brought a series of misfortunes to its owner. But if the owner could overcome those trials and earn the spear’s respect, the Sura Demon Spear would bestow upon him an immeasurable amount of power so that he may move mountains, shatter the sky, and change the world.

But as great as it was, Seol Jihu knew nothing about the Sura Demon Spear. This was the first time he had seen it. Still, he knew instinctively that the spear in front of him was a demonic spear that was not only stronger but also the exact opposite of the Spear of Purity. But now was not the time to be picky. He would gladly accept anything—be it a demonic spear or a piece of hay—if it meant he could overcome this obstacle.

‘Lend me….’

Seol Jihu reached for the spear without a moment’s hesitation.

‘Lend me your strength…!’

The moment Seol Jihu grabbed the Sura Demon Spear, the entire world focused on him.

Both Zero Code and Kim Soohyun watched Seol Jihu in anticipation.

‘I wonder….’

At first, the Sura Demon Spear was hostile toward even the Martial God. He wondered how that temperamental spear would react to the Golden Constellation.

“Mm!”

As soon as he grabbed the spear, Seol Jihu felt a stinging sensation in the back of his head. It was painful but also oddly exhilarating at the same time. Then, the next thing he knew, a mysterious energy was probing his brain. Memories of the past began to fill his mind. It wasn’t Seol Jihu’s doing. The energy was extracting them by force.

‘This memory is….’

When he climbed the Path of the Soul with Black Seol Jihu’s help…. When he had to face the entire army of Parasites by himself….

—Kik, kik, kik, kik…?

The energy searching Seol Jihu’s brain paused. What is the weakness of this arrogant man who dares to touch me? What kind of ordeal should I give him? The energy thoroughly examined Seol Jihu’s memories. However….

Shiver….

He had already endured far too many hardships.

In his memory, Seol Jihu finally reached the top of the mountain. He finally broke through the Parasites’ defense with one spear and two legs. At the same time, the dark red smoke rising from the Sura Demon Spear quickly dissipated, and the world sunk into silence. The spear lowered its spines and began to shift its form, slowly, like a drop of dye in a glass of water.

‘No way.’

Kim Soohyun couldn’t believe how obedient the Sura Demon Spear was. Even the otherworldly god was watching Seol Jihu curiously. The silence continued until, at last, Seol Jihu slowly raised himself as he pulled the Sura Demon Spear from the ground. His closed eyes opened, revealing sunken eyes shining with a ghastly light. At the same time….

—Ke…!

The tip of the Sura Demon Spear split open like the mouth of a beast.

—KEEEEEEEEEEEE!

A deafening roar filled the air, instilling fear in everyone present.

Sura, the demon who conquered the asura realm, one of the six realms of the afterlife, the ruler of all starving ghosts that devours everything, descended on Paradise.

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