Chohong lightly kicked the ground. With that simple motion, she flew up and softly landed near the Nest's position.
The creature visibly panicked and withdrew its tentacles currently creeping towards the unconscious Mikhail and Veronika. It then flung three, four of them towards Chohong who flew towards it, but…
All of its attacks were blocked off by her inverted triangular shield shining brightly in silvery light. The Battle Maiden didn't even budge from her spot. She only had to raise her arm slightly to throw the attacks off. As she did so, silver flames seemed to burn brightly within Chohong's eyes.
The moment she swung her mace, all those tentacles exploded into pieces. The bodily fluids being scattered didn't even have time to wet the ground; they evaporated in the air from the divine conflagration burning all around her.
The Nest issued an ear-piercing scream as its lengthy appendages were gradually burned alive from the silvery flames. Realizing that its opponent had gone through some sort of a transformation, the creature withdrew all of its tentacles in a hurry, bar one still extended out beyond the exit.
However, all those hurriedly-gathered tentacles began hesitating as if they had all fallen into confusion.
Chohong had disappeared.
Seol Jihu was busy dragging the unconscious Mikhail and Veronika to where Maria was, but now, even his own jaw fell to the floor. He only blinked once, but Chohong was already floating in the air. Her dignified, unwavering eyes were glaring down at the Nest. She elegantly descended in an arc and thunderously slammed the Nest's main body with her mace.
The tumor-like surface crumpled until it couldn't endure the force and burst open. Reddish fluids shooting out like a fountain were also swallowed up by Chohong’s divine conflagration that suddenly expanded its size.
For the first time in this battle, the Nest’s main body was attacked. The Nest let out another loud scream and hurriedly backed away.
However, Chohong's speed had exceeded it. She stuck close to the creature and swung her mace one more time. Another horrifying hole exploded open on the Nest's body and was set alight in silvery flames. It wildly thrashed about in pain.
Chohong disappeared from its sight again. That was as good an evidence as any that her movement speed had greatly exceeded that of the Nest's ability to perceive movements.
The creature must have been greatly incensed. Thirty-odd tentacles shot up as if to puncture the ceiling, and began to slap, thrust, and viciously pound away in every direction.
Kwang! Kwang! Kwang! Kwang!
The ground shook around violently and spat up dust into the air. The tentacles were now accompanied by the sounds of air being torn apart as they proceeded to indiscriminately attack all of its surrounding vicinity. The frenzied attacks from the Nest after it sensed danger to its life was so shockingly powerful that Seol Jihu, sneaking closer to lend assistance, had no choice but to reflexively retreat.
'I can't interfere with this.'
What was even more unbelievable was the fact that Chohong was in the middle of that violent thrashing.
Shwing! Shwing! Just from hearing the sound coming from the battle made him nearly wet his pants, yet all those flexible whip-like tentacles storming around and sweeping everything within their vicinity still missed her by paper-thin margins.
Chohong slithered around like a flowing river. Her eyes were half-closed; the sight of her brushing aside the tentacles with her extended arms was reminiscent of a graceful figure skater. It was so much so that the description of the tentacles being sucked into her before slipping past perfectly described the current situation.
Chohong elegantly spun her body around, and her silver hair spun alongside like multiple hula-hoops. Silvery streaks of light were left behind her wake as she seemingly floated in close to her target, and eventually, she broke past the wall of tentacles and accurately landed one more mace hit on the Nest's main body. With that, a third scream broke out.
Seol Jihu gasped in excitement. The dying embers of hope were being rekindled again.
'We can win!'
He tried to look for a gap he could exploit. It was then that he realized Chohong's condition had become strange once more.
Her once-serene expression crumpled ever so slightly. Her pale cheeks were flushed red, and her breathing had become rougher as well. He thought he saw a flash of anxiety in her face too.
He wasn't sure what was going on, but regardless, he knew that the situation was beginning to change again. The powerful Nest that seemed to be undefeatable was now shaking around rather greatly. Over half of its tentacles were no longer useable, and quite a lot of its body had been scorched black. Most importantly, the biggest gain this time was its giant body shrinking to a noticeable degree.
However, the Nest didn’t just sit by and do nothing. The remaining tentacles suddenly expanded greatly. Then, along with the sounds of air leaking out of balloons, green-colored thick liquids vomited out of them in all directions.
It wasn't just one or two tentacles spitting out the liquid, so he mistakenly thought that water was flooding out from a giant broken fountain. Even then, Chohong was nowhere to be found. To be exact, she had already pulled herself far back by the time liquid landed on the ground.
When its final trump card only managed to melt the ground around it, the Nest exploded in pure rage.
Chohong was also gritting her teeth. She raised her shield in front of her and dashed forward desperately. This must have been that opening she spoke about earlier – Seol Jihu matched his timing with her movement and, while gripping his spear tightly, he too sprinted forward.
There was only one opportunity. He was preparing to split his internal energy surging like a rising dragon into two and pour them into his spear and his earring, but then….
Chohong slapped away the tentacle angrily thrust forward by the Nest but began to unsteadily falter on her feet.
Seol Jihu was greatly taken aback and belatedly realized that the silver light surrounding her had grown a lot fainter than before.
….No, he was wrong. The light dispersed altogether. Her armor, her shield, everything.
At the same time, Chohong's expression resembled someone just waking up from a deep sleep. She could only take a couple more steps before falling down on one knee. She panted and her slack jaw dropped open, leading to the pooled sweat to dribble down her chin. As if she was overcome with bitterness, her face crumpled unsightly.
The reason for that was simple. The Valkyrie Skirt raised the combat prowess of the caster by summoning the spirit of the Battle Maiden. It allowed the caster’s battle power to rise to that of a High Ranker, but it could only be maintained for 30 to 40 seconds at most. Afterwards, an extreme case of enervation would follow.
Chohong felt all of her strength seep out with every passing second as she desperately tried to control her breathing. The Nest also looked like it was in a groggy state. Just one more hit, one single hit, and it might be the end.
'…Even made a proper opening yet.'
Her calculation was off all thanks to the Nest's resistance that exceeded her imaginations.
Now that Chohong had to retire from this battle, Seol Jihu had no choice but to hesitate. The Nest and its urgently quivering, expanding body also realized her strange state as well.
The Nest finally decided to raise one of its tentacles, but it flinched greatly again. Chohong still showed no sign of moving, but yet another, different but still powerful energy was rising up from someplace way behind her.
Maria took a deep breath and slowly stood back up. Seol Jihu saw the crucifix on top of the altar scattering away into dust before her, and his eyes shone brightly in understanding.
She looked as if she'd collapse at any given moment, yet Maria somehow managed to regain her balance and raised both of her hands high up.
“Mall Te Oculorum Meorum!”
Immediately afterwards, white beams of light crackled into the sky like a current of electricity, forming a huge hammer. The cluster of light continued to expand in size, displaying power that could not be taken lightly. The Nest was visibly startled.
No one in here could wait around watching anymore. Seol Jihu immediately activated the Festina Earring. Meanwhile, the Nest freaked out and shot a tentacle out towards Maria with everything it had. Her brows rose up high as she cried out.
The blinding light exploded. Seol Jihu's eyes, as he was about to dash forward, opened wide. At the same time, Chohong quickly looked behind her in sheer shock. Below the hammer of light falling like a divine retribution, a lone tentacle flew out like an arrow toward the Priest. Maria was dazedly looking at the tentacle with a sweat-soaked, stupefied expression on her face.
In that split second moment….
What were the thoughts entering Seol Jihu's head when facing the single opportunity created through everyone working so incredibly hard?
He knew for sure that Maria would get killed. Even Warriors found it difficult to endure against the tentacles and tried to dodge them, so there was no chance that a Priest could survive a direct hit.
His steps previously directed towards the Nest made a 90-degree turn.
He activated the stacking ability of the earring and summoned up every ounce of energy he could to run. He thought he heard someone call out his name but ignored it and simply dashed forward. Maria squeezed her eyes shut as the tentacle approached her position in an instant.
In the next moment, the underground cavern was filled up with a massive, blinding flash of light as well as the accompanying thunderous sound. It was so loud that the sensation of someone embracing her and even the screams of the Nest itself were all buried.
A short while later, Maria's eyes cracked open just a little, and she hurriedly sucked in her breath. Seol Jihu was tightly hugging her. She thought that he sacrificed himself for her, but against her expectations, he was completely fine.
He was also flustered by this development. He didn't even have enough time to raise his guards up. He simply pulled her in thinking that he'd be able to guard against that one hit somehow. But then, both he and Maria were completely unscathed. He blinked his eyes several times but discovered the reason soon after. Chohong was standing in front of them, with her left arm raised up.
Seol Jihu was momentarily taken over by relief, but the reality dawned on him and he cried out loudly. Chohong's back was shuddering heavily. Creak, creak. She turned her head around like a puppet with its strings cut, and with an energyless face, her lips trembled slightly.
“….Hey, you… dumb… idiot…”
She roughly breathed in and out and lowered her left arm agonizingly slowly.
“I told you…. to take the chance….”
“But… you chose to…. save her…?”
Seol Jihu sensed something was very wrong. Chohong's left arm couldn't be seen. To be exact, there was nothing below her elbow. And when he took a closer look, her back was gradually being dyed crimson. Seol Jihu's face became dazed.
“….But, then again….”
Seeing the reaction on his face, Chohong's lips arched up. It was a lonely smile of sadness.
“….That's just like you….”
With that, her long black hair wavered in the air. Slowly. Chohong slowly fell. Only after she fell did he notice a large hole in her left chest. Her broken armor, her lost arm, even her sharp nose that rose and fell with so much difficulty – they all stopped moving.
At first, there was no change in Seol Jihu's expression. However, his eyes began quaking powerfully and his face seemed to have aged by over ten years in an instant.
He couldn't do anything. He shouldn't have been waiting for a chance, no, he should have been the one making it for others. Even if that cost him his life. But he couldn't even do that.
Regret rushed in belatedly. And also, a sense of powerlessness and a realization of his feebleness.
His heart pounded. His pulses sped up.
Maria, who had been staring at Chohong and her condition, raised her head just a tad. To her shock, the Nest was still alive.
It got pummelled by Chohong's mace, and it even got hit straight up by Mjolnir, yet it was still alive. Sure, its condition was rather wretched at the moment, but regardless, it was still drawing breath. Its tenacious vitality made her grit her teeth.
That wasn't all either. Suddenly, it issued gulping noises and began to regenerate some part of itself.
'Mjolnir' definitely inflicted a fatal wound on it. However, bubbles boiled over and the ash-colored flesh continued to rise up. Soon, it spat out a spear and a shield. Seeing this, Maria let out a bitter laugh.
If her eyes weren't wrong, then those armaments belonged to Gierszal. In other words, he was trying to escape all by himself and got killed in the process. The Nest with serious injuries was absorbing the dead body to recover itself. She inwardly wondered why it so desperately tried to reel in the fallen humans, but now she understood why.
'Fucking idiot. Even in death, you’re utterly useless.'
On one hand, she felt remorseful. Perhaps she should have prayed for a stronger spell. Rather than wanting to reduce the backlash, she was trying to get her timing right and chose a spell that would let her end the Ceremony on time. And that decision would be her final regret.
“….I shouldn't have come.”
Maria mumbled in dejection. The Nest have now recovered a few parts of itself and raised several of its tentacles to wiggle them around.
Wookikiki. It even issued a strange sound, which kind of sounded like a laugh of ridicule.
“Why didn't you just let me die?”
Maria pouted and weakly leaned her head against Seol Jihu's chest.
“If you aimed for that opening, at least you and Chohong would have…?!”
But then, her eyes grew wide.
Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!
The rate of his heart beating was far too fast to be normal. Brrrr. She even felt his entire body shudder uncontrollably.
It happened then.
She heard the sounds of gritting teeth so soft yet bone chillingly-eerie that she couldn't believe it was made by another human being. Maria flinched and cautiously raised her head up.
In that moment….
[Innate Ability, 'Future Vision', has been activated.]
Maria definitely saw it.
She saw the youth and a thin line of blood trickling down his lips. No, she saw the youth and his face crumpled to resemble a demon king of slaughter and madness.
As if in a trance, he separated from Maria. He grasped the spear so tight that its shaft might shatter.
Death – a clear and distinctly murderous intent enveloped Maria’s body. The intent was so ominous that simply by being near it sent shivers down her spine.
Like a beast howling, a tightly-suppressed growl leaked out of his mouth.
His bloodshot eyes began to emit a crimson glow. An unbelievable amount of energy rippled out, and the ground below fractured and rumbled.
The final battle.
This was the second coming of the demon of the battlefield, who used to rampage unchecked and unrivaled on countless battlefields.
“Don't fuck with me, you piece of shit!!”
The moment his enraged roar shook the entire underground cavern…
The Nest's bodily fluids sprayed out. Maria formed a disbelieving expression and quickly looked to her side. There it was, one spear that blew up a part of the Nest. Even the creature itself reacted one step later. Its tentacles wiggling around in a dance of ridicule all recoiled in fright.
Maria was about to cry out “Be careful!” but she couldn't as her jaws dropped to the floor. A tentacle flew towards Seol Jihu's direction, but he simply extended his hand out to it. He then roused an enormous amount of mana, grabbed the tentacle, then utterly crushed it with his bare hand!
The tentacle flapped around as if the Nest was going on a frenzy from the intolerable pain of its flesh being ripped apart in pieces.
Seol Jihu discarded the tentacle as his spear began resonating loudly. It sounded as if it was crying. Almost right afterwards, an ice-colored blade aura about a meter-long shot out from the tip of the spear.
Just how many more times would she get hit on the head by surprises today? Maria saw that clear-as-day aura blazing out icily from the spear, and she screamed inside her mind in pure astonishment.
'That, isn’t that the skill accessible only to Unique Rank Warriors…!?’
To be more specific, it was a skill only a small handful of Unique Rankers could use. And if her memory was correct, then she had seen it only once during her entire career as a Priest inside Paradise.
The Level 7 Highlander’s Secret Art - Sword Qi Wave. 
Seol Jihu swung his arm roughly. The icy-blue blade of energy flashed to left and right as if it was putting on a light show. In the blink of an eye, all the tentacles attached to the Nest's main body were chopped off, and they fell down with loud thuds. The damn things that remained so tenacious and stubborn until then were rendered completely useless.
That wasn't the end. As if to announce that he was only getting started, Seol Jihu grasped the spear tight with both of his hands and crazily slashed and pounded with his weapon. Every time Seol Jihu’s sword qi touched the Nest, chunks of its flesh flew out along with its bodily fluids.
From a certain point in time, the Nest stopped moving altogether. However, Seol Jihu’s spear didn't stop. His enraged state was so scary that Maria was busy backing off while looking frightened as well.
Just like that, he pounded and sliced away until the Nest turned into a meat paste.
Just how long went by like that?
Puck! His spear struck the ground. He had been pounding into the thing for so long that its main body had pretty much disappeared. The only thing barely remaining on the ground was finely beaten piece of darkened red flesh.
Seol Jihu collected his breath within this sea of mangled body parts and bodily fluids before finally regaining his senses. He only looked around him in a daze for a second or two. He snapped his head behind him and shouted out.
He quickly ran over to where she was. Maria flinched and instinctively retreated away but stopped moving when she saw the look on his face and the way he was behaving.
His complexion had reverted back to normal. The change was so extreme that she couldn't help but think that the expression on his face only a little while ago had to be a hallucination on her part.
Maria cautiously opened her mouth, her eyes still disbelieving and distrusting.
“You…. Just what are you?”
“Are you bloody kidding me?! If you possessed a power like that, then why didn't you, from the get-go…..?!”
Maria yelled out loudly, further adding, “We wouldn't have gone through this much hardship then! Do you have any idea how much I've lost today?!”
“I, I also don't know what happened. I saw Chohong falling, and my head just blanked out….”
Seol Jihu shook his head hard. Maria formed an expression of even greater disbelief. She kept spitting out bitter groans non-stop.
“Stop fucking around, will you? Isn't this the same bullshit as the dying main character suddenly jumping up full of renewed energy when a heroine sheds a couple of tears?”
“B-Besides that, please help Chohong!”
Seol Jihu quickly realized his mistake. Didn't Maria already perform a Ceremony? Was she able to perform another one?
Maria hurriedly felt for Chohong's pulse for a second, and her her brows shot up high.
“Go bring her arm. Now!”
“Huh? B-But, what about the backlash…?”
“You think Mjolnir is a high-class spell like Cure Colossal Wounds? I can take care of it somehow, so just go and fetch the damn thing already!”
That was a relief. Seol Jihu quickly located Chohong's separated arm and brought it back.
“She's not dead yet. It's faint, but I can still feel her heartbeat. Besides, it hasn't been that long, so I can still treat her.”
She emphasized the word 'treat' and rolled her sleeves up like an expert. She quickly chanted the spell into life.
“Cure Massive Wounds.”
A warm ray of light gently wrapped around Chohong’s entire body. Maria must have thought one spell wasn’t enough because she recited additional spells. The hole in Chohong's chest closed up gradually, and the separated arm was reattaching itself.
“Will she be okay? She will survive this, right?”
“I've already done what I can. The rest is up to the patient herself. Well, she’s been toiling in Paradise for a long time now, so surely she wouldn't die from some simple shock like this.”
Maria curtly replied and got up to leave, perhaps to examine the status of Mikhail and Veronika as well.
Did she mean to say that the odds of survival were very good? Indeed, Chohong wasn't some weakling. She was a strong woman. As long as she still drew breath, she would be treatable – that's what Maria must have meant.
Feeling relieved now, Seol Jihu let a sigh escape from his mouth.
Only then did a terrible sense of enervation and fatigue come knocking on his consciousness. This was the price of rousing his mana beyond his limits just so he could utilize a high-class skill several realms higher than his current level.
He plopped down on his butt but couldn't stay upright anymore and simply laid down on his back. He glanced at Chohong's sleeping face, now looking rather serene and calm.
He couldn't quite recall what had happened. His memory cut off the moment he saw the message about 'Future Vision'.
But, regardless of what happened, they had made out of it alive. He thought he was going to die, but he was alive now.
More importantly, Chohong wasn't dead. More than anything, he wanted to be happy about that and celebrate it to his heart's content.
“Would you look at this guy?”
Maria returned to his side and bitterly chuckled after seeing him and Chohong lying side by side.
“Hey, you’re not expecting me to carry four people outta here, right?”
“C-Can't we take a short break? I'm really exhausted at the moment.”
Maria leered at him for a while. It was clear that she was not fully convinced. Out of the blue, though, she began rubbing her eyes rather vigorously.
Her tears fell on Seol Jihu's face, and he formed a bit of a frown.
“Okay, you can move now, right?”
Seol Jihu momentarily became speechless.
“I don't want to stay here any longer. I wanna get out of here right now.”
Seol Jihu agreed with her 100 percent, but unfortunately, he was this close to falling into a deep slumber from the sense of fatigue flooding into him.
“What's the matter? Aren't you getting the second wind or something again? Aren't my tears enough for you?”
Maria sarcastically muttered out, her eyes still wet from tears.
“No, well, that's not it….”
Seol Jihu fell into a bit of contemplation before frankly speaking up what his tired mind could come up with.
“I think it's because you aren't the heroine of this story, Miss Maria.”
Maria glared silently at him before powerfully kicking him in the side.
 Sword Qi here is basically equivalent to "Weapon Qi". It's not strictly a sword-only thing. It is just called Sword Qi because that's the norm in Korean.Previous Chapter Next Chapter