Chapter 180. Even If This Life Ends 2
In the final moment, Seol Jihu couldn’t hear a thing.
Neither the explosive rumbling of the earth, nor the final death throes of the Vampire Lord. The only thing his senses could capture was the scene of Undying Diligence’s body splitting apart little by little through the severed line.
From his violently shaking vision, he saw the giant body plunge to the ground in slow motion.
Three seconds that felt like thirty seconds passed by, and Undying Diligence finally laid down on the ground.
No, he collapsed.
It was just that Seol Jihu thought he lied down because his eyes were wide open. The intense glimmer in Undying Diligence’s eyes made it seem as if he would push himself off the ground at any moment.
The instant Seol Jihu noticed the sensation lingering in his hands, Undying Diligence’s body erupted with light.
As if his body was being devoured by the light, it turned into ash and scattered from the wind blowing in the valley.
Even after killing him with his own hands, Seol Jihu stared in disbelief for a moment. It was then that he realized that his ears had gone deaf.
He was in the middle of a battlefield, surrounded on all sides by his enemies. He found it a bit amusing that he could not hear a single thing, especially when something this momentous had happened in front of him.
…In truth, Seol Jihu knew.
Just like how the sky lit up for a short time before sunset, the moment he witnessed Undying Diligence’s death, the fire burning inside his heart instantaneously grew larger and then flickered off completely.
At the same time, before he could do anything about it, he felt something inside his body crack, and then shatter into thousands of pieces.
After his hearing was his sight.
His vision repeatedly split and overlapped into a dozen images before abruptly turning black.
Next, the pain of his muscles being torn apart erupted from his armpits, accompanied by the pain of his internal organs being yanked out and the agony of his calves and thighs exploding.
Like river water bursting through a shattered dam, life force gushed out from his broken vessel— suddenly and helplessly.
And soon, even the feeling of pain became faint.
This wasn’t his body sending him a warning signal.
It was a signal that marked the end, a one-sided notification of compulsory execution.
In truth, this should have happened a long time ago.
Although Seol Jihu erupted with boundless energy with nothing but his willpower, this was the end.
Because that was the Golden Rule.
Since he generated a cause, he had to accept the effect.
The moment the sign arrived, the ghastly bluish aura swirling inside Seol Jihu’s eyes vanished, and his limbs gave way and went limp.
With his eyes half-closed, Seol Jihu dropped his head in an awfully calm fashion.
He had been prepared for it from the very beginning.
If he had fought with the intention of going back alive, it wouldn’t be Undying Diligence lying on the ground, but him. Seol Jihu had resigned to die in this fight and, as such, achieved his goal brilliantly.
He had no regrets. He only felt that it was a shame that he would helplessly meet his end here.
Where he was standing now was… a battlefield.
Right… if he was going to die anyways…
The hand slipping down the spear barely held on. Using the spear stuck deep in the ground as a support stick, Seol Jihu kept his body from crumbling down.
His instincts were telling him. That it was too early. That he had to get up. That the other two Army Commanders would surely show up.
A chilling light flickered on in his blurred, faint eyes.
He tightened his grip. Then, he stood tall with the legs that were about to touch the ground.
He opened his mouth to shout with reinvigorated spirit, but blood spurted out instead. Unable to realize this, Seol Jihu swung his arms.
In the next moment, something shocking occurred.
A brilliant golden light bloomed from the spear blade once again, sending out fierce wind pressure as the spear was brandished aimlessly.
Boom, boom, boom, boom…!
Along with the sound of an explosion, golden reinforced qi raged in the field.
The dozens of Nosferatus that were recklessly charging forward after Undying Diligence’s death were all sliced up and sent flying.
Unsightly Humility reined in his spectral horse when he saw the group of Nosferatus being blown back.
“This damned bastard…!”
Vulgar Chastity seethed in fury.
Undying Diligence had perished. Something unthinkable and impossible had just occurred, but she couldn’t stand around in a daze.
There was just one problem. They were pressed for time just to wrap up the battle, but because such a powerful energy was incessantly spewing out, they couldn’t approach the site of Undying Diligence’s death easily.
That was only natural.
Reinforced sword qi was the culmination of purest essence achieved at a realm of martial might that even the Parasite Queen could not belittle.
With the addition of anti-evil power infused in it, even the Army Commanders had to fear perishing if they were hit directly.
“Damn it. I guess we have no choice.”
Unsightly Humility spat out a curse, and light shot out from his body.
Seeing a jet-black armor quickly enveloping his body, Vulgar Chastity shut her eyes.
Not only did Undying Diligence perish, but another Army Commander was releasing his divinity.
Their plan to recapture Tigol Fortress had already been ruined, and now, even Unsightly Humility would be unable to participate in future battles for some time.
What seemed like a piece of cake at first— invading a measly fortress in a valley— had come back to bite them with an immeasurable loss.
But it couldn’t be helped.
Seol Jihu was making a last-ditch effort while barely preventing himself from collapsing. If they wasted any more time, the reinforcements would surely arrive.
If they allowed that to happen, they might be bringing about an irreversible result.
When Unsightly Humility released his energy in full force, the storm of golden light blowing in the valley began to waver.
Next, when Unsightly Humility thrust his longsword with force into the crack that slowly appeared in the air, he was greatly taken aback.
While he had expended quite a bit of his energy fighting against three Executors and the Sacred Empress, he hadn’t received dozens of fatal injuries like Undying Diligence. Thus, he was able to use Divinity Manifestation in a comparably normal state.
But even though he gathered a considerably large amount of divinity on his sword and stabbed with the intent to kill, he had been pushed back by a pressure of an unprecedented scale.
‘So this is why…!’
Setting aside the fact that a mere human was able to produce such power, Unsightly Humility immediately understood why Undying Diligence perished.
That it wasn’t luck, but skill.
But if there was one consolation, it was that Seol Jihu had lost his reason and was attacking in a berserk state.
What would happen if they fought when his mind was as clear as water and mirror?
Feeling a shiver run down his spine just thinking about it, Unsightly Humility gritted his teeth.
With a clang, the tip of his sword broke.
Refusing to back down, he imbued more and more divinity and slowly thrust his arm forward. Eventually, his longsword managed to enter the eye of the storm and dig into Seol Jihu’s stomach.
Koong. As Seol Jihu was jammed into the side of the cliff, the storm of reinforced qi also stopped completely.
Using the opening, Vulgar Chastity acted quickly.
“Whew… it’s hard to believe this is a human who’s almost dead… hm?”
Just as she was about to take a relieved breath, Unsightly Humility retracted his longsword and reached his arm out in utter shock.
His hand grabbed the nape of Vulgar Chastity, who had bent down at the place of Undying Diligence’s death.
At that moment, before she could even ask ‘What?’, Vulgar Chastity could clearly see it with her own eyes — a golden spear, approaching her without a sound or presence and brushing past her face by a hair’s breadth.
Her jaw dropped.
A single stream of blood flowed down her nose from a light cut, seeping into her gaping mouth.
The youth who looked like he would crumble at any moment had gotten up and thrown his spear.
The final attack that he put his heart and soul into was so powerful that it completely shattered the Ice Spear after it struck the ground.
Pieces of the spear blade scattered in all directions and grazed Vulgar Chastity’s body. Falling on her butt a step late, she fumbled around in terror.
Knowing that she would have kicked the bucket with just one wrong step, her mind was thrown into disarray.
Unsightly Humility stared at the enemy, looking completely exhausted.
Seol Jihu’s face was soaked in blood. From the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, he looked like a man who had just taken a bath in a sea of blood.
The way he was glaring at them with his wide-open eyes filled with a chilly glimmer, he truly looked like a demon wielding a spear — the title, Demon of the Battlefield, couldn’t be a better fit.
Unsightly Humility shook his skull. Soon, after confirming that Seol Jihu was no longer moving, he quickly wrapped up the after-measure.
Then, he nudged Vulgar Chastity who was staring blankly with a look of stupefaction.
“Mm? Ah, but… what about….”
Seol Jihu wasn’t moving in the slightest with his arm still reached out in a throwing posture. But Vulgar Chastity was so terrified to meet his gaze that she stealthily turned away.
“Undying Diligence was right. That man has already met his end. He is only moving reflexively based on outside stimuli.”
“I-Is that even possible?”
“I’ve seen it a few times in my past life, though it is a very, very rare case. Anyways, rather than poking a beehive…”
Before Unsightly Humility even finished his sentence, Vulgar Chastity spread her wings.
She nodded her head without thinking and flew up, disappearing beyond the valley.
She almost looked like she was running away.
Unsightly Humility was the same. He immediately turned his horse and kicked its belly.
As he left the valley, he was left with nothing but bitterness.
The Parasites had dispatched a sizable advanced party and even led three of the Seven Armies to invade the fortress.
Unlike when they entered the valley, they were bereft of an army as they left, looking a rather sorry sight.
The battle was a complete catastrophe. Even in the memory of the war against the Empire that the Parasite Queen bestowed upon them, it would be difficult to find a defeat so disastrous.
Before he left the valley, Unsightly Humility glanced back.
Seol Jihu was still standing in the same spot, his two feet planted on the ground, his arm thrusting the broken spear into the ground, and his eyes giving him a deathly glare.
Feeling like this demon would chase after him if he continued to stare, Unsightly Humility turned his back around.
Worried that the demon would grab his neck or that a spear would come flying at him, he kicked the belly of the poor horse harder.
And only when he fully left the valley did he heave out a long sigh.
Even Unsightly Humility did not know whether the breath that burst out was simply a breath that he had been holding in or whether it was a sigh of relief.
But there was one thing he knew for sure. And that was that, for the first time in a while, he felt like he had ‘survived’.
The clacking of hooves, the clanging of cold weapons, and the horrible shrieks of soldiers that once echoed throughout the valley ceased.
And after a brief rest, the empty spot was filled by the groans of the injured and the shouting of the Priests.
Coming down from Dawk Peak, Seo Yuhui’s complexion was so pale that it looked like it was fully drained of blood.
This was to be expected considering the number of achievements she made during this war.
She had imprisoned dozens of Nosferatus for a long time, monsters that were capable of fighting an entire army by themselves. Not only that, but she had also used area of effect skills consecutively, and even protected Seol Jihu while constantly obstructing Vulgar Chastity.
Such feats would have been unimaginable for the past Seo Yuhui and were only possible now after she levelled up and used the two sacred artifacts she received from Seol Jihu.
Of course, that didn’t mean she was free from the consequences.
She wanted to collapse on the spot and rest, but she knew she couldn’t. Priests were busy during a war, but they were even busier after a war.
More importantly, she had to confirm that a certain someone was alive.
‘Where is he…!?’
Looking around frantically, Seo Yuhui searched for just one person. People who spotted her quickly ran up.
“Miss Seo Yuhui!”
“Please treat this person first…!”
With dozens of people yelling in front of her, she could barely discern who was saying what. Surrounded by a crowd in the blink of an eye, Seo Yuhui let out a muffled gasp.
People whose legs were ripped out, people whose heads were twisted sideways, people whose bodies were hardened stiff… it was a mystery how someone so severely wounded could be alive.
“Cure Colossal Wounds doesn’t work! We need a Critical-grade spell…!”
Mary Rhine shouted as she put down a woman suffering from hypothermia from excessive loss of blood.
Everyone present had been mauled in such a gruesome way that simply closing their wounds would be insufficient to save them.
As such, their comrades had brought them to Seo Yuhui, who was the only one capable of using healing spells that went beyond just that.
Seo Yuhui looked around with a troubled expression before suddenly grabbing the woman’s hands.
Next, she closed her eyes and chanted like she was praying.
She noticed a few familiar faces among the wounded, and no matter how much of a rush her mind was in, she couldn’t ignore people who were gravely wounded.
In the end, the Proof of Chastity and the Proof of Devotion in each of her hands began to shine.
“…Have mercy on their souls….”
At the same time, a pair of holy wings spread out with resplendent light.
Level 8 Atera’s Saintess, Wide Area Primo Auxilium — Wings of Salvation.
Each time her outstretched wings gently flapped, dazzling feathers fell out as if they were breaking free. They then flew up to the sky and descended on the injured areas of the groaning people and disappeared.
If one wasn’t enough, then another would descend. If two weren’t enough, then a third would descend.
As more and more feathers fell, Agnes, who was on the verge of drawing her last breath, coughed.
Chohong’s complexion returned to its normal colors and slowly turned healthier.
Seeing this, the faces of the Priests who were stamping their feet in frustration brightened.
They could see that the feathers weren’t just closing the wounds but also relieving pain, stabilizing the patients’ body and mind, and helping supply blood to the rest of their body.
A clear proof was the cold bodies of the wounded becoming warmer.
Although they had yet to fully recover, their conditions had improved to the point that even Cure Massive Wounds could treat them.
Having used yet another area of effect spell, Seo Yuhui staggered greatly. The nearby Priests were frightened out of their minds and quickly went to support her, but she shook their hands off and continued to push through the crowd.
It was then.
Seo Yuhui, who was running in the direction Seol Jihu disappeared to, caught sight of a rose-gold haired woman flying through the air.
No, judging by the way she was slouching like she was unconscious, someone seemed to be carrying her over.
A black smoke threw Teresa down the moment it arrived and coiled around Seo Yuhui’s arms.
[That thing just now! You’re the one who did it, right!?]
[Help me! Please!]
Flone pulled Seo Yuhui up without even hearing her out.
Seo Yuhui was taken aback but did not resist in any way. The black smoke didn’t seem to be an enemy, seeing as how she brought a wounded person over, and most importantly, she seemed to be in a hurry.
It was almost as if there was someone on the brink of drawing their last breath.
Thinking about the direction she came from, Seo Yuhui couldn’t help but think ‘Could it be?’
Her worry was quickly proven to be true when Seo Yuhui saw a young man in the Sacred Empress’ embrace.
It was Seol Jihu.
Flone descended from the sky before she reached her destination, but Seo Yuhui jumped down before Flone could place her on the ground. Then she raced to Seol Jihu with all her strength.
As soon as she shouted the youth’s name at the top of her lungs, her heart sunk in.
It was because Seol Jihu was glaring at her with his eyes wide open. The way he was tightly gripping a shattered spear in one hand, it looked as if he was facing an enemy.
While Seo Yuhui was shocked, she breathed a sigh of relief. If he was still conscious, it should be possible to heal him—
But the moment she thought so, she suddenly felt an inexplicable sense of incongruity.
She carefully observed Seol Jihu while continuing to walk toward him.
Now that she looked… his eyes lacked focus.
Was that the reason behind this airy, hollow atmosphere?
She carefully called his name one again.
However, no reply came from Seol Jihu. Soon, Seo Yuhui arrived in front of Seol Jihu and was unable to open her mouth.
Her hands suddenly lost strength.
At the same time that the Proof of Chastity fell to the ground flowing with blood, Seo Yuhui placed her trembling hands on Seol Jihu’s cheek.
Seol Jihu’s body had gone beyond the level of being warm to downright hot.
His blood hadn’t gone cold, but…
He wasn’t breathing.
He wasn’t moving.
Other than the faint pulse coming from his body, she couldn’t detect a single sign of life.
Even this pulse seemed to be on the verge of stopping.
After standing dazedly for a second, Seo Yuhui followed her instincts, casting healing spells and moving her hands simultaneously.
She forcefully pulled the spear he refused to let go out of his hand, dismantled the tattered armor covering him, then took off the clothes that were drenched in a reddish-black liquid.
Then, her eyes widened from utter shock.
She subconsciously put her hand over her mouth.
Brutal. Seol Jihu’s physical body was so wrecked that she hesitated to use a measly word to describe his state.
He looked like a paper that had been folded twice, randomly cut apart with scissors, then opened back up.
His horrific condition made even the Sacred Empress shut her eyes.
Throughout the battle, Seo Yuhui had used one holy spell after another whenever she could. She had put such great care to protect and heal him, so to be in this state… just how many times was he cut, sliced, pierced, and stabbed?
Only now was she able to surmise how fierce and brutal the frontline battle was.
And everyone around her stood still, their mouths shut tightly.