I stared at the sky before shifting my gaze to my body.
A pure black void. 'The End.'
"H-Hyung?" Sungjin gulped and stared up at the sky as well. "T-That feeling-"
"Tch." Sora clicked her tongue and placed her hand on her sword. A cool gesture... but from how her hand trembled, it seemed like she was worried. "Three of them...? It seems like the Queen really wants to wipe us out this time."
I took a look around.
We had managed to make it back to the fortress after Teresa's retreat order. While some Paradisians stayed back to burn the Parasite corpses, the Earthlings had all retreated.
And they were terrified.
It seemed like everyone could sense it, even if they didn't realize the nature of that power.
"O-Oppa..." Seol-Ah looked at me. She shivered and then wrapped her arms around her chest, hugging herself. "W-What... What do we do?"
I stared at the sky and said, "You do nothing. All of you."
Flone raised her head at my words and narrowed her eyes. "Jihu-"
Before she could finish, a shadowy figure flew over towards the fortress.
At the same time, three massive armies appeared in the distance.
If the army of Parasites we just routed was a sea, those were the ends of the earth. A group large enough to blanket the entire Arden Valley if they decided to advance that far.
Hugo's eyes went wide and he muttered, "Holy shit."
But I ignored him, focusing on the new figure.
A woman with blood-red eyes and deep violet hair that flowed to her hips. Two goat horns, curled like obsidian hair accessories. She flew through the air with a pair of leathery bat wings before leaning in mid-air, suspended as if on an invisible mattress.
A transparent black dress that completely revealed her pure white skin. Clothing that barely covered her private parts and left none of her voluptuous figure to the imagination...
And a woman I saw before.
"Vulgar Chastity..." I muttered and stared at her.
A silvery light flickered from her body. One that was immeasurably pure and noble despite her lewd appearance.
'...I can do it.'
...It wasn't that much. No, the purity and density was greater than what I was used to experiencing... but I could intuitively sense it. She wasn't capable of completely utilizing it.
While I was examining her, Vulgar Chastity seemed to say something since everyone around looked taken aback.
And from how Teresa was gritting her teeth, it seemed that it was provocative.
But before I could figure out what was going on, silver streaks flew through the air.
I recognized those. Ghio's arrows, enhanced with his new enlightenment.
"Hm?" An immeasurably sultry voice echoed through the air, as if resonating into the mind itself. Vulgar Chastity tilted her head to stare at the silver streaks. With a sigh, her hair strands moved to catch the arrows. "I told you not to bother."
A leisurely gesture. It seemed like she didn't expect anything to happen at all. That she was taking them lightly.
But she shouldn't have.
The hair strands caught the arrows, stopping them in their tracks.
But then they didn't.
As if time spun back, the arrows flew through the hair and aimed towards Vulgar Chastity's eyes, heart, and throat.
Her crimson eyes widened and she quickly stood up, swatting them away with her arm.
The arrows tried to move past it, but she narrowed her eyes and sent out a flash of silver light to meet the silver streaks.
A harsh grating noise echoed through the air, and then the arrows shattered. But not uselessly.
It was a single scratch. A tiny line on her pristine skin and dress. But it was there. And from that line, a drip of crimson blood started to form.
Vulgar Chastity narrowed her eyes and glared at the archer who had attacked her... and then blinked. "You're... him, right?" Her previous irritation vanished, turning into genuine surprise and amusement. "The guy who was crying his heart out in front of me... Right, right! That's you!" She stared at Ghio and giggled.
Ghio's eyebrow twitched and he nocked another arrow, wrapping it with silver light. "I'll kill you."
A cold voice that echoed even across the distance.
Vulgar Chastity laughed. "Ohohohoho!"
It was cheesy. The typical laugh of a villainess. But it wasn't one to be taken lightly.
A terrifying aura that emanated certain doom. That laced with the pure sound and reverberated in the fortress.
All around, the weak-hearted fighters collapsed, Earthling and Paradisian alike. High Rankers and above managed to stand strong by closing their eyes and clenching their teeth.
Even Sora and the others were trembling. But...
"Calm down." I released my own energy to counter it.
Certain doom? If we were talking about that...
I flared my Impending Demise and wrapped it around the fortress.
At once, Vulgar Chastity's aura vanished, allowing everyone to recover.
"Hm?" Vulgar Chastity blinked in surprise. "This aura-"
A flurry of silver streaks. This time, they were even more powerful. As if betting his life on the line, Ghio threw everything he had into his attack to try and shoot down Vulgar Chastity, each arrow filled to the brim with mana.
But it wasn't enough.
Vulgar Chastity looked towards the silver arrows and sighed. "You've gotten stronger, but." She smiled at Ghio, stopping the arrows in their tracks with an invisible barrier and said, "It's not enough. I'll give you credit though and specially acknowledge you. After all, to grow this strong from that bitter resentment... For a human, it's really impressive."
Ghio grit his teeth. His eyes were bloodshot, glaring at Vulgar Chastity. And not just from rage. No. I could sense what he was trying to do.
An unyielding will, denying reality itself. Forcing his attacks to connect through that will.
But it wasn't enough.
No matter how determined he was, he lacked the sheer power to break through Vulgar Chastity's divinity.
...But I didn't.
So I focused.
My perspective changed. Time ground to a halt, and I immediately felt an invisible pressure clamp down on me.
Was it because I was fated to die?
That pressure was even stronger than before.
But I ignored it. As long as I didn't go too far, it wouldn't act.
And I would only go too far if I looked into the future or the past.
The present was fine, as well as the sight before my physical eyes.
Vulgar Chastity's divinity shone in front of me. But I ignored it.
Instead, I focused on Ghio's arrows.
Powerful attacks laced with his killing intent, unyielding will, and mana.
But it fell short.
Not because it lacked anything conceptually. Against any opponent on his level, Ghio would be the victor 100% of the time due to that attack. It was something that was on the level of Gae Bolg that enforced the concept of 'being attacked' by his arrows.
The problem was that, even if that concept landed against Vulgar Chastity, his arrows couldn't pierce her. At most, they could scratch her.
The reason for that was a difference in quality. Mana couldn't match up to raw divinity. Not ordinarily.
So no matter what Ghio did, he couldn't hurt her.
But. If his arrows contained an energy that could pierce through divinity. No, if he could draw in that divinity and use it for himself...
A connection. In the void where my realm of interconnected spaces touched, I could see the karmic bonds connecting me with everyone I knew. And in that, I could see the one connecting me to Ghio.
A pure gold, overlapped with violet. The golden rule mixed with Atma Refinement.
Ordinarily, I couldn't interfere. The outcome was set in stone, and me trying to change that would result in breaking causality. After all, I wasn't Ghio. Even if I enhanced his arrows, doing it like this was just asking for trouble since it would be marked by the world as 'impossible'.
So I didn't.
The story was there. After all, it wasn't new. A hero gaining more strength and a sudden epiphany while experiencing a tremendous emotional event.
I weaved it. Using 'All as One', I sent a bit of 'insight' of my own through the connection we shared, enforcing it with Atma Refinement.
Just a tiny nudge. Something he would have reached eventually, but something that would help him achieve what he wanted right now.
Time snapped back to normal.
Vulgar Chastity let out an arrogant smile towards Ghio.
And then her face froze.
The silver arrows stopped in place suddenly twisted. The moment they did, the invisible barrier vanished. No, not just vanished. Silver light flashed as it broke like shattered glass before spinning back to shoot towards her torso.
An unexpected and completely unanticipated event.
Before anyone could realize what had happened, a dozen holes pierced through Vulgar Chastity's body, sending blood streaming to the ground.
She let out a shriek of pain and glared at Ghio. "You...!"
The silver-haired archer smiled. "Serves you... right..."
It wasn't complete. Ghio hadn't managed to kill Vulgar Chastity. Even while she glared at him, her wounds were quickly healing, her divinity working to repair her bodily injuries.
But it seemed like a small weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
And I could understand why.
That was probably what he was thinking. No, paired with the satisfaction I saw in his gaze, he seemed to realize the way forward.
But he had also spent everything he had.
Ghio's body slumped and his bow clattered to the ground.
Thankfully, some archers nearby grabbed him, staring at him with awe.
Vulgar Chastity flared with silver light. At the same time, a soaring killing intent swept through the fortress.
Which I promptly nullified again.
"The fuck?!" She cursed and glared at the fortress. "Who's doing that?! I'll fucking kill you! No, I might as well just-!"
[Don't go too overboard and come back.]
An imposing voice echoed. Screechy and irritating, like it was run through feedback.
Vulgar Chastity glared at the fortress, slowly scanning the crowd. But then she clicked her tongue and flew away.
The moment she did, a figure approached from the distance down below, leading an army behind him.
He was tall, well over two meters, and had a black cape draped over his shoulders. But instead of muscular, he was willowy and slender. Paired with a handsome face suited for a noble, he cut an imposing figure for a human.
But he wasn't.
Pale-blue skin and sharp ears that had been cut with scissors. A cold smile, revealing sharp, crimson fangs. Throwing his hands out, he said, "Humans. Do not be afraid." Scanning the fortress with an arrogant gaze, he said, "The reason we have come here today is not to drive humanity to extinction. Nor is it to conquer Haramark. Instead..." He smiled and said, "We seek only a single soul. One Earthling."
Words that were completely unbelievable considering the forces they brought with them. A polite request that was in truth an ultimatum.
Flone tensed and looked at me.
Chohong's eyes widened and she turned towards me as well.
I closed my eyes.
The vampire- No, the Parasite Army Commander, Undying Diligence, continued speaking. "Among you should be a human who recently began to make a name for himself."
Gasps echoed from all around and I felt countless eyes on me.
"If you hand over that person... We will go back quietly. I swear to you upon my very name."
The truth of the matter. The reason why the Parasites had attacked.
I chuckled and opened my eyes. At the same time, I conjured a mana blade- No. I forged a blade from my energy. The trump card that I kept hidden this entire time, mixing and combining every source of energy I had ever encountered.
At the same time, I felt knives pressed against my neck. The causality quickly pushing back against me. But it quickly faded. As for the reason why...
"So this is it, huh?"
My body turned pitch black. At the same time, the karmic threads around me snapped and vanished. No gold, no red... nothing. Only pure black as far as my eye could see.
And then even that faded.
But that was on purpose.
After all, it would only be a distraction.
I stepped forward.
A hand grabbed my arm, holding me back. Flone. Her blue eyes were wide and she shook her head. "Jihu. Don't. Please!" Tears welled in her eyes and she hugged me close to her body. "Please, don't go!"
I patted her head and gave her a soft smile. "Sorry, Flone. But I have to." I stepped forward, phasing through her by stepping out of phase with All as One.
Flone tried to pull me back. But her arms slipped through me, grabbing nothing but air.
A heartbroken expression, the face of someone whose world was falling apart before her eyes.
I shifted my gaze away from her and towards Undying Diligence.
As I did, azure light shone. The familiar sensation of Destiny Severance.
And I saw it.
Ian dying. Teresa dying. My friends, one by one. All of them, risking their lives so that I could stay alive and get strong enough to fight back.
The scene cut, showing another vision. One that was pulled from the recesses of my mind. The 'canon' timeline. Ian, pulling a heroic sacrifice to save me. A frantic struggle where everyone was hurt... and where I suddenly gained a power boost to cut Undying Diligence down.
But I didn't want that. I didn't want either of those futures. A world where others sacrificed themselves for me... I had enough of that. To begin with, my life wasn't as important as theirs anyway.
A final vision. But this was different. Instead of azure light, it was a deep royal blue. A mix of black and azure, like the deepest depths of the ocean... The Fated Demise and Destiny Severance. The 'Future' that I would seize at all costs.
'Yeah. That's fine.'
It wasn't zero. While my odds were low, they weren't zero. And so...
I laughed and said, "I guess bad habits die hard."
...I would bet on it.
Sungjin looked over at me as I walked past him. "Hyung?"
Hugo's eyes widened and he reached out. "Bro. Wait, you can't-!"
I kicked off the ground, leaping over the wall.
Screams for me to stop. Cries of astonishment.
I ignored all of them and touched down on the ground in front of Undying Diligence.
"Hoh?" The vampire looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "I did not think that you would show yourself of your own accord."
I let out a cocky grin and swept my hand through the air. "Of course I would. I'm not a coward who would try to hide behind others like most of those bastards."
"I see." A slight look of approval. It seemed the vampire really was impressed by my actions. "It appears that bravery and foolishness truly are separated by a paper thin margin."
"Nah." I raised my sword and rested it over my right shoulder. "I'm just a bit vain, you know? Can't let others go hogging my achievements. I mean, I'm so great even your queen recognized me, right? Can't let some nobody steal that honor."
Undying Diligence chuckled. "Indeed. And I must admit..." He carefully stared at me and tilted his head. "You are quite different from most Earthlings- No, I suppose you are similar to that person. Still, to be unfazed even standing before three Army Commanders and their armies... Could you perhaps be suicidal?"
"I should say that back to you." I grinned and said, "Standing before me, I'm surprised you guys aren't flinching... Ah, thanks for letting me stall by the way."
Undying Diligence blinked. "What?"
While bantering with Undying Diligence, I threw all my spare ability points into mana. Since it was already at Divine Beginning, and since the cheat-like game system forcibly raised it by a stage given enough points...
A sudden torrent of energy. Denser than divinity, more wild than radioactive energy, more malleable than pure mana.
I lowered my sword, holding it idly at my right side. After that, I let out a slow breath and put on a relaxed smile. "Yeah... That's what I'm talking about."
-A ruinous action.
My body was far from prepared to handle so much energy. That was why I had been holding back until now and saving up my ability points. To begin with, I hadn't finished 'digesting' what I already had. Throwing other things on top of it was reckless.
Like trying to set yourself on fire while you were dying of thirst to run towards water.
But it had to be done.
I knew it. This was where I had to 'die.' After all, I didn't have a cheat trump card like Future Vision to rely on. All I could rely on was myself.
And even then, not completely. After all, since I lacked the 'qualifications,' my Transcendent Insight couldn't be activated.
I focused on the surroundings.
Undying Diligence was wary. His previously relaxed demeanor had vanished, and his crimson eyes stared at me, recognizing a proper threat.
But I ignored him.
At some point in our talk, Vulgar Chastity had moved behind Undying Diligence. Another person, a figure in hulking armor, had arrived as well.
No, not a person. Unsightly Humility. A fallen knight riding on a spectral horse.
The three Army Commanders had gathered as one. Perhaps to ensure there weren't any variables. Perhaps because the others were curious.
Whatever the case, it made my job easy.
An army of black-armored death knights. An army of succubus. An army of vampires.
Before, I would be overwhelmed- No, I would risk them slipping past to hurt someone else. But now...
Undying Diligence stepped forward. "You are no mere human. I understand now what my Queen was so-"
I stepped forward and slashed. A formless blade swept through the air, cleaving through the vampire.
Blood splashed and then flew in reverse back into the vampire's body, his bisected torso snapping back together. Immediately, he started to move and counterattack.
But I was already gone.
In that infinitesimal gap of time that he regenerated, I stepped forward again, appearing in front of Vulgar Chastity.
Her crimson eyes widened and she quickly threw up her arms to form a barrier.
But it was pointless.
I swung my sword. A simple slash, aimed at her neck. My sword cut through the air as if the barriers didn't exist.
Because they didn't.
I was attacking out of phase. Linking my attack a half-dimension away with All as One before snapping it back, the barrier was forcibly canceled.
Vulgar Chastity bent her head back in a panic, trying to avoid my slash.
And it seemed to work. My sword swept past her head, missing entirely.
She grinned and opened her mouth to mock me.
And then she froze.
...Again, she was too arrogant.
Unlike most people, my attacks weren't that straightforward.
The single slash erupted into over a thousand. An advanced form of the Heavenly Reversal slash I had a long time ago and the technique that Sora devised to hit me who kept dodging.
Space locked down, fractured, bent, and reforged as my sword swept past.
And when it did, all that was left of Vulgar Chastity was a spray of red... and a bright, shining orb.
I moved to grab it. But I couldn't.
Knives pressed down on me from all around. Causality fighting back against me breaking the script. At the same time, my body rebelled against me for using such powerful techniques, falling apart at the seams like unsightly applesauce.
I couldn't allow that, so I was forced to focus on handling the load.
Like before after rescuing Teresa for the first time, I forcibly bound my body in place by making formations to lock it in place, keeping the form of a human being.
But the internals were a mess. The raw energy liquified my flesh, dissolved my bones, and ripped apart my nerves.
Anyone else would have collapsed- No, they'd be long dead.
But All as One prevented that from happening. As long as I was conscious, I could forcibly direct my body with raw energy vectors and calculations. Even when I couldn't, it tied my intent to my body and moved it for me.
In short, like a video game character. I had stepped back and saw the world from a third person point of view... kind of.
I stalled for a moment to correct my crumbling body. In that time, Unsightly Humility dashed forward to grab Vulgar Chastity's orb, her raw divinity, and swung his great sword at me.
I parried... Or tried to. But I underestimated the knight's physical strength and was sent flying back through the air.
A blur. The world spun past me. My senses went haywire for a split second, unable to cope with the pain and raw information coursing through me as I forcibly kept everything together.
But then I landed on the ground and everything snapped back into focus.
Undying Diligence's eyes were wide and he quickly turned to Unsightly Humility. "Activate your Divinity! We can't afford to hold back!"
The spectral knight nodded and said, "Understood."
A surge of overwhelming divine energy. The remaining Army Commanders suddenly started to pulse before changing forms.
In the thin vampire's place, a monster over four meters high and covered in ash gray skin roared. Rather than the beautiful vampires from modern fiction, it looked like the monster that appeared in Van Helsing and fairytales.
And in the spectral knight's place... It was a mech. No, something like a mech, but mixed with an opponent from Dark Souls. A towering giant of pure dark steel with jagged armor and glowing emerald flames for eyes.
I took a moment to assess the situation.
Since I started early, I was alone. There had been talk about reinforcements and the Executors coming to help, but they were still hours away at best.
The people in the fortress right now... Against these two monsters, they might as well be dust in the wind. Furthermore, there were still those armies standing by in the back- Ah, no. Vulgar Chastity's army looked confused, a few of those beautiful succubi turning back to normal humans.
Including Ghio's fiancée.
Seeing that, I subtly warped them away while severing the remaining influences of Vulgar Chastity with Fate Reversal.
But that created an opening. And in that opening, the two monsters rushed me.
I took a deep breath and focused. As I did... a familiar window appeared in my field of view. One I hadn't seen in Paradise for a while.
He has unleashed his divinity in an attempt to end you quickly. Strengths: Rapid regeneration, extreme strength, extreme speed. Weaknesses: Anti-Evil
Caution! The Parasite Queen is reinforcing them with the shifted causality!
He has unleashed his divinity in an attempt to end you quickly. Strengths: Intangibility, extreme strength, extreme speed. Weaknesses: Anti-Evil, Magic
Caution! The Parasite Queen is reinforcing them with the shifted causality!
Information streamed into my mind. At the same time, countless lines spread out before me. Future trajectories of both Army Commanders. Predictions of the attacks being used.
In response... I raised my left hand.
The moment I did, a storm of blades erupted, flying towards the Army Commanders.
"You-!" Undying Diligence cursed and stomped on the ground, raising his arms up to block his vitals.
Unsightly Humility stood his ground, swinging his towering sword to blow away my own swords.
A deluge of endless steel, wrought from my Orichalcum mana core, imbued with Evil Nullification, and then wrapped in Sword Qi.
...Was it because of that Parasite Queen using the tipped causality? Even if they were essentially gods now, it still shouldn't have been something that they could take lightly. Yet, my attacks were only grazing them, barely causing a scratch.
But that was fine. I wasn't aiming at the two in the first place.
Broken steel and sparks flew into the air as my swords struck at the Army Commanders... And then screams filled the air. Death cries from behind the two Army Commanders.
"What?!" Unsightly Humility looked back and then the death knight's flickering emerald eyes flared. "The armies!"
Undying Diligence roared and charged, pushing through the storm of blades. "You sly bastard!"
A blinding flash of ashy white.
In an instant, the vampire appeared in front of me, his claws slashing towards my neck.
I clicked my tongue and stopped my barrage. But it was too late to avoid his attack.
The vampire lord grinned... and then he froze, eyes widening in shock. "Ethereal Shift?! No, Intangibility? How in the world-?!"
I ignored his surprise and charged at the towering death knight.
A single step. The gap vanished in an instant and I swung my sword, reinforcing it with Evil Nullification as well as the mix of energy I had.
It was enough. It should have been enough.
All as One connected my moves, skipped me through space, and made a perfect preemptive strike.
But he blocked it.
As if there was a glitch in the matrix, Unsightly Humility suddenly raised his broadsword and blocked my attack.
A burst of light exploded as my energy sword ground against his blade. But it didn't yield.
"Tch." I stepped back and opened the distance. "For a dead man, you've got good instincts."
The death knight didn't respond, only staring at me with cautious emerald eyes.
Undying Diligence quickly moved to his side, the vampire lord staring at me with caution as well.
...She was cheating. This battle should have ended already with everything I pulled out. But it seemed like I was being railroaded towards a certain ending. A result being forced on me by the world.
I smirked and then rested my sword over my right shoulder, "Let's dance for a while longer. It's not often I get to go all out, you know?"
...Or so I said. But...
Something broke. No, not just something. Everything. My overflowing energy was starting to dissolve me from the inside out.
...I was on a time limit. And that time was ticking away with every breath I took.
Dammit. Are the Executors not here yet? At this rate...
"What are you waiting for?!" Teresa swung her arm and said, "Send reinforcements! Right now!"
Cinzia glanced at Teresa and shook her head. "You know it as well as I do, Princess. We can't do that." She shifted her gaze back down to the battlefield and said, "Even a High Ranker- No, a Unique Ranker would get shredded in a fight there. It'll take an Executor to be able to even follow what's happening. Helping... In that frantic melee? Against two fresh Army Commanders that manifested their Divinity? Even an Executor would be a distraction."
Teresa bit her lips. "Even so...!" She looked down on the battlefield.
Flashes of light and blurred colors. That was all she could see. That, and the slaughtered remnants of the remaining Army Commanders' armies.
He did it again. A miracle. The Parasites had demanded that he show himself, and he did. But instead of going along with them, he fought. And not only did he fight, but he was winning.
By himself, he did what all of Paradise had failed to do until now: Kill an Army Commander and destroy two of the Parasites' armies... Technically three considering that he had somehow restored the women captured by Vulgar Chastity and teleported them back to the fortress.
And not only that, Jihu wasn't done.
Fending off two Army Commanders by his own... It was exactly like the fairytales Teresa read in the past. The stories of the hero defying impossible odds and defeating the monsters trying to destroy the world.
And that worried her.
Heroes didn't exist in Parasite. At least, none that were alive. And in the stories of all those heroes... In every one, without exception, the hero always had a sudden burst of power before fading away after saving everyone.
Teresa bit her lip and looked towards Cinzia. "How long until the Executors arrive? Do you know?"
Cinzia puffed a cigar and said, "I don't. If that punk Avarita bastard is with them, they should be here by now since he can teleport. For all I know, they might be nearby watching just like us."
"Then why aren't they helping!?" Teresa slammed her fist on the wall and said, "If we attack now, we can finish them!"
"True." Cinzia nodded. "But that's only if we have someone that can keep up with Jihu. And at that speed... The only ones who would be able to help are the Daughter of Luxuria and the Sacred Empress. And while I'm sure the former wants to help, without someone like the latter..."
Teresa growled and then grabbed the sword at her side. The blade that Jihu had always kept on him but entrusted to her.
A surge of boundless energy. At the same time, she felt that power seep into her own body, as if resonating with her desires. Emotions, her fear, her anger, her despair... All of it boiled down into bare energy.
Cinzia's eyes widened. "Teresa, you-?!"
Teresa ignored her, tensing her legs to jump into the fray after Jihu.
And then there was a sudden flash of white. The dark skies splitting open to reveal stellar light.
At the same time, a blur flew down from the distant mountaintop, clutching a jade spear.
That snapped Teresa out of her furious haze. She blinked and said, "E-Eh? What's going-?"
Cinzia laughed. Tossing her cigar aside, she said, "Damned kid. Looks like Claire's going to have it rough."
Seo Yuhui. Baek Haeju.
Just as Jihu's clash reached the climax, the two and only Level Eight Earthlings joined the fray.
At the same time-
"Muto!" Ian raised his rapier.
The green-haired mage nodded. "Understood." He raised his scepter.
Ian looked at the battlefield and said, "Time to see if this works on Army Commanders! I choose you, Rudium!"
A surge of energy from above, mingled with Teresa's mana. But before I could worry about that, a warm light shone down from above, paired with a familiar mana.
Undying Diligence's eyes widened and he looked up. "The Daughter of Luxuria?! No! With Vulgar Chastity missing-"
I swung my blade and said, "You talk too much!"
"Rude human...!" Undying Diligence swept his hand up, blocking my attack with a crimson energy.
At the same time, a massive broadsword cleaved towards my neck from the left.
I swept out my left arm in response and caught it, removing the kinetic energy and reversing it.
The broadsword flew back, sending Unsightly Humility staggering. But the death knight wasn't deterred. Carefully analyzing me, he stepped forward again to attack.
"Curses! Curses, curses, curses!" Undying Diligence glared at me and charged again.
In response, I conjured another mana blade and used it to block Undying Diligence while stopping Unsightly Humility with my energy sword.
The sound of shattering glass. My swiftly conjured blade shattered beneath the vampire lord's attack. But it bought time. Enough for me to swing my sword and bite into the death knight's armor, carving a small hole in his armor to reveal smoldering green flames.
But then the world rippled and Unsightly Humility's wound vanished.
"Tch. That's annoying."
Because that damned Parasite Queen basically had admin privileges, she was using them to erase my attacks since I was being treated as a 'virus'.
Undying Diligence growled. The vampire lord glared at me and said, "What *are* you?! I sense no divinity, but this strength is on par with one! You are mortal, but your aura reeks of one far beyond such limits!"
I kicked him away and smiled. "I'm just me. A fake hero trying to save the world."
"Bullshit!" Undying Diligence blurred forward, swinging his arms to rip me apart.
I used All as One to bind space and sap away his kinetic energy to stop his attack before grinning at him. "Oh? Do tell."
Undying Diligence roared, trying to push through my defense. "The Seven Gods... they must have cheated." He grit his teeth, flaring his divine energy to try and break through. But it didn't work. Realizing that, he hissed and said, "There's no other explanation. Such a being cannot exist otherwise!"
A faint flicker from behind me. The death knight's sword, aiming for my back.
It seemed like they were pulling my tactic against me, trying to distract with small talk before stabbing me in the back.
But that wouldn't work on me.
I flicked my sword to the side and parried Unsightly Humility's sword. At the same time, I used Energy Domination to send him flying, converting all the ambient energy into pure kinetic energy.
But all the while, I stared at Undying Diligence, smirking at the vampire lord. "What? Can't believe that a mortal can reach this level on his own merits? Or are you upset that you couldn't do it yourself? Oh wait, that's why you're a vampire, right?"
"You...!" Undying Diligence roared and then stomped on the ground, trying to open up space to try another charge. But just as he did- "Gah?!"
A pulse echoed. A corrosive intent with a single command: Stop.
When that reached us, Undying Diligence suddenly stiffened, his body forced to stop.
I grinned and took the chance to slash at the vampire lord's arm.
A clean blow. My sword cut through and his limb fell to the ground, squirming like a worm.
Undying Diligence clutched his bleeding stump and roared. "You damned humans! Always-"
I swung my sword again, aiming at his legs. "Again, talk too much!"
Before my sword struck him though, Unsightly Humility reappeared, the death knight using his body to protect his fellow Army Commander.
I narrowed my eyes and focused.
Magic didn't work. Evil Nullification didn't either. The abilities I had acquired and learned were being rejected by the world and that Parasite Queen. So instead...
[Transcendent Insight peers into the divinity before your eyes!]
[Causality tips against you for defying destiny!]
[The Parasite Queen directs causality to reinforce Unsightly Humility!]
[Scanning... resonating energy frequencies... success!]
My blade swept towards the death knight's black steel armor.
He ignored it, sending his own slash towards my head. But then the smoldering green flames he had as eyes flared and he tried to escape.
A clean and pure sound. My sword finally cutting through and splitting apart his armor.
Unsightly Humility clutched his chest, staring as green flame spilled out like blood. But then he looked back at me and shook his head. "You are strong. Stronger than any opponent we have ever faced. But... You were foolish."
"Oh?" I stepped back and held my sword loose at my side. "Why's that?"
"Alone, you may prevail. But against the two of us, your defeat is inevitable."
"Dunno about that. Seems to me like you two are losing." I laughed and said, "Man. If this is the best the Parasite Queen has to offer, maybe I should just march right up and say hi?"
Unsightly Humility didn't respond to my taunt. Instead, he glanced to his fellow Army Commander and said, "Undying Diligence. We can no longer underestimate him. Fight with the assumption he is our equal."
The vampire lord stilled and then he scowled. "Fine." He took a deep breath. And then the fury in his eyes vanished, replaced with calm composure. "Let us end this quickly. We have unleashed our divinities long enough... And we need to return Vulgar Chastity's to the Queen."
A subtle shift.
It wasn't anything tangible. Unlike an Anime or a game, those two were already on their final forms.
But their demeanor changed.
Before, they were rushing to try and end me, expecting me to be just some small fry that would fall with enough pressure. That made them sloppy and gave me openings to exploit.
But that was gone now.
The two were still in a hurry. But they were also determined to throw their life on the line. As if it would be fine if they died as long as I did. A mutual understanding between Commanders instead of competitors.
Unsightly Humility raised his sword and said, "I will pressure him. Exploit his openings."
Undying Diligence nodded, regaining the composure he had before transforming. "Understood. But if it's impossible, escape. You're faster."
I wiped the smile from my face.
...This would be tough.
I was taunting them and making light of everything but...
Something inside broke. At the same time, a wave of static swept through my vision and hearing.
I tightened my grip on my sword, forcibly connecting my senses with All as One.
That pushed the static away. But it didn't change my problem.
Like those guys, I didn't have much time.
I thought it would be enough with just my stats to cut them down when I used my pure energy sword... but I underestimated the Parasite Queen's determination. Instead of saving that tipped causality to use somewhere else, she was focusing it all on me. As a result, my sword that should have ripped through any and all divine power was being suppressed by the world rejecting me, turning my instakill attacks into normal ones.
I managed to cut off one arm, but that was just a flesh wound. In the grand scheme of things, that wasn't even a bother for a guy like Undying Diligence who could regenerate everything.
A sudden flash. Emerald light, piercing towards Undying Diligence's heart.
"Tch." The vampire lord batted the light away and quickly opened space, expecting a follow up attack. But it didn't arrive.
Instead, the attacker moved to my side- No, she moved to stand in front of me, as if declaring she would fight both of the Army Commanders on my behalf.
A beautiful woman with a white traditional jacket, like a martial artist robe.
I didn't recognize her appearance, but I knew who she was.
Baek Haeju... Or in another world, Yoo Seonhwa.
Unsightly Humility stared at the new arrival and said, "You are not enough."
She responded by raising her emerald spear, aiming it at the death knight.
A brave stance. But also a foolish one. She wasn't strong enough to fight them. Maybe if it was under normal circumstances, but the Parasite Queen was watching this battle and directly sending reinforcement. So...
"Heh." I chuckled and stepped forward. "Thanks for the assist."
Baek Haeju... No. Seonhwa looked at me and then looked away. "...You fought well."
"You make it seem like the fight's over." I held my sword loose at my side and said, "There's still two left to go."
Seonhwa looked like she wanted to say something, but she sighed and nodded.
Undying Diligence narrowed his eyes. The vampire lord straightened and said, "Are you underestimating us?"
"No. You're underestimating me." I stepped forward again, moving past Seonhwa's side. And as I did, I whispered a message. One that only she could hear.
'Thanks, Seonhwa. Sorry to make you clean up after me again.'
She gasped, quickly turning towards me. And as a result, she left an opening.
Undying Diligence immediately charged forward, no doubt intending on cutting her down before focusing on me.
'...I have to do it.'
After probing them for a while, I realized it.
I couldn't continue on like this.
All as One was powerful, but it wasn't enough to cut through the divinity of the Army Commanders when it was activated like this. As much as I hated to admit it, I was still short of cutting down a god. And with their divinity released, while still mortal, those two Army Commanders might as well be gods.
...No. That was wrong.
I could do it. If this was a normal fight, I could cut them down. But it wasn't.
Just like Arden Valley, this was a big turning point. And just like everything else, Fate and Destiny continued to march on, forcing everything onto the path already written in stone.
The gods said it. The paths of stars really didn't like to move. And the world itself was pushing back on me shifting everything out of place. Not only that, but the Parasite Queen was directly intervening to get rid of me by using that fact that the world wanted me gone as well.
So I couldn't do it. Plan A of just beating the Army Commanders outright was blocked off since they were being protected by the world and my attacks were bouncing off. Plan B of stalling for the Executors to help didn't work since these guys were too strong for those Executors to risk fighting. And Plan C of retreating wouldn't work since these guys wouldn't let me off. At least, not without destroying everything else.
Killing Vulgar Chastity seemed to be the last straw, and now those guys were basically marked as invincible. Like the immortal objects in an MMORPG.
But there was still a way for me to cut them down. I figured it out earlier. The problem was, if I did this, I could only cut one down. And the cost of it...
Well. I was already marked for death, so I might as well make my exit. Next time, I'd just need to make some contingencies so that the world and the Parasite Queen couldn't give the bad guys literal plot armor.
If there was a next time.
I pointed my sword to the ground, focusing on the logic behind my attack. The principles that would allow it.
An attack that ripped apart the fundamental strings of existence, severing karma, energy, and life alike.
My problem was that the Parasite Queen's 'Authority' when paired with the world's suppression power was too strong.
But that was just the world. As strong as she was, as much Authority as she had, it wasn't a universal constant. It wasn't something that allowed her to go beyond the scope of this world.
But I had something that could. So...
Overloading my Karmic Eyes of Destiny, utilizing Transcendent Insight to keep track of everything, forcing it to tie together with All as One and then unraveling it with a sword slash by Unbound Karmic Blade...
I stepped forward.
Undying Diligence noticed and shifted targets towards me. A reflexive reaction, acting in response to an imminent threat.
A lethal mistake.
Unsightly Humility gasped and shouted. "STOP! DON'T-!"
"Too late!" I swung my sword.
Immediately, I felt thousands of knives pressed against my body. Causality pushing back against me and forcing me in place.
At least, it tried.
A clear sound. Shattering glass, crystal chimes... a pure ringing sound echoed across the battlefield- No, the world. At the same time, there was the sound of clanking chains. The sound of destiny being severed and a new future being formed.
An invisible ripple spread throughout the world. And in an instant, my blade pointed at the ground was suddenly aimed skyward.
Undying Diligence froze, staring at me with wide eyes. "Im-"
He never got the chance to finish.
A massive explosion erupted as the impossible occurred. The divinity... The Divine Authority that should have been eternal.
With my slash, not only was Undying Diligence slain, but that divinity was completely eradicated.
From this point on, there would be only six virtues, even if the others were successfully retrieved.
But it wasn't over yet.
I turned my gaze towards Unsightly Humility and held up my hand.
He hesitated, looking at me and Seonhwa. I could almost hear the gears spinning in his head.
After all, with an attack like that, I couldn't fight him. Right?
...That was true, but he didn't know that.
So, in order to shock him...
My sword was still pointed in the air, so I focused.
...My body was a mess. While I still had the appearance of a human, that was only skin deep. Beneath it, my flesh had completely vaporized into pure energy. The result of trying to handle power it couldn't handle.
But I still had time. My body was ruined and my life was burned out, but my consciousness hadn't faded so I could still act.
Using the remaining energy in my overflowing core, I focused and formed a giant sword in the sky, wreathing it with Sword Qi and Evil Nullification. Not only that, but I gathered up the remnant divine energy from the explosion and incorporated it in the blade before aiming it at the death knight.
That was the last straw.
Without hesitation, Unsightly Humility beat a hasty retreat, rushing off into the distance.
I watched him until he vanished, and then I let the giant sword drop.
It fell down, piercing into the ground behind me like a titan's blade while emitting a glowing rainbow light.
And then my body gave out.
I staggered backwards, leaning against the warm steel. My sword dropped to the ground, the glowing white blade swiftly fading to a pure black as my energy faded away.
And then a figure appeared before me.
Seonhwa... No, right now, she was Baek Haeju.
"You idiot...!" Tears ran down her unfamiliar face. Seeing such an aloof and cold beauty crying like that was odd... but I recognized the expression.
"Heh." I held out my hand to brush her tears away and said, "I told you, didn't I? In the end..." My vision grew faint. At the same time, black enveloped me, swallowing my world in darkness. "...The only thing I can do is hurt you, Seonhwa."
Her voice echoed. One that wasn't familiar, but with a cadence that both I and my body knew too well. And for a split second, I thought I could see her crying face staring at me.
I smiled, trying to cheer her up. But then my vision vanished.
Seonhwa's frantic voice suddenly cut off. And along with it, so did the rest of my senses.
64 - Even At the Cost of My Life