“Kekekeke.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was laughing alone.
Death, was it….
A familiar yet still alien concept, one he had experienced countless times before but never had the chance to truly accept, was finally dawning on him.
He had experienced tens of thousands of deaths, yet he couldn’t die once. But then, to be able to sense the approaching death in this place….
‘Yup, the sense of danger sure feels different.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He might have felt something similar to this in the early days of his life in Berafe. But after going through endless cycle of death and revival, he had lost his grip on the notion of death itself.
“Maybe I should thank you.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….For making me feel this crappy thing again. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Beltreche stared into Yi Ji-Hyuk’s bloodshot eyes and felt the emotion of lamentation.
Just as the idea of death felt so foreign to Yi Ji-Hyuk, the emotion of lamentation was an alien concept to Beltreche as well. But, without a doubt, the reptilian demon king was feeling it, alright.
“I am uncertain as to what to say to you.” (Beltreche)
Witnessing the spectacular fall of the human who used to stand at the summit, brought about incomparable joy. Humans also enjoyed viewing such an event, so it’d be even more so for Beltreche, who was a demon.
However, seeing the person wallowing in the mud after the fall wasn’t much of a palatable experience. Normally, Beltreche would’ve ridiculed the fallen and spit in his face, but even it was beginning to feel a tinge of sympathy for the current Yi Ji-Hyuk.
And he was supposed to be a demon, too.
“I fail to understand your rationale, Yi Ji-Hyuk.” (Beltreche)
Beltreche spat out as if it was frustrated.
“All living creatures wish to become greater than they are. Whether you’re a human, a demon, even a Dragon…. Even a measly monster, too.” (Beltreche)
Indeed, all things alive would want to do that.
“Yet, why did you willingly lower your own status? Oh Bringer of Apocalypse, the one who had ascended to the place infinitely close to the gods, the one who reached the godhood with nothing more than sheer power, why did you willingly throw all of that away and enter the gutters like this?” (Beltreche)
Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t answer, simply choosing to glare at Beltreche.
“Answer me, oh ninety-ninth demon king. Are you truly satisfied with the position you have chosen? What do you wish to gain by choosing this life? Take a long look at yourself, now bereft of the power that once made the entire demon world quake in fear. You’re no longer the feared Bringer of Apocalypse, no longer the revered Immortal Soul, and no longer the 99th demon king. Now, answer me, Yi Ji-Hyuk. Why did you choose this path?” (Beltreche)
A smirk formed on Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lips. This idiot already answered itself, so he wasn’t sure what that fool wanted from him now.
“Right, I’m Yi Ji-Hyuk.”
That’s all I ever wanted.
The Bringer of Apocalypse, the Immortal Soul, whatever….. Screw them all, what does any use those crappy titles have for me?
I never wanted it, yet it was you lot that labelled me with those titles, and feared me and revered me and whatever.
I never wanted crap like that to begin with.
All I ever wanted was to go back.
….To go back to being a regular person.
I already know better than any of you that my wish won’t come true just because I came back here. Even then, there’s something that no human will give up on. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“….I’m just Yi Ji-Hyuk.”
“….I can’t understand you.” (Beltreche)
Beltreche shook its head.
Would he become Yi Ji-Hyuk only after coming back here and losing all his god-like powers?
The thing was, he was still Yi Ji-Hyuk back in the other worlds, too.
Even if one tried to investigate his true identity with whatever means necessary, the results wouldn’t have changed at all, just because he came back to this world.
Beltreche swung its hand almost playfully, but that actually caused a powerful gust of whirlwind to physically materialise and fly directly to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
The ground he had been barely standing on exploded, and he was thrown back like a kite with its strings cut before landing hard a bit of distance away.
“This is the current you.” (Beltreche)
Yi Ji-Hyuk somehow forced himself off the ground with heavily trembling arms.
It looked as if his arms would give up and he’d fall back down at any given moment, but miraculously, he managed to stand back up.
“So…. what?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk formed a toothy grin.
The current Yi Ji-Hyuk?
He was pathetic, irritable, and far, far too weak.
When he was back in Berafe, the power he possessed, as well as his status, covered up all of his shortcomings, but well…. He himself knew very well that he of now was just a mere human throwing a tantrum.
But… But, so what?
I only want to go back to how I was. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“That’s why, I shouldn’t have any lingering regrets after getting killed by you.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yup, I’ve lived long enough.
I’ve seen enough, too.
So, I shouldn’t have any particular reason to crazily resist dying at this point.
However, there’s this thing getting a bit on my nerves…. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“Really now, the idea of dying at your hands hurts my pride way too much, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s snide chirping brought about a smirk on Beltreche’s lips.
“I’m almost tempted to preserve that mouth of yours.” (Beltreche)
“Ohh, that’s a good idea. I’ll nag on and on by your side until the day I die, then. Who knows? You might even get to conquer and unite the entire demon world, too! Kekeke!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk threw a ridiculing remark at Beltreche, but also began gathering more Mana to his hands.
He didn’t mind dying. But, the thought of this lizard b*stard being the reason for his death really hurt his pride.
Seriously now, shouldn’t he at least get killed by a high-ranked demon king? So he might have something to say in front of King Yama?
He could feel a crippling amount of pain shooting up from his side. Staring at the gaping hole there still pouring out blood like that, he just couldn’t get used to it.
Affeldrichae couldn’t bear to watch on any longer, so she began using a healing magic on his wound.
“….Keu-huek.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s body writhed as he couldn’t endure the pain.
Since he was on death’s doorway, his body somehow accepted the healing magic, but it was far too stained with dark Mana by now. His body considered the light Mana entering him as an enemy’s invasion and began boiling from within.
Sure, his wounds were healing now, but two opposing Mana forces were clashing inside of him, and that caused an intolerable amount of pain to torment Yi Ji-Hyuk.
His tightly-clenched teeth squeaked and creaked as if they would shatter at any moment, and his hands and feet quivered all on their own.
“It’s done.” (Affeldrichae)
He could now hear Affeldrichae’s voice full of anxiety and determination.
The light Mana remained within his body and continued to stimulate the dark Mana.
Now normally, such a thing would’ve left him with injuries, but at the moment, he had to risk that and accept the healing magic because the damages to his body were far too extensive.
“Thanks.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He wasn’t sure whether to feel grateful or swear blue murder at her, but for the time being, he decided to go with thanks.
“However, any further than this….” (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae blurred the ends of her sentence.
I know that my body won’t be able to endure anymore.
I know that it’s dangerous to receive another healing magic or try to use more dark Mana.
I know all of that. But…. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s gaze shifted back to Beltreche.
If he let that thing be, everyone would be dead soon.
Yi Ji-Hyuk gritted his teeth and roared out.
“Seo Ah-Young!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes!” (Seo Ah-Young)
And she replied back, sounding quite determined.
“I don’t care how, just distract that thing! I only need a few seconds!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Okay.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young didn’t add any other unnecessary remarks like usual.
Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t tell whether she had finally understood that listening to the orders of the commander in the battlefield was important, or maybe even she could tell that the current situation was far too urgent for her to fool about.
“…Richae.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Help them out.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Just do it!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Affeldrichae nodded her head.
All of her actions were based on the principle of protecting and caring for Yi Ji-Hyuk first and foremost. Even then, she understood that now was the time to take her eyes away from him and look at the bigger picture.
“I understand.” (Affeldrichae)
The brilliant light shimmered from her body as she cast a wide-range healing magic.
The hole in Park Sung-Chan’s chest was instantly filled back up, while the broken legs of Kim Dah-Hyun were righted once more. The pain they felt during the process was unimaginable, but both of them gritted their teeth and endured.
“Stand up.” (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae coldly ordered both men.
For her, supporting these people was far more simpler compared to aiding Yi Ji-Hyuk from the side. She lacked Mana, so it was impossible to cast massive AOE spells at will, like how she had done back in Berafe.
The best method to efficiently use the miniscule Mana residing within her in this world, was to maximise the usage of the most basic healing magic she knew.
Unfortunately, healing magic might work on Yi Ji-Hyuk, but it also proved to be a fatally dangerous poison to him, as well.
In that case, it would be far more efficient to aid others rather than Yi Ji-Hyuk.
‘I know this already, yet….’ (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae lightly bit her lower lip.
She understood it fully in her head, but even then, trying to do the logical thing made her feel uncomfortable. As a Dragon that personified logical reasoning, such an emotion shouldn’t even exist.
She was cognisant of her identity as a Dragon slowly eroding away, but to think, it’d have advanced this much….
Affeldrichae stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk.
The sight of him standing precariously while gathering Mana was painful to look at.
She grew irritated by the sight of him trying to protect this worthless world, and she grew even more irritated by Jeong Hae-Min far away, being all antsy and fidgety and all that, unable to come closer but also unable to distance herself away.
‘….Since when have I become such an emotional creature?’ (Affeldrichae)
Even Dragons had some semblance of emotions. Only the gods could perfectly calculate everything with logic, after all.
She knew this, but then….
Affeldrichae shook her head.
Now wasn’t the right time to think about such things. No, the important thing right now was to deal with that demon king.
Was that even possible?
Even if she had somehow regained her original form, she’d still have a hard time fighting that being. A single demon king being summoned to a world would result in the destruction of half a continent. It was that powerful a being.
It was an existence that the alliance of Dragons would find very hard to contend with. So, could the gathering of humans and she defeat it? When she wasn’t even half of what she used to be?
The result of this battle seemed like a foregone conclusion, but they couldn’t not fight, either.
If only there was another variable….
Affeldrichae quietly stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk, before shifting her head away. She had no choice but to believe in him for now.
“Let’s go!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young’s shout prompted Park Sung-Chan to take the front. Even though he had barely escaped from death’s grip, he pounced forward like an angry bull as if he held no fear of dying at all.
Along with Affeldrichae’s soft incantation, a gentle layer of white light formed around Park Sung-Chan’s body and began gleaming brightly.
While maintaining a certain distance from his body in order to minimally affect the dark Mana coursing through his body, the barrier still provided the much-needed protection.
Such a fine, exacting control over Mana was only possible because she was a Dragon.
At the same time, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s monsters pounced on Beltreche again. Even Oh-Sik, still missing an arm, roared in rage and rushed at the reptilian demon king.
‘….Even though he’s like that?’ (Beltreche)
Beltreche instinctively nodded its head.
Indeed, to exert such control over this many monsters, even though his consciousness must’ve been greatly shaved away by the pain wrecking him from the inside, now that was truly an amazing feat.
One would need the perfect and absolute control over the low ranked monsters to make them attack a demon king. It was already a remarkable achievement to do that using just a human’s mind, regardless of his power level. So, it was truly deserving of praise that he didn’t show a single instance of slipping-up even under his current physical state.
As the old saying went, an old eagle was still better than a young crow. So, was this the case of the Bringer of Apocalypse still being the same Bringer of Apocalypse, regardless of what his current self was?
Yi Ji-Hyuk gritted his teeth as he noticed a grin on Beltreche’s face.
‘Oh, so you can still laugh, is it?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Sure, I guess you can.
However, it’s not gonna be like that no more. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk clenched both of his fists.
“Now that things have come to this, I don’t have a choice.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
If he couldn’t kill that thing via conventional means, then it was time to experiment. Yi Ji-Hyuk had no clue what the results would be from that experiment, though…..
“Well, I’ll only die, so what about it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk cackled ominously and slowly walked towards Beltreche.
< 168. Count on it, Lizard -3 > Fin.