Chapter 73 – Echoes (1)
“Who are you?”
It was an unfamiliar face, but when Willie noticed the hammer in this strange man’s hands, he recalled where he had seen the man . It was in front of the Demon King’s Palace . It was the man that had been spouting off curses towards the glittering stars that were the champions of the Other World .
‘Sungchul, the Enemy of the World? No… How could it be? His face is different . He looks younger than before, and his physique is different as well . ’
The most important aspect wasn’t his face, but rather the Divine Weapon, Fal Garaz, that he held in his hands . Sungchul looked down on Willie with a chilly gaze and opened his mouth again .
“You haven’t changed at all in 8 years . Or rather, you might have regressed . ”
At that moment, Marakia shot down dozens of magical arrows from the sky like rain . Sungchul struck the earth with his hammer . The surface cracked, and an entire bedrock popped out . He held it in place with just one hand . The bedrock was as large as a house, but the hand which held it up was unwavering .
Pewt! Pewt! Pewt Pewt Pewt!
Multiple Magic arrows landed on the bedrock, but none managed to penetrate it all the way through . After he had managed to block the first round of attacks, Sungchul threw the bedrock and mightily swung his hammer . It caused a massive air pressure to gather followed by the sound of an explosion . The Avian King was temporarily disoriented due to taking the resulting wind head on, and the bedrock Sungchul launched into the air came crashing down to the ground .
The ground shook wildly, but what shook even more was the Seventh Champion of the Continent’s eyes .
‘What is that strength? I knew that he forsook everything for the sake of physical stats, but that strength… where does it come from?
For a moment a goal that he once chased but have long since come to accept as infeasible popped into his mind .
‘Could it be… did that man exceed superhuman levels and step into the realm of transcendence?’
Transcendent One . It is the highest attainable state for a mortal . There are only three individuals who are known to have transcended to this level of strength currently . The First Champion of the Continent, Emperor William Quinton Marlboro . The Second Champion of the Continent, Mediator Aquiroa . And the Fifth Champion of the Continent, leader of the Assassin’s Guild Shamal Rajput .
Sungchul who had been the 10th Champion of the Continent was known as a powerful warrior, but he was too simple . People believed his upper limits were all too clear . He had no particular skills or techniques and chose to throw himself into battle with just his own body . This method was crude and predictable .
‘Could it be that that guy overcame his limits?’
Suddenly, Willie spat out a glob of blood from his throat and curled up like a shrimp . It was because the shadow of death was looming over him .
Sungchul’s military boots stopped close to his face .
“Selfishness has clouded your judgement and made you fall into the pitfall called complacence . ”
Fal Garaz’s head fell lightly onto the ground’s surface .
“Look well, Willie Gilford . This is how the Enemy of the World fights . ”
Sungchul ran out with his hammer in hand . Willie, who didn’t even have the strength to move a finger, couldn’t do much else than to watch Sungchul fight while his head still sat on the ground forcing him to breathe in the loose dirt .
When the battle began, Willie fell into a huge shock . Sungchul and Marakia were fighting to a standstill . No… Sungchul had an air of leisure about him . It was unbelievable . A summoned, a mortal was fighting evenly with a figure of legends .
‘Sungchul . He was definitely weaker than me . Just how did he manage to get his hands on such massive power? And… and for what reason?’
Sungchul’s words were exact . While Willie had become complacent after obtaining the title of ‘Regent of the Ancient Kingdom’ and the Seventh Champion of the Continent, Sungchul had become unfathomably stronger . He was most likely forced to fight and struggle to survive every day for eight years, to the point where death would have been a much kinder fate .
“Receive the fury of the skies!”
Marakia formed several magic formations all across the ceiling and summoned a part of a storm cloud to cause lightning to strike down with abandon . It was a terrifying magical attack that hadn’t been seen before, but Sungchul’s response was quite simple . He rapidly smashed Fal Garaz into the bedrock, shattering the ground around him causing the debris to float up into the air . He then struck the floating chunks of the bedrock faster than the eyes could see, launching them towards and destroying every magic formation Marakia had created, even scattering the thunderclouds that had formed .
Marakia was impressive, but Sungchul’s response was simply breathtaking .
‘Just how did that man… for what reason did he reach that level…’
In that moment, Willie’s sight began to fade . Death was soon approaching him . All he could hear was the sound of battle, and even that was starting to grow distant . Within the tranquil darkness, Willie laid dying in humiliation and regret . The last thing he heard was Marakia’s outburst .
“You lowly pest of a human!”
It was an all-out attack . Marakia covered himself with his wings as he uttered an evil accursed spell with his beak into his black feathers, then spread his wings wide apart . His entire body began to emit a black magical aura that swept through the entire Underground Kingdom like a torrent causing all the corpses caught within to reawaken .
Clack . Clack . Clack .
The countless Cave Elves buried within the wall broke through and began to stumble forth . It was an undead army of thousands… no, tens of thousands .
“My slaves . Exterminate that vulgar insect!”
The skeletal army began to rush towards Sungchul like a river .
“… . ”
Sungchul stood his ground and watched the tidal wave of skeletons overwhelm him while Marakia looked over the scene from the ceiling with his arms crossed .
The river of white skeletons quickly began to surround Sungchul and eventually enveloped him entirely . These dead beings had the magical ability to drain the life force of the living simply by being near them . What would happen if dozens or even hundreds of insignificant powers began to drain all at once? No human warrior, no matter how powerful, would be able to withstand the onslaught . Marakia’s skeleton army also numbered in the tens of thousands . It might have helped to have wings to fly, but those without the ability of fly would be simply doomed to die without a struggle .
However, tremors began to rumble within the mass of skeletons . Marakia’s eyes caught something moving .
Within the river of white below his feet, something small and also white began to fly over in his direction .
Something sharp flew past where he flew and became embedded into the wall . Marakia turned his head to take a look at what it was . They were fragments of bone .
Another muffled tremor exploded below him followed by the sound of the air splitting that shocked him to his core .
‘Did that bastard actually?!’
Marakia could not hold back his surprise and quickly descended . Skeletal fragments shot out like a shotgun and embedded themselves everywhere .
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The mobs of skeletons began to burst out in turns . More fragments flew toward Marakia than he had expected .
One of the fragments caused an injury . The wound wasn’t deep, but it bled and caused ripples of pain . Marakia began to tremble . He was a Nahak; a race believed to be chosen by God . He was also the most revered and powerful among the Nahaks, but he was injured by a mere human .
However, that attack was only the beginning .
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
Consecutive muffled explosions resonated from the mass of skeletons .
‘Just what kind of person is this? Why is he fine while being surrounded by the Army of Death?’
He had been the one showering black arrows like rain, but now he was on the receiving end being exposed to the flying fragments of bone . Marakia now stood at a crossroad .
‘Do I release the Army of Death and put up a defensive barrier? If I do that, I’ll lose one of my methods of attack . The might of the Army of Death isn’t explosive, but it is unending . No matter how strong that human is, there is no way he’ll be able to endure the Army of Death indefinitely . ’
Marakia was a powerful mage, but he was also a powerful warrior . He also had more confidence than anyone in his ability to fly . He looked down on the ground as he sustained the Army of Death .
Another explosion . A shotgun of bone fragments began to fly out . Marakia tracked every fragment and began to maneuver in the air . With a single flap, he majestically and agilely tore through the air to evade every fragment .
Sungchul, who was buried within the skeletons, continued to shoot out fragments .
‘He is struggling, but his attacks will not work on me!’
Marakia had faith in his wings and the precision of his eyes; he continued to evade the attacks easily .
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Bones continued to fly towards him . Marakia put on a beautiful display of flight as he continued to evade the fragments, but as he dodged the fragments for the third time, another attack popped out at an odd timing . Marakia scoffed at him and descended quickly .
‘Do you think these kinds of attacks will work?’
The fragment flew by harmlessly over his head, and with that, Marakia was confident in his victory . But the moment he had lowered his altitude to dodge the projectiles, something shot out of the pile of skeletons like a bullet . It happened so suddenly that Marakia could not respond in time .
‘Could it be?’
He had a good guess of what had happened to him . The attack which he thought he had easily evaded was actually meant to drive him into a checkmate .
A human hand gripped onto the avian king’s wing . Marakia quickly tried to shake the human off, but the human hand was faster .
The rough grip proceeded to separate his wing from his body . Following the traumatic pain shooting through his body, a fountain of blood shot out from the wound . Marakia’s vision grew dim as he fell towards the ground . What appeared next in his sights was the Army of Death that he had raised himself . Corpses of Cave Elves, ones on whom he wouldn’t even waste the words ‘lowly’ on, began to envelop him as he lost consciousness .
The avian king crashed in the middle of the mass of skeletons . The skeletons that had been animated due to the king’s power began to collapse as they lost their source of power . Sungchul lightly landed onto the surface made of bones . His usual appearance remained intact without a single injury nor clothing out of place .
He turned his head and looked back towards a specific spot . Wille who had been lying in that place could no longer be seen under a mound of skeletons of nameless Cave Elves . It was a pitiful end to someone praised as the Seventh Champion of the Continent as well as the only one in over 500 years to have achieved the rank of Grand Swordmaster .
Sungchul walked over slowly toward Marakia who was lying on top of the skeletal mound .
Marakia, who had one of his wings torn off, was trembling and groaning from pain . The sound of Sungchul’s military boots grew closer and closer . And for the first time in his life, Marakia felt fear blossom in his heart . He pushed aside the pain and immediately flipped himself over to look at the man who was silently approaching him with his violet eyes .
‘How could this be? This doesn’t make sense . This strength that I acquired at the cost of my entire race and era couldn’t overcome this lowly human?’
Sungchul continued to walk towards him . The avian king had to swallow the insult of having to use his two arms and legs to crawl on his back to postpone the destined moment . He suddenly had a thought .
‘That’s right . This guy can only resort to physical attacks . ’
Within his body was near infinite amounts of magic power . The problem was that the vessel of this immense magical power had sustained a critical injury . At his current state, it was impossible to heal this on his own . He needed something he could immediately use . A potion or another living creature .
Marakia who was now crawling on his back caught something in his sights . It was a human . The female magician that had claimed to have revived him . He may have been reawakened by that woman, but humans were nothing more than a snack to Marakia .
‘That looks good . The mage would also work great as nourishment . ’
Marakia was capable of sacrificing his own subjects; it would be impossible to expect mercy from him toward another race entirely . His eyes were that of a predator looking at his prey .
Mimi quickly figured out the intent behind Marakia’s gaze toward her, but by then, it was all too late . The sharp beak tore through her flesh and became lodged into her heart . Marakia’s throat gulped down the warm blood of a freshly killed human .
Sungchul only watched the scene with an indifferent expression .