Chapter 456. Overwhelming (2)
After organizing his thoughts, Chi-Woo raised his head.
“What are you going to do?” Apoline asked as if she had been wanting to ask all along; judging by how she was wiggling her hands, she seemed ready to cast a spell and swept away everything in her path.
“Let’s move closer for now.”
“Move closer…?” Apoline tilted her head and asked, but Chi-Woo did not repeat himself. Since they didn’t know what kind of hidden traps there might be, Apoline’s method wasn’t a bad idea, but it was not a feasible plan since he didn’t know if the person he was looking for was among the tetris-like pile of humans. Moreover, it didn’t matter if there was a trap.
‘I can just crush everything in my path.’ Chi-Woo currently had the power to do so.
Apoline didn’t say anything else. The leader of this expedition was Chi-Woo; since she knew this fact better than anyone else, she had no intention of acting outside her authority.
* * *
The expedition team resumed their march until they stopped again in front of what looked like fences weaved with humans. Pained groans came out from all over; it was even more grotesque up close, and no matter how many times they looked at it, it left a bad aftertaste in their mouths. However, it seemed as if a few humans were still conscious as they struggled to stare at the expedition members with bleary eyes. Meeting their protruding eyeballs that seemed ready to pop out, Chi-Woo felt his hope that the person he was looking for might still be alive died somewhat. Could he still consider these people alive? The members also seemed befuddled whether to see them as victims to be rescued or monsters to be eliminated.
“Ugh…uh…” Then one of the humans glancing at the expedition members groaned.
“Uh…Are you all right…?” Purupuru, who had spoken unwittingly, regretted saying the words as soon as they left her mouth. How could she ask that when these people’s limbs were grotesquely bent and intertwined with each other?
“Ug…ghh…gr…grrk…!” Judging by the person’s bloodshot eyes and desperate mouth movement, it seemed as if he had something to say, so Purupuru cautiously moved her ear closer to him.
Purupuru couldn’t understand a single word. Then she flinched when dozens of pairs of eyes suddenly stared at her, and their gazes were far from amicable. Rather, they were full of resentment and hatred, as well as deep despair. Purupuru stepped back unconsciously, feeling an indescribable fear.
“Laeee…twe…!” When Purupuru finally understood that he was saying ‘late’, the bloodshot eyes suddenly turned red, and the human flesh began to swell like balloons as if air was pumped into each cell.
“Kyahhhhhhhhh!” Purupuru ended up shrieking from the horrifying sight of foam oozing from the twisted, inflated bundle of flesh. At the same time, she pulled up her skirt and reached under it.
Bam! She blew up the inflating humans in one shot with a huge hammer.
‘Where did that come from?’ Chi-Woo wondered at the large hammer in Purupuru’s hand, which was almost the size of her body.
“S-Sorry! I was so surprised…uh, what?” However, she soon realized there were more pressing matters. It wasn’t just the human fence in front of her. The entire fence surrounding the base and the humans that made up the various structures inside were all swelling up. For some, their heads and limbs elongated, and for others, their bodies were separating. They were all changing into a variety of bizarre and extremely unnatural shapes. There was even a case where the human bodies burst into pieces and mixed together.
“Abyss monsters…!” Soon after, Eshnunna gasped after seeing their final form. The human fences had morphed into Abyss monsters, and most of the expedition members had direct experience confronting them during the great war. At that time, the League were the ones that mainly dealt with the Abyss monsters, and they had been pushed back helplessly in the beginning and were only able to barely fight back after one of the League’s leading forces, the Gigas tribe, arrived at the battlefield. It seemed that these powerful and ferocious monsters had been under Balim’s control.
The expedition members slowly tilted their heads back to look up at the massive monster. It seemed to have been made by forcibly piling up humans into layers. Then the monster raised its foot as if to trample on the expedition members. Just before it could step on them—
“Light!” Teresa cried out sharply and raised her hand. White barrier wrapped around the expedition members and instantly blocked the monster’s foot.
Bam—! The aftershocks alone shook the ground under the expedition members’ feet. Fortunately, Teresa’s shield was not broken. The giant monster applied more pressure and pushed harder, but it stood firm. Of course, the Abyss monster wasn’t their only enemy.
“There’s quite a lot of them.” Umaru spat on both palms and took out a fairly large ax.
“This is great.” Du Eun-Hyang readied herself too. “I can finally get a real taste of a world under a galaxy-level crisis.” She looked around and put her hand on the handle of the sword on her waist.
“Ack…! Fuccck…!” And Teresa was sweating and spitting out a swear word. “Stop chit-chatting…and do something…! Damn…!”
Hawa, who was about to pull the string of her crossbow, paused because one of the expedition members was missing. And she was moving behind the monster and soaring up fast with bat-like wings on her back. It was Astarte. When everyone realized it was her, she was suddenly behind the giant monster’s head. She pierced her dagger right through its head as the blade radiated bright red energy.
Thuuuuud! The gigantic monster was cut cleanly into two from the top of its head to its groin. Teresa exhaled the breath she had been holding, and Astarte landed on the ground with ease, barely out of breath.
“…Hm?” Then she faltered. A myriad of hands suddenly stretched out from the giant monster’s body and frantically grabbed at the surrounding monsters. It dragged the other monsters into its body as if it was swallowing them, and new flesh began to generate from its cut side and clung to the original body. In the blink of an eye, the giant monster was completely restored and furiously kicked at Astarte.
Bam! A fireball came out of nowhere and struck the monster’s face, and the foot hit only air. The monster tilted and tried to regain its balance, but—
Bam, bam, bam, bam! One after another, the fireballs hit the monster until it eventually lost its balance and fell backward.
Thud! The earth shook once again. The expedition members took a short breather, but it was not over yet. It was just the beginning. All the parts that made up the fallen monster tried to frantically rise again, and the giant monster wasn’t their only enemy. Monsters that had completed their transformation stopped twitching and began glaring at the expedition members, full of murderous intent. It was a truly astounding swarm, and although they didn’t look as powerful as those in the great war, their numbers were several fold greater.
“I think Balim’s trying to exhaust us as much as possible before we reach the central chasm…or she’s trying to buy time.”
Shersha said it was urgent, but she also said it was fine for them to keep going as they had been doing. The situation was urgent, but it was okay for them to go at their pace? These words seemed to contradict each other—but only if both statements were referring to the expedition members. What if that wasn’t the case?
The first word Shersha uttered had not been intended for the expedition team. Then there was only one person she could be talking about—Balim. Balim could have felt threatened after finding out that the expedition members, or to be more exact, Chi-Woo, had invaded her territory. If that was the case, Evelyn’s theory would gain more ground, and it made sense that Balim suddenly became urgent and was trying to buy more time.
“I think it would be better to divide the team into two.” The reasoning for Evelyn’s suggestion was simple. Take a necromancer as an example, they could summon and control a powerful army of undead soldiers, but if their enemy extinguished their main source of strength, the necromancer couldn’t do much else. Thus, Evelyn was suggesting that while one team held out against the monsters, the other team should infiltrate the chasm and quickly end the situation by killing Balim.
While ambush was involved in this plan, it was the most standard method for dealing with the situation. Moreover, there was a reason why Evelyn brought this up. She was asking Chi-Woo to leave the role of infiltrating into the chasm and dealing with Balim to her, since their opponent belonged to a faction that she had been part of for a long time.
Chi-Woo didn’t think it was a bad idea and glanced at Evelyn. “Yes, but take some of the others with you just in case.” Then he shifted his gaze and said, “Eshnunna, Hawa, Du Eun-Hyang, Umaru, Teresa.” The five answered Chi-Woo’s call. They knew what he was going to say even before he gave an order; it was probably to safely escort Evelyn to the pit.
“Ha, this is quite flashy from the start.” Umaru chuckled and tightly clutched his ax.
“Sir, I’m beyond honored to be tasked with such an important responsibility. I’ll do everything in my power to live up to your expectations.” Du Eun-Hyang bowed politely and sidled up to Evelyn.
Teresa didn’t say anything. She chanted spells loudly as if she wanted a specific someone to hear and cautiously assessed her surroundings. She was trying to earn some points by showing, ‘Look at me! Unlike these two who are joking around, I’m showing a serious attitude!’ When the first team centered around Evelyn was about to rush towards the pit, Evelyn heard Chi-Woo’s voice coming from behind their back.
“Don’t overdo it.”
Evelyn paused and turned around. “…Ha.” After giving him a mysterious smile, she turned back. Like this, the expedition was divided into two, leaving five members outside.
Apoline, Astarte, Purupuru, Shersha, and Chi-Woo. There were also Asha and Wallie, but they were excluded for now. In addition, Shersha specialized in prophecy and didn’t have any ability to fight, so she should be regarded as a non-combatant.
“I thought you would leave at least one or two more people.” Astarte groaned when the expedition team’s power dropped sharply. Of course, she didn’t really mean it because Chi-Woo had stayed behind. However, contrary to her expectations, Chi-Woo didn’t seem intent on getting involved. He stood next to Shersha with his arms folded and didn’t move at all. He’d been acting like that even when the giant monster appeared. Astarte thought that he would step forward if he had to, but Apoline had a different idea.
The important mission was left to Evelyn and the temporary sixth team with the new members, but Chi-Woo remained here. This meant only one thing. “No,” Apoline said. She could guess Chi-Woo’s intention. “It’s better this way.”
Crackkkle! Glorious flames rose from both her hands.
* * *
The expedition team Evelyn led began to break into the pit. They heard loud explosions and tremendous blasts, but they didn’t even have time to turn around as monsters were rushing toward them from all directions.
“Do I need to slow down?” Evelyn asked while running.
Teresa glanced at her and cast the spells she had prepared without hesitation. Then brilliant light wrapped around all of the members’ bodies and their weapons. Umaru jumped out as if he had been holding back the whole time and wielded his axe firmly with both hands. He spun around like a windmill and rushed ahead. “Wahahahahhaha!”
The flesh and blood of the monsters shot in all directions every time they were caught by his swirling axe. It was like watching a great portion of meat being grounded in a blender, and thanks to Umaru, the road ahead was clear. However, the enemies weren’t only coming from their front.
‘That stupid bastard…!’ Hawa poured out insults at him as she saw monsters chase and rush towards them from left and right as well as from behind. Just when she thought their formation was ruined because of that blasted bald-headed warrior—
Swish! A sharp wind suddenly brushed past Hawa’s hair, and that wasn’t the end. Accompanied by bright light, gusts of wind erupted everywhere in an instant. And by the time Hawa’s flying silver hair settled back down, she saw countless slashes splitting the monsters lunging at them before the monsters fell into pieces.
“Please don’t worry, milady.” Clank. Du Eun-Hyang’s voice could be heard along with the sound of a sword being sheathed. “As long as I’m around, these evil fiends will not touch even a hair on milady’s precious head.”
“Oh my, I feel so reassured,” Evelyn said with a bright smile before coming to an abrupt stop. It wasn’t just her. All the members running towards the pit did the same. There were also a few who almost fell but managed to regain their balance. It was because they suddenly felt the sensation of someone pulling at their ankles from the ground. When they looked down, the monsters that Du Eun-Hyang had cut into pieces were wriggling and swelling anew as they had expected.
“…Proliferation?” Their numbers were much greater than before, and the speed of their recovery was extraordinary. “It touched me.” Evelyn shook her foot lightly before beaming again.
“Milady, I forgot to tell you it’s from now on. Please watch me from now on.” Du Eun-Hyang likewise shook her foot and eloquently corrected her previous promise.
“Hmm—” Evelyn quickly scanned her surroundings. Her teammates had removed the wriggling body parts at once, but there were too many of them. There was still a long way for them to reach the pit, since their enemies increased the more they killed them.
‘Balim mixed in pretty annoying characteristics. Well, I guess it can’t be helped.’ Evelyn had wanted to keep it hidden until she met her, but—'Ah, all we have to do is reach the pit, right?’ A sudden thought occurred to Evelyn, and she looked back at Eshnunna. “My disciple,” she said with a stern look. “Your master wants to see the skills you have been honing for a while.”
Eshnunna blinked at Evelyn. She got what Evelyn wanted, but… “Why are you talking like that all of a sudden…”
“Ah, I’m just playing Chi-Woo.”
“Yeah, something like that.” Evelyn glanced back and winked.
“Ms. Magician! Hurry up and do something! I’ll buy you time to cast a spell!” Umaru shouted while striking a monster that was about to get up.
“No,” Eshnunna clearly said, “I don’t need it.” She had already finished her preparations. Since when? Since the giant monster first appeared. At that time, she hadn’t been able to step forward because her ice would clash with Apoline’s fire. Frankly, she was still a bit worried about using her powers now, but this was not a time to be hung up on it.
‘It probably won’t matter.’ Since she heard that Apoline was a member of a well-known family in the Celestial Realm, she probably wouldn’t be affected by an attack of this level. After making up her mind, Eshnunna shouted.
Her words echoed throughout the area, and the blowing wind grew cold. In an instant, the air froze.
Whooooosh! Suddenly, a terrible snowstorm ravaged the area. The temperature dropped sharply in an instant; sub-zero wind took control of their entire surroundings and froze all the monsters that were ready to rush toward them.
“…Whoa.” Umaru’s jaw dropped. When he touched a frozen monster, it shattered into pieces and crumbled down. However, this phenomenon lasted for only a brief moment. Soon, the monsters began to shake slightly.
“As expected of the descendant of Matryoshka, the Glacier Empress. Even though it’s less than a tenth of her power at her prime, I’m still proud of you, my disciple,” Evelyn said something that sounded like a backhanded compliment and quickly passed by the frozen demons. Eshnunna looked displeased, but she had used so much mana at once that she couldn’t even complain, and she ran behind Evelyn while gasping for breath.
They were able to reach the pit like this, but ran into trouble again. The pit was too deep, and there were no stairs leading down in their sight. They couldn’t jump in since they didn’t know how far the drop would be. Even Balim waiting down there would find it ridiculous if they dropped to their death like that.
“Ms. Magician, can you make a path for us to go down with that ice again? I think it’ll be fun to slide down…ah, sorry.” Umaru gave a somewhat reasonable suggestion, but soon corrected himself when Eshnunna shot him a murderous glare while still out of breath. Judging by her deathly pale face, she needed to restore her mana a bit more.
At that moment, a crack appeared in one of the monsters close by. Soon, they began to hear noises everywhere, and there were signs of the ice thawing. While everyone was wondering what to do, they suddenly found themselves lifted into the air and brought down the pit. The one responsible for this was none other than Evelyn.
Teresa blinked quickly. This wasn’t a holy spell, but magic? “Unnie, you aren’t a priest, but a magician…?”
Evelyn replied with only a soft chuckle. Soon, with the roaring monsters behind them, they disappeared into the pit as if they were getting sucked in. Eshnunna also stared at Evelyn’s back with wide eyes. She didn’t know why, but Evelyn didn’t feel like the saintess of the White Horse General at this moment. Instead, it felt like Evelyn had returned to the days when she was renowned and exalted as the witch of the Abyss.