To Hell With Being a Hero!

로유진 - Ro Yu-jin

Chapter 98: Returning Hero (3)

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Chapter 98: Returning Hero (3)

Their surroundings were dead quiet. Crossing the familiar stone bridge and then pa.s.sing the three crumbling walls of the fortress, Chi-Woo looked around anxiously. Since it was early in the morning, it was understandable that no one was wandering about, but even so, this was a bit… strange.

Chi-Woo couldn’t pinpoint what was so strange about the place, but it appeared as if time inside this fortress had stopped, and everything before him was at a standstill. He didn’t know what had happened during his absence, but it was clear that it was something grave. He had felt this way since he saw the fortress from its outskirts; the outer walls were broken in half, while its entrance was completely crumbled. Moreover…

“The smell…”

Even Hawa, who didn’t usually display her emotions, scowled. A foul stench coupled by a disgusting, fishy smell of blood was oozing out of the rotting corpses all over the floor.

“Perhaps they’ve left,” Hawa murmured while looking at the pile of monsters and heroes stacked on top of one another. “They wouldn’t have left the fortress in such a state otherwise…”

Chi-Woo thought the same. This place had been their precious base and living s.p.a.ce. If people had stayed here, they would’ve cleaned up the area by burning or burying the corpses, not leaving them as they were.

‘If they were attacked…’ Monsters didn’t only reside in the Evalaya mountain; they also existed in the regions that used to belong to the Salem Empire, and some of them could’ve attacked this fortress. And the recruits could’ve been annihilated, or left the fortress after barely surviving.

‘That would explain the situation, but…’ What hung on his mind was the mysterious, evil energy lingering around this fortress, which felt more like the broken beings than the cursed ones. Yet the corpses of monsters scattered in this area didn’t appear to be the spiritual kinds, and Chi-Woo swiped his face with both hands.

‘What in the world happened here?’ He thought deeply while pa.s.sing the narrow crossed-roads and eventually, reached the central path. Hawa suddenly stopped walking then and clutched the hem of Chi-Woo’s s.h.i.+rt hard. Chi-Woo stopped and turned to see Hawa with her index finger on her lips, mouthing ‘shh’ to shush him. Then she quietly moved her finger away from her lips and pointed to a direction. Chi-Woo followed her finger, and his eyes instantly narrowed. Although it was dark, his night vision had developed during his extended time at the cave, and he was able to see the scene in front of him clearly.

A woman was crouching close to the ground and madly sc.r.a.ping the dirt. She had a fistful of dirt in one of her hands and was eating from it.

‘There’s someone there?’ But besides his surprise to see someone still in the fortress, the woman’s back seemed familiar.

“Princess?” Hawa said with one of her eyes squinted. “Isn’t that the princess?”

Chi-Woo took several seconds to realize that by ‘princess’, Hawa meant Salem Eshnunna. Chi-Woo’s mouth gaped open. He had thought the woman looked familiar, and sure enough, he now recognized the figure as Eshnunna.

“But…” Chi-Woo couldn’t finish his sentence. Eshnunna was crouching over the field, stealing food and even ruining the field she valued so dearly. The Eshnunna Chi-Woo knew would never do such a thing. And while Chi-Woo stood still, too stunned to do anything, Eshnunna suddenly scrambled up. Surprised, Chi-Woo and Hawa hurriedly hid and watched her.

Teeter, teeter. Eshunna staggered. With her back half-folded in an unnatural manner, she walked precariously across the ground, looking like she was about to topple any moment. Then her walking speed began to increase.

“Kyaaaaah!” As if she was being led somewhere, she began to run with her head and arms dangling behind her.

“Let’s chase after her.” Hawa suggested following Eshnunna immediately. However, Chi-Woo clutched her small shoulders.

“It’s fine if we go,” Chi-Woo said, unable to take his eyes off Eshnunna as she quickly moved away from them. “But if something happens, hide. Don’t show yourself.”

Hawa gave Chi-Woo a standoffish look. Although she lacked strength compared to a hero, she didn’t think she would be a burden. She had the skills to at least preoccupy a monster, but Chi-Woo went on to explain his reasons.

“I don’t think it’s a normal kind of monster,” he said. Then he hurriedly chased after Eshnunna before she escaped out of their sight.

They quickly realized that there was no need for them to worry about losing Eshnunna, because they soon heard a faint noise that gradually grew in volume until it was revealed to be a cacophony of howling and shrieking. It wasn’t that there was no one in the fortress; people had simply all been gathered in a corner.

“This is the way to the temple, where G.o.ddess Shahnaz’ statue was stored…” Hawa murmured to herself while running.

“Didn’t we take that statue when we went out for our exploration?”

“I left it in someone else’s hands.”

“Who?”

“Ru Amuh. Since it’s a holy relic, I couldn’t hold onto it.”

Chi-Woo’s forehead creased from Hawa’s words. The dreadful scenarios that had popped up inside his head surfaced again. Like Hawa said, they soon arrived at the place where Shahnaz’s statue was. It was a mess.

“Bloooock!”

“Please regain your senses!”

“Just kill them! Kill!”

“d.a.m.n ittt!”

Heroes screamed out b.l.o.o.d.y murder, but the monsters screamed louder than them. Surprisingly, the monsters were also heroes, but they were all letting out strange sounds like Eshnunna and attacking the resisting heroes. And the resistance was almost coming to an end.

“When I am finally here...” Chi-Woo watched the scene in front of him in a daze and muttered in a low voice.

Bam! The sudden explosion was followed by the loud noise of a building crumbling. The heroes who were blocking the monsters’ entry had been struck and flung into the air.

“Ahhhhh…!” Someone bounced and fell onto the ground, rolling in intense pain. Eshnunna let out an ear-splitting shriek and rushed toward the hero.

“Ms. Eshnunna!” There was no time for Chi-Woo to think. He had to settle this chaos first. Das.h.i.+ng forward, he tapped Eshnunna on her back, and when she didn’t respond to his touch, Chi-Woo clutched her shoulders and shook them wildly. Finally, Eshnunna turned around.

Red veins were popping out of her pale face. Saliva dripped down her mouth and most noticeably, her eyes were entirely black with no white spots.

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“What happened? How did you become like this? Regain your senses and tell me. Please.”

She held out for nearly three months with the belief that Chi-Woo would return and revert them to normal. However, the hero they had been waiting for hadn’t come back… Honestly, she knew that he wouldn’t come back. She knew that Ru Amuh had just said that in false hope.

‘I can’t any longer…’ Ru Hiana took out her long sword. Even though this went against what Ru Amuh told her to do, she was at her limit. She had waited long enough and withstood as much as she could. The fragile hope she had clung onto since Chi-Woo had disappeared was completely gone now.

‘I’m sorry, Ru Amuh.’ She didn’t know how much longer she could last. However, she had no intentions to let the monsters easily get to the Shahnaz’s statue or giving up her life. She threw away her false hope and focused on her present. Then the long-headed monster standing in front rushed towards her, and Ru Hiana hardened her heart, about to swing her sword at Zelit—

Tap!

“Ah?” A raspy sound escaped Ru Hiana’s mouth, and she stopped before making a full swing when she saw a hand suddenly grab the monster’s arm. It was not over yet.

Sizzle—! When the sound of boiling oil rang out, the monster screamed. However, the hand did not let the monster go, and the monster began shaking as if it was getting electrocuted and transformed. The monster reverted back to the original Zelit that Ru Hiana was familiar with and fell over.

“What…” Ru Hiana turned around instinctively and gaped. Her eyes widened. She saw the hero they had all been waiting for—their hope.

“Ru—“.

“Sen—Be careful!” Ru Hiana was about to call out ‘senior’, but she immediately shouted as a couple of monsters surrounding them targeted Chi-Woo and rushed towards him. Ru Hiana swallowed her gasp in the next moment. Chi-Woo bent down and reached out both of his arms to seize the wrists of the two monsters rus.h.i.+ng towards him in a vice-like grip. When he twisted his arms, there was a sharp crack, and two heroes turned at the same time. Chi-Woo kicked both away and ran to meet the two heroes rus.h.i.+ng towards him. He grabbed both of them by the neck and injected them with his exorcism mana. They began shaking like crazy before returning to normal.

Chi-Woo dropped the two heroes who fainted to the ground and straightened his back, dusting his hands before looking around. Ru Hiana was shocked. The monsters who had recklessly rushed towards their opponents were now shockingly hesitating to move. They faltered back and looked clearly frightened by Chi-Woo’s very existence.

“Ah…” But this was not the only surprising fact. It was even more surprising that Chi-Woo had easily suppressed four enemies that were several times stronger than mutants. It was an unbelievable feat considering that Ru Hiana had had to fight to survive while facing four or five monsters. It was also surprising because Chi-Woo used to be almost completely ignorant about close-quarter battles. Why was he showing similarly effective but different movements from Ru Amuh? It had all happened so fast that it was hard to believe what just happened.

“Ah!” Ru Hiana s.h.i.+fted her attention back to Zelit; he had returned to normal, and he was still alive. From what she knew, there was only one hero who could do this. Ru Hiana finally remembered that Chi-Woo had shown an overwhelming strength against spiritual beings.

“Ah…!” It wasn’t a dream or a hallucination. Chi-Woo walked towards the center and found the statue of Shahnaz and grabbed it. “Ms. Ru Hiana.” He threw the statue at the still shocked Ru Hiana. “Keep it safe.”

Ru Hiana caught it and stared at Chi-Woo from afar. “S-senior…” She was amazed that Chi-Woo had taken the statue as if he was taking out an object from his pocket. “How…”

“I came back, but…” Chi-Woo hummed pensively, looking around and shrugging. “Isn’t this a bit too much as a welcome present?”

“H-huh?”

“You’ve prepared so many experience fodders for me to collect merits.” Chi-Woo talked playfully and smirked, and Ru Hiana stared at his smile, blinking sporadically.

“What the…heck are you saying…” In the end, she just returned his smile, but even while she was smiling, her eyes became teary. They were tears of happiness. Her whole body was filled with unexpected enthusiasm and joy. This was what she had wanted to see again. Chi-Woo was a hero who knew how to laugh no matter how despairing the situation was. Simply being next to him was enough to rea.s.sure her and give her hope that they could get through this. Even though Ru Hiana had felt despair a moment ago, she felt courage rising up from deep within her, and she felt a flicker of hope burn up again.

“Then, let’s first beat them up and gain some merit points.” After waiting for so long, Chi-Woo had finally come back.

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