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For the Downfall of My Beloved

21

Chapter 21

1

“Do you even know how vile the humans you are trying to protect are?” Rohwa shouted at Gion.

Gion did not respond to the remark, but his silence did not mean ignorance. Before Gion even entered the battlefield, Biryu was already in the midst of war. It was in a situation with a high casualty rate amidst repeated attacks, counterattacks, and retreats.

Upon receiving a report that even the demons of Snow Valley were seizing the opportunity, Gion was deployed as a reinforcement.

The war wasn’t in the worst situation, but the same couldn’t be said for the soldiers. As the seemingly endless war raged on, the number of deaths only increased, leaving even the survivors uncertain of their fate. For these people, arriving as reinforcements, Gion was like much-needed rain during a drought.

The soldiers spoke amongst themselves.

“Wasn’t he the one guarding the princess?”

“I heard he’s no less than the chieftain of the White Tiger tribe.”

“With someone like him as a commander, shouldn’t things change a bit? Maybe we can go home soon?”

In response to the soldiers’ hopes, Gion employed defensive tactics to save many of them. He skillfully responded to the enemy forces, ensuring the lowest possible number of casualties at an incredible speed. Gion’s swift actions quickly earned the trust of the soldiers.

How much time had passed since then?

That day could have been the last encounter. While waiting for the firepower support from the reserve forces, the army of White Flower Kingdom only had to maintain their formation to prevent the enemy from advancing further. By executing the tactics and exerting their last bit of strength for survival, the end of the war and victory seemed inevitable.

But then, “Maintain the formation!”

“What the heck…!”

The formation where the defensive tactic was applied began to collapse. As those at the forefront left their positions, gaps formed instantly. Gion’s defensive tactic crumbled in an instant, resulting in many casualties. It was a sudden change. The moment of confusion among the soldiers was an opportunity for the enemy.

The enemy’s offensive showed no sign of stopping, forcing the army of White Flower Kingdom to retreat again, resetting the war back to square one.

Amidst the chaotic brawl and the piercing screams, the survivors found themselves silenced. Shrouded in an eerie silence, the forward base seemed devoid of any hint of life or energy. The enemy not only made all tactics ineffective, but they also executed them with a glaring lack of precision.

Naturally, it was impossible even to collect all the bodies of the soldiers. The ones that were found were mainly missing one of their limbs.

On a night without even the moon shining, a man walked to the backyard where the corpses of White Flower Kingdom soldiers were laid.

“You’ve had it tough.” The man handed over a few gold coins to the soldiers.

“Thanks to you, we managed to return alive, and you talk about hardship?” The soldiers quickly pocketed the glittering coins and chuckled among themselves. “Why would Gion, who benefits as the war prolongs, ruin things by risking his life like that?”

The 16th King, as cowardly as he was, dispatched numerous troops to Biryu as the war dragged on.

Initially, Jiyeon Kingdom was a small country and couldn’t compare to the military strength of White Flower Kingdom. It was as if White Flower Kingdom’s victory was assured from the start.

However, did this imply that the war ought to be brought to a swift conclusion? Biryu was presently embroiled in conflict, resembling a lawless realm. In this tumultuous environment, it was not the 16th King who luxuriated at the White Dragon Castle but rather the most formidable among the survivors who held the true claim to the throne.

As the war prolonged, the king grew increasingly confident that he would be acknowledged for his significant contributions once the war finally came to a close. Despite the constantly changing circumstances, the foolish king continued to invest his unwavering support, desperately yearning for a swift resolution to the conflict. Surprisingly, prolonging the war actually worked in their favor.

The man, adjusting the fit of the new clothes he received as supplies, looked at the corpses on the ground. “Burn them.”

“But what about the travel expenses?”

The man spoke cautiously, mindful of the billowing black smoke emanating from the torch. “What do the dead need money for? Let us burn them all in a pit to prevent the stench of their flesh from spreading.”

As he turned around, the man found himself face to face with Gion. Gion, holding a sword lazily, uttered, “It was you guys.” He stepped forward, and his Chunhwa sword shimmered with a pale green glow. The wind rustled through the air.

“Judging by your appearance, it seems you are well aware of the events that transpired in White Flower Kingdom over the past century,” Gion remarked nonchalantly. The shadows gradually inched closer to him.

Gion plunged his Chunhwa sword into the ground, causing the shadows enveloping the demons to peel away like delicate skin, dispersing instantaneously. Leaving behind a pit formed by his powerful sword energy, Gion approached the demon. The demon, donning armor, smirked at Gion. In an attempt to restrain the Chunhwa sword, the demon spoke while infusing it with dark energy.

The demon sneered, “White Flower Kingdom, whatever. It’s all because of you back then—”

Contrary to the expectation that Gion would swing his sword, he grabbed the demon by the neck and slammed it into the pit. The demon’s dark energy, swiftly fading away, allowed the Chunhwa sword to return to Gion’s hand intact.

Gion thrust the blade into the pit.

“Aaaah!”

Just a simple thrust of the sword, but a gruesome scream tore through the air. Unable to see inside the pit, the demons momentarily hesitated and stopped moving.

“Answer my question,” Gion said. “Seeing you reveal yourselves at Seosan, you must know about the Fourth Chime, right?”

All the demons immediately started manifesting dark energy without saying a word when the Fourth Chime was mentioned.

But then, “Ah, ah…”

The sound of limbs being crushed and a trembling voice struggling to speak echoed from the pit. The echo resonating from the deep pit reverberated around Seosan.

As silence fell, Gion said, “Did you not hear the question, or do you have nothing to say?”

The demons, having experienced the battlefield with Gion, instinctively knew. The reason Gion was asking again without immediately killing them was not because he didn’t intend to kill them but because they were once comrades on the battlefield.

Gion’s expressionless face, emanating a murderous aura, was evidence of that.

No sound came from the pit.

One demon, flinching momentarily, then emitted a menacing aura.

“You speak as if you’re still a general. Just because you command, do we have to say whatever you want? Trying to overpower others with force, you’re no different from us!”

“I guess I’m not,” Gion said, swiftly subduing the demon with his sword. Intestines spilled out from the demon’s bisected waist.

Gion repeatedly stabbed a demon in its vital parts, then trampled over its body. Like an exploded noodle, the demon’s flesh was crushed and burst open.

Gion said, “I merely asked about the Fourth Chime. Why do you all keep reciting different things?”

He threw the demon’s corpse into the pit and immediately started ripping apart another demon. Before long, Seosan was chaotic with the blood of demons. In stark contrast to his softly spoken voice, screaming echoed through Seosan.

The remaining demons charged at once, but Gion focused solely on killing the demon he had just caught. No matter how much they attacked Gion with dark energy, he did not flinch and kept swinging his sword.

A demon trembled under the shade of a tree, covering its head. The remaining demons lay motionless, thrown into the pit.

Gion sighed. He said to a demon he finished slaughtering, “To live a life where claiming ignorance as a last wish… You knew your future would end up like this, didn’t you?”

Gion butchered the demons relentlessly, and it seemed like time had stopped, and only the sticky warmth of blood was felt. He used his blade on skin, muscles, tendons, and bones. He kept slashing, from fragile to sturdy. He wondered how long he had been using his sword. Eventually, there was nothing left to cut. Finally, his blade got stuck in a tree.

Demons’ corpses were splattered on the ground like crushed eggs.

Gion wiped the blood off his Chunhwa sword, tidied his disheveled clothes, and shook off the dirt. After tightening the straps around his ankles to secure his shoes, Gion checked for any cracks in his Chunhwa sword. He then descended the mountain.

At that moment.

“General?” A gaunt boy called out to Gion.

“It’s been a while. Haram.”

“General, please don’t forget you only have one life.” The boy looked at Gion with a firm and upright gaze. Dust and calluses from hitting blunt objects covered his palms.

Though they hadn’t met in a hundred years, both looked no different from their days on the battlefield.

Gion said, “Now is not the time to chat. I have some business to attend to.”

“I also came here because I have business,” Haram said. “A hundred years have passed, but it seems you have become stronger, General. Even so, can you handle the one below with that body of yours?”

“When have I ever acted with doubt in my abilities?”

At Gion’s words, Haram chuckled. “My business was this.” A light flashed from Haram’s hand, infusing into Gion. Pain spread through his dantian.

“Since the Fifth Chime has died, you should receive it.”

Gion absorbed the fragment of light, his body flickering brightly. He gazed at Haram intently. “It seems a lot has happened over the last hundred years.”

Haram nodded. “…A lot has.”

Gion walked past Haram and continued to descend the mountain.

“Stay put. I will take care of the rest.”

Only Gion’s footsteps were heard. He didn’t stop, moving swiftly down the mountain.

Eventually, under a particular tree, a massive shadow greeted Gion. From all around, wind seeped from the Chunhwa sword, scattering the leaves on the tree. Gion calmly observed the shadow. He said, “It seems unlikely for us to meet as enemies like this.”

Black smoke spread, revealing a man from within the shadow. “I hold no grudge against you. I just waited because I never had the chance to cross swords with you in Biryu.”

The massive shadow swelled slowly, growing larger than even the willow tree as if it were about to engulf Gion. He calmly approached.

“Indeed, we hadn’t.”

***

“I’ve found out where the Fourth Chime is.”

As Rohwa bit her lip, seated on the throne, Doa’s voice came from behind. “Bring it before my eyes immediately. And that scribe, too.”

Doa paused, contemplating Rohwa’s low and threatening tone. “Are you going to kill them?”

Just before Rohwa could speak, a chill wind blew through the White Hall.

“…Rohwa…”

Even as she was called, Rohwa didn’t turn around. Doa, recognizing the source of the voice, immediately entered the shadows.

The Demon King approached. “How many fragments of light have passed to that man?”

“Two have passed.”

The Demon King’s eyebrows twitched slightly, and he sighed softly. “Isn’t that too slow?”

“It’s because that guy has been up to a lot more than expected.” Rohwa covered the throne with dark energy and approached the Demon King. “Even so, there’s no disruption to the plan, so you keep doing what you need to do.”

The Demon King tilted his head slightly, then continued. “Really. Isn’t it too slow? By now, nearly all should have been collected.”

“You know well that your heart also needs time. You know we must act when that man has absorbed all the fragments of light.”

The Demon King stared intensely at Rohwa, who stared back with defiance. She chuckled softly. “Anyway, wouldn’t it be better for us if he collects the light crystals sooner? If his mind is occupied elsewhere and he’s not gathering the fragments, we must ensure he doesn’t focus on anything else.”

With a smirk on one side of her mouth, Rohwa understood the meaning behind that expression. It was like a child who had discovered an amusing toy. True to her expectations, the Demon King’s eyes sparkled. He spoke up with excitement.

“How about we unleash all the remaining Chimes before that man?”

“He’ll have a tough time finding each one individually. For sure,” she replied.

Dark energy started to ripple around Rohwa’s form. “Are you suggesting that we kindly inform the Celestial Deity about what we’re doing?” she asked.

The Demon King glanced at the dark energy engulfing the White Hall. It swirled menacingly as if ready to strangle him at any moment. He smiled slyly and shook his head. “I hadn’t considered that. The dark energy gives me the creeps. Can you tone it down a bit?”

His cheerful smile immediately transformed into a hardened expression. Rohwa’s reflection appeared in the shattered glass shards scattered on the floor. Furrowing her red eyes, she narrowed her gaze in a glare directed at the Demon King’s back.

“You’re really trying hard.”

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