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For the Downfall of My Beloved

25

Chapter 25

9

“How are you planning to deal with Gayang?” Gion asked Rohwa.

In the western mountain swept by the Demon King and his generals, a chill lingered like the thick ice, engulfing the place in a cold, eerie silence.

Rohwa glared at Gion, rolling her eyes. “Shouldn’t you be more worried about your situation?”

The Demon King manifested his dark energy, and Gion suffered the consequences. The attack tore his eardrums, and blood trickled from his ears. Yet, he seemed unaffected by the pain.

“Matters concerning Gayang are none of your concern.”

Rohwa glared at Gion as if to say, And what do you take me for?

Even as they walked side by side, they might have felt they walked separately.

“Do you think I can’t handle even a girl as small as that?” Rohwa asked. “I’ve lived a hundred years. I am not the frail princess known as the Lady of Spring anymore. I am capable now.”

Gion was familiar with Rohwa’s expressions, particularly when she became agitated. She tended to furrow her right eye, a habit frequently surfaced whenever she was referred to as the Lady of Spring.

Her expression towards those who underestimated her was akin to a message that said, Do not presume to teach me if you possess no knowledge. Many believed that as a princess confined within White Dragon Castle and only exposed to the joys of spring, she would be fragile. However, her stubborn demeanor proved otherwise. The slight difference now was that a hundred years ago, the expression was full of defiance, but now, it seemed to be just a habit, a motion carried out without her will.

Despite her frown, it felt as if the shell that encapsulated it was devoid of substance.

Gion stopped in his tracks. If Gayang had died, it wouldn’t be this silent.

Certainly, Gayang was alive. Whether Rohwa threatened, persuaded, or enticed her, she’s alive. As long as she drew breath, Gayang was not the type to watch things unfold.

“Sometimes it’s not about settling things but about handling them.” Gion words were neither coercive nor instructive, just devoid of sentiment. He said indifferently, “You handle the rest.”

His chilling words made Rohwa feel a surge of heat in her core. She clenched her teeth and fists. She closed her eyes. Looking like she was about to retort, she opened her eyes, unfocused and lifeless. “Okay. I’ll handle it.”

***

“Rohwa killed Sihwan…” a gaunt woman muttered sadly.

Her hair, once black but now dyed white unevenly, appeared jagged and colored irregularly. Her eyes were swollen and red, likely from persistent rubbing, and she stood barefoot. She wore her clothes in a haphazard manner, reminiscent of Rohwa’s style.

“Haha…”

The woman, her eyes brimming with tears, suddenly burst into laughter, covering her mouth with her hands.

“Ahahaha!”

As her laughter bubbled uncontrollably, the attending servants quivered in response.

“It seems my time has finally come!”

“G-Gayang… if you act now—”

“Call me Princess.”

Gayang’s slender thread of dark energy effortlessly severed the head of a servant, the size of a human body, while another attendant nearby kept his mouth shut tightly out of shock and fear.

Gayang approached the living attendant, sporting a bright smile. “Hey kid, Rohwa has killed Sihwan. Wouldn’t that make her lose favor with the Demon King? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t we require someone else to protect the Demon King’s heart for this mission? If I were to become that person, I could spend eternity by the side of the most powerful being. Am I right?”

She spewed words like a mad woman. She clapped her hands, standing up.

“Ah, no. It’s not if I become that person. It’s definitely going to happen. Do you know what I’ve done to make the Demon King’s plan successful? I abandoned my princess status, deserted my country, and in White Flower Kingdom, I had to meet that detestable woman every single time…”

She alternated between laughing, raging, and grieving. She made the attendants shiver as they replied. “Y-y-yes…”

“Now I won’t have to see her always hanging around the Demon King!”

Gayang appeared filled with joy once more as she gracefully twirled around. The lantern light reflected beautifully off her swaying silk clothes, but no one dared lift their heads to watch.

“Yes. Given the circumstances, isn’t my role to ensure she remains out of the Demon King’s sight? Isn’t that right?”

Gayang, amidst her hysterical laughter, suddenly stiffened her face and muttered blankly, her mirth replaced by an eerie stillness. “How dare she deceive the Demon King… How troubled must the Demon King have been, huh?”

All the attendants and servants could do was nod in agreement at Gayang’s words. Amid their terror, Gayang showed them a gentle smile and crouched down to meet their level. “Don’t worry too much. Just one hit is all it takes. Just one, and killing her will be a piece of cake.”

“Yes, yes…”

“So, you agree? Right?”

“Yes, yes… Th-that is correct.”

Gayang paused at the peculiar sound from behind. The sound of light footsteps, small but carrying immense fear for Gayang, approached.

Rohwa, with her red eyes unfocused, muttered, gazing at Gayang, “You’re right.” Her posture was chillingly resolute.

“Th-that’s…” Gayang began to stutter and sweat profusely at the sight of Rohwa.

As Rohwa sat before Gayang, her glossy white hair cascaded to the floor.

“Sometimes, it’s not about settling things but about handling them.”

Gion was right.

Gayang, holding onto the gaze of Rohwa, started rambling. “No! I misspoke. I can’t die like this! All the time I’ve spent…”

Rohwa wasn’t concerned about Gayang at that moment.

Gion’s words continued to echo in Rohwa’s mind. “You handle the rest.”

Even as Gayang trembled in fear and begged, Rohwa would not take her lightly.

Princess Gayang of Gayeon Country had brought the entire army when she set foot in White Flower Kingdom. The army, blessed by the generals, had turned into demons. A slight delay could have forced Rohwa to wage a war alone. Whatever happened, it certainly would have been perilous for her.

Rohwa stood up and looked down at Gayang. Her frail figure was in disheveled clothes. She wore no shoes—a pitiful sight.

Did he see me like this, too?

Rohwa had claimed she would take care of the situation alone. How pathetic must she have appeared? It was maddening to admit that Gion had been correct, but what was even more degrading was her dependence on his words.

“Ha…” Rohwa chuckled hollowly, tilting her head backward. It was all so absurd.

***

A chilly wind blew through the western mountain. The wooden demons, busy with their movements, halted at the words of the Fourth Chime.

“Only three days left.”

The ground shook, and a strange noise echoed through the mountain whenever the rooted wooden demons moved. Before the Fourth Chime, many wooden demons gathered, filling the western mountain so there wasn’t a single uninhibited piece of ground.

The Fourth Chime gazed at the massive shadow stretching out before him. Irritated, he unleashed his dark energy. Branches of trees shattered, turning into dust.

It took hundreds of years for the Fourth Chime to ascend here. He couldn’t afford to die in this duel.

The Fourth Chime commanded the wooden demons, “Father might take action if we fail to capture him this time. Risk your lives to bring me his head.” His eyes sparkled. “That is, if you fail to kill him, you will die by my hands.”

The wooden demons trembled and moved hurriedly upon the Fourth Chime’s menacing orders.

“And what about the traps?” The Fourth Chime asked the largest wooden demon beside him.

“We’ve laid them all around this area—”

“Didn’t I order them laid out throughout the entire western mountain? When a human steps there, the traps should dismember him!”

“But that would mean the number of wooden demons for direct combat would—”

The Fourth Chime asked coldly, “Are the humans in the capital there just for show? You can take them hostage, turn them into demons, and use them for traps. If necessary, plow the land, but ensure you set everything up.”

The wooden demon bowed and left the scene.

The Fourth Chime kicked dirt on the ground, making a cloud around him. He said to himself, “Argh. What am I to do with these inept fools?”

Entering through the vines, the shadows thickened, and the entrance was sealed.

Complete darkness.

Entering a space without even a sliver of light penetrating, there was a sense of liberation.

Not too bad.

There were still three days left. All the demons of the western mountain and even the Second Chime were joining the battle against Gion. There was no problem with the traps and the involvement of the civilians. Victory was certain.

The Fourth Chime smirked. I wonder what expression he’ll wear when he dies. The expressions of those devoured by the demons in the western mountain would be quite a sight…

A low voice echoed in the pitch-black space. “You’re too late.”

The Fourth Chime, who had just seen the light, muttered to himself. “Wh-what is this?” He looked around. He wasn’t accustomed to the darkness yet. But one thing was sure.

The Fourth Chime spun around on the spot, shouting into the void. “This cowardly bastard!”

He squinted his eyes in the dark until they hurt, trying to get accustomed to the lack of light. As his eyes adjusted, a menacing noise approached. A massive silhouette became faintly visible.

The Fourth Chime trembled as he saw a shadow of something not quite human approaching him.

Drawing nearer, a monstrous being with three heads sent shivers down the Fourth Chime’s spine. A spherical object, pulled along the ground, emitted a haunting sound of impending doom. An enormous sword, surpassing the size of a human body, exuded an eerie glow. As a colossal stick pierced through flesh, scraping against the ground, the figure advancing with the sword remained utterly unaffected, displaying an unwavering composure.

A soft, pale green light suddenly flashed, illuminating the surroundings.

Gion appeared before him.

No metaphor could capture the overwhelming fear that the sight of Gion instilled in one’s heart. The word that lingered in the Fourth Chime’s thoughts was simply death.

“Th-three days… only three days…”

The Fourth Chime halted his speech at the metallic sound devoid of a living voice.

As Gion moved, countless weapons dragged along, clinging to his body. He chuckled, hardening his expression, and lifted his head. “That’s why you still remain a mere Fourth Chime.”

Despair and desperation instantly engulfed the Fourth Chime’s three faces. He lept with a desperate fervor akin to those fighting for their lives.

“Aaaaah!”

***

“Is the Second Chime here?” Gion looked up at the sky absently.

In front of him, the high castle, covered in vines, stood solemnly. The massive structure’s gates were reinforced with iron to withstand powerful attacks. Beyond its high walls, the towers appeared sturdy at first glance.

It seemed like the Second Chime was like a lord residing in an abandoned castle on the western mountain.

Mujun expressed his concern. “What are you planning? Inside, there is the Second Chime. All the demons under his command are there, too.”

Gion placed down a sack as big as his body. He casually responded, “That’s enough information. You can go now.”

At Gion’s nonchalance, Mujun ruffled his hair in frustration and disappeared into the shadows.

Gion took out a cannonball with a dull finish, dense studs protruding from it. He loaded it into the cannon. Now, he could enter the massive castle, kill all the demons inside, and reach the top. But was it necessary to do that when such a vast plain was spread before him?

There was no need to enter. He would draw them out instead.

The cannonball fired with a burst of flames, instantly obliterating the massive castle gates.

But Gion didn’t stop there.

The more durable the target, the more devastating Jowoon’s cannonball becomes.

So, what about the western mountain’s castle, famous for its sturdiness? It would still crumble like this.

Demons frantically fled the crumbling castle.

“What’s happening?”

“Hurry up!”

They streamed out of the castle, akin to the innards of a ruptured corpse pouring out. So many spilled out that the ground itself seemed to tremble. Amidst the flames, a massive, dark bird soared up. Enveloped in acrid smoke, it was the Second Chime.

“This lowly creature…” Gion sneered.

Nothing but rage filled the entire body of the Second Chime.

The demons confronted Gion, charging toward him like a ravenous pack of wolves. With composed elegance, Gion ignored the demons and approached the now-human form of the Second Chime. As Gion neared, the Second Chime’s countenance grew even more severe. His body, devoid of vitality, displayed bruises that masked his natural flesh color. His arms were loose as if someone had haphazardly aligned his bones. Not only were his clothes splattered with blood, but even his shoes were soiled, emitting a cracking sound with each step.

Gion’s hand slowly opened, allowing fragments of light to trickle into the depths of his being. A pristine white light emerged, shining with immaculate brilliance.

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