The Hero Returns - Chapter 381

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Chapter 381: Chapter 381

Act 3

On one of the floors of the World Tree, where the parasite corpses could be found just about everywhere, around 10 participants had gathered. They were busy checking out each other’s movements, while their own bodies remained deeply tense.

Of course, some among them did display a relaxed demeanor. One of them was even leaning with his arms across his chest against a parasite’s corpse.

“Okay, so…you want to form an alliance?” One of the participants spoke up with a slightly trembling voice.

He belatedly realized how nervous he sounded just then and promptly shut his mouth right after asking that question. It was already too late by then, but no one paid any mind.

“Ah, yes, an alliance. That’s right.”

“But is there a need for that? Only one person can walk away with the elixir, after all.”

“Indeed. And it’s also impossible to tell who will backstab you when.”

The opinions were unfavorable, but that wasn’t so surprising.

The participants that gathered in this place were people who were deeply confident of their own skill sets, after all. As these people didn’t win while relying on headcount due to their lack of confidence, they just couldn’t find a good-enough justification to enter an alliance or form teams.

More correctly, they abhorred the idea of a “team” because they believed that the scariest thing wasn’t a known enemy but a dubious ally.

“Well, in that case, we can fight it out right here,” said the man leaning against the parasite’s corpse at last.

His words immediately caused the temperature in the surroundings to drop. That man before their eyes was the reason why they had gathered here in the first place. He was also acting as the suppressor of the volatile atmosphere that was seemingly ready to erupt at any given moment. Therefore, as to be expected, each of the participants had a few thoughts about their encounter with the man.

“Just from where did a monster like this bastard even show up from…?”

“Is he an apostle? No, he comes across just too ominous for that.”

“Dammit! I sure stepped on sh*t today.”

These people were also powerful individuals who believed that they were someone impressive in their own right. Even then, they were ruthlessly suppressed by a single individual and became no better than some obedient little kids, so it was little wonder why they felt so incensed inwardly right now.

When the silence continued for a bit longer, the mystery man began scanning his surroundings. Quite a few seemed to be seriously mulling the offer right now.

The man addressed them, “The elixir will be mine, anyway. If you’re dissatisfied by that, die by my hands right here.”

He had no thoughts of yielding the elixir to anyone else. To him, all these other participants present were nothing more than pawns to help his cause. That’s all.

“However, by forming a team with me, you might walk away with pretty substantial scraps as your rewards.”

“Scraps?”

“Are you telling us to be satisfied by only that?!”

Some participants were triggered by that offer. However, the ones moved first by their emotions and not their rational reasoning numbered only two.

“That’s not a bad offer.”

“I know for a fact that I won’t secure the elixir, so to get my hands on the by-product at least, well…”

“It’s basically like I’m getting what I came here for.”

“Right, what I wanted from the beginning wasn’t the elixir, but the sap of the World Tree, after all. If I can acquire something better than that, there’s no reason why I won’t lend my help.”

The majority chose to submit; rather than challenge, they settled for safety.

That was indeed the normal choice in this sort of situation. Because…

“So, only two aren’t happy with the idea?” The man stopped leaning against the corpse and began making a move. “That’s perfect, actually. Not too many, but not too little, either.”

He moved toward the two people who opposed his suggestion just now.

Shu-rurururu—

Hiss, sizzle…

Countless black hands suddenly rose from the two people’s shadows and began wrapping around them. Their arms and legs were tied up, and their whole bodies were frozen up solid. They were shocked by this development and immediately tried to say reason with the man.

“W—wait a moment—!”

“I—I’m also fine with—!”

“Nope.”

Cruuuuunch…

Aaaaaahk!

“It’s too late now.”

The countless black hands began crushing the bodies of the two people. Their skin melted down, and they screamed at the excruciating pain of their bones shattering to pieces.

The man grinned at this sight and then closed his eyes to focus his attention on their screaming. “Ah…what a pleasing sound that is.”

“Heeeey, youngest bro—! Over heeeere, bro—!” Sun Wukong shouted incredibly loudly while opening his mouth wide.

There hadn’t been many times where he had to shout this loudly or for this long. Besides, there had never been a time where he needed to earnestly look for someone, either.

“Ke—eck. Ugh, seriously now. I might blow my vocal cord at this rate.” Sun Wukong rubbed his throat for a bit while frowning deeply. He then scratched his head while muttering in a rueful voice, “Huh. Maybe it really was someone with the same name?”

“Why are you all so depressed, unlike your usual self?”

“Wanna get beaten up or something? Imma just…!”

Sun Wukong raised his fist in the air, but the monkey next to him didn’t try to flee. It didn’t even get scared, either, but that’s because Sun Wukong’s current actions didn’t come across as all that threatening compared to how he usually was.

“Wow, you’re really depressed, aren’t you?”

“And you’ll really get a beating if you keep this up.”

“Hey, you only started shouting just now, you know? Besides, you don’t even know how big this place is. It’s possible that he didn’t hear you, right?” the monkey said while circling around Sun Wukong.

The latter, currently sitting on the ground, didn’t say anything, but his brows were quivering suspiciously. The monkey got scared of that reaction and hurriedly distanced itself.

However, weirdly enough, Sun Wukong didn’t react to that.

“Eh?” uttered the fearful evading monkey, thinking that a fist was coming its way. However, when nothing happened, it turned its head and stared at Sun Wukong.

The latter had stopped moving like a broken machine, only to dazedly stare into the distance. “Little bro?”

“Sorry?”

“It really is him—!”

Jump—!

Sun Wukong jumped up right away. He leaped by dozens of meters in an instant and then began flying into a far-off distance by kicking the air behind him.

A short while later, the voice he had been waiting for finally came to him.

“Third brother—!”

Su-hyeun immediately set off after hearing that voice.

He dashed toward the direction where that voice came from with everything he got. He was in such a hurry that he even got on the Somersault cloud to move, which he normally didn’t use often due to its large consumption of magical energy reserve.

“Without a doubt, that was the third brother’s voice.”

He had to be near was Su-hyeun’s initial thought.

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

“Just how far away is he?”

He was so sure that Sun Wukong was not that far away from him after hearing that loud shout, but even after dashing forward on the Somersault cloud for a while, he still failed to pick up Sun Wukong’s presence.

Su-hyeun thought about using the Sage’s Eye to find him, but the terrain proved to be just too uneven and a chaotic mess to behold, which prevented him from getting a good view.

Furthermore…

Screech, screeeeeech—

“You’re all seriously getting on my nerves.”

The parasites distracting him proved to be the most annoying problem of them all.

Rumble—

Shu-wuwuwu—

The combination of fire and wind enveloped Su-hyeun’s blade once more. “Burn them all…”

Giiii-iiiiing—

Su-hyeun didn’t adjust his strength this time. He didn’t have the leeway for that. He unleashed his magical energy and drove his will to it, as this sense of urgency that was more contagious than ever before took over his reason. “Palm Leaf!”

Fwhoooooosh—!

Winds and flames gushing out from the sword swirled into a huge purple-hued typhoon. This typhoon emitting intense heat mercilessly swept away all the parasites that appeared before his eyes.

It carved out a path for him, and right at that exact moment…

“It really is him—!”

That voice had finally gotten closer.

A wide grin spread on Su-hyeun’s lips. “Third brother—!”

The distance wasn’t far off now. His Sage’s Eye, which allowed him to take in the sights from a far-off distance, finally caught a familiar face.

It was Sun Wukong.

“Euh-hat! Ahahaha!”

Despite no longer possessing the Somersault cloud, Sun Wukong still rode on a cloud to fly toward where Su-hyeun was. He must’ve been feeling genuinely pleased because his face was sporting a never-before-seen extremely happy smile.

Ta-dak, tap—

Su-hyeun and Sun Wukong leaped off their clouds almost at the same time and landed on the ground.

“Are you really my littlest bro?”

“Of course I am. You think I’m a fake?”

“Euh-hat! You’re the real deal, alright! That stiff manner of speech! Yup, you’re really my younger bro.” Sun Wukong quickly walked up closer and then took his time surveying Su-hyeun’s face. Like the latter, it wouldn’t have been a significantly long time for the Great Sage since their parting, but he was still genuinely happy to see his little sworn brother. “What have you been doing all this time? Sure, the First Brother told me the rough story about you, but still.”

“I was just doing the usual thing. Ah, right. When I say the usual, I meant—”

“I know, even though you didn’t tell me before. I’m also, you know, the same as you.”

Pow—

Sun Wukong slapped Su-hyeun’s back with his palm.

Su-hyeun could only make a complicated smile while feeling both happy to see him and apologetic about not being truthful. He did keep the story of the tower and the world he lived in as a secret from the Bull Demon King, the Roc Demon King, and Sun Wukong, after all.

“We have lots to talk about, don’t we? Sure, we’ve got plenty of stuff to do, but—”

“I’ll be fine.”

Judging from his speed of gathering points, Su-hyeun didn’t feel much sense of urgency. Even now, his summons were rapidly hunting the parasites down and acquiring the points bolstered by the additional 120% boost.

“Aha! I’ll be fine, too. My clones are doing all the work, after all.”

The same story also applied to Sun Wukong. Rather, maybe it was even more pronounced for him because he could create a lot more clones than Su-hyeun’s summons, and each one of them boasted a far greater combat prowess than a summon.

“In that case, lemme ask you.”

Plop—

Sun Wukong settled down on the spot and asked, “What have you been doing these days, bro?”

The contents of Su-hyeun’s chat with Sun Wukong—such as how Su-hyeun began climbing the tower, how he got to meet the trio, and what he did after that, including what the world he called home was like and what his life had been like up until now—didn’t differ too much from his chat with the Bull Demon King.

“Sounds like an interesting world, what with all those hunks of metal driving and flying around…”

“Really? I don’t really find them all that interesting, though, probably because I’ve been living my whole life in that world.”

One hour—that was how long the two of them chatted for. It certainly wasn’t a long time, but it was still enough for Su-hyeun to speak about his story to Sun Wukong.

“I heard from the First Brother that you’ve begun climbing the tower recently, like me…”

“If it wasn’t for that, you wouldn’t have told me all those stories just now, right?”

After the truth was accurately pointed out, Su-hyeun chuckled awkwardly to avoid making a verbal answer. Thankfully, Sun Wukong didn’t dig any further into that topic, either.

Su-hyeun, of course, felt bad about it but decided not to be too hung up on it in the end.

For one, he knew that Sun Wukong didn’t ask that question to criticize Su-hyeun in the first place. Right now, the Great Sage was beaming in happiness at the fact that he got to meet Su-hyeun like this in this place.

“How did your deciding fight with Erlang Shen go? Did you win?”

“Heck, if I lost to that guy, you think I’d be here alive and kicking?”

“But, brother, you can’t die, can you?”

“Ah, right. There’s that, too,” Sun Wukong sagely nodded as if he remembered that just now. “Well, I keep forgetting that since nothing threatens my life anyway.”

“But what about the eight-way trigram Crucible…?”

“I won’t die from some measly flames of that size. Don’t you know me by now?” Sun Wukong asked with a deep smirk.

It wasn’t all that surprising to hear that.

One couldn’t even dream of piercing through Sun Wukong’s hard skin with some lukewarm attacks. Unless it was Su-hyeun’s divine Flame that boasted the qualification of godhood, most other flames would’ve come across as mildly warm to Sun Wukong.

He ended up asking an unnecessary question, so Su-hyeun moved on to another topic, one he was curious about. “In any case, how do you find it? Climbing the tower, I mean.”

“It’s fun, actually. There are plenty of amusing people, for sure.”

“I’m guessing you are referring to fighting?”

“That’s right. After finishing that decisive battle with Erlang Shen, I was getting bored out of my skull, you know? But thanks to this system or whatever, I now get to fight really strong punks from many different worlds. That’s been nice for me so far,” Sun Wukong replied, sounding genuinely excited.

Again, that wasn’t so surprising, either.

To Sun Wukong, fighting was one of his life’s greatest pleasures, but now that the war against the Heavenly World had come to an end, he must’ve been feeling really bored.

“And this time, too, apparently, there’s a really amusing guy present in this place.”

“An amusing guy, you say?”

“Yeah. He’s called ‘predator’ or something. This other punk calling itself a god keeps telling me to be wary of that guy, saying that that dude is seriously dangerous.”

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