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Chapter 81: Desperate Resistance
The “Witch” kept advancing while destroying buildings.
People were running about; they could only powerlessly cry out as they saw their own homes being destroyed.
Seeing a mother whose feet got caught under rubble, her daughter who was unable to abandon her could only cry.
Men grabbed their farming tools, then challenged “Witch” to protect their families, only to be swept away in vain.
Soldiers and knights were collapsed behind “Witch.” They tried to grab upon something to help them stand, but only managed to grab onto empty air.
Eterna, whose mana had run out, could only fall to her knees and watch as “Witch” kept on advancing.
Powerlessness… despair… even as this feeling filled their being, they had no ability to resist.
Alfrea’s group also all collapsed, crushed in despair.
“Wait! I shall not let you pass here!”
Leila stood before “Witch,” who headed towards the church, with her sword in hand.
But ever since Elrise’s death, she hadn’t properly eaten so Leila’s condition couldn’t be considered a good one.
If her optimal condition was ten, then her current condition was at about a three or four.
Against an enemy she was unable to win against even in her optimal condition, there was no way for her to win when she challenged it in such a bad physical condition.
Her flame-imbued sword was easily caught in a flash, her body dragged into the air as the generations of Witches’ head approached and tightened their grip.
She felt a pressure that broke her bones all over her body as her sword fell down.
Her consciousness grew farther in an instant, and her sight became hazy.
But before she lost her consciousness, Vernell leaped from the side, using a darkness imbued blade to cut off Witches’ head thus freed Leila.
As for damage it received… it was practically nothing.
The head did get cut off and fell to the ground, but it soon turned into miasma which flowed back to the “Witch” and restored its head.
The faces of generations of Witches laughed together as if sneering at the futile resistance.
As Vernell left the collapsed Leila and leapt to cut it off again, before his sword reached its target, the head of the “Witch” approached Vernell and struck him, which blew Vernell away and made him crash through the church’s wall.
What came into Vernell’s view, as he somehow managed to sit back up, was the sight of countless people who hid inside the church and prayed together.
In the center of the room, there was a crystal which has Elrise’s corpse sealed within it. She looked no different from when she was alive. In the church, people silently prayed to Elrise.
Even while he used his sword as a crutch to stand, his feet were shaky.
It was clear that “Witch’s” aim was Elrise’s body.
It wouldn’t be satisfied just by trampling upon the people whom Elrise had protected. It even wanted to desecrate her body.
Was she not even allowed to have a peaceful rest?
Don’t mess with me, he thought.
Like hell I will allow it to happen… It inspired him to not let her be wounded anymore.
But what could he do even if he stood up?
No, there was nothing he could do.
All Vernell could do was to watch the girl he swore to protect have even her corpse be destroyed.
Even so, he still stood in front of the crystal and wielded his sword.
What he tried to protect was a corpse who wouldn’t respond, and the fact Elrise was no longer there, he understood it so much he hated it.
Even so… even so, he still wanted to protect her.
He didn’t wish to see her wounded even more than this.
That’s why Vernell stood up to block the “Witch,” even as he knew full well he was unable to win.
“Elrise-sama, please help us.”
“Ooo, our Saint…”
“Please rescue us…”
“I would no longer lust over your slumbering figure so please help us1!”
People were desperately praying for Elrise.
Looking at these powerless people who could only pray, the Witches’ heads started a chorus of laughter, as if ridiculing them.
As it laughed, the “Witch” grabbed on the church’s roof and pulled it away, destroying the walls.
Was this the fate of those Saints who once fought for the sake of the world?
Remnants of those Saints could only spew curses now, to drag the world into deeper despair as it tried to tear apart humanity’s hope.
It didn’t even recognize Vernell, who stood there to protect her body from its sight.
It intended to destroy all of it together.
As he saw the giant arm descend, Vernell still didn’t look away and kept standing.
He had sworn that day.
To keep believing in light until the end.
That was why he wouldn’t escape even if there was no chance to win.
And as “Witch’s” arm reached in front of his eyes —
“Really… should I call this courage, or recklessness?”
Power spurted from inside of Vernell, repelling “Witch’s” hand.
At the same time, from inside of the crystal behind his back… from Elrise’s body that slumbered inside, something flowed into Vernell.
That was the power of darkness that Elrise had kept back then to protect Vernell’s heart and body.
…Alexia had cut off a piece of herself before becoming the Witch in the past, and that part of Alexia dwelled inside Vernell.
Beside Vernell stood an illusion of a woman in a black dress with her arms crossed.
As he saw that, Vernell reflexively put more strength in his hand which gripped the sword.
That was because, while her face and atmosphere were different, that figure was without a doubt, Witch Alexia.
“Yo- You are…!”
“I guess this is our first time talking, host. I’ve always watched you from inside… I’ve always wanted to apologize2.”
While Alexia was full of arrogance when she glared at the “Witch,” she spoke to Vernell with an apologetic tone.
That was very different from the figure of “Witch Alexia” that Vernell knew of.
Perhaps this was the original her, prior to being twisted by generations of Witch’s curse… Saint Alexia. Vernell understood that somehow.
“I know things because I have possessed you. Your life is full of unfortunate things… including the fact Elrise’s lifespan was shortened because of that… Back then, I tried to use dark magic to somehow expel the Witch’s power. The side effect caused part of my soul to be separated from me.”
Dark magic, just like how Alfrea could be sealed down to her soul, could affect one’s soul depending on its use.
Alexia tried to expel the Witch’s power before the curse inside it completely corrupted her.
But in the end, what was expelled out of her was not the Witch’s curse but part of her own soul instead.
“As I was detached from my main body, I coincidentally found a vessel that could contain me… in other words, you, and dwelt there. I couldn’t let myself disappear just yet. I wanted to stop myself from destroying the world by my own hand at all cost… As a result, your life broke apart. It’s natural for you to hate me for it… I’m very sorry about this…”
Alexia could be considered as a nemesis for Vernell.
Because she had dwelt inside him, he had been abandoned by his family.
And Elrise also bore a part of it, which shortened her lifespan.
But now, there was no meaning to talk about it. What was more important was the threat before his eyes.
“Forget your apology. Rather, lend me your power to stop that.”
“Certainly. Actually, I talked to you to suggest that, so by all means. If it is the current you, you should be capable of using me properly.”
Alexia had never intended to harm Vernell.
She was actually always inside of Vernell and worried about him, and also regretted her own mistake.
But for the young Vernell, her dark power was a heavy burden to the point Alexia’s voice was unable to reach him, and after it was split by Elrise, she lost the power to even talk.
But now, with Vernell coming close to Elrise, Alexia’s soul that split into two managed to become whole once again, and returned to Vernell.3
For current Vernell, even if he got all of Alexia’s power, it wouldn’t be a poison anymore.
“Then fine! Let’s do this!”
Vernell used mana to reinforce his body and swung toward “Witch.”
Even as his great sword cut through the Witch, it still ended up turning into mist and was practically ineffective.
And right after, the “Witch” tried to hit Vernell, but as if to take advantage of its opening, the darkness spurted out from Vernell’s inside and struck the “Witch.”
The darkness swirled and gathered in front of “Witch,” and materialized as Alexia.
The materialized Alexia appeared as a shade floating above “Witch’s” arm; she raised her hand and broke the arm apart along with the space around it.
“Alexia… Ooh, my hateful nemesis…”
“Why am I standing over there… disgusting… hateful…”
Two heads appeared from within the “Witch” as it regenerated, and spoke curses toward Alexia.
One of them was Alexia herself.
Another one was the Witch from two generations ago that Alexia defeated.
“It’s been a long time, Griselda… also, the one over there is supposed to be me, huh. Fuhn, all of us sure became miserable figures now.”
As Alexia faced Griselda and herself, who was part of “Witch,” she replied with scorn and contempt.
It seems it was disturbed by that. The “Witch” formed a fist and tried to punch Alexia.
But Alexia deployed a barrier while still having her arm crossed, and blocked “Witch’s” attack.
The “Witch’s” fist and Alexia’s barrier clashed, and even as she was pushed back, Alexia still kept her arrogance and roared.
“Don’t underestimate me! Who do you think I am?! I am Witch Alexia who fought during the “Worst Generation4!”
Along with Alexia’s cry, the barrier burst open, and pushed back “Witch” instead.
Vernell wouldn’t let such an opening slip by and slashed at “Witch,” which made it take a step back.
From the “Witch” then appeared several faces which opened their mouths together, preparing the same mana cannon that finished Supple’s golem.
But Alexia noticed that as she vanished, then reappeared in front of Vernell to deploy a barrier, and blocked the mana cannon.
As soon the attack finished, Vernell slash forward once again, which made “Witch” take a step back further.
Even as he fought a great enemy, Vernell’s impression on Alexia improved.
When they had fought against her back then, he was unable to feel any dignity in her, but her current self was different.
It might sound weird to say this toward a person who was now his ally, but the current Alexia possessed a dignity and a presence worthy if being called the Witch.
She stood in front of Vernell with arm crossed, while she had her hair fluttering due to the impact, the Witch… no, the previous Saint had a solemn expression on her face and spoke.
“…Sorry. That was the last of my power.”
Even though he just got a better impression of her, Alexia just said something ridiculous.
But now she mentioned it, Vernell’s mana was indeed practically empty.
What Alexia was using at that moment was her host, Vernell’s mana.
So the more she used her power, the more Vernell’s mana got consumed.
All of that was merely enough to block “Witch’s” attack twice before it ran out5.
“Its mana capacity is absurd. It’s not something we could win against by fighting it upfront. Let’s escape for now. It’s okay, it’s not a defeat so long as you’re not dead. During my time as the Saint, I kept running away from fights against enemies I deemed dangerous, searching for openings and then defeated Griselda by utilizing that. Retreat is also a strategy. That’s why let’s escape, hurry and escape, escape right away. Escape immediately.”
“Is that something to be proud about?!”
While he couldn’t help but retort to Alexia, who suggested escape without hesitation, Vernell remembered their battle the other day.
Now that I think about it, we needed to make her consume mana on that fight since she would escape immediately as soon as Elrise approached.
He thought it was because Elrise was way too strong so that was the tactic she might choose, but… it seemed that Alexia was originally the type of person who would immediately escape as soon as she detected danger.
“Escape from an enemy I can’t defeat. That is an ironclad rule of survival. This world is not the kind of world where you could do everything with mere pride and spirit.”
Alexia’s words might sound miserable, but there was truth within it.
It was not limited to Alexia. While every generation of Saints did have the will to save others, what they put above all was “to keep on surviving.”
Since there was only the Saint who could defeat the Witch, the Saint wasn’t allowed to die at all costs. They were encouraged to escape immediately without hesitation once things went wrong.
You could do it again as long as the Saint survived. But if the Saint died, people needed to wait over a decade to try again.
Alexia kept fleeing like that. She kept avoiding fighting against strong opponents and steadily taking out the weaker enemies like that. Then once the area around Griselda grew thin, she brought along a massive amount of knights and raided Griselda before finally defeating her.
It was an impudent way to fight without a doubt.
But considering the power comparison between the Witch and the Saint, the Witch was way stronger than the Saint most of the time, so it was impractical to fight solo against the Witch.
That was obviously the case. The Witch was “the Saint who defeated the previous Witch,” who then gained the previous generations of Witches’ power and experience on top of that, so they naturally came out stronger.
Therefore, the Saint had to fight while protected by a massive amount of knights, using them as meat shields and attacking from behind them to defeat the Witch.
That was also the reason Alexia was truly frightened when up against Elrise, since she had no need to be protected by knights whatsoever.6
“You will only die a dog’s death by challenging it here. That’s why…”
“I can’t flee from here.”
He wielded his sword, and stepped on the ground firmly as he faced the “Witch.”
He knew well it wasn’t something he could win against.
He also knew he might end up dying a dog’s death.
Even so… even though the thing behind him was merely a corpse that could no longer move, he was definitely unable to choose to abandon her and escape.
He was just being stubborn, even though he knew it was a meaningless action…But as a man, there were times when they couldn’t retreat!
“But that is not a bad spirit to have. Very well. I’m a person who has already passed away anyway, so I’ll accompany you until the end.”
He fiercely gripped the sword that Elrise had given him.
His power of darkness had already run out, the one who stood there was just Vernell without any extra power whatsoever.
But the flesh he had trained to be Elrise’s knight still remained.
In that case, he would keep fighting, until the moment his life reaches its end.
He blocked “Witch’s” arm that dropped down toward him with his sword, the impact made his legs sink into the ground, but he endured still.
Blood vessels turned visible from Vernell’s arms and legs, and he pushed back “Witch’s” arm using pure muscle power7.
He forcefully repelled “Witch’s” arm away, and Vernell used his great sword to slash at “Witch.”8
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