The Hero Returns - Chapter 270

Chapter 270: Chapter 270


<hr />


Ka-ga-gak, creak—


The Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King’s twin swords were raised to defend against Su-hyeun’s blade.


Erlang Shen witnessing that spectacle deeply furrowed his brows.


“That human, he…”


There was no mistaking it. He could never forget that face.


That human was the one who defeated Prince Nezha, touted as history’s greatest God of War.


“The Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King alone isn’t going to be enough.”


Erlang Shen wasn’t looking down on Li Jing’s ability. Even if the latter was old and had lost some of his fangs by now, he was still a figurative tiger. His claws still existed, and he possessed more than enough strength to deal with most enemies.


To prove that, he had been fighting against Sun Wukong until Erlang Shen could arrive on the scene.


“What about the other soldiers…?”


Erlang Shen recalled the reinforcements but had to shake his head. There was no point in hoping for someone else’s aid. Even if assistance did come, they wouldn’t be much of a help, anyway.


In front of Sun Wukong who was capable of wielding the gigantic weapon called Ruyi Jingu Bang, plus with all those clones he could produce, trying to overwhelm him through sheer numbers would be a meaningless exercise, indeed.


“If that human defeats the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King and joins Sun Wukong, then even I’ll be pushed to a corner.”


In the end, this was a race against time itself.


Would the event of Su-hyeun defeating Li Jing happen sooner, or would Erlang Shen defeat Sun Wukong before that?


If one asked which one of the two had the higher odds, then it would obviously be the former. Unlike the aged and, therefore, lacking in stamina Li Jing, Sun Wukong boasted the level of stamina and energy that allowed him to keep fighting for four days straight without experiencing fatigue.


“Even then, I must do it.”


Fighting spirit burned within Erlang Shen’s eyes as he glared at Sun Wukong. If he had been living a life of someone who gave up on challenges because they were too difficult, then he would not have reached his current status.


Indeed, he kept overcoming one difficult challenge after another up until now. The story wouldn’t be any different this time as well.


Sun Wukong smirked and addressed Erlang Shen after sensing the latter’s atmosphere changing. “I’m not planning to run this time, so give me your best shot.”


“Fine, monkey.”


Crunch—


Knowing that he didn’t have much time, Erlang Shen chose to go all out from the get-go. While emitting so much aura that the air around him visibly wavered, he kicked the ground hard enough to split it apart and dashed forward.


“Let’s finish this.”


<hr />


Clang, clang, claaaang—


Ka-claaang—!


One longsword and a pair of swords danced around quickly and clashed against each other only to bounce off repeatedly.


Every time a sword was swung, thin lines were drawn in the empty air, and every time blades clashed, brilliant sparks scattered in all directions.


“Is this really a human?!” Li Jing inwardly mulled in disbelief.


Clang, claaang—


Swiiiiiish, clang, swish—


Piii-iiik—


Su-hyeun’s blade sliced open the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King’s cheek. It was no mere flesh wound, either—if it was any deeper, the blade would have even cut through his eyeball.


“It’s happening again.”


He mistakenly thought that the opponent’s blade had suddenly lengthened.


At first, he thought it might be the case of enveloping the blade with energy in order to increase the attack’s range, but Li Jing would have seen through such a simple trick.


Su-hyeun used his energy to enhance the sword’s durability, as well as his body’s physical abilities. If he resorted to the tactic of using his energy to increase the attack range, then there was simply no way Li Jing would miss that.


Pii-iiit, piit, piiit—


Drip—


The Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King chose not to pay attention to the wounds accumulating on his body. Instead, he focused more on seeing Su-hyeun’s blade.


“Now I can…” he thought.


Whoosh—


He dodged Su-hyeun’s sword strike and then thrust forward one of his twin swords at the waist of his human foe.


“See it.”


Fwhooooosh—


Grab—


His sword that was thrusting forward was suddenly pushed down. At that precise moment, he tried to stab forward, Su-hyeun’s hand grabbed Li Jing’s wrist and shoved it down.


Giii-iiing—


It was also then that their eyes met. Bluish aura swirled within Su-hyeun’s eyes, which wasn’t there before.


The Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King had seen a pair of eyes like that in the distant past, back when he was still active in his role—from the Bull Demon King.


“Isn’t that…?”


Crunch—!


Su-hyeun’s knee rose and accurately smashed against Li Jing’s chin.


“The Sage’s…Eye?!”


Baaang—!


Whoooosh—


Li Jing’s figure was suddenly off the ground. He tried to immediately twist his body and regain his balance, but the impact on his chin caused the inside of his head to shake around too much.


Keuk—


Even if he tried to quickly regain his wits, the continuous stream of attacks from Su-hyeun meant that he didn’t even have enough time to regain his stance.


“A human opened his Sage’s Eye?!”


The Sage’s Eye was not something one could acquire by studying the Sage Arts for 10 or 20 years.


You only had a small chance of awakening this ability provided that you spent hundreds of years of time and effort and possessed natural talent. There had been only a handful of Yogoes throughout history that managed to open their Sage’s Eyes, for instance.


Even the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King Li Jing, who had fought against Yogoes as the God of War for a truly immeasurable length of time, saw only one Yogoe that used the Sage’s Eye, and he happened to be the Bull Demon King.


But then, a human who hadn’t even live past 100 years had opened his Sage’s Eye.


“How can such an inconceivable thing…?!”


Clang, ka-claaang—


Even without that, defending against Su-hyeun’s barrage of sword strikes in his broken posture was already incredibly difficult. However, after Su-hyeun activated his Sage’s Eye, his movements became something else entirely.


It wasn’t just his speed that had seen a major boost. No, it felt like he had actually gotten slower, and his actions became so much harder to predict instead.


It was as if he had peeked into a few moments into the future and saw all of Li Jing’s actions and then made his moves accordingly.


“I need to end this battle as soon as possible.”


Even Li Jing knew that nothing good would come about by fighting for too long here.


Not only was his stamina running out, but he had also suffered far too many injuries by now. That was why he focused even harder to avoid performing any meaningless attacks and defenses.


His movements then became more aggressive.


For the purpose of giving away his flesh only to take the opponent’s bones…


Flash—


Li Jing defended against Su-hyeun’s sword too aggressively. Almost at the same time, his arm was sliced off. It happened literally in the blink of an eye.


For a warrior, and not just anyone but the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King who wielded twin swords, losing an arm was akin to seeing half of his world crumble away. It would not be strange to see someone like that panic and stop thinking for a second as his whole body froze up in the process.


However, Li Jing didn’t even bat an eyelid.


In that blink of a moment, he sensed his arm being cut off, yet he continued to make his next move without a moment’s hesitation.


As if he had already predicted this outcome and resolved himself for it.


“I’ll give you my arm,” he thought.


Shu-ah-ahk—


His remaining left arm held a sword that was swinging toward Su-hyeun’s throat.


“It’s done.”


He was sure of it. He could cut this human.


Despite his Sage’s Eye, the human seemed not to have predicted that Li Jing would readily sacrifice his arm like this.


It was such an unexpected plan, after all. And his sword had already reached the point where dodging it would be impossible.


But for a briefest of all brief moments, Li Jing thought he saw time come to a standstill, which allowed him to see it clearly.


“Isn’t that…?”


Shu-rururu—


What his eyes saw clearly was a whitish cloudy fog.


“The Somersault…”


THUD—!


The sword strike that cost him his arm was blocked off with a dull noise.


“Cloud…?”


Swoosh—


His price to pay was Su-hyeun’s immediate counterattack.


Crunch—!


Crack, craaack—


The jaw bone of the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King was crushed. His eyes rolled back to display the whites, and his figure slumped forward like a crumbling building.


Plop—


Su-hyeun looked at the fallen Li Jing.


He couldn’t hear his heartbeat anymore. The shock of the jaw bone being crushed must have been transmitted to the rest of his skull.


An instant death.


The battle ended sooner than he thought. It was all thanks to the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King staking his everything early on during their engagement.


“It might have been dangerous without the Somersault cloud, though,” Su-hyeun thought.


Su-hyeun had seen through his opponent’s goal using the Sage’s Eye. And according to the latter’s aim, he would have ended up injured in some fashion.


If he chose not to engage in Li Jing’s all-or-nothing Hail Mary coming in from the front, then those twin swords would have caused him to lose quite a bit of his blood. Even using his other skills to protect his body wouldn’t have spared him from a massive injury.


Throb—


His neck area throbbed noticeably.


No matter how excellent the Somersault cloud’s defensive capabilities were, it had to defend against the last-gasp strike from the former God of War, the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King, before his death.


“Don’t know who this old man was, but man, he was really strong.”


Of course, Su-hyeun had no idea who the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King was, to begin with.


“Okay, so. My side has been taken care of, more or less. And now…”


Ka-boom—!


Pow, clang—!


Su-hyeun observed the Ruyi Jingu Bang-wielding Sun Wukong, accompanied by dozens of his clones, fighting against Erlang Shen.


As these two had been long-time rivals, their fight didn’t feel like it would come to an end any time soon. Erlang Shen’s abilities lived up to his reputation, that’s for sure.


Even then, Su-hyeun’s interference would instantly tilt the balance of this fight. Of course, it was unknown whether Sun Wukong wanted that in the first place or not.


“What’s going on, though?”


He found it strange.


For some reason, he felt that the difficulty of this trial was not as high as he initially expected.


The events were unfolding as smoothly as he had predicted. The presence of the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King could be seen as a variable, but Su-hyeun had already considered such things.


“There aren’t as many of them as I thought.”


He feared that there would be a lot more soldiers in the Heavenly World’s army. But for some strange reason, the number of the gods present in the capital city wasn’t even half as many as he expected. He couldn’t even see any Titans, for instance.


“Is it because I’m on the 60th floor?”


He suddenly remembered a fact that he had forgotten.


The 60th floor.


That was the floor number of the trial he was currently involved in.


Logically speaking, Su-hyeun’s current set of abilities shouldn’t belong to someone stuck on the 60th floor even if the trial was set at the 10th-level difficulty, even more so when considering this trial’s difficulty was clearly a step above compared to the trial before it on the 59th floor.


Even if every 10th floor proved to be a deadly hurdle, he couldn’t figure it out at all.


At first, he was puzzled by this fact, but as he learned the Sage Arts and spent more time here, he slowly forgot about his initial suspicion.


And now, this thought crept into his mind—that maybe his mission, his final goal for this trial, of waging war against the Heavenly World and killing the Jade Emperor was not as difficult as he initially feared.


“If that’s not it, then…”


Unlike his normal self, Su-hyeun raised his head and stared at the cloudless blue sky and began chewing on his lips out of anxiety.


“There’s something else I haven’t thought up of yet.”


<hr />


“Second brother, you’re the fastest among us.”


The task Su-hyeun asked of the Roc Demon King was rather simple.


“Brother, please search around for the Jade Emperor’s location. You’re friends with the winds, so your detection ability must be the best among us. When you do locate him, send us a signal, but if you can’t or find yourself in danger, come back and join us immediately.”


And that was to locate the Jade Emperor.


If that man was in hiding, then finding out where he was would be the most important task.


Even if the whole of the Heavenly World’s capital was turned into a devastated wasteland, it would be all for naught if they failed to defeat the Jade Emperor.


To flip that around, everything else didn’t matter as long as they could defeat the Jade Emperor. In the end, their goal was to take the emperor’s head.


Eventually…


“Found you.”


Flap—


The Roc Demon King had finally located the Jade Emperor’s whereabouts.


It was in the basement of the imperial palace, in a floor located deep, deep underground, too.


A lone room was down there. It was hidden so well, like an evacuation shelter, that not a trace of it could be seen anywhere. It was indeed almost impossible to locate with the naked eyes.


However, the Roc Demon King was a Yogoe who controlled the winds.


There was a gap almost too small to notice, and he sensed the winds passing through it, leading him to find the emperor’s whereabouts.


“It’s been a long time, Great Sage who Confuses Heaven. Did you come alone? Where could the Great Sage Heaven’s Equal be, then?”


Creak, creak—


The Jade Emperor displayed not a hint of agitation on his face despite the Roc Demon King’s sudden entrance.


But that wasn’t too surprising.


Even the Roc Demon King himself was aware of it. With his abilities alone, dealing with the Jade Emperor would be next to impossible.


He knew that only two people could deal with the leader of the Heavenly World—Sun Wukong and the Bull Demon King.


“And why are you so laid back? Don’t you know what’s going on outside?” he replied.


“The Heavenly World is in the palm of my hand. Of course, I know everything that’s going on in it.”


“Oh, in that case, you should know all about it, then. Soon, the third brother will show up here.”


The “third brother”—the Jade Emperor became somewhat surprised after hearing that term. “Not the last but the third brother?”


The Roc Demon King quickly realized his slip of the tongue from that reaction.


The “third”—the Roc Demon King had been referring to Sun Wukong as the “last” brother. Therefore, unless one more “brother” had joined their ranks, he would not use that term at all.


“I—in any case, I’m not gonna fight you. Actually, I’m going to flee. And you won’t be able to catch me.”


“Who in this wide world can catch the one and only Great Sage who Confuses Heaven, unless they are a true Taoist god? I wasn’t planning to catch you even if you fled.”


The Jade Emperor’s response remained lukewarm even then.


The Roc Demon King expected the emperor to be stunned and flustered by now, so he couldn’t get rid of this suspicious feeling in his heart. “Why are you so relaxed, though? Why, are you planning to run, too? Out of the Heavenly World, maybe?”


“Now look here, Great Sage who Confuses Heaven.”


“What do you want? If you’re thinking of wasting my time, then—”


“It seems that you should be thanking me.”


At that sudden and unexpected declaration, the Roc Demon King frowned a little and formed a puzzled expression. He was ready to flee at any given moment if the Jade Emperor’s plan was to use that distraction to sneak attack him.


But then…


Step, step—


He heard the footsteps of someone coming from the deeper part of the room, somewhere behind the Jade Emperor.


As it was dimly lit, he couldn’t see the face of this being, only a faint outline. The Roc Demon King kept his guard up and focused some of his auras to his eyes in order to see a face.


When he did…


“You…?!”


“How about it? Aren’t you happy to see this person?”


A hint of mirth was mixed in the Jade Emperor’s voice.


However, the Roc Demon King failed to hear him from the sheer shock and simply stared at the Yogoe that appeared behind the emperor.


“You—you were still alive?”