Return To Player Chapter 53

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Return To Player

# 53

Strong Ones (2)

“It’s become troublesome.”

Sehan clicked his tongue at the sight of Jawoon who had eventually put on the mask.

He wanted to avoid this as much as possible, but protecting Rin was the priority.

It would have been nice if the thrown dagger had hit and knocked off the mask.

“With that, our ability levels are almost the same now.”

He could feel that his ability levels had increased by almost more than 100% compared to before.

To be certain, he’d need to see the enemy’s ability window, but thinking of the power of the Mask of Despair he saw in his past life, it would be roughly around that level.

For now, Sehan laid Rin, whom he had carried and dodged with, beside a nearby building.

Then, he moved as far away as possible. It was difficult to fight Jawoon with the mask on while also protecting Rin.

「Keuk, keke. It’s quite fun to control directly like this.」

When they moved near the wharf, Jawoon wearing the mask was already there.

To be precise, it was Neviros controlling Jawoon.

Sehan frowned at Jawoon’s creaking movements, like a wooden puppet.

‘That mask is disgusting to look at no matter when.’

The mask had two long horns protruding from it and was overall a stark white color.

While the owner claimed it was a mask modeled after humans’ screaming faces, to Sehan, it looked more like the face of a monster plastered on it.

「Oh, I should introduce myself first. I am the 27th ranked demon, Neviros.」

“Yeah.”

「…Is that all you have to say?」

Neviros asked with a sense of absurdity seeing Sehan answering so nonchalantly.

Indeed, there was nothing special to say.

After all, in the Demon World, he’d seen demons far more formidable than this one.

“Just come at me. It’s not good for the kid to be in the rain too long.”

Sehan retrieved a sword from his inventory.

There was no longer a need to fight bare-handed.

「Ke, keke. Truly impudent. Did you really kill Karas? No, that can’t be. With the power you’re showing now, you couldn’t possibly hunt a constellation.」

Neviros asked and answered his own question before starting to move Jawoon’s body.

The movement was clearly overwhelmingly faster than before.

‘At least the mask is incomplete, thankfully.’

If it were complete, it could’ve wielded power at the level of the lowest-ranked constellations.

I have the proof of transcendence, but it simply won’t activate with just ‘constellation-level’ power. The skill only activates against actual constellations.

Grind!

Jawoon’s, no, Neviros’s fingernails screeched through the concrete surface.

It was a different kind of fight from the simple combat shown earlier.

A demon’s battle, driven by instinct. A killing blow that would tear the opponent apart with overwhelming physical prowess.

‘Really.’

The movements were easy to counter.

Thud! Thud!

「Cough!」

Neviros staggered as he was hit by Sehan’s sword.

Although he was sliced by the sword, his body had hardened so much it felt like being struck by a club.

「You do quite well for a human!」

Neviros’s hand slashed through the air.

Truly, if even one strike landed, it would be dangerous enough for Sehan to worry.

But Neviros was not a physical combat demon.

He mostly used magic, specializing in mental magic among them.

While he possessed overwhelming ability levels and could kill humans like squashing bugs, now was not that time.

‘Rather.’

He was nothing more than a large sandbag.

Thudthudthudthud!

「Ughahaha!」

Being pummeled to dust in the rain seemed to have this kind of feeling.

In the empty harbor, the sounds of leather drums being burst echoed.

Neviros could no longer gather his senses—unable to properly block the incessant sword strikes, he flailed helplessly, getting pummeled.

“Take this!”

「Argh!」

Swinging like swinging a baseball bat, Neviros’s body twisted grotesquely as he was sent flying.

Had it not been for the demon’s magical barrier, that strike might have split him in half.

「You, you’ve got some skill, I see. Quite presumptuous.」

Neviros, who had crashed into a concrete wall, laughed boastfully even in his state.

A demon’s pride is something formidable.

Although he was controlling Jawoon’s body like a puppet, he had to connect the sensations to do so. If that’s the case, even if he could laugh in such pain…

‘A man who can laugh in difficult times is first-rate.’

Sehan, too, thought that a demon of the 27th rank must not be just for show.

「Ng!」

But a laugh was just a laugh, and pain was pain.

Grimacing with a groan, Neviros was trying to rise up from the rubble when he suddenly realized that one of his arms wouldn’t move.

‘What is this? Why won’t it move?’

Controlling Jawoon’s body through the Mask of Despair was akin to a temporary possession.

It took demonic power through a medium to manipulate the body.

A normal human couldn’t resist the demon’s power at all, and they wouldn’t be able to retrieve their own body until the demon returned it.

That would be the usual situation.

‘Uh, ehm? It’s not moving at all.’

First, it was the left arm.

Then the right arm.

And next, the legs.

Then the body.

Eventually, there was nothing left that Neviros could control.

‘What is this, what exactly is happening!’

Even after pouring his power into the mask, there was no response.

“…You must have been beaten to quite a state, huh.”

Laughter tricked from Jawoon’s lips.

His whole body ached everywhere.

「You, how could you still be speaking?」

“Getting beaten up by you seems to have cleared my head.”

To be precise, Neviros had suffered a momentary disruption in consciousness while being pummeled.

It was brief, almost imperceptible, but Jawoon had found the opportunity to emerge.

「Humph, it’s pointless. I’m still wearing the mask, so taking control again will be effortless.」

Magical power surged once more from the Mask of Despair.

However, Jawoon’s action was quicker than it could envelop him.

Boom!

He pressed his head into the ground on his knees.

The impact was so profound that Sehan felt the tremor from where he stood.

“Is he regaining consciousness?”

Sehan knew just how powerful a demon’s mental domination could be.

Especially Neviros.

Neviros’s psychic magic was significantly stronger than other demons of similar ranking.

Disrupting that kind of mental magic would not be easy for Sehan either.

It would require immense willpower.

A spirit so steadfast it could be considered transcendent.

“Fascinating fellow.”

Sehan smirked, curious as to how far this man could go.

While he could easily kill him now, he chose to observe.

It seemed he might witness an extraordinary scene he had never seen in his previous life.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Jawoon’s head repeatedly collided with the ground.

The concrete surface began to crack and split under the force.

「You fool! Doing this won’t break the mask…」

Thump!

Crack.

「…will it?」

It split.

Black blood, characteristic of a demon’s contractor, flowed from Jawoon’s head.

And yet…

The mask was certainly shattering.

‘Only beings with at least the divinity of a devil, a devil itself, or its contractor can destroy a relic of the devil.’

Even for a contractor, destroying a devil’s relic was no easy task.

Because a contractor is, after all, a being subordinate to the devil.

Nonetheless, Jawoon had just accomplished that feat.

Thud!

Crack!

“The Mask of Sorrow!!”

The Mask of Sorrow was Neviros’s masterpiece relic, made with all his might.

He was confident that it would not falter even against the relics of higher devils.

“Foolishness! A contractor destroying a devil’s relic is akin to reneging on the contract!”

“It doesn’t matter. Had I lost, I would have discarded it anyway. How ludicrous.”

Jawoon spoke indifferently toward Neviros, who was screaming as if in agony.

“Then I will discard it first.”

“You…!!”

Jawoon had never planned on contracting with Neviros if not for the Heavenly Help.

He grabbed the mask with his right hand and pulled at it with all his might.

Crack, crack!

“Aghh!!”

Jawoon, holding the partially shattered mask, tore it from his face.

Although he couldn’t completely remove the mask, he was able to tear off the broken half and let it fall to the ground.

That was enough to clear his muddled mind.

He could no longer hear Neviros’s voice.

Half of the Mask of Sorrow still clung to his face, but perhaps because of it, he could stand.

The shattered mask absorbed Jawoon’s emotions, converting them into magical power.

“You’ve waited a long time.”

Jawoon spoke to Sehan, who had been watching him without attacking all this while.

“Not really.”

Sehan didn’t seem to mind much.

He just felt like he had witnessed an extraordinary sight.

“Now you’re no longer a devil’s contractor. Yet you still want to fight me?”

“I fight not for a devil.”

Determined to avenge his brother to the end.

He didn’t remember the boss of the Heukcheon Society, but it seemed he had chosen his subordinate well.

‘After all, once more…’

Jawoon was already a wreck.

Having been severely beaten by Sehan and even breaking the contract by destroying the mask.

He didn’t know the effect of the mask still attached to his face, but his abilities had returned to what they were when he first saw it.

His stats remained, but he must have lost the skills he’d received from Neviros.

Now seemingly a regular player again, it seemed his recovery was slow, so at best, Jawoon could only attack once more.

Swooosh.

Sehan lowered his stance and stared down at Jawoon.

Jawoon, in turn, looked up at Sehan while raising his right arm.

Apparently, his left arm was hanging limply, likely broken.

Thump!

Sehan was the first to rush in.

His hand was bare; like his fight with Jawoon before, he wanted to conclude this battle unarmed.

Though touched by the devil, Sehan was fond of Jawoon’s method of combat.

The outcome forged through sheer effort.

The pure fighting spirit, untainted by the power of a devil.

Sehan, staggering, aimed a punch directly at Jawoon’s chest.

His intention was to pierce through and end his life.

‘I can see it.’

Sehan’s fist approached Jawoon at an absurd speed, but to Jawoon, it was crystal clear.

Like a miracle born from a body pushed to the brink.

‘I can see it.’

Clutching his fist and twisting his body along with the trajectory of Sehan’s thrown punch, Jawoon swung his right arm with all his might.

A counter. It was Jawoon’s specialty.

Had he possessed talent, Jawoon would have developed his techniques further.

But he was short on talent, so he decided to utilize not only his power but also his opponent’s.

This perfected counter was his ultimate move.

A deadly blow combining the opponent’s strength and his own.

And now.

The best counter he could claim up to this point shot towards Sehan’s face.

‘This is…!’

Sehan realized too late.

Jawoon slipped his fist past Sehan’s heart, redirecting the energy back to his hand moving towards Sehan’s face.

It was unavoidable.

As that realization set in, Jawoon’s knees buckled.

Crippled by the accumulated damage, his legs gave out.

“……!!”

Blood spattered from his cheek.

Jawoon’s fist, by a hair’s breadth, grazed Sehan’s face.

It was the first time Sehan had been wounded in a fight with another player.

“Bad luck.”

That was the only thing he could say.

Sehan lashed out with his left hand once again toward Jawoon’s now empty upper body.

Jawoon saw it too. The hand stretching out to end his life.

This time, he could neither counter nor do anything else.

Anticipating his end, Jawoon closed his eyes.

Boom!!

Sehan’s left fist, thrown with full force, shattered the concrete beneath it.

Even the rain falling from the sky dispersed in all directions due to the shockwave, and Jawoon’s body was sent flying like a puppet with its strings cut, falling into the distant sea.

Out over the stormy waves.

“……”

Sehan stared blankly at his fist.

“Bad luck is an understatement.”

Then, he shook his head.

Because there had been no satisfaction in the impact of that last blow.

***

It was after a considerable amount of time that Jawoon regained consciousness.

The first thought upon opening his eyes was singular.

Why am I alive?

His memory before losing consciousness was vivid.

Sehan’s left hand approaching to take his life.

“You’re awake.”

It was a voice filled with dignity.

Turning his head, he saw a girl. She wore a pure white gothic dress and held a matching parasol.

She must be in her mid-teens.

Her long, white hair fluttered in the sea breeze.

“Leftovers from Neviros.”

Her scoffing tone suggested that her voice did not match the beauty of her outward appearance.

“I wonder why you’re curious about being alive…”

The girl approached gracefully and looked down at Jawoon, lying in the sand.

“I saved you. You seemed… interesting.”

Gently stepping on Jawoon’s chest as she smiled at him, she asked, “Who are you?”

Despite the severe pain all over his body, Jawoon forced out his words.

It was clear to him that this mysterious girl was not a ‘human’ but a devil—a strong one, too, beyond Jawoon’s own comprehension.

“A relic asking questions? Fine, I’ll make an exception and tell you.”

With a snap, the girl folded her parasol and brought her face close to Jawoon’s.

Golden eyes with peculiar pupils filled Jawoon’s vision.

“I am Azazel.”

That name belonged to a figure far surpassing the 27th-ranked devil Neviros.

“The demon of sloth.”

One of the seven great demons ruling the Infernal Realm, the grand duke of the underworld, third in the devil hierarchy.

The demon of sloth, Azazel, smiled brightly at Jawoon.

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