‘This is a dream.’
That was the first thing that came to Joon-young’s mind as he watched the battlefield. His dead comrades stood next to him, laughing. Their heads shattered, pierced by numerous bullets that found their mark. Shells and grenades sent their limbs flying into the air. Their skin melted in the face of chemical weapons. But they laughed on, and Joon-young laughed along with them.
They were the phantoms of the battlefield. Those who would walk the line between life and death. Unfazed by the mountain of corpses that they’d built and now reside in.
“What are you doing here?”
Sergeant Min asked. He still had the cigarette in his mouth and the gaping hole in his stomach.
“I believe you’re missing a word at the end?”
Sergeant Min giggled at Joon-young’s reply and threw his cigarette to the side.
“There’s a limit to how much you can slack off, sir.”
Just as Joon-young was about to reply to Sergeant Min who was doing a quick salute, his eyes opened and a familiar ceiling came into his view.
“Fuck that dream.”
It made him remember. The mounting tension as the first battle was about to take place. The growing fear as his senses about life and death began to dull. The despair when he realised something in him had already twisted beyond repair. When that emotion disappeared, all that stood was a lunatic. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. As he tried to get himself off the bed, an agonizing pain from his left chest flared.
A torrent of coughs overwhelmed his body, which aggravated the pain even more. When the coughs finally began to dissipate, he took off his shirt to have a look on his wound.
“Did it get my lungs?”
Breathing was difficult. A red line ran right across the middle of his left chest.
This world’s medical technology was quite fascinating. He had seen it during his time in the hospital – how a glowing white hand would come close to the wound and it would begin to heal immediately. At that time, he was amazed at technology that would only be possible in a sci-fi movie, but he never thought he’d be the one on the receiving end.
“Why the hell does it hurt so much? Why didn’t they just heal me completely when they were at it?”
There was a constant reminder of pain whenever he turned his body, when suddenly the door to his room opened.
“Who is it?”
Isaac turned his head to find a woman he had never seen stand before him, his eyes wide in amazement. Her godly beauty was unmatched by anything he had ever seen before, including his previous life. Her hair was sunrise-gold with amber eyes, and her body was golden in every proportion.
Isaac was in a daze as he continued to stare at her, wondering as to where this beauty came from. The woman, however, didn’t seem to show much interest and left the room after glancing at Isaac for a brief moment.
“What the? Why’s she just leaving? Ah! Was she the healer? But why haven’t I heard about her before? She should be famous by now with looks like that.”
While more questions popped up in his head, there a sudden ruckus and Reisha barged into the room.
Reisha threw herself to Isaac with a hint of tears on her eyes. Isaac caught her out of reflex, only to be paralysed by the impact of Reisha’s reckless leap.
“Are you trying to kill me?”
Isaac put all his strength in his shaking arm to peel Reisha off of him.
“Do you know how worried we were? We thought you were going to die!”
“Well, I’m alive now. How long has it been?”
“You’ve been unconscious for the last 3 days! Do you know how much of a struggle Kunette and I went through to look after you?”
“Then who was it that healed me?”
“Kunette? Then who was that lady that came in the room?”
There was a pause, a head tilt, then a mysterious smile on Reisha’s face.
“Uhuhuh, do you want to know? You’re curious right?”
“No, not really. I’ll know when the time comes.”
Reisha muttered menacingly at Isaac’s apathetic behaviour when Kunette walked into the room this time.
“Oh, Kunette. I heard you’re the one who healed me. Thanks. You saved my life.”
Kunette didn’t say a single word to Isaac. There was only her usual stare. She then handed the bundle of brown leaves in her hand on to Isaac.
“Hm? What’s this? A present?”
“It’s an herb we use to heal the lungs, heart or airways when they are damaged beyond the initial healing.”
“Does that mean I’m not fully cured yet?”
Reisha hesitated to speak, unsure what Isaac would do if he heard it.
“… The Campus refused to treat you since only its students are allowed to receive its services.”
Isaac was surprised at Kunette. The aggressive tone in her voice was something he’d never seen from her. Reisha also seemed quite mad as she quickly joined in loudly.
“It was horrible of them! We quickly did some first aid and went through the trouble to bring you to the infirmary, and they refused us outright! So Kunette and I just rampaged through their infirmary! At least the students who were there for practical lessons were kind enough to treat you!”
“Huh, now that is harsh.”
Were they just headstrong or lacking the morality? For a healer who saves lives to refuse treating a patient seemed outrageous. Was it because Isaac didn’t have health insurance?
“Then why do I need these choyu leaves?”
“We managed to heal the cut, but it was impossible for us to treat the organs to fully. The only way to treat you completely is to visit the mainland but…”
“I’ll be expelled the moment I step a foot outside Campus, so that’s out of the picture.”
“So that’s why it hurts.”
“…Does it hurt that bad?”
Kunette came closer and looked up at Isaac. You could tell how worried she was with the look in her eyes. Isaac simply smiled and began patting her on the head.
“I can’t die before I let Kunette eat all the honey in the world.”
Kunette seemed sold on his words, and accepted Isaac’s hand on her head without any resistance.
“Che! You only like Kunette. Maybe I’ll just tell you everything.”
“Hm? Tell me what?”
“Ahaha! It’s nothing.”
“Whatever. By the way how am I supposed to take the choyu leaves? Do I make it into a tea?”
Isaac looked closely at the herbs. It was a circular leaf about the size of his palm. There was a hint of blueness, suggesting it had been processed in some way. If it weren’t for its leaf-like texture, Isaac wouldn’t have considered it to be a plant just by looking at it.
“What you do is you roll it up and light it on one end while sucking up the smoke from the other.”
Reisha took one of the leaves to show Isaac what she meant. She rolled up the leaf into a cylinder and placed one end of it in her mouth.
“Once you light it, you have to breathe in the vapour. You have to breathe deeply, or it won’t reach far enough. Do you get it?”
… That’s just a cigarette.
Smoking was a taboo for patients with an injured lung, not to mention that this was the extremely toxic, unfiltered kind of cigarette that was used in the old days. Isaac remembered that cigarettes were once considered a medicine in history and believed that this world had yet to find out what devastating health issues cigarettes caused.
Cigarettes are devastating poison to those suffering from lung disease. But that wasn’t stopping Isaac from taking them. How could the possible chance of death stop him from smoking when he enjoyed it to its fullest back in the old world?
His heart began to pound with anxiousness and excitement as took back the cigarette and took his first breath.
There wasn’t any dizziness from the nicotine in the cigarette, which is commonly experienced when someone smokes for the first time. Instead, it tasted like menthol cigarette. The only difference was that it didn’t just taste like mint, but actually felt like the lungs themselves were being cleaned by the smoke.
“Huh? This is pretty good.”
The dull ache in his chest disappeared immediately. There wasn’t any bad breath that typically came after smoking a cigarette but rather a refreshing feeling in his mouth.
“Really? Most people find it quite strong.”
“Strong? This? It feels really good for me.”
It felt like a breath of fresh air was being directly injected into his lungs. No, it didn’t just feel like it. His chest truly did feel clean, and his mind felt like it had just awakened from slumber. With his brain now fully active, the name Kaizen came to his mind.
“What happened to Kaizen?”
“We caught him of course! I made sure to turn him into a bloody pancake so you can go and hit him yourself if you’d like!”
“Where is he now?”
“Hehe, he’s in the infirmary.”
“You really did turn him into a pancake.”
If a suspect who should have been detained was in the hospital, it truly meant that he was injured to the point where he couldn’t move on his own will.
“So what are they saying at the top? I’d imagine the Campus is in a bit of a ruckus?”
“Um… they say it will end as requesting him to drop out willingly.”
“Just to drop out when he tried to kill me?”
Dropping out from the Campus meant he was officially dead within the society of nobles, but it was still too light of a punishment for someone who attempted murder.
“… Isaac isn’t enrolled in any school.”
Kunette’s words explained everything to Isaac. He was well aware of his lack of rights when he became the Campus’ official punching bag a few years ago, but he didn’t think it would carry on to this extent. Then again, who in the right mind would try to murder someone in the hub of intelligence that is the Campus?
In the history of 300 years of the Campus, there had been 5 cases of murder between students, and they were closely related to the feudal wars that had been going on within the continent. It was like a butterfly effect.
The fight between children soon became one between adults, and since they were all children of high standing families, they began gathering their allies, friends, in-laws and cousins until the Empire nearly succumbed to a civil war between 2 factions.
That’s how serious this incident could have become, but all he was getting was a request to drop out from Campus because Isaac wasn’t enrolled to a school. It seemed both this world and the old found people’s lives to be less than expendable.
“B, but everyone was mad about it. They were saying how the youngest son of some nameless family called Rondart… Ah! I , I mean they were writing to their parents that the members of the Rondart family are a group of depraved… N-no! I mean, that’s…”
With each attempt at comforting Isaac ending in failure, Reisha’s eyes were starting to swell up with tears. Isaac quickly put a stop to this by patting her on the head.
“I know, I know. You were worried about me. Thanks.”
A few gentle pats quickly changed Reisha’s expression to a smile.
The palm sized leaf quickly turned to ash after a few puffs. Just when Isaac finished his first bundle of leaf and began rolling up a new one, Kunette placed her paws on Isaac’s knees.
“Hm? What, you want me to pat you too?”
“…I healed Isaac.”
“Yes, thanks. You did well. You saved my life. I’ll let you have all the honey you want.”
Kunette’s cheeks flushed red. Isaac wasn’t sure if it was because of his patting or the fact he mentioned the word honey.
“By the way, how much do these cost?”
“They aren’t that expensive. It was originally developed for the poor who couldn’t afford proper treatment, so they sell for about 1 Giga each.”
There were 4 types of currencies in this world and arranged from the smallest to largest, they were the Bit, Byte, Mega and Giga. It was simple to just think of them as 1 U.S. dollar for a Bit, 5 dollars for a Byte, 10 dollars for a Mega, and 100 dollars for a Giga. Therefore, Isaac just smoked a hundred-dollar cigarette. You could try saying it’s cheap for some, but is it really affordable to the commoners?
“Isn’t it too expensive?”
“Why? Even the most heavily damaged airways can be healed after 5 of those.”
Reisha’s reaction made Isaac realise that this cigarette wasn’t just a consumable.
“It’s really medicine?”
Isaac looked at the cigarette in between his fingers. Can he really quit after his lungs have fully healed? Maybe if he was never fond of smoking, but how can he when he was a chain smoker in the past? Plus! Unlike the old world’s cigarette, this thing is actually beneficial to the body. He could already feel his body becoming lighter and his mind clearer. Could he truly quit after this? Impossible.
“So where did you get these from?”
“We asked Mr. Gonzales to bring them.”
“I thought I was unconscious for 3 days? The supply ship only comes once every 2 days, so the time doesn’t seem to match there. The day I got hit by the knife wasn’t the day the supply ship comes either. So how did you do it?”
“Mazelan Sunbaenim helped us for that. He personally authorized these goods to be transported for emergency purposes, disregarding the original time schedule so Mr. Gonzales could pick them up on his own.”
“Well, man. If he’s helping me out already, I’ll have a harder time getting his help later in the future.”
It must have been possible for Mazelan who worked in the Capital’s Department of Supplies. He was a valuable asset for the department since he was selected from the College to be one of the managers. His royal status must have helped in some ways as well.
“But what about the money for this?”
The bundle that Kunette gave to Isaac held about 100 leaves in total. It wasn’t that significant of an amount of money for Isaac, but there was no way Kunette or Reisha held that much money themselves.
“Eheh, the truth is we didn’t have any money on ourselves. So we just gave the safe that was in your room to Mr. Gonzales so that he can give it to Mazelan Sunbaenim.”
That safe held Isaac’s entire savings; an estimated 20000 Giga was stored in it. Would Mazelan give back the change to Isaac? Probably in an emergency, but he’ll most likely slowly leak it back to Isaac like drops of water from a faucet that wasn’t shut off properly and tease Isaac with it for a long time while nothing else was happening.
Meanwhile, Reisha seemed to be expecting some words of praise, her eyes wide with anticipation like that of a puppy.
“Do I have to quit smoking now…?”
Isaac knew that wasn’t happening any time soon.