Even in the aftermath of the 7 Days of Calamity, the world was consumed in chaos. Every surviving race pooled their knowledge, their secrets and technologies all towards the struggle for survival. In those days, communication with other races was most crucial.
There was a magic that allowed its users to materialise their consciousness in a single location, no matter how far away their bodies were. But once used, the same people could use it again for some time. And the recipients had to be asleep for this magic to work. Because of these flaws, this magic was buried in the sands of time beneath the Queen’s invented Communicator technology.
Which was why this was humanity’s final trump card, hidden by the Dark Royale until the end. Flying under the Queen’s radar for one last time.
“I can’t believe it. A meeting in a dream? Magic sure is magical. I really hope this doesn’t just become some weird dream to me when I wake up.”
Isaac muttered, and the Emperor chuckled with him.
“You might be right. This magic has disappeared even from the official records.”
Duke Pendleton agreed with the Emperor, nodding along.
“I too have only heard of this magic. I never thought I’d be using it myself.”
“If this is a dream, why couldn’t they spice this place up with some beautiful women in bikinis dancing in the background? It’s a sausage fest with just three men here…”
Isaac clucked his tongue. The Emperor and Duke Pendleton frowned.
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
“Considering that no woman is more beautiful than my daughter, you dare to even desire seeing my daughter dance around half naked?”
Isaac and the Emperor were no match for Duke Pendleton’s undying love for his daughter, and they shook their heads in defeat.
“Let’s get this over and done with. We don’t know when this will end. You’re all caught up with the current situation, right?”
“We’ve provided you with everything we know. But there’s nothing.”
“There is no way to overturn the Grand Council’s decision.”
Isaac moved to take out a cigarette out of habit before realising he was in a dream. He dashed his lips disappointedly, speaking.
“There is someone who said this in my world once. It takes a long time to change something, but making something new is much quicker.”
“What do you mean?”
“If it’s difficult to change the game, end it and start a new one.”
As Isaac explained, a myriad of emotions ran through the Emperor’s and Duke Pendleton’s faces.
“You think that will be possible?”
The Emperor asked when Isaac finished explaining. Isaac shrugged and answered
“It’d be difficult if I was alone, but with Dark Royale, yes. Even so, the chances are 50/50.”
“Then we must put our lives on that half.”
“You must make preparations in case it fails too.”
“If it means we avoid war…”
The Emperor muttered. Isaac looked at Duke Pendleton.
“What about you, Duke Pendleton?”
“I too would like to believe in its success, if there is a chance of it. But Isaac, if things do go as you’ve planned, you will most certainly die.”
“Have you ever seen me try to live?”
“Hng… I’m leaving my daughter to do unspeakable things.”
“Total secrecy is paramount here. Especially you, Duke Pendleton. If you even mention something in front of her, the Queen will quickly notice that something’s up.”
“… Do you not care? My daughter will come to kill you.”
“In a world-ending apocalyptic event, the main cast takes the stage, not an extra like myself. The side characters and extras should leave the stage to the protagonists.”
Said Isaac. The Emperor and Duke Pendleton looked at Isaac, before bowing.
“I salute you, in place of the Empire, for your decision.”
“I salute you, as the head of Pendleton, for your decision.”
“Nonsense. Thank you for giving a stage for the monster to wreak havoc.”
Retien was a rural village nestled in a mountain valley near Gabelin. Most residents were retired old men and women, living out the rest of their days peacefully with nature. The village rarely had visitors, as it strayed slightly from the main arteries connecting the major cities. And with the recent advances in logistics and transportation, Reiten was only visited by small-time merchants selling daily groceries and administrative officers.
“You came right on time. I was just about to run out of choyu leaves.”
“Haha. That’s why I came here. I’m the only one who sells for you right?”
“Yes. Yes you are.”
Aaron smiled at Mr. Gonzales as he paid for the choyu leaves.
“But aren’t you bored living in this place at such a young age?”
Gonzales asked as he went to take out some food from his truck. Aaron lit his choyu leaf and answered.
“Despite how I look, I live a successful life. But making so much money so young—I’ve seen too many things that I didn’t want to see. I get a headache just thinking about them.”
“You say the same thing every time.”
Gonzales complained. Aaron smiled and changed the topic.
“But I am interested in what’s happening out there. Is there anything interesting happening?”
Aaron asked. Gonzales nodded.
“Sure is. New Port City was in quite the ruckus for some time.”
“Duchess Laila announced her marriage.”
“Hm? Why are you so surprised?”
“No. I’m just surprised. So who’s the groom?”
Aaron asked. And Gonzales answered with an almost sinister smile.
“That’s the part everyone’s talking about. He’s a non-human.”
“Yeah. What was it again? It’s the race that turns into a white bear.”
“… North Bear?”
“Yes! North Bears. And I hear he’s the captain of the warriors. I think his name was Rizzly.”
“Hm? What’s with your face? You look like a man whose daughter was just stolen from you.”
“Ahaha. Of course not. I just thought the disparity in their ages was too much.”
“Hey now, you can’t calculate the age between us humans and non-humans like that.”
Gonzales and Aaron continued to exchange small talk as he unloaded his goods. Gonzales complained that his daughter needed to get married, but her personality was too strong. His earnest son was begging him to retire from working as a wandering merchant and allow him to take the family’s mantle. And his second son was learning under the famous accountant Count Cordnell after graduation. It was more so boasting than small talk. But after all was said and done, he hastily entered the truck, saying he needed to get back to Gabelin.
As Gonzales left, Isaac—no, Aaron—whose real identity was Joon-young, bade him farewell. He then sat on his terrace and sipped on his coffee, watching the clouds dissipate.
When he opened his eyes and realised he wasn’t dead, the first thing he felt was annoyance. He found himself in a place he’d never seen before and quickly realised he was in another body. He was seriously contemplating suicide when he found a letter left by the Queen.
When he finished reading the letter, he realised the true meaning behind the Queen’s last words—to take his time. When the Grand Council massacred all the invaders, the Queen had kept one body in secret. Not for herself, but for Isaac.
Everything had been laid out already. Aaron was a businessman who made a fortune at a young age through his investments, but he was sick and tired of envious friends and families who wanted to take the money for themselves. So he retired to Retien, living a peaceful life up to this point. The village Retien in itself was a stage prepared for Isaac.
In the end, the Queen never planned on killing Isaac. But did she keep it a secret from him as a present or out of spite? No one would know now.
Noticing a faint shadow from afar, he quickly extinguished his choyu leaf. He had many visitors today, he thought. Because the great villain, Isaac, enjoyed choyu leaves, even the patients who used them for good reason did so in secret. Those admiring the villainy would smoke it openly, making them popular for delinquents and the like. So smoking it in the open was a no-go.
“Hello! Wow! I heard this was a village full of retired people, but I didn’t think there would be such a young man here.”
“Wow. To meet three such beauties, I think I can die happy now.”
“Hohoho. That’s embarrassing. Ah. I’m Reisha. That is Kunette. And she over there is Rivelia.”
Reisha introduced herself, but Aaron quickly noticed Kunette and Rivelia glaring intensely at him. Aaron chuckled and answered.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Aaron. But what are you ladies doing in such a quaint little village? Not many people even know this village exists.”
“Because we heard that this is a good place for retirement.”
“Retirement? Aren’t you too young for retirement?”
“Hoho. Speak for yourself, Mr. Aaron.”
“Ah, you’re right.”
Reisha and Aaron laughed together. Kunette spoke.
“… It smells.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Living alone can make you lazy, and I haven’t washed myself.”
“That’s not it. The smell is… Sniff sniff! It smells like a choyu leaf. Did you smoke one?”
Aaron nodded reluctantly at Reisha’s deduction.
“Ahem. Because this town is so quiet, there’s nothing like a choyu leaf to pass some time. Of course, it’s not because I admire that filthy man. I wouldn’t dare speak of him.”
“Really now? Ah! We brought some lunch here, would you like to join us?”
“Ahaha. I’ve already had some lunch.”
“Really? Then we’ll have our lunch. Thank you.”
“If you go that way a little more, you’ll see the village plaza. It’s a great place; you can see all of Gabelin from there.”
“No. That’s fine. We’ll eat here.”
Reisha declined Aaron’s suggestion and took out a large cloth from her basket. She placed it on Aaron’s lawn, and Kunette and Rivelia sat whilst still glaring at him.
“Ahem. There aren’t many things more uncanny than just watching someone else eat. I shall go back to my house. Enjoy your meal.”
“Hey, don’t be like that. Who knows? Maybe there’s something you like here.”
“Well, I’m not exactly hungry so…”
Aaron spoke before his words trailed off. He watched silently as food came out of the basket. Ramen, kimbap, bulgogi, hamburgers, coke, sprite, and fried chicken.
Isaac saw the three look suspiciously at him. He smiled bitterly into the air, and sighed.
Aaron took out a cigarette, and the three jolted up from their place.
“I knew it! It’s you, sunbaenim!”
Isaac dashed his lip in disappointment, seeing all that glorious food fall on the ground as the three ran towards him.