“The demon wasn’t here. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I guess it ran away.”
Colins answered nonchalantly, to which Isaac smacked him in the back of his head.
“Ah, seriously. I may look like this, but I’m quite high up in rank, you know. You’re embarrassing me in front of my men.”
Colins complained as he rubbed his head. Isaac laughed and asked.
“Oh, is that so? Then may I ask what your rank is?”
“I am the Commander of the Independence Army’s 1st regiment, Colonel.”
“Hah. Good on you to rise so high. Was it fun playing soldier all this time? A sergeant getting to wear the rose of sharon.1EDN: The rose of Sharon (무궁화, romanized as Mugunghwa) is the national flower of Korea and the flower’s shape is used in various emblems, including college graduations, government documents, military honours, etc. Reference. Are you reaching for the stars now?”
“Hey, don’t be like that. Of course we reserved a place for you, Lord Isaac.”
“Really now? What’s my rank?”
“You are Commander of the Independence Army’s Special Forces. Major General.”
“Oh. I get to wear a star? Looks like I succeeded in life. But is that rank higher than a Duke’s?”
Isaac and Colins continued to bicker with each other as they headed for the exit. Behind them followed Rivelia’s group and Invaders, constantly at guard against each other.
When they arrived at the keep’s gates, which had been strangely closed again, Colins couldn’t hide his excitement.
“That fellow Mazelan seemed capable enough, so I’m sure he’ll cover up what happened today well. While he works on that, we will move to New Port City.”
“You seem happy?”
“Of course. How long I have waited for this day! It is just the beginning.”
Colins, taken by his anticipation to writing history, boldly opened the gates with a grin. Beyond the gate was the city, being devoured by the flames.
Pillars of smoke and fire enveloped the city. People poured out onto the streets, crying for help. They begged and wailed, reaching for the airship in the sky that was far above them.
Everyone froze at this unforeseen event. While the Invaders were in a state of panic, Colins shouted.
“Comms. Connect us!”
One of the invaders pulled out the Communicator. He spun the dials about and answered.
“They’ve gone dark! We can’t connect with other squads!”
“Impossible! It was created personally by the Queen! It cannot break! Of course! The Queen! Connect us to her!”
“We can’t connect to her either!”
The Invader shook his head at Colins’ order. Colins pulled out a radio from his pocket.
“I didn’t think radio waves worked here.”
Isaac mumbled astonishingly, when Colins shouted into the radio.
“This is the regiment Commander. Lift radio silence. Report in!”
Colins attempted to send a radio message over and over again. After many tries, it connected, and a voice emerged from the radio amidst the heavy static.
-This is the 3rd company! We’ve been tricked! Run! Uaaaack!
The call ended with a scream. Only static remained until the connection was cut off.
While everyone was frozen at this turn of events, Colins continued to tune the radio, calling for his companies. When all of his attempts failed, he threw the radio onto the ground.
“… We’ve been tricked?”
Colins mumbled a frightening expression on his face. Isaac watched the burning city and its residents apathetically. The chaos he’d grown so tired of was laid out in front of him once again. It seemed the Invaders had also been used as a tool.
‘You were so confident before, and this is how it ends?’
“What the, this isn’t a disease…”
One of the Invaders spoke to himself. Others looked around them, and they saw the residents running, only to fall over as they spat blood. Those around the victim screamed and tried to escape, but they only managed a few steps before they too collapsed, throwing up blood. The crowd ran like headless chickens before they all fell.
Their bodies continued to twitch as blood spurt from their mouths. Kunette held Isaac’s clothes tightly with her trembling hands. Isaac sighed and patted Kunette’s head to calm her.
“So this is why the city’s in chaos. Any one of you, go back into the keep.”
One of the Invaders reentered the keep with a worried look. He came back out with great surprise.
“I can’t hear anything the moment I enter. It’s as if the keep is in a different world.”
Isaac clicked his tongue and spoke to Reisha.
“Can you connect to Mazelan sunbae?”
“Our Communicators are broken too. Not only are we cut off with this city but everywhere else too.”
“It’s a trap.”
Isaac came to the simple conclusion. Colins shouted back.
“Who could possibly set us up like this!”
“Are you seriously going to ask such an obvious question?”
“Kukuku! You’re right. It is such an obvious question.”
The Tiger approached them, carefully avoiding the people on the street. Not out of concern, but rather disdain.
“Why did the Inspector?”
Colins stared with disbelief at the Tiger.
“Foolish, as you’d expect from a human. Did you really think we would join hands with humans?”
The Tiger ridiculed him with a snicker. Isaac cocked his head and asked.
“I don’t understand. What else could you have gained other than ever so slightly culling the human population?”
The Tiger laughed in response.
“The results are more than satisfactory. Do you see? The power of its infectivity. And how symptoms manifest almost immediately. Anyone who is infected coughs up blood until they die.”
“So it was you who spread it.”
“How dare you play with us!”
Colins shouted as he aimed his gun at the Tiger. All the other Invaders did likewise. The Tiger chuckled.
“I think it’s about time for it to kick in.”
As soon as the Tiger finished his sentence, one of the Invaders collapsed, blood dripping from his mouth. Everyone else looked in surprise, only to fall in the same way.
“The defensive coat doesn’t negate it?”
Colins could barely speak as he spat out blood.
“Haven’t I said it already? The end results are satisfactory. It’s a virus that only infect humans.”
“Sunbaenim, Rivelia is!”
Reisha held Rivelia in her arms. Although Rivelia wasn’t hawking up blood, she didn’t seem able to stand on her feet.
“It can get past defensive coats and even cripple a swordmaster? What kind of poison did they make?”
Isaac mumbled as he looked at Rivelia. The only people who seemed fine were Isaac himself and non-humans.
“But why am I fine?”
Isaac cocked his head as he examined his own body. He didn’t feel any sickness.
“Good question. Why are you fine?”
The Tiger, now only inches away from Isaac, growled.
“Ah! The Queen’s artefact is made of a dragon’s bone. Tsk. Lucky bastard.”
The Tiger, answering his own question, dashed his lips in disappointment as he tapped Isaac’s cheek with his claw, when he suddenly pulled his hand back.
Kunette’s jaws chomped, attempting to bite the Tiger’s hand. She clutched her jaws in pain, having failed to bite his fingers off. The Tiger spoke.
“Hey now! That was dangerous. It’ll be troublesome if you act like this. Calm down. I’m just trying to heal that human female.”
“… You have the vaccine too?”
Isaac spoke as he looked at the syringe in Tiger’s hand.
“It’s my will that all humans are wiped from this world, but not many people agree with this idea. The Pendletons will receive a vaccine. And…”
The Tiger stopped his sentence. He approached Isaac, who had a cigarette in his mouth, and sliced the blunt in half with his claw.
“I thought I warned you not to smoke choyu leaves in front of me.”
“… I apologise.”
Isaac lowered his head as if terrified by the Tiger’s stare. The Tiger bared its fang as he smiled.
“Kuku, good. Know your place. You’ll be better for it.”
“I’ll remember. But how did this biological weapon bypass the defensive coat? It was designed to have protections against biological warfare, wasn’t it? Others lost consciousness, but they haven’t.”
“It’s because of the defensive coat.”
“I see. But won’t they come back in a new body if they die?”
“Huhuhu. No matter. Our target was the Strategy agents in the first place.”
“The Strategy agents?”
Isaac asked, as the Tiger approached Rivelia. Reisha continued to stare alertly at the Tiger as he stabbed the syringe into Rivelia’s neck.
“The broadcast will start soon. We will spread the terrors of this plague all over the continent. And the panic will multiply if we just mention that all of Central’s agents fled in fear after contracting this disease.”
“The Emperor won’t stand for that.”
Isaac asked as he handed Kunette to Rizzly. The Tiger snorted.
“What can he do with just the Dark Royale now that the entire Strategy has been wiped off. Mobilise the Empire’s army?”
“So you feigned cooperating in order to gather all of Strategy’s forces in one place.”
“Huhu. You’re pretty smart.”
The Tiger snickered. Colins—who still hadn’t lost consciousness despite the copious amount of blood dripping from his mouth—shouted, glaring at the Tiger.
“Cough! Cough! The Queen won’t stand for this.”
“That’s right! Even the Grand Council would never approve of such abhorrent atrocity!”
“Kuku. So this is why antagonists like to prattle. It’s so entertaining.”
The Tiger delivered a monologue as he laughed.
“But how are you going to broadcast it? It’ll be difficult to cover up everything.”
Isaac asked, to which the Tiger pointed to the sky.
“We will only broadcast what is being filmed from that airship.”
From so far away, they can only assume what’s happening. And with such chaos around, they fabricate a situation if they used a couple of other images.
“What about us?”
“The airship will continue to broadcast until they spot us, the survivors, and land to rescue us.”
“And we will be isolated to check for symptoms, be declared free of infection, and released.”
“That’s correct. Good, it’s over. A Swordmaster is too much of a challenge even for me, so I made adjustments to the dose of the vaccine. You’ll be powerless for some time. Ah! There you are.”
The Tiger seemed satisfied with Rivelia’s state when he saw the Three-eyed and Wolf coming over. As the Tiger went to greet them, he smacked Isaac’s head.
“You’ll be my toy from now on. Enjoy it.”
“… An honour.”
Isaac grovelled without any ill expression. Reisha, Rizzly, and Kunette watched warily at the scene.
“What of the Pendleton woman?”
“I’ve administered the vaccine.”
The Tiger answered the Three-eyed’s question respectfully. When the Three-eyed nodded happily, the Tiger relaxed his body and asked the Wolf.
“DId you finish them all off?”
“It’s quite effective. The defensive coat was completely nullified.”
“Make the preparations.”
The Three-eyed spoke as the Tiger and Wolf talked to each other. Looking up, the Tiger saw the airship approaching them. He called out to Isaac.
“There they come. Why don’t you wave at them? The more pathetic you look, the more interesting it’ll be..”
“Did you get a new toy?”
“It’ll be fun to break it later.”
“Lucky you. Maybe I should have come instead.”
The Wolf dashed his lips as he watched Isaac, when Isaac asked.
“I have one question.”
“How did you infect the entire city when only the Keep was infected by the plague?”
“Huhuhu. We originally planned to infect the entire city, but that angel bitch ruined it. So we had to come personally.”
“I can’t imagine how much of this poison you’d need to infect this entire city.”
“It’s not poison. It’s a stimulant that sends the virus into overdrive. Its only real downside is that producing it is difficult and it doesn’t last very long, so we planned to use it against the combat agents equipped with the defensive coats. The results were ideal, as you can…”
“So infecting the combat agents was just another step.”
“That’s right. The plague will wipe the Empire from this world.”
- 1EDN: The rose of Sharon (무궁화, romanized as Mugunghwa) is the national flower of Korea and the flower’s shape is used in various emblems, including college graduations, government documents, military honours, etc. Reference.