There is a saying in <<Chaos>>.
-If the Great Lands have Sa Myong, Chaos has Jae Gal Myong.
Sa Myong family, known for their unparalleled intellectual superiority among other humans, had only one group which could oppose them in the arts of war. Jae Gal Myong was none other than the leader of that group.
‘So that’s him.’
Jae Gal Myong critically appraised Jae Hwan.
‘He is the one who became a lord in a week?’
Jae Gal Myong was a genius from birth. Hid intelect couldn't be compared with those of his peers’ ever since he was a child. He graduated his tower with outstanding achievements, and, though not as much as Sa Myong, he had been a celebrated strategist in the Great Lands. He rose up in power even faster than the Ark of the Thunder god’s sect, and rode a highway in life to success. If there was one thing that drove him on in life, it was his unyielding assurance that there was not a single man who was smarter than him, and his desperation to prove it.
But his confidence was shaking for the first time in his life, ever since this lord appeared.
He had heard from Kang Hwang Gua. That the new lord was a guy who openly declared his will to fight against the <<Palace of Revival>>. A guy who said he’d recreate the fallen Abyss Expedition team. A guy who was only 50, and yet a lord, and a guy who got on his nerves immensely.
That’s why Jae Gal Myong said, loud and clear,
“Lord. I know of your plans.”
“But I’m afraid to say, you are more than delusional. Currently, you are not even considered a match against the Sovereign’s generals, high rank warriors, or rather even their mid rank soldiers, much less the sovereigns themselves.”
The reason why Jae Gal Myong took part in this tedious tournament was solely to say that.
“did you think that your ideas are novel? Did you think you are the first to have those thoughts? People like you existed 2, 3, hundred years ago too. Do you know what happened to all of them?”
He paused for a theatrical effect.
“They all died.”
Dozens of thousands of years? Or several hundred thousand years?
Chaos was unimaginably old. Had there never been a single radical in that time period? Were there no dreamers until now?
Those dreamers, ‘brave heroes’, often gave hopes to the people who had forgotten what hope was. They once again gave them expectations for the lives they had lost. They reminded them of the life they could have lived, or could be living. That's why they left for Abyss together - the people who trusted them, and the one giving them hope. And this is the tragic story of those who never returned.
Jae Gal Myong endured for four centuries in this world. And that was why this inimitable strategist felt he had the right to say this,
“Do you perchance think that we left this world as is because we are idiots? Because we are incompetent?”
The ones to restrict hope were the ones who understood despair. The ones to obsess over this world’s absurdness were the ones who suffered from it the most.
Jae Gal Myong knew why they couldn’t change. It was because they were all so deeply assimilated into this world already. They feared to look forward. In fear of worse disillusionment and pain, they trampled on the opportunities given to them. That was how these people lived. They learnt how to submit to the world; they wrote an unspoken law to forbid change; they lived a static life. And that was how they survived in Chaos.
In front of Jae Gal Myong, there once again stood a beast of ‘despair’ that enticed the people with his fake mask of ‘hope’. What Jae Gal Myong had to do today was to cut off the stem of this disease before it bloomed.
“Remember this, Lord. This world cannot change.”
With his ultimatum, Jae Gal Myong unfolded his fan of seven crane feathers*. It’s special skill, ‘The emperor’s eye’, that could read every information off of the opponent, activated. But,
[System error! Unable to find info.]
[System error! Unable to find info.]
Jae Gal Myong was taken aback.
Jae Hwan opened his mouth for the first time.
“Are you done talking?” he spoke cooly.
Jae Hwan moved his body, and Self-will moved with perfect refinement. Such grace was refreshing.
It was truly a refreshing thrust.
How long had it been since he was beat like this? It reminded Jae Gal Myong of his childhood, getting chastised by his father for his wrongdoings.
And although the strike did not blame him for his skepticism and cowardice, nor did it admonish him for his wrongs, Jae Gal Myong’s heart felt the bitterness of penitence.
…..But most importantly, it hurt like hell.
His world spun, and it was too late for Jae Gal Myong. A sharp pain assaulted his stomach, and the slow pain after the initial shock made him groan.
‘T, this might not be enough for a high rank warrior, but it might be enough for the mid ranks.’
The pain that soon followed escaped through his mouth as a scream.
The Ark of the Seminary realized that he was sailing the air.
The audiences paled. Their common sense was broken by this display of brute force. They regained their senses only with the announcer’s comment.
-W, what amazing skills! The Lord felled the Ark with a single thrust!
Jae Gal Myong’s body spun in midair before crumbling to the grounds like a rag doll.
Cheers broke out.
“YEAH~ Gorgon’s Lord--!”
What Jae Hwan used was the skill he had created together with Chung Heo a few days ago. [Spiral of death].
The name had been suggested by Kaiman.
When Chung Heo and Jae Hwan were arguing about the name of the skill - whether it should be called the spiral of thrust or spiral of slash - Kaiman cut in exasperated and suggested they call it ‘spiral of death’, as both thrusts and slashes kill things.
Jae Hwan recalled that Kaiman as he looked at Jae Gal Myong.
‘…. Is it because he is a general, not a fighter?’
Kaiman and Jae Gal Myong should both be the same 7th order adapter. But he was as weak as someone like Kang Hwang Gua, who was a 6th order adapter.
It was a letdown.
Chung Heo had said that there are beings who surpasses Jae Hwan by several levels in the [Palace of revival]. And if they cross to the Abyss, the situation would be much worse.
If the ten Arks, beings known as the strongest in Chaos, were only at this level, Jae Hwan might as well go in alone.
Though, when Jae Hwan was about to sheath his blade, Jae Gal Myong slowly raised himself.
“……W, Wait! It’s not over!”
Jae Hwan shook his head.
At those words, Jae Gal Myong’s face twisted piteously. He felt as if his loss was not limited to a battle of physical combat.
‘I refuse to accept this.’
All he had done is talk. He had not even moved a finger. But he was violently assaulted by the man in front of him. Normally, he would never even have called this a ‘match’, and would have disregarded the battle. But he could not understand.
Why did he feel so defeated?
That was what Jae Gal Myong refused to accept. That feeling of defeat. He could not accept it, because his life he led so far would seem so meaningless and futile if he did.
“You think you’ve won?”
Jae Hwan did not answer.
“What the lord did was underhanded.”
Underhanded? Curiosity flashed in Jae Hwan’s eyes.
“….. What do you mean.”
“Do you remember what you said, on the day of your inauguration?”
Of course he did. It was he who made that speech. Jae Hwan could not understand just what Jae Gal Myong was trying to get at.
“’The time limit is one month. Be it an Ark, other Lords, or whoever it is, it doesn't matter. All you have to do is beat me. Then I will hand over the seat.’ Is that not what you said?”
At the same time as his reply, he realized what this guy was talking about.
“You called for a duel. You did not mention the method of battle.”
He was correct. The speech was not something Jae Hwan put great consideration into anyways. It had been more of an impromptu.
“I did not come here to have a combat battle with you.”
“I came here to have a battle of wits with you.”
His reasoning made sense logically, but logic often contends with ethics. The heated and jolly atmosphere of the arena cooled down in an instant as censures poured down like rain.
“Booooo! That’s dirty!”
“Say you lost like a man!”
“Stop being a pussy!”
Chung Heo also clicked his tongue from the front row of the spectator’s seat.
“I knew that worm would come out like this.”
“Indeed. An unscrupulous act befitting someone like that.”
Shin also nodded his head.
“However, a battle of wits would be difficult….”
Chung Heo shook his head. He already knew what Jae Gal Myong meant by ‘a battle of wits’.
“He’s probably gonna play that.”
“Play? A game?”
“You know, that guy’s favorite game.”
Chung Heo grinded his teeth.
“The game of those Sovereign shits.”
Shin also seemed to realize what that was.
“Still, it should be fun to watch.”
From behind them, cheers exploded. Jae Hwan had accepted Jae Gal Myong’s ‘game of wits’. With his assent, the stage began to change in shape using illusions. Twisting and contracting, until it created a big field with streams and hills here and there, with some areas covered by fogs, and some areas made into mountain regions. At the edge of this field was a dessert.
It looked like a collection of miniature versions of various terrains.
A message followed after the transformation.
[Welcome to the world of war.]
In front of Jae Hwan, there appeared another message.
[You are new! You can check the manual for the rules of the game. Do you wish to read the manual?]
He pressed ‘yes’.
“…. World of war? What’s this.”
Did Jae Gal Myong mean this when he said ‘a battle of wits’? Jae Hwan was taken aback a bit. This was largely disadvantageous for him. He had a mind to cancel this battle and send the Ark flying again.
As if he read Jae Hwan’s thoughts, Jae Gal Myong replied in a panicked tone.
“This is just a simple game.”
He smiled awkwardly.
“It was made by one of the 13 Masters, the Nightmare [Marlsu]. He got the idea from a game he saw in some world. It got really popular and the sovereigns also play it in the Great lands….”
‘…. Also, this is the game I am best at.’
“Well, it’s not really a hard game, even if it is your first time. The game is basically a test of your critical thinking and planning. You create your troops and position them to fight your opponent.”
Jae Hwan read the manual quickly.
“Hmm. It is quite simple.”
Jae Gal Myong sneered at that inwardly.
‘Let’s see how far your conceit carries you.’
In truth, the outcome was already drawn at this point. Watching Jae Hwan’s serene face, Jae Gal Myong muttered to himself.
‘You already lost, Lord. Because, I have never once lost in this game.’
But there was something he did not know.
‘This game was copied off of a game from some world?’
Jae Hwan’s lips twitched. He knew where that world was.
He had said he never played this game before, but it was only half true. Because he was well familiar with this. He had played this game thousands of times. Or more accurately, in his home world, this game was played by people of his generations a lot.
‘…. These nightmares. This is just plagiarism.’
World of war. Made by one of the [Masters], the legendary Nightmare, ‘Marlsu of riddles’ to promote the practice of tactical maneuvers in the Great lands. It contained a scenario where three races warred against each other. A game where you collect resources, create units, and destroy the opponents bases.
Jae Hwan knew exactly what this game was.
“Is this terrain fine?”
The map Jae Gal Myong chose was shown on Jae Hwan’s screen.
[Player Jae Gal Myong has selected the [lost garden] as this game’s playing field]
Jae Gal Myong’s biggest misfortune today was his ignorance of Jae Hwan’s original world.