[At the end of the day, everything is of survival.]
<<This month in Chaos>> junior reporter, Renius Bell.
The west Fort, Manticore.
The news of Magrit’s death caused Jin a great shock.
“What are you talking about?”
What he had heard was something that could not have happened. After all, it was one of the three colossal deceased they were talking about. They were analogous to the 9th order adapters of the <<Great Lands>> - by ranks, a being who could contend with at least the mid rank soldier class.
The Ark of Forbidden Heavens, Jin, sent an investigation squad to Gorgon. Four days later, he was notified of the death of that squad.
[.... Ten days have passed since Magrit, the colossal deceased, was disposed of. There appeared a few major changes in Gorgon. The biggest of them were the citizens. As I passed the street, I happened to engage an elderly in a conversation…]
Renius Bell, a reporter of <<This month in Chaos>>, stopped scribbling and turned his head.
“What do you think changed in Gorgon after that incident?”
The one receiving his question was a well built old man shouldering a giant gaksu horn. He seemed to be a carpenter with his hammers and chisels attached to his waist belt. Renius inferred the man’s low status from the way he was laboring, and decided that there was no better interviewee for him.
“Life improved.” The man answered.
Renius had seen no visible change so far regarding the quality of living in Gorgon. He would not have seen it even if he had investigated closely, because he was only 30 years old. He was one of those who had yet to see the peculiarity of this world.
“Exactly how did it become better?”
“Well, first off, living is a bit easier.”
Gorgon was currently savoring her incomes with affluence. The impact of relocating six of the 10 sects’ main bases to Gorgon had been large. The multitude of the strong that had yet to leave the fortress contributed significantly to its economy and horn harvest.
But that did not seem to be enough to bring this much of a change that Renius saw in the streets.
“But it’s strange, isn't it? What do you think brought this change?”
From the outside, Gorgon was in a pathetic state. The Fortress had been mostly destroyed from the recent invasion, and the majority of her residents had lost their homes. Not to mention the sheer number of people who died that day.
However, the strange thing was the atmosphere of Gorgon. Smiles and whistles escaped from the inhabitants who were fixing their roofs, or other’s roofs, or roofs in general, and the voices of those who shared horns (share horns!) held a tone of exuberance. This was a spectacle that could be seen nowhere on Chaos.
“Well, you haven’t seen the [path of the wave].”
[Path of the wave] was what they called the phenomenon of that column of light that parted the sea of deceased a few days ago.
Renius only heard of it.
Great poet Euphrates, who had been at the scene, expressed it this way,
-It was as if Mother Nature knelt before that man.
But Renius had not seen it, and he could not fathom it. What do you mean a single man made a ‘path’ in a wave of countless deceased? That is not possible.
‘Even if it was…’
Anyways, what mattered was that these people referred to it as ‘splitting the sea’, thought young Renius.
The day that happened, Renius’s senior reporters, reporters and journalists of <<This month in Chaos>> were gathered in Chaos. The last message they had left before disappearing was,
-In life, there are more important matters than a line of articles.
Renius could not imagine what it was that captivated them to throw away their lives like that. What had happened that day?
“Anyways Gorgon became better to live in. That’s all an ignorant guy like me can tell you.”
The burly man left him with those words. He carried the horn into a small hut that read ‘medic’ above the door. Renius followed the man in on impulse.
“Oi, I brought a new horn.”
“Ahh, Thank you!”
Doctors who ran towards the man observed the state of the horn.
“This is a four horned gaksu’s horn… We can’t process this with our…”
“That’s why I came here personally.”
The man laughed and started grinding the horn with his hammer and chisel. A paper was placed below it to collect the powder. Nurses and doctors exclaimed, and Renius also followed in their clamor. Albeit he was just a junior reporter, he knew the hardness of a four horned gaksu’s horn. Only a craftsman of considerable skills should be able to powderize the horn that easily.
‘He was not just a normal guy?’
Renius’s curiosity was soon resolved.
“Hoo, as expected of the vice-head…!”
Powders made from the old man’s [process] skill flowed into the patient’s’ bodies.
“Thank you… Really, thank you.”
“It was nothing much, haha.”
Medicines made of four horned gaksu’s horn were seldom seen in other forts.
‘I guess this place is for nobles.’
But he corrected himself. The patients did not look rich, so they could not have paid for the horn.
He asked in astonishment.
“... Was the medicine right now for free?”
“Hrm? Ahh, yes.”
The old man answered. Most of the patients here were non-adapters.
“How are you doing this? If you give out horns of that degree for free then…”
“The lord hunts them and brings back the horns himself so there is no problem.”
“Yeah. Every time he goes out, he comes back with a few hundred of ‘em. We don't have any shortage here.”
Renius was young, but he still knew that a lord hunting for gaksu horns was not normal.
“If you hadn’t lived here, you wouldn’t understand.”
Unlike his lukewarm tone, something akin to pride welled up in the old man’s face. Junior reporter Renius looked at the man whom he now knew the identity.
Vice-head of <Twilight’s shadow>, Meikal Garnad. The only man who is capable of processing a garnak’s horn, and Gorgon’s greatest blacksmith.
‘Someone like that is making this kind of expression.’
A young soul like Renius still remembered the name of the expression on the old man’s face. It was hope.
Those who lived in Chaos for more than 100 years did not use the term ‘life’ easily, as that word was a contradiction. But Meikal was using it.
Renius leafed through his memo, and found the headline he had written when he first got this topic.
[Lord of Gorgon; the savior of Chaos? Or the calamity?]
He became suddenly self-conscious, and silently erased the headline. When he lifted his head again, he looked outside, at the streets, and at the smiling residents. He continued to look at them, before he felt a sudden indescribable tingling at the tip of his hand.
Something that is neither a miracle, nor a calamity. Something that was both. Something that they did not know where it would head to, but rather it defined their potential to move towards something.
And Renius wrote. He wrote his enlightenment on his notepad.
[The people of Gorgon started to ‘live’.]
Despite being the author of that sentence, Renius did not completely comprehend what it meant. But he nevertheless felt the importance of it, and pocketed it carefully.
Perhaps this might become big.
What made Renius jump as he was contemplating his newfound journalism power was an explosion from the palace. Smoke was billowing out.
“What happened?” He asked Meikal.
“It happened often these days.”
Explosions of that size should have been made by a higher order adapter. Renius’s mind went through various scenarios in a fraction of a second.
‘Wait, there are now six bases of the sects.’
He had forgotten because it had been unusually quiet. Up to three sects in a single Fort without a battle for power every day would have been a wonder. And Gorgon had six of the ten sects.
“Is a war going on between the sects?”
“I guess you could call that a war.”
He laughed as he watched the five distant figures soaring the air.
“Five today, eh.”
Inside Gorgon palace’s training hall.
The Arks with mangled faces were arranged neatly, kneeling, in front of Jae Hwan.
They shivered from the disgrace. They had never been spoken to like that.
“Were you playing around the past centuries?”
They wanted to retort, but they had no excuses. Except for Shin, the second Ark, the rest of the five had just been utterly defeated as a group.
Yun Yong, the weakest among the five, trembled recalling Jae Hwan’s thrust.
Jae Hwan opened his mouth with a cold face.
“Yun Yong. All you're good at is running away.”
Yun Yong hung his head.
Jae Hwan continued.
“Kang Hwang you're too slow.”
Kang Hwang twitched his lips.
“Ja Guk Lyung is fast but her stamina is abysmal.”
She bit her lips.
“Jae Gal Myong, you take too long to think.”
Jae Gal Myong scratched his cheeks.
“Kaiman you’re okay. You don’t have any particular weakness. You don't have any fortes too.”
After Kaiman nodded in acceptance, Jae Hwan looked at all of them and said,
“And all of you have the one single glaring problem. Do you know what it is?”
The Arks tensed and waited.
“You’re all weak as shit but your filthy pride is uselessly high.”
The Ark’s faces twisted pitifully.
And there were two old men watching this slander from the corner. It was Shin and Chung Heo.
“Thanks to him, I feel all fresh and fluffy.”
Chung Heo snickered. He had always wanted to say something like that to their faces.
“Those gramps are also weak for living a thousand years.”
Chung Heo froze.
But Jae Hwan was right. To his standards, and even to Chung Heo’s standards, the current expedition was way too weak.
‘They are way lacking than 900 years ago.’
The ten sects 900 years ago were all of at least 7th order adapters. The top five were 8th order, and the first seat was a 9th order adapter. The leader of the past expedition, Myullock, had even surpassed the 9th order, but it had been a difficult expedition regardless. That was just how the strong the monsters in Chaos are.
“You remember that trip we had recently?”
Yun Yong replied. Jae Hwan was talking about the trip to the north branch of Forbidden Heavens four days ago.
“Half of you got critically injured and some of you almost died.”
Four days ago, confronting the Forbidden Heavens, the Arks were shocked by their strength. Yun Yong, a 6th order adapter, almost died, and Jae Gal Myong was wounded badly. They did not attack Forbidden Heaven’s main base at Manticore, but a small office branch in the north, and had taken such casualties.
A killing machine possessing the power of a deceased and the sentience of a human. The Arks could understand how Forbidden Heavens managed to overthrow a Fort by themselves.Each phantom was at least as strong as a 6th order adapter. With dozens of hundreds of them, seizing a fort would not have been hard. There was a rumor the west Fort Garuda was currently fighting an army of these weapons.
“You can’t even fight a single sect properly. How could we go on an ‘expedition’?”
Jae Hwan’s reproach made the Ark’s stare at the floor.
“From today on for a week, I will implement a special training program for you guys.”
They understood that they had to get stronger, but doubted the timeframe of the training. How would they get stronger in a week?
Jae Gal Myong raised his hand.
“Lord, can I ask you a question?”
He was ashamed of raising his hand like a child when he was over 400 years old.
“Everyone in this room is an adapter.”
“Do you know that the order of an adapter is not something you can climb in so short a time?”
Order of an adapter went from 1 to 15.
“It depends on each person’s talent, but normally, a non-adapter takes about 10 years to transform into a first order adapter. It takes first orders 20 years to become second order, 40 years to become 3rd order, and 80 years for them to become 4th order. Majority of humans die before living that long.”
It takes double the time to develop into the next stage. That was why 4th order adapters were called ‘high order adapters’. There are not many who can survive as an ‘adapter’ for 150 years.
“But humans are said to face their limits at the 7th order. That’s where the phrase ‘the boundary of humans is the 7’ comes from.”
The ten Arks are considered the representation of humans of Chaos, because they could reach the 6th or 7th order faster than most. But the Arks knew that this was their peak.
Jae Hwan asked,
“I have heard that you are an awakened.”
“I don’t know for sure, but this world calls me that.”
“There is not much that I know about awakeneds. Actually there is not much anyone knows about awakeneds.”
Unlike their knowledge of adapters which are plenty, their knowledge of awakeneds are short. No one knew how one could ‘awaken’, nor what awakeneds truly were.
“What I know of them are from rumors only. I heard that they do not ‘awaken’ through continuous practice, but a sudden enlightenment.”
Jae Hwan recalled the first time he had obtained [Selflessness]. It was true that he had faced some kind of enlightenment, when he threw away the system and became a ‘self’. At the end, what brought his [Selflessness] was an explosion of emotions. A burst of energy that emptied him and filled him up again.
“What do you want to tell me?”
“The lord knows we cannot get stronger like that.”
Jae Gal Myong’s eyes shone.
“Then do you intend to make us into an awakened?”