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The World after the Fall 9

by Sing-Shong

Translated by Chochocobo | Edited by Yzrahc

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Episode 1. 10 Billion Thrusts (9)

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He had thought that it was impossible, but how else could he describe the scene before his eyes. If he's not an Awakened, then what the hell is he?
But he didn't have the luxury to remain startled. Thousands of blade light beams aimed towards Beastrain were flying towards him.
The pressure on Beastrain began to grow stronger and stronger. 
He threw out multiple Claws in panic in order to block the beams.
Block, block, and block once more.
But it was only after he had successfully blocked every strike that he realized that it was too late.
"......Just what is this?"
He suddenly felt as though he were being ripped apart.
There were no signs of a lethal injury on Beastrain's body. But if that was the case, where did he get attacked?
"Don't worry. You probably won't die. But it's probably more painful than dying."
Jae Hwan had not attacked Beastrain's soul, but rather the line that came outside of the tower and led to his soul. Jae Hwan didn't know exactly what it was, but he knew that it was a link from the 《Great Lands》.
A line connecting the body and the soul.
Jae Hwan's Thrusts had torn that link into shreds.
Beastrain was writhing in indescribable pain.
This was the last time he would ever hear it.
Jae Hwan spoke up while panting.
“Humans are not mere objects that you can just buy or sell like you bastards think. We are not Products that can be quantified by level or status; we are not animals that can be assigned a value based on such ridiculous standards.”
The《Nightmare Tower》was now shaking at a rate visible to the naked eye. Jae Hwan kept speaking.
“I refuse to play along with the scenario that you had designed for me any longer. I'm going to break everything here and go onto the next floor. I'll climb higher and higher and witness this damned world that you and your kind have made until the very end."
Beastrain was mortified at this Product that he had groomed. Not even 4th Stage Adapters exuded the same sort of pressure as the Jae Hwan who stood right before his eyes did.
An Awakened that had reached the realm of「Selflessness」.
An existence that could not be quantified by the System, an existence whose very being had no base. The master of the Tower, Beastrain, could not longer read the stats of the Jae Hwan in front of him.
[User Info]
Name : ??????????????
Title : ?????????????? 
Class : ??????????????
Unique Ability : ??????????????
Acquired Skill : ?????????????? 
Beastrain shouted amidst the excruciating pain he was experiencing.
“Please stop, please! The next floor...... there's no such thing as a next floor!”
“No, there is. It's there, the next floor.”
Jae Hwan hadn't attacked Beastrain while rambling on about some 'next floor' for no reason.
"There must be."
From the 1st floor to the 99th.
When Jae Hwan had scoured the tower in order to find other survivors, he had come across a strange graffiti-like statement on the wall of the passage leading towards the 78th floor.
Tower within the tower. Nightmare within the nightmare.
There were also clues like this.
The Tower, 66th floor. On the back of the chair that Succubus, the boss of the 66th Floor, sat on was an engraving.
「Eventually, all Nightmare Towers will be nothing more than imitations of the 'First Nightmare' that sits atop the《Illusion Tree》. In recent, my work induces in me only one thought. With every attempt to borrow the power of the First Nightmare, I am confronted with the same problem. Every Tower that I have created serves only as 'roots' to maintain the  ‘First Nightmare’ on top of the 《Illusion Tree》.」
It was the engravings of a frustrated craftsman.
Jae Hwan was almost completely certain that this graffiti, this engraving, was a clue that hinted towards a hidden piece that existed in the tower. There was a similar graffiti on the 47th floor.
「And so I dared to arrive at a most profane and blasphemous thought. In order to witness the secret of creation, must we climb the《Illusion Tree》that exists in the center of the Great Lands? Then after climbing the ‘Trunk' and traversing the  ‘Branches’, would we come face to face with the 'First Nightmare' at the top of the《Illusion Tree》?」
The first time he had seen these, Jae Hwan did not know what they meant. Jae Hwan had thought they were secrets of the tower that would be revealed to him once he reached the 100th floor. However, once he realized what this tower was, Jae Hwan saw these scribbles and engravings in completely new light.
Jae Hwan understood right away.
These were the memos of the creator of this《Nightmare Tower》, Mullock.
Of course, it would be impossible to decipher the true meaning behind all of these scribbles with just his own knowledge alone. But that didn't mean that he didn't achieve anything.
Tower within the tower, nightmare within the nightmare.
The Illusion Tree's roots, branches, and trunk.
And at the top of it all, the 'First Nightmare'.
All of this pointed to one fact.
'The world is connected.’
However, it was just a hypothesis. Nevertheless, it was a hypothesis well worth checking out.
Jae Hwan took a look at the ceiling of the 100th floor before using a Thrust. A crack appeared on the ceiling. Beastrain let out a scream.
Again, again, and again.
Through「Doubt」, Jae Hwan could see all things clearly.
The particles that made up the tower and the movement of powerful energy that sustained the integrity of it all. And the enormous flow of energy that kept entering the tower.
From upstream to downstream. The endless ocean of energy that spread endlessly. And this here was the end of it all. Jae Hwan was sure. If he were to follow this flow of energy, he would be able to reach the secret of the world.
The 100th floor was not the end.
'If this is the root, then there must be a trunk.’
A white light began to leak through the cracks in the ceiling.
"You can't! If you go through there you'll never again......!"
"Take care.”
Who knows, maybe one day he might play through the Main Game as Beastrain had originally intended.
But not now.
The information he had was too little and the strength he possessed was too weak.
Fighting against the demon Beastrain with his current self wouldn't be too hard, but he thirsted for more knowledge and he desired to get stronger.
The white light slowly engulfed Jae Hwan.
He jumped directly into the middle of the light.
He did not return to the past.
And he did not return to the world that he had left.
His choice-- the world he chose was that of the present.
The moment of the now, the present that he lived in.
The path he chose was one where he walked forward.
After watching Jae Hwan disappear with a futile expression on his face, Beastrain painfully moved his body to operate the hologram panels.
Something that should have never happened had happened.
A「Stage 1 Product」 had Awakened in the Tutorial Game, then had busted through the ceiling and left the Tower.
‘C'mon「Big Brother」needs to be informed......'
But it was too late.
The Tutorial Game was collapsing. Moreover, all means of communication had broken down.
‘Damn it, perhaps? No...... I SAID NO!’
As the link between his body and soul had been cut, communication with the outside world was impossible. His soul was forever trapped within the《Illusion Tree》.
An unlinked soul left in a collapsing world would result in the destruction of the soul alongside the destruction of the world.
'It can't end like this......!'
He abandoned the message he was about to write to「Big Brother」and looked towards the lighted passage that Jae Hwan had disappeared into.
And in the next moment, the《Nightmare Tower》collapsed.
[The details of the Tutorial Game will now be settled.]
[An unexpected error has occurred during the settlement process.]
[Settlement failed.]
[Searching for any remaining Walkers in the《Nightmare Tower》.]
[There are no Walkers currently present in the《Nightmare Tower》.]
[Game Clear Fail!]
[The Tutorial Game has now completely ended.]
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