Kang Hoon was laughing with a leery smile on his face.
The men surrounded Mino, menacingly holding onto their swords.
“Stay calm. I'll make you feel good really soon.”
Mino closed her eyes and lowered her head.
At first glance, it seemed like a human who had given up on everything. However, the assassins of the Black Forest Sect would have known better. Whenever she looked like that, what happened to her enemies in the next few moments……
Mino's hands moved at the same time when the three men began to run towards her.
They were disposed of before anyone could noticed anything.
The three men trembled like they had been struck by lightning before collapsing onto the ground . Each of the men had a dagger sticking out of their chests.
Kang Hoon's expression stiffened.
"Sorry. I guess I threw them too hard. I think my temper flared up a little bit."
Mino laughed in a playful way before she spoke in a blanched tone.
“The monster hunting failed… my teammate doesn't listen… the Soul Weapon is in the hands of a tough guy… is there anything that'll go according to plan… nothing?”
Though it was a playful voice, Kang Hoon felt his heart skip a beat.
“That sword, won't you return it back to its owner?”
“……If I don't want to?”
"I'm not too sure, but if such a sword were in the hands of a guy with such an overwhelming amount of negative intentions, who knows what I might do.”
“I'm far more deserving of this sword than that guy.”
“Is that so? Then I guess I have no choice.”
Mino threw off her black robe, revealing the uniform of the Black Forest Sect. On the collar of her outfit flashed an insignia with seven daggers.
“From this moment, you are going to suffer from an unfortunate series of events."
Kang Hoon looked at her for a moment before speaking in a despondent voice.
“That's right. You were the ‘Witch of Slaughter’.”
"Whaaaaat, you already knew?”
“……how could I not know. From the beginning, you were able to 'entice' monsters so easily, it would be weird not to know.”
Kang Hoon sounded like he was grinding his teeth.
Mino muttered while grasping onto her forehead.
"Haaa, damn it. Leader is going to give me another earful……"
A bloody aura burst out from Mino's body shortly afterwards. A considerable amount of spirit pressure that many Adapters would never be able to reach exploded out from the the 'Non-Adapter' Mino's body. Kang Hoon's face paled.
“So it's true, I had heard that the assassins of the Black Forest Sect were able to control their spirit power at will.”
“You seem to be knowledgeable on that topic.”
“……just who submitted this commission to the Black Forest Sect?”
“What does it matter who sent the commission? The amount of Non-Adapters who want to kill you guys is absolutely overflowing in the entirety of《Chaos》.”
“Who, why would the Black Forest Sect move for those guys……"
Kang Hoon's muttering trailed off as he realized something.
“Perhaps, was this a personal request?”
“If that's true, then you, the Witch of Slaughter, will never be able to deal with 'us'.”
Mino felt that something about the atmosphere had changed. The air in the surrounding grass had seemed to be off since awhile ago.
In other words, there were a considerable amount of strange spirit powers lingering about in the area.
But there was a town not too far away, and the presences were scattered about, so she paid them no heed. It was highly likely that they were other Adapters returning after a hunt.
But the scattered Adapters eventually gathered into one group.
Mino's complexion changed for the first time.
The possibility of Kang Hoon assembling more people and asking for help when he was on the guard duty passed through her mind. Kang Hoon snickered.
“The Black Forest Sect's Witch and a human who could kill a Two-Horned Beast in one strike, did you really think that I wouldn't call for help?
“But if I knew how easy it would be to get my hands on this Soul Weapon, I wouldn't have called so many people.”
A night where the darkness had descended. Black silhouettes appeared one at a time against the green forest. They numbered more than a dozen people. Strong humans who had reached at least 1st Stage Adaptation. There were also a handful of Stage 2 Adapters.
Amongst the shadows that had appeared, there was even someone who not even Mino was confident in facing one on one. It was a man wearing a fox fur cloak and a hood covering his eyes.
"So even you, Black Fox, had come?”
“Witch of Slaughter.”
"You seem to have quite a bit of free time on your hands nowadays.”
“Think of it as an honor, half of the Red Fox are here to hunt you.”
Black Fox Klent.
There weren't many people who didn't know this name. He was a 3rd Stage Adapter possessing great power and was also the clan master of the Red Fox.
"……what a damn great honor."
That being said, the situation for her was very bad.
It was the start of a bloody confrontation.
The moment one party moved, the battle would start. Mino counted the number of enemies, and without taking a single look at her back, she asked a question.
“Hey you, amnesiac, no, Abyss Champion-nim. You there?"
A voice replied from behind her.
“Sorry for calling you that in this circumstances."
“I wanted to paint a picture where 'a strong abyss warrior beat the crap out of the Red Fox gang'.”
In response to Mino's surprised voice, Jae Hwan spoke his lines in a monotone, robotic voice.
“I've been waiting for you, Red Fox! Huhu, I am an「Abyss Champion」here to punish you.”
“……what the heck, you didn't say your lines even though you had them memorized this whole time?”
"Maybe if you wrote better lines, I might have been motivated to recite them.”
Mino laughed with a large grin on her face.
"So that's why you were so unwilling to cooperate. I guess it's my fault for coming up with those lines without consulting you.”
Although Mino was smiling and laughing, the tone of her voice had not loosened up at all.
"Well then, I sincerely apologize."
They were words that held many meanings.
Jae Hwan looked up and down at Mino's back.
Jae Hwan knew as well. She didn't have a large amount of malice directed towards him, nor he towards her. But things didn't just end there with her apology.
Mino bit her lips before speaking up again.
"It might be too late, but escape now while you can.”
"I won't be able to protect you.”
It was the last bit of Mino's conscience.
But Mino knew.
It would be impossible for the man known as Jae Hwan to escape.
With the level of footwork he possessed, he would never be able to escape this many pursuers. No matter how far he got, he would still end up dead.
So Mino tossed something behind her.
"What is this?”
“Stone of Return. You'll be able to escape to the nearby fort if you use it. There's only one, so you might as well use it."
“What about you?”
Mino did not answer.
Jae Hwan looked down at the item known as the 'Stone of Return'. It looked somewhat familiar. The overall appearance of it resembled the stone that he abhorred the most.
But this stone wasn't something that would send you to the past.
This stone was something that could save someone's 'present'.
This was a stone for those who wanted to survive today and carry onwards once more tomorrow.
Jae Hwan recalled the name of his best friend and teammate.
The name of a friend he had failed to save on the Nightmare Tower's 98th Floor.
Yoonhwan had tightly grasped onto a stone then as well.
Yoonhwan had pretended that it was the [Stone of Regression], but Jae Hwan knew the truth. That stone was a stone that takes you nowhere.
But what if he could have shoved this stone within Yoonhwan's tight grasp at that time?
Before he knew it, Jae Hwan was tightly grasping the stone as though that stone was the answer to everything. Almost like it was alive, the stone's texture entwined Jae Hwan's fingers. Jae Hwan opened his mouth to speak.
"Excuse me, but I have something I want to ask."
“……What is it?”
Without any hesitation, he asked Mino a strange question.
“If you had the opportunity to go back in time and return to the past, would you?”
Mino made dumbfounded expression.
"……did you really have to ask that question given the circumstances?"
He wanted to know what kind of person she was.
Despite what she said, she answered his question without a shred of hesitation.
She didn't concern herself with such questions.
“Of course, there's no way I would go."
“I've lived very diligently until now."
She didn't explain any more than that, but Jae Hwan could feel the life that she had led within those short words.
"If I die, then I'll die today. I refuse to go back to the past."
Who knows why.
But when she heard her talk about whether or not she would die today, his heart beat with an unknown passion. Did she know? Did she know that the simple answer she gave would forever change the course of her destiny?
‘That's enough, if that's her answer, then it's enough."
Jae Hwan touched her shoulder and walked forward.
Mino looked at Jae Hwan's back with a blank look on her face.
Although she was trembling, she realized the immense power in Jae Hwan's steps. She had never felt such an immense feeling of danger before in her entire life.
“You will not die today."