"Wait, you don't even have a sword!"
"I have another one.”
Jae Hwan retrieved another sword from his dimensional bag.
It was the Suppression Dragon Sword that he won from the 88th floor of the Nightmare Tower.
"With just that kind of sword……!?"
The battle began before she could even finish what she was saying.
The Adapters who were hiding in the bushes rushed out towards Jae Hwan.
They were all Adapters who had gone through their own ordeals in order to reach where they were today. And they all possessed a skill that was difficult to deal with.
Mino recognized the skill at first glance.
‘Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents!'
The Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents was a skill commonly used by those of the 「Fire Monarch's Sect」of the ten sects that reside in《Chaos》. If trained to the limit, the user would be able to sweep the battlefield with a blazing sword of fire. Mino's complexion darkened.
‘That means the Fire Monarch's Sect is selling their skills to lower clans.’
The forest became engulfed in flames. The flame of the Fire Monarch that devours all things in its path. The crazy foxes jumped around amidst the sea of flames. Jae Hwan silently prepared himself as he faced the flames.
Mino knew what Jae Hwan was going to do.
That was why she tried to stop him.
There's no way he could contend against the Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents with a simple thrust.
But looking at what happened next, Mino couldn't believe her eyes.
No, she couldn't help but doubt all of her senses.
The rules of time were being broken right before her eyes.
Though brief, she was able to see an incredible scene by standing next to Jae Hwan. All of the blades approaching Jae Hwan seemed to slow down. Jae Hwan seemed to weave between the sea of blades like a fish in the water.
'……I wonder if I'm dreaming.’
It looked like Jae Hwan would get ripped apart should even the slightest strike touch him, but not a single strike so much as grazed him. It was like Jae Hwan simply wasn't there.
There was a path through the sea of blades that only Jae Hwan could see. A path through the myriad blades that only those who doubted the world could see. It wasn't too long before Jae Hwan's sword began to move.
It was neither slow nor fast.
Like a flow of music that dances in its own precise and accurate way, Jae Hwan launched his attack. A flash like lightning lit up the darkness of the night.
Five or six Red Fox clan members ran away with scattered screams.
“Bastard! Kill him!"
The flustered Red Fox members paired up in order to increase their defenses. The Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents attacked Jae Hwan from the north, east, south, and west.
The Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents took on the shape of a fiery cross and surrounded Jae Hwan.
The cross encased Jae Hwan in a fiery prison.
Anyone other than Jae Hwan would only be able to sit still and suffer from the flames.
He could see the triumphant faces of the Red Fox members.
But after a moment, the outline of Jae Hwan's body through the wavering flames appeared.
Jae Hwan stood there like the flames did not affect him. That wasn't all.
The flames of the Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents lost its power and gathered at the tip of his sword. They obeyed Jae Hwan's will like they had originated from his sword. His sword was like an untamed python ready to leap.
Something big was about to happen.
Feeling a sense of foreboding, the clan master of the Red Fox clan, Black Fox Klent, shouted.
The beginnings of a thrust began to unfold itself from Jae Hwan's sword.
No, such a thing couldn't be called a thrust.
The oxygen in the air condensed and momentarily came to a standstill.
In that briefest of silence, every Adapter, even Black Fox Klent, had trouble breathing and their lungs felt like they were collapsing. The 3rd Stage Adapter Klent had felt this suffocating feeling several times in his life.
It was when he stood before the strongest of the ten sect leaders of Chaos.
The condensed oxygen exploded and a sea of flames burst forth from his sword.
The flame did not distinguish between plants nor men, and all were swept up in its fiery rage.
Equipments and broken pieces of wood were scattered by the wind.
Screams of pain were buried under the deafening sounds of the tempest.
Only charred ruins were left in the fire's wake. The charred embers of what used to be a large tree collapsed onto the forest lawn with a loud thud.
And Mino watched everything from beginning to end.
She finally realized.
The reason why the man known as Jae Hwan easily conceded the body of a Two-Horned Beast wasn't because he was an idiot.
He didn't take out his Soul Weapon and so brazenly feed it items because he was naive and complacent.
The reason why he didn't run despite the overwhelming number of enemy Adapters wasn't because he was insensitive to the danger around him.
All of it was because he was overwhelmingly strong.
Having barely escaped by climbing atop a tree, Black Fox Klent muttered under his breath with an expression like his soul had left his body.
"……where the hell did this guy come from?”
He had arrived due to a suspicious report about the discovery of a ‘Soul Weapon’ during the「Witch Hunt」. If it were true, then it would be a great windfall.
But when he arrived, he was faced with a monster.
Not only did he block the Fire Monarch's Fourteen Currents, but he made the skill his own and turned the momentum of the the flames against Klent. With just that one move, more than half of the combatants were crippled.
He had never thought that an Adapter could ever neutralize and then utilize the intermediate level skill of a 3rd Stage Adapter with their own physical abilities.
But after the skill was dismantled, he had never seen the skill used in that way before.
He didn't dare assume what level it was at.
Sensing Klent's gaze on him, Kang Hoon stuttered.
"Th-this is impossible!"
"Everyone fall back.”
Kang Hoon grit his teeth.
“I have the Soul Weapon. If you use this weapon that could strike down a Two-Horned Beast in one blow, then you can beat him.”
Klent took a look at the weapon that Kang Hoon had claimed to be a 'Soul Weapon.'
“Absurd. The difference in skill is too large."
"That's not true!”
Not willing to admit that they had lost, Kang Hoon rushed towards Jae Hwan.
He saw the outline of Jae Hwan's body through the flames.
Kang Hoon immediately activated one of his skills.
Tightly grasped in his hand was the sword that had killed a Two-Horned Beast in one strike.
If it's with this, then surely一.
But despite putting all of his power into his strikes, all of his swings missed.
It was the attacks of a desperate man. Sounds of a sword vainly slashing through the air rang out one after the other. An overwhelming difference in power.
The power behind the swings gradually whittled away.
The blade of the sword that had been enveloped in Kang Hoon's skill was tightly gripped between Jae Hwan's fingers.
The moments that had led up to this point flashed through Kang Hoon's head like a spear.
After graduating from the tower, he wandered through the《Great Lands》before crossing over a dangerous obstacle and finally arriving here in《Chaos》. Through blood, sweat and tears, he gained and improved his skills and finally increased the values of his Status. He joined Red Fox and started to hunt Adapters. He had endured the pointed fingers and cursing jeers of other Adapters, but despite that, he had climbed to his current position.
It was a hard fought life.
It was because of that that he refused to admit that they had lost.
Kang Hoon remembered the value of Jae Hwan's spirit power displayed on the measuring device.
[Target Spirit Power Value : 154]
Considering that the Spirit Power of a Stage 1 Adapter was 1000, it was a terribly low figure.
The enemy in front of his eyes was, without a doubt, a Non-Adapter.
"Just how could he.. with that Value……"
Kang Hoon looked at Jae Hwan with a blank gaze while muttering his thoughts
It was a term he hadn't heard in awhile.
He remembered trying to raise his level in order to raise the Values associated with his various stats.
The hellish days spent in the tower.
The days where he did everything he could to improve his stats or obtain items so as to put himself at mere inches above the competition.
Jae Hwan understood what Kang Hoon was thinking.
It was because he understood that he spoke up.
"This is why you are weak."
One step, two steps.
Kang Hoon unintentionally recoiled backwards as Jae Hwan approached. He couldn't understand the abyss of Jae Hwan's eyes. It wasn't something he could understand. It wasn't something that could be quantified by Value or by Description. By the time he came back to his senses, Kang Hoon was already on his knees. Jae Hwan extended his hand and wrested the sword out of Kang Hoon's hands. With the hilt in his hand again, Jae Hwan pointed the blade towards the fleeing Red Fox clan members.
Unlike the previous times, his stance was serious and solemn.
It was as if he were trying to demonstrate what a real thrust was like.
Kang Hoon trembled, his expression like that of a man who knew of the disaster to come.
"……You, just what the hell are you?"
Kang Hoon's eyes were overcome with despair at the same time a brilliant light shot out of Jae Hwan's sword.
It was a small yet intense beam of light, as though it were targeting the world.
Klent looked behind him while running and his heart jumped in surprise.
But it was too late.
With a hole in his chest, Klent crumpled onto the floor.
Similar sounds emanated from all throughout the surrounding forest area.
It was the last thing that Kang Hoon ever saw.
It was amidst the darkness of the night. The starlight gently fell through the cracks in the forest canopy.
In the forest was a bonfire, its crackling embers briefly floating into the sky before winking out of existence.
Staring off into the distant sky, Mino couldn't help but recall something that she had experienced many years ago.
‘Mino, you are not suited to be an assassin.'
They were the words that the head of the Black Forest Sect had told Mino on the day that she had first failed a mission. To be precise, those were the words that the sect leader had told Mino every time she failed a mission. The sect leader always said. That human weakness would be the end of her.
Mino wanted to deny those words.
It was for that reason that she took on personal requests even though she would be violating regulations.
She accepted requests to eliminate evil-doers. Maybe she could even learn something from the actions of the evil-doers.
Like that, it was half a year. And by annihilating parties of thieves and rapists, she earned the nickname 'Witch of Slaughter'. But on this day, Mino wanted to ask one thing.
‘Look leader, did you know? It was because I hadn't acted like an assassin that I had survived.’
Mino looked at Jae Hwan who was leaning on a nearby tree trunk. He was silently feeding his weapon.
The more she looked, the more she couldn't help but think how bizarre this man was.
‘Just who could he be?"
The brilliant battle that the man had starred in would never be wiped from her mind. It was the first time she had seen and felt such might. It was so amazing that she couldn't help but be embarrassed by the fact that she had told him to run away while handing him a Stone of Return.
After hesitating for some time, Mino opened her mouth to speak.
"But what exactly is your identity?"
Jae Hwan looked up at Mino for a brief moment before concentrating on his sword again.
"Why are you suddenly using honorific terms?”
"That's not important right now."
Mino impatiently opened her mouth again.
"……I seriously can't help but wonder, can't you tell me?”
While looking at Mino, Jae Hwan thought of something before he broke out into laughter. Then he started talking.
“You already know my identity."
"Surely, you haven't forgotten already, have you?"
A disappointed expression. Mino was in a state of confusion.
Did he already tell me? Then when did he tell me?
But no matter how hard she tried to think, nothing came to mind.
Seeing Mino become engrossed in her own thoughts, Jae Hwan shook his head and spoke up.
“Well well well, it looks like you're suffering from amnesia."
“That's a relief. I thought I was the only one here with amnesia."
A few moments later, Mino realized something and her face paled.
"……wo-wow, are you seriously...."
Never did she expect him to throw her own words back at her again like this.
After Mino's heart started beating again somehow, she spoke up in a loud voice.
"You're so petty."
Jae Hwan didn't bother to pretend like he didn't hear anything.
"……give me back the Stone of Return I gave you earlier."
"I don't have it."
"I lost it.”
"Do you know how expensive that is?!"
Seeing as how Mino was about to ramble on, Jae Hwan went to go feed more equipment to his sword. A wajajak wajajak sound harmoniously blended with Mino's voice to create a strange ensemble. It was a sound that brought about a strange peace.
What words could express this moment?
It was very strange, but at that moment, Jae Hwan felt like he was being whisked away to a time long ago that he had forgotten.
A cool breeze blew through his head, refreshing his mind. Jae Hwan stuck his Frost Dragon Sword into the ground and looked up into the sky. He could see the black night sky through the broad-leafed trees.
It was a very mysterious thing.
Even the stars and the sky were visible in this place as well.
He was wondering if this night sky that he was looking at was the same night sky that he had been looking at his entire life. It was some sort of lifeline for Jae Hwan that proved that he was a human in this unsubstantial life.
“Are you really that curious as to what my identity is?"
Hearing Jae Hwan's question, Mino suddenly stopped yammering like it was magic.
"I'll tell you once so listen close.”
Mino suddenly snapped to attention like a child obsessed and enthusiastically nodded her head.
Jae Hwan opened his mouth.
“I'm a human.”
“……are you messing with me right now?"
Although she replied in anger, Jae Hwan asked a question.
“You, are you a human?”
"Of course I'm a human! That's not what I meant……"
Jae Hwan burst into laughter.
“Then that's all."
"I said it's fine with that.”
Even though she was about to complain, she took a look at the side of Jae Hwan's head and forgot what she was going to say.
The wind blew once more from an unknown direction.
They couldn't tell where it was coming from.
It was a wind blowing from a world that she had never been to.
She had never seen someone who looked so lonely.
Although she thought that he was only spouting nonsense, she was able to read the mood after looking at his face for some time and closed her mouth. In that silence she began to think to herself.
'I see, I suppose that could be it' and
'Seriously, is it really ok with just that'?
The sounds of breathing and the silent cries of the sword could be heard in sync under the carpet of stars.
Under the starlight, Jae Hwan stuck his hand in his pocket. His fingers entwined a small stone.
It was small but had an exquisite texture. A cold but 'real' stone. No matter when or where you used it, it would return you to a location rooted in reality. The stone itself seemed to be urging the user that the only place of return should be here in the real world.
Holding onto the stone, Jae Hwan recalled the days that had already passed. It was of a time when there was no tower or Stone of Regression.
Though sometimes times were tough and sometimes times were good, it was a time when nobody had chosen to return to the past and run away from the present.
It had been a month since he had left the tower.
It was also the first time that Jae Hwan had met a human.