「There are some things that are even worse than death. Anyone who has been to Chaos just once will know what I mean.」
—「Fissure」, Vice Head Yoo Seolha.
Episode 5. The Deceased
It had been four days since work on the request had been taken.
Jae Hwan stood at the entrance to〈Twilight's Shadow 〉with the finished sheath in his hands.
It had taken a total of three days to forge something that he had thought would take only a single day, but considering how the processing time for a horn took a minimum of three weeks, the three days it took could be considered to be fast.
Some of the craftsmen, Meikal included, came out to the entrance.
“……are you really going to leave like this?”
“The product is finished, so it's time for me to go."
They had obtained an unexpected result as well. Meikal had been trying to increase his proficiency in the「Process」skill that he had learned from the Nightmares, but thanks to Jae Hwan, he was able to「Comprehend」the skill and came across some unexpected information.
These monsters were not naturally occurring creatures. The horn had previously been「Processed」by someone, before being「Processed」again. In other words一
‘These monsters were all created by someone.’
He didn't know who it was that made it or for what reason, but it was clear that the monsters that guarded the horns were quality products created with considerable care. Meikal didn't know if the other craftsmen knew that or not.
Jae Hwan touched his sheath and spoke.
“This is to my liking."
It looked like the sword liked its new home as it had stopped crying.
A stylish sheath that emitted a gentle black light.
The sheath had a built in ability called「Garnak's Majesty」, which exuded a power that made monsters under the third level of gaksu to tremble in fear, as well as giving it a resistance to others’ aura. As a result, it would make it very easy to avoid unnecessary conflicts with monsters.
While looking at the sheath in Jae Hwan's hands, Meikal asked a question.
“I forgot, did you name your sword?”
"If you don't mind, can I suggest a name?”
Seeing Jae Hwan nodding his head, Meikal let out a light laugh. After thinking about something for a moment, he spoke up.
“I was able to realize something while working with you for the past three days."
The time was short, but what he had experienced was engraved deeply into his mind.
"I don't know what exactly it is that you want to do. I also don't know why you showed me that 'world' either.”
Meikal recalled the world that he was shown to.
Once he had exited that world, he felt like everything he knew was a lie. Perhaps, he may never see that world again. For someone like him who had long since grown accustomed to Skills and the Interface System, the only reason why he could access that world was thanks to Jae Hwan.
Was it a figurative symbol, an illusion, or a dream? And if not that…….
Meikal thought as he looked into Jae Hwan's eyes.
“However, there is one thing that is for certain.”
Of course, what can be said? Whether it's a figurative symbol, an illusion, or a reality.
There was one thing that was for certain.
"The denizens of this world would never come to like you.”
The truth of this world is not justice.
People are accustomed to their own reality.
They hate and ignore matters that are complicated or difficult.
They are afraid of uncertainties.
And the man in front of his eyes was the embodiment of all of that.
"Some people will admire you. But most will not."
Meikal recalled the moment when Jae Hwan first entered the workshop..
A man who had no idea of the word ‘modesty’.
“Some people will be afraid of you.”
It was absurd how unreasonable he could be.
“And there will still be others that will mock and despise you."
A man with an irrational looking face.
“There will even be people who will disregard you.”
So Meikal knew. With the way Jae Hwan was, he would live a life where everyone would avoid him. Most of the world would reject him, and those who didn't would try to kill him.
“But despite that, are you still going to try and defend that 'world'?”
Meikal wanted to stop Jae Hwan. Despite how great what he had revealed to Meikal was, and even if that world contained something that every being in the《Great Lands》should know...... he would rather let Jae Hwan abandon that world and survive.
As always, Jae Hwan did not reply.
After seeing it with his own eyes, Meikal realized. Jae Hwan could not and would not give up on that world. That world was already a part of Jae Hwan's life.
This man in front of him would live in that world alone.
“There's definitely only one name that is appropriate for that sword."
Meikal gestured for a craftsman to bring over his hammer and chisel. With the hammer and chisel in his hands, Meikal used「Process」to engrave something onto Jae Hwan's sheath.
Will of Self
"The self-will of a man of self-assertion?”
In some sense, the name contained the sentiment of Meikal more than Jae Hwan. A light began to rise from the sword. Will of Self let loose an 'oong oong' crying sound. It had accepted its new name.
“Well then, farewell.”
At the end of Meikal's words, Jae Hwan turned around and began to walk away.
Meikal followed the back of the man as it shrunk.
A lonely yet arrogant world.
A world that he would never see again, it was moving away.
Meikal suddenly shouted.
"Can I ask you one last question?"
Jae Hwan's footsteps stopped.
"What do I look like in that 'world' of yours?”
Jae Hwan did not turn around. Like someone who hesitated to look around. Without turning his back, he spoke a single word.
Then he started to walk away again. Meikal knew why Jae Hwan refused to turn around. Meikal sighed.
'Who could understand that lonely world.’
At that moment, a woman could be seen approaching Jae Hwan.
Meikal let out a sigh of relief.
'A strong willed man, it's good to be young.’
While walking down the street, Jae Hwan realized that something had changed.
He felt that there was something that had been next to him but then had disappeared.
There was a cat-like person who snooped around while Jae Hwan was in the workshop, but he hadn't seen her since yesterday. He was wondering if she had left.
"Are you perhaps looking for me?”
Mino suddenly made an appearance from somewhere while dressed in a nice clothing. She was wearing a dark colored sorceresses outfit and her legs were covered in black stockings. Although she was no longer wearing a dingy robe…….
“Where have you been?”
"Somewhere close by.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, this and that. Despite the impression I've given, I'm a fairly busy woman …… right, here take this.”
"What is it?”
“It's your clothes. How long do you plan to walk around dressed like a beggar?”
Looking at himself, he recalled that he looked like a beggar. Jae Hwan accepted the package of clothes from Mino. The clothing gave off a slight medieval vibe, but the clothes were more casual than he thought.
The clothes matched well with his sheath, and were a sleek black in color.
"……just take it as an apology from me.”
"How does it sound saying thank you for at least once?”
Mino turned around to take a look at the distant〈Twilight's Shadow〉. Meikal and the other craftsmen were still looking at them.
"It looks like the craftsmen really like you.”
"There's no reason for them to do so.”
"In particular, you and that old man seem to be on great terms.”
"But that old man is looking at you with some rather sticky eyes."
Jae Hwan did not answer back. The two walked off together for awhile. The various stalls and crowds mulling about came into view.
“Why do you keep following me?”
“Why do you ask. Does it seem like I have some sort of malicious intent?”
“I'm not striking that off the list.”
It was only for a brief moment, but Jae Hwan didn't miss the brief change in Mino's expression. After a short moment, Mino put on a smile and laughed.
"How did you know?”
"……what are you planning now?”
"To kill you.”
"What are you going to do after you kill me?”
"I'm going to steal your Neglected Soul Stone.”
"And after you take it?”
"……I only thought up to that point, but I suppose I'll eat and live well afterwards."
Jae Hwan laughed. Whether it was of her own will or not, it was something that would never come to pass. Mino felt that her pride had taken a hit.
“I'm serious don't you know?”
"Alright I get it.”
An even tone. Even though she had said that she was going to kill him, he was calm and not concerned. Mino couldn't help but wonder where Jae Hwan got his confidence from. At first, she had thought that it was a result of Jae Hwan's confidence in his own overwhelming strength. But thinking back, Mino could name multiple people who were as strong as Jae Hwan. For example, the leaders of the ten sects in Chaos. But Jae Hwan gave off a different feeling than them.
Very often when Mino looked at Jae Hwan, she would get the feeling that he was not from this world.
“What do you plan to do now?”
“I'm going to meet a Nightmare.”
“How do you plan to do that?”
“Meikal taught me a method.”
"What are you going to do once you meet one?”
“I'll ask questions about the Illusion Tree, I'll figure out a way to get to《Abyss》.”
Mino's complexion took a drastic change.
"……Why would you want to do that? Is it because you want to get stronger? Or is it because you want to live again?”
It wasn't like there weren't any people trying to ascend to the Illusion Tree's 'branches' known as《Abyss》. But most who make the attempt quit part way through due to frustration while others who complete the journey rarely ever return. Even those who had the good fortune of surviving and returning as the 'Champions of the Abyss' eventually succumbed to madness.
Jae Hwan spoke with a tired voice.
"Is my purpose that intriguing?”
Jae Hwan stared at Mino with a chilly gaze. Mino wavered for a moment, but she didn't avoid his gaze.
“Even if you heard it, you wouldn't believe me.”
“...what in the world is it that you would act like this?”
Hearing that, Jae Hwan looked towards the sky for a bit. Mino looked at Jae Hwan. It seemed like Jae Hwan's gaze was capable of penetrating beyond the great expanse of the sky. As he continued to stare into the sky, it appeared as though he were looking at nothing and everything at the same time.
Like that, Jae Hwan opened his mouth and said something.
Mino was stupefied.
At first, she didn't understand what Jae Hwan was saying. It wasn't because she couldn't understand the sentence. The reason why she couldn't get what he said was because一
What he said was impossible.
So for the time being, Mino simply put on the biggest smile she could muster. It was probably just a joke. So turns out this person know how to joke around. But despite that, after some time. Looking at Jae Hwan, Mino realized that he was being completely serious.
Mino's expression slowly stiffened.
She felt a little strange.
It was a ridiculous notion, an impossible notion…… but oddly enough, Mino felt something tugging at the back of her mind, telling her that if it was this guy in front of her, he might actually be able to carry out what he planned to do.
Mino started to get a little angry.
"……who do you think you are? Just who do you think you are that you think you can actually accomplish something like that? Just what qualifications do you have?”
“You, you are such a hateful person."
Without knowing why she herself was so worked up, she continued.
“You don't put anyone in your eyes, you do whatever the hell you want, you don't care about anyone, you're cold and unfriendly, and more than anything……"
Her voice, shaking with anger, gradually faded away.
“More than anything, it's like you don't even look at the people here as 'humans'.”
As soon as those words left her mouth, she wanted to take them back.
However, her lips continued to move.
“But despite all of that, the people here all humans. They've shed blood and tears to climb up from the roots to arrive at the Great Lands only to die and arrive here."
Why am I saying these things. Mino thought to herself. Was it pent up anger? Was it inferiority? Or was it some grudge? Mino didn't know. Because she didn't know, she kept talking so that she could.
“In the past, you had asked me a question. Was I a human.”
Mino recalled the question that Jae Hwan had asked her.
At the time, Mino thought that she had a slight understanding of the meaning.
But now it seemed like she was mistaken.
“I'm a human. I may not be as strong as you, or as steadfast as you are, but I'm definitely a 'human'.”
Maybe the 'human' that he referred to was something entirely different. He may have been referring to something incredibly noble and extraordinary. But such a 'human' was too difficult for Mino.
“An existence that may not have towering ambitions or conviction, but to be satisfied that they are safe and sound. That's the kind of 'human' that I know."
Is that not the life of such a human worth living?
As they approached the end of the path, a forked road came into view.
To Mino, it was like a fateful encounter.
“Then according to that, you are not a 'human'."
Then with a 'koong' a sound like something had fallen was heard.
Looking behind them, someone was picking up a signboard that had fallen onto the ground.
Mino and Jae Hwan reached the fork in the road.
“Let's go our separate ways here.”
“I refuse to travel with someone who holds 'that kind of purpose'.”
Without giving a bow, Mino turned and ran down the fork that had stalls set up. Jae Hwan stood in one spot for a long time, watching Mino's back get smaller and smaller until she disappeared. The last time he would see the figure of the first 'human' he had met since coming to this world.
How much time had passed? Jae Hwan finally took a look at the parcel in his hands and muttered to himself.
"……I should change my clothes for now.”
There was a pub at the end of the fork that Mino had ran to. It was the pub owned by Claire.
'……why did things turn out this way?’
Mino thought to herself while looking at the entrance to the pub.
The original plan did not go like this. She was supposed to go down the fork together with Jae Hwan. And she was supposed to open this door for him.
But, she couldn't.
She wanted to let go of all of the talk about being a human or not, and ask how he could do something like that. Mino wanted to let him know. The humans here weren't bad. Although they might not be able to reach his standards, they were still humans.
Mino opened the door to the pub.
“Sorry miss. I'm really late, aren't I?"
Claire was sitting restrained on a chair and spoke with a vacant look in her eyes. Seeing how Mino appeared alone, she simply laughed.
"……I knew it would turn out like this foolish girl.”
“I should have stopped earlier.”
"I'm sorry, really.”
Claire shook her head with a smile on her face.
“Looks like there'll really be a 'death' because of you.”
Claire, she had cleared the《Nightmare Tower》with Mino and had even died with her and arrived at《Chaos》. While looking at her, Mino bit her lips. Now she would fail to keep even her last colleague alive.
“The Witch of Slaughter."
A cold voice dominated the interior of the pub.
This wasn't the only pub. The surrounding area was filled with gruesome living conditions.
The owner of the voice was the man who had visited Mino in the pub a short while ago.
“What happened to the deal.”
“The person cannot come here.”
The air was enough to really cause one's flesh to tremble. Had she been influenced by Jae Hwan? Even in such a pressured atmosphere, Mino was unaware why, but she had a smirk on her face.
"He went to destroy this world.”