< Episode 5. The Deceased (3) >
Ever since he had reached the fork in the road with Mino, Jae Hwan had already long since figured out what was going on.
[It'd be better not to think of any bullshit, witch.]
[If you don't keep your end of the bargain, the older one will die.]
A message that Mino had received. Jae Hwan quickly noticed what was going on. Someone had coerced Mino into doing something and had taken hostage of someone close to her. Furthermore, the culprit wanted Jae Hwan.
Jae Hwan was certain that Mino would betray him.
The world he saw through「Doubt」and「Comprehension」was one dominated by an endless stream of data and numbers. People who traded their souls in exchange for a higher value. Of those, Mino was just a single figure.
Jae Hwan's「Doubt」, which had never been wrong before, was incessantly warning him about Mino. That woman will betray. It was why Jae Hwan never listened to what Mino told him.
—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.
It was at the moment that Mino finished speaking that Jae Hwan saw the change in Mino.
—Then according to that, you are not a 'human'.
Leaving those words, Mino left him and proceeded down one of the forked paths.
Without any hesitation, and without any betrayal.
As though she were mocking his「Dobut」.
All he did was stare at Mino's back as she drew farther and farther away.
At that moment, everything he wanted to say disappeared from Jae Hwan's mind.
Suddenly, the power to dig up the world「Doubt」disappeared. All sounds suddenly disappeared, and Jae Hwan was plunged into silence. He felt a part of his chest tighten.
Why does she look like a 'human'?
He couldn't understand what was going on.
As he watched her get farther away, Jae Hwan shook his head.
Something similar had happened last time as well.
Mino who had answered him by saying ‘I will not go back to the past’.
Meikal who had helped him forge the sheath.
It was then that the two of them had briefly looked like humans.
But in the end, it was but a moment.
They gathered and behaved 'like humans' but in his eyes, they simply looked like corpses.
That was something that Jae Hwan knew.
Anyone who obsessed over every person they met would never be able to change this world. Even if they were to be saved multiple times, they would never be able to become humans on their own. Jae Hwan turned to look at the distant Mino.
He activated「Doubt」and began to listen in on a conversation.
[Damn, the witch betrayed us! Send a message!]
[……that Nightmare I spent so much to bring over was useless.]
‘A Nightmare you say?’
That was the story that Jae Hwan knew and why he had come.
Looking up at Jae Hwan, Mino asked a question.
"……did you seriously come here because the size didn't fit?"
Well to be fair, considering who it was, it wasn't exactly outside the realm of possibilities.
Jae Hwan didn't reply.
But seeing Jae Hwan's appearance, Zanya was delighted.
‘No need to put in effort to find him!’
The person that they had been looking for all this time walked into their laps. Even if he hadn't appeared like this, it would have only been a matter of time before they found him. Jae Hwan asked a question.
“You guys have a Nightmare?”
Hearing that, Zanya's expression changed. The fact that the Forbidden Heavens Organization had a Nightmare was a top secret. Zanya called for the Forbidden Heavens’ Messengers that had set up the sound barrier around the pub.
[He knows about the Nightmare. How does he know?]
Even the Messengers were perplexed.
Without giving them a chance to speak, Jae Hwan asked again.
“Where is the Nightmare?”
“……I can't tell you”
Zanya reflexively replied. As soon as those words left his mouth, he wanted to take it back. It was nothing but an admission to housing a Nightmare. While nodding his head, Jae Hwan spoke.
“Bring the Nightmare here.”
Zanya's eyebrows furrowed.
'Is this guy crazy?’
Not only did he ask about about the Nightmare as soon as he arrived, but on top of that, instead of asking them to take him to the Nightmare, he demanded that they bring the Nightmare to him.
What kind of existence was a Nightmare that he was asking like that? No, rather, that time……
'……why am I even bothering to answer this guys?’
Zanya slowly began to get angrier.
He was the first brother of the Savage Night brothers, Zanya.
He was the shadow of the forests, the hunter amongst the trees.
"The rumors were right, an insane man who didn't hesitate to contend against the fort.”
Mino gulped as she watched him pull out a weapon.
[Be careful. All of them are 4th Order Adapters.]
Having fought against the second and third brothers, she knew that their abilities were barely at the 4th Order.
The problem was that the first brother was a matured 4th Order Adapter.
The gap between a 3rd and 4th order adapter was like the gap between the sky and the ground. There was a reason why the threshold to be a High Order Adapter started at the 4th order.
"Do you think that I'll lose?”
Mino was surprised to hear those words leave her mouth. Regardless, they were at the 4th Order. His opponents were Adapters that could contend against a garnak. The Red Fox clan that Jae Hwan had eliminated was nothing more than a snack to the brothers.
But despite that, for some reason, she wasn't concerned.
The Savage Night Brothers were the first to make their move.
「Shadow Secret Arts」
Shadow swords that branched into dozens of blades. It was impossible to tell which was real and which was fake.
Jae Hwan immediately used「Selflessness」. But surprisingly enough, Zanya was able to follow Jae Hwan's movements even though he was using「Selflessness」. The vigilant Jae Hwan managed to slightly figure out which blades were real and dodged the strike.
'So that's why Adapters are called High Order Adapters starting from the 4th Order.’
On top of that, the skill that they were using,「Shadow Secret Arts」, was not to be underestimated.
He had planned to use「Doubt」to figure out which blades were real and which blades were not, but the patterns and depth of an advanced skill wasn't so simple.
Jae Hwan instead decided to knock away all of the troublesome blades at the same time.
A brilliant white light burst from the sheath and filled the air. He used 'Light Thrust' with the sheath in order to block the attack. It was unknown how many thrusts had been put out, but their afterimages had yet to fade, causing the surrounding visibility to decrease.
Zanya's expression stiffened.
However, Jae Hwan's thrusts were still lacking, and Zanya managed to dodge a thrust that was aimed at his head. Zanya's head went blank as he tried to understand the timing behind those attacks.
This time, it was Jae Hwan who was surprised. There was no one who had been able to dodge 'light thrust' up until now. No. There was one who had dodged it before. That existence was hit by Jae Hwan's 'Normal Thrust' and was now the sheath to his sword.
The unexpected event had caught the second and third brothers off guard, causing them to feel embarrassed. They realized that their right arm and thigh had been injured. But what was even more alarming was that Zanya had suffered the same injuries.
Zanya couldn't believe what he had just seen with his own eyes.
Not only was he able to block every strike from the「Shadow Secret Arts」, but he even managed to grasp a window between those attacks where he could aim for Zanya's head.
It was pure luck that Zanya had even managed to dodge that attack.
If it wasn't for a sixth sense-like intuition that he had honed through many battlefields, Zanya would be nothing more than nutrients for the Illusion Tree by now.
Zanya called the Messengers again.
[Didn't you say that he was a Non-Adapter?]
[……Without a doubt. He's a Non-adapter.]
If that's what the messenger said, then there was no way the information was wrong.
Then how the hell was he so strong?
‘Don't tell me, it’s the power of Abyss?’
No, that was impossible. Although he had met many 'Abyss Champions' that shared the same sort of atmosphere around Jae Hwan, none of them were Non-Adapters.
‘Then just what the hell is he?’
Zanya once more braced himself for battle. He wasn't using any spirit power, and the only thing he was using was a simple thrust. But he was still able to overpower the three brothers.
[It's hard to believe, but he is stronger than us.]
[Hy-hyungnim. Then that means……]
[Change of plan.]
Zanya was quick to understand. If the enemy's strength was outside the bounds of common sense, then their approach needed to be outside the bounds of common sense.
Jae Hwan frowned after witnessing the three brothers' sudden change in tactics. The three brothers each picked a hostage to use as a shield and once more began to use their 「Shadow Secret Arts」.
It was a tactic to deal with Jae Hwan's weakness, his reliance on thrust.
His attacks were fast, but simple and easy to read. By reading the direction of the stab before the attack takes place, you could minimize the area of its influence, it was not difficult to deal with.
So by using the hostages, the three brothers minimized the areas that the thrust could reach them.
In fact, their method was quite effective, and the thrusts coming from Jae Hwan began to lose their targets.
However, there was a fact that the three brothers neglected.
Zanya's eyes widened.
“What kind of……?"
Terrifying winds that gave off an enormous pressure gathered at Jae Hwan's hand. The amount of power at his hand was unknown, but the surrounding buildings were on the verge of collapsing.
Jae Hwan's stance was one someone would take when about to do a simple thrust.
Jae Hwan never minded the hostages in the first place.
The Savage Night brothers, the criminals from Forbidden Heavens, and the hostages.
As long as he blew away the nuisances, the problem would resolve itself.
In his eyes, they were all corpses.
However, as Jae Hwan was about to unleash a 'Normal Thrust', he felt his heart skip a beat. His vision momentarily shook as he witnessed a spectre-like image float above the hostages' heads.
‘What is that?’
Jae Hwan ignored it and tried to use 'Normal Thrust' again. His vision shook again as he heard a voice in his ear.
—I'm a human. Although I may not be as strong or as resolute as you, I am definitely still a 'human'.
Jae Hwan's mind was in disarray.
Why were the faces of those corpses turning into those of 'human's'.
Without knowing why, Jae Hwan's body refused to attack. They were telling him not to use the 'Normal Thrust.'
It was the first time anything like this had happened before.
He was unable to use 'Normal Thrust'.
Seeing Jae Hwan's attack stop, the three brothers started to run again. Jae Hwan was frustrated.
His「Doubt」was shaking. If「Doubt」shakes, then「Comprehension」will shake, and if「Comprehension」shakes, then「Selflessness」will shake.
The hostages needed to die.
He tried to use 'Normal Thrust' again, but he could not focus.
Even his「Doubt」was interfering with his concentration. Instead of「Doubting」the world as it normally did, it was「Doubting」himself.
Jae Hwan felt that there was a change in his soul. A form of energy separated from that of「Selflessness」was about to be born from the very depths of his soul.
It was an energy that felt very old and very nostalgic.
It was a power that he had forgotten a long time ago, something completely different from「Selflessness」……
The problem was that this power was of no help to him at the moment. Rather, it would only interfere.
The situation only grew worse, and all he could do was grumble to himself while trying to use 'thrust'.
Anything, if he could just slash, or throw, or even capture them to take care of them……
Jae Hwan thought of something, and began to use 'Light Thrust' towards the various locations in the pub.
Some of his attacks were directed at the three Savage Night Brothers, while others were aimed towards the ceiling of the pub. The numerous amount of thrusts he put out turned the pub into a beehive.
“The bastard's gone insane!"
Zanya laughed, thinking that he had taken the lead. It seemed like Jae Hwan was exhausted and was on the road to self-destruction. It had only been a few minutes since Jae Hwan had stopped his attacks. Because of the ridiculous amount of thrusts he had let loose, the sunlight could be seen through the broken roof. While looking up at the sky, Jae Hwan suddenly lowered his sword.
‘Well, if it's this much it should be enough.’
Seeing that Jae Hwan had turned his back on the three brothers, Mino had a confused look on her face.
"W-why did you suddenly do that?”
“Those punks will get attacked by someone else now.”
“……someone else. Who are you talking about?”
“The stubborn chatterbox."
The figure of a certain someone flitted across Mino's mind.
Wait, could it be…… how?
It was then that one of the criminals from Forbidden Heavens yelled out in a panicked voice.
“Zanya-nim! The sound barrier broke!”
Hearing that, Zanya's expression crumpled.
“The sound barrier? Just when the hell……"
Zanya pushed another whisper towards the messengers from Forbidden Heavens.
But no matter what he did, he couldn't feel the messengers' presence on the other side.
Zanya suddenly took a look around the pub. He stared at the holes created by Jae Hwan's thrusts.
Could it be, all of his attacks until now……?
And then after a few moments, everyone in the tavern felt a powerful aura. The aura was approaching them at an incredibly fast pace. A powerful aura that could overcome a 4th Order Adapter. The complexions of the three brothers took a turn for the worse.
It was a brilliant and magnificent power. There was only one person in the fort that possessed that kind of power. The door to the pub flew open, and people wearing white plates walked in.
The guards from the northern checkpoint. On top of that……
“What's going on here!"
A dazzling, white light filled the interior of the tavern. An aura specific to the angel race flowed from the shoulders of a man, forming what looked like wings. And blonde hair that looked as though it would shake the sky. The most stubborn checkpoint inspector in the world.
Silver Imprisonment’s Carlton.
Mino gulped. She had never thought the day where that man looked so reliable would ever come. Noticing Jae Hwan, Carlton narrowed his eyes.
“Jae Hwan-ssi? Just what in world has happened here?”
Jae Hwan spoke while nodding his head.
“There are people here who have broken your beloved laws. I don't know for sure, but I'm sure that they've broken Gorgon Fortress' laws, Article 276 Clause 4.”
Hearing that, Carlton's eyes widened.
"……who would they be?"
Following Jae Hwan's gesture, Carlton took a look at the interior of the pub. Inside were criminals that were holding onto waitresses as hostages.
“Why would they do this……"
“I don't know why, that’s for certain, but it looks like they were plotting to use this tavern as a springboard in order to destroy the world.”
Mino unconcernedly opened her mouth as she gave that lie. A large halberd emitting a silver light appeared in Carlton's hands.
"Destruction of the world…… that is a crime that absolutely cannot be forgiven.”
Carlton's face grew cold.
“In accordance to Article 174 (4) and Article 124 (6) of the Gorgon Fortress Penal Code, you will be arrested and detained for unlawful property damage and kidnapping of residents.”
The faces of the three brothers paled.