Silver Imprisonment was very powerful.
The criminals that had been holding onto hostages were currently on their knees and were unable to fight against Carlton's「Law」, while the Three Savage Night Brothers were currently ensnared in Carlton's inherent skill,「Silver Imprisonment」.
Even though he had such a nickname like ‘Stubborn Mule', Carlton's strength as the strongest of Gorgon Fortress' checkpoint inspectors was not exaggerated.
“So the rumors about you being able catch a garnak with Silver Imprisonment were true……"
Carlton swung his halberd, just barely nicking Zanya's chest. For those that traveled about in《Chaos》, being subjected to「Silver Imprisonment」was an incredible shame.
Being a Higher Order Adapter, Zanya was able to resist his restraints to a minor extent, but his two siblings were wound up tight. Drawing a straight line, Carlton extended his halberd until it was mere inches away from Zanya's neck.
“Any further resistance is futile."
Zanya couldn't help but swallow the saliva in his mouth.
His lips were slightly moving.
[Anyways, I think we're going to have to use Black Clouds.]
[Are you being serious hyungnim? If we end up using that……]
[All of the messengers were dealt with. Whether we die one way or another, it's all the same.]
Zanya slowly went down on his knees with both his hands raised up.
“It's the prudent thing to do.”
Seeing how Zanya appeared to be completely resigned, Carlton came close to releasing Silver Imprisonment. But in the next moment, Zanya smiled.
"They say you are as naive as you are righteous, I see that those words were not wrong.”
Realizing that something was wrong, Carlton shouted towards a nearby guard.
"Everyone get out of the pub!”
A small explosion happened from Zanya's bosom. A black smoke plumed from his chest, quickly filling up the interior of the pub. From within the black smoke came the sounds of painful coughing and groaning. Carlton shouted when he saw that those who had went out, who were safe and sound, approach the pub.
“Nobody else come in!”
The smoke didn't show any signs of going away. Carlton's voice soon disappeared. Instead, creepy sounds of twisted flesh and bones began to resound from within the smoke.
The three brothers were observing the scene from the roof of a building next door.
“I didn't think we would use Black Clouds here.”
All of them were wearing masks on their faces.
The second brother opened his mouth with a grim expression on his face.
“It seems like youngest brother inhaled some of the black smoke."
“……bastard even though we told him.”
Seeing that the youngest had inhaled some of the smoke, Zanya had an unpleasant expression on his face.
“Inhaling a little bit, it's uncertain if you would survive. Just hold on a little longer.”
He could see the members from Forbidden Heavens running towards them from a distance away.
"……they got here pretty fast."
The captain of the squad heading towards them was a Higher Order Adapter like Zanya, and was an elder of Forbidden Heavens named Lang Heishe.
He was a criminal famous for his sinister schemes in the《Great Lands》, and was eventually captured and executed after the Adapters who captured him cut off his tongue and castrated him. To show that he had failed in front of this guy would be a lifelong shame.
“Zanya. Seems like you're a bit out of shape, no?"
“What happened to the witch? Did you decide to hand the job over to me?”
“It is none of your concern.”
Lang Heishe frowned at Zanya's reaction. Seeing the black smoke coming out of the pub, he clicked his tongue.
“Anyways, you seem to be in a hurry. And that's after you used the Black Cloud without the leader's permission as well.”
“Silver Imprisonment was there.”
Hearing that, Lang Heishe looked at the pub with a difficult expression on his face.
“Could it be that Silver Imprisonment is in there right now?”
Lang Heishe laughed with a thrilled expression on his face.
“Keuhaaahat! That stubborn mule is drinking in the Black Clouds! Serves him right.”
None of the criminals had very good memories of Silver Imprisonment. It was obvious that Lang Heishe would have a poor impression of Carlton.
“Looks like there's going to be quite a spectacle with Silver Imprisonment today.”
Recalling Carlton's face, Lang Heishe felt sickened even recalling the face of the checkpoint inspector.
However, Zanya's expression wasn't so bright.
'……I wonder what happened to him.’
Silver Imprisonment was not a problem right now.
Although Silver Imprisonment was powerful, if it were on any other day, the three brothers wouldn't have had too much trouble coping against it. The concerning thing was the mysterious man who had contended against them with nothing but a mere thrust.
He kept hearing that the man did not take any damage from the Black Clouds.
“Right, what happened to the Neglected Soul Stone?”
“We gotta wait.”
“……could it be that the fortress ended up in possession of it?"
"Don't worry. We just need to get it back.”
Making sure that his mask was tightly on, Zanya was ready to rush in. The inside of the pub was already completely filled with the Black Clouds.
Considering how Black Clouds could pollute a person's soul in a very short amount of time, it was a place he did not want to return to. The beings in the pub must have already reached the limit of soul pollution.
‘I don't even want to imagine it.’
Zanya was well aware of what kind of 'existence' those whose souls reached the limits of soul pollution would turn into. No, rather, it was impossible for anyone who lived in《Chaos》not to know of those 'beings'.
At that time, while restraining Zanya, Lang Heishe opened his mouth.
"……Zanya, who is that guy?”
Hearing that, Zanya looked in the same direction that Lang Heishe was looking at.
A man casually walked out of the pub while covered in the Black Clouds, and looked in their direction.
Zanya was astonished.
The impossible had become possible. Even if he was from a large clan like the Nokmyeongga, he still wouldn't have been able to survive. On top of that, he wasn't even actually from a large clan. I've never heard of a Nokmyeong without any antennae. Touching his face, Zanya's fingers were trembling.
“……he's the man who has the Neglected Soul Stone.”
"What? Good. Get him!”
Lang Heishe and his subordinates jumped towards the man.
The man calmly pulled out his sword.
He took one step, then another.
Zanya trembled with every step the man took. With every swing of his sword, another person fell to the ground.
Lang Heishe’s gaze changed as he shouted.
"Just who the hell is he exactly?”
Just who is he?
In fact, Zanya couldn't stop wondering. Looking back, he could see that there were still fifty or so 3rd Order Adapters remaining. They were troops that could sweep away a moderately sized clan. Looking at those figures, Zanya's mind went blank.
‘The follow-up isn't enough. If it's this much……'
Seeing the enemies rush at him like a swarm of bees, Zanya saw Jae Hwan's expression crumple.
It was too much to kill them one at a time with just simple thrusts.
He wasn't even sure if things would get more difficult like before if he were to delay.
He didn't want to use that item.
He hadn't used it before because he didn't like depending on the item's strength, but the reason he wasn't using it now was because of his stubbornness.
And for the first time, Self Will was drawn from its 'sheath'. It was then that Zanya realized that Jae Hwan had only been using his sheath to fight.
‘Are you saying that I've been fighting against his sheath this entire time?!’
As Self Will was drawn from the sheath, it let out a cry as it scraped against the sheath. Its enormous aura burst out in all directions, drawing a gigantic circle. All of the men except for Zanya and Lang Heishe stiffened.
They felt like a massive number of gaksu were approaching them.
It was the unique skill inherent to the sheath.
「Garnak's Majesty」was revealed.
Self Will flew into a rage.
Zanya looked at that scene with a vacant look on his face.
A power capable of slicing through a 3rd Order Adapter as though they were dead leaves. Their bodies stiff with fear, the subordinates collapsed onto the ground like worms.
The only ones to regain their wits were Lang Heishe and Zanya. To be specific, Lang Heishe had long since begun to run away.
'......what a clever asshole.'
Zanya took a look at his youngest brother lying on the ground. He will not survive.
"There is one method where you can survive.”
A way to survive.? Zanya's gaze changed.
“Where is the Nightmare that you guys are hiding.”
“Why do you laugh?”
While looking at the deranged Zanya who was laughing, Jae Hwan asked him a question.
“I can't say.”
Zanya knew. If he were to say anything about the Nightmare, then even if he survived here he would eventually die.
Zanya recalled the back of a certain figure. It was the figure of someone that Zanya felt was stronger than anyone else in all of《Chaos》and had a chance of unifying the future《Chaos》.
Leader of Forbidden Heavens.
Is this guy stronger than the leader? Zanya shook his head. Anyone who had seen the leader would know the answer.
Zanya had faith. He believed that the only person who could unite《Chaos》, grab「Fruits」and lead Chaos into the Great Lands was the Forbidden Heavens’ leader.
Zanya laughed and then sighed. Now that Black Clouds had been released in full, 'it' would begin soon.
'If I'm going to die here anyways.’
While staring at Jae Hwan, Zanya took out what looked like a black gemstone from his bosom and swallowed it. It happened in an instant. Jae Hwan's gaze took a strange turn.
'Neglected Soul Stone?’
Although it was only for a moment, Jae Hwan saw the gemstone that Zanya swallowed. It was for sure a Neglected Soul Stone. No, to be specific, it was a similar looking object that exuded a more powerful aura.
The energy from the stone flowed throughout Zanya's body and rapidly began to expand. It was strong enough to make even Jae Hwan feel momentarily uncomfortable.
Zanya's voice transformed and began to sound more and more distorted and monstrous. Black blood vessels began to swell up on the surface of his body, and his muscles began to swell. The amount of spirit power in his body almost doubled the amount of power a 4th Order Adapter would have and quickly surpassed a 5th Order Adapter.
Zanya's swollen body began to slowly split down the middle. An eerie mouth with sharpened teeth revealed itself, with tentacles extending out of the mouth.
[So this is the power of the Neglected Beings!]
A being born from a mutation brought about by soul pollution reaching 100%. An outcome worse than death, a transformation that all people in 《Chaos》feared. A monster whose memories and intelligence are replaced with nothing but pure desire.
[Memories...... my memories......]
Overcome with pleasure, Zanya was well aware that he was losing himself.
By destroying everything that defined him, he felt like he was reaching complete freedom. Freedom to drop himself into hell. Freedom to throw himself into maggots.
As the destruction came to an end, Zanya arrived at a world.
[This is what the world actually looks like......!]
A world where every human being looked like nothing but a corpse. A world where data and figures were destroyed and consumed by maggots.
Looking at the tentacles sprouting out of his body, Zanya felt like he had the power to do anything.
He couldn't figure out why he had been so afraid of becoming a dead man. A human had no need for memories or dignity in a world as great as this.
"S-second brother, the second brother became a Deceased!”
The frightened security guards began to run away. Zanya randomly slipped his tentacles into the mouths of the surrounding corpses. He was slowly starting lose his rationality. Sexual desire and desire for food.
An insatiable desire possessed him. At that moment, Zanya was a slave to freedom.
And then Zanya saw a man.
Zanya laughed and reached for that man.
But in the next moment.
He felt a cool sensation touch his soul.
How could a 'human' exist in this world?
Zanya took a look around. There were no humans anywhere.
They were all corpses.
Then how could a person like this guy look like a human?
Zanya began to feel an intense rejection inside his body. Such a presence shouldn't exist here. He looked like a human on the surface, but the energy he was giving off was the same as the corpses. It was a huge energy that couldn't be compared to his own energy.
How could something like that…….
Zanya moved his tentacles instinctively to try and kill the man.
But what happened?
The tentacles didn't move.
The man looked at him.
Zanya stared at the eyes of the person who was neither a human nor a corpse.
Zanya's tentacles were trembling.
How could I be afraid? How could this powerful me be afraid?
Such an existence was impossible.
His tentacles flew out. To deny what he saw with his eyes, to deny the fear in his heart.
The man pulled out a sword and pointed it at him.
It seemed like the world itself was targeting himself.
In the next moment, Zanya saw the surrounding scenery distort. A mighty wind passed, making Zanya feel like the whole world was attempting to rip his body apart. Without even being able to scream, a terrible pain gripped his entire body. Zanya could see his reflection in the man's eyes. The tentacles in the air poured down like rain.
'It looks like the world after the fall.’
That was the last thing Zanya saw.
[What are you…… how…… with the strength of a dead man……]
Zanya's last remark hung in the air as he weakly struggled.
[……but even if things were like that…… with just you……]
Zanya's breath staggered, his broken soul turning into white powder. He became nutrients for the Illusion Tree. Jae Hwan rolled his shoulders, his lips twitching.
'……I didn't want to use thrust if I could help it.'
Having used thrust to penetrate through Zanya's body, the surroundings had been changed to something that shows the trail of destruction. It was like a giant club had smashed through the sky.
That guy, what the hell was he?
Apparently, the monster he had turned into was something called 'The Deceased'. A monster born from a mutation caused by soul pollution. Jae Hwan was slightly alarmed.
When Jae Hwan activated「Doubt」, he was able to reveal the essence of all the beings around him. The humans were corpses while the monsters were fragments of vicious and evil emotions…….
However, those who turned into The Deceased did not change how they looked even when being looked at with「Doubt」.
It meant that their huge mouths and long tentacles were their essences.
Jae Hwan decided to go back to the tavern. Although he hadn't gleaned much about the Nightmare from Zanya, the chances of their being remnant enemy forces around the pub was very high.
But when he arrived at the pub, he realized that something had gone wrong. Along with Carlton and Mino, there were some women laying down on the ground.
Carlton in particular seemed to be in serious condition as his brilliant silver aura was completely gone. Fortunately, the unconscious Carlton painfully opened his eyes.
“Hurry, the immunity alarm......"
Carlton's expression was stiff, black blood vessels bulging out of his white skin. It was a symptom similar to what had just happened to Zanya. Looking off to the side, it was the same with Mino. Jae Hwan helped Mino get up while asking her a question.
Barely able to even open her eyes amidst the wreckage of the tavern, Mino weakly spoke.
"It's soul pollution... and very severe soul pollution at that….”
Mino answered while taking in weak breaths.
Jae Hwan asked another question.
"……this thing called soul pollution, isn't that what develops if you don't eat ‘Medicine’?”
Soul pollution was a common illness in Chaos. It was an illness that could be overcome by regularly taking medicine made from ground up gaksu horns. That was why the current situation was so strange.
Not only was Mino suddenly suffering from it, but so was Carlton.
Carlton was someone who lived by the law. For someone like that who would regularly eat medicine to suddenly suffer from soul pollution meant that something was amiss. There could only be one answer. Something had caused the interior of the pub to be drowned in pollution.
‘Was it because of that black smoke?’
Mino wanted to see what Jae Hwan would do. Since before, she had been ignoring the messages popping up from the《Interface System》. Soul pollution had reached its maximum threshold, resulting in the inability to use the system and that conversion into The Deceased was imminent.
'So it ends like this.’
She then saw Jae Hwan's backlit face enter her line of sight. In that place filled with despair, it was an absolutely brilliant face. It was the face of a man who overcame every obstacle in his path. She had never seen his face in such a way before. Maybe it was because she had never bothered to closely observe his face.
“What happened to those guys?”
"I killed them all.”
Mino spoke listlessly. There was no strength in her eyes. The face of the man in front of her eyes began to blur.
"Looks like I can't see in front of me very well anymore.”
"Can you tell me what I look like right now?”
"Your blood vessels are black and swollen.”
Mino strained herself to say something. She opened her mouth and some words spilled out of her mouth. Maybe there was something that she felt she absolutely needed to tell Jae Hwan. But it was hard to tell what she was trying to say.
Her consciousness grew dimmer. But despite that, she continued to try and talk. Like someone who had come to terms with their fate. Her blood vessels which had once been red had turned black.
Jae Hwan calmly looked at Mino.
“Don't speak any more.”
Jae Hwan knew what sort of transformation would take place within Mino. This woman would turn into a monster like the one he had previously killed. She would lose her memories and her sanity would follow soon after. Everything she knew and had would be consumed by a monster.
Jae Hwan didn't know how to save her.
All he had learned up until now was related to killing as that was what he needed to clear the Nightmare Tower. Mino asked a question in a voice that continually grew more and more quiet.
“This might be inappropriate...... but can I ask you to do me a favor?"
Mino let out a light laugh and put forth her request.
"Please kill me."