Episode 227. The Level is the Bomb (1)

“Hyung-nim, wait a minute.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had been gripping the Holy Sword hard as if he planned to crush it into pieces when a voice caused him to loosen his hold. 

“Joon-Min.”

From the start, Kim Seon-Hyeok knew that Park Joon-Min had woken up. The current conversation was a way for him to tell the entire story to the warrior who hadn’t known what had happened. 

Perhaps, the Holy Sword knew it as well.

Nevertheless, it had no choice but to answer because as a guide of the Lord, it was necessary for it to prove its innocence. 

“What you said earlier, is it all true?”

[The fact that there’s a way to defeat the Demon King is not a lie.]

“And what would it cost?”

Park Joon-Min seemed to have a rough understanding now.

[It’s different each time.]

“Then, what if it was me right now?”

The Holy Sword didn’t answer. But for Joon-Min, it was no different to hearing an answer. 

“So I might die.”

The warrior bowed his head with a tragic look.

Watching from the side, Kim Seon-Hyeok slowly took his hand off the Holy Sword. 

From here on out, it’s not my business.

“Hyung-nim.”

But Park Joon-Min seemed to think differently.

“What should I do from now on?”

It was a difficult question. The guide Park Joon-Min had been trusting and relying upon, thought that as long as the Demon King was dealt with, it didn’t matter even if its master died. How great must the betrayal be? And how hopeless the future must seem to him. 

“What do you want to do?”

Even if the warrior withdraws from the fight against the Demon King, no one would dare blame him for being irresponsible. 

Dedication and sacrifice were only noble if the person was willing to endure it all. If someone were to force them, then it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. It would be a human sacrifice.

“I don’t want to toss aside Balmung.”

This was an answer Kim Seon-Hyeok was expecting. 

“While Balmung hid a lot from me, it's undeniable that I was able to reach where I am because of him.”

Right now, Park Joon-Min was living in glory as a true hero among heroes and was revered by the people on the front lines as a savior. 

He was addicted to the praise and the glorious times that it wouldn’t be easy for him to abandon the Holy Sword and return to being an ordinary man.

The warrior knew very well how harsh this world was for the weak and how insignificant he was without the Holy Sword.

“So, Hyung-nim, please help me.”

Park Joon-Min was desperate.

“Help me so that I won’t be insignificant, so that I won’t be killed by the Devil and so that I won’t be used.”

Fortunately, the warrior still had one person he could believe in and rely on.

“Please show me the way.”

Even more fortunate was that Kim Seon-Hyeok knew the answer

***

There had been a battle that caused the surrounding areas to become completely unrecognizable. And the country’s Templar Knights weren’t people who couldn’t detect the terrifying explosion. 

“What on earth is this?”

Just as Kim Seon-Hyeok and Park Joon-Min were about done with their conversation, a hundred Templar Knights and priests rushed in.

“We just had a casual sparring session.”

“A casual sparring session?”

The Templar Knight must’ve found Kim Seon-Hyeok’s words absurd because he looked pointedly around. 

As if a meteor had fallen, there were huge pits everywhere and the meadow was completely burnt. It was ridiculous to say that it was the aftermath of a light sparring session.

“I’m afraid we’ve caused a disturbance on the base.”

Seeing how as many as a hundred Templar Knights had rushed out fully armed, the Panthea base must’ve been turned upside down.

Well, seeing how loud we were, there’s no way they wouldn’t have heard the disturbance.

“I don’t know how to apologize…”

“You don’t need to apologize, but I’m a bit dumbfounded.”

The Templar Knight frankly expressed his feelings.

But, Kim Seon-Hyeok really didn’t have anything else to say. They had a light(?) sparring session, and that spar was over. He had no obligation to tell them what happened during and after the sparring session.

“More importantly, was the Apostle hurt anywhere…”

The Templar Knight looked over Park Joon-Min with worried eyes. 

“I’m alright.” 

Even though he waved away the knight’s concern, he was so pale it wouldn’t be odd if he were to collapse immediately. Which made sense since he was revived just as he died. It would be odd if he were to look good when he had gotten such a big physical and mental shock. 

“If you’re done sparring, I’ll escort you back to the base.”

Park Joon-Min staggered to his horse.

“Hm.”

The Templar Knight seemed like he wanted to know what had happened here, but like a Templar Knight should, he knew how to moderate himself and didn’t pry into it.

“Then I’ll escort you.”

The warrior and Kim Seon-Hyeok returned to Panthea base escorted by the Templar Knights.

Just as he assumed, the base was turned upside down. They were worrying whether a strong demon had appeared as they prepared for a battle with faces full of tension. 

Kim Seon-Hyeok smiled bitterly at their battle spirit that seemed like they were ready for a battle that was right around the corner. 

“It became a bigger deal than I thought.”

The Templar Knight shook his head at Kim Seon-Hyeok’s apology.

“It’s nothing special, just a part of a front line soldiers’ daily life. While we’re at it, we might as well take this opportunity and test the guards’ condition. If we consider this as an actual battle training, then it’s not much of a problem.”

But that was only the commander’s perspective. The perspective of a low ranking soldier was different, but it wasn’t easy for an elite soldier like a Templar Knight to see the difference.

“Well, let’s lift the vigilant watch first. We shouldn’t make the soldiers use up their energy for useless things.”

Although it wasn’t something that he, as the main culprit of the disturbance, should say, Kim Seon-Hyeok still said it believing that it would be for the soldiers’ benefit to lift the watch first. 

“I’ve already sent a messenger. Soon…”

“As of this hour, we’re lifting the watch! Except for the existing guards, all troops return to the barracks and prepare for tomorrow!”

Even before the Templar Knight finished talking, the horns sounded in the distance and orders were repeated here and there.

“I must go report first. Please, the Indomitable Duke and the Apostle should go ahead and rest.”

The Templar Knights left and Park Joon-Min left with them as he was guided to his accommodation.

“Good luck, Joon-Min.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok stared after Park Joon-Min as he wearily walked away.

Although the fight was over, the rest test for the warrior was now starting.

It was time for the dreaming warrior to face reality.

“Did you fight with the warrior?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok met Darun on his way back to his accommodations.

“Ah.”

Seon-Hyeok gave a vague answer, but Darun seemed like he knew the answer.

“So that friend was completely thrashed.”

“But I haven’t told you who won?”

Darun snorted at his answer.

“Do I really have to hear the answer to know?”

“Sometimes, you think of me too highly. There are definitely those who are better than me in the central regions.”

“Even if there are, they’re not here.”

Darun was more than decisive with his answer, he was confident.

“It’s a strange thing. From what I heard, the warrior is someone who’s been through a lot of battle, but I couldn’t feel a warrior’s fighting energy from him.”

Without realizing it, Kim Seon-Hyeok turned to face Darun. 

“If I don’t kill him, I’ll die. That’s the kind of spirit I don’t feel from him.”

Surprisingly, Darun knew exactly what was going on with Park Joon-Min.

Because the Holy Sword forcibly removed the fear of death from the warrior, it made sense that he wouldn’t have desperation in him.

“Sometimes, you surprise me.”

Darun didn’t bother responding to that.

“If the warrior really is all that I’ve seen, then I will leave this place with my brothers. I don’t know if he’s really the only one who can give me what we want, but I have no intention of dealing with someone who isn’t a real warrior.”

Darun wasn’t speaking empty words. He really was someone who could give up anything in order to keep his faith. Even if thousands of his brothers had been sacrificed on their way here to meet Park Joon-Min, Darun wasn’t someone who went against his belief.

Darun was that kind of man.

Kim Seon-Hyeok knew that better than anyone else, but he wasn’t worried. 

“Just wait a bit. Joon-Min isn’t complete yet.”

“We can’t wait long. Nomads aren’t meant to stay in one place for long. 

It seemed like Park Joon-Min was much worse than he had expected. Darun didn’t seem to expect the warrior to change in a short period of time. 

“It’ll be soon.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok told Darun.

“You won’t need to wander around the continent looking for another person to bargain with.”

“If you say so.”

Darun smirked as he placed an arm around Kim Seon-Hyeok’s shoulder.

“I look forward to seeing what other miraculous trick you’ll pull off.”

***

Even if the Templar Knights were closed-mouthed, after the reports had been shared with multiple people, rumors of the fight between the Indomitable Duke and the warrior spread throughout the base.

“Who do you think won?”

“It should be the Apostle.”

“Naw. I heard from my friends who were at the gate that day, and they said the Indomitable Duke was fine but the Apostle was completely exhausted.”

The soldiers were very curious as to how this rare fight had ended. However, since the participants kept their mouths shut, the rumors spread without an answer.

“I’m worried about the soldiers’ morale. No matter how it ended, aren’t they both heroes with undefeated status?”

“Hopefully, at least until this war is over, there’ll be no record of defeat for the two of them.”

No matter who won, it was a pain in the neck for the commanders. 

The commanders rather hoped that the rumors would pass without any conclusion. And just as they wished, the rumors would never be answered.

Neither participant had any intention of talking about how the fight ended.

“So you got over it.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had no clue what the Holy Sword and Park Joon-Min talked about. The only thing he was certain about was that the warrior’s eyes weren’t as carefree, nor was it hollow with defeat as it was before. 

The warrior calmly laid out the memories of his deaths that he now remembered.

“No wonder things didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense that I was able to run off with Balmung when the Templar Knights were keeping a close watch over it. I had already died once then.”

The warrior’s first death was much earlier than Kim Seon-Hyeok had expected.

“I was killed twice by the demons. I think they attacked me at once.”

Park Joon-Min’s memories returned but he couldn’t remember what exactly happened during the middle of a dangerous battle. He could only vaguely remember the pain and the fear he felt at the moment of his death. 

The warrior courageously overcame his fear of death. That was enough.

From now on, the future was more important.

“Do you know why you lost so helplessly to me?”

“I don’t. Truthfully, I can’t remember it well either.”

At those words, Kim Seon-Hyeok asked him a question.

“What’s your level?”

“Until recently, I was at level 29 but now I’m at 26.”

For a moment, Kim Seon-Hyeok was speechless. He thought Park Joon-Min was too weak considering he had completely awakened, but his level was much lower than expected.”

“Hm.”

But when he thought about it, it wasn’t that odd. If each death resulted in a three level drop, then, Park Joon-Min must’ve fallen at least 12 levels. 

This would explain why a warrior who had dealt with a lot of demons was only at level 12.

“I’m at level 39.”

“Ah…”

The warrior exclaimed. He looked like he had been enlightened.

“You and I only had a 10 level difference.”

Number wise, the difference was only 10, but the difference in actuality was much greater.

It was a huge gap that determined whether they were able to make one more move or not.

In fact, since a fully awakened warrior failed to overcome the difference in level and was defeated by a dragon knight who wasn’t fully awakened, Park Joon-Min had to acknowledge the importance of levels even if he didn’t like it. 

“And I lost to the Demon King.”

Truthfully, he hadn’t been defeated by the Demon King. But he knew that at that time, he would’ve died if the Demon King hadn’t gotten scared and ran away.

“Even though I used the spear containing the power of the Spirit King and the power of an Ancient Spirit, I couldn’t overwhelm the Demon King.”

Kim Seok-Hyeok looked Park Joon-Min straight in the eye as he spoke each word clearly.

“That means, whatever equipment you have, it doesn’t matter.”

His tone was more firm than ever before. 

The level is the bomb.”[1]


1. Meaning that the level is important

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