Gun was experiencing the most crushing sense of defeat in his life. He learned how the exceeding lack of wisdom and experience, a weak will, and the absence of firm principles could make one miserable. Taking the social status he was born out of the equation, there would be nothing left of him… His last option was cooperation. Cooperation always came at a price. There were a lot of things that Gun wanted, but embarrassingly, he had nothing to offer. Ultimately, he approached them empty-handed and sought for equal cooperation. Nonetheless, the crew accepted his request. Their warm welcome and unexpected encouragement made him feel embarrassed. Thus, a strange, novel collaboration began.
He was given a small role and undertook physically difficult tasks. Gun finally knew what being in the ‘field’ was like after experiencing it for himself for the first time. Intense anxiety. Situations that made him unable to breathe, causing his entire body to break out in a sweat. His ‘comrade’ panting hard next to him. Body temperature transmitted from a firmly grasped hand. The explosive sound of a beating heart in the face of a crisis. The desperate cries of those who gave their all. The incredible joy he experienced after everything had worked out! Camaraderie! The exhilarating and sticky feeling of hugging someone in delight. That… That was not bad at all.
That was when change began. A month is too short a duration to change a person’s mind. However, it was enough to make a difference. After being in an environment where he had to deal with challenges every single day, experiencing the urgent need to resolve things by putting his life on the line, needing to trust other people in order to solve problems, having countless conversations with his ‘comrades’… Gun’s stubborn and twisted notions came crumbling down.
After having a close shave with death, Gun finally saw the ‘value’ of life. Being alive was all about being ‘happy’ and ‘endlessly grateful’. And it was a glorious blessing in itself. Even though he did not think much about other people’s lives in the past, he came to learn that a person’s life was not something to be recklessly played with. In order to do his job, Gun had to ‘properly’ understand other people’s jobs. He had never thought about putting himself in another person’s shoes before in his entire life. By seeing another person’s point of view, it allowed him to reflect on himself. And as everyone might have guessed, he learned the value of ‘acknowledging’ and ‘caring’ for others.
One day, after the end of an arduous mission, they had some drinks. It was a cheap and bitter liquor that was poured in a dirty cup that got passed around, and everyone drank from it. It was very strong. However…it was delicious. Gun had a couple of cups. Thereafter, he cried out loud for the first time in his adulthood. Tears just kept streaming down his cheeks. He bawled like a child. He was not sad and neither was he in pain. It was certainly not because he felt victimized. Strangely enough, it was because he was happy. He was just very happy that there were people in this world who believed in him unconditionally; he was so excited to be able to hang out with them, forgetting his identity.
For the first time in his life, he felt safe and warmly protected. Nonetheless, tears kept rolling down. It was Gun’s first time experiencing this. Gun might not know this, but the term ‘touching’ would be the most common word used in the autobiography of an underdog.
The passageway into the Damun Empire was blocked by an enormous iron gate that covered the entire valley. The lock on the gate was on the other side and hence, it was impossible for them to open the gate from the valley itself. It was probably set up that way to prevent all kinds of monsters and dangerous creatures from leaving the place. One might be convinced that apart from creatures that could fly, nothing else could get past the gate, but…
One person leapt over the iron gate, gently opened it from the other side without using a key, and welcomed the first group of people who walked in. Even though they tried their best to clean themselves up as much as possible…
“Why are the beggars coming from that side? How did they open the gate? They have wagons too?”
The gatekeeper, who was dozing off as he usually had nothing to do, rubbed his eyes and came running from afar. This place was a border town named Odum, which was approximately 400km away from Prigojin. Just like that, the party had returned to the human world.
It had been three days since they stepped into Odum. The party was hanging out with one another in a big inn in casual wear. They were wearing brand new clothes, since all of the clothes that they had brought with them were in such a terrible condition that they had to be thrown away. There were no clothing stores there in the first place, hence, they had to get all their clothes custom-made at the tailor’s. Hence, they had to stay there for at least five days. They spent those five days doing things they each wanted to do, and had a great time. Most of them pondered about what they had to do from now on, after looking back on their recent adventure. That was because the adventure itself was extremely magnificent and they made tremendous achievements.
However, there were a lot of visitors lined up to see the high-ranking officials who were visiting Odum. The consensus that everyone shared was that they were eager to leave that town. The news about them passing through the ‘Forgotten Country’, as well as going through the ‘Dead’s Gate’ from the other side, spread like wildfire across the continent.
Even though the iron gate was opened a couple of times before because the army wanted to capture the valuable monsters, entry to that place had been prohibited since 100 years ago after 1,000 troops were annihilated from a survey excursion. The group of people who passed through the Forbidden Grounds in the present world had made an appearance. It was considered a rare major incident in recent years. Adventurers of the renowned empire were excited. Rumors that several adventurers were determined to take up the challenge had circulated. Wealth and fame were glimmering right before their eyes. There was sufficient evidence. Although only partially shown, all kinds of gemstones from the Valley of Jewels, dried skins and bones of the marvelous monsters they caught, useful parts, as well as some of the strange equipment they obtained from the ‘Forest of Sacred Machines’, attracted people’s attention.
“Senun...that stingy bastard. If he said he was going to give it to me, he should have just readily given it to me...” muttered San.
The zippo lighter in his hand was reflecting the sunlight. It was sufficiently filled with gasoline.
“Are you still bitter about it?” Biyeon smirked.
“Well, It wasn’t like I was expecting it in the first place…”
“Please let it go. Shall we visit him again next time?”
“It depends on the circumstances. He probably moves his base from time to time and will hide in a different location, right?” San gritted his teeth, recalling what happened previously.
“If it’s shut down, there’s no need for it anyway, no?” asked San.
The goods and materials right before their eyes were organized in a way that it looked like a material warehouse. It was as big as a discount store.
“Because it’s an important artifact, you need to take it, but I will give only one item. Take your pick. However, only items that can be carried in your hands are allowed. I went through a lot of trouble collecting them…” said Senun.
“Can I get an early 2000’s laptop from episode 285? It has to operate on solar power of course, and has the basic software installed. It would be even better if it is using the korean OS.”
“What are you going to do with it?” asked Senun, as he narrowed his eyes.
“Do calculations, organize data, as well as analyze…”
“Ultimately, you’re going to use it to make weapons, are you not?”
“In that case, I’d like a book on biology and chemistry…”
“The book is gone. But I have a CD…”
“If I don’t have a PC, isn’t it useless?”
“That’s your problem then…”
“After walking around for some time, San sighed.
“Why...is there nothing else apart from these things?”
“They are pretty much useless items. This does not seem like everything though… Ultimately, I might have to catch a dragon…”
From a distance away, Senun’s ears perked up.
Most of the items were cars, automated machines, control devices, etc. They were useless to them. Electronics were not going to work due the lack of electricity, as well as standards issues. The only useful things were work tools, and they already had most of them. San had selected a couple of rifles, an M16 for sniping, live ammunition, a zippo lighter, a mechanical watch and a plastic storage container. As for Biyeon, she picked an electronic scale, as well as various simple measuring instruments that could detect chemicals. The rest of the people quietly selected things that were comprehensible to them. They were things that were mainly operated by alkaline batteries, but to them, they were magical disposable items.
“Alright… you said that they had left Odum?” asked a man in his early 40s. Papers were scattered everywhere in front of his desk.
“They passed through the Forbidden Grounds and entered Odum. It will take them about twenty days to get to Prigojin,” answered the person in front of him with his head bowed.
“That’s amazing. They managed to do what no one else could. You said that the special warriors from Ki-Jang Clan and Dong-Myung Clan joined them too? Did you find out what their goal is?”
“After questioning the family, I found out that they did not make any decisions as a family. It should be regarded as the independent judgment call made by the curious members, who are in-charge of collecting intel. However, they were thrilled to know that their family members managed to pass through one out of four Forbidden Grounds.”
“You mentioned that there were some merchants too?”
“A man named Dobel from Pibuno.”
“What is his objective?”
“It is currently unknown. It seems like he had decided to join them by chance, after being attacked by bandits, for safety reasons.”
“How is Gun?”
“He is in good health. I don’t think there were any mishaps. However…”
“The Han-Sung Clan siblings, Seyum and Segyum, revealed themselves and joined them.”
“After all, it was the Forbidden Grounds, they had to stay close and escort. There is nothing to blame them for.”
“Are you thinking of summoning him?”
“No. Anyway…just let him be. In any case, even though he’s a man who finds it hard to be a person, it’s still not the time yet.” The man tapped his hand on the desk.
“What do you think of them? The two people chosen by Rain.”
“I heard that Sir Hanyoung recommended them. If Princess Rain went all the way to that remote area, the rumors must be convincing.”
“If they passed through the Forbidden Grounds with their own strength, their wisdom and competence have already been proven to be real… Whether it was Rain’s strength or their capability…”
“His Majesty’s stance has become more subtle. Being too talented would be a problem.”
“That may be true… Father’s stance has become more peculiar. How interesting.”
The man chuckled out loud. He got up and looked out of the building with his hands behind his back. He had a gloomy look in his eyes. His name was Junkyung Dera, the person who was preparing to be the next emperor.
They had come.
Even though they were insignificant beings who did not have any influence yet, he could sense a strange flow of destiny that would create an upheaval. His father’s goal, his own will, as well as the strange powers that had appeared in this world, not forgetting any signs that were beyond his will... Things he was madly curious about.
Would Rain be able to solve it?
“This will be interesting…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter