Chapter 19

Biyeon crumpled onto the floor. Along with the war going on in her body, there was another war going on in her mind. It was a war of wills. On one side was an addictive, drug-laden will while the other was a human will that wanted to maintain its human nature.

As the pain passed a certain threshold, her brain started sending signals to release ‘dopamine’ hormones to help calm her body. For a brief moment, the pain subsided. However, the dopamine hormones seemed to harmonize with the poison. Thus, the natural defensive mechanism of the body started to crumble.

A true world of pain started opening up. A true hell of pain pushed her to the brink. She started rubbing and scratching her face on the floor.

Nonetheless, her actions had no effect on alleviating her pain. Her face was being protected by a soft hand. She had to go through this pain under full consciousness. 

“You’re doing well. Keep it up.”

She faintly heard San’s voice. She briefly opened her eyes. However, all she saw was a dot of light before it disappeared, the surroundings becoming completely black again.

She couldn’t see anything even with her eyes open. The pain seemed to manifest into a cacophony of screams. It was too loud, nothing else could be heard.

However, her consciousness was slowly awakening, and the world started to take shape. The parts of her body where the poison was incinerated became empty pockets of air. The emptiness was slowly being filled with ‘hope’.

These little pockets of hope began to fill and slowly grow. Through her pain, she felt that she was developing and finding hope. Those pockets of hope would bring newfound power.

No matter how much it hurt, no matter how sad she felt…

“Thank you…”

She remembered hearing these words of encouragement. She also recalled replying softly back. Both voices started melding into each other. Two cadences started vibrating together, creating a Fugue state, wherein her mind disassociated itself from her while part of her still remained in her mind. In the background, she could hear her favorite piece of classical music, Dona Nobis Pacem in B Minor, playing…

Holding her face with both hands, San started to release his worrying frown and perk his lips into a relieved smile. She stopped convulsing.

It seemed that she finally found her path. He had been so nervous that his palms were filled with sweat, along with the sweat and drool from her face.

Biyeon’s recovery took much longer than he expected. It probably meant that her pain was that much more intense. He would believe it if she said the pain lasted for a decade or two.

San had told Biyeon about what he had experienced, trusting that she could also go through the process. She had to put her life on the line, but the attempt was worth the consequences. She readily agreed.

He glanced at her back. Her child-like breathing was beautiful to see.

‘I wonder what she’s wishing for?’

She was now moving forward. She was awakening her newfound energy, burning off the poison, and forging her path ahead. The contaminated cells were rejuvenated into new cells and her normal cells advanced into super cells, rushing forward with Alpin poison antibodies in hand.

All the pathways, from her head to her toes and from her left to right arm, were purified and reformed. Her blood circulation and nervous system were being reborn to properly handle the stresses of acceleration. She came to the stage that marked the end of her internal war. This first ‘escape’ continued on slowly.

The ‘Acceleration’ that they experienced was the awakening of each individual’s hidden potential. This new state brought an increase in strength, agility, and healing capabilities. It also increased their ability to quickly produce antibodies. For San and Biyeon, the unexpected experience of contending against Alpin toxin would become a fortunate fate. Once they were able to overcome the poisonous toxin through acceleration, a new world would open.

Like a cicada shedding its outer skin, the two would go on to call this experience ‘escape’. There was always a price to pay to escape.

The pain needed to be overcomed slowly and fully. Only those who had an unwavering sense of purpose, the willpower to not give up or compromise in the face of extreme pain, and the intellectual ability to see the truth coldly would be given this enormous bodily present.

And…

They didn’t know it now, but this escape foreshadowed the next, great stage. They would no longer feel pain up to the second stage of acceleration. The reward for something that no one had ever done would be that much greater.

Their unthinkable experiment had never been done in the thousands of millennia that humans were summoned to this space. It was a path that only they had ever tread.

This was why this odd matching was able to produce this first story of courage and wisdom. Through their unwavering trust in each other, a legendary tale began.

***

A savory smell tickled her nose. A corner of her mouth reactively went up. The ability to smell was probably an unconscious human behavior that signified life. It was also evidence that he was nearby. She had her eyes closed. She was awake, but she didn’t want to open her eyes just yet.

“How much time has passed?” she asked with her eyes still closed. Her voice was soft yet firm.

“Three hours. It took a lot longer than I thought. Were you able to see the end?”

He gently brushed her hair away from her forehead and tucked it behind her ears. 

“Enough so that I don’t want to get up.”

“Yeah, good job. Congratulations. I’m glad this experiment worked out.”

San dusted off his hands and got up. She slightly opened her eyes. She was able to see his broad back as he was walking away. She had on a small smile.

Episode 1. Book 3: Escape – Chapter 3

“It’s a little complicated,” he murmured. 

His eyes shone brightly beneath his hat. Close by, Biyeon was also looking around. They were scanning their surroundings atop trees that stood over 200 meters high.

“It seems like we’ll need specialized equipment to climb up.”

“The tops of the mountain have ice caps that seem to be permafrost. Additionally, the top parts have ice cliffs that are curved inward, making it difficult to scale.”

“Do you think there’ll be a cave like last time?”

“We’ll have to search, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.”

The two had persistently looked for an escape route. Whenever they didn’t have a mission, they went on reconnaissance missions to try and gather information on the surrounding terrain. They discovered a few caves in the mountains, but all of them led to dead ends.

Furthermore, all the dead ends showed leftover matter that proved someone was there before them. The previous visitor’s despair and struggles were evident. The leftover matter also seemed to laugh at those who followed.

However, this dull couple didn’t know how to quit. Their minds were filled with the thought of escaping. After successfully reaching the second stage of acceleration, their eyesight increased severalfold, allowing them to scan this area known as ‘Pian’.

From relatively high areas where they could see far away, they would gather together, share their findings, and discuss possible escape routes.

***

“Hmm, that’s interesting. It’s like my eyes have automatic zooming features. Also, the field of vision is relatively wide, unlike binoculars.”

San was appreciating his own developed body. He was especially surprised at his vision and zoom feature, which could zoom up to 20x. His field of vision narrowed, but he could still see far away details, as well as an eagle. 

His hearing had also dramatically improved. Although he couldn’t fully discern all the surrounding sounds, he was able to hear sounds from far away. Furthermore, this increased hearing capability gave him the ability to find out how far and fast things were moving based on the strength of the emitting sound waves. Biyeon mentioned that if the sound waves were getting closer together, the object was moving closer, if the object was moving farther away, the sound waves would be further apart. She said it was due to the ‘Doppler’ effect. He felt he heard about it once in his high school physics class.

Regardless, with his improved hearing ability and Biyeon’s mathematical formula on how to calculate distance and speed, San was able to recognize the speed and directional movement of an object in real-time.

San and Biyeon maintained an acceleration state at all times. Since their senses were different in this state, they needed to get used to it. Though they still felt numb and dizzy, they started off from the lower levels and worked themselves up, allowing them to enjoy adventures while controlling the varying levels of acceleration.

Is this how drivers felt while driving speeds of over 300 km/hour on the Autobahn?

The Hawk often followed them out on their excursions. It was an intelligent animal and was quite clever. It could even speak a few words of human speech. It seemed like the Hawk really liked these two humans.

As the days passed, it seemed to spend more time with San and Biyeon. It had grown friendly enough with them that it relayed some information about the surrounding terrain and also helped them escape from a few emergencies.

However, the Hawk was a little picky and self-centered, only speaking when it wanted to. Or, it could be that it could only speak what it was allowed to talk about.

San and Biyeon were somewhat concerned about the relationship between the Hawk and the people who placed them here, but they didn’t really push the issue. Wasn’t it a game where everything would unfold eventually? And…

“It’s so cute!” This was San’s short and simple assessment.

***

One month passed. The missions kept coming in. The opponents were fiercer and stronger beasts. The two of them used every method, strategy, and resource available to counter the enemies.

The missions didn’t end until they fulfilled the minimum requirements. The average mission had doubled or triple the minimum number of enemies they needed to kill. If the requirements were to kill three beasts, then they could kill three and then run away from the others until the mission time period expired. If they were able to kill more than the minimum, they would be rewarded for the extra kills. The reward was always more nectar.

Also, based on the information the Hawk provided, a summoned who cleared a mission could ask for another mission to immediately start.

“So, it’s a game where we need to gather as much nectar as possible? Is my assessment correct?”

“I believe that nectar increases battle capabilities. This is based on the increasing level of our enemies’ strength.”

“So, you think nectar changes the biological functions of its consumers?”

“I believe it’s more than that. Do you remember seeing the message ‘enjoy death and pain’ on the pit wall? I feel like it has something to do with nectar. Or maybe it has something to do with ‘Acceleration’?”

After finishing her question, she took a peek at the Hawk. The Hawk was focusing on another task.

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