Chapter 20

“We’re probably not the only ones to be summoned, right?”

“I think so.”

“There are probably other teams who are becoming stronger at a faster rate than us.”

“We’ll probably meet them in the near future.”

“We’ll either have to kill or be killed.”

The two fell silent in thought. They knew what the general scenario would be. They also hadn’t used the nectar at all.

According to the society from which they came from, they understood the concept that ‘nothing is truly free.' If one’s skill or ability could go up from a source outside of oneself, there would be a clear price to pay in return. Until they knew what this price was for nectar, they decided to be cautious.

They didn’t try to do more than they could do, but they also didn’t show off all of their abilities. As soldiers, and special forces at that, they understood how important information was.

The most important thing was to stay alive. It wasn’t too important to succeed in a mission, especially since they didn’t know the reason for the missions…

“I think it’s time to start trying the nectar,” stated San.

“We had to do it at some point. The timing seems right,” answered Biyeon.

Both of them firmly believed that they needed to understand the effects of the resources given to them. They would do this by conducting controlled experiments. Thus, they would analyze all the resources that these people gave to them before consuming them.

After a set period of preparation and thought, they would immediately conduct the experiments.

‘What’s the purpose of giving rewards? How do these resources affect our future? What type of effects would these resources bring?’

They only had one way of finding out the answers, ‘experience’. They wouldn’t know the effects of the resources without feeling its effects firsthand. It wasn’t the best option or even an option that they wanted to consider, but it was their only option. Their fate was worse than a stray dog’s.

In the end, they started conducting experiments with their bodies. They agreed to take turns as test subjects for their experiment. One would be the main test subject while the other would observe, gather data, and maintain controls over the experiment. 

Their decision to conduct these experiments could be wrong, but they could only trust each other and rely on their unyielding will to live and escape. Furthermore, they both had a ‘cool’ mentality, believing that, in the end, they would control their own fate.

If they had to use the resources, there was no reason to constantly avoid them. However, if the substances were highly addictive or took away their free will, it was not worth the trade. Especially if that trade meant their ‘life’.

They conducted this nectar and salt experiment as they did all their experiments, in secret. Biyeon volunteered to be the test subject. If San were to take the nectar and go mad, she would have no way of controlling him, so it was best for the physically weaker Biyeon to take the nectar and salt. This was what she said to convince him.

“Are you sure we have to do it this way?”

“It’s right that I should be the one taking the nectar and salt. If we follow everyone else, there’ll be no difference. If something happens to go wrong… please take care of me.”

San nodded after hearing her logic. He replied, “Well, if you’re gone, then my existence also becomes meaningless. Be brave…”

She took a swig of the nectar and a heap of the salt. She also cooked part of the meat that was given to them. She made sure to follow the experimental guidelines that they set forth, to slowly increase the consumption amount in stages.

As soon as she drank the nectar…

She went to heaven. Heaven seemed to reside within the nectar. Even for a 21st-century person who sought stimulation artificially through synthetic drugs and substances, the effects of nectar went beyond anything she could imagine.

Like its description as the drink of the gods, the purplish nectar was sweet, refreshing, and aromatic. It was to the point that she didn’t want to waste a single drop…

The addictive sweetness started spreading throughout her body. She felt like she was wrapped in soft silk. It calmed and soothed her emotions. It was as if she was being led toward an answer, an escape into nirvana.

She couldn’t return back to her original state. The whole world was drenched in a beautiful wine color, the rays of the sun were warming and extremely comfortable, and a renewed, refreshed feeling spread throughout her body.

It was as if she obtained freedom. The world was her oyster. Like a child who was fully immersed in a game, she had no sense of time, pain, or ethics. She felt independent of the world, free from any worries or concerns.

Following this feeling of freedom, various ideas and desires started spurting out of her mind. Whatever was spurted out, she would follow wholeheartedly and dutifully.

She was able to focus to the extreme. That focus also led her towards responsibility to ‘play’. She was now prepared to play.

With unfocused, dead eyes, Biyeon was lifelessly sitting, trapped inside an internal world of rapture. It was like she was waiting for someone to command her. After a brief period of time, she started to slowly return back to reality.

However, she saw this reality as though it was an illusion. She was going from a state of clarity and happiness to one of despair and anguish. Reality became her nightmare.

She saw her filthy and vulgar self. Her throat became dry. Returning to this nightmare was like traversing a desert, going through endless, desolate places that had nothing to provide but dryness and heat. A tremendous feeling of thirst followed, causing her to feel as if her throat and lips were cracking. She kept moving her tongue across her lips to wet them.

However, no saliva was produced. Her tongue, which had become completely white from dryness, slipped across her rough, chapped lips with no effect.

Within this nightmare, Biyeon was able to recognize the ‘enemy’. The pleasure’s ‘play’ diametrically opposed this ‘enemy’. She thought she also smelled the nectar that this enemy took away from her.

 She had to dominate this enemy and return to heaven. She felt like she could do anything. If only she can obtain nectar once more!

Exhibiting a tremendous amount of strength and quickness, she easily subdued San. He fell down on his back before he knew what happened. Her attack broke three of his ribs and broke both his legs, cracking them into unnatural angles. As she was about to grab his neck to suffocate him, San took hold of both her hands with his own.

 With unfocused eyes, she saw him looking at her. She felt sadness emanating from his eyes.

With both of her hands immobilized, he brought her closer to his face. Once his mouth touched her ear, she heard his soft voice and felt a sudden jolt to her system.

“Stop…”

“…?”

“Can you accelerate? Biyeon…”

His voice was oddly comforting and calming. She felt that her name sounded foreign to her ears.

The foreignness was from this person who called her name and who wanted to convey some sort of ‘message’ to her. That sense of foreignness and unfamiliarity started to dissipate.

She couldn’t go against his words. At that point, she started to ‘accelerate’.

Quietly… very quietly… something started to lift off from her body. Her consciousness and reasoning started to slowly return. She was able to escape the fantastical, imaginative state and return to the cruel reality. 

Though this place was filthy and filled with despair, it was where she lived, where her ‘life’ was. As if she was breaking out from a state of drunkenness, her individual cells seemed to awaken and come back to life.

She was finally able to clearly see his eyes as she laid on top of him.

‘Was it that good’ he seemed to say with his eyes.

‘The best’ she seemingly replied with her own eyes.

‘You went a bit too far. I thought I was going to die’ his expression stated.

‘I’m so sorry…’

She started crying. A single tear quickly dropped from her tear-filled eyes and landed on his face.

San was in a dire state. Part of his injuries stemmed from not being in the acceleration state when she first started attacking, but the effect of the nectar was too explosive. Biyeon almost reached the level of the second stage of acceleration. Furthermore, there was no delay or wait time. Her power exploded in an instant.

Though they gathered invaluable data, the most concerning thing was San’s current state. His broken ribs probably started some internal bleeding and the state of his legs made it seem like he would never be able to walk again.

‘Since we don’t have any medication, we’ll have to give the injury time to heal naturally. The main issue is the internal bleeding.’

Though time flowed by, they were not able to find any answers. A mission would be given soon, but there was no chance of success at this rate. Though he could heal his wounds faster in the acceleration state, his internal bleeding would also worsen as his blood circulation increased. 

They needed to use the last available option. They had to try everything. He should try the nectar, right? But what if he goes mad like her?

“Just put it on the injury! Lather it on you idiots.”

They heard a small child’s voice. They both turned their heads to the source of this voice. The Hawk, with its head through one of the pit’s air circulation vents, clicked its tongue. 

They turned their heads back to look at each other. San smiled. Biyeon hesitated.

“That thing is really something. Let’s try! What else can we do?” 

She put some nectar on his broken legs. As she put a few drops on his injuries, smoke started rising.

“Hut-”

He swallowed his breath. It didn’t hurt. Actually, it tickled.

“Isn’t this amazing?”

Her face instantly brightened up. The injury quickly started healing.

Within an hour, all of his injuries were fully healed, allowing him to walk around as if nothing happened. This was the day they learned about the benefits and side effects of nectar.

Episode 1. Book 3: escape – Chapter 4

The hand moved. Multiple screens scrolled past at a blazing rate. A screen showed a number indicating the number of days past, 90.

A video was playing on each screen, detailing how each pair were dealing with their tests.

The screen monitored the death of each human during their mission. There was detailed information on each dead summoned, providing information to further fine-tune each test subject during their resurrection. Another screen monitored the birth of the resurrected. The resurrection happened within a test tube and moved to an appropriate culture dish. 

On another screen, there were also pairs going through mental reconditioning through hypnosis and anesthesia… a variety of controlled stimuli were also being applied.

A continuous flow of data and numbers filled each screen to the brim.

The hand paused. A screen showed various pairings battling. The beginning of the differentiation of each fighter could be seen. One of the pairings was already starting to enjoy hunting.

As the nectar was introduced, the mission completion times consistently reduced. In tandem, the individual statistics of the summoned rapidly increased.

On a side panel of each screen were numbers that signified the combat power of each of the summoned. As the hand flipped through the various pairing screens, the combat power numbers were also shown. 950,930, 990, 870, 868, 1230… Another screen indicated that the group average was 955.

“Suki and Beckham are showing a lot of promise,” Nil murmured.

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