Chapter 202

“What about the other clans?”

“The large ones have sent 2,000 while the smaller clans have sent around 1,000 troops each. They’ve been stationed around the perimeter. Due to the ongoing wars in the east and south, they probably weren’t able to send very many warriors.”

Dongye nodded with a grim expression.

“Regardless, no matter how difficult it may be, the imperial court gave a direct order for us to defend Porato. Furthermore, since the leadership agreed, we’ll need to make sure that we’re thoroughly prepared. Let’s go.”

The two urged their horses and moved forward. As they moved, they saw various groupings of warriors from various clans and people from various guilds busily moving about.

The large residences had tightly shut their gates, and there were little to no citizens walking in the large, main streets.

Vagrants and commoners who were busily finding ways to survive and servants who were rushing out completing the orders given to them by their nobles watched the two pass by with fear-filled eyes.

While riding his horse, Dong-ye suddenly pulled the rein and stopped in front of a recently erected barrack alongside a rocky hill. Even though he had only briefly ridden, white dust had piled up on his shoulders.

There were people in front of the barrack. They turned their heads and looked at the two approaching figures with wary eyes.

However, once they soon recognized each other, both parties broke out into a smile.

“It’s good to see you again, Commander Dongye.”

“Ah, I didn’t know you were here too, Captain Sedum.”

Dongye got off his horse and greeted Sedum. Dongyoung, who was following closely behind Dongye, waved his hand in greeting towards the person behind Sedum.

“You’re here too.”

“I just came,” Gibin said as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Did you volunteer?”

“I threw a tantrum. They said terrifying things were coming. If I run away from a battle like this, I’m not Gibin.”

Gibin smiled and shook Dongyoung’s hand heartily.

“Wait, don’t you see me? How come you’re not greeting me!”

“Huh? Giyoung? You’re here too?”

“How could the ‘Morning Star of the Battlefield’ not be on the battlefield?”

The group exchanged warm greetings. Their relationship was unique. Usually, those from opposing clans, especially amongst the Absolute Clans, were usually wary of each other and often competed unnecessarily. However, this didn’t apply to this group of people. The trust that they had been built through life-and-death adventures together in the Forbidden Grounds was that extraordinary and lasting.

In addition, as they participated in the plans led by Rain and Biyeon within the imperial courts, they had established a strangely strong sense of comradeship.

“Are the old men here?” Gibin asked.

“Yeah, they’ve already come. The three of them are probably together.”

“Whoa. All three legendary figures have gathered here in Porato City? The emperor’s order is surely great.”

“Because if Porato is breached, catastrophe may occur throughout the empire.”

“Did you hear any news regarding Grand Duke San or Grand Duchess Biyeon? It would be a great help if they were here.”

“Well. I heard that the two of them went on a trip, but no one knows where they went.”

“Travel? During these times? What’s happening? They left their estate while construction was underway?”

“Who knows what they’re thinking? They’re different from us, so how can we fathom their thoughts? They could be carrying out the emperor’s secret orders for all we know.”

“Anyway, this place is terrible. The northern sky is not visible at all. Are these the last days of this world?”

They all turned their heads to look towards the mountain range that stretched far into the horizon. Black smoke was rising here and there within the Orom Mountains.

Lightning flashed as black clouds started covering the vast mountain range, and a glimpse of red flames flashed every so often.

“Are the Dark Guilds also participating?” Dongye asked.

“I have been commanded to prepare for the possible appearance of blood demons,” Sedum replied.

“Blood Demons? Are they also related to the movement of these northern monsters?”

“That’s what the Grand Duke and Duchess stated. They told me to keep in mind the possibility that the monsters could move under someone’s control. Thus, we have brought the necessary equipment and medicine to counteract these possibilities.”

“Huh, that would be really bad if Blood Demons made an appearance. We have to prepare ourselves accordingly as well.”

“We have a workshop here in Porato City, so we can help with any of your supply or production needs.”

“No need. As the manufacturing method has been revealed, our Dong-Myung Clan has also prepared everything in advance. However, if there is any need, I will contact you. Thank you.”

Dongye’s face hardened as he digested the news. Awakened Blood Demons were strong. Furthermore, the higher-level Blood Demons were much stronger than their human counterparts, even if their Awakened statuses were the same. Besides, Blood Demons knew no pain or fear.

Even more frightening was the contagious nature of the disease that Blood Demons carried. Infected demons obeyed their higher-level commander’s orders. Were the monsters, who were descending upon Porato City, obeying the orders of the Blood Demons?

‘They’re like an army. The most fearsome armored army in this world. Their force is also increasing by the day…’

Confrontation – Chapter 5

D–60

‘3’ [Wait]

‘5’ [Attack]

‘8, 9’ [Disturb, Evade]

‘1, 102, Ghana’ [Recording No. 1 will be delivered 2 hours later. Contents of the recording are…]

“Done. Good work. You can go. This time, Hun, come out.”

A spirit went back into San’s hand, and another came out. They shimmered as if they were weak hazes. San was talking to the spirits one-by-one. San felt like he was talking to an answering machine. After receiving San’s energy, some of the spirits flew to Biyeon.

The spirits seeped into the back of Biyeon’s hand. Through these incoming spirits, Biyeon was listening to San’s recorded message.

“The process and efficiency have improved a lot. Though, I still feel like it’s cutting off occasionally… like a dropped call...”

“It’s more advantageous that way. What do you think? It was worthwhile to train them, right?”

“The transmission distance increased a lot. We’ve reached stage 3 now, right?”

“Yeah. Once we reach stage 5, we should be able to send messages at distances of ten kilometers without any transmission loss. The duration the recordings could be kept intact seems to be about two days. That seems to be their limit. Take note.”

“It’s a good way to communicate. I’ll have to sell it to my friends in the future.”

Playing with the spirits was also a fun game. Since they were trained under modern warfare standards on Earth, San and Biyeon had felt a serious limitation due to the lack of long-distance communication methods in this world. Thus, they had diligently looked for alternative communication methods, and in the process, they discovered these spirits. They were logical creatures that parasitized their host’s mind, gaining energy and knowledge in the process. Such forced learning and exploitation of labor were rather welcomed by the spirits.

In fact, thanks to San and Biyeon, many of the spirits had attained a sense of self, something that was difficult to achieve even if they controlled a human host for several hundred years. Thus, at least hundreds of spirits maintained a spiritual symbiosis through San and Biyeon. Their relationship was like the amazing number of microorganisms that lived in symbiosis with the sixty trillion cells that make up the human body. The gods and sages knew what was going on. All conversations that they conducted with the spirits would be overheard.

The two looked at each other and smiled brightly. But there were also significant dark lines drawn around their eyes. What one could see wasn’t the whole story. The spirits were transforming into a powerful ‘logical army’ according to their training method.

The gods would never know the spirits’ fighting power and capabilities. This army of spirits would only show its true face when confronted on the battlefield. Furthermore, depending on the capabilities of the commander, the strength of this spirit army would waver between something seemingly insurmountable or laughable. San and Biyeon’s enemies would soon find out the power and force of a ‘logic-based army’ commanded by the best commanders within this world.

Where was the end of this world?

The place a wanderer dreams of was the end of the world.

It didn’t matter what or who’s world it was.

One just wanted to see the end.

Where one couldn’t go any further.

Only that place could guarantee the end of one’s trip.

Even though one may not yearn for the end, when one finally reaches the end, what one finds there may not be the end, but a dream.

Only the dream of the end…

Can we start over then? Once we reach what we think of as the end?

Biyeon closed her notebook.

“You’re constantly writing these days.”

“Because every passing day is precious.”

“Is it not to forget?”

“To make sure I don’t care if I do forget.”

“Do you want someone to remember you here?”

“It’s fun, no? Someone will read my writings. About the days we made precious through our toils, struggles, and achievements.”

“Do you think it’s fun for him, too?”

“If it’s interesting for him, he can leave a comment in the comment section,” Biyeon said as she laughed.

“Even if we can’t ever see or read his comments?”

“The sender of a letter never sees his letter again. Maybe someone is reading it in an unknown place until it’s frayed and tattered. But we still write letters. Like an earnest prayer.”

“That makes sense…”

The two were moving rapidly across the northern tip of the continent. They had traveled through all the mountains and fields in the east and north, and explored the huge caves formed underground.

During their travels, they had met with countless novel creatures. There were monsters with bizarre shapes beyond one’s imagination, and there were many fascinating creatures that they had only heard from legends. Most were primitive intelligent species that were in different stages of evolution, and there were also those who lived in highly organized colonies.

The area beyond this vast northern mountain range was a land completely forbidden to the human race.

The cliffs were rugged and tall, making it difficult to pass over, hot lava flowed like a stream beyond the cliffs, and toxic chemical gas fields spewed deadly gasses that would finally kill off any curious explorers. Even if they crossed over all these natural barriers, there were further dangers beyond one’s imagination. Lava and glaciers, giant trees and deadly monsters, more deadly creatures, and mighty beings…

However, these barriers were nothing for San and Biyeon. This trip was not an escape trip. Rather, it was the opposite.

Penetration. It would be the place where they infiltrate, wreak havoc, and make their escape, much like the opening scenes of an epic war drama. The time had come, so, they moved boldly. The operation that they had planned and elaborated on a long time ago was unfolding.

“If it’s a game, we should give as much as we’ve received, right?” San asked.

“With interest…” Biyeon added on.

***

“We’ve come back.”

“I’m pretty excited.”

Atop the mountain where the wind blew the strongest, San and Biyeon looked down upon the familiar scenery unfolding beneath the sheer ice walls and cliffs. They could see a total of forty sectors. They were back at Pian.

They were currently on the outskirts, totally hidden from view. It was a place that no one could enter unless one was an Awakened at the 5th Stage of Acceleration or above. A place where one’s sense of space becomes twisted and thus thoroughly disguised. Where all communication channels were forcibly terminated. It was the very place they had passed when they came to this world, into this place… into Pian. It had been six years since they last saw this place. It was different from before since they decided to come to this place this time around.

The two spent several days scouring the vast area. Their actions were swift, their observations keen, and their judgments exact.

They collected all the information they needed. The meticulously planned operational map was redrawn.

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