Chapter 42

“Sir San, could you tell us more about where you came from?” Dongye asked San a question. 

His question quickly caught everyone’s attention.

Suddenly, all the conversations stopped. The guests turned towards the two. The Count’s eyes sparkled.

‘Captain Dongye is speaking in honorifics?’ His rapidly changing attitude towards San and Biyeon was hard to understand for anyone except the Count.

Their behavior towards each other, just a moment ago, was exposed to everyone, and because they were so openly observed, the change in Dongye’s attitude was seemingly incomprehensible.

The Count didn’t understand what prompted Dongye’s psychological and attitude change, but the changed approach seemed promising rather than contentious.

“It’s a beautiful place. The four seasons are distinct, and the people are friendly and lively,” San grinned and answered simply. Since the other person was being polite, he’d be polite too.

“Huh- Is there such a country in the north? The name of the country is…”

“I don’t think you’ll know even if I told you. Actually, I don’t even know where I am now. The two of us were suddenly swept away by a great wind and flung high into the air. Once we landed, we saw that we were isolated in the northern mountainous regions of the world. After suffering for several years in the wilderness, we finally got out. Fortunately, Count Essen values our skills, so we’re planning to stay here for a while under his employment.”

“Oh no… you’ve been through so much misery and hardship. Are all the people there as strong as you?” Dongye asked, stroking his chin. In his mind, a probable hypothesis was being formed.

“They are strong. They are also very wise,” San replied.

“We’re also a very prideful people,” Biyeon added on.

“You two must have been important people there,” Dongye said as he nodded. 

It was a natural judgment and conclusion based on his view of the world. If the person who made him feel such fear and powerlessness a moment before was considered weak… he would have a hard time living with that logic.

“We were. We were the owners of the country…” Biyeon muttered in a low voice as if reading a monologue from a script. She looked at San. They suddenly felt that pangs and sense of longing for their home.

In the 21st century, individual citizens made up a democratic country, so it wasn’t really a lie that they were owners of a country. A country’s owners were its citizens… at least, that’s what’s taught in schools throughout Korea… 

“Wow- the King… royalty…”

“No wonder…” 

People began to murmur as they looked at each other. Dongye’s face started relaxing into a content smile.

Episode 2. Book 1: Exploration – Chapter 10

After the meal, they stayed in the banquet hall. The entertainment troupes that had been waiting outside began to come in.

The dining tables were removed. Light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments were being offered and enjoyed. On both sides of the hall, bands with various musical instruments took their places.

There were quite a few types of flute-like instruments, trumpet-like brasses, guitar-like instruments, small drums, tambourines, and other strange percussion instruments. There were no piano or string instruments like a violin or cello.

Like any country in any era, a clown/jester with face paint was preparing to lead the banquet’s entertainment festivities.

“Excuse me for a moment,” San respectfully said to the Count before walking outside. He felt the burning gazes of the other guests.

He wasn’t yet ready to live in a world where he garnered so much attention. Honestly, it was very burdensome.

However, in order to properly obtain what they wanted to know, what they needed to know, and what they needed to prepare for, they had to go through this cumbersome period. Every second was an important information collecting moment.

The banquet entertainment was not to his taste. Even when he watched TV on Earth, he watched the news more than anything else.

He stood on a balcony and looked up at the night sky. The evening spring breeze was moderately cool. It had been a long time since he drank alcohol. He felt like he was going with the flow of the natural atmosphere.

He wanted to smoke, but he shook his head for fear of being treated as a real alien by the natives.

‘A man who emits fire and smoke…. Would probably be seen as a monster…’

He smiled broadly at the thought. Then he remembered what he left behind on Earth. The things he put off to a corner of his mind while trying to survive in a combative environment started rushing into his mind.

The smell of human life, the evening wind, and the rising alcoholic spirit momentarily softened his firm determination, allowing a small gap to form in his well-guarded, self-imposed armor. His pent-up emotions started seeping through this small gap.

I really loved you, I love you still, and I will never stop longing for you in the future… my wife ‘Soo’. And my loving daughter ‘Young’… 

“Hoo-”

An image of Soo, and their shared memories, was still alive in his mind. As if it was yesterday, the tingling excitement of their shared experiences still didn’t subside. Her scent, her smile, and her voice were still vivid.

However… the more he tried to remember the details of those experiences, the fainter and hazier his memories became.

Instead, the silhouette of a person to who he was very accustomed started overlapping with Soo’s image. He shook his head. There were tears forming around his eyes.

Grabbing onto the balcony railing tightly, he felt a sense of tiredness in his hands. He suddenly became confused. He couldn’t find an answer. There was no clue on how to solve the problem of living here and surviving for an uncertain future.

Getting out of this damn world seemed like a pipedream. It was hard enough just adapting to this place.

The foreign people, culture, the barely understandable language, uncomfortable and cumbersome systems of hierarchy, and unfamiliar rituals… His mind and body were exhausted, even though a day hadn’t yet passed.

‘This shabby human body… against an omnipotent enemy with divine powers… Can we really go back? I guess it’s possible to live here in hiding for the rest of our lives. However, will they just let us go like that?’

He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. It was his habit when trying to calm himself down.

He focused on positive thinking, positive goals, flexible countermeasures, fast execution speed, uncompromising immersion… and the ‘never die' spirit and ambition that made all of that possible. His mood improved, matching his pleasantly drunken state.

‘Whatever... I’m going to go all the way. If I can’t avoid it, then I’ll enjoy it. It starts now. It’s just the beginning… They’ll find us eventually. There’s so much to prepare for the next war. It’s ‘guerilla warfare’ time. I have to prepare accordingly. I have to train and advance my body, too…’

Suddenly, San turned his head. The familiar light of her eyes intertwined with his. She had come outside at some point. She smiled brightly as if she were drunk.

Biyeon turned her gaze and looked at the landscape. She was also uncomfortable with the atmosphere here. She must have also thought of her ‘home’…

San stepped back into the banquet hall. Seeing her made him feel good. There wasn’t a specific reason, but he felt that he should leave her alone right now.

Sometimes, people needed to be alone.

Biyeon looked up at the night sky. Stars filled the sky. A gentle smile formed on Biyeon’s lips.

They knew each other well. They didn’t just understand each other’s thoughts, they knew them. It wasn’t simply knowing knowledge or information.

Their bodies were interlinked. An echo of emotion would easily pass from one to the other. They knew how each felt, understood each other’s will, and shared in the excitement and subtle emotions of each other’s feelings. The other’s heartbeat was their own.

San and Biyeon didn’t expect this level of understanding and intimacy to be so shocking and beautiful. Their relationship was without pretense. They enjoyed the most honest state of communication and togetherness.

There was no reason not to accept their unfiltered relationship.

Nevertheless…

They didn't know what kind of fate this simple ‘honest relationship’ would lead them to.

They were the first to reorganize themselves by overcoming the side effects of the mysterious nectar. 

However, they went beyond that. No one yet knew what would happen when Awakened beings fully ‘trusted’ each other. What did the 100% purity level of trust, constantly exchanging Awakened concepts and skills, and always evolving abilities between two Awakeners mean?

No one truly knew. Not even the beings who brought them into this space, or the ‘client’, or even the Master… 

What was certain was that they had begun to understand some of the mighty races that lived on ‘faith’ as food. They achieved human awakening by overcoming the fake vitality symbolized by ‘nectar’ and the false beliefs represented by ‘salt’. Their fate and destiny lay in dominating those lesser beings and moving forward…

“Someone once said that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. That was a true story…” Biyeon muttered.

***

The banquet was in full swing. San was watching how the banquet flowed with interest. It was awkward at first, but once he decided to enjoy it, he took a closer look. What kind of fun do humans in this era live for? It would be better to learn quickly what one needs to get used to.

The banquet MC was a clown/jester. It wasn’t easy to understand at first, but it seemed the main source of entertainment, or ‘play’, revolved around simple games of mixing the opposite sexes together into couples or making the audience laugh by joking around.

Occasionally, the nobles would take penalty wine shots, which inspired greater excitement and laughs.

The band was sustaining and encouraging the mood with bright music.

The nobles and warriors alternately danced with the other sex and enjoyed themselves by playing group games.

“It’s fun…” Biyeon muttered.

“What’s fun?”

“The thought that a noble’s banquet is an official place where men and women can meet and enjoy time together.”

“All young people are like that. Isn’t it the same in any era?”

“Can people here choose to marry if they like each other?”

“Well, wouldn’t it be difficult? Even in the world we lived in, I heard that love and marriage are a recent thing… Huh?” San paused and flinched.

“In this world, polygamy is common,” whispered Biyeon close to his ear.

“Why do I feel like it suddenly got cold?”

“Your heart rate increased by about 10%.”

“So...  what?”

“Well… you’ll probably live like normal here, too. But if something should happen…”

“If something should happen… what?”

“There’s nothing complicated, right? It’s like issuing multiple invoices.”

“Were you thinking of this the whole time on the balcony?”

“This is… very… important.”

San clicked his tongue and looked at Biyeon. It seemed that she was a little drunk.

There was nothing to really worry about, as she lived with constant restraint on her mind, always keeping an eye on everything. She was also kind of acting cute in her own way.

“Even one is overwhelming!” San shouted while stepping away.

“Huh?”

“I mean… No… Stop!”

He forcibly stopped himself from blabbering on.

‘Is there someone other than you who I can entrust myself to?’ he murmured, just loud enough for Biyeon to hear.

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