Chapter 39. The Ghost Forest

Chapter 39. The Ghost Forest

A man thought to himself as he looked down at a hologram of a forest.

‘I’m going to lose anyways?’

Chrono foresaw that someone would target his life, and decided to hire multiple specialists to assist him. One of these specialists was the young man here, the Strategist. The one who was providing him the map of the forest was his partner, the Observer.

‘I got the money, so I’ll still do my best, but… I can’t help but feel a little down. To think I’d have to try my best despite knowing that I’d lose...’

He had asked Chrono why he’d lose, but he couldn’t get a proper answer out of the man. Instead, Chrono simply decided to give him a huge number of talented individuals.

The Ghost Forest, Unknown Cause, Fragile, Caveman, Unarmed, Modeller, Orderless.

There were two irregulars here as well. The beings known to be in the Brave Class.

‘He wants me to use monsters like those? In the end, the only thing I can do for these people is to put them all in the right places for them to showcase all of their power.’

It was amateurish to rush in and show all your cards right at the beginning. The first battle was to roughly measure the enemy’s strength.

‘The very first thing I’ll use will be the most useless. The merc group that’s only good for sniping, the Ghost Forest.’

Despite having created this plan a year back, the Strategist reviewed his plan with a unsatisfactory face. Because his loss was already set in stone. The Strategist looked into the Observer’s map with a frown.

“They really came at the right time.”

He couldn’t see the faces of the killers. It was probably a magic that disrupted recording magic.

‘Why? Why’s the wizard...?’

The Strategist began to think deeply as he looked at the censored videos. The wizard’s final goal was to reach the absolute truth-- in other words, become a god. There was absolutely no need for the wizard to hunt heroes of the past era.

‘Damn… I probably won’t ever be able to know. After all, I’m going to lose no matter what I do...’

The Strategist sighed loudly to himself and gave orders to the Ghost Forest.

*

The sun came up as the mist of dawn settled on the ground. I felt killing intent from the forest below us, and told the two that there were ambushers around us. There were four seconds left until we landed. I could see the lights from bullets being shot coming from the forest.

0.1, 0.6, 1.3, 1.9 seconds…

Piiin!

A bullet that came for my head hit the gloves of Hirganrel.

2.4, 2.8, 3.3…

I could hear the gunshot. Based on the time difference between the bullet and the gunshot, the attacker and I were about 1,122m apart. There were eight enemies to the Northwest. I landed on the ground with a roll, and immediately hid behind a tree.

So this is how they’re planning on doing this.

As expected of the Thief. He’s hiding somewhere safe while he gets his underlings to do the dirty work for him. A hide-and-seek with someone who can see the future… He’ll probably appear the moment he’s confident that he can take care of me without dying.

*

The temperature of the forest can go into negatives at times. Enough to let frost develop over the leaves.

[We missed the first shot.]

The sniper threw a potion far away from himself after sending the report to the Strategist. After all, if the other side had a skilled wizard, they’d be able to detect the mana within the potion. But he was too late.

Two kilometers away, Morto had already detected all traces of mana in the forest. And if she could see it, so could Jin. He probably already went on his way towards his targets. The Strategist realized this immediately.

‘Fast. Do they have an ability to observe the entire forest like the Observer can?’

Of course, the Strategist couldn’t see mana. He could only use contextual clues to try to guess the reason for failure.

“Message the Ghost Forest. Focus on preserving your forces. Move from your positions and get to your rendezvous point.”

The Strategist’s power was [Battle Command]. An ability that allowed him to look at the statuses of those under him, and allowed him to send messages to them from afar. The snipers began to split away from each other.

“Mana wave detected. Target two is casting magic.”

The Observer sent the Strategist a video after detecting something. The smallest of the three killers was casting magic.

‘Are they trying to hide? Or...’

Fog spewed out of the wizard’s body, which began to cover the entire battlefield.

“Ghost Forest, we’re retreating.”

The Observer’s voice became nervous.

“Target A is moving towards route D at a speed of 37 meters per second!”

The Strategist fell silent as he watched a red dot move across the map.

‘That’s human?’

This was far more than what he had expected. There were multiple traps set in the escape routes that the snipers were using. These traps weren’t something that could be found very easily either. But the enemy was moving at 37 meters per second in a dense forest whilst avoiding all these traps.

‘...I’ll have to create a new plan for this.’

He had already heard that snipers won’t work. The first attacks were always used to taunt the enemy to make them a little more unguarded. This first battle was made to lead the enemy into a field of traps using the snipers.

‘Damn… To think we’d fail so quick...’

The Strategist gripped his pen as he watched the blue dots of his allies disappear from the map. In the end, all the blue dots on the map had gone out.

<Ghost Forest[0/8] OFFLINE.>

Soon enough, a ‘pii-’ sound that signalled the death of the Ghost Forest went off.

27 minutes and 35 seconds.

This was the time it took for eight specially-trained snipers to die to just three killers.

‘We didn’t even get to find out about their powers. Should I just go all out here? No, no. The risk is too big. We might get completely wiped out if we do that...’

The first and foremost thing that ability users had to do in battle was to figure out each other’s power. The Strategist, who wasn’t even able to accomplish this, ground his teeth.

‘Is this why Chrono didn’t tell me about the future? To get rid of uncertainties? If I just used the plan from the instance of the future where I succeeded, I would’ve won… He probably didn’t tell me anything because no matter what I’d do, I’d lose.’

The pen in his hand broke.

‘Damn it. I can’t take it. To think I’d have to make a new plan… I’ll have to try to balance out my forces vs. their fighting capabilities properly.’

The Strategist asked the Observer a question.

“The targets?”

“Escaped.”

“Change the screen to camera 1, the town, and use the rest of the resources to pick out a new face.”

The Observer remembers the looks, habits, and clothing of everyone in this town. This was the result of a year of planning.

‘You won’t be able to escape surveillance even if you disguise as someone else. I wonder if they’re relying on something like the eyes of clairvoyance as well? I wonder who they are...’

The Observer immediately put up the casino as a hologram as soon as the strategist motioned him to do so. They already knew where their enemies would be staying at. Chrono had informed them at least this much.

‘We’ll have to end this at the next battlefield.’

The strategist threw away his broken pen and picked up a new one.

*

I took off the tracker from the sniper’s body, and sent a message to Necro.

“How are you doing on your end? Did you let one live?”

[I got two just in case, but why? Are you planning on torturing them for info?]

The Thief knew of our arrival, as I thought. The reason for him placing the snipers in the beginning was probably to check out our abilities. Since this has failed, the Thief might use his entire force to take us down in the next battle.

“Leave one. The others can die.”

[Alright.]

“The saint?”

[She’s on stand by somewhere else.]

As I thought, this guy was a lot like me. At least, his thought process was. I told him that I’d contact him later, then looked down at the fainted sniper below me. He really did look like an average person once you took his mask off. I wonder how this person thinks and speaks?

“Wake up.”

The sniper woke up surprised when I slapped his cheek. I pushed him to a tree behind him.

“Ever been tortured before?”

The sniper widened his eyes, and shook his head.

“Anything that you’d like to say before being tortured?”

When I pressed the button on the electric drill in my hand, it began to spin loudly. The sniper shouted frantically as soon as he saw this.

“I-I’ll talk! I’ll say everything!”

...I didn’t want this. I thought he’d be someone more loyal… I wouldn’t be able to tell if he was speaking the truth if he gave up so quickly. I tried drilling a hole into the tree behind the sniper as a test.

Craaack!

“Hii!”

The sniper’s pants became wet.

“I’ll tell you… I’ll tell you everything, so… Please…!”

The sniper was full of tears. I really can’t trust a reaction like this. Humans were beings that you were supposed to be suspicious of at all times. There was no way I’d trust information from a man like this.

I took out a lighter.

The sniper flinched when I opened its cap. He must feel nervous.

“I’ll have to do it.”

“What? Whaat?! No! Don’t! I’ll tell you everything!”

“Can’t trust you.”

“I swear in the name of God! I put my family’s name on it!”

Worthless. Those were all worthless things.

“No need to swear on anything. Ever heard of the Barbeque Murderer?”

“...What?”

“He would tie people to a steel cross that he made, and would slowly roast people on it as he ate them as they cooked. The victims wouldn’t even be able to die because their cuts would be seared immediately.”

“Hii! Hiii! I’ll say everything! Please! Trust me!”

The forty eighth murderer that I killed worked like this. His heart was currently stored in a jar of formaldehyde in the former world, along with all my other collections.

“There are many ways to torture people, but I have no doubt that this is the best out of them all. The physical pain as you get roasted alive, and the mental pain as they get eaten in front of them. Ah, please remember though, I have no hard feelings towards you. I just want reliable information. The best way to get that is through torture, which is the reason why I’m doing this.”

The sniper’s teeth began to clatter together. His clothes had become completely wet due to his sweat. I wonder if he’ll say the truth now? I’ve seen people who managed to lie even in a situation like this, though. That’s why I caught two. To compare and contrast the information that I get out of them.

“I was joking.”

I turned off the lighter.

“There’s no way I’d do that to a fellow human?”

The sniper’s face was still stiff.

“Well, you’ll still die here, but you have the choice between getting roasted to death or being killed quickly without pain. I’ll give you the time to decide. You should’ve been ready for a fate like this the moment you aimed your gun at someone, right?”

The sniper paled.


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