Chapter 40. Unknown Cause

Chapter 40. Unknown Cause

Ten minutes later. I thought to myself after having killed the sniper painlessly. After comparing the information from the two snipers, I found that the information that I had gotten previously was all true. The ones who attacked this time were a group of trained snipers known as the Ghost Forest. There were seven ability users hired other than them… It wasn’t excessive, but at the time, it wasn’t too little either. The Thief had decided that ‘this was enough’.

This was the moment when the theory of ‘him being able to see only his own future’. Right before I got out of the forest, I sent the saint and Necro an updated version of the theory.

“If we fit the pieces together, 1. The Thief does not know of the Warrior’s death. 2. He decided that he could end this by himself. 3. He’s confident that it would take just sixteen ability users to escape death.”

A single conclusion could be reached using this theory.

“The Thief can see up to ‘the moment of his death’. He can see the changed future he would get by hiring ability users, but he can’t see the moments after his death. So I suppose it’s like this?”

I managed to use the oracle to draw a presentation in the air.

1. The first timeline: The killer appears. -> The Thief, having not seen his future, dies. -> The thief cannot see past this point, as he is ‘dead’.

2. The second timeline: The Thief sees into the future. He sees the first timeline. -> He tries to create a trap, but fails. -> The Thief dies. -> He cannot see past this point.

3. The 2+Nth timeline: The Thief sees into the future. He sees the second timeline. -> The Thief realizes that traps won’t work on the killer, and tries a different method. This method is to hire ability users. -> Manages to kill the killer. -> The Thief lives. -> The Thief can see images past this point, as he is alive.

4. The present: After seeing the multiple possibilities of the future, the Thief confirms the method of being able to stay alive. -> The Thief hires the ability users. -> The present time.

“You get it? The Thief can only see the first, the second, and the 2+Nth timeline. He can’t see the future of ‘the present’ that hasn’t occurred yet.”

Necro shouted at my kind explanation.

“What the hell are you on about! I don’t get it at all!”

It’s simple though… Even the saint seemed confused this time.

“What? It’s simple?”

“It’s not? I’m pretty smart compared to other people, and if even I don’t get it, it just means that you delivered it wrong.”

So it’s still complicated… The fact that these two made it seem like all this was my fault sickened me a little bit. I decided to make an analogy instead.

“Alright. Then… You’ve played RPG games with save functions before, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. RPG games.”

The saint nodded as well.

“My character’s standing at the entrance of a cave. Behind me is the outside world, and in front of me are two paths. Both of them are connected to the exit. First, we save here.”

“Okay. Save.”

“You go to the left path first. But on the way, you encounter a bridge with a monster at the other side that’s far stronger than you. You fight, you die. Right now, you just don’t have the time to level up enough to beat this monster. What should you do, then?”

“You’ll have to load back to the save point.”

“Right. You loaded back. You now know that the path to the left is a ‘failure’. The ‘you of the present’ knows that you need to go to a different path. This is the second timeline.”

Necro nodded.

“Now, let’s try going right. But even then, there’s a high-leveled monster guarding the other side of a bridge.”

“What the hell? Do they get a hard on for bridges or what?!”

“...In any case. ‘I’ know that I’d die if I fight. That’s why I decide to make a trap. For example, I’d make the monster come across the bridge, and I’d destroy that bridge.”

“Oh, then what happens?”

“Oh dear… The monster can fly. Game over. You’d have to load back again. Now, what would you do then?”

Necro thought for a second, then told me what he thought with a suspicious voice.

“I’d either give up, or find ways to kill the monster.”

“Correct. This is the 2+Nth timeline. ‘I’ keep trying new methods of killing the monster. I try using fire, and even resort to poison. In the end, I realize something. Why not hire some mercs in town?”

“Ah…!”

Necro let out a gasp.

“Now, we’re still at the 2+Nth timeline. I hired mercenaries, and went to kill the monster. We did manage to kill it, but the cost was far too big. My arm was cut off, even. This game doesn’t have any healing magic, so it can’t really be healed. What would you do?”

“Well, I’d go back to the save point and hire more mercenaries.”

“Right. And that’s the present timeline. I would be the monster in this present situation. But look. When you go through the left path, you don’t know what’s going to be at the exit. This is the same for the right path as well. Because you died both times before managing to get there. But, what happens if you managed to kill a monster with one of your arms gone? You’d know what’s on the other side of the exit, right? Because you managed to survive that far.”

“Of course.”

“What about now, after you hired more mercenaries?”

“Wouldn’t you still know what’s on the other side of the exit? Because you saw it already?”

I shook my head.

“Wrong. Would it really look the same? Because you hired more mercenaries, you might not lose your arm, and there might not be much blood on the floor as a result. The location of the sun might be changed. It might be noon, or even morning. Because you killed the monster faster. Now do you get that ‘The Thief can only see the first, the second, and the 2+Nth timeline. He can’t see the future of ‘the present’ that hasn’t occurred yet’.”

“Why couldn’t you have explained everything like this from the start?!”

I would’ve gotten a little frustrated if he didn’t get that, thank god he did. If the Thief manages to make it so that everything moves according to the 2+Nth future where he manages to succeed, then I’d die. Because of that, I’ll start working with the assumption that ‘I’d die for sure’. What I’m aiming for is the Thief’s inability to see ‘situation 4. The present’. The future is not set in stone yet.

*

We split up once we exited the forest. Necro and the saint went into the casino hotel, and I decided to go to the town square. What I was looking for was a quick win. I had told the two to escape the moment I fail. If everything goes according to plan, the one to kill the Thief would be me. And the Thief’s target would become me as well. Because he knew that I would be going to the town square, it was likely that he would’ve stationed mercenaries here already.

And it was as I thought.

I realized a little too late as I observed the square when I had a blade stuck in my head.

When? Where? How?

It didn’t feel like I had been attacked. I couldn’t feel pain because I was dead, but there was no way I wouldn’t have noticed an enemy attack. It almost felt like ‘I had a knife in my head from the start’. If I was alive, I would’ve died without even realizing why.

Just what is this ability…

Could it be, time control? Or an attack that was far too fast for the eyes to see? No, the attempt was too weak for such abilities. I took out the knife, and tried to see if it was a special item of sorts. It was a cheap knife that could be found anywhere. Being able to pierce Hirganrel with just this… so an ability was involved, after all. The wound on my head disappeared instantly, thanks to the saint’s salvation ability.

She must be in quite a lot of pain at the moment.

I ran forward, in order to lure the unknown ability user near me. He would have no choice but to follow if he were to attack. I was observing everyone in the town using the floating eye. Anyone who’d get close to me would be the enemy. I could open up their status screens, then attack the most suspicious one out of all of them. But this wasn’t a good method. Because this was a town of people who came from different worlds.

Everyone here was an ‘ability user’.

I approached a person nearest to me, then put my finger on his neck. The man looked back in surprise.

“Eh? Who the hell are you?”

It’s not him. His heart wasn’t beating fast enough. I couldn’t differentiate anyone special in the crowd either. I ignored the surprised man next to me, and took out a pistol and a knife from the vault. The man ran away. I aimed the gun at the people who had their backs turned to me.

Let’s see… He should be here somewhere…

Bingo.

I threw my knife at the ‘enemy’ who was drinking coffee at a cafe terrace.

“Ugh!”

The old gentleman quickly tried to run. I jumped up to the floor he was on and grinned as I placed eight throwing knives between my fingers.

“Found you.”

The people in the cafe all ran away screaming for their lives. The old gentleman looked up at me with a confused face.

“J-just what did I do to you…?”

I took a look at his status screen. His power was called Unknown Cause. It was probably an ability that hid the cause of an action, or ignored the cause and jumped straight to the effect.

It probably worked like this.

Cause: Throws a knife.

Effect: Gets hit by a knife.

If you hide the cause, it just looks like only the effect was left. I was hit with a knife, but didn’t see the cause of this effect at all.

“Your pupils didn’t move despite the fact that I had my gun aimed at everyone. You were too calm, you know? This is what makes killers so weak.”

The surprised expression on the old man melted away. The next moment--. My right arm fell off of my body. Smoke and black blood began to spew out of the wound.

“You managed to find out with just that, good job. But did you really think you could win with just that?”

The old man didn’t do anything. He was still sitting on his chair.

“A normal person would have died in one shot… Life never goes as one expects it to.”

He doesn’t just hide causes, but he can ignore them as well? The item that the old man was holding was [Blessed saint’s knife]. It only had ten attack. The reason why he was able to pierce me despite that was the fact that he ignored ‘the cause that blocked the knife’.

In other words, he ignored the armor altogether.

If I shot him, but failed to kill him, he might ‘ignore the fact he got shot’ as well. I slowly approached the relaxed old man. Even now, I was being pierced and cut by his knife. But that didn’t matter, as long as he didn’t destroy my body completely. That was how strong the saint’s ability was.

“...Eh?”

The old man had his head gripped by my hand and frantically tried to escape. He cut away at my arm and body with his knife, but the wounds disappeared instantly. They must have been transferred to the saint.

I slowly applied pressure to the man’s head. Even if he could ignore a cause for something, he could only do it for a specific amount of time. If time was a long roll of bread, a cause was a cross section of a part of this bread. The old man’s ability could only get rid of this one cross section. If I applied pressure on this bread from both sides slowly, the man would have to cancel out the cause infinitely, but…

Power came at a cost.

Even if you erase the cause for having your skull destroyed little by little, you can’t ignore the flow of time.

I suppose this is enough.

I threw the smushed brain down on the floor, and cleaned my hand with a bottle of water. I had thought someone else would come and attack me, but it just turned out to be one person. There ended up being no point to me being so on guard. I ignored the people that were beginning to crowd around me, and searched the body of the old man. Hopefully there’s something good…

<Acquired [Blessed saint’s knife].>

<Acquired [Wallet].>

A total of 35,000 dollars. It wasn’t much. Well, seeing how he was nothing like the Warrior, I suppose it’s obvious that he would be poor as well.

There were five left. The idea of hiding behind a wall of paid mercenaries was smart, but having me kill them off one by one like this was simply a waste of money. He should know this since he saw the future. So why was he acting like this? I passed the crowd as I pondered this.


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