Chapter 45. Time Over
10:05AM. The bombs blew up, and the vault shook violently. The ground trembled, and dust fell from the ceilings. The vault kept shaking for a while after the initial explosion. The Thief was shaking left and right because of the shock. As the tremors subsided, he couldn’t help but cover his mouth with his hands. He must be experiencing a feeling of catharsis from having cheated death. After laughing to himself quietly for a second, he took his hand away from his mouth, and revealed a wide grin on his face.
“Do you know what just happened? The future changed. I’m supposed to die brutally here, you know. But I ended up living, didn’t I? Ahaha, now what? It’ll take four days till any rescue comes.”
He shoved his face right in front of me with an evil, childish grin.
“Do you think you can take torture for four days? No, no. The one who is going to be in pain is going to be the saint, isn’t it? I suppose it’ll still tickle a little, wouldn’t it?”
He was completely mistaken about his situation. He’s failing to look at his surroundings because of his excitement. I suppose I should correct him a little before waking him up from his little dream.
“Ah, how nice. Congratulations on your victory. But before that, want me to tell you something interesting?”
“What, planning on reciting ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ from memory, to stall for time?”
“Kind of. I was wondering about a theoretical case. If you die here, would the ‘you of the past’ be able to escape this death?”
An infinite loop. It was almost like two mirrors facing each other. The Thief looks into the future of the Thief who looked into the future, and looks at the changed future as a result.
“For example, say that there are three doors in front of you. Behind door number one is a goat. You, being able to see the future, wouldn’t even have to open a door to guess where the goat is. You can just check the future of the first door, the second door, and the third door after all.”
“Aha, I was wondering what you were going to talk about… I wouldn’t even be here if my eyes of clairvoyance was such a convenient ability, don’t you know? I would’ve been in the future where I was the one who killed the demon king, where Morto didn’t have to suffer in the first place. A future where there was no need for you to have been summoned. Didn’t you figure it out yourself? Using my powers takes a chunk outta of my lifespan. I can’t just abuse it like that.”
“Really? That’s good.”
Its powers were as limited as I thought. In the end, this was the most that he could do. Even if he dies here, there was no way the him of the past would be able to see this future. I activated Heart of Gold and opened my vault, and ‘didn’t take out anything’. Just keeping it open will do.
“You said this was checkmate before...”
“There are two things that you are seriously mistaken about. I was thinking of telling you about it.”
I might not be able to stop time, but I can move forward into the future. After all, this was an ability that all humans were born with. As long as possible, as deep as possible, till it all sets deep inside the lungs. I patiently waited for the future.
“First of all, according to the rules of chess, a king is not a piece that can be killed. You need to put it in a situation where it is rendered unable to move. The game is set not when you kill the king, but when the opponent realized the hopelessness of the situation and concedes.”
The Thief nodded with a suspicious face.
“...And the second?”
“Kings can’t check kings.”
There was just me and the Thief inside the vault. If both of us were to be kings, a checkmate is impossible.
“The present set atop upon a knife’s edge, [Knife Edge Present]. The amount of time you could turn back with your power was one minute, I recall?”
I should be right. This was the conclusion I reached after observing all his movements. At this point, he wouldn’t be able to go back to the time before the hotel crumbled. I checked my wristwatch with the floating eye, and grinned.
“Hm? What time over? Ah, your time? You had no chance to become the hero because you were summoned late, and because the saint tricked you. Your only destiny is to rot here. Was that what you were talking about?”
The Thief pressed his tongue against the inside of his cheek.
“Don’t you think it’s a little too late for you to be doing whatever it is you’re trying to do? Ah! Could that be it? You’re hoping that one of your comrades will come for you? They aren’t going to come. Do you even know how sturdy this vault is? It’ll take at least a week to open it up.”
“So that would mean that not even your spear would be able to pierce it.”
The Thief frowned a little. It seemed that he was a little annoyed at how calm I seemed. He took his spear out of my body, and tried to stab me again, till he noticed something.
“Why am I not regenerating? Good question. If salvation was still on, I would have regenerated immediately.”
“...Could it be, Morto?”
“Morto? Dead? No way. She’s ridiculously healthy. Healthy enough for me to want to tease her for the rest of her lifetime.”
I just rejected the spell. The reason for doing that is…
----I don’t need it.
The saint should be on the Strategist’s helicopter by now— with the three people that were targeting her just minutes before. Perhaps the Observer is the one piloting the helicopter.
“Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Time passes even while you think. You should remember that all human beings run to their deaths.”
The Thief just managed to open his mouth after thinking for a moment. It seemed that he had just reached the answer.
“No way… Yeah, no way. The Strategist betrayed me? No way. You’re just saying that in your last breath, aren’t you?”
“I’m dead already.”
I wasn’t the only one who wanted him dead. Humans were animals who chased profit. My offer of paying double the amount that the Thief had paid him was just too appealing to the Strategist. And it was obvious to see what the Strategist, the doll who had to move accordingly to the set future, would have decided.
“It was close. I only managed to get in contact with him just now.”
Heart of Gold level three, [Finance]. I closed the ‘transaction complete’ message in front of me, and dematerialized. As I thought, if I don’t give this guy a proper blow to the head, I’d feel like I suffered a loss.
The Strategist looked down at the hotel from afar, from inside the helicopter. It was completely destroyed. The hotel was just a gigantic pile of rubble at this point. Around it were soldiers who had managed to escape the hotel in time.
‘Just what is he...’
In a situation where giant cubes of marble weighed down the hotel from the rooftop, the man simultaneously exploded all the supporting structures that the hotel had, effectively destroying the hotel in the most efficient way possible.
If he didn’t accept this man, this Jin’s offer, he and his comrades would’ve all died in the hotel.
‘I suppose he’s a… hero? Since he prevented the deaths of thousands? But he was the one who destroyed the hotel… Hah, I suppose none of this matters, does it?’
The money he was offered had a big say on his decision, but what really swayed him over in the end was the chance of being able to save the soldiers. The other side was only human, after all. He had no reason to kill that many people. If all he was being offered was the money, then most assuredly he would have declined.
‘Would there be anyone crazy enough to decline a chance to save three thousand people?’
The Strategist smiled bitterly as he looked behind him. He could see the three mercenaries checking their bank accounts with a smile on their faces. In the end, their goal was money. If they could earn money without fighting, then surely they’d do so. Their reputation would take a hit, but they weren’t the type to care about that. The wizards at the back were talking to each other, as if nothing had happened.
“I don’t even need to use my hands.”
Morto said this, trying to imitate Necro’s voice, and silently laughed to herself.
“No need to use hands… You ended up using both of them.”
“Hey, hey, stop it. I’m tired. It really isn’t fun when you’re ganged up on. It’s not that I’m weak, but...”
“I’ll settle this in five seconds.”
The Strategist was overcome with complicated feelings as he watched them. In the end, he had failed, but the results of his choice would say otherwise. Perhaps a chosen future didn’t exist after all.
‘I didn’t even make proper plans this time either… Maybe I can call this a draw? It’s a bit shameless on my part though.’
The Strategist smiled as he leaned back on his seat.
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