Nocturne’s first memories were of someone’s back. That someone had long, unkempt hair and was deep in thought. In a few moments, Nocturne would call this person his master.
“Hmm? Are you awake?” Sensing Nocturne’s presence, the Martial King roused himself and looked at Nocturne.
“Where am I…?”
“An area outside the Tower. It’s the village of the One-horned tribe.”
“Thank y—ugh…!” Nocturne suddenly frowned as a piercing pain shot through his skull. He had a pounding headache and tinnitus rang in his ears. His vision grew so distorted, as though it were breaking up like static. After grabbing his head and pressing his temples hard, Nocturne realized something. He possessed no memories. ‘Who am I? Where the hell am I from? My name… What is my name?’
For a moment, thoughts flashed through Nocturne’s mind like afterimages. He felt like his mind was a tangled mess. His head grew hot as if a fever were coming on.
“Don’t overdo it. This… ah! What should I say?” After calming Nocturne down, the Martial King scratched the back of his head as if something were troubling him. He asked, “Some things happened, so I brought you here. Do you remember?”
Nocturne shook his head, dumbfounded. The Martial King was talking about him as though he were a stray kitten he’d brought home. Nocturne was initially a little puzzled by the Martial King’s reaction. Later, when Nocturne understood the Martial King’s personality, he connected this reaction to the Martial King’s character and didn’t think much of it.
“You don’t remember anything? Then, stay here for a while. You can leave after your memories return.”
“Nocturne? Why do you have a name like that? It’s so uncool.”
The first thing Nocturne did as soon as he got up from his sickbed was give himself a name.
“I can give you a cooler name. Like Rumble or Bam. How about it?”
“If I recall correctly, Master has many disciples. May I ask what their names are?”
“Phante, Edora, Jang… Why?”
“Are you playing a joke on me or are you just terrible at names?”
“Of course, I was joking. You’re all alone in this world with only a master, but you don’t even show an ounce of respect.”
“I never said that I would formally accept you as my martial arts master and become your disciple.”
After checking Nocturne’s stats, the Martial King said that he was quite impressed with Nocturne’s potential and asked him to become his second disciple. Nocturne had already decided to stay in the village until his memory returned, so the Martial King’s offer did not affect his decision in any way. From Nocturne’s point of view, the Martial King was qualified to serve as his martial arts master.
Nocturne found it hard to measure the depths of the Martial King’s skills. However, one thing bothered Nocturne about the Martial King: his dirty personality. Nocturne had heard that the Martial King had another disciple before, and Nocturne was amazed that someone could have developed properly under such a dirty personality. However, that disciple had persuaded the Martial King’s brother to escape from the village together, so technically, the disciple had run away.
“You, perhaps you… Are you going through puberty? I’ve heard about that condition before. I don’t remember my own experiences, but those undergoing puberty feel as though black dragon flames are constantly roiling in the palms of their hands, or they feel like they’ve suddenly awakened from a past life. Are you having those impulses?”
Sigh. For a moment, Nocturne considered whether to strike the Martial King with the sword in his hand. However, Nocturne quickly realized that the Martial King would easily beat him to death if he tried it.
Although the Martial King was the one who started it, he would never allow anyone to point a sword his way. Anyway, it did not matter for Nocturne. He was more focused on his own dignity. Nocturne was a typical introvert, and even though he had amnesia, he knew it would be easier to just overlook people like the Martial King.
“Fine. The name is yours to decide. I don’t think it’s something I should argue with you about. Shall I call you by that name in the future?” The Martial King looked at Nocturne, who exhibited no reaction. The Martial King seemed to be thinking, ‘Ah. I won’t have any fun in teasing this disciple.’
Nocturne slowly nodded. Nocturne, a musical composition inspired by and relating to the night. The melody of a nocturne flowed as lyrically as the atmosphere and mystery of a quiet night. Since he was trying to recover his own memory, Nocturne could relate to such a melody, and he thought the name suited him well. He longed for the day when his wish of regaining his memory would come true.
Someday, this dark, blind period would end, and a new light would illuminate his old memories.
“Ugh.” The Martial King let out a long sigh and looked at Nocturne with an exasperated expression. “You’re going to leave?”
“May I ask why?”
“I have come to the realization that I will only be complacent if I stay here. It would be a waste of time. I am sorry for not being able to fulfill Master’s wish, but I must also pursue my own goal.”
“I felt something was a little off after you passed the twenty-first floor…” The Martial King seemed to have more to say, but he lightly clucked his tongue and brushed his hair back before he continued, “Forget it. I was also thinking that it would be difficult to find the secrets of the Yin Sword from you. Aside from that, you do know what it means to leave without my permission, right?”
“Yes.” Nocturne nodded heavily. In the One-horn tribe, the relationship between a disciple and a master ran very deep. There were occasions when the relationship was deeper than one’s relationship to a parent.
For the One-horned tribe, martial arts was everything in life. It was the only goal that they all pursued. One’s master established and developed one’s martial arts foundation, which gave them more significance than one’s parents. If a disciple wanted to leave without the permission of their master, it was tantamount to abandoning their master’s teachings. In other words, the disciple was refusing the master’s help and declaring that they would never return. It also implied that the master and the disciple would essentially become enemies.
The Martial King’s expression was the most serious Nocturne had seen since he became a disciple.
“Nocturne, a disciple of the Cheongram family…” the Martial King declared in a solemn tone. “Is hereby excommunicated.”
“For everything…” Nocturne audibly gulped to stop his rising emotions from surfacing. Nocturne did not know what he was feeling. Perhaps it was an emotional outburst before tears. Nocturne thought he had forgotten all feelings along with his memories, but that did not seem to be the case. “Thank you for teaching me, Master!”
For a moment, Nocturne recalled his history with the Martial King. He had relatively fond memories. His album of memories only had a few pages, and the times he shared with the Martial King took up the most space. After that time, as he climbed the Tower in earnest, Nocturne went through many ups and downs and formed numerous new relationships.
Nothing compared to the days he spent in the village of the One-horned tribe. He had often thought of those days whenever his journey became tiresome. It had been a time of peace and happiness. However, Nocturne eventually realized that happiness was nothing more than a deception.
The Sword God, whom Nocturne had only seen a few times, had come to Nocturne and told him a secret that no one else knew.
“Do you remember telling me that the One-horned tribe had a secret passed down through the generations from a very long time ago?” At first, Nocturne did not believe the Sword God’s words. However, instead of directly confronting the Martial King, Nocturne had made a few hints because he still trusted his old master. “Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword Art.”
However, once Nocturne mentioned the simulation on the twenty-first floor, he had immediately noticed the fleeting quiver of the Martial King’s eyes. Thus, Nocturne’s faith had been shaken. “Shaohao-Jintian, the founder and one of the members of the Trinity Wonder, realized right away the importance of this sword art and gave it to his descendants with his bloodline, but none of them were ever able to penetrate its secrets.”
Although his faith was shaken, Nocturne’s heart did not waver. To clear his mind, Nocturne deliberately spoke in a cold tone. “I often wondered about it from time to time. Why couldn’t someone like the master not understand the secret right away? Isn’t that too strange? Aside from Allforone, you are the strongest player… If it weren’t for Allforone’s divine power, Master might have already surpassed him. Why couldn’t Master understand the secrets of the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword?”
Nocturne had been convinced for a long time that the Martial King possessed the power and ability to rival any of the great gods in the heavenly world. His current battle with Asgard already proved how great he was. If anyone in the heavenly world had heard and seen the events in this Illusory World, they would have been shocked. Furthermore, if it came to martial arts power and force, Nocturne was certain that the Martial King was already beyond Allforone. There was only one reason why the Martial King could not beat Allforone: Allforone’s position.
Allforone was the nickname that everyone used to refer to the great being, although “all for one” was originally a term that referred to the divinity and legends that Allforone possessed. As long as Allforone possessed his divinity, no one—whether supreme god or ancient god—could overtake him within the world of the Tower.
The Martial King had always been frustrated by this, and he had made every effort to surpass Allforone’s divine supremacy. The method the Martial King chose to use against the seemingly insurmountable divinity of Allforone was the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword.
“I only realized later on. It’s not that Master didn’t understand the secrets of the sword art.” Nocturne’s eyes grew sharp. “You understand the secrets, but it’s impossible for you to learn them.”
The Martial King’s restlessness stopped. A silence passed between the two, and the corner of Nocturne’s lips twisted upward.
“The reason is simple. Doesn’t Shaohao-Jintian’s divinity originate from the sun?” The main purpose of the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword was to bring out the harmony of yin and yang.
However, for Shaohao-Jintian’s descendants, who were born with a yang-filled body, this area of study was virtually impossible. Even if the One-horned tribe wanted to understand the secrets and practice the arts, their physical nature was too inclined towards yang. The innate qualities of the martial arts that the One-horned tribe was blessed with became an obstacle to accomplishing Shaohao-Jintian’s long-cherished wish.
In the end, the only thing the Martial King could achieve was the sword art that Edora trained in. “Master found out about it too late, and you became frustrated. The Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword was the only thing that could cut off Allforone’s divinity, but it was a treasure that you could never obtain.” Sss! With each word that he spoke, Nocturne’s aura emanated.
Once, the Martial King had told Yeon-woo that Nocturne scored eighty out of a hundred points. This meant that Nocturne was one of the few beings in the lower world who could go toe to toe with the Martial King. The great holy territory started to tremble wildly as though it were preparing the ground for this occasion.
“But Master never gave up, so you must have found another way. Since you couldn’t learn it yourself, you thought it would be more effective to get a disciple to learn the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword.”
“So, after a long search, you took in a disciple who possessed a powerful innate sense, and his qualities were comparable to those of the One-horned tribe! However, he was soon excommunicated because he couldn’t fulfill your desires!” Shouting, Nocturne cut off the Martial King’s calm response. Nocturne had always been composed, but he couldn’t stop his rage from boiling over. “In the end, your thoughts must have led you to the simulation on the twenty-first floor! If you could obtain the simulation, it would not only have enough talent, it would also possess the old data of the hated Allforone, so it would be easier to figure out his weaknesses! Isn’t this the case?”
The Martial King was the reason behind Allforone’s missing simulation on the twenty-first floor. He had taken it out of the Tower. Nocturne didn’t know how the Martial King managed to defy the Tower’s system. However, one thing was certain: he was just a lab rat, a test subject for the Martial King. The Martial King had treated Nocturne like a doll, pretending to give him love and sincerity so he could experiment on him.
The times that Nocturne had tried to recall his lost memories, the nights he was consumed by nightmares, the tears of loneliness he’d shed, the moments when he’d sought his master’s attention to fill the void inside of him—what did the Martial King truly think of these times?
Did the Martial King laugh at Nocturne’s struggle to recall memories that never existed in the first place? Did the Martial King find it funny to watch a piece of data who wasn’t even a real being trying to act like a person? Nocturne didn’t know. No, he didn’t want to know. Any further deception beyond this point would rip out whatever was left of him.
Nocturne clenched his sword and screamed, “From now on, I will be your new opponent. I will grab onto your ankles so that you are buried in this place.” Rumble! “Master.”
The great holy territory shook violently. Nocturne’s body began to crack open, light leaking through him, as though Allforone had descended.
Nocturne was exuviating.Previous Chapter Next Chapter