Chapter 101. Ghost (3)


The five cadets remained still for a long time, only looking around themselves intermittently. Their bodies and consciousness seemingly frozen.
The mountain suddenly became flat.
And Kim Hajin disappeared.
To make things worse, another strange thing occurred. Almost as though time was being wound backwards, the scenery around them began to change rapidly.
The sun that was hanging in the middle of the sky disappeared as though it was falling down. Then, darkness was cast over them like a shadow. Such incomprehensible supernatural phenomenon evoked fear and panic, and the five cadets could only crowd together nervously.

“…Hiik.”

Yoo Yeonha was especially in a poor state. Her eyes were wet with tears. As she was someone who couldn’t even look at a poster of a horror movie, she was unable to endure such a frightening phenomenon.

“Let’s… stay calm.”

Kim Suho snapped out first, and Shin Jonghak then stepped up as though he was afraid of losing.

“Calm down. Since that Kim Hajon is a bit dull, he might have just gotten lost. Or maybe, he found something and sneaked away to claim it for himself. After all, we’re on Wind Mountain.”

“It’s Kim Hajin, not Kim Hajon.”

Wind Mountain was private property of the Jinsung group. Without their permission, no one was allowed to enter it, meaning it was likely that precious herbs were growing on it. Shin Jonghak theorized that Kim Hajin came across one by luck and sneaked away to take it.

“What? Then how do you explain this? Not only did the mountain suddenly become flat, the sun disappeared from the sky!”

Chae Nayun raised her hands and pointed around her.
They were surrounded by dense darkness and thick, overgrown weeds that seemed to be at least 80 centimeters tall.

“That’s….”

When Shin Jonghak was at a loss for words…
Psss—
The sound of an animal moving through grass rang out.
Yoo Yeonha shrunk back like a frightened rabbit, while Kim Suho and Shin Jonghak pointed their weapons in that direction.
Ssss— Ssss—
Something was approaching them rustling through the leaves.
Gulp.
For three minutes, they waited nervously.
What finally appeared from the thick grass was…

“I thought it was a mountain beast. Who would have thought it was a bunch of kids?”

A man who seemed to be in his mid-forties.
He was wearing dark blue pants and a baggy dress shirt. To put it to words, he looked like a typical salaryman from the 70’s and 80’s.

“What are you kids doing here?”

He spoke with somewhat of an old accent. The cadets examined him silently.
The man also scrutinized them back, especially the female cadets.

“…Eh? Why aren’t you talking?”

When the middle-aged man urged them, Shin Jonghak stepped up.

“Oy, you. Where is—”

Kim Suho quickly stopped Shin Jonghak’s ill-mannered talking.

“Um, sir, where are we?”

“…Huh?”

The man stared at Kim Suho with an incredulous look, then suddenly smirked.

“What do you mean? We’re in Gwangmyeong. This is a danger zone. We don’t know when magic power will explode again.”

“…Magic power explosion?”

Kim Suho murmured quietly.
Magic power explosion was a word he was familiar with.

[A phenomenon where unstable mana explodes. For three years after Outcall, the world’s unstable mana frequently exploded.]

That was what he recalled reading from the textbook.

“That’s right. You’ll die if you stay here, so follow me.”

“….”

The man was talking about a phenomenon that was extinct in the modern world like it was still happening.
Kim Suho fell into thought.
Magic power explosion.
A mountain that turned into flat ground.
The man’s old-fashioned clothes…

“Let’s follow him for now.”

To understand the current situation, it was necessary to follow this man. All five cadets seemed to be thinking this as they nodded somewhat reluctantly.
Shin Jonghak then said to the man.

“Lead the way.”

“…Eh?”

Kim Suho quickly pushed Shin Jonghak to the side and corrected him.

“Ahaha, this is our first time here, so we’ll have to ask you to guide us.”

“What, Kim Suho, you’re gonna provoke me even in this situation?”

“Shut up….”

“Just stay quiet and follow along.”

Just like that, they followed the middle-aged man.
Walking through tall grass and passing by occasional strange howls, they eventually reached what seemed like a city.

“This is….”

At that moment, the cadets halted.
They stared in front of them blankly.
Collapsed buildings and barricades made up of scrap cars and iron bars… smoke and flames were rising from the city.

“Yo, Myungjong, have you been doing a good job?”

“Of course, Ajusshi. But um… who are they?”

“Haha.”

The middle-aged man greeted a young man guarding the entrance. The young man glanced at the cadets and made a blooming smile.
The middle-aged man turned back to the cadets and spoke.

“What’s up? Come in.”

“…Um, first, where is this?”

Hearing Kim Suho’s serious tone, the middle-aged man grinned.

“It’s the safest place around, Gwangmyeong City Hall.”

Gwangmyeong City Hall.
They had driven by it earlier in the day in a limousine. However, the Gwangmyeong City Hall they saw wasn’t a dilapidated place like this.
It was then that Kim Suho began to understand the situation.

The man’s clothes.
Magic power explosion.

“Can you tell me today’s date?”

“Date?”

Kim Suho asked in a stiff voice. The man rubbed his chin at the sudden question, then shook his head side to side.

“Don’t know. Who has the time to count nowadays? I guess it’s about 72 now.”

Hearing this, the cadets fell in a daze once again.
Ding— Their heads seemed to be ringing.

“72 as in… 1972?”

“Well it sure isn’t 1872.”

This time, the young man guarding the entrance walked up.
Then, several men appeared from on top of the barricades. Their eyes flickered coldly as they looked down at the cadets.

“Come in. It’s dangerous to stay outside at this time.”

The young man grabbed Chae Nayun’s wrist as he said so.

“Hey, let her go.”

Kim Suho quickly pushed him away and pulled out the branch he brought just in case.

“…A branch?”

“Hey kiddo, put that down. We’re not bad people.”

“….”

Kim Suho tried to unleash his magic power to intimidate them.
Right, he tried.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring out his magic power.

“Hey, Kim Suho, I can’t use my magic power!”

Chae Nayun seemed to be experiencing the same thing as her flustered voice rang out. Meanwhile, the men standing on top of the barricades jumped down and surrounded them.
Even at a glance, there were at least twenty of them.
To make things worse, they imbued magic power into the iron bars they brought.

“These pieces of trash dare to….”

When the enraged Shin Jonghak was about to curse at them… a neon light flashed from the distance.
Everyone’s attention fell on the light. There… they saw a man wearing a helmet and riding on a high-tech bike.

“A-Ah! That son of a bitch is back! Run back inside guys!”

The middle-aged man quickly urged his friends.

“Hurry! He’s a man-eating monster! Stop dilly-dallying! Alert Asura-nim… aak!”

Then suddenly, a white flashed erupted and something penetrated the man’s shoulder in the blink of an eye.
The attack didn’t end there.
Several streaks of light shot forward, lighting up the darkness.
Yoo Yeonha could easily identify the streaks of light flying past them.

“Bullets…?”

“Uuk—”

The continued barrage of bullets dissolved the encirclement, and Kim Suho and others quickly ran back.
Once they reached a certain distance away from the city, they stopped and turned to the man sitting on a bike.
In this moment where it was hard to distinguish friend or foe… the mysterious man raised his hands and slowly took off his helmet.
Soon, his face was revealed.

“Huh?”

The man’s long hair was tied up neatly and he had a scruffy beard that covered his chin.
Although his facial hair made him look like someone from a Western movie, they were all able to identify his face.
Kim Suho murmured in a daze.

“…Kim Hajin?”

**


I was severely mistaken. I thought I would be sent back to the past with them just because we were walking in the same place at the same time. I was being too naive.

About forty days ago, or what should have been a few minutes ago to Kim Suho and the others, I was dragged into the past while I was climbing Wind Mountain with my guard down. Since the other five were transported to the same time period in the original story, it was a much more natural story progression when I thought about it.

At first, I panicked. However, I soon realized that the situation wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just like I expected, the Djinn trying to rule over this place was stronger than in the original story. Being sent back before the others gave me more time to make preparations.

I got busy from the first day.
First, I looked for a place to stay.
Gwangmyeong City Hall was ruled by a Djinn, so I had to pick a place that was far away from them but still gave me the ability to observe them.
Next, I observed the movements of the Djinn ruling this place and attacked his subordinates to hinder their growth.
Just like that, I ate alone, attacked alone, ran away alone for 40 days….
Today, I finally reunited with the rest.

“Then this is really….”

On our way to my base, Kim Suho who was quietly listening to my story stopped and faced me.

“That’s right, we’re in Gwangmyeong of 1972. Outcall happened only 15 months ago, so this place is still hell.”

The party went stiff like a rock. Even Shin Jonghak had a grave look on his face.

“Then how long have you been here?”

Yoo Yeonha asked.

“I don’t know….”

Although my hair and beard grew a lot for having stayed for only 40 days, that was only because of this place’s high mana concentration. Plus, Energy Conversion seemed to also make my facial hair grow faster.

“Maybe one year?”

I said that as a joke. However, a heavy silence filled the air. The movement of the moonlight touched me. In an otherwise pitch-black darkness, I was lit up by the sole source of light.
The others stared at me with faces I couldn’t understand.
I was satisfied with this. I laughed and corrected myself.

“I’m just kidding. I’ve only been here for about five weeks.”

“….”

However, they were still silent.

“R-Really. Plus, it wasn’t a bad experience.”

In fact, it was a ‘necessary’ experience. For two months, I fought people, not monsters.
The atmosphere became awkward, but Shin Jonghak asked without caring much for it.

“So did you find out what caused this phenomenon?”

“Yeah, more or less.”

“Really?”

Yoo Yeonha’s eyes widened.

“I’ll explain it later. For now, let’s get to the base.”

**


I arrived at my base with the others. The base I chose was an abandoned building buried in a nearby forest. As there was only one entrance into it, it served as a good temporary shelter.

“Not even my horse would be willing to live here.”

“…Hajin, you spent a year here? With nothing around?”

Shin Jonghak shook his head in disapproval and Kim Suho asked with a look of pity.

“It hasn’t been a year. Really, believe me!”

I emphasized once again. If I knew they would pity me like this, I never would have made that joke.

“But there really is… nothing.”

“Yeah, I’m surprised you lived here for so long. You have my respect.”

Yoo Yeonha and Chae Nayun grimaced. I couldn’t blame them. This was probably their first time seeing such a dilapidated home, where only rocks and cockroaches were lying around.
But that was only for now.

“Just wait. There’s going to be a lot more to see.”

I took out the duffel bag I kept on my motorbike. I rummaged through the bag and took out two one-touch magic tents. By putting in a little bit of Stigma’s magic power in them… tada!
They’d instantly puff up and rise.

“Whoa! What’s this?”

Now, there were two proper homes.
Chae Nayun’s eyes shone as she approached the tents.

“Oh, before I explain what’s going on, aren’t you guys hungry?”

Everyone other than Shin Jonghak looked at me with sparkling eyes.
I took out a grill, an icebox, and several cooking equipment from my duffel bag.

“Oh, but we’ll need to butcher it.”

I already ate most of the food I brought, other than some spam and ten bags of ramen I left as an emergency supply.
As a result, we had to hunt wild animals and butcher them to get their meat.

“Butcher?”

“Yeah.”

I opened the icebox. There was a torso of a pig wrapped in two halves.
I caught this one two days ago. I cut off its head and limbs and only left behind its body split into two.
For the record, I vomited twice during this entire process.

“We have to butcher this….”

I looked at Kim Suho. He grinned and raised his hand.

“I’ll do it. I’m good at stuff like this.”

“Yi Yeonghan, you help Kim Suho too.”

“Okay~”

“Butchering… it suits you. Kim Suho the Butcher, that can be your title.”

Shin Jonghak taunted Kim Suho from the side. I handed him four empty water buckets.

“And you, go get water. There’s a stream to the right of this place.”

“…What?”

Shin Jonghak made a terrifying frown. I have never seen such an angry expression. He seemed to be saying something like, ‘how dare you order me around!?’
However, I already knew the magical words to control him.

“Hey, Chae Nayun, go with him.”

“Hm? Me~?”

Chae Nayun, who was looking around inside the tent, scurried out.

“…Hm.”

Shin Jonghak took the canteens silently. Then, he coughed a few times and gave two of the buckets to Chae Nayun.

“Let’s go.”

“Are we going to go get water?”

“Yeah.”

“Great, I was getting thirsty.”

Chae Nayun and Shin Jonghak walked together to the stream.

“Hmph, why is it Chae Nayun?”

Yoo Yeonha grumbled as she watched them leave. When I glanced at her, she turned away sulking.
I murmured to myself.

“Let’s make some ramen when they come back with water.”

“…Ramen?”

Yoo Yeonha’s grumpy face instantly disappeared. I took out a few bags of ramen from the duffel bag and spoke.

“Yeah. Why, you don’t like them? You’re not going to pretend to be a chaebol in this situation, right?”

Yoo Yeonha smacked her lips and shook her head.

“No, ssp. I guess there’s, ssp, no choice. It’s better, ssp, than starving to death, ssp.”

…She must have been hungry as she loudly swallowed her saliva.

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