Christmas. On this beautiful holiday celebrated by lovers and families, a huge piece of news swept through Korea.
The world’s rank 1 guild, Creator’s Sacred Grace, announced their Tower of Miracle campaign.
Although the announcement came late by a couple of weeks, I didn’t mind too much, since the result was the same. I already bought 4 billion won’s worth of their stocks, and I should be able to sell them soon.
“Are you worried?”
Currently, I was on the phone with Kim Suho while reading the guild stock chart.
[Creator’s Sacred Grace +10.1%]
It was rare for a top guild’s stock to fluctuate so much, but Creator’s Sacred Grace’s stocks were already up 10%. As I used stock market leverage, the profit I made was almost 100%.
—Not at all.
Despite what Kim Suho was saying, I could hear the concern in his voice.
Conquest of the Tower of Miracle would last for six months. Although most Tower conquests ended within three months, the Tower of Miracle was currently the world’s biggest Tower. Unable to conquer this Tower with even six months, Creator’s Sacred Grace would announce their defeat.
I thought about stopping them since I knew they would fail, but it was unlikely for their guild master to listen to a kid like me. After all, he refused to listen to even Yun Seung-Ah.
—She’ll come back with glory.
“…I hope so too.”
Since the announcement was delayed by two weeks, they might have a chance of succeeding. Though, with the same logic, they might suffer a bigger loss.
From this point on, I couldn’t be sure of the future. I might have a forest of knowledge in my head, but there were an infinite number of trees that existed in it. There was simply no way for me to know every single one of them.
—Oh, by the way, you’re on your way to meet Chae Nayun, right?
I glanced at my watch.
11:59 a.m. It was a minute before the promised time Chae Nayun forced on me.
“…Why would I be?”
—What? Come on, don’t be like that. She planned a lot for today.
—Well, uh, she asked me about what you liked and what to do together that’s fun. She was looking forward to today a lot, so you have to go.
It seemed Kim Suho was more worried about Chae Nayun and me than Yun Seung-Ah.
“…I’m hanging up.”
—Wait! Please, just go~ please~?
“Why are you acting cute towards me?”
It was a pretty Kim Suho-like thing to do.
With a grin, I hung up. I closed my laptop, lied down on the couch and turned on the TV.
After spending an hour just passing time…
The door opened, and Evandel and Hayang returned from their walk.
Evandel raced to the couch as soon as she closed the door and stared at me intently. From the looks of it, she wanted something from me. Realizing that it was about time for her favorite anime to start, I handed her the remote and went into the bedroom.
I hopped down on my bed, whereupon a subconscious sigh came out. My heart throbbed with pain and I suddenly got a strong urge to smoke.
Feeling like this uncomfortable feeling would continue if I stayed still, I looked at my smartwatch reluctantly.
There weren’t any messages or calls from Chae Nayun. In that case, she should have already gone home. An hour had already passed, and with her personality, there was no way she was waiting for me.
Telling myself that, I picked up the game console.
…Just like that, it became 3 p.m.
In the end, I left the bedroom, unable to calm my throbbing heart.
Evandel was sleeping on the couch, using Hayang as a pillow. When I carefully turned the doorknob so as to not wake her up, Evandel and Hayang got up and stared at me with sleepy eyes.
“Uh, Evandel, I’m going out for a bit. I’ll bring back yummy food.”
Evandel went back to sleeping.
I quickly left the dorm. Riding the bike I had parked in the parking lot, I slowly drove to the Daehyun’s VIP hospital.
“…She’s still there.”
I came here, thinking ‘just maybe’, and I was right.
Chae Nayun was leaning on the hospital’s wall, wearing clothes that were clearly chosen with care. Her short hair had a soft wave, indicating that she got her hair done, and she was uncharacteristically wearing a light makeup.
Looking at her, the throbbing pain in my heart grew stronger.
Swallowing a sigh, I slowly drove towards Chae Nayun.
Chae Nayun was staring at her smartwatch while pouting.
But when she heard the engine noise of my bike and looked up, she smiled brightly.
“Ah! Hey! Kim Hajin!”
Pointing at me, she ran up to me in a hurry.
“You’re freaking… I mean, you’re very late. Where were you?”
“I didn’t agree to meet in the first place.”
That was the only thing I could say. Chae Nayun leered at me once, but didn’t complain. She just held up her watch.
“I had a lot planned for today. We were supposed to eat brunch at noon, go bowling at 1, go to a café at 2, visit a tarot fortune-teller at 3, go to an arcade at 4, go to a restaurant at 4:40…”
Hearing her recite the schedule she had planned, I lightly smacked her head.
She stiffened her body and raised her head slowly.
I thought she’d react stronger, but she only looked at me confusedly and asked.
“Why’d you hit me?”
“…Who plans everything out like that? This isn’t combat training.”
“Then what do we do?”
“Let’s go on a drive. We have about two hours left.”
I spoke as I tapped on the seat behind me.
Chae Nayun rejoiced. Once she got on the back seat, I stepped on the accelerator.
“Let’s go straight to the arcade. After we play games for 40 minutes, we can go to the restaurant.”
“Shut it, fool. Dates are supposed to be spontaneous.”
“…I-It’s not a date. I told you not to misunder— ugyak!”
I sped up to prevent her from justifying it more.
Without going to the arcade, I made a big circle around Seoul.
On this snowing Christmas day, we drove around seeing Seoul’s beautiful scenery.
Although I came three hours late, we saw many things and enjoyed our time together. We stopped by a clothing shop, and by the time we left we were wearing completely different clothes than the beginning. We then ate at a restaurant, and I forced Chae Nayun to eat some pancakes.
After spending two and a half hours together, it became time for her to go, and so I drove her to the Portal Station.
[Domestic Portal Station]
The Portal Chae Nayun had to take was connected to North Hamgyeong Province. However, she stayed near me, hesitating to go.
“Hurry, you’re going to be late.”
Unable to look at her straight, I muttered as I stared at the Portal in the distance.
Chae Nayun then nudged my shoulder.
“…Today was fun.”
Chae Nayun’s short and calm words made me bitter and pained me more.
“By the way, before I come back, don’t…”
She didn’t finish her sentence. After hesitating for a moment, she shook her head and smiled.
“Nevermind, I’ll see you soon anyways.”
With that, she put her hand out. Though small and white, her hand was crude and wrought with calluses.
With a bitter smile, I grabbed her hand. She must have liked the sensation as her cheeks turned faintly red.
“Your hand is pretty big… and soft.”
“Because I only have to pull the trigger when I train.”
“…I’m jealous. Kuhum, anyways.”
Chae Nayun let out a dry cough and let go of my hand.
“I’ll see you later.”
I smiled silently.
“Then I’m going.”
With those last words, Chae Nayun walked to the Portal, glancing back a couple of times regretfully.
January 3rd, the third day of the new year.
In the sleeting weather, I got in a sedan parked in a desolate park.
Jain and a man I hadn’t met before were sitting in the front seats, while Boss was sitting in the back.
“This is the helper I was talking about, so don’t be too surprised.”
Judging by the man’s reggae style hair and black skin, he was likely Khalifa, the Chameleon Troupe’s seat of Blue.
“Now that the main hero is here, everyone close your eyes and entrust yourselves to my magic power~”
Jain unleashed her magic power.
I did as she said.
Jain’s magic power touched my body, and I could feel something being painted over my skin.
“Done. Here are your fake IDs.”
Three minutes. It only took three minutes for us to become completely different people with Jain’s Gift.
I opened my eyes and looked at the rear-view mirror. Reflected in it was the image of a nurse, not Kim Hajin.
“I don’t know why you want to make things this difficult. We could have just used poison.”
Jain’s first idea was to use poison. However, the Devil’s Seed couldn’t be killed so easily. That was why I prepared the god-slaying bullet.
“The plan is simple. We’ll enter Chae Jinyoon’s room disguised as nurses. Then we’ll bring him out and kill him in a secluded place.”
Although Jain made her plan sound easy, in reality, it was extremely difficult considering the security inside the VIP hospital.
However, it was possible with Jain’s ‘Disguise’ ability and Khalifa’s ‘Portal’ ability.
“As for how we’re going to bring him out, that’s why he’s here. He has the ability to open Portals. But if the magic power undulation is too great, we’ll be found out by the mercenaries outside the room and the security system. So our best bet is using a small Portal that travels only 20 km. Once you go through the Portal, the disguise I put on you will wear off. But you won’t have to worry about anyone seeing you. We already have a barrier set up where you and Chae Jinyoon will stand off.”
There, I would be have to face Chae Jinyoon head on.
“Once you and Khalifa leave, Boss and I will craft a fake that will stay lying in bed. Just in case a mercenary walks back in. All you need to do is finish your task and come back through the helper’s Portal.”
Jain’s ability wore off once her target went beyond a set distance. To maintain the fake Chae Jinyoon, Jain had to stay in the hospital room.
“Now, get off and pretend like you’re heading to work. Only I will be in the sedan. I’ll stay close enough to maintain your disguise so don’t worry. Just make sure you’re not more than 4 km away.”
The distance restriction of Jain’s Gift was 10 km when she was disguising one person, 8 km for two, 6 km for three, and so on.
Khalifa got off first, followed by me, then Boss.
The sedan then drove off slowly.
The three of us began to follow the sedan, while maintaining an appropriate distance.
We successfully entered the VIP hospital.
I headed to the counter and waited for Jain to call me.
At exactly 11:00 a.m., Jain called me.
“It’s time to check on Chae Jinyoon-ssi’s condition. Follow me downstairs.”
I followed Jain down the stairs, along with another nurse and a doctor. They were Boss and Khalifa in disguise.
We took the escalator down and arrived downstairs.
Once we were in front of Chae Jinyoon’s room, Jain looked at the clipboard she was holding and spoke to the mercenary standing guard.
“11:10 a.m., it’s time for a check-up.”
The mercenary let us through without suspicion. As soon as we entered the room, we locked the door.
Inside, Chae Jinyoon was sound asleep.
Jain murmured quietly.
I was in charge of dealing with the CCTV. Using my smartwatch, I temporarily stopped the CCTV. Just this took 200 SP.
Jain turned to Boss.
“Boss, be careful so that the mercenaries outside don’t notice.”
Boss unleashed her magic power with extreme care and created two magic power puppets. Next, Jain turned them into Chae Jinyoon and the nurse I was disguised as.
“Alright, you’re up next, Khalifa.”
Immediately afterwards, Khalifa created a small Portal.
This time, the undulation of magic power was stronger. We had to hurry before the mercenaries outside noticed the magic power and came in.
—W-What was that? Hello? Did something happen inside?
I put Chae Jinyoon on a wheelchair I prepared and walked into the Portal.
The Portal led to a desolate forest.
The ground was covered with sleet, and the trees nearby were all naked.
In front of me, I could see a wooden bench.
I parked the wheelchair next to it and waited for Chae Jinyoon to wake up.
All of a sudden, Chae Nayun’s face began to overlap with Chae Jinyoon’s. She was looking at me with a bright smile.
However, I suppressed the thoughts popping up in my head.
I needed to free myself from all thoughts and ideas.
But I just couldn’t do it.
I took out a white box I brought just in case.
Putting what I inadvertently quit in my mouth, I lit it with magic power.
An acrid smoke passed through my throat and invaded my lungs.
The unpleasant combination of nicotine and tar made me relax, if even just a little.
…After waiting in the cold weather and cigarette smoke for an unknown amount of time, Chae Jinyoon finally opened his eyes.
Chae Jinyoon stared at me without being perturbed by the foreign scenery.
I stared back at him and bowed.
Chae Jinyoon spoke.
I didn’t reply.
“Where are we?”
I didn’t reply.
“Did something happen to the hospital room?”
I didn’t reply.
Instead, I took out my gun and loaded it with the god-slaying bullet.
Chae Jinyoon’s innocent voice gave me a heart-wrenching pain.
I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath. I dropped the cigarette on the ground and stomped the ember out.
Then, I finally spoke.
“Chae Jinyoon-ssi, have you heard of the Devil’s Seed?”
“…It should be something that hasn’t been confirmed yet in this world.”
Looking down at Chae Jinyoon, I continued.
I felt like I needed to explain why he had to die.
In a way, it was to show respect. But in truth, it was a cowardly self-justification.
“A Devil’s Seed is a devil that takes over a human’s body, almost like a parasite. But once the seed sprouts, the devil will take over its host’s body, transforming it into its real self.”
My clothes fluttered from the fierce wind. Because of the cigarette I smoked for the first time in almost a year, I could still feel the bitterness in my mouth.
I slowly raised my gun and pointed it at Chae Jinyoon’s head.
“Chae Jinyoon-ssi, this seed is inside your body.”
Chae Jinyoon looked at me silently.
“You will become a devil.”
My vision turned blurry.
My hands were trembling uncontrollably.
“I’m… I’m sorry.”
Holding the gun with both my hands, I did my best to stop the trembling.
After taking a deep breath, I put my finger on the trigger.
“I’m sorry, really, I’m sorry….”
However, I couldn’t help but hesitate.
Chae Nayun’s face rose up in front of me. Her smiling face overlapped with Chae Jinyoon. The feelings she had for me touched my heart once again.
Pain shook my heart, and sorrow suffocated my throat.
I was afraid.
I was afraid of the pain she would feel and the wound she would come to bear.
It was then.
Chae Jinyoon’s face contorted frighteningly. At the same time, demonic energy rose up from his body, burning the ground and stifling me. Chae Jinyoon’s entire body turned ash-black.
Chae Jinyoon, or rather the devil that took over his body, reached out toward me.
From its deathly black fingers and blood-colored eyes, I could feel an undoubtable killing intent.
But even as its hand drew ever closer to my neck, I hesitated.
Due to mental exhaustion, I didn’t have the strength to pull the trigger.
My hesitation should have led to my death.
However, no danger came my way.
Silent and distant.
It was as though the world stopped.
Standing in the middle of this serene forest, I looked into the devil’s eyes.
Its bloodshot eyes were frozen and unmoving, but carried a tinge of tears.
Immediately, my heart sank.
The Devil’s Seed was unable to fully sprout and was being blocked by Chae Jinyoon’s will.
Chae Jinyoon was staring me, suppressing the evil within him.
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t make the situation any better.
Chae Jinyoon’s decision was clear, and I couldn’t betray his conviction. I couldn’t make his effort go to waste.
Clenching my teeth, I re-aimed my gun.
“This time, I won’t hesitate. For me, and for you.”
…When my finger was about to pull the trigger, a small thought rose up in my head.
Chae Jinyoon, the man I created.
He was a kind, warm, selfless, and righteous… hero.
I pulled the trigger.
In an instant, the world seemed to get farther and farther away as a brilliant light dyed the surroundings white.
The god-slaying bullet pierced through Chae Jinyoon’s forehead and destroyed the seed residing within.
His blood and brain fluid splattered all over my body. His bones pelted my skin, and a strange ringing sound reverberated in my ears.
My legs gave way, and I collapsed on the ground. All sorts of emotions swept through me. My face became wet with what could have been tears or blood.
From my mouth, an indiscernible sound came out.
I couldn’t tell if it was the cry of a human or a beast.
Today, I murdered Chae Jinyoon.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
No chapter tomorrow. Taking a break.