I forced myself to lie down, but I couldn’t sleep. My stomach churned, and my head spun.
Without any other choice, I opened my eyes in a daze.
Vivid memories flashed before my eyes.
Kim Hajin who was holding me in his arms, and the tattoo that was shining on his arm.
That was… undoubtedly proof of the murderer.
But why did Kim Hajin have that tattoo?
And that white shining symbol… was it really a tattoo?
I kicked the blanket and got up. Then, I threw the window open. Because my body was burning, I couldn’t sleep. I could barely withstand the pain.
However, an acrid smoke flowed in from the window.
The smell of cigarette was coming down from the roof.
Immediately, my eyes shot open.
It was a familiar smell.
Ever since that day, I had to constantly smell it to be near that person.
I turned around and faced the door.
I had to check if what I saw was real or a hallucination.
The only way I would find out was if I asked him.
And only then would I be able to live on.
I climbed up the stairs to the roof of the hospital. Although the door was locked, I could easily pick it using Dexterity.
There was only one reason I came all the way to the roof – to smoke.
Of course, there were smoking zones inside the hospital, but I was a cadet. Even though I was going to drop out soon, I didn’t want to smoke in front of so many instructors and cadets.
After a sigh, I lit a cigarette and put it in my mouth. An acrid smoke filled up my lungs.
Leaning on the guardrail, I exhaled and looked down at the ground.
I could see a panoramic view of the hospital’s entrance.
The scene could only be described as chaos.
A total of 3583 people were pulled into the broken mirror phenomenon.
Of these 3583 people, 44 were killed, 66 were kidnapped, and the instructor who was attacked by Destruction, Kim Soohyuk, was undergoing a surgery while in critical condition.
“In the original story….”
I slapped my mouth.
Original story, the damned original story.
I kept describing it as a story.
But what else should I call it?
In any case, 66 people were kidnapped just like in the original story.
However, Destruction’s appearance was completely unexpected. He was a boss-level character who easily ranked in the top 500 strongest of this world.
As for Yoo Jinwoong who drove him away… I expected him to come.
Speaking of which, I received a message from the helper who called Yoo Jinwoong.
[Hajin-chan! I saw the news! Are you okay?]
[Yeah, thanks to you, the losses were minimal.]
[Hehehe, I got praised for it too!!]
With my smartwatch being linked to my laptop, I could send messages unhindered by electrical signals. As soon as I realized Destruction was here, I sent my exact coordinates to Kim Hosup. There was simply no way Kim Suho could fight Destruction now.
Thankfully, Kim Hosup was quick to act. He even hacked into Yoo Jinwoong’s smartwatch to relay my coordinates to him.
[Thanks once again. Message me if you need anything in the future.]
After that, I turned off my smartwatch.
Then, I saw three familiar faces talking to each other in the hospital’s garden.
It was Kim Suho, Rachel, and Shin Jonghak.
They seemed to have gotten close in the short period of time they were rescuing other cadets, as they were talking about a rather serious topic.
—I couldn’t move at all. When I heard the name Destruction, my body froze….
Rachel was criticizing herself. In truth, Kim Suho and Shin Jonghak were the strange ones for being able to attack Destruction in that situation.
…At that moment.
The sound of footsteps struck my ears. To be exact, it was the sound of someone climbing up the stairs.
The sound was growing closer.
I put out the cigarette I was smoking and waited for the person who was walking up to the roof.
The moonlight touched my shoulders.
The footsteps stopped nearby.
She seemed to be hesitating.
A sigh rang out, followed by a familiar voice.
She called me. In response, I turned around.
In front of the rooftop door, she was staring at me.
She didn’t look good. Her complexion was pale, and I could see that she was mentally exhausted.
She called my name.
“…How did you know I was here?”
I didn’t know what else to say.
“The smell of your cigarette came into my room through the window.”
Chae Nayun trudged up to me silently. Then, she leaned against the guardrail. She didn’t show me her eyes. Her fluttering hair was covering them.
Chae Nayun spoke.
Her voice was heavy.
Chae Nayun looked up at the night sky and continued.
“Remember what I asked you a long time ago?”
“I… I asked if you had a tattoo.”
“Yeah, I remember it vaguely. When we went to Norway, I overheard you talking about it in front of our cabin.”
I recalled our trip to Norway. I vaguely remembered it.
—So you used to smoke? A real delinquent, huh. Do you also have tattoos?
Almost a year ago, when I went to Norway as part of the hunting club, Chae Nayun overheard me saying that I quit smoking. It seemed Homer’s Ring really improved my memory. Or was the memory etched in my mind because I was surprised?
“…Yeah, I remember.”
As I replied, I felt bitterness inside. I couldn’t help but think that if I could go back to that time, I could do things better. I once again understood why there were so many novels where the main character went back in time. In the present, things barely went my way.
Chae Nayun interrupted my useless thoughts.
“I want to ask again.”
She wasn’t looking at me.
“If I don’t, I think I’m going to die.”
I couldn’t understand what she was talking about.
“If I don’t confirm that it’s false, I don’t think I can live.”
Chae Nayun shook her head slightly. Something glistening scattered in the wind… tears.
“Kim Hajin… do you have a tattoo on your arm?”
The grave atmosphere and her strange question caused me to hesitate. I needed more time to analyze the situation.
However, Chae Nayun didn’t give me any time. She looked at me straight in the eye and spoke.
It was only then that I could see her eyes. When I saw her trembling pupils, I couldn’t speak. It was as though my body was frozen.
“Why won’t you answer me?”
Chae Nayun asked again.
“…Why? You just have to say you don’t have one… hic.”
Chae Nayun suddenly sniffled. She dropped her head, and tears began to fall onto the concrete.
“…Why, just why.”
“You should explain what’s going on fir— uuuk!”
Chae Nayun suddenly ran into me. Her sudden charge made me fall on my back, and Chae Nayun jumped on top of me. She grabbed the hem of my clothes, clearly trying to rip my clothes apart.
“Ah, hey! What are you doing!?”
Shocked, I wondered if she was having a psychotic episode. I couldn’t think calmly and could only try to get her off with my weak strength.
But without Stigma’s magic power, I was easily overwhelmed by her physical strength.
“H-Hey! Are you crazy!?”
“Yeah, I’m crazy, so stay still—!”
She moved quickly. Shouting loudly, she grabbed my shirt with her hands and easily ripped it apart with her strength.
Immediately afterwards, Chae Nayun’s gaze fell on my upper arm, where Stigma was placed. I quickly covered it with my torn shirt.
However, it was too late.
Chae Nayun dropped her head with a dazed voice. Then, she clutched her head and glared up at me with teary eyes.
“What tattoo is that?”
Chae Nayun clenched her teeth. Many words came out of her mouth, but none of them connected to a sentence.
“Some, some organization tattoo? Secret society? Some, something like that?”
When I didn’t answer, Chae Nayun’s eyes shook fiercely.
“What is it!? I’m asking what that is!! What is it—!!?”
It was only then that I began to grasp what was going on.
Chae Nayun shouted.
However, I couldn’t say or do anything. Almost as if my brain stopped working, I could only stare at her blankly.
Chae Nayun’s face distorted. She grabbed my shoulders strong enough to crush them and hit my chest with her head.
“Why… why would you kill Oppa….”
Immediately, my heart sank.
How did Chae Nayun know about Stigma? And how did she connect it to the murder?
“Right? It’s not you, right?”
Chae Nayun muttered as she cried.
I could only listen to her desperate voice.
‘It’s not me. I didn’t do it.’ That’s what Chae Nayun wanted to hear from me.
“Someone… someone might have framed you. In the first place, you have no motive… why would you….”
However, I couldn’t lie.
A lie that could easily be proven wrong, a lie that she already knew was wrong, I just couldn’t bring myself to say it.
“But why… why aren’t you saying anything?”
Chae Nayun tightened her grip on my shoulders. Her pupils were already empty.
“Just say it. Just say that you didn’t do it!”
Sharp pain struck my shoulders. My shoulders were broken.
However, that was it for both me and Chae Nayun.
Chae Nayun’s head touched my chest.
Overwhelmed with great shock, she had fainted. Her feeble body was now lying on my chest.
I didn’t move.
Like a puppet with its strings cut, I just stayed on the ground.
However, the situation advanced faster and faster.
From the rooftop entrance, another voice rang out.
A familiar face was looking down at me and Chae Nayun.
It was Yoo Yeonha.
She slowly walked up to me.
I wasn’t sure how to deal with this situation. My hands were trembling, my head was throbbing, and it felt like I was in a dream. If possible, I just wanted to faint and escape this reality.
“You don’t have to panic.”
However, Yoo Yeonha calmly detached Chae Nayun from me.
“I already knew about it.”
Hearing her, my heart ached.
Where? Just where did I go wrong?
Yoo Yeonha slowly picked Chae Nayun up.
“I should have been here first.”
Hearing her speak, I looked up at her in a daze.
Yoo Yeonha made a bitter smile.
“After tonight, you’ll be long gone, right?”
“I’ll make sure Nayun rests well.”
Her voice was warm.
“To be completely honest, I hoped she wouldn’t find out.”
Her relaxed voice and eyes of sympathy pained me more.
“I didn’t believe it either. No, I couldn’t believe it. That you killed him. How you killed him, whether you had accomplices or did it alone, I just didn’t have any information. And to my knowledge, killing Chae Jinyoon was impossible for just one person to accomplish.”
Yoo Yeonha lightly bit her lip.
“But looking at you now… it must be true.”
Coldness enveloped my body, and I got goosebumps on my skin.
Looking down at me, Yoo Yeonha asked.
“Why did you do it?”
I didn’t answer her.
“Why did you kill him?”
“…Was it for revenge?”
Yoo Yeonha seemed to be frustrated at me, who was sitting on the ground in a daze.
“You’re looking really pathetic right now… but unfortunately, I have no right to insult you.”
Yoo Yeonha turned around. Her footsteps were slow.
Almost as if she wanted me to stop her, she walked ever so slowly.
Looking at her, I pondered.
She was someone who treated her allies truthfully and sincerely. So why can’t I tell her the truth?
It was a weak thought.
Yoo Yeonha opened her mouth first.
Hearing her, I flinched.
“It’s the hotel my guild runs. I’ll be waiting on the penthouse floor.”
Yoo Yeonha continued with her back still pointing toward me.
“I still think of you as my ally. Just like how you thought of me as yours.”
Her voice was soft and gentle.
“Setting aside what happened, I want to believe you. I want to help you.”
“Because that’s all I can….”
However, she didn’t finish her sentence.
“…Haa. Anyways, I’ll be waiting.”
Like a fool, I watched her walk down the stairs.