My body was sent flying by a mere punch. It was neither with the help of magic power nor even the work of magic but a demonstration of pure strength.
That was why I couldn’t understand. It was even less convincing than the pain that was sweeping through my entire body right now.
During my first encounter with him, I learned that letting my guard down would be an act of arrogance. So I investigated him thoroughly. From what was known about him and from what I had seen with my own eyes, he was only a sharpshooter. From him, I could not sense the ‘state of magic power’ that distinguished a master from a rookie, and it didn’t look like he consistently practiced a specific technique either.
‘…That should be the case, so what the hell is this?’
I thought so during the brief moment the pressure of the punch broke my armor and my body flew into the air. But even that thought couldn’t last for long. From a thick cloud of dirt and dust, his face popped out. He had caught up to my body in flight.
“…I told you last time.”
A big, coarse hand clutched my face. He stopped my body. I saw him through the gap between his fingers. His icy glare became a heavy burden that weighed heavily on my mind and body.
Soon, a low whisper rang in my ears.
“That I’ll kill you if I ever see you.”
His voice filled my head. I felt as if my head in his grip would burst. I tried to raise my hand and resist him but my body wouldn’t move.
“That it’ll be the same both inside and outside the Tower..”
His lips curved into a cold smile, and my heart stopped for a moment as the pressure that he put on me sloped downward.
“Why didn’t you listen?.”
Immediately, I was smashed into the ground. My whole body was overcome with a shattering pain, but this was only the prelude to the immense pain that lay ahead.
His combat technique had neither individuality nor fundamentals. He pulled me out of the ground and slammed me into the ground on the opposite side. Then he pulled me out again and threw me to the other side.
Just like that, I swayed like the weight on a pendulum until my body was thrown into the air. This time, his kick landed on me.
My ribs were crushed, and, at the same time, I was sent flying through the air. But then he caught up to me before my speed dropped and punched me in the opposite direction.
But I didn’t give up on fighting back even as I was being toyed with. I formed a barrier with magic power and shot magic power weapons towards him.
However, an unbelievable sight unfolded. My magic power shattered the moment it came in contact with him. Not a single bruise or a scratch appeared on his body.
Naturally, his beating continued without stopping.
It hurt, it hurt again, it kept hurting, and it continued to hurt until the damn end.
I clenched my teeth. Why did I have to be beaten up like this?
As that thought crossed my mind, the boiling rage and pain manifested outwards.
I shouted while standing. The huge roar spread in all directions. My roar did stop him, but the magic power in my body refused to move.
When the body was damaged beyond a certain degree, magic power focused entirely on recovery. In other words, my body was too damaged to keep on fighting.
My diagnosis wasn’t wrong, and I quickly lost the strength to remain standing.
He began to approach me.
I could hear his footsteps.
I tried to move but it ended in vain.
Had something happened to my head from all that beating?
Suddenly, I had a terrible thought. I was scared.
Was I going to die? Die, like this, for nothing? I thought I would be indifferent even in the face of death….
I couldn’t die here.
Not like this.
I had a wish to fulfill. I had my home, my country, my parents and my loyal subordinates.
Before I could finish my thoughts, words came out of my mouth instinctively.
Choked with tears, my voice trembled.
Then, he stopped. I could only see his legs now. Should I say I was glad that I couldn’t see his face?
I desperately stretched out my hand and placed it on top of his shoe.
A breathtaking silence descended.
In it, I held onto my faint consciousness. Then, I said out loud words that I never imagined would come out of my mouth.
With my brain this damaged, there was nothing to be ashamed of.
Only a single thought occupied my mind.
I want to live.
I… have to live….
…The thought that first crossed my mind when Jin Sahyuk’s attack crushed my body was simple.
Should I use Time Reversal?
But I dismissed it before my body even touched the ground.
The side-effect of using Time Reversal was just too big. Even if I did use it, if I couldn’t finish her off in 3 minutes, I would most likely be done in. Of course, I had a choice of activating ‘Fate’ as soon as I used Time Reversal, but I believed there was a greater chance that I would die immediately from a heart attack.
The side effect of the 3-minute Time Reversal wasn’t specifically outlined. But I knew it made me feel like my heart was being squeezed dry, and it caused all of my stats to decrease by 3~4 points for a day. So my assumption that similar side effects would exist for [Fate] was well-grounded.
In all likelihood, [Fate] and [Time Reversal] were designed so that they couldn’t be used consecutively.
As such, I activated [Fate] before any more blows landed on me.
As I had set Jin Sahyuk as my target of Fate during the sunrise in Prestige, my stats were amplified by 300%.
As soon as I activated [Fate], an absolutely absurd amount of power manifested in my body. Instantly, all phenomena of the world slowed down.
In it, I only had one opponent.
“…This will be my first close-range combat.”
I dashed towards Jin Sahyuk. My body, engrossed in excitement, moved on its own. Perhaps it only maneuvered as Aether told it to.
I sent her flying with a punch, then chased after her and grabbed her face before her body could even touch the ground.
Then, I slammed her body to the ground. KWANG! I pulled her out and then threw her again. KWANG! I pulled her out once more and continued to smash her back and forth.
As I said, this was my first time in close-ranged combat, so I might have been subconsciously imitating the ‘Hulk’ I saw in a movie.
After that… I blacked out for a moment.
A sudden roar woke me up.
I stood still and stared at her. She glared at me with half-open eyes, then fell on the ground with a thud.
The outcome of the battle was decided in a very short time.
I approached Jin Sahyuk, who was unconscious and sprawled on the ground. Her sturdy body was indeed broken and somewhat distorted but it was still functioning. In fact, it was healing slowly.
It was time to kill her.
But at that moment, words I never expected to hear came out of her mouth.
My legs stopped without me noticing. I stared at Jin Sahyuk. What did she just say? Was I hearing things?
But this time, the words I heard were more vivid and more ridiculous than before. Goosebumps shot up all over my body. I had no idea what she just said, so I decided to pretend not to have heard anything. She was better off dead.
…I reached out but stopped.
Hands covered in blood entered my vision.
My subconscious defence mechanism was what stopped me.
There was a limit even to the numbed mind and high tenacity.
Until now, I had never killed anyone without a ‘tool’.
So I needed a tool now.
I tried to take the Desert Eagle out of my pocket.
At this point, 3 minutes had already gone by and Fate had lost its effect. I sensed an undulation of magic power that arrived with multiple presences.
I stared at the obstructors who suddenly appeared.
“This is the Hero Association’s Special Task Force! Put your weapon down!”
Ten or so elite members of the Hero Association introduced themselves as the members of a special task force. They pointed their swords and spears at me and raised their magic power.
“You guys, move over a little.”
Suddenly, a woman walked through them in an imposing manner.
Well, she wasn’t exactly ‘imposing’ but that was beside the point.
It was the short Aileen.
It looked as if she was participating in this mission as a commander. She made a dramatic entrance and looked at me.
“What are you doing here?”
I couldn’t bring myself to answer her. My body was starting to stiffen. It was likely the side effect of using Fate.
Aileen pointed at Jin Sahyuk.
“She’s not a Djinn. Why are you fighting her?”
“It’s also way too intense… to be a quarrel between lovers.”
Aileen mumbled as she looked at the blood splattered between the two of us.
There was nothing I could do now.
Without a word, I lied down on the ground. Aileen frowned a little as she stared at me.
“What should we do?”
Aileen’s subordinate asked carefully.
“What do you mean ‘what should we do’? That’s Fenrir. A guild probably hired him. As for the girl… well, I don’t know who she is, but let’s just leave these two alone and take care of them.”
Aileen said as she pointed in the opposite direction.
Just like the Hero Association, the Djinns had also called for their reinforcements.
“That’s Kim Ohsung, right?”
A slender man caught Aileen’s eye.
He was Kim Ohsung, an executive of Satan’s Servants. He was a Djinn 3~4 times stronger than Gunyuden who was only a bottom-rung Djinn.
“Yes, I think you’re right.”
“Then let’s go.”
Aileen threw a glance at me and walked towards the battlefield. Swirls of blade-like magic power shot up with each of her footsteps. However, the overwhelming magic power was soon put under control, and Aileen shouted.
“Listen well—! The ground will turn upside down—!”
At the same time, the ground that the Djinn’s were standing on shot up to the sky.
A single sentence had caused the reversal of the earth and the sky. It was a man-made disaster in which the entire layer of earth soared far above the sky.
—W-What’s going on!?
—Uwoah! H-Hold on…!
Most Djinns were killed by the reverse landslide or were crushed to death by the pressure from the magic power. It didn’t matter how they were killed; the results were the same. No matter what, they didn’t stand a chance against Aileen.
I wanted to watch her fight a bit longer, but I didn’t have enough time.
I came here secretly, so why were there so many guests today?
Soon, another voice tickled my ears.
“Were you hiding it, or did you learn it from the Tower?”
I turned my gaze.
A cat was speaking to me.
“It’s just that Sahyuk also learned a pretty good skill. So I didn’t think she would lose….”
Staring at Jin Sahyuk on the ground, the cat gave a small smile.
It was then I realized who he was. The Gift, ‘Magic Power Body’, had all sorts of applications. This had to be Bell.
I said just one thing to him.
The cat widened its eyes.
I nodded weakly.
“Tell her I was touched by her genuine plead.”
Today, I saw a possibility in Jin Sahyuk. In the original story, Jin Sahyuk was an almighty character who was far from the word ‘death’. Not even Kim Suho could defeat her, and she actually overpowered him for half of the novel.
But that wasn’t the case now.
Suddenly the cat spoke again.
“…You might regret it later.”
I didn’t answer him and instead raised my head a little to take a peek inside the excavation site.
My fight had ended, and Chae Nayun’s revenge was also reaching its climax.
—…Please spare me.
Sprawled on the ground, Gunyuden begged her.
A chuckle escaped from me even though this wasn’t the time to laugh.
For some reason, she was in the same situation as I was.
“…Please spare me.”
The man who had been overflowing with confidence until a moment ago was now lying on the ground begging for his life. With a cynical smile, Chae Nayun raised her claymore.
Chae Nayun continued with a stern face. Gunyuden studied her claymore. The monstrous weapon was still raging with magic power.
But the longsword which he assumed would penetrate his heart returned to the scabbard on Chae Nayun’s back.
“Do you think I’m like you?”
Chae Nayun took something out of her pocket. They looked no different than ordinary handcuffs, but they were an item that could suppress magic power. She put them on the wrists of Gunyuden and Yudoren.
“I’ll cut your magic core out and interrogate you thoroughly. I’ll also lock you up in the Djinn Prison so that you won’t be able to kill yourself.”
“You won’t be able to die even if you want to, you bastard.”
Chae Nayun looked Gunyuden straight in his eyes and hissed.
“Yup. You can look forward to it. I’ll have you spill the beans about that client of yours.”
She smacked Gunyuden on head with her scabbard. Gunyuden, whose magic power was now sealed, easily passed out, and Chae Nayun stood back up unsteadily.
A sudden dizziness overtook her.
The world spun and her vision turned upside down.
Someone caught her as she was falling.
Chae Nayun looked up amidst the dizziness. At first, a faint hallucination overlapped with the figure who caught her. The face in front of her undoubtedly belonged to Kim Hajin. He was looking down at her with that familiar expressionless look of his.
“Nayun! Are you okay?”
But the hallucination soon dissipated, and Kim Hajin’s face became Yi Jiyoon’s.
‘Am I going crazy?’
Chae Nayun quickly returned to her senses and pulled herself back up.
“Are you feeling alright? I came here as quickly as I could!”
“I’m fine. I already have these two captured…?”
It was then Chae Nayun finally noticed the man beside Yi Jiyoon.
Although ‘Desolate Moon’ should have been in charge of the 4th floor, Shin Jonghak was standing behind Yi Jiyoon for whatever reason.
Shin Jonghak stared at her. His spear and armor were covered in blood and dirt. It seemed he had quite a fight.
“Why is Shin Jonghak here?”
Faced with Chae Nayun’s innocent question, Shin Jonghak was silent for a moment. He couldn’t tell her that the spy he had planted in Essence of the Strait informed him of the situation. The trace of tears underneath her eyes also left him wordless.
He couldn’t bring himself to say what he wanted to say.
Instead, he answered with a bitter smile.
“I was always here.”
…The drama unfolding before my eyes was an interesting scene of youth.
Chae Nayun defeated her enemy but didn’t kill him, and Shin Jonghak announced once again that he wouldn’t give up on Chae Nayun. Soon, Kim Suho would join them too.
Their story would continue to unfold without me… as always.
I made a bitter smile.
A cold voice called me all of sudden. I barely breathed as I turned around.
I already knew who it was the moment I heard the voice, and it was indeed Boss.
Boss clearly showed that she was angry through the frown on her face.
“Ah, Boss. You came?”
“Is that all you have to say? I thought I told you not to participate.”
Boss looked down at me, and I looked up at Boss in silence.
Boss frowned even harder when she noticed that I wasn’t as frightened as she intended.
Of course, she still wasn’t scary.
I saw her white, coarse hands underneath her robe.
Looking at those hands, I suddenly remembered the ‘ring’.
I didn’t know why.
Was it because I had just seen Chae Nayun and Shin Jonghak? I remembered ‘Homer’s Ring’, rotting inside Stigma’s extradimensional space, still without a proper owner.
Did I really have to give that ring to Chae Nayun?
The high-grade artifact could amplify Chae Nayun’s strength and remedy her weakness— magic power capacity and stupidity—but could I really bring myself to hand it over to her?
It wasn’t entirely impossible.
Just like in the original story, if Chae Nayun asked her father for help, Chae Shinhyuk would search for a fitting artifact and possibly obtain the information about ‘Homer’s Ring’. By chance, he might find my Truth Agency and, again by chance, request Truth Agency for Homer’s Ring’s whereabouts. I could then present him with the reward fit for such coincidences.
But now, I could see Chae Nayun’s face. Today, she achieved victory on her own and didn’t end her revenge with murder. She was happy. At least for today, she was proud of herself.
So she probably wouldn’t ask her father for help. More so if it would only end with her depending on an item.
If one day Chae Nayun actually asked for such a thing… if her desire to become stronger reached me by chance…
“…I can just make one for her myself.”
I was most likely the sole heir of the dwarves’ legacy.
‘Intelligence stat increase’ would be impossible, but I could easily reproduce the [Magic Power Amplification] that Homer’s Ring had. All I would have to do is gather the world’s best materials and put in 1~2 hours of work a day for about three months.
Boss, who was still staring at me, snapped.
Now, to continue from where we left off: Boss was no less of a magic power monster than Chae Nayun.
Chae Nayun’s magic power capacity was ‘limited to swords’, so Boss wouldn’t be as efficient as her, but the ring was suitable for Boss as well. Since it would be my gift, she also wouldn’t sell it like she did in the original story.
“Boss, come here for a second.”
“Kim Hajin. I’m not joking. Depending on your answer—“
“I have something…”
Plus, I wanted to appease Boss.
“…that I want to give to you.”
Boss let out a heated sigh with the most sour expression on her face but approached me nevertheless.
Boss squatted down in front of me and asked.
I forced my creaking joints to move.
“Close your eyes.”
“…You weren’t supposed to be here during the mission. You weren’t even supposed to be nearby. Jain was able to lure in both the Association and the Djinns, but if you’re here they’ll have suspicions that—”
It didn’t look like she was going to close her eyes any time soon, so I put my hands over her eyes directly. Then, I tried to put the ring on her finger… but stopped.
Was this okay?
It was kind of weird for me to put the ring on her directly.
Ring finger, index finger… it didn’t matter. It just felt wrong for me to put it on her myself.
So instead, I opened Boss’ hand and placed the ring on her palm.
“Here, all done.”
She didn’t finish her sentence.
I smiled softly and looked at Boss. She stood firm as if time had stopped only for her. She stared at the ring with her mouth half open, without even blinking.
And, just like that, the owner of the ring changed.
Of course, I might regret this decision later.
But at least for today, being able to witness the expression on Boss’ face as she looked down at the ring on her palm made it worth it.
“How is it? I picked it up on my way here.”
It was more than enough.Previous Chapter Next Chapter