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Through teleport, we arrived at 'Thaines', a small port city in the Republic of Leores. s.h.i.+murin guided us to her workshop.
s.h.i.+murin's workshop was located near the coast. On the outside, the workshop appeared to be a huge mansion, like a vacation home owned by a millionaire.
The mansion stood close to the ocean, and the gentle ocean breeze brushed past my ears.
s.h.i.+murin deactivated some simple security magic and opened the door. We slowly entered the workshop.
The inside of the workshop looked just as fancy as the outside.
“So this is where you've been all these years… in the middle of a city…?” Harin muttered.
With a snicker, s.h.i.+murin answered, “Just because I'm a magician, doesn't mean I have to live in isolation. I only go to Mirinae when I have to meditate or gather materials for my research.”
s.h.i.+murin deactivated her transformation. Because she hadn't taken a shower for a long time, she was filthy and covered in dirt. It only took her 3 seconds to become clean again, however, through a simple 'cleanse' magic.
“You must be tired from all that climbing. Pick any room you want and rest. Oh, you can go out and explore the city if you want. Except, you.”
s.h.i.+murin pointed at me.
“Hejin, you will follow me to the bas.e.m.e.nt.”
Boss frowned next to me but I simply nodded.
“Hajin. I don't sense any hostility but be careful. It's hard to figure out what she's thinking.”
“Yeah, I'll be fine. Go rest, Boss.”
I dismissed Boss's concern with a smile and followed s.h.i.+murin down to the bas.e.m.e.nt.
The bas.e.m.e.nt of the mansion looked more like a typical workshop. There were magic circles everywhere. On her desk was a mountain of scrolls, and strange plants were growing in the corner of the room.
“Is this where you've been studying dimensional travel?” I asked casually.
s.h.i.+murin suddenly stopped in the center of the workshop and turned around.
She was frowning, and her gaze was as sharp as a blade.
Her voice felt heavy. Overwhelmed by her aura, I backed away.
With a big frown and a piercing glare, s.h.i.+murin announced, “I don't care how you found out about my research.”
Suddenly, magic power flowed out of s.h.i.+murin's body.
“Your strange magic power is no proof that you're from another dimension. Anyone can create illusions through magic power.”
Her enormous magic power pushed down on me heavily.
It was a bone-crus.h.i.+ng, flesh-ripping kind of pressure.
Breathing became harder and I felt as if my organs were twisting inside me.
“The reason I'm still interested in you is this.”
But in the next moment, the pressure disappeared, and I fell to the floor, desperately gasping for air.
“…Because your magic power is close to the 'truth'.”
I looked up at s.h.i.+murin.
s.h.i.+murin's gaze was looking through me.
“The pure magic power flowing through that strange scar on your arm…”
Her gaze traveled to my right arm. s.h.i.+murin's magic power had ripped my clothes apart and the Stigma was completely visible.
Staring at the scar-like tattoo, s.h.i.+murin continued, “Truth, origin, essence… your magic power contains everything. That's why I think your magic power could be the key to my grand magic.”
As she finished her speech, s.h.i.+murin turned on the lights in the workshop. Under the bright light, I saw a staircase leading deeper below the bas.e.m.e.nt. s.h.i.+murin began walking down those stairs.
I asked her, “…Should I go with you?”
s.h.i.+murin stopped and scanned me from head to toe.
“You're already surrounded in my magic. Rest, and I'll summon you when I'm ready….”
After the somewhat spooky declaration, s.h.i.+murin continued her descent.
It was then that a bunch of system windows blocked my view.
[You have completed a high level quest.]
[You have completed a highest level quest.]
Along with messages informing me of the completion of the quests, I received all of my equipment at once. [Aether], [Desert Eagle], even the complete set of [Black Lotus Uniform], as well as my boxes of bullets including the G.o.d-slaying bullet.
“I've missed you guys so much….”
Words could not express the joy I was feeling at this moment.
'Welcome home, my dear friends….'
I armed myself with Aether, the Black Lotus Uniform, and everything else. Then I sent Chae Nayun a message.
[Tell Kim Suho that we arrived at the Republic. We're in 'Thaines'.]
[Arunheim — residence of the prince]
The late afternoon sky was lit up with the blazing red of the setting sun.
Inside the prince's room, which was so s.p.a.cious that it almost felt empty, Jin Sahyuk muttered in a daze, “…He just left.”
“Haha. Yeah, he did.” Bell shrugged.
He and Jin Sahyuk were alone in this room.
s.h.i.+n Jonghak stomped out of the room as soon as Bell mentioned s.h.i.+n Myungchul.
“Is it okay to let him go?” Jin Sahyuk asked nonchalantly.
For someone as arrogant as him to run away without giving any excuse— Jin Sahyuk hadn't expected this.
“It's fine. I thought this might happen,” Bell answered.
s.h.i.+n Jonghak's beliefs and values were based on s.h.i.+n Myungchul. s.h.i.+n Jonghak would continue to evade any discussion of s.h.i.+n Myungchul, because he's too afraid to doubt his beliefs.
“…I'm curious. Can't you just tell me?” Jin Sahyuk muttered.
s.h.i.+n Myungchul was a legend known by everyone. His fame aroused her interest.
Bell gave a small smile.
“About s.h.i.+n Myungchul?”
s.h.i.+n Myungchul had accomplished a lot in life.
He recaptured Seoul with Chae Joochul, drove many Djinns out of the Korean Peninsula, established the 'Hero a.s.sociation' with his colleagues, founded the 'Jinsung' Group and saved millions of lives at the expense of his own.
Another name for s.h.i.+n Myungchul was One True Hero.
He was the living embodiment of virtue, referred by many as the last hope of humanity.
“He and I were similar.”
Bell, however, knew everything about s.h.i.+n Myungchul, including his past life.
Jin Sahyuk couldn't make sense of Bell's words.
How could Bell, who she knew was trash before, and s.h.i.+n Myungchul, a respectable hero, be similar?
With a bitter smile, Bell recalled s.h.i.+n Myungchul.
He recalled their first encounter.
Long, long ago.
Bell had warned s.h.i.+n Myungchul about the Regression Stone, that it was a cursed stone that lured in devils, that the Ghost of Regression, 'Baal', would most definitely destroy him and his world in return for him going back in time.
But, as everyone knew, love could easily blind a person.
s.h.i.+n Myungchul readily sold his soul and the world he lived in to the devil for a chance to meet the person he loved once again.
“Yeah?” Jin Sahyuk responded nonchalantly.
“You don't sound very surprised. That's the truth about the legendary hero, s.h.i.+n Myungchul.”
“I'm more interested in Baal. Just what is he?”
To this, Bell simply announced, “He's just a pervert who likes to collect different worlds.”
“You know, some people collect books, figurines, things of that sort. Baal's the same. He collects worlds for pleasure.”
Jin Sahyuk felt anger boiling inside her as she listened to Bell.
She clenched her teeth.
“For your information, Baal didn't meddle with your world. Akatrina was purely a self-inflicted downfall.”
Bell answered Jin Sahyuk's question before she even said it out loud. Slightly embarra.s.sed, Jin Sahyuk let out a dry cough and changed the subject.
“I-I wasn't gonna ask. That's not what I was…. So, what's the Demon Realm Gate, then?”
“This place? This place is just a 'condition'.”
“Yeah, it's sort of like a contract. You know, because a great force requires an equally great restraint. Kind of like Newton's third law.”
Baal's existence transcended reality. In order for Baal to descend, he had to first go through a proper process.
“The Demon Realm Gate is not an ordeal given to men by Baal.”
Baal chose the 'Demon Realm Gate' as the solution.
“It's an ordeal Baal placed on himself to descend.”
To reenact the first world he descended in in the form of the 'Demon Realm Gate' and use that as a medium to transfer himself to another dimension— this was the method Baal chose to descend to Earth.
“So, if you can stop Baal in this world, Baal won't be able to descend to Earth.”
Jin Sahyuk did not say a word. She stared at Bell in silence. Bell, too, stared back at Jin Sahyuk.
Their staring contest lasted for quite a while.
I went downtown with Harin and Boss. The ocean breeze blew gently in the bustling harbor city.
We toured the place, enjoying food vendors and shops. There was something refres.h.i.+ng about seeing a world I didn't create myself.
While I was examining scrolls being sold at a magic shop, Boss called me.
“Look at that.”
Boss pointed at a stall.
[Stuffed Dolls. Starting from just 8 s.h.i.+llings.]
It was a shop selling dolls. Boss was looking at a stuffed bear in particular.
“Do you like bears, Boss? I guess that explains why you liked that bear helmet so much.”
“No, I wouldn't say that… Do you have money?”
She asked like a delinquent.
“Ah, yes, I do.”
With a grin, I gave her a gold coin. It was part of the money I got to escort Harin.
Boss walked up to the stall and picked up the stuffed bear. But it seemed one wasn't enough, as she picked up a stuffed cat with her other hand.
I watched her with a smile before turning my gaze to another stall.
…It was then.
Robed men suddenly appeared and surrounded me. Their bodies were huge, as though they were fully armored underneath their robes, and they each had a sharp sword hanging on their belt.
The a.s.sa.s.sins from Arunheim were already here?
“Who are you?”
Boss quickly returned to me, emanating her magic power. I also took out the Desert Eagle.
At that moment, the man, who seemed to be the leader, said in a respectful tone.
“…Kim Hajin-ssi, correct? We've come to pick you up under the order of Sword Commander Kim Suho.”
[Republic of Leores - Bas.e.m.e.nt of Seraine's Mansion]
Seraine received a message from Kim Suho that Harin and her companions had arrived in Thaines.
She was surprised that they were able to enter the Republic without being noticed by the border guards, but in any case, she ordered her knights to summon them.
“According to our investigation, he is an F-rank sharpshooter from Lorenzio Duchy.”
However, the Republic's investigation only showed that the man highly praised by the sword commander was an F-rank sharpshooter.
“There's no way… Perhaps he's staying at F-rank on purpose?”
“Potentially. He is a rookie who only joined the army one year ago.”
Seraine fell silent and turned to look at the man inside the gla.s.s prison. It seemed he didn't know he was in a prison cell, as he was yawning nonchalantly in his chair.
“What about the others?”
“We've confirmed the ident.i.ty of Loren Clan's daughter, but the other one cannot be identified. There's no record of her whatsoever.”
Seraine furrowed her brows and rubbed her chin.
An F-rank sharpshooter stopping the war by himself? It was the funniest joke she's heard.
She didn't believe that this sharpshooter was hiding his strength either. He looked dumb, and she couldn't feel any magic power from him either. All powerful beings leaked magic power. Not even Kim Suho could prevent it.
'Does Lekendol even need to test him? …Did Sword Commander lie?”
Just as Seraine was judging Kim Hajin…
The bas.e.m.e.nt door burst open, and a knight shouted urgently.
“Lady, a Monster Pathway has opened in the capital!”
Seraine immediately scowled. The knights guarding Kim Hajin ran out immediately, and Seraine was left staring at Kim Hajin.
'He looks like an ordinary F-rank soldier no matter how much I observe him. It would be fine to leave him here alone, right? No, but what if Father finds out?'
Koong- Koong- Koong-
At that moment, the man inside the gla.s.s prison began to knock on the gla.s.s wall.
“Geez, you surprised me… What is it?!”
Seraine jumped in surprise and then realized that the man was saying something.
She walked up to the wall with a frown. Seeing the man's mouth from a closer distance, she could make out what he was saying.
—If they're ordinary monsters…
—No matter how many there are…
—I can take care of them…
“What is he saying…?”
Just as Seraine murmured, the man held up a strange machine. It was the Desert Eagle, which only looked like a lump of metal in Seraine's eyes.
“What's that?” Seraine asked.
Kim Hajin grinned and replied.
—A weapon specialized for slaughter.
Simultaneously, a large ringing sound rang out. An artificial earthquake erupted, and a large hole appeared in the ground.
Strange noises rang out from the hole. It was a mix of monsters' cries.
A long time had pa.s.sed since a 'Monster Pathway' was created so close to the capital.
Seraine clenched her teeth and pulled out her sword.
Then, she looked at Kim Hajin. He was staring at her like an innocent child, knocking on the gla.s.s wall.
When their eyes met, Kim Hajin spoke.
—Let me out.
He looked too relaxed.
The cries of monsters became louder.
Koong, Koong, Koong.
And the man inside the gla.s.s prison urged her continuously.
—Just let me out. I'll take care of them for you.
Reading his mouth, Seraine's frowned.
“Hmph, if you're so confident, why don't you just break out?!”
Though that's what she said, Seraine pushed the b.u.t.ton to open the prison.
The door of the gla.s.s prison opened.
The man walked out leisurely. Staring at Seraine, he muttered arrogantly.
“I don't want to be charged for destruction of property.”
And at that moment…
Demonic monsters shot up from the hole in the ground.