༺ Sea Train (2) ༻
“The simulation has begun.”
“Video team, operating normally.”
“Artificial Demonic Creature team, operating normally.”
“Safety Countermeasure team, operating nor–”
Hatan U-Jul nodded as he heard the reports coming in one after the other near the situation room.
“They made it well.”
Such words came out with a satisfied voice.
From the perspective of someone who had directly hunted High-Grade Demonic Creatures, he was confident that there was no one among the students who would realize that was fake.
Of course, it could seem a bit harsh for inexperienced kids who most likely had no real combat experience, but…
‘True talent only emerges when a person is pushed to their limit.’
The name, Forge of Struggle, of itself was given with the intention of exposing students to the most merciless environment possible.
Wasn’t it natural that steel became stronger the more it was hammered?
In that perspective, the current virtual simulation was satisfying enough to make Hatan smile.
“You know, I can’t get used to this every time I see it.”
His smile disappeared as soon as he heard the voice coming from beside him.
A woman grinning with half-closed eyes.
Although the surroundings were filled with people dressed in outfits that exuded a barbaric feel unique to the Tribal Alliance, this woman’s attire gave off an air of a civilized individual.
The following words also clearly reflected this difference.
“I can’t believe people who look like this are handling state of the art devices that would only be used in the Magic Tower. The Tribal Alliance becomes more bizarre of a place the more I see it.”
“…Chief Priest Tatiana.”
Hatan sighed and brushed his hand through his hair.
“Please, if you came to observe, could you just keep your mouth shut and watch?”
In response to the harsh words, the woman stuck her tongue out and slyly raised her hands.
From Hatan’s perspective, her appearance was so despicable that he wanted to punch her in the face right then and there,
“Aren’t you being too harsh? What did I do so wrong?”
Hatan’s expression sank even further.
“Then let me be straightforward right here and now.”
Compared to earlier, his words were now tinged with killing intent.
“I don’t like you, Chief Priest. Consider it a stroke of luck that you haven’t immediately died at my hands considering what you did to Alan.”
“He was my friend. He may be as stupid now as he was back then, but still, he was brave, he knew honor, and he was a warrior who fought fairly.”
As Tatiana continued to grin without a response, Hatan’s frosty voice continued to pour out.
“He wasn’t someone who would do something as insane as challenging the Chieftain, who was properly ruling the Alliance, out of the blue, cutting off three of her limbs, and even annihilating her entire clan.”
That was exactly what happened.
He proceeded to duel with Kasa Garda, who had the respect and admiration of all warriors, and despite everyone’s opposition, he had cut off all three of her limbs. Hatan’s words were all true.
All of this happened after this woman became known as the Chief Priest of his tribe.
Moreover, the ‘process’ of the duel itself…
‘…It was horrifying.’
Hatan gritted his teeth as he recalled the scene at the time.
It was by no means a duel that was conducted fairly.
To be more precise, it was too disgraceful to even call it a duel; Instead, it was a ‘massacre’.
After all, aside from the duel participant, the majority of Kasa Garda’s clan were murdered on that day.
“All Chieftain Alan has done is ascended to a position to rule the Tribal Alliance in accordance to a fair duel. He is suitable in both authority and legitimacy. Don’t you think so?”
As such, the limits of his patience were being tested by not punching this woman who nonchalantly spoke such bullshit.
Instead of responding to her, Hatan continued with his next orders to the personnel in the situation room.
“…Track the vital signs of the guys on the train.”
Given the technological capabilities of the Tribal Alliance, obtaining this level of information from everyone there shouldn’t be too difficult.
Besides, this process was essential for them. After all, vital signs revealed a vast amount of information.
It made preventing accidents easier and allowed them to assess how cool-headed an individual was when handling this situation.
Those were the guys with a low heart rate, minimal fluctuations of emotions, and quick decision-making abilities.
And the people who showed the best performance based on these criteria were…
Riru Garda and Kasa Garda.
Hatan’s face broke into a bitter smile when he saw these familiar faces.
They likely knew the tendencies of the Tribal Alliance, so they wouldn’t have any trouble assessing the situation calmly upon seeing this.
‘…I don’t want to stop them from setting foot on their homeland, but…’
Entering the Forge of Struggle like this practically meant suicide in many ways.
It was probably a good idea for him to approach first and offer a word of advice before they entered.
And, after excluding these two…
Hatan smirked when he saw a man moving on top of the train as if he was a crawling turtle.
He remembered him.
After all, his straightforward confrontation with the Pope from before had left a strong impression on him.
And so, it was no surprise that a guy who pulled shit like that was also the calmest in this situation as well.
He didn’t know why the guy was moving in such an ugly manner though.
However, unlike Hatan, who was smiling this time….
Next to him, Tatiana’s face twisted.
She always had half-closed eyes and a smiling face, so this was a subtle change that was difficult to notice even if one looked closely.
“Ah, right. War Chief Hatan.”
Even the voice that followed…
Was undoubtedly filled with that subtle feeling.
“Shall we increase the difficulty a bit?”
Hatan’s baffled voice resonated within the situation room.
“What kind of dogshit suggestion is that, Chief Priest? What do you mean by—”
Before Hatan could finish speaking, Tatiana snapped her fingers.
On the screen, this was right before Riru rushed at the High-Grade Demonic Bird.
And at the same time…
A yellow energy began to emanate from the High-Grade Demonic Bird.
Hatan’s eyes widened.
“…Chief Priest. What did you do to the Artificial Demonic Creature?”
“Oh, all I did was insert the heart of a real High-Grade Demonic Creature ‘Thunderbird’ into the completed Artificial Demonic Creature. It should be able to exert about half the power of a real High-Grade Demonic Creature, I presume?”
Upon hearing this, most of the personnel in the situation room turned pale.
If that was not a ‘real Demonic Creature’, then it had ‘Unique Magic Power’ that could not be handled.
This was the reason why Intermediate-Grade Demonic Creatures that needed official Knights to defeat could not even reach the toes of a High-Grade Demonic Creature. After all, a High-Grade Demonic Creature that could wield Unique Magic Power had a power equivalent to a natural disaster.
Even if it was just half the power, everyone over there was just a student. There was no chance they could handle it.
“We can’t just casually welcome guests from the Empire without showing some amount of effort. We have to show them this much at least, don’t you think so?”
“Are you insane? Everyone over there is a student from the Empire. They have no real combat experience! If they happen to die…!”
“Then they die, right? Is it necessary to be particularly concerned just because they’re students?”
Hatan was left speechless by Tatiana’s nonchalant response.
“…Have you thrown away even your last shred of conscience, you crazy bitch? You dare to disregard the lives of students at an educational institution?”
“Weakling will die whether it is from this or that. Isn’t it better to get rid of such people sooner?”
Even after saying as such, Tatiana’s face remained as it always was.
Half-closed eyes and a smiling face.
Almost as if this really meant nothing to her. As if it was just another day for her.
“I just did what the Chieftain ordered. If you have a problem, why don’t you go tell him instead?”
Moreover, she even passed over the responsibility of this incident to others.
Hatan, with veins bulging in his eyes, gritted his teeth.
Her appearance seemed as if nothing would get through to her, whether they talked about the diplomatic and political backlash nor the intentions behind her actions.
“Prepare the equipment immediately! I’m going in myself!”
As long as a real Demonic Creature’s heart was inserted, there was no way to remotely shut it down.
The only way was for him to enter the simulation site and take it out himself.
However, there would certainly be casualties during the time he took to enter.
As Hatan’s expression contorted at such a thought…
“Just a moment, War Chief! Something’s strange!”
“We’re detecting a massive energy!”
Someone in the situation room shouted as such.
“Massive energy? What-”
And before Hatan could even finish his sentence…
A ‘Grey’ aura…
Explosively flooded out from within the train.
From a glimpse between the gaps of the broken train, it seemed as if two women, with their swords drawn, had shot out a blow from that very spot.
“What in the…!”
At the same time someone let out such a shout…
The entire screen went blank.
“…Are you alright?”
I had to confirm that first.
Looking at the stunned Riru, who I ended up embracing in my arms, it seemed her condition was fine.
Actually, it was a countermeasure I thought of on the spur of the moment.
The ‘Stigmata’ skill, which used all available means to boost Endurance, had even completely blocked Kasa’s strike.
I had generated that in the right spot to ‘collide’ with Riru and I caught her falling body mid-air before escaping from the Demonic Bird’s attack trajectory.
It was probably the best way to protect someone who couldn’t change directions in mid-air.
I didn’t know about defeating the Demonic Bird, but at the very least, there wasn’t a better plan than this if my aim was to protect her. Moreover, it actually succeeded as well.
The problem was that I succeeded.
As cold sweat broke out, I turned my head towards the direction of the approaching footsteps while ‘still holding Riru in my arms’.
“…I came because I heard your voice from above.”
Eleanor sheathed her sword as she spoke.
I alternated my gaze between making sure her sword went back into her scabbard and the aftermath of the ‘strike’ that she had unleashed.
The ceiling of the train that had received her strike first was cut more cleanly than expected.
Of course, I wasn’t trying to say that the chunk of ply metal that wasn’t even the main target of the strike was fine. It had been blasted away by it, after all. I was just saying that because it was in a way better state than the thing that had actually received that strike behind it.
The strike, which extended straight upwards from inside the train, sliced through a portion of the train like tofu and continued extending.
Then it practically turned the High-Grade Demonic Bird in its path into dust, shattering it into ‘fragmented pieces’.
And it extended for a long while before even demolishing the ‘outer wall’ in the form of a dome that was enclosing this simulation set.
Thanks to that, the sky could actually be seen now. It was to the extent that seagulls could be seen between the sparks from the wires sticking out of the broken outer wall.
“I came thinking I needed to rescue you as quickly as possible in such an emergency situation.”
If I was unlucky, I might end up being hit by an attack of that magnitude.
Eleanor spoke with a bleak expression.
“Who is that woman?”
Together with that voice, I looked at the window that came out right in front of my eyes.
[ Corruption Value of target ‘Eleanor’ has increased by 50%! ]
[ The target enters a state of ‘suspicion’! ]
[ During the ‘suspicion’ state, the rate of increase in Corruption Value is doubled! ]
Who was the guy who said that there wouldn’t be any risk of me dying before we got to the school grounds?
I swear I’ll fucking kill him.
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