༺ Nazrea, City of the Dead (3) ༻
It was during the winter holiday of my 2nd year in this world that I met Master Erin.
『Bro. Did you still not fix that habit I told you to fix?』
『Is there a need to bother fixing it? Now that things have come to this, I just have to stick to the end.』
Park Sihu didn’t seem impressed by my reply. He wasn’t the type to overly express his emotions and feelings so I had to rely on the faint frown on his face to tell his mood.
『Your bro’s talking to you, Sihu. Look me in the eyes.』
『Bro my ass. You’re weaker than me.』
Despite his ungentle set of words, he still looked back at me.
『Uiguu~. Were you that worried about my injury?』
『Tch. That’s not it.』
『Sure, of course. Things turned out well because of that though, right?]
『We got lucky. You need to realize your own position, bro. If you keep on sticking your nose into other people’s business like that, you’ll die in a flash.』
『It’s all good if there are fewer people dying.』
For a very long time, he kept his silence. There was a big difference in values between me and him, and we had several ideological conflicts because of that.
『You said you wanted to be stronger, right?』
After a long hesitation, he slowly opened his mouth.
『I’ll introduce you to a master that can make you stronger.』
The right of a player.
The real identity of the Chairman came to light when clearing the 4th Arc of the main scenario, the ‘Tower of Mages’ incident, and the player got to create a connection with her.
Even though Park Sihu and I already knew about it, we pretended to be clueless until the right moment in order to follow the original storyline.
『So you are Korin, huh. I cannot take you in as my disciple but… I can give you some guidance.』
Later, she chose me as her successor.
“That shall do. The undeads won’t be able to enter this building now.”
The beauty wearing a robe came down from the 2nd floor. Erin Danua, who proved herself by carving all sorts of runes on the building to hide it, was a Rune Mage that was incomparably more skilled at it than me.
“T, thank you. Umm… Would you like chocolates?”
“Thanks for the offer but I’ll have to refuse it. You can’t consume food from other timelines in this place.”
This was the place where the incident from 300 years ago was repeating itself.
One of two things would occur as soon as food from 300 years ago went into our bodies. The food would either go back to its timeline, or the person that consumed the food would be stuck to this timeline.
It was a bug and a reaction from the world that occurred because of the jumblement of timelines and a paradox of time. Even though we weren’t sure what would happen if things went the other way around, there would probably be some kind of repercussion for them as well.
“So, why are you here?”
“Are you not going to call me master?”
“Hmm~. I see.”
She caressed my hair with a warm and knowing smile on her face, but I didn’t reply to her question until the end.
“Right! So Mr. Korin’s master is from a super long time ago, right? You must have been in the city 300 years ago when it happened, but…”
This was a place that replayed the incident from 300 years ago. All the citizens and corpses of this place were stuck in the prison of time and were going through the same process, so why and how was she able to keep her consciousness?
“It’s because I became friends with the Grim Reaper.”
“Sorry? What do you…”
After that, Erin brought her finger to her lips and said, ‘Shh’.
“Nazrea is a lonely city giving birth to undeads and here, I am stopping the birth of the ‘Immortal King’.”
According to the original plan of the black mage, this spell that isolated Nazrea and grew endless undeads was supposed to give birth to the ultimate ‘Immortal King’. Immortal King was a disaster among disasters that could control every undead of this world. Even in the game, there was a mention that the world would have been destroyed if the Immortal King was born with a million under its immediate command.
“T, then… you mean you were in this city for 300 years doing…”
Alicia’s face turned pale by imagining just how painful and lonely she would have been during all that time.
“Don’t worry. I am used to hunting monsters.”
She said with a smile to relieve Alicia.
“What are you going to do from now?”
Erin seemed slightly surprised by my question… or rather by my attitude, but she accepted it before long.
“The Immortal King is about to be born at the center of the city, and I must stop it.”
“Is that so?”
I stood up with a stretch as Erin tilted her head in doubt.
“What are you doing?”
“You said you have to stop it right? Let’s go kill the Immortal King.”
“…It’ll be dangerous.”
“I know. That’s why somebody needs to do it.”
“It’s also something I have to do.”
“Don’t you need an assistant?”
Erin was silent.
Right – this was the original main quest of Nazrea.
After visiting the City of the Dead, the player had to help the Grim Reaper and a ‘mysterious spearman’ to stop the birth of Nazrea’s Immortal King.
This was a lot earlier than usual and there was also a group event happening at the same time, but even then, it should be fine for me to replace the player for this quest.
After all, this was one of those quests that could be done at any moment.
“Hmm… I see. I would appreciate some help but… there’s no reason for you to…”
“P, please let us help you!”
Alicia shouted with vigor.
“I, it will be dangerous if the Immortal King is born right? Please let me help if I can assist you in any way!”
Saying that, she flexed her biceps while going, ‘Hutt!’ to show off that she was also quite strong, even though there was no need for that.
“We also have a group event anyway. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone.”
“Hmm… Alright. I guess I will accept the help of our young juniors then.”
Erin accepted my offer after a slight hesitation. That was natural, because there was no option for her to ‘decline’ my quest from the start.
That was just how it was.
“We must defeat three undeads to weaken the power of the Immortal King.”
First off, the three of them headed to the barracks of the town’s security guards, where Revenant Titan tended to appear.
The giant raced forward. The large greatsword that could slash through buildings was being swung around as lightly as a twig in its arms.
– Kwaang! Kwagang!
The houses of the city were being crushed with each of its attacks. With one breath, the monster pounced up like a jet to chase after Korin and Erin.
Two spearmen were at the end of the giant’s gaze. Like a leopard, they skilfully trod across the complicated streets of the city but the roads were soon blocked by the undeads that hoarded in after hearing the roars of the giant.
Horizontal Sweep of a Tiger,
The swinging form in Six Ways of the Spear.
A conjunctive explosion of the mind, the aura, and the body slashed through the dimension. The wind merged with the spear and turned into a gust and a tornado of the battlefield that could sweep across thousands of men.
When two people simultaneously used that tremendously powerful attack, the legion of undeads collapsed like leaves falling in the autumn wind.
Erin and Korin – the two of them stopped for a moment to sweep through the legion of undeads using the same skill as if they had decided on it together beforehand, but that short moment was enough for the giant to finish its chase.
The greatsword traveled across the air. Meeting that violent storm from the front were the thin wrists of Erin.
Using a spear that appeared like a twig in front of the greatsword, she displayed the exquisite laws of Lan, the outer trap, and deviated the path of the sword.
Demonstrating the Demonic Arts of Trap and Stab, she used Lan and Na to save herself from the greatsword.
However, the principles of Lan Na Zha did not simply end with altering the path of the enemy’s weapon – it needed the finishing move, Zha, which penetrated through the opponent’s core to mark the conclusion.
But Erin had to use all her power in just parrying away the giant’s greatsword. Even though she was parrying it sideways instead of blocking from the front, it still took a large toll on her body.
Korin made up for the short pause that appeared in her movement due to that impact.
Scavenging the Grass for the Snake,
The essence of Zha penetrated through the giant’s chest.
One person altered the path of the enemy’s weapon while the other stabbed following the principles of Lan Na Zha. It was a combination attack that happened without them even needing to discuss their plans.
“Go now, Alicia…!”
When the greatsword pierced through the ground after going astray and the giant faltered after being stabbed in its chest, a new figure was seen racing at the giant’s back.
The swordswoman was deathly quiet as if she forgot how to breathe. The scabbard of her demon-slaying sword was rampaging with a shapeless aura.
The giant noticed something with its instincts and subconsciously tried to turn its head. However, it was stopped by the runes carved with thin fingers.
It was a Rune of Restriction that even suppressed its breath. Seven rune letters appeared in the blink of an eye to form a sentence that bound the giant and bought time for Alicia to arrive and unsheathe her sword.
What happened after that was only witnessed by two people in the entire world. Korin and Erin looked at each other as Alicia took a step forward in that suspended world.
The giant’s head rolled on the floor. Showing how even an undead revived from the dead could not live after being beheaded, the large body of the giant fell to its demise.
Destruction of Merkarva.
It was the largest event near the end of ❰Heroic Legends of Arhan❱ and one that marked the start of Tates Valtazar’s full-on assault and was not something we could prevent.
Perhaps… Park Sihu, who I thought was helping me stop the incident, might have been instigating it from behind.
『Korin. Run away.』
『Bro! What are you doing!』
Tates Valtazar was in front of us along with the king’s subjects including Fermack Daman.
We had to run away with our party members by breaking through the hordes of monsters but… Master Erin firmly stood her ground with her back towards us.
『Someone needs to buy time.』
It was an event that did not occur in the game. The enemy had broken in a lot earlier than scheduled, and things were direr than ever before.
Even so, Erin Danua gladly decided to stay behind.
『Why would you do that, Master! It’d be better if…!』
Wiping off the tears in my eyes, Master opened her mouth.
『Child, I am an adult. As long as I am an adult, I have the duty to prioritize your safety as a child.』
‘You don’t know me,’ I wanted to tell her. ‘I am not Korin Lork. I am also a full adult; not a child under your protection.’
『Everything will be fine.』
That was my last memory with Master.
It was a chillingly painful memory.
Usually, when going to sleep during a mission, it was a common principle to create a camp and sleep at night, but you had to do it the other way around in Nazrea.
Because this was a strange place where night was dangerous and the day was extremely safe.
“Has Alicia gone to sleep?”
On a rowdy noon, we sneaked into an empty building in the outskirts of the city and decided to take a rest there.
“You should sleep with her. No one will touch you even if you sleep during the day.”
“It’s okay. A few days without sleep is not going to affect my condition.”
“That’s not good. Children should go to sleep early and wake up early.”
“Do I look like a kid?”
“Of course you are a child; what else would you be?”
Erin smiled while covering her mouth. Her twitching lips displayed her playfulness.
“So, do you think you’re doing well with that test you’ve mentioned?”
“Yes. I think we should pass without a problem.”
I replied while picking up the enormous Moonstone from Revenant Titan, which was as big as a rugby ball. The focus of this test was more on quality than quantity.
A Moonstone of this size should easily let us pass through the group event.
Erin said after deeply gazing at me.
“Anyway, it seems that I have taught you everything.”
“Six Ways of the Spear, Void, Primal Rune. I learned all that from you. Quite unexpected right?”
“…Yes. I wasn’t even expecting me to choose a successor, and definitely not someone as normal as you on top of that.”
“You could say I’m just that special.”
I didn’t bother mentioning the successor she chose before me. In this timeline, she had yet to meet Valtazar and there was no reason to tell her about something which she had been regretting and self-reprimanding about for 80 years.
She already had way too many things on her shoulders. I didn’t want to add an extra burden to her, who was living a repeating life ever since 300 years ago…
“What is it that you are trying to hide?”
Putting an end to my line of thought, she raised her chin up high and revealed her long neckline as well as a smile, before walking up and sitting next to me.
“Huhu. I must be an incredibly blessed woman. To think I’m being loved so much by my disciple.”
“Where did this come from?”
“I can see that you have truly loved your master.”
She gently placed her soft hand on my palm with a sad light in her eyes.
“It seems that my future is not the brightest one the world has seen.”
“You know who I am as my disciple, do you not?”
Of course I did. She was an adult who stood against the great evil. She was the benefactor who led me, taught me, and changed me, who also had to lose her life to protect me.
That heartrending and chilling memory squeezed my chest.
“Tell me. Sometimes, it is a blessing to have someone listen to your story.”
Erin said while giving me a long hug. Even though she was smaller than me, her hug was so relaxing and warm that I couldn’t help but subconsciously fall for its comfort.
“Good boy. It’s okay. Everything will be fine.”
Her consoling whisper tickled my ears.
“Like… I was just stupid. There were plenty of things to be suspicious about and yet…”
“I have a different opinion though.”
Erin replied while gently pinching my nose. I tried to look away but she straightened my head and made me look into her eyes.
“You did fail.”
“…That’s true but you didn’t have to mention it like that.”
“Huhu, boy. Fools linger on the failures of others, but the wise know how to linger on their own mistakes. At the very least, you are in the latter, are you not?”
“I have never considered myself wise.”
“Were you a hero from the start? Did that child called Sihu, who knew how to avoid failures, succeed in the end? No. Heroes are not people that only know how to avoid situations that might cause mistakes and failures. That is already the biggest mistake.”
I didn’t say anything in detail but after just hearing the bits and pieces I shared, Erin immediately said something that pierced through the core of the whole story.
“…Would you say the same thing even if you were the one that failed?”
“Huhu. Child, I have made countless mistakes and failures until now. However, it seems that I wasn’t mistaken at least when it comes to you.”
Like the gift she always gave me, Erin gave me a soft kiss on my forehead. The breath from her lips weighed on my chest.
“I, the Queen of Paradise, will gladly bless you for your future.”
That smile was one that I hadn’t been able to see for a very long time.
“You can rest for now. Take a short nap. Everything will be fine.”
Like that, I fell asleep in her arms.
Gerolge the Black Mage thought to himself, that something was going wrong.
“Damn it. How did this happen? And why? This is not it. Was my calculation wrong? That can’t be…”
He ransacked through the messy grimoires in his workshop. Relying on the ambient light of the lamp brightening up the dark and gloomy room, he searched through words with oddly large eyes.
“Huu, huu… Weird. That was the best timing. That was almost a miracle. So how could this…”
Like a madman, he continued murmuring to himself. The fact that he forgot to swallow his drool made him look all the more like a madman.
“Weird. Who. Who is it? Did someone interfere? Why did this happen? How did they do it?”
Without settling his coarse breath, Gerolge looked for his records that were left behind in a corner of the bookshelf.
It was by sheer luck that he saw the upcoming miraculous celestial phenomenon that had a super moon, a blue moon as well as a blood moon. He realized that it would be possible to create an incredibly enormous ritual that the world had never seen by making use of the mana of the moon drenching the earth, and thus prepared for it.
The ritual was successful and… wait, was it a success? I didn’t activate the ritual though? No, wait, did I activate it yesterday? But then why is the city so peaceful?
Gerolge rummaged through the books again like crazy. He checked the magic circle again even though he had already seen them hundreds and thousands of times.
He then slowly started to realize something.
With cold sweat flowing down his spine, he came up with a hypothesis.
“Witch. A witch. That witch.”
He tipped the lamp brightening up the room. It was a very intentional and academic attempt.
The lamp broke. The oil and the ember inside the lantern fell as the room immediately turned into a sea of flames…
“Ha, haha… Hahaha!”
…Or at least it should have.
He realized it. He ended up realizing it.
“Witch. That witch. That accursed spearman. Silver hair. Blue eyes. Monster. Rune Mage.”
Like a fool, he slowly arranged the pieces of information. No one knew that it was Gerolge the Black Mage’s desperate attempt at regaining his clever intellect. Even Gerolge himself did not know what he was doing.
“Witch! Witch! Witch!”
Gerolge ran out of his dark room and gazed at the city.
The City of the Dead that had contained more than a million undeads until the previous night… was way too peaceful and normal.
“The Witch! It’s all because of the Witch! That Witch must be the reason!”
He felt enlightened as life sparked down his spine. The Witch… yes, that Witch was the one who caused all this to happen.
His legs lost power. While limping, Gerolge took in the sight of the peaceful city and observed the faint scent of a magic circle hidden in the sky.
It was the magic circle he carved into the city with the support of the lunar mana. It contained the purest and most intense form of mana that no other grand spells until now could have possibly possessed.
Because of how perfect everything was, it didn’t take long for him to notice that an ‘irregular letter’ had been carved into the great magic circle.
[ n ]
At a glance, it looked similar to common language, but it had to be from way back in the past considering its magic meaning.
The language of the origin – the special alphabet that was starting to be forgotten and lost 300 years ago.
The meaning of this Rune of the Prime that completed a sentence with 8 of those ancient letters was… ‘Paradise continues’.
“Uhah, uhahaha…! I know it! I know! Witch! I know your secret! I ended up noticing it! Prime! It was the Prime…!”
He, who had been blabbering without even stopping for a breath, finally paused himself for a bit but continued before long.
“It was you! You! Time is being repeated! You were the one that made it happennnnn….!”
His voice lost its shape as his clear vision turned dim. His flesh began to swell and behind his swelling flesh, the black mage glared at the wily blue eyes of the Witch.
“Immortal King Gerolge. Stay faithful to your role.”
As always, the 3,203rd enlightenment of Gerolge the Black Mage was in vain.
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