༺ Bizarre (3) ༻
The assailant started to quiver.
Its shape started to distort. The surrounding scenery flickered. His own awareness wavered.
Vera tensed his muscles in response.
The assailant disappeared.
Vera shuddered, his gaze still stuck on the place where the assailant stood.
He didn’t take his eyes off for even a moment, but how did it disappear? No, how was it even able to trick his senses and approach him in the first place?
Confused by that thought, Vera quickly realized that he was alone and sheathed his dagger.
His heart was still pounding vigorously, unable to calm down. As he tried to dispel the rising tension, a question came up in his mind.
What was it that he just saw? That hallucination of Aisha, and the assailant who appeared at the end.
Vera began to recall the things that he had seen just before, one by one.
‘… The ticking sound of the second hand.’
That ticking noise. He definitely remembered hearing it. Vera focused his thoughts and tried to recall the moment he had heard that sound.
‘At the end of my past life.’
It was the sound he had clearly heard when his mind drifted away during the moment of his regression.
If that was the case, the assailant he just saw was…
‘Someone who intervened in my regression.’
He couldn’t help but come up with such a guess. Otherwise, he couldn’t explain what the assailant had done.
As he continued thinking, Vera began to speculate the identity of the assailant.
Was that being a ‘God’? Since they were the most likely to have been the cause of the regression, the Gods were the first to come to mind. But…
Vera quickly denied it.
The reason was because there was something that fit the culprit that he knew about more than the Gods.
The figure wore a hood, their face perfectly obscured. The wrinkled, bony hand that was half-transparent through the back. And…
‘…A pocket watch.’
They were carrying a large watch that felt too big to be called a pocket watch, and wore it around their neck.
Vera’s eyes sunk deep.
Just like Terdan and Aedrin, Orgus was a creature belonging to an ancient species.
They were species that traveled through the past, present, and future, spreading mysteries.
Vera realized what kind of hallucination it was that he had just experienced after remembering that information.
No, maybe it was from the past.
The hallucination that the Orgus showed him was undoubtedly something that would happen if they didn’t intervene.
However, he still had an uneasy feeling about it.
Why did they show it to him? And what was the meaning behind the words that they said before they disappeared?
[Death… No, four.]1T/N: It was misinterpreted as death by Vera in the previous chapter because 사 is both four and death in Korean. In reality, this line is also 사, but I added more to clarify instead of just writing [Four.]
They had definitely said that while folding their thumb.
‘Were they counting? ‘
He wanted to think of something that might give him some information, but there were too little clues at the moment.
The Time Walker, Orgus, had the least information among the nine ancient species. Of course, that wasn’t surprising considering how difficult it was to meet them.
The existence of Orgus was so obscure that it was frequently written off as a myth. Vera, who knew as much about the ancient species as the commoner on the continent, was unable to learn very much from what he had seen as a result.
Vera clicked his tongue as he felt the feeling of frustration boiling inside of him. He then recalled the scene that Orgus had shown him.
‘It was Aisha and the Demon Sword.’
It was a scene where a grown up Aisha was running while holding the Demon Sword. She looked like she was running away from something in a hurry, and she was also crying while looking torn and dirty.
Vera remembered clearly what he saw at that moment.
‘The Demon Sword was being forged.’
The Demon Sword responded at that moment when Aisha murmured something. A dark red light filled with resentment came to mind.
Suddenly, Vera felt an empty laugh escape his lips.
‘Was it Aisha who completed the Demon Sword?’
The question that had been gnawing at him all along was answered.
‘Dovan died, and Aisha’s resentment imbued itself in the incomplete Demon Sword.’
With that, the Demon Sword was completed, and Aisha joined the ranks of the Heroes.
Again, Vera frowned as he recalled Orgus that had disappeared. He gritted his teeth, and veins bulged on the back of the hand that gripped the dagger.
‘What was it?’
It was unknown what Orgus’ intention was and what they wanted to achieve by showing Vera the future.
It must have been done with some intention in mind, but he couldn’t figure it out.
Vera felt confusion welling up inside of him.
Dovan stood in the front yard of the forge, looking at the sky and sipping his drink. He turned his head towards the approaching presence.
Who is coming at this late hour?
He thought that as he looked at the end of his gaze.
It was Vera, who was walking with his robe tightly wrapped around him.
Dovan tilted his head and asked Vera, who was approaching him.
“You haven’t not gone to bed yet?”
He thought he would be asleep by now, so he wondered why Vera was coming out of the forest. Vera slightly bowed his head and answered.
“Yes. I was just taking a little walk.”
“Oh, I see. I was surprised, thinking that something might have happened.”
Laughter escaped from Dovan’s mouth.
Vera looked at him, then looked at the glass that Dovan was holding in his hand and spoke.
“…Were you drinking?”
“That’s right. Since the moon was so bright, I couldn’t sleep. So, I thought some alcohol would help. Oh, would you like a drink as well?”
Vera stared at the drink that Dovan held out for him, then he shook his head.
“It’s fine, I don’t really enjoy alcohol.”
“What a shame.”
Without offering again, he drank the alcohol that was in the glass.
As Vera watched him, he could feel the hesitation within him rise once again.
‘We have to leave.’
He couldn’t wait any longer. They had to run away immediately to avoid Galatea, who was under the mountain range.
And yet, he hesitated despite the clear situation because of the oath that he had made. Evacuating Dovan and Renee for the future would mean turning a blind eye against the evil that Galatea would do.
Since it was an act that violated the oath, Vera was at a loss.
A shadow began to loom over Vera’s face.
In his head, he could see Aisha from the other timeline that Orgus had projected. He could see her face harboring a grudge, tears of hatred flowing down from her face as she completed the Demon Sword.
Vera wanted to stop that.
He wanted to evacuate them quickly because he didn’t believe in a cause that required a sacrifice against one’s will. He believed that it was wrong to turn a blind eye to it.
But now that he was in a situation where he would have to turn a blind eye in order to accomplish what he wanted, he found it very difficult.
The people who would be sacrificed to Galatea, Dovan and Aisha were on different sides of the scale.
It was a situation where he couldn’t pick one side over the other.
Vera’s concerns deepened.
“Is something bothering you? ”
Dovan spoke up.
Vera shuddered at the sudden words and looked at Dovan.
Dovan was looking at him straight in his eyes, with a calm and serene expression.
“You look to be in trouble, no?”
Dovan grinned and chuckled.
“When you reach this age, you tend to know things. Even if you’re an ignorant person who only lives by wielding a sword, you’ll gain some wisdom from it. Perhaps I can help you in some small way, so why don’t you tell me?”
Vera opened his lips momentarily at Dovan’s words before closing them.
He thought it was pathetic of him for wanting to spill out his feelings about the current situation.
Telling Dovan about the current situation was no different from shifting the responsibility.
It was similar to asking him to weigh his own life against the life of others and make a decision.
Vera frowned for a moment and held back his words. He then conveyed his concerns in a more indirect form.
“…I have to choose between two things, but I just don’t have the confidence to do it.”
“Yes. There are two things that are pulling me in different directions, but there is also a reason why I can’t let go of either one.”
As Vera spoke, his gaze remained fixed on the sky. He was looking up at the waning moon above the black night sky, trying to ignore the expression on Dovan’s face.
Seeing Vera like that, Dovan quickly brushed aside the thought that flashed through his mind, ‘It must be about his relationship with Renee,’ and chose his words carefully.
He realized that this young man was having the same trouble that had plagued him for so many years, and he thought that he might be able to help.
“Did you know?”
“A man’s vision narrows when he becomes nervous. ”
Hearing those words, Vera’s gaze that had been looking at the sky turned towards Dovan. Dovan continued talking, thinking that those ashen-colored eyes looking at him appeared sad.
“There are many reasons for anxiety: the pressure of time, the compulsion to be perfect, the distrust of others, or of ourselves. But I think the most virulent of them all is responsibility.”
He recalled that time long ago when he had the same problem.
“When I first found out that I was the Imperial Descendant, I headed for the battlefield, believing that I had to end the war because it was my responsibility.”
He thought that the devastation caused by the war was due to his own lack of virtue, and that it was his responsibility to end the war. He believed that it was something he couldn’t look away from.
“They’ve been at war for about ten years when I decided to stand up and mediate between them. Did you know what the result of that was?”
Vera looked at Dovan, then at the wheelchair he was sitting on.
Of all the things that he could’ve lost in the war, that wheelchair was the one that immediately captured Vera’s imagination.
At that, Dovan nodded his head with a deep smile.
“That’s right. I lost this leg, and the war could not be ended.”
Dovan raised the bottle and continued talking while refilling the empty glass.
“After I lost it, I realized that I didn’t matter to them at all. Their war had nothing to do with me. What I could do was be somewhere else.”
The cup was full. The full glass was dressed in black, reflecting the dark night sky.
“The day I realized that, I left the battlefield and took Aisha with me. If this war is something that’s out of my hands, then as someone who has this Imperial Blood, I should at least lessen the suffering of one person from the war.”
Dovan sipped at the night sky sitting on top of his glass, then added.
“When a person becomes fixated on something beyond their control, they start to break down. I think it’s fine to put aside your anxiety and turn your head a little. Surely, there must be something you can do?”
Before he knew it, the glass was empty again.
Dovan looked at the empty glass and licked his lips in regret, then spoke to Vera in a playful tone.
“If the two options are in different directions, you could always carve a path that connects the two options. There’s no need to always follow a predetermined path.”
As Vera listened to Dovan’s words silently, he could feel his heart flutter at one word.
“…What I can do.”
“Yes, You’re not half-crippled like this old man, are you? You’re healthy and an Apostle as well, so you will surely be able to find a way.”
Dovan said that and then added with his own playfulness.
“Well, if it still doesn’t work, then at least you can complain to the Gods in the heavens. ‘I’m suffering here because of the trials you’ve imposed on me!’ If you complain like that, wouldn’t they give you a miracle?”
The words were spoken with a high-pitched accent as if it were read from a script, causing a laugh to come out of Vera’s mouth.
“That’s a funny thing to say.”
“Am I being rude?”
“Not at all.”
Vera replied, and once again the word, ‘what I can do’, flashed through his mind.
What he could do.
What he did best.
As he thought about that, an answer easily came.
A talent that wouldn’t be defeated by anyone. It was there.
“May I borrow one of your swords?”
Dovan’s gaze turned to Vera. Vera met his gaze and waited for an answer.
It was a ridiculous question, one that shouldn’t be on his mind in the first place.
Vera realized a little too late that his hesitation was caused by fear of something that hadn’t happened.
He realized that he had been so fixated on adhering to his natural duty, and tried to achieve a perfect ending without the slightest risk.
If I were to lose…
He erased that assumption.
‘I don’t have to lose.’
I just have to win.
It was such a simple matter.
Whether he was the Fortress Destroyer, or a commander of the Demon King’s army, none of that mattered.
He didn’t become a paladin just to be defeated by such a thing.
“…As you wish.”
Dovan said that as he looked at Vera with an uncharacteristically aggressive grin, and gave his words of approval.
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- 1T/N: It was misinterpreted as death by Vera in the previous chapter because 사 is both four and death in Korean. In reality, this line is also 사, but I added more to clarify instead of just writing [Four.]