Episode 11: The Grand Scheme / Chapter 177: Lee Jinhee’s Vow (2)
TL: emptycube / ED: Obelisk
That day was the first time Choi Hyuk saw Flame-Hell’s true figure.
While everyone was gathered for Ryu Hyunsung’s funeral, night fell on Alliance City.
The Light of Eternity, which surged from the center of Alliance City 365 days a year, suddenly went out, and even Alliance City’s unique sky, which was a gathering of skies from other species, was erased for a moment.
All that remained was the dark universe and the stars that slowly shined within it.
Just as the conversations between the warriors died down, a flame ignited with a blaze.
A flame the size of a candlelight ignited in front of each warrior gathered in the square.
“Today, we send off a great warrior.”
They heard a voice.
At some point, Flame-Hell was floating in the middle of the Tower of Warriors. Though he looked old, in some ways, he simply looked like a handsome man with a few years of experience. His hair wasn’t composed of flames. However, his exposed skin and eyes blazed with hazy flames.
“While he is gone, his will and fate will continue to remain here and lead the universe we live in. Leader Choi Hyuk, come forward.”
He didn’t introduce himself in detail or ramble on, but instead quickly began the ceremony.
Choi Hyuk stepped forward while holding the shattered Sword of Sentiment ‘Ryu Hyunsung’s Commemoration’ with both hands.
Flame-Hell’s gaze remained on Choi Hyuk.
“Leader Choi Hyuk. You worked hard.”
Flame-Hell gave him some words of solace.
Flame-Hell maintained his modesty and was overflowing with self-restraint. He didn’t impose himself in this ceremony.
Just the fact that he was personally supervising this funeral was enough for others to confirm his friendship with Choi Hyuk, and that the glory from Choi Hyuk’s feat would ultimately return to him. More stories glamorizing him were spreading on their own, and there was no need for Flame-Hell to personally supplement them from here.
That was why he used this moment to move the warriors’ hearts and strengthen their bonds.
Flame-Hell seriously led the funeral.
“Highest-ranked Warrior Ryu Hyunsung. He played a key role in obtaining victory in the battle against the Blue Manes. If not for him, there would be many warriors who wouldn’t be able to attend his funeral today.”
Flame-Hell looked around the Square of Warriors. Since a small flame was in front of everyone, it seemed like the sky and the ground were filled with stars.
“Highest-rank Warrior Ryu Hyunsung, with his sacrifice, we were able to become victorious in one war, but there still remains another. It is against the monsters, who are currently launching the largest-scale invasion ever seen.”
While examining their sympathy, Flame-Hell skillfully ended his commemorative speech.
“Like how he did his best to fulfill his duties as a warrior for us, it is now time for us to fulfill our duties as warriors for him. The flames in front of you right now were flames I created by extracting a tiny amount of karma from you. By gathering these flames, we will restore the will and fate Highest-Ranked Warrior Ryu Hyunsung left behind and combine them into the Tower of Warriors. His will shall mix with our will and remain forever, and we will be victorious together in this war.”
When Flame-Hell ended his speech, the flames in front of everyone’s eyes shook. Then, as though they were floating on a river, one by one, they flowed into the fragments of ‘Ryu Hyunsung’s Commemoration’, which Choi Hyuk was holding.
The more the flames flowed into them, the more transparent and brighter the fragments became before floating up and permeating into the Tower of Warriors.
In its final moment of permeating the tower, the fragments formed an intact sword shadow before disappearing with a metallic ring.
“For life and freedom.”
Everyone else followed,
“For life and freedom!”
Their voice rang throughout Alliance City.
Like the break of day, the Light of Eternity slowly brightened, and the sky of various lights that had been erased slowly returned.
The dawn of Alliance City comforted the warriors’ souls. Having concluded the ceremony, Flame-Hell disappeared without a trace, and the warriors gathered in the square began conversing with each other with brighter voices than before.
Spending time together until the Light of Eternity brightened completely and the day arrived was Alliance City’s funeral custom.
“… It ended.”
Now that the ceremony ended, they had carried out all the big tasks. Having somewhat mixed feelings, Choi Hyuk placed his hands in his pockets and blankly looked up at the Tower of Warriors.
Even Baek Seoin beside him didn’t speak.
Just then, a commotion broke out in the square.
“What the heck? A low-ranked warrior? Why is a low-ranked warrior in Alliance City?”
“Well… Maybe she’s here under the probationary qualifications of a troop. But why is she here in the Square of Warriors? Since there is a whirlwind of karma here, it must have been difficult for a low-ranked warrior like her to enter.”
“No, no. She’s Director Lee Jinhee of the Berserkers.”
“She’s one of them? But why is her rank so low?”
“Apparently, her karma weapon was smashed this time.”
“Oh my. It’s admirable that she’s still alive.”
Choi Hyuk and Baek Seoin’s gazes were fixated in the direction of the commotion. There, Lee Jinhee was strenuously taking steps forward. The Tower of Warriors was created by a whirlwind of karma. Of course, winds of karma always swept through the Square of Warriors, which was in its front yard. While there wasn’t a significant effect on middle-ranked warriors and above, it seemed it was difficult for Lee Jinhee, who had just fallen to the level of a low-ranked warrior. Each step was difficult for her.
“Ah… I didn’t think of this.”
Baek Seoin blamed himself as he went to help Lee Jinhee.
However, Lee Jinhee stretched her hands out as she stopped him. She didn’t receive help from anyone as she walked with her own strength and stood in front of the Tower of Warriors.
“Haa… How sad. For someone who was a high-ranked warrior not too long ago.”
“Won’t she recover?”
“Who knows…? The possibility of success is so low.”
The warriors murmured to each other as they looked at Lee Jinhee with sympathetic eyes.
Yet, Lee Jinhee paid them no mind. She simply lowered her head in silence in front of the tower.
Rather it was Baek Seoin and Choi Hyuk who flew into a rage, but they bit their lips and kept silent, thinking that taking action could deal a blow to Lee Jinhee’s pride.
After concluding her moment of silence, she arduously walked towards Choi Hyuk while dripping with cold sweat. Unable to do this or that, Choi Hyuk simply stared at Lee Jinhee. Seeing her right now, his emotions were in disarray.
While she had beads of sweat, her lips were slightly curved upwards, and above all, her eyes shined like stars.
‘What… does she want to say?’
Just then, Lee Jinhee arrived in front of Choi Hyuk.
She took out the shattered sword fragments and the glass bottle from her pocket.
Choi Hyuk, whose lips had been tightly shut, unconsciously opened his mouth.
Lee Jinhee cut him off. She wiped the smile from her face and strengthened her gaze.
“I decidedly to cleanly give it up.”
While she didn’t say what she gave up, Choi Hyuk could tell for some reason.
Her dream. Living in happiness. It seemed that that was what she gave up…
Choi Hyuk didn’t know what to say.
No, how could a woman, who said she had given up on her dream, be so filled with willpower and overflowing with vigor?
“Instead, I can’t see someone among us die again.”
Then, before he could say anything, she uncorked the stopper and poured the liquid, which seemed like the dark night sky, onto the shattered sword fragments. Even though the glass bottle was only the size of one’s palm, the black liquid poured out endlessly from it. Like water in zero gravity, it pooled together and grew larger without dropping to the ground. It covered all of the sword fragments, her hand, her forearm, and finally, her shoulder.
The warriors murmured to each other.
“Is that… the dark ocean?”
“Don’t tell me she plans on repairing her shattered weapon here?”
Without knowing, Choi Hyuk raised his voice.
“What are you doing?! How could you open that here?!”
Even though the best materials were used, the success rate was already less than 20%. If she failed even once, she couldn’t try it again. Then Lee Jinhee would remain as a low-ranked warrior. That was why it was proper to attempt repairing her weapon only after recovering to her best state and choosing the best place and weather for it. It wasn’t something to do while sweating and in this noisy outside environment.
However, Lee Jinhee’s eyes didn’t waver in the slightest.
“Believe in me. Doing it here in front of you is for the best.”
She stared into Choi Hyuk’s eyes while she spat each word.
“Before I die, I will absolutely not see you die. Even if you die, I will die before you.”
Then she ended her words with a sigh,
At the same time as she closed her eyes, the dark ocean, which had submerged up to her shoulder, expanded and swallowed her entire body.
Sounds of thunder rumbled in the darkness.
Lee Jinhee opened her eyes.
It was raining outside. The pungent scent of humid wooden floorboards permeated her nose.
This place was a classroom. A classroom that no one studied in anymore. Lively people sat on the desks and chairs. It hadn’t been long since she met them, and although they didn’t meet under great circumstances, they seemed to be good people. To be precise, they seemed to be people she felt she would like.
While the present was foggy and the future was gloomy, it had been a while since she had such a leisurely night. Lee Jinhee examined the people sitting in various positions here and there before saying,
“The mood is perfect! Let’s tell scary stories!”
At her words, Baek Seoin revealed an astonished expression.
“What scary story. The present is scarier.”
Lee Jinhee still wasn’t discouraged.
“Why? Why?! No matter how scary the Wyvern of Destruction is, it can still be hit. What’s actually scary are ghosts!”
Baek Seoin burst into laughter. Beside him, Choi Hyuk, who sat on a desk with his hands in his pockets, simply watched the rain outside the window. It seemed he was worried about his mom again.
“I don’t like ghost stories.”
Ryu Hyunsung, who always acted like a model student yet had somewhat of a depressed expression, retreated backwards.
“I don’t know. If it’s a really scary story, tell it. Since there are so many scary things in reality right now, it might even be a change of pace?”
The always businesslike Crazy Knight King Jung Minji gave a subtle smile for some reason as she took Lee Jinhee’s side.
Lee Jinhee became excited.
“Right? That’s what I’m saying. Leader! Look over here!”
Choi Hyuk slowly turned his gaze as though it was troublesome.
Lee Jinhee revealed a satisfied smile before her expression became serious.
Lowering her voice, she began her story.
“So a person was driving on a dark mountain road with no streetlights at night…”
Just then, the world flashed before thunder rumbled.
“Oh my god!”
Lee Jinhee stopped talking and jumped into the air in fright.
Due to her enhanced physical abilities, she jumped to the ceiling and slammed her head into it. The cement-finished ceiling was smashed and fell while Lee Jinhee disgracefully flopped on the floor.
Baek Seoin roared with laughter at this sight.
Jung Minji grinned, and Chu Younjin’s lips, who stood expressionlessly behind her, wriggled. The laughter continued to spread, and soon, everyone in the classroom was laughing. Even Choi Hyuk smiled as he shook his head.
Even while she patted her head in embarrassment, Lee Jinhee seemed happy that they were laughing and followed suit.
Maybe it was because they laughed, but they talked more than usual that day.
Within this slight warmth, Lee Jinhee thought that it would be nice if they could gather around and laugh like this after their battles. While eating something good.
“Yeah, I thought that.”
Lee Jinhee’s face, which smiled like an idiot amongst them, gradually became bitter. When she raised her head again, like a scene in a picture, the world’s time stopped, and everyone paused while smiling and looking at each other.
Choi Hyuk, Baek Seoin, Ryu Hyunsung, Bae Jinman, and Jung Minji… They were people who could have lived a different future together. However, Lee Jinhee completely realized that she couldn’t dream this dream any longer and that she couldn’t stay in this memory any longer.
Lee Jinhee stood up.
She opened the window. She saw raindrops that stopped in mid-fall. She stopped in front of the windowsill.
“While it would have been nice if I could… I no longer have any lingering attachments. They are all dead or are probably going to die.”
Saying this lightly, she took deep breaths.
“I don’t want to be the only one to leave from this. Only… Only, I won’t see someone die before me. I’d rather die.”
She glanced behind her before throwing herself out the window.
“Especially Choi Hyuk, that bastard. That bastard who thinks he’s the only unhappy person in the world. I can’t watch that bastard die.”
Thud. Her falling body instantly impacted the ground. She opened her eyes.
The dark ocean, which she was submerged in, instantly hid its trace.
Her gaze met Choi Hyuk’s.
“… Right now…”
This was the first time she saw Choi Hyuk’s eyes tremble.
‘No? I think he was like this at his mother’s funeral.’
While smiling, Lee Jinhee said,
“This is my vow.”
Just then, the moment the dark ocean cleared, Choi Hyuk saw a brilliantly shining golden light emitting from Lee Jinhee. The color of ‘sacrificial will’, which he had almost never seen since he obtained his Eyes of Distinction.
What she raised while saying, “This is my vow,” was a single short sword shining with white light.
The Sword of Vow ‘Lee Jinhee’s Vow’.
Alliance City’s dawn ended, and a glistening, brilliant world began to brighten once again.