Episode 11: The Grand Scheme / Chapter 180: Frontlines (3)
TL: emptycube / ED: Obelisk
Unlike normal, Dark-Sound was standing leisurely with a smile on his face.
“It’s almost time for our grand plan.”
A dense happiness seeped from his voice. His happiness was fully transmitted to Shiro, who was standing in front of him.
Shiro’s voice was quiet and monotonous, but happiness also subtly trembled in her voice.
As if planned, Dark-Sound said to Shiro,
“If our grand plan succeeds, it’ll be chaotic for a while… But, in the end, the alliance will be stronger because of it. We will be able to slaughter the monsters. Then the heavy resentment in your heart might also become slightly lighter.”
At Dark-Sound’s kind words, Shiro slightly lowered her head and clearly replied,
“I hope for Exalted Wing Dark-Sound’s resentment to lighten a little as well. I still remember your expression when you rescued me that day. I was helplessly surrounded by monsters since the moment I was born and had learned of rage, sorrow, and resentment that remained in those who had lost their homeland. These emotions pained my heart, yet, for some reason, when I saw your expression, I remember becoming a bit calmer. I hope that your heart will also become peaceful after this battle.”
Shiro met his gaze with her cold, honest eyes.
Dark-Sound ruffled her hair with a smile.
For revenge, he had lived his entire life hiding his true feelings, which felt like he was eating gall bladders and sleeping on prickly hay.
Having survived while trembling alone in the universe after every one of her people had died, Shiro was one of only few close to him. She was someone whom he could reveal his true feelings to, as she was someone who could sympathize with his feelings.
That was why Dark-Sound cautiously said,
“So… Shiro, I hear you are quite taken by Chu Youngjin these days?”
Shiro replied calmly as though it was her first time hearing of this, but Dark-Sound could hear her gear heart churning rapidly.
With a bitter smile, Dark-Sound looked into Shiro’s eyes and seriously said,
“Shiro, I’ll be honest. Our grand plan needs people like Chu Youngjin.”
“Yes, I agree.”
“But, you know, right? The moment we explain our grand plan to Chu Youngjin, we can’t go back. At that time, he has two choices: To sincerely participate in our grand plan or… to die.”
‘Or to die.’ When he said that, Dark-Sound’s voice became emotionless. The friendliness and ease he showed up until now had disappeared without a trace, and it seemed like the air around her had turned into knives that could pierce her skin at any moment. She felt dizzy and cold as though she was standing barefoot on ice.
While enduring the sensation of her throat choking up, Shiro barely managed to say,
“Yes, I know.”
However, Dark-Sound still didn’t smile. He rigidly said,
“That’s why you have to understand him properly. Whether he’s someone worth participating in our grand plan or not, I will completely trust your judgment. Of course, it would be better if he decides to work with us and though I personally think we need him… Still, if you think otherwise, I won’t approach him since he has his worth as an outstanding warrior of the Event Horizon Troop.”
The more he spoke, the more Dark-Sound’s voice gradually returned to normal. By the time he stopped speaking, his voice had become kind and full of concern.
“I’m saying this because I don’t want to kill someone you like by chance.”
At his never-lacking consideration, Shiro lowered her head and said,
However, the stuffy feeling in her chest didn’t recede in the slightest.
All her calculations ended in errors again. It felt like there wouldn’t be any results even if she calculated hundreds of millions of times.
The grand plan was something she had constantly dreamed of. It was a great cause she decided to dedicate her life to. Of course, she wanted to work on this with Chu Youngjin. Also, there was no doubt he would be useful in making the grand plan a success.
However, currently, she wanted to distance Chu Youngjin from the grand plan entirely. Dark-Sound’s words stabbed at her heart like a dagger. ‘… Or to die.’ That cold voice. If there was even a 0.1% possibility of that happening, Shiro didn’t want to bring Chu Youngjin into the grand plan.
‘However, the grand plan needs him? Still… But if you do, then won’t you be able to be close with Chu Youngjin like now? Still… Can I…? What’s that supposed to mean? What is Chu Youngjin to me?’
Shiro abhorred these errors and confusion.
However, this also precisely represented how much she liked him.
Her heart still unsettled, Shiro walked out after her consultation with Dark-Sound. She mumbled, unable to bear it any longer,
“Just what am I supposed to do…? You… monster… butthole!”
That was the first curse Shiro ever swore.
Thanks to the Event Horizon Troop and the Flame Army, the Shapley and Laniakea Superclusters’ frontlines had come to a lull – a temporary peace. The monsters hadn’t completely given up yet. There were reports that a shocking number of monsters were assembling along the frontlines as though they were gathering strength for a single strike.
It was literally the calm before the storm. During this time, the warriors got a precious break while also busily reinforcing and examining defense facilities in preparation for the monsters’ more aggressive attack.
The Flame Army moved their post to a planet located near the center of the Laniakea Supercluster during this period, which made it easier to advance in different directions.
It was a place that had sufficient supplies and facilities for war and comfort as karmalings inhabited the planet.
At the same time, it was a foothold that needed a powerful army to protect its inhabiting species and ancient relics against the monsters’ invasion.
This place was precisely Dragonic, the earthling’s second homeland.
Choi Hyuk, who instantly arrived on Dragonic thanks to the military gate system, looked around with round eyes.
It was simply too different.
In the middle of Dragonic’s characteristically swirling milk-white sky was a round, blue sky that hadn’t existed before. It looked like the blue pupil of a god looking down at the world.
However, looking at it again, it wasn’t simply a sky. Blue water was filling the sky. Rippling blue water pooled in the middle of Dragonic’s milk-white sky like an island to form a different sky.
Lights from outer space hit the blue, round sky and scattered in various colors of the rainbow. Everything on Dragonic shined like pebbles in rapids.
“Where is this place?”
Lee Jinhee said in disbelief.
It was fully understandable.
Dragonic’s characteristically desolate landscape had long since disappeared. Even the red sandy Barhaloleun Hill was now covered with glistening green plants and moist moss.
The Dragonic the Berserkers remembered and the current Dragonic seemed to bear no similarities.
While everyone was mesmerized, they heard a loud roar.
A shadow covered Barhaloleun Hill. Something was quickly flying over it.
The thing that surged up into the sky happily dived into the sky-water a few times before flying away. It seemed to consider the mystical water pooled in the sky as its personal swimming pool.
“It’s a real… dragon.”
Lee Jinhee blankly mumbled. It wasn’t a dragon that looked like Commander Mack, but a true dragon. It really was a dragon, like the ones from Western movies, with enormous wings and shining scales covering its entire body. Its wings and scales glistened radiantly in the water.
The dragon roared loudly.
Then it suddenly shot towards Choi Hyuk like an arrow.
Surprised, Lee Jinhee unsheathed her sword and stood in front of Choi Hyuk.
However, Choi Hyuk pulled her shoulder back. Wrapping his left arm around her shoulder, Choi Hyuk stretched his right arm forward. He opened for an embrace and a boy, who looked to be around ten years old, hugged him. The charging dragon had transformed into a human boy.
The boy shouted in a happy voice,
“Hyuk hyung! You’re Hyuk hyung, right…?!”
Successfully receiving the charging boy while taking precaution so he wasn’t hurt, Choi Hyuk awkwardly looked down at the boy in his embrace.
While it was his first time seeing his face, he could tell who he was. The young dragon’s karma felt familiar. Choi Hyuk’s karma rippled. He clearly remembered him. He was one of the baby dragons that was born in the El Tribe’s sanctum back during the monster tidal wave. It seemed that the dragon, which had wriggled like a puppy back then, could now transform into a human and even talk.
‘Didn’t dragons need a hundred years or two before growing?’
It seemed that wasn’t always the case.
Choi Hyuk looked around at the familiar yet unfamiliar Dragonic once again before mumbling,
“It seems like it really is Dragonic.”
The location assigned as their base was the Holy Land, the El Tribe’s sanctum. Holding the chatty young dragon’s hand as he headed for the sanctum, the sights he saw were so beyond his expectations that it felt like a fun dream rather than reality.
First of all, he barely saw any earthlings. Instead, the Kundle Tribe and glass crabs, who Choi Hyuk had brought around for a while, were peacefully walking around in the earthlings’ colonized cities, such as Barhaloleun, Zhiyu, New Washington, and others.
“This is all thanks to Exalted Wing Flame-Rain.”
According to Baek Seoin’s explanation, back when Flame-Rain was constructing a stronghold in the monsters’ universe, all the overseers and sovereigns of Earth left Dragonic on her request. On top of that, thanks to her actively promoting it, the remaining earthlings left Dragonic along with others. In the end, those that remained on Dragonic were the El Tribe who needed to protect their sanctum, the Kundle Tribe and glass crabs that migrated here following the Berserkers, and a small group of earthlings.
‘It feels weird.’
It didn’t seem like a lot of time had passed, but a lot had changed.
Now that he thought about it, every day was intense without rest. After colonizing the Shapley and Laniakea Superclusters and defeating the demise-ranked monster with Flame-Rain, he had swiftly taken revenge on the three people responsible for Earth’s recruit training, and then investigated the monster queen’s location.
In fact, he was currently in the middle of an intense war as well.
A large-scale invasion of monsters.
However, like a stream below a ridge that avoided the sudden shower, Dragonic was peaceful for a bit, and because of this peace, Choi Hyuk had the opportunity to look back for a moment.
The people around Choi Hyuk had changed a lot as well. Artillery Captain Handke, Kim Honghyun, and Aide Leah, who had been executives, had left with the Berserkers they led. When they left, Choi Hyuk told them to take the administrative organization under the Berserkers on Dragonic along with them.
In the end, all that remained were the 5,000 elites who gave up on everything and followed Choi Hyuk.
Nothing else remained for Choi Hyuk besides them. Even the vast colonized land the Berserkers had taken on Dragonic and his influence over earthlings, he had let them all go.
While it was partly because his battles weren’t so trifling that they could be fought while dealing with each and every detail on Dragonic, it was also because Choi Hyuk’s rate of advancement was so beyond the rest of the earthlings’ that they were useless to be concerned about.
Choi Hyuk, who had walked steadfastly, followed by his 5,000 elites who would follow him until the end, gradually slowed down as the memories of Dragonic suddenly overwhelmed him.
It wasn’t on purpose, but many thoughts crossed his mind during this short period of time.
Was there something he could have done better?
Was he doing things right?
Would he be able to get revenge like this?
Should he have taken things into deeper consideration? Should he have been harsher?
Choi Hyuk’s mind became entangled in these thoughts that suddenly crossed his mind.
“…! … Hyuk!”
Choi Hyuk, who had been walking absentmindedly, raised his head at the sudden loud voice.
He had arrived at the Holy Land at some point and was walking towards the El Tribe’s sanctum.
Crowds of earthlings, El Tribe members, Kundle Tribe members, and glass crabs filled his vision.
“Waaah! Choi Hyuk! Congratulations on your return!”
“Leader of the Flame Army, Choi Hyuk!!!”
“Hero of the alliance!”
“Savior of the glass crabs!”
“Liberator of the Kundle Tribe!”
“Guardian of the Holy Land!”
To be honest, the ‘Guardian of the Holy Land’ should have been for Richard, but people called him that, perhaps because Choi Hyuk had succeeded his fate.
‘But the Kundle Tribe members and the glass crabs shouldn’t even know what happened then…’
He laughed when he saw the Kundle Tribe members and the glass crabs, who he didn’t even know at that time, shouting, “Guardian of the Holy Land!”
Though he didn’t know why, people were welcoming him.
Though he didn’t know why, to them, it seemed he was a hero.
Cheers filled the air, and those carrying baskets of flowers appeared and scattered flower petals. The young dragon, who had been walking alongside him, seemed excited as he once again transformed into a dragon and flew up towards the sky. Kiruruk! He heard the dragon’s roar from high up in the air when the dragon’s flames dyed the sky like fireworks.
Cheers erupted again.
To be honest… It wasn’t a bad feeling.
However… As expected, it was awkward.
Choi Hyuk didn’t know where to look so he spread his hands open and looked down at them.
His hands were empty.
“What are you doing?”
Lee Jinhee gently grabbed his empty hand.
When he looked at her, she smiled before holding his hand tightly and raising it up into the air.
As though his raised hand was a signal, a cheer incomparably louder than the previous ones shook Dragonic.
Choi Hyuk wasn’t aware of this, but he was no longer just a warrior. His existence had become a symbol, a moving force and he was the idol of others. Even though his fate was to reject and slash everything, the number of people who survived and continued to live thanks to his fate wasn’t small.
The fate of the great universe was slowly, little by little, leaning in Choi Hyuk’s direction.