I grabbed Boss’ wrist.
“W-What? K-Kim Hajin? Why are you grabbing my h-hand—”
Boss seemed flustered but I didn’t care. Right now our top priority was to escape.
Together with Boss, I jumped up to the roof of a building nearby.
After our flawless landing, Boss shook my hand off. She looked more shy than angry.
“You should at least give me an explanation.”
We didn’t have much time left. I urged her to use Yasha Transformation.
The difference before and after the transformation was big. Her physical strength would increase by twofold at the very least, and her magic power would increase more than threefold. Not even Kurukuru could take Boss in her transformed state out with a single attack.
Boss tilted her head questioningly but complied nevertheless.
Her eyes turned red and the shadow armor around her thickened.
At this point, only a minute had passed.
However, at that moment, I felt a huge vibration from the ground.
Soon, ‘Bullet Time’ activated again.
Did its transcendent senses somehow feel the changed flow of time? It came much earlier than before.
It seemed I underestimated Kurukuru.
Something shot up from beneath the building. That something pierced through the center of the building as it leaped up. It severed the steel frames, destroyed the stairwells, passed through dozens of floors and reached the rooftop in an instant.
The broken fragments of the building were thrown into the air. But they stayed afloat without scattering. In the world where time stopped, only Kurukuru moved freely.
But the circumstances were different this time.
There was one big difference post-Time Reversal.
Boss in Yasha state could read its movements. She unleashed her magic power to obstruct Kurukuru and to crush the body of the insect who was charging at her.
But there was something strange about Kurukuru’s movements. Its attacks were concentrated to the left.
And I, not Boss, was there.
In a split moment, it had decided to switch its target to me.
Fear struck me instantly and I quickly tried to use my ultimate skill.
But before I could even bring my spirit power out, Kurukuru’s scythe reached me.
…This was bad.
Aether put up a barrier before me. However, Kurukuru’s scythe simply phased through it.
Its glowing scythe only aimed for the ‘physical’ body.
This lethal weapon, combined with its lightning speed, was neither avoidable nor stoppable.
Soon, the sharp blade pierced through my heart.
Though the time flowed slowly, the pain quickly arrived.
Starting from my heart, the pain quickly spread even to the most remote corners of my body.
I fell backward, my vision flipped, and my consciousness began to blur as my heart was destroyed.
I could feel the sounds of the world drifting away from me.
I collapsed with my eyes wide open.
The last thing I saw was Boss.
Boss was aiming her magic power towards Kurukuru.
[England — Buckingham Palace]
Meanwhile, Rachel was looking down at the child on her lap. Zzzzz…
‘Just where did this child come from?’ She thought as she stared at Evandel who was sound asleep.
Kim Hajin told her that she was born from a seed. He also explained that she looked a lot like Rachel and perceived Rachel as her mother because her blood was used to feed her when she was a seed.
Of course, it was difficult to believe all that. And she did feel sort of resentful that he revealed the child’s existence to her only now, four years later.
But none of that mattered anymore.
When this child was nearby, Rachel felt calm and could put aside the responsibilities and the burdens that weighed heavily on her. Just by looking at her, a sense of affection emerged from deep within her heart. This feeling must be what’s called… ‘happiness’.
Rachel smiled softly and stroked Evandel’s forehead.
Soft skin, golden hair, pretty eyelashes and sparkling blue eyes… everything about her was lovely.
“People will think she’s your daughter.”
Rachel raised her head to where the familiar voice had come from. Ah Hae-In was standing there. Ah Hae-In smiled and continued.
“Then is the father Kim Hajin?”
Without a proper answer, Rachel simply let out a dry cough. That would indeed be the case If she had to pick a mother and a father, but she didn’t want to go that far.
…Or maybe, it was alright for her to go just a little bit further.
Ah Hae-In cut off her excessive thinking.
“Anyways, I assume you heard from Kim Hajin beforehand.”
“Yes, I heard that you were in charge of Evandel’s training.”
Evandel’s teacher was none other than ‘Ah Hae-In’. When she first heard from Kim Hajin, she was surprised, but after witnessing Evandel’s talent with her own eyes, she felt it was only natural.
Rachel continued as she caressed Evandel’s cheek.
“Please, don’t be too harsh on her.”
“Huhu. Harsh? You don’t know how devious the child is.”
“She’s probably wide awake right now. She’s pretending to be asleep so she can stay by your side for as long as she can.”
Rachel inadvertently lowered her gaze to Evandel. Next to Evandel’s tightly shut eyes, a stream of cold sweat flowed down from her temple.
Rachel pretended not to have noticed and raised her head.
“You see? She’s awake.”
“No, she’s sound asleep.”
Rachel shook her head, and Ah Hae-In narrowed her eyes.
“You’re becoming more and more like a child yourself.”
Haaa…. Ah Hae-In’s sigh lengthened.
Rachel stroked Evandel’s head and looked at the clock.
It was almost 8 o’clock.
It was almost the time for her to go to work.
“Going to work?”
Rachel chose to travel between Crevon and Earth every day to be with Evandel. Monsters and calamities usually appeared at late hours, so she now stayed in Crevon from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
“And how is the situation in Crevon?”
“It’s not much better.”
Rachel sighed. She was just as worried about Crevon as she was about Evandel. The ordeal would be over only after they defeat all 9 calamities and shut the Calamity Door.
“No, actually, things did get a little better.”
But there was one positive change.
“Is this about the new knight you mentioned before?”
Rachel nodded. As Ah Hae-In said, a new Player recently joined Royal Knights as a knight.
“She specializes in large-scale warfare.”
She was strong enough to double the standard of the entire knight order. Rachel smiled softly at the thought of her new junior.
“If she had continued to climb the Tower, she would have easily become a Ranker. I’m thankful for her.”
There were a lot of advantages in becoming Crevon’s knight, but there were disadvantages as well. The royal family had them sign a contract with this specific clause: ‘I will not abandon Crevon in order to climb the Tower.’
“Mmm, and what did you say her name was?”
Ah Hae-In asked and Rachel replied lightly.
“It’s ‘Shin Jahyuk.’”
[8-3F Crevon, Atalos Royal Palace]
Jin Sahyuk gave a loud sneeze while drinking tea. ‘Is someone talking about me?’ She wiped her nose with her hand and picked up her teacup.
“So it’s true that Kim Hajin attacked Pandemonium?”
“Yes, that is the rumor, Shin Jahyuk Knight-nim. The news is completely fresh, only 3 hours old.”
Bell answered sarcastically.
But Jin Sahyuk kept her cool. Sarcasm and teasing barely bothered her now, probably because she suffered way too much shame and humiliation. Letting her pride go was hard at first but easy from the second time.
“Anyways, Sahyuk, how’s your TP situation?”
“I’m almost there.”
She currently had a total of 100,000 TP in her possession. Just a little more, and she could finally enhance her unique Trait.
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“You’re not gonna learn any skills?”
“I can’t keep my ultimate skill and unique skill because I died once anyways.”
If a Player died even a single time inside the Tower, the ultimate skill and unique skill couldn’t be taken outside. And in Jin Sahyuk’s opinion, skills other than ultimate skills and unique skills were all pretty boring, so she didn’t feel like she needed them.
“Mm. That’s true. You and Rumi each died once.”
Bell nodded and drank his tea.
“Wow~ This tastes good.”
The royal family’s black tea was sweet, unsurprisingly since it was Lv. 5.
“I’m gonna take some of these with me… Huh?”
Suddenly, a strange sensation engulfed Bell, sending electric jolts throughout his body.
This was not the work of his intuition but of his [Basic Skill - Tracking]. Immediately, Bell’s face turned stern.
Jin Sahyuk asked, with her teacup in hand.
When she heard his solemn voice, Jin Sahyuk immediately thought, ‘This bastard is trying to fool me again.’
“Don’t you dare….”
Jin Sahyuk began, but she still glanced behind. Of course, Kim Hajin wasn’t there. She also checked the window to be certain, but he wasn’t there either. Jin Sayhuk’s face distorted into a devilish look.
“Didn’t I tell you not to pull any tricks on me?”
“You still have that bead I gave you last time, right?”
However, Bell was still serious.
Only then did Jin Sahyuk realize he wasn’t joking. She crossed her arms and asked back.
“That thing I gave you before.”
“What, the cat bell?”
[Lv.6 Cat Bell]
This item allowed its owner to monitor the physical state of a target, no matter where they were. If her target—Kim Hajin—was near the bell, the bell would glow blue, and if the target was in a dire condition, the bell would glow red.
The bell was a whooping Lv. 6 item. Bell got it for her so that she could sleep in peace.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“…Take it out.”
Jin Sayhuk frowned but did as she was told.
The bell, although originally transparent, was now tainted black.
The moment Bell saw it, he realized what had happened. At the same time, he was bewildered. This wasn’t at all what he had expected.
‘Why, why so suddenly?’
“What the heck. It’s all black now. What does that mean?”
It was neither red nor blue.
Bell answered Jin Sayhuk’s question in a daze.
“I think… Kim Hajin is dead.”
Jin Sahyuk was the one who was most surprised.
Her fingers, which were tightly wrapped around the teacup, loosened, and the cup spun in circles as it fell to the floor.
The fragments of the shattered cup and the tea that was inside splattered all over the carpet.
But both of them couldn’t care less about it.
“Wha— What the hell are you talking about?”
Jin Sahyuk glared at Bell and continued.
“Why, why would that son of a bitch die?”
That was impossible.
Someone who was strong enough to finish her with a single punch was dead now? It just didn’t make any sense. If he were to die, Jin Sahyuk believed it would have to be done by her. So how?
“Are you messing with me again?”
“No, I’m telling the truth this time. Look, the bell is black.”
“Wha— explain so that it makes sense. W-Why is that bastard suddenly dead?!”
Jin Sahyuk shouted, but Bell didn’t answer. This was not what he had expected either. Kim Hajin wasn’t the sort of guy who would die so easily.
Jin Sahyuk swore loudly as she opened the Player Shop. She purchased an [Earth Return Ticket] in a hurry.
There was no hesitation.
Was he really dead? If so, then who killed him?
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Just who was the bastard who killed her sworn enemy?
To find out the answers to her questions, Jin Sahyuk tore the ticket.
[Essence of the Strait, Chief Strategic Officer’s office]
It was a peaceful afternoon.
Yoo Yeonha was working as usual when she suddenly received a request for a video call.
—…That’s not Oppa.
That was the first thing Chae Nayun said when she picked up the call.
Yoo Yeonha’s heart sank when she heard those words.
But she quickly regained her calm.
Chae Jinyoon was Chae Nayun’s brother. Though she was progressing at a much faster pace than Yoo Yeonha had expected, it was only natural that Chae Nayun would recognize (or in this case, not recognize) her brother.
“What are you talking ab….”
—I saw the case file. The corpse in the picture wasn’t Oppa. Someone replaced his body with someone else’s.
—It’s true. Trust me. I’m confident.
Yoo Yeonha widened her eyes in an effort to appear surprised.
But she already knew all of this. The man who replaced Chae Jinyoon’s body was ‘Kim Joongho’, the forensic pathologist in charge of the case. Chae Shinhyuk had ordered him to cremate Chae Jinyoon’s body, but he chose to keep it hidden instead.
—The forensic pathologist who was in charge of this case is someone named Kim Joongho. But I can’t figure out where he is.
Yoo Yeonha, too, had tried to locate Kim Joongho before.
But he was completely off the radar ever since the case, and the informants she had assigned to go after Kim Joongho were annihilated by Chae Joochul.
—Yeah. He disappeared right after my brother’s case. Even Kim Hosup couldn’t find him, so I was planning on looking for him myself.
But Chae Nayun was different.
Even Chae Joochul wouldn’t be so heartless as to kill his only granddaughter. So Chae Nayun was perhaps the only person in the whole world who could find him.
“Can you do it?”
—Yeah. His last known location is near the Himalayas. So I think he’s hiding in the mountains. I already purchased a portal ticket.
—Once I leave, I probably won’t be able to get in touch with you for a while. I called to tell you that. Huhu.
Chae Nayun smiled bravely from the other side of the screen.
But seeing her friend like that only gave Yoo Yeonha a heavy heart.
—Ah, it’s my turn. I gotta go. Bye.
Chae Nayun finished the call before Yoo Yeonha could even say anything.
The last thing she saw was the portal to India.
Yoo Yeonha let out a deep sigh as she stared at the blank screen.
Her sigh rolled up like smoke and filled her office.
[Pandemonium, Eastern Region]
A brief brawl took place before the sunset. Timewise, it only lasted for a minute or so. The battle of speed certainly ended quickly, and Boss stood in a daze, holding an insectile arm in her hand.
Although she appeared victorious, the arm wasn’t a trophy. She had managed to sever one of its arms, but couldn’t finish it off completely.
She directed her gaze on what was left of the crumbling building.
The glow of the setting sun had already faded, and a man was lying still on the road engrossed in darkness. But the man could no longer be called a human. Everything from his shoulders to his pelvis was cut in half, including his heart.
He was undoubtedly a corpse.
However, she couldn’t give up hope. She couldn’t accept that he became like that; that he was dead. It all happened in an instant, and everything still felt like a dream to her.
She walked with faltering steps. Her legs didn’t move as she intended them to. She almost fell multiple times but finally managed to arrive in front of him.
But the reality was even crueler up-close.
His body was cut in half, and blood had already been drained from his body.
She looked down at him in a daze and plunked herself down in front of him.
Nothing came to her mind. Only her hand moved on its own. Her left hand, which wore the ring he had given to her, was now placed on his forehead.
His skin was cold, so cold that it scared her. She was scared of the irrevocable coldness. Her fear transformed into pain, pain that tore her heart apart.
She thought as she trembled in agony.
Is this a repeat of the past?
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Losing someone only to realize afterward that he was… precious to me?
Suddenly, her vision blurred.
Only then did she realize that tears were streaming down her face.