It was a massacre.
The sudden emergence of monsters, and the sudden emergence of the Demon Lord. Humanity adapted and grew stronger, but it wasn’t enough to stop them all. It was especially the case…for the Demon Lord, the king of monsters.
He was in an entirely different league. The 500-man assault of humanity’s strongest heroes had only just barely defeated him. A sword, blazing with black flames, was plunged into his massive heart by me the last survivor, magic swordsman Hansung Oh.
Drenched in his blood, from head to toe, I thought to myself: it was over. This accursed drawn out war was finally over.
“I am but the beginning.”
The king of monsters, fallen onto the ground, intoned quietly. The 500 lancers that followed him and the Queen of Terror who toyed with the heroes, were no longer by his side.
Despite it all he was triumphant.
“You shall despair. You shall suffer in anguish, time and time again in the great chasm of chaos that is to come. For I am but one fallen king…”
At the same time, I glimpsed the depths of the abyss. The Demon Lord was using the last dregs of his power to slightly open a gate to his original world. And I was overwhelmed.
I trembled all over, my spirit feeling like it was on the verge of collapse.
Innumerable monsters. Gargantuan existences.
Truly, was it not the end?
It was unbelievable. So much had been invested just to kill one Demon Lord!
There was no going back for humanity because we had gone all in, thinking it would be the end. That alone spoke volumes of just how much the Demon Lord’s existence threatened the world.
“Live on within empty hope during this period of grace, human who shall wear the mask of lies.”
The Demon Lord laughed, and ceased to breathe.
I looked around myself. At the blood still flowing at my feet.
All were dead. Death brought equality.
I clenched my fist hard, to the point of crushing it. Gritting my teeth, I held in the tears that threatened to pour forth. But I couldn’t not return. This victory had to be reported even if it were to bring a small hope to humanity that was blotched with the color of despair.
I laughed. As foretold, I wore a mask of lies. Whenever powerful monsters emerged, I mobilized without fail and raised my bloody sword.
“The mightiest and the last remaining hero, Hansung Oh! As long as he is here, humanity is safe! We can be victorious!”
“Hansung Oh! Hansung Oh!”
“Ahh, thank you! Thank you!”
And when the battle ended, I would climb atop a platform to wave my hand. Showing no weakness. For if even the smallest of cracks appeared, they would interpret it as they wished and fall into despair.
I was their hope. Their light and their raging seas.
During that short period of grace, the hero wore a liar’s mask and simply laughed, tiresome though it may have been. Only I knew the truth that the world would soon be destroyed, and so I alone wallowed in suffering.
But it was at that moment, that another’s voice rang in my ears.
-Come, come to me, come back…..
Waking up from my sleep while sweating bullets and feeling dizzy, I scrunched my brows in displeasure.
‘What a shit dream.’
Of all things, to dream so deeply of the past. There won’t be a second dream like this.
I got up from the bed and went toward the kitchen. After downing a glass of water, I recalled the voice I’d heard at the end.
‘What was that voice?’
I creased my brows. It was a familiar voice, but my head throbbed with pain every time I focused on it. I was definitely familiar with that voice, I had heard of it at someplace, but whenever I was on the verge of remembering, the memory immediately faded away.
It wasn’t a normal phenomenon.
‘Is this a side effect of returning to the past?’
Come, come to me, come back…come back where? Was there even a place to go back to in the first place?
Clicking my tongue, I chalked it up to auditory hallucinations. Then, I went to open the curtains to the veranda, shaking my head as I did so.
The sun was high up in the sky, glaring to my eyes. It must already be around lunch time.
Bang bang bang!
Someone banged on the front door at that moment.
“Delivery! Is this the right address for Hansung Oh-ssi?”
I stretched my back and smiled faintly.
‘It’s finally here.’
Everything I needed to head toward the gate.
The tools of civilization that would be lost in the future…especially among them, the internet was truly convenient.
After preparing a rucksack for mountain climbing, a flashlight, high calorie foods like chocolate, comfortable sneakers, and clothings good for keeping out the cold, I took a taxi.
“Ahjussi, to Mt. Bukhan.”
Mt. Bukhan. A ‘gate’ opened there.
Of course there wasn’t just one gate. Since Minshik earned the magic swordsman class, he must have headed to Mt. Hanla, not Mt. Bukhan. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to come back within the span of a few days.
Monsters didn’t immediately start jumping out even when a gate opened. It was unknown why, but the monsters took turns to emerge. Starting slowly from the weakest kind. We could only speculate that there was some sort of ‘rule’ taking place.
‘However weak a monster may be, it’s still simple work for them tear apart the flesh of a human.’
I planned to enter the inner areas of the gate, as that was the only way I could gain the ‘Ancient One’s’ power. I wasn’t going to truly step into the abyss: If the gate was likened to a house, it would be like going in up until the shoe rack. From there, following a hidden path would lead you to a number of broken altars.
The ‘Ancient One’s Altar’ was among those.
‘The method to restore the altars is to clear the given trial.’
The trials differed from altar to altar. I knew where the Ancient One’s altar was, but didn’t know anything regarding its trial. I had to go there to find out. The person who’d gained the Ancient One’s power in the past, though, cleared the trial without any abilities. That being the case, it shouldn’t be impossible for me either
After 30 minutes of driving, a huge mountain peak came into view.
Mt. Bukhan. There weren’t many people here, since it was a weekday and late in the afternoon.
“Thank you. I’ll get off here.”
I paid the fee and got off the taxi. The refreshing spring wind gently blew in the surroundings. No one would be able to guess that this place, filled with the scent of fresh grass, would be the entrance to hell.
I firmly tied the laces on my shoes and began climbing the mountain.
‘A lot has changed.’
It felt like I was taking a casual stroll as I looked around my surroundings.
Despair was always evident in the vicinity of a ‘gate’. You wouldn’t be able to find anything green or the like even if you washed your eyes and looked. Everything including mountains, the earth, and the ocean would become tainted, and living creatures would go extinct.
Which was why I was rather unfamiliar with this kind of environment.
‘But not yet. Not just yet.’
2 years. It was enough time to change a lot of things. Things I could change.
I would be grateful If Minshik really walked the path of a hero. After all, a hero was necessary. A hero to take charge and lead the people had to exist, regardless of whichever era.
I simply didn’t want to take up that role again, that’s all.
‘A gate constantly moves location.’
The gate located in Mt Bukhan would never stay in one spot. It had only just opened, so it must have attached itself to some small animal. The real gate would momentarily appear if the animal is hunted. All I had to do was enter the gate before it could move to another animal.
‘It’s part of the reason why gates are hard to find.’
But that would also only last until 2 years from now.
When the monsters begin to make their full-blown appearance 2 years later, the ‘gates’ would become fixed in a location. Like a black hole turned inside out, the gates would ooze with endless darkness, spitting monsters out one after another.
At that time, it wouldn’t be easy to venture inside the gates, whether you wanted to or not.
I broke away from the main path and moved deeper into the mountain. As I did so, I took out a slingshot from my bag.
‘There’s nothing more suited to hunting small animals than a slingshot.’
A slingshot was one of the best weapons for killing and injuring with the least amount of effort. It was cheap and easy to get. If you could procure iron marbles made for slingshots instead of pebbles, you could even play the role of an archer.
The slingshot I’d brought was sized at 9.52mm in diameter with a ball-in-tube attachment. As long as you knew how, it was possible to pierce flesh and break bones using just this slingshot, even without putting in great strength.
For practice, I loaded an iron marble into my slingshot, drew it back, and let go. The tree branch I aimed for fell off with a ‘crunch!’.
“My skills haven’t gotten rusty.”
When I had just become a magic swordsman, the first weapon I used was a slingshot because I couldn’t find any other. At the time, I was a little afraid of close-combat, and bows were out of the question unless you were an national level archer.
Monsters at the level of goblins could be hunted with the slingshot. The short firing range was a flaw, but that was just a matter of how fast your reflexes were.
I practiced for a few more times, singing my own praises as I did so, before beginning to move again.
There was a high possibility of the ‘gate’ possessing a small animal. What’s more, as time goes on a gate would move on to possess larger animals excluding humans, as if growing. Normally after around 2 or 3 years pass, it would become complete and halt its migration, taking root in a specific location.
Every gate lead to a different place. Places with monsters, places with treasures, places that would drop you into lava, etcetera. And in the gate located in Mt. Bukhan, there existed numerous broken altars.
To find that ‘gate’, I had to find the small animal possessed by the gate. Fortunately, it wasn’t a bird. A few gates related to birds did exist, but all of the gates found in Mt Bukhan were definitely grounded at the time.
‘A change would occur to the animal possessed by the gate.’
It wouldn’t be hard to find; I’d learned how to track animals long ago. I could instantly identify it upon discovery.
‘There’ll be no going back until I find it.’
I made a firm resolution to myself.
I was famous for my tenacity in the past. Once I held onto something, I would never let go. It was precisely because I had such persistence that I could kill the Demon Lord, and drive Aletheia to the brink of annihilation.
It would be same this time. Before finding the gate, I wasn’t planning on ever climbing down the mountain.
Starting from where the forest was thick nearby, I began chasing the traces of small animals.