Inside a cozy cabin of the airship, Sarasa brought out some tea. The aroma wafting from the tea cup wasn’t ordinary. It was likely a high quality product made carefully by hand out of expensive breeds of tea leaves. Every furniture and object within the cabin was also of high quality.
Sungchul was contemplating on how to begin the conversation as he sat within this unfamiliar space. He threw out a greeting after much thought.
“Just what happened?”
Sungchul left Airfruit for the frontline of the demon world as soon as he had learned Primordial Light, while Altugius and Sarasa left behind Airfruit in the aftermath of the the demon invasion to wander. Sungchul had hoped for them to find a peaceful and tranquil place away from the chaos of the world and hide themselves, but the circumstances his second meeting with the Xero family was beyond expectation.
“We also are at a loss as to how to tell our story.”
Altugius’ face, which had always looked quite vigorous, had now aged to the point where it wouldn’t be surprising if he dropped dead the very next day. It seemed as if each and every hardship that they faced after leaving the school was etched right onto his face. On the other hand, Sarasa appeared to have experienced much inner growth since leaving the school. She radiated with an aura of confidence, leisure and even a subtle grace that could never be felt from her before despite the silver mask she wore to conceal the hideously disfigured half of her face. However, in front of Sungchul she tossed aside her excessively decorated facade and returned to her childish self he remembered.
“We went through a ton. All kinds of pursuers followed us, and we were almost done in by some famous bounty hunter who ambushed us.”
She pulled her sleeve up to reveal the deep scar carved into her mummified arm.
Bertelgia who saw it from her pocket made a strange sound. She wasn’t that fond of the undead. Sarasa peered over toward the direction Sungchul’s pocket, but didn’t give it any more attention before resuming her story.
“And, we fortunately happened to meet someone who called himself your subordinate .”
She nodded at his question and smiled brightly before speaking.
“Count Schnellmerker. Do you remember him?”
“Schnellmerker? Who’s that? Ah, do you mean Fritz?”
Sungchul recalled the face of a tall blonde man with an attractive face and blue eyes. He had met the East German Summoned as an enemy at first. The man who had lost to Sungchul after a close battle came under Sungchul’s banner with his friends from the Summoning Palace. Schnellmerker was not strong in close quarter combat but he had an exceptional gift as a Support Mage. He was drafted as a adjutant to the Dying Lion, a unit that Sungchul was leading, and contributed greatly in turning many hard-fought battles to victories. He left the army after the Human Empire was formed and chose to live a decadent life overseeing a fertile region to the south.
Sungchul didn’t really hear of him after that, but according to Sarasa, Schnellmerker had greatly protested when his superior Sungchul was declared as the Enemy of the World and stripped of his titles. So he created a faction for the sake of restoring Sungchul’s name, gathering like-minded individuals in secret from the shadows. That was the Order of Extinction. It was the new religion set within the back alleys of Lagrange, the current capital of the Human Empire, that had been getting a lot of attention. It was the Order of Extinction that had been worshipping Sungchul, the Enemy of the World.
It had started to gain its religious influence when Sungchul defeated a hundred thousand strong of the Demon Army on his own at the Demon Ream Battlefront, and once the rumor of him resolving the First Calamity began to spread, the order gained traction like wildfire.
“…What a ridiculous development.”
He felt goosebumps all over his body. He typically disliked being glorified. But now, a whole new organized religious sect was established with him as the subject of worship. He couldn’t help but think it was better as the Enemy of the World.
Sarasa looked at Sungchul with a complicated expression on her face before saying her piece.
“There is no need to overthink it. You’ll always be a symbol to us. There is no one that’s sincerely praying to you, so don’t sweat it.”
Sarasa, who could no longer consume human food, absorbed mana crystals instead of a meal and meekly smiled. Sungchul turned toward her and noticed that her face looked a lot more human than before. The protective spell cast upon her body was revised to be more systematic and organized.
‘She’s being managed quite well. Her decomposition hasn’t progressed, in fact, she appears to be full of vitality.’
Sarasa quietly finished her story after completely absorbing the mana crystal.
“This organization was founded by Count Schnellmerker and other like-minded individuals to rebel against the World Parliament, which is to say, against the ruling elites that control the world. They were disappointed by the series of actions committed by the self-proclaimed liberator of humanity, the Summoned Emperor, so they have picked you, another Summoned who stands diametrically opposed to the Emperor, to become his adversary.”
“What a fucked up situation.”
But, it wasn’t like Sungchul could not understand their reasoning. The 13 Champions of the Continent and the World Parliament, who represented the ruling elites of this world, did bring order to the world, but there was also significant dissent. Those that stood against them haven’t come out into the open due to the overwhelming power of the ruling elite. They would be declared an Enemy of the World like Sungchul if they were to catch the attention of the ruling elites. However, Sungchul didn’t like the religious group’s name. He was especially bothered that a group whose name included the word ‘Extinction’ was associated with him, and he was quick to mention this.
“As the person who was dragged into this without his knowledge, being forcefully associated with something something extinction isn’t what I would call pleasant..”
“Order of Extinction is just a shorthand. The full name is the Secret Gathering of Those who are True and are Trying to Stop the Extinction, but since it’s so long, people started calling it the Order of Extinction.”
It was a complete mess, but Sungchul didn’t question it further. It would be difficult to get the answers he wanted by drilling into Sarasa who wasn’t even the founder.
‘I should go visit Schnellmerker at some point.’
And that was how this line of questioning ended, but that was only because there was a more pressing matter at hand.
“In any case, why have you all come to this place?”
The story got a bit side-tracked, but this was the main question he had. Although they were Sarasa and Altugius, acquaintances from the past, Sungchul had no intentions of letting this one by without an explanation. The pair noticed the change in Sungchul’s gaze and realized that his mood had shifted. They exchanged glances before Sarasa began to speak while fidgeting with her mask.
“I’ll be blunt and get to the point. We came here to burn the Scripture of Calamity.”
Sungchul doubted his ears for a moment.
‘These people. They’re constantly surprising me since a moment ago.’
As he stared at her with a puzzled expression and silence, Sarasa nodded and continued her story with a lively voice.
“Doesn’t the wisemen of old say that truth is hidden where one least expects it? The Scripture of Calamity for example. People have considered it as something that predicts Calamities to come, but we have come to see it in a different light and have come up with another idea. What if the Scripture of Calamity itself is an item that conjures the Calamities?’
Sungchul cut her off cleanly.
“It is just a book.”
“But it’s no ordinary book. It’s a book that records on its own with the power of god.”
Sarasa countered his argument with a calm voice.
“It is nothing more than a book of prophecy. There is nothing more foolish than to say that the future foretold by the book can be erased by setting the book on fire. Isn’t it no different than children closing their eyes and saying day is night?”
“What you’re saying is just the commonly held perspective. You’re only claiming that the Scripture of Calamity is a book of prophecy and making a narrative that fits.”
“Let’s think about it from a different angle. When you put aside the unsophisticated idea that the Scripture of Calamity is a book of prophecy, can’t you see a new possibility?”
“I don’t see anything though.”
“…We see it from this perspective. That the Scripture of Calamity itself, by the will of god, is meant to carry out whatever is written on it using fate altering powers. And is, therefore, the origin of Calamities.”
Sungchul had lost interest in Sarasa’s words half way and couldn’t focus on what she was saying. Their thoughts on the matter were too different to the point that there was no way to bridge that gap. As a result, Sungchul did not have much of a reaction even with her explanation, and instead he threw out another question.
“Is that why you’ve brought mercenaries and weapon that reeks of blood upon this quiet and peaceful village?”
Sarasa and Althugius’ faces instantly stiffened. Their hesitation was clear.
“We haven’t met in so long, so why be so stiff?”
Sarasa responded with a rigid face.
“Do you even know how much I was looking forward to the day I could see you again?”
An unfamiliar man entered the room as Sarasa’s voice began to rise. He was a mage in his mid thirties wearing a blue robe made of cotton with a yellow star embedded on it.
“Sorry I am late. There were a lot of things to prepare, you see.”
Sungchul’s eyes turned toward him. It was a face he’d never seen before. Even after sifting through his memories from the days in the Rebel army to the days as the Commander in Chief of the Imperial army, nobody came to mind.
The mage made an awkward smile after being stared by Sungchul until it became uncomfortable, and sincerely greeted him with a bow.
“This is our first meeting. I am an Insvant Mage named Fioni. I am unworthy, but I have taken up the role of pastor for the Order of Extinction.”
He spoke carefully as though he had felt the unwieldy atmosphere within the room, and looked tactfully toward Sarasa and Sungchul. When Sungchul didn’t say anything in response, he humbly sought out a seat and continued speaking.
“I have unintentionally heard the conversation from the outside. Yes, its true. I understand that our line of thinking is difficult to accept, and truthfully, this isn’t one for someone like a pastor to the Order to say, but it’s hard to believe that Calamities will end just because we set the Scripture of Calamity ablaze.
Sarasa who heard his speech glared at him and shouted in protest.
The man named Fioni lightly smiled toward Sarasa and raised his palms in a calming gesture before turning to Sungchul once again.
“In truth, this operation’s true purpose is to raise alarm.”
Sungchul crossed his arms and leaned back while sporting a hostile gaze. Fiori the mage nodded.
“The Eastern and the Northern areas of the continent are being stomped on relentlessly by the Colossi’s feet, but the World Parliament and the 13 Champions of the Continent have not taken any action. They have essentially ignored their duties, and along that same line, those in power have remained firm in their inaction regardless of the discontent that grows day by day. And now it has reached a boiling point. Do you know why?”
Sungchul shook his head. Fioni continued in a serious voice as if he was waiting for this moment.
“It is because your recent role in Panchuria and the brutal atrocities of the Empire has been exposed.”
“… The empire should have placed all of the evil onto me, though?”
Sungchul recalled how Panchuria was turned into a pile of ash. The governor of Panchuria had been killed in Sungchul’s name.
“It might have worked during the era when the Human Empire lived justly, but that is no longer the case. The people’s faith had been shaken a long time ago. They are simply waiting for someone to light the fire.”
“And that is the reason you have chosen the Tower of Recluse?”
“That is correct.”
“Even though the Tower of Recluse is a neutral party?”
“That is exactly why it is a good target. One of the reasons that the World Parliament and the 13 Champions of the Continent were allowed to wield unchecked power was due to the paradoxical existence of Calamity. How much sacrifice have they demanded of smaller, weaker nations under the name of stopping the Calamity? Attack on the Tower of Recluse which could be considered the source of that Calamity would inflict great damage on the authority of those in power and cause people to question their worth.”
Contrary to his ordinary appearance, Fiori managed to finish his speech in a smooth and impeccable manner. Sungchul found no room for counter argument nor did he find any reason to. The reason was simple.
‘It’s the same. Like that time 20 years ago.’
Sungchul was feeling a sense of deja vu. The scene of the days when he met with others in a dark underground room to squeeze out a far-reaching plan from his slow brain so that they could try to overcome the overwhelming and absolute disadvantage in strength in their foolhardy fight against the Holy Kingdom of Rutheginea.
The one at the center of it all was the current Emperor. He was intelligent and had the charisma to be a leader. He left no stone unturned as he sought out every advantage. Even such a man was now the target of a rebellion.
“Do you have anything else to ask?”
Fioni carefully prodded Sungchul who was locked in thought. Sungchul lifted his head and looked toward Fioni and the rest before speaking quietly.
“I will not allow an attack on the Tower of Recluse.”
He spoke his mind.
“If you try to attack the Tower of Recluse or the village before it, you will have to face me first.”
Sungchul spoke as such before rising from his seat. Sarasa suddenly stood up as to say something, but Altugius held her back. On the other hand, Fioni had a calm expression, and he spoke in a soft voice.
“It would be greatly appreciated if you could tell us the reason why. We are here with orders from above, so when something like this happens we are obliged to report it.”
Regarding this, Sungchul approached the door and spoke calmly.
“Deliver this message to Schnellmerker. I will visit him some time soon, and I will reveal the reason in person.”
Sungchul swung the door open. There were countless people looking at him with awe and worship. Sungchul felt repulsed by their blind worship.
Fioni’s voice could be heard from behind.
“If that’s the case, I’ll trust your words and cancel our plans, and our airship will pull back.”
“That’s excessive praise. And, I’d like to say one more thing.”
“You are not alone. I’d like you to know that there are countless people in the shadows that have faith in you and support you.”
His words were exceedingly soft, but Sungchul felt uneasy.
The airship at the refugee camp retrieved all the weapons and mercenaries it had been unloading and left the Tower of Recluse as promised. Sungchul stood atop a small mountain ridge and made sure the Airship of the Order of Extinction left. He didn’t look all that happy.
Bertelgia popped out of her pocket and spoke.
“Why do you look like that? People who side with you have appeared for once, right? Hm? It even looked like that pretty girl was all over you. Well, she is undead, but still!”
“Bertelgia, I don’t recall having those kind of people as my allies.”
Sungchul spoke with certainty before turning around to leave.
“More importantly, It’s time for you to earn your meal, Bertelgia.”
A long period of seclusion awaited Sungchul’s party in order to unlock the Soul Gems.