The Emperor immediately returned to his airship after the meeting. It was still late in the evening.
‘His drinking habits are the same as always’ thought Sungchul.
It was the same in the past. The Emperor ate and drank quickly, briefly saying what he wanted to convey before leaving in a hurry. Dragging things on and forcing a conversation to continue to speak his mind was something the Emperor had never done.
‘This isn’t good enough.’
Sungchul decided to continue drinking alone as he left the Imperial encampment.
Though all the soldiers of the Empire were wary of Sungchul, no one dared stop him or provoke him. So, Sungchul was able to pass through the Emperor’s camp with unprecedented ease that he wouldn’t have been able to imagine was possible in the past.
But not long after he had left the camp had Sungchul noticed a presence behind him without any warning and turned around.
It was Ahmuge.
Unlike the cheat assassin’s garb she had been wearing in the past, she was fully suited up in elegant Imperial uniform. Her always-sincere gaze contained the now-familiar cold animosity.
“So was it you? The one who manipulated the Emperor and his fleet to come to this place?”
Sungchul was the first to ask a question. Ahmuge nodded.
“Although the timing isn’t the same, it was set in stone that you would seek out the Tower of Recluse after the resolution of the second Calamity.”
“…Then I suppose that means you were already aware that the Order of Extinction would appear here.”
Ahmuge nodded again.
“With you as an exception, they are the most dangerous group in the world at the moment. In the near future, they’re going to cause major problems all over the continent. Borrowing the power of forbidden spells that no humans were supposed to use.”
Sungchul’s slightly inebriated gaze was filled with surprise.
“Is it okay for you to be telling me this? I am both your worst enemy as well as the very Calamity that had destroyed the world you had come from.”
Even though the animosity was the same, Sungchul was able to tell that Ahmuge… Soojin’s attitude wasn’t the same as before. The direction hadn’t changed but there was something significantly different about her. He no longer saw the unconditional hatred she had in the past.
Instead, she began to speak with her suppressed cold razor sharp rage only showing on the surface.
“I didn’t want to believe it, but the future that I had experienced is starting to misalign. No, to be more precise, there are a lot of changes going on in many different ways. If this continues, then there might be a time where I can no longer trust the information of my past. Also,”
Ahmuge shut her eyes close and took a deep breath. Once she opened her eyes again, Soojin glared at Sungchul and spoke with the coldest of tone.
“Also, the primary reason I have come to this world is to prevent the end of the world. If killing you is too difficult, then I think it’s not unreasonable to consider trying to change the future that’s to come.”
“That’s a very positive way to look at it.”
Sungchul grinned and replied jokingly. It was probably due to his drunkenness. Ahmuge immediately looked very displeased. She sucked in her breath before giving a frigid response.
“I still think that you are the most dangerous one in the world. And you actually do have enough power to make it true.”
“Are you saying that I am more dangerous than the organization that’s borrowing the power of the Lesser Gods?”
Ahmuge wasn’t able to respond immediately to Sungchul’s sharp question. Sungchul examined Ahmuge’s expressions. She was indecisive about something.
‘She’s the type that can’t lie.’
“Only the result can tell. Anway, I’ll get to the main point.”
Ahmuge took one step back. Sungchul waited for her to speak with his arms crossed. Ahmuge finally opened her lips.
“You are going to have to make a choice in the near future.
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“You speak like a fortune teller.”
“…And I’m going to watch to see what you decide to do.”
Ahmuge disappeared into the darkness after speaking her piece.
Sungchul emotionlessly watched her disappear. But it wasn’t long before a sharp feminine shriek was heard not-too far away, followed by the cry of a familiar voice.
It belonged to Marakia.
Sungchul immediately flung himself towards where Marakia’s voice had come from. Marakia was laying on the ground, tangled with someone as if he had run into them in the dark. Sungchul was going to go there when he recognized who it was that Marakia was tangled with, and quickly hid himself behind a nearby tree.
It seemed as though she had run into him while she was invisible. Marakia was small with black feathers, making him difficult to spot in the darkness. The first to come to senses was Marakia. He immediately glared at Ahmuge before chastising her.
“Look where you’re going!,you lowly human!”
Ahmuge dusted herself off once she came to. She then turned to blankly stare at the angry little avian creature that was mad at her. Ahmuge seemed to tense up for a moment before her eyes opened wide in surprise.
‘M… Lord Marakia?”
Something completely unexpected happened.
“Hmm? What was that human? Why do you know my name?”
Marakia stopped his yelling to blink and watch Ahmuge.
Ahmuge looked at Marakia with complicated feelings before she realized that she had blurted out something she shouldn’t have.
There was no way that someone unaccustomed to lying like her could properly evade the question. Marakia flew up to her eye level with magic and got up real close to her face.
“Hmm… I don’t recognize this face. Humans all look the same so it’s difficult to tell differences between individuals, but even so, your face is unfamiliar.”
“Ah haha… Um…”
Ahmuge averted her eyes and gave an awkward laugh.
‘So Ahmuge had this side to her as well.’
Sungchul continued to watch while remaining hidden.
Ahmuge seemed to have come up with something.
“What is it, human?”
Ahmuge looked around once before replying brightly to the annoyed Marakia.
“I’ve seen it in a book! The Legend of the king of sky and earth with black feathers.”
Marakia immediately became placated. It was because for the first time since he had left the Underground Avian Kingdom, he finally came across a human who knew about him.
“Despite being a mere human, you seem to have an acceptable level of knowledge. You are the finest specimen of humans I have met until now!”
“It’s such an honor to be able to meet the legend I’ve only seen in books.”
Ahmuge replied as she continued to examine Marakia closely.
With the exception of his sharp beak, he mostly looked like a small chick. It was difficult to think otherwise due to the adorable appearance he had with his small body covered in fluffy cotton-like feathers.
‘So Lord Marakia was once like this.’
An individual crossed her mind. Of the black winged king of the skies that had protected the surviving humans from the servants of the Calamity, roaming the skies freely as he slayed his enemies mercilessly.
But his final moments weren’t peaceful, as it didn’t differ greatly from all others who had tried to face the Calamities before him. Ahmuge remembered very clearly, the sight of the black winged King’s entire body slowly rotting away after being hit by a weapon of Calamity that afflicted disease upon victims.
A dew-like tear gathered at the corner of Ahmuge’s eyes.
Marakia tilted his head after seeing her troubled expression. But it was interrupted by a ruffle heard in the distance.
“I’m sorry, Lord Marakia. I’ll have to take my leave.”
“Mmm? Where are you going, human? I did not give you permission to leave yet.”
Marakia was adamant, but not even Sungchul was capable of stopping her if she decided to escape. Ahmuge vanished right before Marakia’s eyes.
It goes without saying that Marakia was surprised.
“Where did she go?”
Marakia was searching the forest hastily when something made a sudden appearance from among the trees.
It was a lost deer.
Marakia plucked a single feather and sent it to the deer using the power of magic. The deer collapsed upon touching the feather and was unable to stand back up.
“That blasted human. Where did she go?”
Marakia was about to begin searching his surroundings with magic when Sungchul finally revealed himself.
“Marakia, there’s no need to waste your energy.”
“Hmm? Why did you appear all of a sudden?”
“Things happened. Anyway, it is not a wise choice to try and find her. That woman has a very powerful Soul Contract. One that makes it impossible for anyone to detect or find.”
Sungchul walked past Marakia after speaking his piece towards the collapsed deer and slung it over his shoulder before returning to where Marakia was.
“Don’t waste your energy uselessly and let’s go eat instead.”
Marakia looked unhappy at Sungchul’s words, but it was already too late to be able to catch Ahmuge. Sungchul gazed up at the moon as he fell into thought.
‘I suppose the fact that Ahmuge knew Marakia’s name is because she had met him in the future.’
It was an interesting thought. Transformations often began with unexpected but oft-mundane reasons.
Sungchul suddenly became reunited with an old and familiar friend of his. His friend went by the name of Free Time.
It had been impossible for him to even think about turning his attention to anything other than the resolution of calamities when he was moving like a machine with a singular purpose. Although he did take part in activities outside of the resolution of the Calamities, even those were done as peripheral activities in pursuit of completing his quest. Not once had he decided to do something that wasn’t somehow related to the Calamities.
And for the first time, Sungchul had a bold idea.
‘Should I work on something different for a while?’
Engaging in something else didn’t mean he gave up on his task for Calamities. It only meant that he had another goal to pursue.
It didn’t seem like the cross of the Unbreakable Vow would destroy him for just that. As the Emperor himself had said, Sungchul had already successfully completed his quest. What remained were just cleanup.
“What are you thinking about?”
Bertelgia suddenly spoke to him from the pocket. It was because Sungchul’s silence was going on too long.
“I was thinking about what I should be working on from now on. Since it doesn’t seem like the Calamity this time around can be resolved easily.”
Bertelgia shook strongly as she replied with vigor.
“What’s there to think about? Isn’t it about time for you to finally work on those Creationist Quests that you had been neglecting all this time?”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
But despite what he had said, he was thinking about something else entirely.
It was about the seal; the strange seal that had come off of the Letter of God that Schellmerker had handed him.
It was written in an incomprehensible language. It looked like a small paper was folded in half while slightly misaligned, and where the paper met was red colored metallic substance that looked to have been poured and imprinted by a stamp with an image of a claw.
The seal itself seemed to contain an unusual power. One that was even capable of manipulating the Letter of God which was a divine artifact said to be written by a deity.
‘I can’t help but think that the authors of Letter of God are Lesser Gods. But there isn’t much information remaining in the world about the Lesser Gods.’
The worship of Lesser Gods was the most representative heresy that all religious groups abhorred. Any books on the subject of Lesser Gods were already all destroyed by fire long before Sungchul arrived in this world, and the heretics that had carried with them knowledge of the Lesser Gods were universally visited by Inquisitors who brought plenty of swords and spears to eradicate the flawed belief.
‘I guess I’ll start by researching the seal.’
Picking the seal among the great multitude of possibilities that were open to him was for a simple reason. It was because he didn’t have to go very far.
Sungchul took out the strange seal and held it in his hands. The moment he grasped the seal, a thought came to mind.
“Then I guess our next destination is decided! To the home of the mean redhead, Ixion!”
An enthusiastic voice of Bertelgia, who had no way of knowing what Sunghcul was thinking about, continued from the side.
Sungchul placed his hands on top of the excited Bertelgia as if he was patting her head as he looked up towards the lonely tower on the other side of the lake.
Tower of Recluse.
The seal was commanding Sungchul to head back to the Tower.
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