(TL: Happy new year, everyone! I hope 2019 will be a good year for you. Without further ado, let’s get cracking.)
“A promise is a promise.” (Affeldrichae)
Inside a huge grey world.
Yi Ji-Hyuk stood opposite to Affeldrichae.
“Do we really have to do this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You made a promise….” (Affeldrichae)
Yi Ji-Hyuk spat out a groan and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender.
“Well, fine. Sure. I’ll do as told. A promise is a promise, after all.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“This way.” (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae waved her hand about, and the floor rose up to form a large stone bed.
“Oh. What about blankets, then?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….If you want.” (Affeldrichae)
Jokes just didn’t work with her, did it?
Yi Ji-Hyuk clicked his tongue as he looked at that stone bed.
How should he describe this strange feeling?
Was this the feeling of taking an MRI after displaying severe symptoms of cancer, and everything already pointing towards the worst possibility there was? Kinda like what he saw on the internet or something?
He couldn’t help but feel rather melancholic here, because this whole thing was like, his diagnosis was already set in stone, and this was merely the confirmation of how large his tumour was and just how much of it had spread to the rest of his body.
“Please lie down.” (Affeldrichae)
“It’s like you’re a doctor now, Affeldrichae.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
She simply smiled without replying back to him.
It was one of those smiles where her powerful attitude of ‘I ain’t letting you off the hook with a couple of cute banters’ could easily be spied on.
“Okay, okay. I got it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk spat out another groan and slowly trudged to the stone bed before lying down on top.
“Please relax.” (Affeldrichae)
“You and doctors keep telling me to relax, but just who in their right minds would relax in a situation like this?! You think I’m Buddha or something?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Never mind. I shouldn’t even bother.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
How did it make any sense that she didn’t know who Buddha was, when she pretty much hoovered up all the knowledge regarding humanity in her spare time?
Something was definitely wrong with her thought process. Maybe, he needed to send her off to an elementary school first.
After he quietly lied down on the stone bed, Affeldrichae approached his head.
She then climbed up on the bed itself, lifted his head up slightly, placed it on her lap, and rested her palm on his forehead.
“You know, I don’t see any difference between now, and when you do it during my sleep.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, I’ve heard that this is the position that the human males feel most comfortable.” (Affeldrichae)
Not sure who came up with that “information”, but well, it is a correct one. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“It may get painful. No, it’ll be painful.” (Affeldrichae)
“Sure.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’ll hurt a lot.” (Affeldrichae)
“Right.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Affeldrichae smiled gently at Yi Ji-Hyuk’s uncaring response.
Now that she thought about it, wasn’t he the world’s most adept man when it came to enduring pain?
Without saying anything else, Affeldrichae sent down her Mana into Yi Ji-Hyuk’s forehead.
Mana resonated with her call, and a bright white light shone from her hand.
A groan reflexively leaked out of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s mouth.
Even though he was trying to endure it, he was still helpless about his body violently rejecting the pure-white Mana touching his skin. That was because his body was already in the state of being utterly drenched in dark Mana.
“I’m dying here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Please endure it.” (Affeldrichae)
The bright white Mana began digging into Yi Ji-Hyuk’s forehead.
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s bit down hard.
He could proudly boast his near-perfect immunity against pain, but even then, it was hard to endure the after-effects of dark Mana and light Mana clashing inside his head. It was as if a huge, violent storm was rampaging inside his head right now.
His eyesight was getting dimmer and blurrier, and his ears were ringing, too. His body began twisting by itself, and a creepy, chilly sensation of an army of ants crawling on his skin to bite him washed over every inch of him.
As he fell into a state where he couldn’t even open his mouth, Affeldrichae closed her eyes and with her hand still pressed on his forehead, sensed the clash of two Manas.
Affeldrichae’s expression became slightly gloomier.
She withdrew the light Mana out of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s head and quietly stared at him. It had been only a short while, but his entire body was now soaked in sweat. He gulped in several big breaths to calm himself down.
Affeldrichae summoned the spirit of water and washed him clean. However, Yi Ji-Hyuk still couldn’t fully regain his consciousness as if he was still suffering from the lingering pain.
Affeldrichae gently stroked his head.
The balance of a normal human’s body would be broken after a small amount of dark Mana was injected into one. Either he or she would become ‘enslaved’ by the Mana and go insane, or in a worst case scenario, one would forcibly convert into an undead.
But now, Yi Ji-Hyuk had become something like a battery that stored dark Mana. His body was now completely assimilated by it.
Normally, gathering and storing this much dark Mana in a human’s body was just plain impossible. But, it happened because, back when he was still referred to as the Bringer of Apocalypse, he had always walked around with an amount of dark Mana that could only be accumulated if one were to suck in every last drop of dark Mana found in the entire world.
And precisely because he possessed incredible, god-level control over Mana, as well as enjoying that unprecedented level of assimilation, could he defend against the erosion of his mental capacity to this degree.
Unfortunately, even that had its limit.
Affeldrichae let out a long sigh, and with great timing, Yi Ji-Hyuk opened his eyes.
“So, how does it look, doctor? Am I dying?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mister Ji-Hyuk, all lifeforms die at some point.” (Affeldrichae)
“Sure. But the important thing is when.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If you continue to wield dark Mana in this fashion, you will be completely taken over within five years.” (Affeldrichae)
“So, it’s like that…..” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk spoke in a composed manner as if he had already known this.
“Yet, are you planning to continue with this terribly foolish act?” (Affeldrichae)
“Five years isn’t short. And there is no guarantee that I’d be using Mana continuously in the future, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You know very well that’s not what I’m talking about.” (Affeldrichae)
“Aren’t humans supposed to be selfish beings? I do not know how much this world is worth to you, but surely, it can’t be so valuable that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself to protect it.” (Affeldrichae)
Not just his life, either; everything the existence called Yi Ji-Hyuk held dear would be lost, and a brand new being would rise up to take his place.
“Well, if that happens, so be it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mister Ji-Hyuk.” (Affeldrichae)
“Look, Affeldrichae.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I was the one who went berserk, wanting to get back to this place. And it was also me, who made up his mind to die in this place, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m well aware.” (Affeldrichae)
Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned refreshingly.
“So, wouldn’t it be fine for me to go crazy and do whatever I want until I die, since I’ve lived for too long and the like?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That is a foolish notion. Living for a long time doesn’t diminish one’s desire to continue surviving, after all. Am I wrong?” (Affeldrichae)
“Well, let’s leave it at that, then.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk got up from the stone bed and stood up on the floor.
“I’m not trying to live with only my death as my goal, you know? That’s why I’m doing these sorts of things.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Affeldrichae gazed at him with complicated eyes, before nodding her head.
“As expected of you.” (Affeldrichae)
Yi Ji-Hyuk snorted.
“However, will these things you’re doing right now truly be of any help? I’m sceptical. Especially so, regarding the possibility of those people becoming as strong as you want them to be.” (Affeldrichae)
“Who cares.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shrugged his shoulders.
“If they fail, that’s that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He wasn’t expecting much from them anyway, to begin with. If they proved to be helpful, then that would be nice. If not, then well, he’d have to figure it out as he went along.
That was how he had operated until now, anyways.
Affeldrichae frowned deeply. It was so deep, in fact, that one couldn’t help but wonder whether this was her first time expressing her emotions this intensely or not.
“Whew, fine. If this is what you want…. However, please don’t forget.” (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae didn’t say anything else anymore. Even then, Yi Ji-Hyuk caught onto what she was implying here – that, the moment he changed, she’d unhesitatingly rip his heart out.
Indeed, she had to prevent the advent of a demon king capable of hopping between dimensions regardless of what.
“Do me a favour and make it as painless as possible, okay?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, you….” (Affeldrichae)
Affeldrichae quietly stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk before nodding her head.
“I got it now.” (Affeldrichae)
Yi Ji-Hyuk dazedly asked her.
“Got what now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“The conclusion is a simple one, isn’t it? In order to make you less reliant on dark Mana, the humans of this world must become stronger. Am I correct?” (Affeldrichae)
“M-mm? Oh, uh, sure. You’re right.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, in that case. They need to get stronger by any means necessary.” (Affeldrichae)
Once Yi Ji-Hyuk recognised the firm resolution burning within her eyes, he could only pray for the NDF agents’ safe journey through afterlife.
“You’re here again?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Kim Jae-Beom stared at Kim Dah-Som’s face.
“We might end up getting real close at this rate.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“I don’t feel the same way.” (Kim Dah-Som)
“….Yup, of course you don’t.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t even know of my place yet ran my mouth like that. (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
Kim Jae-Beom spat out a long sigh after coming face to face with Kim Dah-Som’s persistent iron-wall like attitude towards him, even though she had been showing up to the NDF office for over a week now.
Well, the truth was, it wasn’t as if he thought about trying to hit on her or something, anyway.
It was already a bit troublesome that she was Kim Dah-Hyun’s little sister, yet she was someone who hung around Yi Ji-Hyuk, so he wasn’t mad enough to try something idiotic.
Indeed, if he was thinking of killing himself, there were lots of other ways. Like, he could drink poison, or jump off a cliff.
So, why should he choose the most painful and scary method out of them?
“Are you going to wait for him today here as well?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“Yes.” (Kim Dah-Som)
“….Okay, then.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
This isn’t a place a civilian such as yourself can freely waltz in, you know?!
After doing that once or twice, now you treat this place as your own living room.
You’re supposed to protect this place, so how come you’re yawning alongside the girl?! What are you doing?! (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
“….How leisurely.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“Pardon?” (Kim Dah-Som)
“It’s nothing.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Even though he said that, Kim Jae-Beom still sneaked a glance at Kim Dah-Som’s face.
‘She looks a lot more haggard than before, doesn’t she?’ (Kim Jae-Beom)
Only a week had passed, yet it was as if her face had halved in emancipation. Seeing her dazedly stare at the empty air while seated in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s chair kind of looked a bit pitiful, too….
Was she worried that much about him?
Well, even I’m beginning to wonder if something bad had happened or not, so…. (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
Kim Jae-Beom sighed again.
The endless stream of phone calls that constantly rang without giving him a second of break had quietened down nowadays as well.
The callers all had finally accepted the fact that there was no method of contacting the other side, that was why. Those that barged into the office in the last few days all left in bitter disappointment after realising that cruel fact as well.
Even in the midst of all these, Kim Dah-Som didn’t skip a single day and continued to show up at the office after her school ended to silently wait, only to reluctantly head back home after Kim Jae-Beom was closing up shop in the evenings.
‘I wonder, is she at least eating properly?’ (Kim Jae-Beom)
But, seeing her being like that for the whole week, never mind eating her meals on time, she doesn’t look like she had touched any food in a while, no?
Otherwise, there’s just no way anyone would lose that much weight in a week, right? (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
“Hey, are you feeling alright?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“Pardon?” (Kim Dah-Som)
“No, well, you look a bit gaunt, you see?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Kim Dah-Som smiled softly.
‘Huh, so she can form expressions, eh.’ (Kim Jae-Beom)
Seeing her break out in a smile like that after so many days of displaying an emotionless wall of a face, she certainly looked even far more stunning than before.
“He’s coming back soon.” (Kim Dah-Som)
“Well, yeah. I’m sure nothing happened that side.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
He went there on his own volition, so it’d be more strange if something happened over there.
No, it’s you who’s going overboard with worrying, you know? (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
With Kim Dah-Som sitting there by the desk like that, it looked picturesque for some reason.
“It’s about time they got back, though….” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Although Yi Ji-Hyuk outwardly looked like someone who didn’t seem to care about anything at all, even Kim Jae-Beom knew by now that he did care and always acted with some kind of a scheme, a plan, in mind.
Yi Ji-Hyuk would know that a new, dangerous Gate might open up while he was away to make things way worse than before, so he wouldn’t want to take more than a week for whatever he was planning to do.
“That’s what I believe, anyways. But….” (Kim Jae-Beom)
But, who knows?
He might really have no plan at all.
I mean, this is Yi Ji-Hyuk we’re talking about.
In all honesty, who knows what’s cooking inside his head?
He always does whatever he wants to, anyway. (Kim Jae-Beom’s inner monologue)
“Ah??” (Kim Dah-Som)
Suddenly, Kim Dah-Som shot up from the chair.
She was staring at a certain empty spot, a wall of the office in the corner.
“Why are you…..?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Something small and black suddenly formed there, before a Gate large enough for people to walk through opened up.
It was a black Gate.
It indeed was the black-coloured Gate Yi Ji-Hyuk used all the time, completely different from the red-and-blue Gates that commonly appeared everywhere.
Stunned silly now, Kim Jae-Beom alternated his gaze between the Gate and Kim Dah-Som. For her to immediately sense the change as soon as a Gate appeared and react to it, just how sensitive could she be??
Something blurry could be seen just beyond the Gate, then a person’s head peeked out from there.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!!” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Kim Jae-Beom shouted out in a happiness.
< 144. Why are you running away? -4 > Fin.