CHAPTER 141 – Remnants of Time (Part 4)
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“Why!? After everything we did for this kingdom!? For you!? HOW COULD YOU!?” A young white-haired man shouted towards a group of heavily armored knights. Behind them was a finely dressed young man wearing a crown. Cowering in fear.

“I-It w-wasn’t my decision!” The young man wearing the crown shouted. Looking around, as if searching for something.

“YOU THINK I’LL BELIEVE THAT!?” With a roar, the white-haired man rushed forward, only for the group of knights to try and stop him. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough, and the young man simply sent them flying back with a single push. “WE WERE FRIENDS! YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” He reached the young king and pulled him from his fine clothes.

“I-I-IT W-WAS THE C-COUNCIL…!” The young king shouted, drowned in fear as a pair of crimson dragon eyes stared at him in rage. “THEY GAVE THE ORDER!”

“The council…? THE COUNCIL!?” The young man roared. “YOU’RE THE KING FOR FUCK’S SAKE! THE COUNCIL CAN’T DO SHIT IF YOU ORDER IT!” The angered shout made the whole throne room tremble. The knights and guards that were trying to stand up to rush to their king couldn’t help but stop, a chill running through their back out of fear. Some of them were giving furtive glances around as if deciding whether they would live, or die, the next moment.

“YOU TOOK WHAT MATTERED THE MOST FROM ME! YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” The angered roars continued. “AFTER PUTTING YOUR STUPID ASS ON THE THRONE, YOU BETRAYED ME!”

“I-I’M S-S-SORRY!” With a mind clouded in fear and eyes shut, the king couldn’t find more words or excuses. He knew, after all, that the person, the being, in front of him, wasn’t to be taken lightly. He knew it better than most.

The king waited for the next shout, the next roar from the beast, the monster, holding him tightly. But, it didn’t come. An eerie silence permeated the throne room. A silence that didn’t last long.

“Sorry?” A low growl, filled with pain, anger, and hatred, broke the stillness in the palace. “You’re… sorry?” As the king opened his eyes, a chill ran through his whole body, any speck of warmth left his body, leaving it in freezing cold. Two, soulless-like crimson eyes stared deep into his eyes, while tears ran down their sides. At that moment, he felt as if the creature in front of him was death itself. No. Death wouldn’t be that terrifying. Whatever was it that was in front of him was worse enough to scare death.

‘Why did I listen to that bitch…?’ The thought crossed the king’s mind, but it was too late for any lamentations.

“I’ll make sure everything you ever fought for… Everything you ever loved…” The ‘beast’ in front of him growled. “I’ll burn it to ashes… from this day onwards… the Kingdom of Thesus… will cease to exist…”

The king felt it in his bones. That was a promise. That was a judgment. He condemned his whole Kingdom because of whispers of jealousy. ‘What have I done…?’ Light left the kings eyes as the question repeated again and again inside his mind.

“And it all starts with you… not even the gods will save your soul now…” One last growl left the beast’s mouth before a deafening roar enveloped the throne room, and the castle, while a sea of black flames consumed the place, leaving not even dust on its way. A cacophony of screams filled with pain and terror followed the path left by the obsidian-like fire.

[Once again… you couldn’t protect what you held dear…] In the middle of what was once a majestic and awe-inspiring castle, the same white-haired young man stood while gritting his teeth. Everything around him now turned into an endless abyss made of fire. “...” Tears left his eyes, only to evaporate the next instant. A blood-like red mark decorated his right arm, shining brightly through the blackened flames. [No matter where we go… death and destruction follow us… That’s our destiny. That’s what we represent.] A deep husky voice reverberated in his mind. [Accept what we are… the sooner you do it… the sooner you’ll be free from the pain. We are the bringers of destruction and death. WE SHALL BURN EVERYTHING TO NOTHING-]

“Cristopher!” Another voice pulled the white-haired young man from his slumber. Opening his eyes, Cristopher came face to face with a worried Olivia, who was holding her clutched left hand.

Looking around, he noticed the sea of flames was no more, and a ruined city was present instead. Turning his eyes back to Olivia, “What time is it?” He asked.

“It’s 4:30 in the morning…” Olivia said. Worry and, Cristopher could notice, small hints of pain still present in her eyes.

“Are you okay?” He asked her, glancing at his left hand.

“...Are you?” She asked after a second of silently glancing at him.

“Why wouldn’t I?” He said, slowly standing up. “Well, seems like I slept on my watch. Thankfully, no one attacked us through the night.”

“Cristopher, you were-” She tried to confront him.

“Sleeping.” But he simply interrupted her. “I was sleeping, Olivia. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m as fine as anyone can be.” He stretched as he walked towards his bike. “I’ll take a look around and see if I can hunt something.”

“Is that why you always take the night watch?” Seeing him almost reach his bike, Olivia called to him.

“...” He didn’t say anything and just sat on his bike, turning it on. With a final glance at her, he answered. “Don’t wake Hajin, and keep guard while I come back.” Or so she wrongly thought he would do. ‘Don’t tell Hajin.’ She understood.

As he accelerated and disappeared through the dilapidated streets of the ruins, she couldn’t pull her eyes from his back, at least until she couldn’t see him anymore. Glancing at her slightly burned palm, the feeling of dread that overcame her minutes ago resurfaced in her mind.

“Idiot… there’s no way you’re fine.” She muttered as she clenched her burned hand. Looking once again towards the place where Cristopher disappeared moments ago with his bike. She then turned and went into the place they were using as a refuge.

***

“This… is… hell…” Olivia muttered while resting, her chest heaving up and down, while she had trouble speaking.

“Not sure what you mean. I’m having a blast here!” Cristopher laughed as he evaded a knife thrust while deviating a gun that tried to aim at his stomach. Hajin, who was trying the one trying to hit him, clicked his tongue, before panting again. He has been sparing with Cristopher for quite a few minutes now, and while he has increased his stamina by quite a while during his months of training in the Recorded Past, the high-intensity sparing that Cristopher made him go through every now in a while is enough to put a strain on him after a few minutes.

“Damn monster…” Hajin, or The Westerner as he's been nicknamed recently, clicked his tongue as he tried to attack him with either his knife or his gun, which was unloaded. No matter what he tried, he couldn’t connect a hit with his knife, and couldn’t even aim for more than half a second with his gun, which was the condition to consider it a successful hit with the gun. And even then, he hasn’t been able to ‘hit’ him once with the gun.

“Owww… that hurts my feelings…” With a mocking hurt face, Cristopher parried Hajin’s knife with his own, while tilting his head out of the gun’s aim. After letting out a chuckle, he kept exchanging moves with Hajin, being almost always on the defending side, only hitting back from time to time to stop Hajin from scoring a point with his gun.

Minutes went by with Hajin being trained this way by Cristopher. After a while, Hajin couldn’t keep going anymore, falling on his back. Completely exhausted.

“Well, I must say, this time you held on for quite a while more than our previous spar. You’ve improved quite a lot, both of you guys.” He said as he looked at Olivia, who was a lot better now and was just restoring her magic power, and Hajin, who was still on his back trying to catch his breath, his new beard drenched in sweat.

“Thank… you…” Hajin actually answered between ragged breaths.

“Yeah, that’s weird coming from you.” Olivia frowned. They’ve been here for around 9 months already, which according to Hajin, shouldn’t be possible, but Cristopher just shrugged it off and said that it might have something to do with him and the Affinity that slightly increased when they all entered this place.

“Just take the damn compliment, idiot.” Cristopher rolled his eyes at her. It was true that she has improved a lot, after all, through the training they’ve been making, she managed to increase her control by a lot, and is now able to use 10 knives at the same time while making precise movements with each one. Yes, she still could only do so for a short time, but that’s when she pushes herself to the limit. With four knives, she can fight quite well and also mix her style with short-ranged combat while using her daggers, something that she’s been training quite a lot with Cristopher.

“Tch. Whatever.” She shrugged. “Thank you, I guess.”

Cristopher rolled his eyes at her again. “I think you still have some stamina left for another spar session, so why don’t we make use of-” He was smirking at her when he suddenly stopped, sharply turning his head towards a direction far away from them.

“What happened?” Noticing his change, Olivia, who was prepared to flee from training, stopped herself and asked with a frown, while the tired Hajin slowly sat up and also looked at him with concern.

“They’re here.” Cristopher simply said before turning to Hajin and Olivia. “Seems like we don’t have to wait anymore, those damn idiots finally decided to grace us with their presence.”

“Really!?” Standing up, almost jumping, Olivia asked him with eyes open wide. “They’re finally here!?”

“Yeah.” Cristopher nodded as he turned to go towards his bike. “We should move though, they landed somewhere close to one of that bastard’s places.”

“Damn…” Hajin sighed as he made the effort to stand up. “Couldn’t they pick a better time… I’m exhausted…”

“Stop whining.” Olivia said as she rolled her eyes, moving towards Cristopher who was already sitting on his bike. “We should go fetch them.”

“Olivia’s right. Get your ass on your bike and let’s move.” Cristopher said as he started the bike, while Hajin only sighed, thanking all the known gods for finally having more people coming here. ‘I won’t have to put up with these two shitheads by myself anymore.’ He thought, happy tears wanting to rain down his eyes.

***

“...Hiik!” Yoo Yeonha shrieked in fear. Around her, and the other four, time seemed to be rewound at a fast speed, as the sun fell down from the middle of the sky, disappearing to leave them in darkness. As someone who couldn’t tolerate even a terror movie’s poster, the sudden disappearance of three cadets, as well as the strange phenomenon that was happening all around them was something she couldn’t help but be terrified about.

“Let’s… stay calm.” Kim Suho said, snapping out of the confusion first as he looked around, trying to understand whatever was happening around them.

“Calm down. Those three are surely somewhere close.” Shin Jonghak said next, his face adorned by a deep frown as he looked all around him. “Maybe they just found something and sneaked away to claim it.”

“What? And how do you explain the changes around!?” Chae Nayun retorted back at Jonghak, she was also trembling slightly, but somehow force her fear away with her temper alone. “The mountains became flat! And the sun just disappeared from the sky!” She said while Suho and Yi Yeonghan looked all around, both of them seemingly looking for something to explain the strange phenomenon.

“That’s…” As Shin Jonghak tried to find a plausible explanation, a sudden noise alerted all five of them, making Yoo Yeonha even paler than before, shrinking back in fear, while Shin Jonghak and Kim Suho took out their weapons and pointed them at the source of the noise. They could hear what seemed to be an animal moving through the grass surrounding them.

They could hear ‘something’ approaching them, rustling through the leaves and tall grass. A deep gulp was heard between the fives, but everyone was too focused on whatever was coming towards them. For three minutes they were on high alert, tense for whatever thing was coming for them.

And finally, after a long wait, from the thick grass appeared…

“I thought it was a mountain beast. Who would have thought it was a bunch of kids?” A man seemingly in his mid-forties. He was wearing dark blue pants and a baggy dress shirt; a typical salaryman from Korea’s 70s and 80s. “What are you kids doing here?” He asked as he looked at the group, who couldn’t help but notice the old accent he used.

They scrutinized each other, trying to figure out who was the other party; while the man also seemed to have a particular interest in the two female cadets.

“...Eh? Why aren’t you talking?” After a while, the middle-aged guy urged.

“Oy-” Shin Jonghak was about to speak first, but knowing what was coming, Kim Suho quickly stopped his ill-mannered talking.

“Um, sir. Where are we?” He asked instead, getting a glare from Shin Jonghak who didn’t like to be interrupted like that.

“...Huh?” The man was confused, staring at Kim Suho with an incredulous look, that soon turned into a smirk. “What do you mean? We’re in Gwangmyeong. This is a danger zone. We don’t know when magic power will explode again.”

“...Magic power explosion?” Kim Suho repeated quietly the words said by the middle-aged man, while the rest of the group was confused. They were all familiar with that word, a phenomenon where unstable mana explodes, and that was a frequent situation during the first three years after the Outcall.

“That’s right. You’ll die if you stay here, so follow me.” The middle-aged man said. At that moment the group of cadets inwardly summarized their own situation. A mountain suddenly turning flat, the sun disappearing from the middle of the sky, and a phenomenon that should be extinct suddenly coming back. It was too weird of a situation, but they still understood one thing; if they wanted to find out what was happening, they needed to follow this guy.

Exchanging a quick glance between each other, all of them agreed on that decision, and as such, Shin Jonghak stepped forward. “Lead the way.” He ordered.

“...Eh?” Confused at the tone of the kid, the man tilted his head.

“Hahaha…” Kim Suho chuckled awkwardly as he pushed Jonghak to the side. “This is our first time here, so we’ll have to ask you to guide us.”

“What?” Jonghak glared at Suho. “Kim Suho, you’re gonna provoke me even in this situation-”

“Shut up…” Kim Suho interrupted him. “Just stay quiet and follow along.” He muttered at Jonghak. And just like that, the whole group followed the middle-aged man, walking through tall grass and passing by occasional strange howls that they couldn’t recognize. They kept walking until finally reaching what seemed like a city.

“This is…” They all were flabbergasted at what stood in front of them, halting in shock and staring ahead blankly. The city was more like ruins than a real city, with collapsed buildings, and barricades made up of scrap cars and iron bars all around. Smoke and flames could be seen rising from different parts of the city. Waking up from their shock, they could see the middle-aged man approach a guy that was standing behind in front of the entrance to one of the biggest barricades in front of a slightly collapsed building.

“Yo, Myungjong, have you been doing a good job?” He asked the young man.

“Of course, Ajusshi.” The young man named Myungjong nodded, before turning to the group of cadets, a blooming smile showing up on his face. “But um… who are they?”

“Haha.” The middle-aged man just chuckled as he turned toward the cadets. “What’s up? Come in.”

“...Um, first, where is this?” Kim Suho, who was looking around suspiciously asked.

“It’s the safest place around.” The middle-aged man, hearing Suho’s serious tone, grinned. “Gwangmyeong City Hall.”

At that moment, everything came crashing at once in Suho’s mind. Gwangmyeong’s City Hall. They have driven by it earlier on the limousine, but it was certainly not this dilapidated place when they drove by. Mixed with the man’s clothes and the magic power explosions. A single question left Suho’s mouth.

“Can you tell me today’s date?” He stiffly asked the middle-aged man.

“Date?” The man tilted his head as he rubbed his chin at the sudden question. “Don’t know.” He finally shook his head. “Who has the time to count nowadays? I guess it’s about 72 now.”

As the middle-aged man's words resonated in their heads, these seemed to start ringing. They were in a daze now. “72 as in… 1972?” Suho asked again in a daze.

“Well, it sure isn’t 1872.” The one to answer this time was the young man that was guarding the entrance, who was walking up to them, while from behind him, several men appeared from on top of the barricades. Their eyes flickered coldly as they look down at the cadets. “Come in. It’s dangerous to stay outside at this time.” The young man said as he grabbed Chae Nayu’ns wrist.

“Hey, let her go.” Kim Suho quickly intervened, frowning at the young man while pushing him away. He pulled out the branch he brought just in case.

“...A branch?” The surrounding men exchanged glances.

“Hey kiddo, put that down. We’re not bad people.” The middle-aged man said.

“...” Kim Suho, instead of listening to him, tried to unleash his magic power to intimidate them, but it was just a try, as unfortunately, he couldn’t bring his magic power at all.

“Hey, Kim Suho, I can’t use my magic power!” Chae Nayun's flustered voice reached him as she experienced the same situation. As the cadets experienced the same problem, the men that were previously standing on top of the barricade had jumped down and were completely surrounding him. The cadets could count at least twenty of them at a glance, and to make things worse, they all imbued the iron bars they carried with magic power.

“These pieces of trash dare to-” As an enraged Shin Jonghak was about to curse at the group of men, two neon lights flashed at them, and the men visibly shuddered.

“Those monsters are back!” One of the men shouted in fear.

“Run back inside, NOW!” The middle-aged man shouted as he guided the rest inside the City Hall.

Meanwhile, the cadets could see two high-tech bikes approaching them, with three people on them. Soon, white streaks of light flashed through the cadets, impacting some of the men’s shoulders and arms.

“ARGH! Hurry!” One of the men shouted as he held his shoulder, dropping the iron bar, and rushing inside. “We need to alert Asura-nim!”

Yoo Yeonha looked at these streaks of light and could quickly identify them. “...Bullets?” She muttered her question. As the men ran into the barricade, some of them screamed as the bullets reached them, although none of them received a fatal hit. Taking the chance that the encirclement has been dissolved, the cadets ran back, only stopping once there was enough distance between them and the city to be safe.

After stopping, all five of them turned to look at the people on the bikes, only to be shocked.

“Damn, those people almost got you guys good.” A smirking Olivia, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, commented.

“Yeah, for being such ‘strong’ cadets, they surely were like lambs waiting for slaughter there.” The man riding the same bike chuckled as he stopped close by.

“You!” Chae Nayun pointed at them, her short temper coming back to her the moment she laid her eyes on Cristopher’s smirking face.

“Now, now… why don’t we calm ourselves?” Sighing, the other man on the other bike, took off his helmet, revealing Kim Hajin’s face.

“Huh?” Chae Nayun was shocked at seeing him. After all, even with the long hair neatly tied up and the scruffy beard covering his chin, they could identify him.

“...Kim Hajin?” Kim Suho muttered as he looked at him in shock.

“Oy! Why does it feel that you can’t believe is me when you identified them in a moment?” Kim Hajin said with a twitching eyebrow.

“It’s because of your hair and beard, you dumbass.” Cristopher rolled his eyes.

“...” The rest of the cadets couldn’t help but chuckle at them.

“You kind of look like a westerner.” Olivia nodded.

“Whatever, let’s get out of here before the wave of mobsters starts.” Cristopher said as he signaled the cadets to follow them.

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