CHAPTER 147 – What we leave in the past
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‘One… Two… Three…’ I tried to focus, but once again, I lost count of how many monsters were standing in front of me, in front of us. ‘One… Two… Three…’ I tried again, with no success.

My mind was hazy, I could barely focus on what was in front of me. A horde of thousands of monsters. A single enemy capable of summoning them. And someone’s back. Covered in his usual black, long coat, it was the back of a mystery I’ve tried to uncover one too many times. With no success…

‘Huh?’ I lost focus again… Growling beasts, grinding fangs ready to devour. For a moment, I could feel those fangs closing on my neck, killing me. Again, my focus faltered, now the back was all I could see. Why? Is it because he owns me? No… it can’t be… I won’t let it…

“!” I wanted to shout, call him, but my voice fell. It hurt. ‘Please… turn around…’ I tried hard, my hand raising to reach him. He was doing something, but it doesn’t matter. He can’t be here. Not for me.

I reached for his sleeve, and with all the strength I could muster, I grabbed it and clenched it hard. As hard as my seemingly dying body allowed. In hindsight, I was stupid… to leave my anger blind me to the information I already knew. But that’s all in the past. That was my mistake, not his.

“What is it?” He asked. I looked for his eyes, but he didn’t turn to look at me. Probably focused on the enemy in front. I can’t blame him.

“...Run…” I forced myself to speak. Was that my voice? I sounded… exhausted… my voice… lacked its usual luster… ‘Has it ever felt different? Huh? Was I looking at the floor before?’ Again. This haziness is not letting me go. But I couldn’t let it distract me. “L-Leave me… here…” I can’t remember the last time I stuttered. ‘Huh? Was it with him? Because of him? I can’t remember…’

Staring up again, not knowing what I was looking for, I saw his head turning. ‘How can that crimson color be so beautiful…’ I thought, lost in the two orbs looking staring back at me. Were they staring at me, though? I don’t know.

“Hahaha.” He chuckled. Did his mouth even move? I don’t know… but he chuckled… I think. “You hurt me, Yeonha. Is that how much you trust in me? Hm?” Trust? Do I trust you? Don’t be stupid, Yeonha. Of course you trust him… I trust him?

‘Trust…?’ The word passed ephemeral through my mind. Maybe I imagined it. Who knows. With what strength I could gather again, I gripped his sleeve harder.

“P-Please…” I stuttered again… but it’s not my fault, right? I’m not alright… he will understand. “T-There’s too… too… many…” Too many… Too many… Too many? What was it again? ‘Huh?’ Oh, I see, growls, monsters… Too many monsters…

A sigh entered my ears. My focus came back to him. His hand covered mine. He was removing my grip from his sleeve. I can’t even resist. “Listen here, Yeonha, sick people should shut up, close their eyes, and sleep. So don’t worry too much, and get to sleep.” He said to me. He was turning again.

‘I should sleep?’ The idea sounded enticing. Yes. I was sick, I was tired. I should listen to him. I trust him, right? Do I? I’m sleepy. Ah… I want to see those crimson orbs again… Everything is turning black… But I’ll be ok. I can feel it. ‘Thank you, for not leaving me behind.’ Was the last thought that traversed my foggy mind as my consciousness faded.

 

“!” I woke up once again in shock, although unable to move too fast. “W-Where? Where am I?” I looked around. It looked like another camp, brighter. I can hear a lot of voices outside, but it doesn’t sound like a battle at all. ‘Was it a dream?’ The idea crossed my mind.

“Mm? Looks like you’re awake.” Turning around I could see Kim Hajin. “How are you feeling?”

“...” I looked at him for a moment, but I couldn’t avoid looking around a bit more. I couldn’t find what I was looking for. “I’m feeling better…”

“That’s great.” Hajin nodded as he looked outside for a moment. “Just wait for a moment, your porridge should be done soon.”

“...” I nodded, trying to sit up on the bed. A question on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t just let it out. “Thanks.”

“I’m just checking up on you.” Hajin shrugged. “You should thank someone else.”

“...” I looked down at my hands. They were pale. But I could feel more strength in them. “I know…” The dream was too vivid to forget.

“That’s good, I guess.” Hajin smiled softly at her.

“...” I tried to ask. But my mouth just opened and closed again and again. ‘Is it my pride? It can’t be, right? No…’

“He’s not close by.” Hajin said, pulling me from my thoughts as I turned to look at him with a questioning glance. “Cristopher. He’s not around the camp. Is that what you wanted to know, right?” He asked with a slightly confused face.

“...” I shook my head. “I just wanted to know if the food would take longer…” I lied. Of course I lied.

“Mm…” He raised his eyebrow, but shrug it off the next moment, as he turned around to go outside. “It’s done. I’ll bring it to you. Just stay there.”

I just sat there, seeing him leave what I assumed was some kind of building I was using as a recovery tent. ‘It’s not like admitting it would mean something…’ I thought to myself. It was stupid, to even think of lying about what I truly wanted to ask. But I guess it’s also irrelevant whether I lied or not. I knew he wasn’t around now, after all. ‘Thank you…’ I don’t know why, but I felt that I needed to thank him, even if he couldn’t hear it.

***

After the fight with Asura, and the ‘evangelization’ of his subordinates by Kim Suho’s talk-no-jutsu, Hajin put the crystals back to their correct position, making the past stable again. Yesterday’s enemies turned into today’s friends, as everyone enjoyed stories and food, surviving this calamitous world. Even if it was the past, the cadets still enjoyed their time and made the best out of the opportunity this place presented for them.

Hunting monsters, eating food with high magic power content, and enjoying time with the residents of the past. Things seemed to be good again.

“Aye, we’ve heard the news from Seoul. Currently, that place is split into several factions. Gangnam is divided up between Shin Myungchul and Chae Joochul.” One of Asura’s past subordinates commented as he sat around a campfire with Shin Jonghak, Kim Suho, and Chae Nayun, as well as other ex-subordinates.

“How is Shin Myungchul’s reputation?” Asked an interested Shin Jonghak as he leaned closer to the campfire.

“He’s a great person.” Another ex-subordinated asked. “He brought peace to the Gwanak region.” At his words, Shin Jonghak’s face brightened.

“Haha, I see.” It wasn’t a surprise for anyone that knew him that Shin Jonghak had quite a great admiration for Shin Myungchul, his grandfather. He was, after all, the starting point of his Hero family.

“Then what about Chae Joochul?” Chae Nayun asked, encouraged by what she heard about Shin Jonghak’s grandfather, she thought that maybe hers would be a similar case. Her grandfather was, after all, a great figure back in her time.

“He’s not trustworthy at all.” Contrary to her expectations, the answer she got was completely different. “I stayed in Seoul for a bit, so I know. He’s… sly, like a snake. He’s surely going to do something huge in the future.” The same ex-subordinate that brought news of Seoul mentioned, with clear disgust in his voice as he talked about Chae Joochul.

This is in turn, caused Chae Nayun’s expression to stiffen. It was to be expected. He wasn’t precisely a Hero, even in Hajin’s original novel, and this could be seen in The Novel’s Extra, as he was an emotionless person that would do anything for profit, even killing his own family if these were deemed useless.

Back with Yoo Yeonha, she was already eating her porridge, while her eyes looked slightly lost. Hajin thought that she might be thinking about something, given how active her mind was, so he just left her to be.

‘Now that I think about it, where the hell are those two?’ Hajin thought as he remembered Olivia and Cristopher.

***

“What are you thinking about?”

While everyone was resting and relaxing back in the city, a couple of kilometers outside the city, where the cadets originally entered the Recorded Past, Cristopher and Olivia were training. Or well, at least Olivia was training, as Cristopher sat leaning against a rock, he seemed somewhat lost in thought as he looked up at the sky.

“Weren’t you training?” He asked her as she sat beside him, drenched in sweat.

“I can’t keep going…” She admitted, leaving out a deep sigh.

“Is that so?” He asked, his eyes still focused on the night sky. Stars were covering the sky as far as his eyes could see.

“Is there something interesting up there?” She asked with a frown, as she turned to look up at the stars.

“Not really.” Cristopher said, but even then, his eyes never abandoned the stars. “How was your progress?”

“Not too good.” She finally said. “I know that you told me it was possible, it’s just that… It seems impossible.”

“Don’t think too much about it.” He said finally turning to look at her as he patted her head, causing her to stiffen. “I told you it’s difficult, and even if it’s possible, it can take years to manage. There are other ways to get stronger.”

“What’s wrong with you all of the sudden?” She asked as she looked away, his hand still patting her head. “You seem too… tamed…”

“Mm? You think so?” Cristopher smirked as he tilted his head.

“Yeah, you’re normally a lot more grumpy and snarky.” She grumped.

“I guess you’re right.” He chuckled.

“Is it because of Yoo Yeonha?” She suddenly asked as she turned to look up at the sky, trying to find whatever he was searching for up there.

“...” Cristopher glanced at her but again turned to look up. “What makes you think that’s the case?”

“I just noticed.” She shrugged. “You’ve been acting weird the moment you discovered she was cursed. You normally laugh at whatever the situation is, but this time was different. I can get the idea out of my head that it reminds me of… well… that time with the waitress…”

“...” Cristopher shook his head. “It’s not the same. But I guess, at the same time, it can be similar.”

“...” She glanced at him for a moment but turned back to look at the stars. “You and I… We’re not so different, right?”

“Don’t really know what you mean.” He said.

“Back there, with that waitress…” She closed her eyes as if trying to get an image of that time. “That wasn’t the first time you lost someone, right? And these days… I felt you were different. Afraid. Indecisive.” She turned to look at him again.

“...” Cristopher didn’t answer her, and just sat there looking at the stars.

“I know that pain.” She continued, not paying attention to his silence. “The pain to lose those close to you. I can understand why you would be afraid to lose someone else. My family… they were killed…” Her fists clenched hard. “I can see them… every time I close my eyes… whenever I sleep I dream of them…” She looked down a the ground, her auburn hair falling down her forehead, covering her eyes. “It’s haunting… I think… I think I understand why you don’t like to sleep when others are around…  I would do the same if my situation was like yours…”

Silence engulfed them both, as only the roaring winds of the wasteland, as well as the far roars of emerging monsters in the distance, could be heard.

“Is that… Is that why you accepted to train me?” She asked. “Because you thought we were-”

“You’re thinking too much into it.” Cristopher interrupted her as he stood up. “Come on. If you’re not going to train anymore, we should go back. Dinner should be ready by now.”

“...” Olivia looked at him as he walked towards his bike. After a couple of seconds, she too stood up and walked behind him. No more words were exchanged on their way back.

***

After coming back, the first thing Cristopher found was Yoo Yeonha calling Hajin desperately.

“What happened?” He asked him as he greeted Hajin.

“She’s just delirious.” Hajin shrugged as he put some water over the flames.

“Mm…” Cristopher just nodded as he looked at the pot. “I thought the food was ready.”

“Yeah, it is. You can grab yours from there.” He said as he pointed towards another pot filled with porridge. “Tell Olivia to fetch hers too.”

“What are you making then?”

“Ramen.” Hajin answered quickly.

“Ramen, huh?” Cristopher smirked. “She asked for it?”

“Not really.” Hajin grinned too. “But you know how it is.”

“Right, I’ll get my food then.” Cristopher said as he grabbed a plate to get his food.

“Oh, right. She asked for you.” Hajin said as if he just remembered.

“She did? Weird.” That was all he said as he started eating. “Well, whatever, could you call Olivia? I’ll see what she wants.” He said as he moved inside the building. Inside, at the end of the empty first floor, he could see a resting Yoo Yeonha, an empty plate of porridge at the side. ‘Does she have that second stomach for desserts all women have, but for trash food?’ Cristopher thought with a chuckle at the idea. “Hey, heard you were looking for me.”

Turning to look at the one that just entered, Yoo Yeonha sat up on the bed. “I wanted to thank you…”

“Mm? No need. But sure.” Cristopher said as he sat down beside the bed while eating his porridge.

“You and Hajin are always helping me.” She said. “I can’t just shrug it off. I need to at least thank you properly.”

“Whatever.” Cristopher waved at her dismissively. “How are you feeling?”

“...I’m good.” She said with a sigh at his nonchalance. “Hajin told me you treated me after the fight was done, and that helped me recover faster.”

“Yeah. With the curse lifted, treating you isn’t useless anymore.” Cristopher nodded at her. “That’s also why I’m here. You need to get back in top condition if you want to make use of the time we have left here.”

Yeonha nodded. “Where are we going back?”

“In a couple of weeks or so.” Cristopher said. “Hajin wants you guys to train a little bit more. It would do you good with how filled with magic power this place is.”

“Right.” She nodded before a question came up to his mind. “By the way… is it true?”

“Mm? What?”

“That Hajin doesn’t like Chae Nayun or that girl Emma?” She said with a curious face. “He mentioned something about not being able to afford to like someone right now… I honestly just think he’s being shy about admitting it.”

“...” Cristopher looked at her for a moment, gears moving fast inside his mind, before a grin formed on his face. “Oh, he’s surely shy. I bet he just doesn’t want others to know. But let me tell you, I think Chae Nayun is constantly in his head. It’s one of the things he thinks the most.” He said with a hushed tone, as if not wanting anyone else to hear. ‘Technically, it’s not precisely a lie, he does think about her a lot, just not in that way.’ He thought mischievously.

“I knew it!” Yoo Yeonha said, also in a slightly hushed tone, as new scenarios moved past her mind at a fast speed.

“But don’t tell him I told you that.” Cristopher winked at her. “I don’t want him bitching about it with me.”

“No worries. I’ll keep it a secret.” Yeonha smiled. “I don’t know why he just doesn’t admit it. Maybe it is because they’re so different. Socially speaking, I mean. Like, she’s from a prominent family, while he’s an orphan. That could be… maybe he just feels it’s a lost cause as she’s too far off his reach… or maybe it is because he thinks she likes someone else? Could that be it? It’s fairly known that Chae Nayun likes Kim Suho… or liked him? Mm… love is so complicated…”

As he looked at Yoo Yeonha muttering all kinds of stuff related to Hajin’s supposed ‘impossible love’, Cristopher could only hold in his laugh at what this girl would come up with. ‘Oh man, I should have done this way before…’ He inwardly grinned at the upcoming misunderstandings between Yoo Yeonha, Chae Nayun, and Kim Hajin.

Hours soon turned days, and after completely recovering thanks to Cristopher’s help, Yeonha, as well as the others, started to train once again, sparring with the residents of the recorded past, as well as between each other. Olivia kept winning against Chae Nayun when it would normally be different between a warrior and a sharpshooter. It was only possible because of Olivia’s hellish training all those months, and because her fighting style was far too different than other sharpshooters. She was even good at close combat, so she was being, in Nayun’s words, a ‘totally unfair bitch to fight’.

On a side note. And to the surprise of everyone present. Cristopher accepted to spar with Shin Jonghak on multiple occasions. There was nothing the hot-headed teen could do against him, but Cristopher still used the chance to teach a thing or two to him, as well as to mock him and rile him up every time. In his words, this was a way to help them grow ‘stronger’, for whatever the changes Hajin and himself bring to the world in the future.

Hajin also trained, while taking some time to recollect some of the treasures that he had planned, but never introduced in the story, which apparently was still there. He was finally shaved by a barber that had a special Gift for the job, making him get some stats in charm. He still left the beard, a trimmed one, on Nayun’s insistence. Something that Yoo Yeonha used to tease the guy, while Cristopher tried not to laugh so hard at it. She also teased both Hajin and Nayun whenever Nayun offered, or technically begged, to go on drives around the place with Hajin.

Days turned to weeks, and soon, the two weeks before they had to go back finally passed. And as such, everyone already recovered the crystals from their positions. Hajin was sitting on Gwangmyeong City Hall’s rooftop floor.

“Where did you get those high heels?” Hajin asked Yoo Yeonha who was walking towards him with the clacking sound of two new high-heels, ready to give him the crystal she had.

“They were a gift.” She smiled. “I’m quite popular, you see.” She said as she handed him the crystal.

“Oh, by the way…” As he received the crystal, a thought crossed his mind. “While you were under the influence of the curse… you didn’t enjoy it or anything, right?” He asked, genuinely curious.

“...What?” As to which, she was genuinely shocked. “What do you mean? Why would I enjoy it?”

“Huh?” He tilted his head. “Nevermind then. Just ignore what I said.” He shrugged. ‘Well, it seems that the discarded idea I had that she liked being bullied was also discarded in this world.’ He thought.

“Anyways, I’ll be going now.” She said as she turned around to leave, and just as she was leaving the place, Kim Suho was coming in.

“Kim Hajin! Here you-?” He was confused as once he threw the crystal, Yoo Yeonha grabbed him by the arm and dragged him towards the stairs.

“Come with me~” She said with a joking, but still slightly strict tone, as she dragged him off.

“I want to be with Hajin.” He protested. “Ah, hey, what are you doing!?” He was finally dragged away by him.

‘...’ Hajin didn’t know what to think about it, but he just shrugged it off. Yoo Yeonha sometimes acted strangely, so he just started to ignore those moments. And soon, the last crystal reached the rooftop.

“I’m here, Kim Hajin.” Chae Nayun said, coming up three minutes after Suho disappeared, carrying the last crystal. With it, now Hajin had all the crystals holding the past together. “Are you going to destroy them now?” She asked him, sitting down beside him as he grabbed all of the crystals.

“Yeah, get ready.” He simply answered.

“Can I watch?”

“Sure.”

With all the crystals on his palm, he infused Stigma’s magic power into them. The tattoo on his upper arm glowed blue, causing the magic-power-infused crystals to fuse together, forming a small sphere.

Holding it between his thumb and index finger, he squeezed the crystal orb, breaking it. With a clear, sharp sound, the crystal disappeared into purple dust. And soon, change quickly followed, as the scenery began to disappear in a similar way. The sky shattered like glass, as the horizon started to blend into itself. They both watched in silence as the Recorded Past slowly disappeared.

“Hey.” Chae Nayun called him, not turning her eyes away from the disappearing sky. “Is this what it means to forget?”

“...What are you talking about?” He asked her. None of them looked at each other.

“Nothing. I was just wondering if forgetting meant that the person disappeared from my heart like this.” Hajin finally turned to look at her. She sounded calm, but her eyes were red. He knew what she was thinking about, but even then, she didn’t cry.

“How would I know?” He answered. “Why are you asking about that all of a sudden?”

“...” She stood in silence for a few seconds. “No matter how much I try to remember,” she finally continued. “I can’t recall Mom’s voice anymore. Her scent, the happy days we spent together… I can’t remember them well. It’s like they disappeared.”

Both of them turned their heads aside. One, because she couldn’t hold the tears anymore. The other, because he wasn’t sure what to answer with. “Don’t worry about it too much.” So he went with something he once read. “You can’t smell anything from a flower that doesn’t wither.”

“...What’s that?” After a moment, Chae Nayun slightly chuckled. Her laugh was distorted by her feelings. “So cringy.”

“It is what it is.” He snorted. “Hmm…” at his apparent failure to make her empathize, he took out something out of his pocket. “Here, you can have it.” He gave it to her.

“...Eh?” She looked at it, it was a small box with a lock and an analog clock marked 01/01/2018. It was a time capsule.

“It’s a ticket.” He said, looking at her obvious confusion.

“What’s this?” She asked, not entirely sure.

“A time capsule. You know what that is, right?” He asked, half-mockingly, half-genuinely curious. It was something fairly used in the past, but maybe not anymore.

“...Do you think I’m stupid?” She snorted. “Of course I do.” Although this time capsule was quite special, it was one of the many items he wrote about but never used in his story. “But what is it for? And why are you giving it to me?”

“You see the number there?” He asked, pointing at the analog clock. “You can change it and go back to that time period for a while. More precisely, you’re looking through the memory you have of that time, buried deep inside your subconscious.” He calmly explained to her.

“...” Her eyes widened as she looked back at him. Millions of thoughts could be seen passing through her eyes. But she only managed to blurt out a single word. “...Really?”

“Yeah.” He nodded at her.

“...Why aren’t you using it instead?” She said, causing a small tinge of pain in Hajin’s heart. 

He was, after all, planning to use it for himself. Maybe one day, when he couldn’t remember his parent’s voices, and their appearances were getting faint. But now, he was thinking that bringing that item back to the real world wouldn’t be that good of an idea, so instead, he would give it to her to use it.

“I don’t even know my parents’ faces.” And he made a good excuse for it. “So there’s no point in me using it.”

“...” She looked at him intently, before putting down the time capsule. “Then I won’t use it either.”

“What?” He was shocked.

“It’s cowardly. Either we both use it, or we both don’t. That’s honor.” She said resolutely.

Stunned, and slightly angry, he pushed Chae Nayun’s temple hard with his finger. “...I should really smack you.”

“What?” She rubbed her temple as she glared at him. “Are you crazy? Fight me then.” As she said it, she raised her fists and took a boxing posture.

“Shut up and just use it. You’re going to regret it otherwise.” He let out an exasperated sigh.

“...” Chae Nayun just pouted and picked up the time capsule. Despite what she said, she really didn’t want to give up on the opportunity that easily.

As he looked at how she intently stared at the time capsule, a question came to his mind. “Where do you want to go?” So he asked her.

“...To 2013.” She simply answered as she changed the numbers on the clock. “March… 13th.”

“Why then-” He tried to ask out of pure curiosity. But before he could finish, Chae Nayun had already disappeared without leaving behind any trace. “...Mm” Stretching, and looking around he could notice that almost everyone was already back in the present. “I thought you were already gone.”

“What can I say?” Cristopher asked as he too stared at the disappearing past. He was sitting on top of the rooftop’s entrance, where none of the two could notice him before. “Looks like we’re the last to go.”

“...I apologize.” Hajin suddenly said.

“You don’t need to. It was yours, to begin with.” Cristopher chuckled.

“I should have talked to you first.” He said while shaking his head. “You too, have something you would like to remember, right?”

“Well, I can’t say that’s not true.” Cristopher said calmly. “But… sometimes… forgetting your past can be liberating.” He said, before chuckling. “Besides, it’s not needed. I have quite a good memory, you see… it’s difficult for me to forget. Really, REALLY difficult.” He said in an apparent calm tone, but Hajin couldn’t help but notice the self-mockery tone underneath it.

“...I see.” He just said as the whole City Hall was engulfed in light. The world soon started to turn dark for him.

“‘You can’t smell anything from a flower that doesn’t wither’... those were really good words. Sadly, she is not the smartest of the bunch.” Before everything disappeared, Hajin could hear one last comment from his friend, making him chuckle.

“Hey, Kim Hajin!” The next moment, a ringing voice woke Hajin, forcing him to half-open his eyes to green vegetation, clear mountain wind, and a bright blue sky adorned with gem-like sunlight “There you are~” and in front of him, covered by it all, was Chae Nayun, smiling brightly. She was, maybe, the most beautiful part of the scenery, he noted.

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