155. Encounter (1)
Arujeon faced a giant riddled with injuries. The giant’s movements were noticeably slower. The huge scars left by Quenoa Strof, who sacrificed his life, ran along the giant’s body. The giant’s left arm had fallen off. Its side was torn like a rag and hanging loose. The castle, which had been unscathed by the best magicians and knights of the entire kingdom, was crumbling.
The knights were in despair. Quenoa Strof was dead. Evernode’s walls had fallen, and people’s lives were trampled under the giant’s feet. People who had believed in something their whole lives were stunned, unable to even be angry, as it all crumbled before them in an instant.
“We must go. Now is the chance to cut the giant’s throat.”
Arujeon’s condition was far from normal. His body was as battered as the giant’s after fighting monsters one after the other. The only thing filling his head was the desire to kill his target, nothing else. The hatred of losing Quenoa and the deaths of his comrades under the giant’s footsteps drove Arujeon forward.
Cheek. Arujeon rubbed his left cheek and blinked. The saint, Isis, blocked his way. Blue. It must have been Isis’s eyes. Arujeon looked down at Isis, who held his arm, and sent a questioning gaze as if to ask why she was stopping him.
“Get a hold of yourself. The Archduke entrusted you with command on the field. You can’t just run off recklessly with hatred and desire for revenge.”
Isis’s voice choked with emotion. Arujeon’s eyes slowly regained focus.
“We have to move now. We can’t let the giant cross the northern line.”
“Don’t just look ahead and try to go alone.”
Isis frowned in frustration at Arujeon’s words and turned his body around. There were knights. There were soldiers. Having lost their commander, they looked to Arujeon, their only hope. Strength flowed into Arujeon’s hand holding the holy sword.
“Move forward, looking at the people who believe in you.”
Arujeon looked down at the holy sword. Move forward, looking at others. Arujeon had no memory of looking at anyone other than himself. That was like a dream shattered long ago.
Isis’s hand touched Arujeon’s. As her small hand clenched tightly, Arujeon gently closed his eyes. It seemed as if a faint light could be seen at the end of the dark world. Arujeon opened his eyes again. A power he had never seen before surged from the spirit of the holy sword. That power didn’t just swirl around the sword but also flowed into Arujeon’s body. Arujeon gripped the sword hilt tightly.
“Will you stop here?”
Arjen opened his mouth. One by one, the knights raised their heads. It was an unfamiliar situation for them. Until now, Arjen had always fought alone, thinking it was natural to do so.
“Stopping won’t rebuild the fallen walls, and the dead archduke won’t come back to life.”
These words were meant to encourage the soldiers, and also for Arjen to regain his composure. Arjen turned his head to look at Daphne’s face. Daphne’s expression was caught between determination and fear. Arjen spoke again.
“From now on, I will go to defeat the giant. Those who want to stay in despair, stay. And watch as the revenge for the land and the archduke is carried out by someone else’s hands.”
Arjen raised his holy sword. Mesmerized by the light flowing from the sword, people rose to follow Arjen. It seemed as if hope had finally taken shape.
“I’ll go with you…!”
“Me too! Me too!”
The number of soldiers following Arjen grew. Arjen simply glanced back once and continued walking. The people of the North kept moving forward. The giant roared towards the sky. The snowstorm intensified. Arjen walked against the pouring snow. Now it was the giant’s turn. Arjen stepped forward and aimed his sword at the giant.
“For the archduke!!”
Monsters charged in. Soldiers and knights clashed with them. Arjen gathered the new strength flowing through his body and leaped forward, kicking the ground. Snowstorms brushed past. He raised his holy sword. The giant saw the approaching wave of immense power and let out another roar. The scripture of the holy sword pierced through the snowstorm, becoming light and rushing towards the disaster.
“What… is this?”
Arjen muttered in a daze, looking at the scene before him. Snow lay beneath his ankles. He recognized the faces of the people, but he did not know what was happening. The soldiers and knights shouting in the distance were Evernod’s forces. And the one running with the holy sword raised was none other than Arjen himself.
“What’s going on?”
It was an illusion. He knew it was an illusion. As proof, he couldn’t feel the touch of snow. However, the cold seemed to climb up his legs, along his blood vessels, and up his spine.
What do you think all this is?
“Stop playing games and tell me straight. What is this?”
Arjen’s voice was full of murderous intent. The aimless murderous intent swirled like an eddy and returned to Arjen. The darkness that engulfed Arjen laughed. He wanted to swing his sword, but his arm wouldn’t move. Arjen’s strength was powerless before the laughter of darkness.
As you see. That’s you. If you have eyes, you should see and know.
“Stop playing word games. Who are you and what do you want from me?”
It’s not your business to know who I am. That you over there is what you need to know. To be precise, it was you.
The darkness spoke with an amused tone. Arjen had no such memory. Arjen bit his lip. So, what does that have to do with him? He wanted to ask why he was shown such a useless illusion.
If you still don’t know, take your time and think about it.
The voice of darkness disappeared. Arjen was left in the snowfield again. Far away, the giant’s massive body was collapsing. Arjen stood tall over it, catching his breath. The giant’s blood flowed like a river, staining the land of Evernod red. The knights and soldiers of Evernod swarmed around Arjen like bees.
“…This is ridiculous.”
Arjen laughed sarcastically. The illusion didn’t end. Arjen crossed his arms and glared at the snowfield, as if to see how far this illusion would go. A snowstorm blew in. The darkness seemed to press on Arjen, even pulling on his senses.
“If that’s your hope, I’ll play along forever.”
Arjen sat down on the spot. The illusion continued to show Arjen standing on the giant’s corpse. People surrounded him, cheering, and his expression showed unfamiliarity with the cheers. It was an expression he had never worn in his life. Arjen exhaled thinly, watching his bewildered face. It was an unpleasant, sickening expression.
“Is this all?”
Don’t try to hide your anxiety by pretending to be strong.
And then, the scenery blurred. The sky lowered, the gales subsided, and the snow melted. And in front of some landscape that appeared, Arjen’s eyes were shaken.
Arjen turned his head. His mind felt empty, then was buried by a sensation that suddenly came to him. Warm and cozy, yet nostalgic weight and touch, and scent. Unknowingly, a name formed from Arjen’s staggering lips.
“What are you spacing out for? Do you know what day it is today?”
Arjen furrowed his brow and turned his head. Then he shuddered at the sight of the gray, shining eyes. Memories that should not have resurfaced flooded over him like a deluge.
“What? You’re making a face like you’ve seen a ghost. I won’t play any tricks, so get up quickly.”
Kalla spoke lightly and stepped away from Arjen. Arjen glanced at Kalla, rolling on her feet, and slightly furrowed his brow. Today, what day was it today?
“What day is it today?”
“It’s not about the day. It’s our first retirement anniversary. Now, you’re in charge of breakfast today, so hurry up and make it.”
Kalla playfully poked Arjen’s back. Arjen was pushed by Kalla from the bedroom to the hallway, and then from the hallway to the kitchen. Looking back, Kalla was waving her hand cheerfully with a mischievous smile. Arjen washed his hands absentmindedly as he turned on the tap at the sink.
The voice was cold. Blood was flowing from Arjen’s tightly clenched fist. The uncontrollable murderous intent was released and devoured the space. However, there was no target for the murderous intent. Like a wheel spinning in midair, the murderous intent circled back and was absorbed by Arjen.
Someone who looked just like him was with Kalla. Arjen was watching a play from the audience seats of a theater. The scene of Kalla and that someone continuing their happy lives was projected continuously. He gradually calmed his mind. This was an illusion. Such a thing never happened.
Do you think it’s an illusion?
The voice whispered. Arjen gritted his teeth.
Well, just keep watching.
The voice of darkness disappeared. The illusion continued. Arjen stared at the scene with bloodshot eyes. What? He could have enjoyed such happiness? Arjen distorted his face.
“An insult to Kalla.”
The fog contains memories. It’s a fragment of dead memories. You can’t say for sure that she isn’t real.
Before fully understanding the words of darkness, the Arjen in the illusion pierced Kalla’s chest. Blood flowed from Kalla’s chest, and the Arjen in the illusion shed tears. Kalla didn’t cry. As if not feeling any pain, she tenderly embraced the illusion and whispered something into its ear. Arjen couldn’t hear what she said. He could only blankly watch Kalla collapse.
The fog feeds on the dreams that were never fulfilled and grows.
In the illusion, Arleon cried out to the sky as his house crumbled and turned into a pale fog. He gripped the reappeared sacred sword and began to slash at the fog. The formless mist was cut away without mercy under the light of the sacred sword.
In other words, what you are encountering now is a fragment of the memories held by that woman. You have been deprived of even the chance to meet him.
Arleon remained silent. Rather, his expression seemed to gradually settle down. Breathing. Arleon inhaled deeply and exhaled shallowly.
“Is this all you want to show me? It’s so obvious that I can’t even laugh. What, if I weren’t a hero, I could have met the fragment of memories held by Cala? Bring me something more original.”
You seem to be misunderstanding something.
This is not a process to persuade you.
It’s the process of sharing memories with someone else.
A chill crept up on Arleon.
It’s a consideration so that you can understand what will happen next.
Before Arleon could ask, the fog dispersed and the scene changed. This time, it was a battlefield. Hundreds of thousands of monsters were flocking somewhere. It’s the battle when the comet approaches. In the illusion, Arleon led the soldiers, cutting through the pouring monsters and wielding the shining sacred sword. The mages fired a barrage of firebolts.
Finally, the same time had passed. It was when cracks occurred in time, space, and the world itself.
Arleon tried to maintain his composure and spoke. He responded to the darkness, but there were more than one or two uneasy factors. How much time had passed outside, what had happened, and what on earth was this all about? And separately from those suspicions, what was the anxiety that was creeping up from deep within his heart?
Now, it’s time.
The soaring comet shattered into pieces. Arleon blankly stared at the falling fragments of the comet, and the darkness chuckled and let out a low laugh.
Greet him, Arleon. That’s the protagonist.
As Arleon stood dumbfounded, the world shattered and collapsed piece by piece. And in the illusion, the Arleon who had cut through the comet approached the real Arleon step by step.
it just can’t ever be easy can it?
Okay, this was too sudden compared to all the other plot twist.