Chapter 52 – Paradise After the End (3)
Translator: WH Editor: Sasha
We got through the crowd and finally managed to reach the café.
At the café, there were people with anticipating faces waiting for me.
Heretic Questioner. The guild master of the Ten Thousand Temple shook my right arm.
“I never thought you’d actually clear the 20th floor in just five days! It’s the greatest feat that’s ever happened since the tower was built. I sincerely respect you, Hunter Kim Gong-ja! No. We’ll have to call you Death King from now on!”
“Right now, I still doubt whether this is a dream or not, but…”
Crusader sipped her iced coffee.
“Honestly, I thought that you three, Black Dragon Witch, Sword Saint, and you, would fail the raid and die. But you even cleared the 20th floor by yourself? Amazing. If you have a secret know-how, please let us know.”
I sat on one side of the table.
“You just need to lead a good life though?”
“That’s very practical advice.”
Crusader smiled bitterly.
“Anyways, it’s nice to see you after such a long time. Everyone. How have you been?”
“Well, it’s only been five days since the last time we met.”
Puff. Holding a pipe, Count smoked some tobacco.
“At first, we stayed in the throne room just like we promised. A promise was a promise. But after a while, all of a sudden, the Empire’s NPCs started moving around. It took us by surprise!”
[T/N: Originally called Reception room.]
It was when I defeated the Devil King on the 12th floor.
I defeated the Devil King and received a quest. It was then that the time that had been stopped began to flow again.
“I didn’t think that far. How’d it go?”
“The NPCs of the Empire thought we were intruders who invaded the Imperial Palace!”
The Heretic Questioner tottered.
“Someone in fancy clothes yelled, ‘Catch those intruders!’. Then the Knights of the Empire and the elite soldiers came to catch us. My my my, it sent a shiver down our spines!”
“But this kid had a lot of tricks.”
Venomous Snake, guild master of Chen Mu-mun.
A one-eyed Hunter ruffled Heretic Questioner’s head.
“First, we obediently surrendered and then we escaped from prison. Was what I meant. For real now.”
“Aha ha ha! Wasn’t it fun? How could we have known that such a secret passage was hidden in the underground prison! It felt like I went back to my childhood days!”
“Hmmm? I heard you were caught by a Bulgarian mafia when you were a kid.”
Heretic Questioner giggled innocently.
“That’s why I recalled the fun times from my childhood. Prison! Underground! Escape! Ahhh, these were all ‘decorations’ that brightened my childhood beautifully! Everything has become a nostalgic memory for me now.”
Venomous Snake sighed deeply.
While I was working hard to hack up the Devil King’s minions, the guild master’s party seemed to have been pretty active as well.
“Uhuh. I know all too well that we all had a wonderful life out there in the outside world.”
The witch shrugged and sat down at the table.
“The Count was born in a slum village in India. Venomous Snake, your parents were gang leaders. Crusader had suffered some hardships in Venezuela.”
“So we were all garbage when we were in the outside world. Don’t you all agree?”
The mood at the cafe instantly turned gloomy
Only the sound of Crusader sipping her coffee flowed quietly.
“…That’s not something we should talk about here.”
Crusader quietly glanced over at me.
“Do you mean to treat Death King as a member of [Us] now?”
Said the Witch.
“You guys probably don’t know, but Death King had made a decisive contribution to clearing the tower.”
“That’s something we also know.”
“No. You all don’t know.”
The Witch shook her head.
“In the raid this time, we didn’t have a single casualty. Even on the 11th floor, where a lot of Hunters participated together. This was all thanks to Death King who taught me the strategies and tactics to clearing the floors.”
All the Hunter’s eyes were on me.
The Witch opened her mouth.
“This man, I want to make him the hero who represents our tower.”
Silence hung over the cafe.
The Witch looked at the Hunters that were sitting around the table one by one.
“Count. You disclosed too much of your wealth.”
“It’s true, I can’t say otherwise.”
“Heretic Questioner. You’ve killed too many people.”
“Yes! It was a necessary sacrifice!”
“Crusader. You don’t like receiving attention from other people at all.”
“It’s just how my character is.”
“And Venomous Snake. You…”
“…I’m sorry. You’re too ugly.”
Venomous Snake pouted. A dejected expression. But he soon bowed his head.
It was a portrait of a sorrowful middle-aged man.
“Sword Saint, as we all know, is an old man that is only crazy for the sword.”
“And me, I have to constantly act behind the scenes so it can’t be me.”
After looking at those sitting at the table one by one, the Witch finally looked back at me.
“On the other hand, Death King doesn’t have any impression on the public yet. If we try hard enough, we can make it so that he becomes a perfect hero however much we want. This is an opportunity. An opportunity to revamp the tower’s previous image.”
“Would that really be the case?”
Heretic Questioner stroked his chin.
“We’re all people that have been around for a long time, so it’s true our presence has grown a little weaker! We’ve continued to print out magazines that contain updates on the activities of Hunters, but in the outside world, the sales volume is steadily decreasing!”
“Yes. That’s what I mean.”
“Then we’ll have to start ‘making’ our image from today onwards!”
Heretic Questioner stood up.
And just like a puppy, he began to circle around me.
“Hmm. You’re a little short. But that’s fine! As you can see from my example, the photos will be able to cover all that!”
No. Wasn’t he just emphasizing that his height was his charming point?
There was a big smile on the short Hunter’s small face.
“[A short but passionate man, Death King]. If you use a catchphrase like this, it’ll work!”
Without having the chance to say anything, the Hunters gathered around me.
Witch. Count. Venomous Snake. Crusader.
Regardless of which guild they were from, all of them came close to me, and carefully examined my whole body.
“I’m asking just in case, but are you seeing anyone now?”
“Uh… No, I’m not.”
“What about since you entered the tower? Any ex-lovers?”
“That means, there’s no need to worry about a scandal. This is the best!”
I didn’t know what was best about it.
The top-ranking Hunters began to chatter among themselves.
“I’ve been watching him from the side, but this man, when he smiles, he gives off a cunning impression. So I’m thinking of going ahead with the mysticism concept. Anything else, wouldn’t matter since he would just have to put up a good poker face.”
“But we’re in a pinch, he has never dated anyone before.”
Said the Crusader.
“We need to create a scandal that doesn’t exist here. Otherwise, the people out there are just going to spread false rumors….”
“No worries. I’ll take care of it.”
“Ohhh! Will it be a scenario where love blossomed as you stood side by side fighting together for five days? Hahaha, I like it! I can make a story that people would definitely dig!”
“What about a scenario where he donated the majority of the money he earned so far to an orphanage? In case something like this might happen, I made regular donations anonymously(無名). Let’s just say the donations were actually from Death King.”
“Mmhmm. I’ll leave it to you, Count.”
What’s going on here?
“For starters, let’s call a photographer! Let’s take some pictures!”
Heretic Questioner smiled brightly.
“Call all the designers, too. We’re going to have to at least give a picture to the press by the end of the day anyway. We’ve already taken a video of the battle on the 11th floor, so we’ll upload it on the internet when the right time comes!”
The Witch stopped me and smiled.
It was a smile that told me about her numerous profound experiences.
“Death King. You won’t have to do anything. We’ll take care of everything. You… that’s right. You just have to do what you’ve always done till now.”
“No, you said it was a mysticism concept. I thought we didn’t need someone like a designer?”
“It’s just today, please.”
The Witch gently put her hands together.
“Everyone in the world wants to know about you. One picture. Let’s just take one picture and show it to the people. Huh? Don’t worry, Death King. The designers who signed an exclusive contract with us are amazing.”
I came to a realization 30 minutes later, that it was never going to be just one picture.
Up to ten designers came and dressed me up. They styled my hair. Whenever I was dressed and my hair was styled, the photographer’s camera flashes started to go off.
“Yes, that’s good. This time, hold the dagger! Like a wolf in a thicket waiting to hunt its prey!”
The Hunters huddled behind the photographer. They whispered as they examined my pose with hawk-like gazes.
“Dressing up in a suit unexpectedly fits him well.”
“Maybe we should go with a somewhat playful vibe.”
“No can do! Because the playful concept is mine first!”
“That’s true. Then what should we… Then how about a flaming youth with an adventurous spirit?”
“Let’s go with that.”
Very good, my ass.
-Poohahahahahahha! Pooha, poohahaa! Keuhahahahahahhahah!!
Bae Hu-ryeong was rolling about in the air since a while ago.
1 hour passed, and then 2 hours went by, but the photo shoot didn’t seem like it would end anytime soon, so my patience reached a limit.
“I’m not doing it! Let’s stop all this!”
I stripped off the suit I was wearing and threw it on the floor.
“Hunters just have to climb the tower diligently! What media image?! What photoshoot?! Because all these useless things are always on your mind, for several years, the lot of you couldn’t even clear the 10th floor!”
Did my heartfelt words work? The air became awkward. All the Hunters, including the Witch, stared at my face.
“…Wasn’t that a pretty good speech?”
“Mmhmm. It felt like you really are a flaming youth with an adventurous spirit!”
“The headline of this time’s magazine will be [The Hunter Who Climbed the Tower].”
“We also had that passion in our twenties….”
It didn’t work at all.
“Ahhh, no thanks! I came here to talk about the 20th floor. I’ll give you all the rights from the 10th to the 19th floor, so make sure the 20th floor is mine!”
The Hunters nodded again.
“I like your greedless concept, too.”
“How about this for tomorrow’s newspaper headline? [Death King, Shocking Announcement. Declares to distribute the rights of the 10th to 19th floors to all the other Hunters. Declares that he’s satisfied with being able to clear the tower.]
“It will be appropriate to write an article on the second page like this, [Death King, known to have regularly donated to an orphanage].”
“Yeah. Let’s just say that we’re giving him the 20th floor as a sign of gratitude and respect to Death King.”
“Perfect! Ahhh, what a beautiful finish!”
They didn’t listen to a single thing I said.
These people were too preoccupied right now by the idea of making me a hero.
“Just give up, young man.”
The Sword Saint spoke bluntly.
The old swordsman stood with his back against the pillar of the building.
“The same thing happened when I was ranked number 1. Something like being old would make a favourable impression on the world, and asking me to grow my beard differently. I heard all sorts of things then.”
Oh my God.
“This was what they wanted to show the outside world. [We’re living an honorable life too] It’s kind of an inferiority complex.”
The old man murmured.
“They abandoned everything in the outside world and came to the tower anyway. What’s so pathetic about it….”
The Sword Saint stepped away.
“If you stay here, it’ll be endless. After you finish the photo shoot, they’ll tell you to take a video and then after that, they’ll tell you to prepare for a press conference. They’re that kind of people. If you don’t run away now, the whole day will go by just like that.”
It sounded horrible.
Without the need to even think about it, I said.
“Let’s run away quickly!”
Focusing aura on the tip of our toes, we ran. A cry could be heard from behind us, “Ahhh!” but we didn’t stop.
Cried the Witch.
“I’m holding a press conference tomorrow, so come back in the morning if you can! You shouldn’t be seen by others, so go around secretly! Even if you want to run away, get on the roof and run! Be careful!”
Bae Hu-ryeong laughed hysterically.
-Hey. That person isn’t an angel, nor is she a Goddess. Isn’t she more like a mom?
That really was the case.
And I didn’t even know what kind of existence a Mother was.
Before I knew it, the sun had set.
Following what the Witch advised us, we went towards the roof and ran. Looking down from above, there were still hundreds of people crowding in front of the cafe. A swarm of reporters from the broadcasting station was there too.
‘We could’ve been in trouble if we went out from the front door!’
We skipped through the crimson-colored roof.
The place we stopped at, was the bell tower built in the square.
The guard who was guarding the bell tower and fiddling with a smartphone recognized us belatedly.
“Hukkk! Swo-, Sword Saint-nim!”
The Sword Saint landed at the bell tower easily.
“I’m sorry, but can you excuse us for a moment?”
“Ahhh. It’s… That’s….”
“Five minutes is enough.”
The young guard was flustered. He must’ve been taken aback when a living legend asked him to excuse himself. Then our eyes met, and the guard’s eyes opened wide.
“Are you perhaps the Death King!?”
“Uwaaa. Woww! It’s my first time seeing you in person, woww! Awesome!”
The guard scurried through his bag. A romance novel popped out from the bag. He seemed to have brought some random things to kill time when he was on guard duty.
“Thi-, this is the only paper I have right now! May I have your autograph, please?”
Sword Saint took the novel as if he was familiar with this situation.
“Do you have a pen?”
“He-here it is!”
“What’s your name?”
“Well, I haven’t received a nickname yet, so…!”
The old swordsman signed in neat strokes.
The guard took the sign like an innocent boy and looked back at me.
I don’t know why, but his eyes were very bright.
“Dea-, Death King-nim, may I also ask for your signature too!”
“I’ve never signed anything before though….”
“It’s my lifelong wish! Please!”
Dazed, I was given a pen and a novel.
How is his lifelong wish to receive my autograph? How light was his life?
Feeling a little awkward, I put down the novel. Sword Saint’s autograph was already written there. While I was trying to write my autograph with a pen, I suddenly realized that it was the first time I had written the name “Death King”.
Before I realized, Sword Saint’s and my handwriting was already side by side.
“Tha-, thank you! Thank you so much!”
The guard bowed his back. Afraid that the autograph might disappear, the guard quickly took the novel back.
When the guard took the novel, I was filled with a strange feeling, and it was hard for me to even determine what it felt like.
“I’ll honor it as a family heirloom! Don’t worry! I’ll never sell it to anyone else! Oh, thank you both so much! Have a happy weekend!”
The guard quickly went down the steps of the bell tower. Thrilled, he said “Yayyy! What a lucky day!”, and his excited voice gradually faded downwards.
When the voice was finally gone, A speck-like crimson red sun that was setting could be seen from the bell tower.
And only the silent breathing of the two remained.
Both of us were silent for a while.
“Errmmm, Sword Saint-nim.”
“Hey, young man.”
Sword Saint’s and my words clashed and faded away. It became like that because both of us spoke at the same time.
An awkward silence, but it didn’t last long.
“Sword Saint-nim, to you, it must look as if I have killed a tremendous amount of people. A mass murderer that must be punished.”
I looked at the Sword Saint with a calm face.
“But if you look in the mirror, you will also see a mass murderer who has killed a great number of people. That person is you, Sword Saint-nim.”
Sword Saint was looking at the sunset, not me.
“But Sword Saint-nim, you wouldn’t punish yourself for that. This is because you have a clear standard for killing someone. And the standard is [punish those who hurt many people].”
While the twilight spread, I continued on saying.
“I also had clear standards, and that was why I did what I did. And the standard is [punish those who hurt many people].”
This was what I had prepared in advance since the time I lied to the Sword Saint that I was a prophet.
“If Sword Saint-nim killed someone because they killed many people before, I killed someone before they could kill many other people.”
It was a meticulous lie that I specially prepared for the Sword Saint.
“So, Sword Saint-nim. You and I are actually walking on the same path……”
But before I could finish my lie, the old man gently called out to me.
“You don’t have to try to justify yourself like that.”
“Sword Saint-nim, I….”
I shut my mouth as he called out to me in his low-pitched voice.
While staring at the sunset, the old man muttered.
“I’m different from the other Hunters.”
At first glance, the remark seemed to come out of the blue.
“Black Dragon Witch. Count. Heresy Questioner. Venomous Snake. Crusader… they’re all kids who suffered harshly in the outside world. But I’m different. I was born without shortages, and lived without any shortages.”
I knew the old man in front of me was from a prestigious household. Rather than knowing, I did a full-scale investigation on him as a foe, and looked him up. They say he came from a prestigious family recognized throughout Northern Europe.
“When the tower appeared in the world, I had already built my own family. I ran a company, I had been married, I had children, I had seen my children have grandsons and granddaughters. I’ve seen enough success already.”
The Sword Saint’s voice was calm.
“But I questioned.”
“What do you mean by questioned?”
“Is my success all due to my capabilities? I suddenly felt curious.”
The old man slowly pulled his sword out of its sheath.
“Wasn’t it purely because I was born into a good household?”
The sunset shone.
The sword was crimson-red even though it had not cut anything.
“Wasn’t it just because I was a ‘bird’ born into a good family, received a good education, met good friends, and grew up only by drinking the best things? I was proud of the fact that I achieved everything myself…But maybe it was just a delusion of someone trapped in a birdcage.”
The Sword Saint explained.
“No, that’s not it.”
It was a blade-like sharp voice.
“That can’t be.”
A scarlet heart, like the sunset, was possessed by him.
“I’m sure I was born with something good. However, I wanted to stand tall and proud on my own. I wanted to prove that my pride was not a delusion.”
“…So that’s why you came to the tower.”
The old man nodded.
His wrinkles were deep and thick.
“He who enters the tower can never go back to the outside world. Only my body. In this place where there are no prestigious households, no families, and no aides who support me… I wanted to prove my way of life with my own body.”
However, the Sword Saint murmured.
“I seem to have let my guard down unknowingly.”
“Open Skill Card. Disclose.”
A silver card floated from the hand of the Sword Saint.
Effects: You can see the opponent’s kill count. It does not include indirect murder. Only murders committed with a clear intention are counted.
※However, you are not able to know the method of killing.
“I was foolish.”
The Sword Saint lowered his skill card.
“I was going to only trust my eyes and hands, but… Before I knew it, I was relying on [Skills]. I saw it through the skill rather than through my own eyes, and I had blind faith in the judgment of the skill rather than in my own judgment.”
“Young man. I’ll ask you one last time.”
The old man’s blue eyes turned to look at me.
“Have you ever killed a single innocent life?”
Is that all?
So that’s why he said I didn’t have to try to justify myself. I was convinced.
Yes. To justify is to do it with one’s own ‘head’ as I just did.
No matter how elaborate a lie maybe, it’s just to fool someone’s mind, and not for winning over their hearts.
Persuasion, and not convincing.
“I’ve never done that, Sword Saint-nim.”
Just like what I did as the pillar of the tower,
I said whole-heartedly.
“I won’t do that in the future either.”
The Sword Saint shut his eyes gently.
As if he was reflecting on my expression and voice.
A long silence passed.
The card flew away.
The card that flew into the air, was cut with the crimson-red blade.
A card split in two.
A golden ray of light from the sunset pierced through the cut gap.
“I believe in my eyes.”
Soon, the cards became sprinkles of light and dispersed.
The skill was destroyed.
“You’ve had a hard time for the last five days. Thank you for going along with the stubbornness of an old man.”
The Sword Saint sheathed his sword.
“It’s a bit late to tell you now but, it was quite a pleasant experience seeing you break through the 12th to 19th floors. Take a good rest today. When the press conference ends tomorrow, the 21st floor will be opened immediately after.”
The old man stomped on the floor.
Just before skipping to the roof of another building, he glanced at me.
“I’ll look forward to seeing you perform on the next floor. Death King.”
And in an instant, he was quite a distance away from the bell tower.
For a long time, I stood absent-mindedly.
I opened my mouth reluctantly.
“Sword Emperor. What just….”
“Just now, Sword Saint-nim acknowledged me, didn’t he?”
-I think so.
My heart was at ease.
My knees went weak and I slowly sat down. The floor made of stone was chilly. I stared blankly at the red sky that was slowly fading and began to turn dark.
“Wow, it’s really… It’s really over. The 20th floor is also mine now. And the guild masters will take care of the press…Yes. It’s really all over.”
Bae Hu-ryeong giggled.
-What do you mean over? Someone else might think you just cleared the 50th floor or something.
“Just from what I feel right now, it’s like I just cleared the 90th floor.”
-Tch tch tch. Zombie, sometimes I get confused about whether you have nerves of steel or are you just another coward.
“Actually, I sometimes get confused too….”
Anyway, I wrapped up all that I’ve done till the 20th floor.
When I thought of what I had done, I was engulfed by a strange sense of satiety.
[The Goddess of Protection was impressed by your achievements!]
A voice that hadn’t been heard for a while rang.
Come to think of it.
Despite defeating the Devil King of Fall Rain, the Goddess of Protection remained silent. No, except for the time when I broke through the 12th floor for the first time, the Goddess of Protection was actually always silent.
[The Goddess of Protection acknowledges all your accomplishments!]
As if venting out all she wanted to say all while being silent all along, a series of voices could be heard.
[The Goddess of Protection concluded that even though you have lied about being an Apostle of the Goddess, in actuality, you are fully qualified to be an Apostle.]
[Goddess of Protection allows you to employ her name in the future!]
But there was something strange about her words.
“…What does she mean by using her name in the future? What does that mean?”
[The Goddess of Protection is hurt by your words, given the fact that we’ve been doing well together so far.]
It became more and more incomprehensible.
“We’ve been doing well together so far?”
[The Goddess of Protection asks you to look down.]
I looked down.
There was nothing but the stone floor.
[The Goddess of Protection asks you to look to the left a little bit more.]
I shifted my gaze to the left.
At that side, my legs and waist were there.
On my waist, there was a legendary weapon that was bestowed by the Goddess to the Aegim Empire’s Founding Emperor, in other words, Lefanta Aegim’s Holy Protection Sword, which was worn with a sheath.
“…Wait a minute. By any chance?”
[The Goddess of Protection advises that you focus your attention on your waist.]
I felt strange.
I recalled the scene where I was fighting against the Devil King’s army on the 12th floor.
At that time, I was sure that there was a voice stating that the Goddess of Protection was squeezing out the last drop of her power. As soon as the words were over, a white ray of light burst out of something I was holding on to.
There was no other miracle after that.
“No. Wait a minute. Don’t tell me the [Goddess of Protection] that was mentioned from time to time in the fight against the Devil King is…”
I said it with a heart full of disbelief.
“You… were you a ‘sword’?”
After a while.
The voice answered.
[The Goddess of Protection has affirmed your question!]
Oh my God.
To think the Holy Protection Sword I was using all this while, was actually a sacred sword.
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