The World after the Fall - Chapter 17[Updated at: 2021-01-11 07:15:40]
Chapter 17: Silver Bind (1)
[What do you know about the <Great Lands> when you didn’t even go into <Chaos>? …huh? Me? I’ve never been there either.]
-Gainach, Lord of Sloth
The next morning, Mino was dumbfounded when she heard from Jaehwan on their way to the nearest fortress.
“…What did you want me to talk about?”
“What about me?”
“I want to know what was it like when you cleared the Tower of Nightmares.”
It was a boring trip, so chatting between them was natural. Mino would have considered it as such, but the problem was the topic.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit rude to ask that all of a sudden?”
Asking what happened in the tower was a taboo between Adapters. That’s why people did not even mention it by the name ‘Tower of Nightmares,’ and instead called it ‘Roots’.
Nobody wanted to remember the time of when they were a [Product].
It had been eight years since Mino cleared the tower, but she still had nightmares from when she managed to survive through the Roots.
“I want to listen to your story in return for saving your life.”
Mino bit on her lip and spoke.
She thought about it for a second and began her story.
“My homeworld was called ‘Arkal’.”
10 years ago, a Tower of Nightmares appeared in Mino’s World 7651. She did not remember how it looked now, but what she remembered was that just like how her world was nothing special, so was the tower. It was one of the mass-produced towers created to [Cultivate]. But the people’s lives and deaths that happened within the tower weren’t mass-produced.
After beating the tutorial and the real game, she reached the 100th floor. There, she, along with her friends, met the Demon, or [Cultivator]. She still could not forget what the demon said after looking at them disinterestedly.
-Bah, this is a failure. You’re all Non-Adapters.
The forest was still dense. Jaehwan pushed on, “What happened next?”
Mino seemed reluctant to continue.
“It’s a common story of a girl getting out of the Roots and surviving through the Great Lands.”
“Care to go into details?”
Mino let out a deep sigh.
“…If you insist.”
She still remembered her excitement when she set foot upon the <Great Lands>. Demons spoke to her.
-No money, or education matters within the <Great Lands>. The only thing valuable thing was the numbers.
It was the promised land after a long nightmare. Mino thought everything would turn out great. She thought with her items and skills, she would enjoy life on the <Great Lands>.
But she was mistaken.
The <Great Lands> was not the utopia that the Demons spoke of. Mino had to gather skills instead of money and increased Spirit Power instead of education.
More, better, and higher.
And Mino was a Non-Adapter, not to be associated with such words. She was at the far bottom of the food chain. So there was only one thing she could do. She always had to run, run, and run.
“After that is as you know. Most people come to Chaos for similar reasons.”
Mino frowned as she spoke, seemingly pained to have to reminisce about her past.
“You’re cruel to make me remember of all that.”
“I’m sorry. But I wanted to hear it.”
Jaehwan did not need ‘Mino’s story’. What he wanted was the common story of Adapters who cleared the Tower of Nightmares.
“…It’s okay. I’ll just consider it as having paid my debt for you saving me yesterday. Besides, it wasn’t all that bad to speak of it, I think time really did pass quicker.”
Mino seemed refreshed as she spoke. It was as if she just finished a long novel that she had been hesitating to read.
One forest ended and another forest began. Now there were more shallow trees. Mino then spoke as if she was waiting.
“Okay, it’s your turn now.”
“Shouldn’t we play fair? I talked about mine, so you should talk about yours.”
She was about to say that she would consider it as repayment but changed her mind.
“You still want to know who I am?”
“No, I just want to know about your story.”
Knowing about a person meant one needed to know the story behind them. It was obvious that who he was would be shown from his story. Jaehwan thought she suited the name ‘Fox’ more than those Red Fox members that he killed yesterday.
“Did you forget that I lost my memory?”
“…You and your memory loss. Are you still upset about what I did yesterday?”
Jaehwan shook his head and Mino eyed him strangely. Jaehwan did mention he did not know anything about <Chaos>. However, that was strange. There was a possibility of someone not knowing about <Chaos> if he was outside, but anyone inside it should know.
That was the kind of world <Chaos> was.
“So… you don’t have any memory of when you walked into <Chaos>… I mean, any memory of the <Great Lands>?”
“You can say that.”
He had never been to the <Great Lands>, so he was not lying. Then Mino looked at Jaehwan with an expression that he saw for the first time on her face. It seemed-
“If that’s true… I envy you.”
It was the expression of someone who was truly envious.
“I envy that you don’t have any memory of that place.”
Jaehwan became curious and asked, “What part about memory loss do you envy?”
“Most people here will envy you also.”
Mino did not answer.
Then a tower that seemed to belong to the fortress appeared in the distance. They were nearing their destination.
“That’s Gorgon Fortress. It’s the largest one around here.”
Jaehwan felt strange looking at the walls of the fortress. So, even within <Chaos>, there were groups of people living in communities. It seemed the world still had basic human civilization.
-Most people come to Chaos for similar reasons.
Jaehwan became curious. Under what circumstances did Mino come here to have said that? Jaehwan asked about it casually. Then, he realized he had made a mistake.
“…You asked ‘How’ I came here?”
It was a cold voice. Mino’s expression was frozen solid.
“You will regret that you even asked once you find out the answer to that.”
She then walked ahead.
The forest ended and there was now a medieval castle in front of them. He had never seen a fortress as large as this. The Atopos that humans built to the 50th floor was probably a shack compared to this. The walls had various traces of reinforcements and repairs that showed that the fortress had been standing here for quite some time.
But, there was an interesting place by the entrance. It had a great magic rune.
Jaehwan felt something familiar from it. He knew a similar place. It was similar to the ‘Summoning Ground’ of the 1st floor of Tower of Nightmares.
“I-I don’t want to die!”
On the magic rune, naked people were cowering. Some were grabbing their chests and wailing, while others were moaning in pain. Some had destroyed faces as if they had been attacked while some seemed to be sleeping peacefully. But Jaehwan knew at once.
They all had different expressions, but they were in fact, in one emotion.
Jaehwan knew when people felt such an emotion.
At that time, the rune shone and another group of people appeared on top of it. People naked, shivering in fear. Screaming, moaning in despair…
He felt a chill run down his spine.
“So, they are…”
“Do you know what you asked me now?”
Mino seemed pained from even watching.
“…You asked ‘how’ I came to <Chaos>? Don’t you ever ask that to anybody here.”
Mino then took a dagger out from her clothes and made a small cut on her pinky finger. The blood spilled out from her finger and into the air, then it became white powder and disappeared.
In this world, the spirit disappeared into white particles.
It wasn’t surprising as he had seen it hundreds of times and also saw when he killed Red Fox. But that’s why he forgot. He had forgotten that the human body did not disappear. They bled and died in agony.
They did not disappear into powder.
Jaehwan finally understood the truth of this world.
“I see… so people here already have…”
Jaehwan looked at the summoning ground with a sad expression and Mino nodded.
“Welcome to the world of the dead, <Chaos>.”