The World after the Fall - Chapter 18[Updated at: 2021-01-11 07:15:40]
Chapter 18: Silver Bind (2)
The <Great Lands>, the promised land.
Adapters who had lived for some time within the land knew what the ‘Promised Land’ stood for. The land did not promise any chances, but promised one thing.
It was related to death.
“…you can only come here when you die.”
Jaehwan realized why he wasn’t able to move to the <Great Lands> and had instead come to <Chaos>. If he had his body, he would’ve been able to move onto the <Great Lands>. But Jaehwan broke out of the tower after clearing the tutorial with only his spirit. That was why Tree of Imagery categorized him as a ‘dead man’ and sent him here.
It was the place where all spirits withered away from the Great Lands gathered.
That was Chaos.
Jaehwan looked at the naked people who were sent out in spirit form. They got out of the roots but were sent to the trunk. Most of them were men but some were women. However, they all had looks of despair. Some of them did not even realize that they were dead.
“So, this is the ‘last chance’ given by the damn <Great Lands>.”
Mino spoke as she looked upon the summoning ground.
“If you die here, you’re finished. The spirit will be sent as nutrients for the Tree. There are no more chances.”
Jaehwan thought about the Red Fox members who had scattered away.
“So, the people here still have a ‘chance’?”
“Is there a way to find a body?”
“It’s a really small chance but if you survive here…”
It seemed brutal. Even after death, you still needed to find a way to ‘survive’. Mino looked bitter as she at the people.
‘That’s why she’s envious of me.’
She, too, had come here upon her death. It was a memory that no one wanted to think. Jaehwan’s question, “How did you come to <Chaos>?” meant that he was asking, “How did you die?”
The rune faded and soldiers came over the bridge from the fortress entrance.
“Damn, there’s a lot this time also. Let’s get to work!”
A bearded man in a uniform shouted and soldiers began working to hold up the wounded.
“Hey! Get yourself together! You died because you’re so helpless!”
The newcomers were escorted into the fortress by the soldiers. It seemed that it was their job to take care of the dead.
“Hey, put this on and go stand in the line.”
Tens of people lined up in front of the office. Upon a small stage in front of the office stood the bearded man. He looked around and then spoke,
“You all probably know where you are by now. You might be thinking that it’s not true, but it is. You all are ‘REALLY’ dead. Most of you probably died in the first battle of the <Great Lands>. Your heads were probably crushed or your intestines were blown out like insects.”
Everyone’s expressions became grim. What he said was true. Most of the people standing there had died as soon as they entered the <Great Lands>.
“Do any one of you know why you died?”
Nobody answered as the bearded man stayed silent. He took out a cigarette from his clothing and lit it. He was giving them time to find a reason. It allowed them to come to a conclusion.
Some of the women were shaking with cold as the rags that covered them weren’t enough. The bearded man threw his cigarette to the ground and stepped on it. Then one of the men asked with a shaky voice, “Was it… because we were weak?”
It seemed like he was being crushed from within just by saying it. The bearded man scoffed, “Yes, but to be more precise…”
He drew in everyone’s attention.
“You all died like insects because you did not put in enough work.”
The people began to mumble to each other. They disagreed. Every one of them here had put in enough work. The Tower of Nightmares wasn’t easy to clear if they did not try. Some even glared at the bearded man.
“You look like you don’t agree. Think about it. Did you try really hard? To your ‘last’ breath?”
He intentionally emphasized the word ‘last’.
“You have died once, so now you will know. You, after getting killed with your intestines gutted open, head chopped off, being raped and left for dead, will know. You will know what I mean by ‘dying breath.\'”
The people moaned and cried, the memories of their deaths were still fresh. They could not look at the bearded man. He was right after all. After they died, they now realized that they had never tried so hard to the point where it might kill them.
“But you all are lucky. You will be given another chance. A chance to try harder.”
Some looked up at him.
“You need to know only one thing. If you die here, you will ‘really’ die.”
Those were terrifying words for the people who had died once.
“So what you need to do here is only one thing. Survive. Keep surviving.”
“Live, and work on your skills. Empower yourself. Wait for a chance.”
Wait and grow in power.
“That’s when the miracle will come. I assure you, the ones who try hard will get a chance to leave the Tree of Imagery. Try hard to avenge your enemy. Do what it takes to return what you have suffered. That is all I can say.”
The people who listened were speechless. Some even shivered.
The speech was over. The soldiers around them clapped emotionlessly. Then, they began guiding the newcomers into the office.
“Men, this way. Women, that way. Come.”
The soldiers approached the bearded man as he came down from the stage.
“It was a great speech!”
“What a great speech it was, Lieutenant!”
The bearded man took the water from the soldier and mumbled,
He was uninterested. He had probably repeated the same speech over hundreds of times. The words all sounded great, but he knew they were all lies.
No one among them would be able to leave this Tree of Imagery. Like everyone did when they were in the <Great Lands>, most would die on their ‘First Hunt’, and those who survived would continue to barely live.
Then someone said, “James, that was some speech. I thought you only did that when you ask girls out.”
James narrowed his eyes. There was a man and a woman approaching the gate. The woman was a beauty, she wore a black robe and had bright red hair. There was no way he would not remember such a beautiful girl.
“Did you forget me already? C’mon, James.”
Something flashed in his head and the woman’s features changed. Long black hair and glistening eyes. Pale skin that was almost white. James brightened up.
“…Wow! Who do we have here? Isn’t it Mino from the Dark Forest?”
Mino frowned as she quickly changed her features again.
“Don’t say that out loud!”
Jaehwan glanced at James and Mino. It seemed the two of them knew each other.
“So, you’re now a Lieutenant Captain?”
“Yeah, that’s why I did that speech.”
James scanned Mino’s body up and down as if he was starting a check at the gate.
“I waited too long for your speech to end. It would be great if you let us pass quickly.”
“What brings you all the way to the North entrance? Don’t you normally use the other side?”
“Yeah, I just happened to come this way today.”
Mino didn’t seem to want to go into detail and quickly answered,
“I don’t need to ‘Identify’ myself right? You know my face.”
Jaehwan then looked at Mino. She then sighed and smiled.
[You don’t know about ‘Identify’ also?]
Jaehwan nodded, and Mino sent another Whisper.
[Everyone entering the fortress must identify themselves. You usually pop up the User Details to prove it… you know how to do that, right?]
Jaehwan had not done it, so he did not know. But, he had a bigger problem. He could not use the Interface System at all. Ever since he had broken out from the Tower of Nightmares, he could not use any of the abilities related to the Interface System. That was when Lieutenant James spoke, “Mino.”
“I’m sorry but things have changed.”
“…What? What do you mean?”
“Our policies have changed. We need certification from everyone who enters the fortress now.”
Mino looked confused.
“You mean the old certification that [Big Brother] used to distribute?”
“Why? Wasn’t it gone after we were allowed to use the Interface System within the Tree of Imagery?”
“I heard that the system has some problems right now and doesn’t work properly.”
Mino then remembered her skill to identify failed. She thought her skill was broken, but it seemed like it was related to this.
“Anyway, there are a lot of cases where the User Status window is corrupted. That’s why all the fortresses in <Chaos> now requires ‘Certification’ to identify themselves.”
It was annoying. Mino ranted and looked at Jaehwan.
[Hey, do you have certification?]
Jaehwan did not answer.
[…I guess you don’t.]
Then something came up in her mind. There were a lot of instances where the man made some rude mistakes such as asking about her past and asking taboo questions.
Mino grinned teasingly.
“I forgot my certification, but won’t this do? We’re not strangers after all.”
Mino smiled and handed James something. It was an envelope with white powder. James looked at it and answered,
“Good medicine. How many horns was this?”
“You must be having good hunts these days.”
James smiled as he accepted the envelope stuffed it into his pocket, satisfied. He then turned to Jaehwan and asked, “Is he your friend?”
“I don’t know him.”
Mino walked past James and grinned teasingly.
“Uh, he said he lost his memory…? Or something.”
Jaehwan stood without a word and James spoke,
“Then I need your certification.”
“I don’t have it.”
“Huh? Then you can’t come in.”
“Do you need it?”
James and the other soldiers became dumbfounded.
“Because I can’t prove myself?”
“But I can prove to myself that I am me. Why do you need anything else?”
“Haha, are you trying to fool around with me?”
The soldiers began closing in as they gripped their weapons. Mino grinned as she watched from the entrance of the wall.
[Why don’t you ask me for help now? If you want, I can help you.]
Even if Jaehwan was powerful, he was only an individual who needed to follow the rules of this world. This world had rules.
‘Maybe I overdid it.’
Even without a Certification, it was easy for her to persuade one or two soldiers. But something weird happened. The energy changed within Jaehwan. His left foot stepped back and he lowered his shoulders. It was a slight change that only Mino noticed, and if he were to lay his hands on the swords…
Mino quickly used Whisper.
[Wait! Don’t do that!]
She sounded desperate.
[I know you’re strong, but you will become a criminal if you kill them!]
Jaehwan didn’t seem to want to budge and Mino bit her lip.
[You can’t fight the whole fortress! Do you know what that means?]
However, that did not change Jaehwan’s stance. The foolish soldiers did not know, but Mino shook at the powerful presence gathering within Jaehwan. It even gave her an illusion of Jaehwan killing everyone here and strolling in.
The devastation from yesterday came back to her. The terrifying stab that burned the entire forest.
Mino realized she had made a mistake.
This man wasn’t just strong. He was also not bound by any laws.
She knew then that he would draw his sword. He would kill all the soldiers and if needed, fight the entire fortress. The matter of ‘if he could win or not’ didn’t seem to bother him.
Mino became pale.