The World after the Fall - Chapter 99

[Updated at: 2021-01-11 07:16:10]
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Chapter 99: Path of the Depth (8)


9th Region. Palace of the Lord of Darkness.


Laika barely managed to finish his report. Then came a low calm voice.


“I see… so that’s what had happened.”


Laika flinched at that voice. He even thought of running away instead of reporting it himself. It was that severe of a loss. They had lost three Greater Generals and ten Lesser Generals. It was too great to overlook. Besides, Sameng Garam was only a Greater General, but had the power equal to that of a Commander. And yet, he had died in <Chaos>. How did that happen?


“So… Garam died.”


Laika bowed his head in fear. The man in front of him was the right-hand man of the Lord of Darkness. He was mentioned by his title.


Strategist of the Darkness.


There were a lot of strategists and advisors, but when mentioned in the <Great Lands>, it usually meant this man.


Sameng Hoon.


He was the 2nd Commander of the 9th region and the Prince of the Sameng Family. He was also the older brother of Sameng Garam.


“I always thought he’ll move on like that.”


“…”


“How was his last moment? Was he satisfied?”


“…Y-yes, sir,” Laika answered. This man was most feared not because of his sheer might, but because of his vicious methods and deep knowledge.


“Look up.”


Laika looked up. He did not want to meet his eyes with the man, but he had no choice.


‘Please don’t kill me,’ Laika thought. He couldn’t understand what Sameng Hoon was thinking. Laika slowly lowered his head. He couldn’t bear to look into Sameng Hoon’s seemingly all-seeing eyes.


“A few days ago, I made a trip down to the <Roots>. I wanted to get some fresh air.”


…Roots? What direction was this story heading in?


“It was a world hidden by those [Nightmares], so I was looking forward to it. And it really was. I did not know such a world existed.”


Laika quickly thought. What was he talking about? Was he trying to send him out on a scout mission to the remote lands? No, he wasn’t. Then, Laika became hopeful.


‘Is he forgiving me?’


Maybe this man was thinking of forgiving him for some unknown reason.


‘I mean, I couldn’t do anything at all.’


Who would’ve guessed a [Product] could be that strong?


“And I brought that as my souvenir.”


Sameng Hoon pointed at a corner of the room. There was a picture Laika had never seen before.


‘What is that?’


It was a drawing with a beige background, with the crooked dark figure in the center. On the bottom, it was written [Ceci n’est pas une pipe], which he did not understand. They were not words that were used in the <Great Lands>.


“Isn’t it great?”


“It really is, sir!”


Laika agreed quickly. He didn’t know anything about it, and Sameng Hoon had brought it back.


“That drawing, what do you think it is?”


Laika looked at it again. He didn’t know.


“Is it… a cigarette pipe?”


Fortunately, it seemed the answer was close to being correct.


“Yes. It is an object that LOOKS like a cigarette pipe.”


Laika felt a certain uneasiness at that emphasis.


“Laika, then, can you read the phrase below?”


“Sorry, sir. I don’t understand the language…”


Sameng Hoon then waved his hand, then the phrase was translated on the space above.


Ceci n’est pas une pipe.


This is not a pipe.


Laika looked at it dumbfoundedly. It was a drawing of a pipe, but the words said that it wasn’t. What was that? Sameng Hoon then spoke astonishingly.


“Isn’t it great?”


“Huh? Y-yes…”


“It drew a pipe, but denied that fact. How did the creator think of that?”


Laika couldn’t even understand what he was talking about now.


“Laika, do you really think that is a pipe?”


“Y-yes… it looks like…”


“No, it’s not a pipe.”


Laika couldn’t continue.


“However, we still call it a pipe. It doesn’t have the feel of a pipe, or a place where we can put stuffing to light it up. It’s just a drawing after all. But we still call it a cigarette pipe. Isn’t it weird?”


That was correct. That was, after all, just a drawing of a pipe. Not the pipe itself. Laika nodded.


“Y-yes! That is right sir!”


“Yeah, but that’s the same with everything else. There are a lot of pipes all with different looks. But we still call them pipes. Isn’t that… weird?”


“Y-yes, it is, sir!”


“So, after giving it some thought, we come to this question. What, then, is a ‘real pipe’? Is there such a thing?”


Laika looked at the pipe again. It was a pipe, but it wasn’t at the same time. He understood what Sameng Hoon was saying, but became uncomfortable at the same time.


Was this really about the pipe?


“It’s an amazing piece of art. It’s hard to think of it that way when you’re an Adapter living inside a system.”


Laika nodded, but he couldn’t get it. He understood what kind of question the picture posed. But what about it was so important to think about it?


“Do you see why it is important now?”


“Yes, sir. It is a very amazing piece of work.”


Sameng Hoon nodded.


“You know art.”


“T-thank you, sir.”


“Then, it’s for you to answer now.”


“Y-yes?”


Laika flinched. Something wasn’t right.


“I had a question when I saw the drawing.”


“…”


“What is a ‘General’?”


Sameng Hoon looked down at Laika.


“It… it’s a being, powerful and dignified, amongst all in this land.”


“Is it? Really?”


“Yes, sir.”


“I see. But, then…”


Silence fell.


“Who is it referring to?”


“…Y-yes?”


“Does it mean Bargas over there?”


Sameng Hoon pointed at Bargas the Frost, who was standing in a corner of the room.


“Or Masiha?”


He then pointed at Masiha the White, in the other corner.


“Or me?”


Finally, he pointed at himself. Laika wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew it wasn’t going in his favor.


“Y-y-yes, sir…”


“I see. So, that’s a General.” Sameng Hoon smiled, “Then, what are you?”


Laika felt his heart sink.


“Are YOU a General?”


How should he answer? Laika couldn’t find an answer to that.


“You failed to destroy a [Product] and lost all your comrades… and yet you still came back alive. Are you still a General, a powerful and dignified being?”


“Th-that’s…”


He couldn’t answer. If he claimed he was, then that meant he was a disgrace to all Generals. And yet, if he said he wasn’t, then he was disgracing his rank as a General. There was only one answer to this question, after all.


Laika realized.


‘….I see.’


His fate had been decided the moment he walked into this room.


Laika silently closed his eyes.


Sameng Hoon stared at Laika, stuck onto a canvas with his head cut off, and rubbed his chin.


“Hmph. We’ll call this, [This is not a General]. What do you think?”


“It’s wonderful, sir.”


Bargas the Frost bowed his head. It seemed that he was not at all bothered by what happened, as if he had seen this many times. Sameng Hoon laughed and asked, “Where are they now?”


“We lost access to the [Narrow Door] so we are not sure, but we’re guessing he has arrived at the [Void Factory] by now.”


“So, they’re right by the <Depths>.”


Sameng Hoon nodded.


“Prepare to depart. Call in the 5th and 6th Commanders.”


“We will need approval from the Lord to summon Commanders. How should we proceed, sir?”


“The Lord is busy at the moment. Don’t bother him with petty issues like this.”


“Yes, sir.”


The Generals left the room, and Sameng Hoon looked over at his collection. Those were souvenirs he collected from World 294. There were drawings, cartoons, and even gaming consoles. He then stopped in front of the last item. It was because of this piece that he had traveled to World 294.


A living body. Pale and fragile. It seemed that it had been sleeping for a long time, so it was malnourished. This was the real body of the [Product] that was running rampant inside <Chaos>. It was the body of Jaehwan that Sameng Hoon had barely managed to acquire through a lot of bribes to the [Nightmares] of the Union.


“Courage to kill myself? Bold words.” Sameng Hoon smiled, “Let’s see if you have that courage too.”


Then, the door to the room opened.


“Commander!”


Sameng Hoon was bothered during his ‘Alone Time’.


“What is it? I told you not to bother me when I am alone.”


“S-sorry, Commander. But I have a question.”


“What is it?”


“We don’t have the [Narrow Door] anymore. How do we go into <Chaos> now?”


Sameng Hoon scoffed, “Didn’t he already say? To come after him if we have the courage to kill ourselves.”


“Huh?”


Bargas was shocked by what he just realized.


“You don’t mean…”


“Yeah, we’ll do what he wants us to.”


Sameng Hoon spoke as he drew power to his hand. The crime of bothering him during his alone time was unforgivable.


“You’re the first.”


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