I woke up on a small bed in Evandel's cabin. The temperature inside was pleasant, and my arm was serving as Evandel's pillow. I could hear her breathing calmly in her sleep.
Looking at her, all sorts of emotions swept through me: pride, gratitude, sadness… Although she wasn't my real daughter, I likely saw her as one.
I felt sorry and ashamed, and this feeling would only grow stronger in the future.
A long time had passed since I came to this world. The farewell that seemed so far away was ever closer. Soon, once the final arc ended, I would most likely be sent back to Earth, and this world would go on without me.
I looked at Evandel, who was sleeping soundly. Morning light shone through the window and gently caressed her face.
Looking at her, an unknown feeling began to rise in my heart.
'I don't want to leave.'
That thought surfaced in my head for the first time.
Just like the song I once heard in the other world… I was more afraid of not being by their side than them not being my side.
A sigh left my mouth. By the looks of it, I was done sleeping for the day.
I picked up the smartwatch I placed on the drawer next to the bed. Then, I began to look through the social media accounts of Heroes who participated in the Orden mission.
Nayun, Suho, and Team Leader Yeonha came to visit me at the hospital. #ImFineNow #OneStepStronger
Being a social media addict, Yi Jiyoon's most recent post was from last night. Tigris had torn off her arm, but thanks to quick treatment, she managed to avoid being permanently disabled.
To protect. My final sword.
Next was Chae Nayun's page. She posted a picture of two greatswords she recently bought.
I widened my eyes the moment I saw them. My Gift, [Observation and Reading], activated.
[Unknown Artifact Greatsword] [???] [???]
I didn't know which sword Chae Nayun used as her main weapon. But even [Observation and Reading] couldn't see through [Unknown Artifact Greatsword]. It meant it was a high-rank artifact at the very least.
If she bought it, she got lucky. If Essence of the Strait lent it to her, they probably didn't know its true value.
I love you all. Thank you and sorry. I will continue living my life to the fullest.
Kim Suho only had a post comforting the victims of the Orden incident. As expected of the Swordsman of Wish, he had more than 50 million likes.
[Temple of Justice]
Spirit Speech Master Aileen has been appointed as the Temple of Justice's 5th chairman. "I will do my best to atone for my predecessor's sins and march forward proudly."
Temple of Justice, Essence of the Strait, Yun Seung-Ah, Creator's Sacred Grace, Shin Jonghak… I looked through social media posts for about 20 minutes before carefully leaving the bed.
I walked up to the window of the cabin, then received the memories Spartan transmitted.
The conversation between Boss and Yi Yeonjun and the secret message between Yi Yeonjun and Bell replayed in my head.
"…Yi Yeonjun." I muttered calmly.
He was currently the most mysterious character. I didn't know anything about his motive, but I knew that he wanted to kill me.
"Bell, you bastard…."
I understood why Jin Sahyuk cursed at Bell 24/7. Bell had known about Yi Yeonjun, and he had hidden Yi Yeonjun's existence on purpose.
A bitter taste remained in my mouth. The best way to avoid being killed by Yi Yeonjun was undeniably to kill him first. But that would make Boss sad. She might even hate me for it. I knew how much she longed for Yi Yeonjun from the rare instances she talked about him.
So I didn't want to kill him. It wasn't that I couldn't. I just didn't want to. I was tired of being hated.
While I was standing deep in thought, messages suddenly popped up in front of me. They looked just like the ones I received from the co-author.
[★Announcement★ The final phase is starting soon.]
[The temporarily stopped Demon Realm Transformation has resumed.]
[As the original author, you may view a map of the regions undergoing Demon Realm Transformation.]
[It is recommended that you visit these sites.]
[Do not forget. You have the right to ask me a question.]
The co-author didn't even make me mad anymore. His messages just passed through me like water. After all, getting mad wouldn't change anything.
But the fact that this was the 'final' phase made me a bit sad.
Evandel tossed and turned on the bed. She was pulling on the blanket as if to find me.
With a grin, I turned on the smartwatch and messaged Yoo Yeonha.
[Hey, let's meet in two days.]
Her reply came quickly.
[Two days later?]
[Yeah, there's something I need to tell you about the Demon Realm Transformation.]
Yoo Yeonha's guild and businesses had to stand in the forefront of humanity's battle against the Demon Realm Transformation.
In the next moment, I got curious about something else.
[By the way, are the two swords Chae Nayun uploaded to her social media page from your guild?]
[Yes, we bought them and permanently lent them to her. Those were the only two greatswords on the market.]
"Mm." I nodded and typed my reply.
[She's using both?]
[No. Nayun said she'd use the Crusader's Zweihander only. We lent them both so she could see which one she liked. Once she returns the other artifact, we'll lend it to another Hero. We couldn't appraise that one though. It must be because it's damaged.]
Damaged. Surprisingly, Yoo Yeonha was bad at judging weapons.
Well, I understood where she was coming from since 95% of inappraisable artifacts were trash.
[Don't give that to someone else. Bring it with you when you come to see me. We'll meet in North Hamgyeong Province…]
I spent two days with Evandel, making her pretty clothes, crafting comfortable furniture, and installing the equipment so that she could talk to her friends whenever.
"I should be able to drop by once a week." Today was the day of farewell. I kneeled in front of Evandel and said with a smile.
"Okay!" Evandel was tearing up but didn't cry. Instead, she replied cheerfully. Just as I'd grown in the past 8~9 years, Evandel had grown as well. I gave her a warm hug one last time and then called Spartan.
"I'm leaving then."
"…Ah, so next week, are you coming on Tuesday or Wednesday?"
Evandel smiled brightly and nodded.
"Then see you Tuesday."
"Okay~ I'll be waiting~"
After waving my hand, I told Spartan of my destination. With a nod, Spartan teleported me to that place.
The place we arrived at was Korea's North Hamgyeong Province. Although it was close to a high-rank monster danger zone and Russia's Vostok region, where the Evil Society was located, the area had undergone great development through national defense weaponry and magic engineering.
"Keep your eyes out for any strange occurrence! If it gets through, private citizens will be in danger!"
Demon Realm Transformation was underway at the northernmost border of North Hamgyeong Province. The Korean military, along with Heroes dispatched by the Hero Association, were monitoring the situation beyond the [Essence Barrier].
"When are the Hero reinforcements coming?! There's a battle every hour, shouldn't there be at least 4 more Heroes here!?"
I glanced at the grumbling soldier. Judging by the symbol on his chest, he seemed to be a captain in charge of this area.
"My apologies. We're messaging the Association, but they seem to be busy taking care of the aftermath of the recent incident…"
"Who cares about the aftermath!? We need to find out what that thing is and do something about it! Those damned Association bastards…."
The captain yelled and pointed at the field burning black in front of him. About 200 meters of land had turned into the Demon Realm.
At that moment, four pillar-sized boars stepped on the demonized land.
"Ah, damn it! I told you to kill them before they touch that land!"
Immediately after the captain shouted…
The boars' flesh melted, and they began to charge at the humans as undead monsters.
[Undead Wild Boar] [Intermediate-rank grade-2]
Wild boars had turned into an intermediate-rank monster just by touching the land. The captain soon took out a sword. I also walked toward them with my Desert Eagle in hand.
The army quickly prepared themselves for battle.
"Fire on command—!"
Each of their magic bullets cost a million won, but magic bullets without attributes were incapable of killing undead monsters. It seemed their plan was to weaken the boars with magic bullets, then finish them off with the captain who could use magic power.
I decided to help them out.
I fired the Desert Eagle. The magic bullet quickly flew towards the dozens of magic bullets shot by the soldiers, displaying a beautiful white color.
The bullet pierced the four boars one-by-one.
The bullet moved too quickly for normal human vision, making it look like the boars suddenly fell. While the soldiers were taken aback by the sudden phenomenon, wooong— a golden snowmobile suddenly appeared in the air.
It was the Dwarven Supercar I gifted Yoo Yeonha.
"You're already here?"
Yoo Yeonha drove down with a smile.
"I just arrived."
We shook hands while receiving the gaze of countless soldiers. Soon, the captain who recognized Yoo Yeonha's face rushed over.
"This is Captain Yi Joonkyung. I heard you were coming, but I never expected you to come from the sky!"
"Keep standing on lookout. Don't mind us."
The captain took the hint and quickly went away. Yoo Yeonha and I watched the demonized land.
The ground had turned reddish-black, and ominous flames were flickering above it. It looked like a powerful enemy was going to rise from the ground.
"Why did you want to meet me here?"
"I think something will happen here today. I wanted to see what it was and plan accordingly."
I looked at the system message in front of me.
[Demon Realm Transformation of North Hamgyeong Province is underway. A special change will occur in 20 minutes.]
It was the first 'special change' on Earth. I figured I should be here to witness it.
"Really? I don't have much time… Oh right, here."
Yoo Yeonha gave me a long piece of metal.
"What's… oh, that greatsword."
"But it didn't look like this on the picture Chae Nayun posted."
"I infused magic power into it to see what it would do, and it changed into that, like all trash artifacts that can't handle magic power. It's really not worth the 3 billion we paid for it."
Yoo Yeonha shrugged.
I infused Stigma's magic power into my eyes and began to appraise it with Observation and Reading. There was a big difference between seeing the item in a photo and seeing it in real life.
Observation and Reading quickly appraised the item. I blankly stared at the window that popped up in front of me.
"If you're interested, you can have it." Yoo Yeonha spoke.
I flinched. This had to be the work of my luck.
"You're giving this to me? Really?"
"Yeah, I don't see why not."
"…If you say so, I'll gladly take it."
I put the sword on my back without hesitation.
"Do you know what this is?"
"I told you, we couldn't appraise it. Why? Do you know what it is?"
I pitied Yoo Yeonha for the first time in a while.
"Yeah, I do."
"You do? Well, I don't really mind it…"
Yoo Yeonha didn't pay much attention to it, as she handed me an envelope of documents.
"This is what we found out about Yi Yeonjun."
I put the envelope away.
"Also, have you heard?" Yoo Yeonha continued, "A riot broke out in Pandemonium."
"A riot? What happened?"
"It's because of the demon town that appeared in Pandemonium. Djinns and demons… something seems to have happened between them. I hear it's a big secret. Here."
Yoo Yeonha took out another envelope. I received it with furrowed brows.
"You sure have a lot."
"It's a request for a mission."
I opened the envelope and took out the documents inside.
The first few words I saw were [Escort Mission Contract].
Yoo Yeonha smiled brightly. "I'm going to go to Pandemonium too. So I was wondering if you could act as my escort."
I glanced at Yoo Yeonha before putting the document away. Since I knew nothing about future events, it was probably best to participate in what looked like major plot points.
"I'll think about it."
"Think about it positively. If we can excavate the mineral that's said to be there, it'll help us deal with future disasters."
"Yes, but, ssh—" Yoo Yeonha suddenly put her finger on her lips. "Looks like you haven't heard, but I can't tell you anything until you accept the request."
"You have until next week."
"Hm… Okay." I nodded.
"Good." Yoo Yeonha smiled leisurely. She then glanced at the sword that was hanging on my back.
"So, going back to that, you know what it is?"
"Oh, yeah, I do."
"Ho~ I didn't know appraising was your hobby."
"Rather than being a hobby, it's more that my eyes are good."
"Ah, you're right. So, what is it?"
Yoo Yeonha asked playfully, but I responded seriously.
"Ah~ Balmung~ ….?"
Yoo Yeonha answered with a smile, which soon disappeared as her expression stiffened.
"Balmung. You've heard of it, right?"
Yoo Yeonha tilted her head. For the record, I was telling her exactly what I was seeing with Observation and Reading.
[Unknown Artifact Sword] [???] [???]
—A greatsword of unknown origin.
[Observation and Reading] with Stigma's magic power unlocks a portion of the item's description.
—The treasure of the Nibelungs acquired by Siegfried. Golden mithril envelops the huge blade like silk.
—It can reflect magic power and its strength is amplified when used in simple ways.
—To become the master of this sword, one must infuse 500ml of one's blood and have the sword judge one's qualification.
-More details will be unlocked once the item awakens-
"Haha, you're funny. Balmung, haha."
"I'm not kidding."
Yoo Yeonha was trying to escape reality. I, of course, didn't let her.
"…If you're not kidding, then that sword… it's really the Balmung that I know?"
Yoo Yeonha asked with a stiff face. She stared at the sword on my back with an odd gaze.
"Yeah, it's the one written in The Song of the Nibelungs."
Yoo Yeonha swallowed hard. I was curious about what she was thinking about, but I didn't have the time to find out.
[The demonized land undergoes a major change.]
The moment a system message popped up in the corner of my eyes…
"U-Um, c-can you return that to m-me…."
And the moment Yoo Yeonha asked stutteringly…
The demonized land we were watching erupted with a strange explosion.
[Hideout near East Sea]
On the other hand, Jin Sahyuk was looking at the items Kim Hajin left behind in the hideout. A magnifying glass, a robe, Basilisk's leather, colorful crystals, etc… they seemed inadequate for the time and effort she put into protecting him.
Jin Sahyuk picked up the magnifying glass from the stash. She tilted her head at first, but it didn't take her long to figure out what it was. It was the gift the king 'Prihi' gave Kim Hajin in the recorded past of Akatrina.
"It was mine to begin with, so…"
Jin Sahyuk put the magnifying glass in her pocket without feeling guilty. She also took a few pieces of Basilisk's leather and tried on the robe Kim Hajin left behind, which she thought felt excellent.
…It was then.
A strange vibration reached Jin Sahyuk through the East Sea.
Jin Sahyuk, who was feeling up Kim Hajin's robe, stopped and raised her head. Soon, more vibrations rang out.
Jin Sahyuk snickered. Curiosity and desire for excitement swept through her. She finally felt like she could relieve her boredom.
Jin Sahyuk stretched and activated Reality Manipulation. A portal popped up in front of her, and another space was stretched out inside it.
She stepped into the portal without hesitation.