Chapter 12: Morning Sun (II)
The fast train running from St. Mathilde in Tyllese to Frechenkaya in Krasilov goes through four military zones.
First, it passes by Tyllese’s 3rd Guard Division, crossing the northwest border line.
Then, it goes past the Krasilov Border Defense Division and the Frechenkaya Defense Headquarters.
This train is near the front lines with demons, so there’s a super strict force there.
Using the erasure method, only three stations on the line could be attacked. Out of the 30 stations it passes, only three are a day away, without much backup, not many people, and tough land.
The train Ivan and Isabellele rode went by the first ambush point.
No intruders on the tracks or bad guys using spells or shooting cannons from horseback.
At the second ambush point, the train zoomed past.
Ivan looked out the window, sighed, and sat down.
After a few hours, silently, the train reached the third ambush point.
The train crossed the Krasilov border line. If it kept going straight, it’d reach Frechenkaya in a day.
After the plains and just one mountain, it’d be Frechenkaya. There’s a big military presence nearby, but there’s a forest to get through.
So, trying to cause chaos might not work now. Ivan nervously touched his pistol.
‘Was the prediction wrong?’
Wasn’t the tutorial all about train chaos?
Was Ecdysis just super unlucky? Or in the ‘original’ game, did tutorials differ for each character?
They thought each would have their own story, but the original plan doesn’t allow that. It’s an academy movie. That’s because it’s ‘Academy stuff.’
Maybe not, but it had to be that way.
Ivan bit his lip. What if I’m wrong again?
If this isn’t even ‘Academy stuff,’ does this world even have an end?
Should I commit suicide? Is there an answer other than suicide? Since I can’t predict the genre, I can’t even determine the ending.
He fears the worst—what if the ending’s only for the main character? Like, in the last war, this world was a classic hero’s kingdom RPG. If the Hero’s vanishing means the story’s wrapped up, what’s next?
Ivan’s in a mental mess, thinking, “I hate it here. I just wanna bail. I wanna crash in a cozy place, wrap myself in blankets, and forget about everything.”
“I wanna chill. I wanna drop everything and split. I wanna crash for a week, wrapped up in a cozy comforter on a comfy bed at a snug home with a heater giving off warmth.”
“I wanted to eat all I fancy until I can’t anymore, talk with folks in Korean, dive into games, books, movies, shows, and fun.”
Death, poverty, famine, and fear were everywhere.
Yet, in this cursed pre-modern fantasy world, where the ideas of ‘welfare’ and ‘leisure’ were scarce, I don’t wanna go on living.
A man next to him gasped faintly with a choked groan.
An intense vitality spread from Ivan’s body like venom spreading, yet Kim Sunwoo, or rather, was oblivious to his current state.
Sharper and more intense, strong enough to harm people physically.
As Kim Sunwoo’s panic grew.
The train, moving through a tunnel under the mountain, shook on the bridge over the valley. It was an explosion.
Not only breaking the tracks but bringing down the entire bridge, the train fell without power. The carriage twisted, taking the momentum and spinning out of control.
As his body floats and everything around him turns upside down, Ivan instinctively grabs the train’s racks for balance, his eyes scanning his surroundings on autopilot.
In the twisting space and the sliding view out the window, he knows precisely what’s happening.
The train is crashing.
There’s been a train bombing.
The tutorial isn’t done.
I wasn’t mistaken.
I was right.
There’s still an ending.
Inside the falling train car, a smile spread on Ivan’s parched face. Slowly. And deeply.
Forcing the still-panicky, useless Kim Sunwoo down to the bottom of his consciousness, because now it was time to deal with what needed to be done.
Fear, hatred, and confusion aren’t helpful for the mission. They say to keep your head cool and your heart warm, but they’re wrong.
In the Cleansup Unit, they teach differently. Keep your head, heart, and fingertips all cool.
Like the harsh winter of Krasilov. Like that long night. Cold, silent, and precise.
The Cleansup Unit officer vanished quietly, amid the chaos within the train.
Step on the railing, step on the shelf, push away the tangled piles, up, up, up.
Isabelle’s last memory was a jumble of fragmented words.
Thrown-out body, wildly shaking vision, overwhelming agony.
Shattered windows and pouring earth.
And then, one more.
Isabelle woke up sweating. The surroundings were cloaked in darkness. A moment when she caught a glimpse of the coniferous forest of Kraschenrov passing by in the evening glow.
She rose in excruciating pain.
The room was buried in dirt. As her eyes adjusted to the growing darkness, she recognized the heap of earth pouring through the broken window.
And the dripping sound of droplets.
Rough, labored breathing. Feeble sounds.
“Are you… are you… are you awake, miss?”
A man stood in front of her.
One arm buried in the dirt, a long piece of rebar sticking out from his side.
The dripping sounds came from his mouth, nose, and the blood dripping from his waist.
He threw himself to protect her, shielding her from falling rocks with his body and catching the train debris with his back.
In awe, she looked at the knight. The knight, as always, was smiling kindly.
“Miss, you must… flee… Floods will come. They’re targeting you…”
“Stop it! Answer me! Why…? Why did you do such a thing? Are you really insane?”
Isabelle glared at the trembling knight.
“Do you think my father would be furious if I died? No! He doesn’t care about anyone!”
The knight weakly smiled. Who doesn’t know that in Tyllese, a man who isolated himself in the deep mountains, abandoned all contact, and rejected anyone’s approach.
Initially, people thought he left to heal the wounds after killing the Demon King.
Later, they started muttering that his heart as a hero had twisted because of the Demon King.
Before four years had passed, they began to forget the hero.
Since the moment he killed the Demon King, or maybe even before that. Because a hero isn’t an individual.
Maximilian crumbled under the name of the hero. Now, only his deeds and legends echo emptily.
“You hate me.”
“Because you are the daughter of a hero.”
Despite the man’s fading life, his eyes shone oddly bright.
Isabelle smiled as if she found this situation ridiculous.
“So what does it matter,” she said, “do you really think my father cares one iota for his ‘daughter’?”
“No, Miss. I have never thought of Maximilien’s interest.”
But, being the daughter of a hero.
“Because one individual could inspire hope in the hearts of all humanity, because we spent those days together, and because… even such a great man fades away with time, he’s still human who leaves a descendant.”
Maximilian is also a human.
This proposition might be universally agreed upon, but truly understood by no one.
However, Isabelle is different. She is a daughter. Angry, envious, sad. A young girl plagued by a lack of affection.
So, Isabelle’s existence signifies that ultimately, a hero is also, in the end, human.
Conversely, as a human, above being human, it implies the potential to become a hero.
He believed so. Even if Isabelle hated the concept of a hero, she could not but affirm Isabelle’s existence. She was hope.
The last seed left by the hero, its sprouting symbolizes hope. In this era where the remnants of the past war rebuild shattered foundations.
Hope that can bloom even in this decrepit era.
Not the hope of the conscripts fighting the Demon King, but the hope for individuals living day by day.
If the hero was hailed as a symbol of victory, then the hero’s descendants symbolize reconstruction. They embody the dawn of a new era.
Therefore, while despising Isabelle, he sacrificed himself.
He was a knight of Tyllese. A man capable of abandoning the individual for the greater good. He was also a commoner who didn’t yearn for the reconstruction of humanity.
As his words ended, a thud. From the heap of dirt pouring in through the window, an arm jutted out.
The arm fumbled within the dirt, then smoothly slid out.
The cold air of a late winter night cooled the room.
The gap allowed the azure moonlight to seep in.
“Sir, what’s your name?”
“Dian August. And you?”
As the dirt collapsed, a man entered the room.
Bathing in moonlight, casting a long shadow.
“Do you want to live?”
“It will hurt.”
Ivan unscrewed the cap of a healing potion.
Author’s Note (Afterword):
Note: The deeper the wound, the more painful the healing potion is.
Late… sorry… for the delay…