Diplomatic residences aren’t demonic fortresses, nor are they the abodes of military commanders, so, like most government offices, they generally take on an ordinary form. In other words, envision several floors of mundane, mineral-white corridors lined with offices, much like any bureaucratic institution.
Of course, this might seem somewhat peculiar. Traditionally, a residence for officials should be a building for administration, not habitation. However, it’s crucial to note that Foreign Minister Krasilov is also the Crown Prince. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for the heir to the throne to live anywhere other than a palace.
Hence, the Foreign Ministry repurposes the diplomatic residence into a multipurpose office. One could call it the Crown Prince’s castle. (If he chooses to sleep, it’s a princely grace to ‘comfortably’ rest in an office.)
Ivan furrowed his brow as he ascended to the third floor of the residence. While penetrating halfway through the five-story building, the staff members seen were not typical office workers but rather armed soldiers of a somewhat inferior kind.
They were of a lowly type not exceeding the level of mercenaries.
“This feels like a stage from Chapter 1…”
At this point, Ivan realized his blunder.
Assuming the protagonist is a member of a hero party, encountering enemies, challenges, quests, and other hostile forces during the progression of the story is only logical.
If we assume that the protagonist is a party member of a hero party, it makes sense that enemies and challenges appear during the story. Therefore, Ivan’s perceived “awkwardness” and “ineptitude” are resolved.
Q) Why didn’t they kill the hero party members on the spot and instead chose to capture them?
A) Because you need to clear the stage after selecting your character.
Q) Why are only low-level mercenaries at the diplomatic residence?
A) Chapter 1 normal monsters shouldn’t be excessively powerful.
Q) What is the Intelligence Headquarters doing while the hero party members are being kidnapped one by one?
A) It’s an arcade game, and that’s how the “logic” of arcade games works.
Ah, I see.
Ivan simultaneously experienced a brief revelation and let out a short sigh. Does this mean I shouldn’t be killing everyone here?
He turned around blankly. The once pristine white corridors now appeared to be splattered with red paint here and there.
Witnessing the rapid transformation of a well-maintained diplomatic residence into a bustling meat processing plant (disregarding hygiene), Ivan let out a deep sigh.
Boldly speculating, this episode seems to be a “growth” event for the hero party members. Perhaps, among them, the storyline referred to as the “romance” would involve the growth of Ecdysis.
The process of Huskal’s niece, Ecdysis, freeing herself from the kidnapping and resolving the situation might not have been the initially planned intention.
After a short contemplation, Ivan raised his head. At this point, there’s no way to know for sure. Once things are set in motion, they need to reach their conclusion. Stepping down midway with a “it doesn’t seem right” attitude accomplishes nothing.
He brushed off his conscience and climbed the stairs with an axe in hand.
On the 4th floor of the diplomatic residence, the dark corridor was eerily silent except for the rain hitting the windows.
Walking down the corridor, which was silent except for the sound of rain against the windows, Ivan tightened his grip on the axe in his hand.
His hearing became sharper. A familiar buzzing noise accompanied by a ringing.
“We’ve been captured too.”
The muttering sounds belonged to the hero party members. The direction of the noise indicated the office right in front, one floor above.
As soon as he pinpointed the location, Ivan quickened his pace.
Whether it’s a stage, episode, or chapter, let’s rescue them first and think practically about what this story was meant for. Considering the sudden increase in difficulty in Isabelle’s tutorial after Ecdysis’s tutorial, this event is likely to influence the next event.
Following the logic of the game but recognizing the subtle differences between the events in the game and reality, Ivan’s mind was tangled.
At that moment, a sound of a rope snapping echoed from a distance. As soon as Ivan recognized the sound, he bent his waist.
Soon, a fierce line of attack flashed.
A greatsword flew from a distance and impaled itself where Ivan had been standing. Ivan bounced back, widening the distance, and raised his axe.
An attack that rushed in almost simultaneously with the detection of the line. For a regular superhuman, if they weren’t prepared, they would be dead.
That immediately signifies this is an superhuman’s attack; battles between superhumans unfold like this.
The field of battle entered through heightened sensory perception isn’t about slowing down time but accelerating neural processes to perceive time at sub-second intervals.
Therefore, if attacked before neural acceleration takes place, there’s no way to respond. In the world of superhumans, concepts like preemptive strikes are meaningless. Attackers always have the advantage.
To address this issue, “intuition” has developed—a heightened sense of anticipation specifically for sudden attacks, one step beyond line detection.
If line of sight detection is what separates the ordinary from the superhuman, intuition is what separates the superhuman from the ordinary.
If line of sight detection separates the ordinary from the superhuman, intuition is what sets the superhuman apart from the ordinary.
“Wow, you can dodge that?” (Dionar)
So, responding to a superhuman’s attack with intuition means you can assess the opponent’s skill.
“Well, we’ve got folks who can pull off moves like that all over the place. Our team worked hard, putting in sweat from every corner to make it happen.” (Dionar)
“Dionar Eriksson.” (Ivan)
“Looks like we’ve met before. I’m good with faces, but I can’t quite figure out who you are.” (Dionar)
“No need to know.”
Ivan raised his axe. Thud, thuck. The rhythmic sound of raindrops hitting the window had already slowed down significantly.
The easing of summer rain doesn’t imply a decrease in frequency. It means time is elongating.
Nevertheless, the fact that the conversation is smoothly continuing indicates that the two individuals facing each other share the same temporal framework.
“I doubt Maximilian schemed this. Nah, or maybe that son of a…?” (Dionar)
“Keeping quiet, huh? Well, silence isn’t what we need at the moment.” (Dionar)
Dionar chuckled and clapped his hands. With a swoosh, accompanied by the sound of the rope snapping, the greatsword embedded in the wall spun and was sucked into his grip.
Holding the greatsword with one hand and extending the other, Dionar raised the blade upright.
“Come. Let’s see your skills. Show me what ‘Reserve’ means.” (Ivan)
‘Reserve.’ In other words, the classification of ‘Hero Reserve’ was a concept created with his own existence, Lieutenant Ivan Petrovich.
Ivan smiled with a subtle sense of satisfaction.
Back then, there were no hierarchies within hero parties. They were individuals who risked their lives to thwart the Demon King, regardless of age, race, or rank.
However, those classified under ‘Reserve’ were different. If they could be compared to hero parties, they would have risen to the Demon King’s fortress as active members, not reserves.
Therefore, among those strong individuals classified as reserves, there undoubtedly existed a hierarchy compared to regular ‘strong’ individuals and superhumans.
Ivan was more than willing to teach what form that hierarchy took.
Being an extremely courteous individual, Ivan decided to personally correct the arrogance of his junior.
As the only senior among those bearing the name ‘Reserve’ who had accompanied a hero party.
With the sound of the snapping rope, whoosh! The greatsword descended straight onto the head.
A mighty blow, a force of a vertical drop breaking rocks and demolishing the fortress gate could be felt.
He deftly deflected the magically crafted blade and twisted his body.
The blade he parried struck down on the corridor, causing a significant crack and collapsing the floor. Ivan propelled himself off the crumbling footing and leaped up.
Dionar laughed vibrantly and snapped his empty hand. Flying! With a sharp noise, a strand of rope glimmered in the air.
‘This guy is a tactician.’ (Ivan)
Rather than overpowering his opponents with overwhelming strength like Einar, he was a type of warrior who employed tactics to continue the battle. Despite the easily misleading appearance of a large build and a feral demeanor, he actually possessed a combat style similar to Veolgrin.
‘A mage manipulating space with threads, using a greatsword intermittently for variation.’ (Ivan)
Among the demons, there were those who fought in such a manner. In dark and confined indoor spaces, these booby traps themselves posed a significant threat.
Whether it’s line detection or intuition, they respond to attacks with ‘intent.’ In the case of traps that stay still like that, the only way to deal with them is through prior knowledge and improvisation.
That’s why an assassin is essential in a hero party. They need to be well-versed in that type of knowledge.
Traps lurking in the darkness, infused with malice.
A powerful blow that exploits the gaps within.
Of course, it’s a pattern that is generally difficult to thwart. It certainly has its challenges. Ivan chuckled and skillfully dodged the attack, thinking to himself.
It might be tough for kids to take on this challenge.
Assuming this is a stage for the hero party members, and considering this guy as the boss.
The purpose of the stage is probably a structure that forces them to familiarize themselves with the ‘territory of superhumans.’
It’s a fight where you have to know the rules, a rather malicious design.
But, that’s looking at it from the kids’ perspective.
The reason an assassin is essential in a hero party is, once again, to deal with these types of traps and enemies.
This also implies that the hero party encountered countless such enemies during their active duty.
Ivan, as a veteran of such hero parties, had experience breaking through enemy lines alongside Enrique.
The axe glowed faintly in the darkness.
The threads attached to the blade snapped, falling down with a thud.
Hearing the menacing force of the charging greatsword, Ivan calculated the distance and speed, turning his body forward at the moment of calculation.
One step forward. Delving into that distance.
“Hahaha!! That area is already under my…” (Dionar)
“I know.” (Ivan)
Threads entwined with magic served as a sensory organ in themselves. Literally, it was a structure like a spider’s web.
Constraining movements, altering the direction of attacks, creating openings, and thrusting the greatsword through the gaps—a combat style Ivan is already familiar with. Being an efficient person, he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.
“Because I’m part of the Reserve.” (Ivan)
Surprised by the name ‘Reserve’ to this extent.
Ivan’s axe swept through, sending the greatsword flying. In the meantime, the severed threads revealed the outline.
Dionar staggered backward, reaching out in haste. Silently, the threads entangled, bouncing the greatsword away—
It didn’t reach. The airborne greatsword found its way into Ivan’s grip.
“This… no way…!!” (Dionar)
Without a word, Ivan twisted his body, driving the greatsword straight into the guy’s abdomen and evading the entwining threads.
Simultaneously, he twisted the axe backward. The flickering blade traced a graceful arc, heading towards the ground, cutting through everything suspended in the air.
Threads, flesh, and bone fragments split with a single stroke. Blood splashed onto the white walls, streaming down.
“Kue…ugh… Ughaaah!!” (Dionar)
“Screaming won’t help. Save your breath.” (Ivan)
Ivan grabbed the torn forearm, approached the kneeling Dionar, and placed his foot on the chest.
With a forceful push, he brought him down and raised the axe.
“There’s a lot you need to answer, so it’s a waste to scream.” (Ivan)
Since the ability to breathe was running out.
Slowly, he hoped for a response while conserving his breath.
Under the dimly lit corridor shadows, Ivan’s eyes glowed a vivid blue.