Chapter 77

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“What… You intend to remove me from my position?”

“You’ve violated the loyalty oath.”

“Loyalty oath?! Does this country dare demand even greater loyalty from me? No, that’s not the case. Ivan, even your loyalty… this country is not deserving of our allegiance.”

Ivan abstains from engaging with madmen, guided by his rational nature. His training never included psychological counseling; convincing and treating lunatics falls beyond the scope of his expertise in this world.

He silently lifted the gun and aligned the sight.

Armed with one pistol, twenty live rounds.

The opponent is a superhuman, and a fairly well-trained one at that. Naturally, pistol bullets won’t do much.

However, there’s a reason why a pistol is included in the basic equipment of the Cleansup Unit. It means there’s still a way to use it in situations like this.

“You have no intention of listening. Have you been brainwashed?”

“Pavel.”

“Yeah, now you’re willing to talk?”

“No.”

Ivan gauged the angle of Pavel’s grip on the spear and spoke.

“We are not taught to talk before battle.”

At his words, Pavel, grinding his teeth, stared at him.

He’s coming.

Without a twitch in his stance, Ivan only turned his wrist to adjust the aim. The spear blade flew straight towards his head with a tearing sound through the air.

– Swoosh!!

With a thunderous noise, a spear that tore through the dragon’s neck rushed towards him.

However, I know the trajectory.

Ivan twisted his wrist, aiming the gun three strides ahead of the spear’s path.

No need for precise aiming. Within 10 meters, Ivan’s shots don’t require consideration of aiming posture or the opponent’s speed.

– Clang—!!
– Bang!!

Sparks flew from the tip of the spear. The trajectory distorted, and the spear scratched through empty air, recoiling.

It’s expected. Even with pistol bullets, the kinetic energy of a 9mm projectile reaches 400J. Even with simple thinking, it means a bullet can easily deflect the trajectory of the spear, given the assumption that it can hit.

“What is this…!”

Shooting the gun to hit the spear and alter the attack trajectory? That’s no different from intercepting arrows with arrows!

“Let’s see how much you can do!!”

Pavel sharpened the blade while brandishing it.

Sure, it’s a possible technique with remarkable concentration, good eyes, and enough skill.

But it can’t last forever. It requires luck and timing. With just a slight error, the spear will tear through Ivan’s throat without any resistance.

Yet, there was no fear in Ivan’s eyes. Even in that moment of dancing on the edge with his life hanging in the balance.

“Nineteen rounds.”

The remaining count of live rounds.

It signifies the possibility of succeeding once with each shot.

But it’s not a confident assurance. It’s a statement of fact delivered in a composed tone.

Taking a step, Ivan said, “The distance is 3 meters.”

His stride was consistently 78cm at any moment, within four steps.

Within that space, Pavel’s strikes could intensify and come at him a maximum of 17 times.

So, there’s plenty and more to spare.

Ivan never rushes. Taking a step, his gaze focused on Pavel’s wrist holding the spear.

Trying to dodge Pavel’s attacks would only introduce variables. Hence, entrusting the defense of his body entirely to the one pistol.

One step. A vacant body, filling gaps throughout, confidently straightening his waist, inviting an attack at any moment.

“Dare—!!”

– Swoosh!!
– Clang, Bang—!!

Sparks flew from the spear’s blade.

– K-klak! Sriing!!
– Clang, Tang, Bang—!!

A sweeping blow lifting the waist, a striking blow driving down the thigh.

The trajectory twisted, punctuating the empty air, repeatedly.

Pavel, aiming at the spear blade he couldn’t observe with the naked eye. Precisely leading the trajectory one step at a time.

Exquisitely, without gaps.

This isn’t human skill. Pavel finally realized.

“This is… a strength of Hero party member?”

“What are you talking about?”

– Chelk, Taaang—!!

Five strikes in the next step.

Precisely countering each of those strikes, one step forward again.

“If one of those hero party members were here, you wouldn’t even be standing now.”

Even Jil Ber, who was coldly evaluated as having the most inferior combat skills (with some controversy), could have slaughtered Pavel in a single breath.

Therefore, facing superhumans with only small arms like pistols left as the sole weapon is just a brutal survival technique learned by second-line units like the Cleansup Unit.

Pavel laughed mockingly with a face full of mad arrogance.

“Crazy bastard.”

The initial intensity is now hard to find. Ivan deflected three spear strikes entirely with bullets and stood his ground.

Finally, four steps.

Even if he retrieves the spear, it’s a distance insufficient to create a strike. Now, there are only seven bullets left.

But now, the pistol is no longer needed. When facing a superhuman, a pistol serves as a type of armor, a tool used to defend against the superhuman’s attacks.

So.

– Chelk.

“…?”

He discards the pistol. The pistol has already served its purpose as armor to close the distance.

Pavel’s eyes showed confusion. Ivan silently gazed at Pavel and slowly raised his fist.

Bullets don’t penetrate superhumans. Instinctively, spatial detection is their primary trigger at any given moment.

There’s no need to theatrically reveal the timing of the attack. Even the momentary momentum leading from detection to firing is deadly in a superhuman’s combat.

– Whoosh—!

Ivan’s fist cut through the air, directed towards Pavel, who was staring blankly.

– Thud, Tap!!

Swiftly defending against the attack, parrying the wrist. It was anticipated. Spear techniques might belong to the realm of family vision that needs visual confirmation, but close-quarters combat follows standard protocols. Ivan, having trained in martial arts like Pavel, can anticipate defensive actions based on the attack trajectory.

All predictable elements are nothing more than external factors that a trained agent can utilize.

– Taak, Puck!

The first strike embeds into Pavel’s chest.

Coughing, Pavel caught his breath and adjusted his stance. Somehow, Pavel had also abandoned the spear and confronted Ivan with his fists.

It’s wise. Swinging the spear at this distance would be nothing more than a show.

Before Pavel could regain his stance, once again.

– Thud!!

“Cough!!”

A strike to the chest, another to the waist, pushing away the hand blocking with the palm, inserting a fist in between, and finally to the chin.

Kuk, Kuhk! The breathless gasp struggled to escape as unabsorbed shock induced respiratory distress.

Ivan’s eyes read Pavel’s condition, going beyond mere form to deduce the internal situation.

In the heightened sensitivity of hearing and touch within the realm of superhumans, he can infer what happens to the opponent’s body during the clash of fists.

– Crack!!

A small sound of bones breaking, a suppressed groan bubbling up from within. The sensation of the opponent’s muscles contorting, focusing on Pavel’s right upper arm gradually ceasing its function during the moment when the nerves in his right hand were paralyzed by the impact, once again, before he could regain his posture.

– Crack!!

A strike to the chin, the head shaking in the brief aftermath of the short shock before the next blow.

Puk, knocking away the hand raised for defense and, in the interval, thrusting a fist like a snake for another strike.

Repeated blows, a dozen or so in total.

– Thud, Crack, Puk!

“Ugh! Stop! Enough…!!”

Pavel staggered back, gasping. Following closely. The ability to speak means complete disarmament hasn’t been achieved yet.

Inserting punches. As a superhuman’s body can itself become a weapon, one must never let their guard down until complete neutralization.

Complacency is the deadliest adversary, especially for agents. Ivan wasn’t trained to be complacent.

– Thud! Puck! Crack!

Under the accumulated impact, Pavel’s legs gave way. He staggered, struggling to regain balance.

So, it means there’s an opening in the lower body.

– Hwiiik!

Tripping him with a leg sweep, Ivan climbed on top, gripping Pavel’s face and forcefully slamming it down.

Thunk, thunk!

Feeling Pavel’s mouth gurgling beneath his hand, he brought down Pavel’s head onto the floor like a hammer, repeatedly.

Soon, the palm felt soaked in blood. Pavel, bloodied from the consecutive blows, lost strength and slumped.

Finally, successful neutralization. Ivan satisfactorily wiped his hands and stood up.

– Chelk.

Picking up the discarded gun and approaching Pavel’s head.

“The king…! Cough!! The king has been murdered…!!”

Spitting out blood-mixed saliva, Pavel screamed.

Ivan paused, not raising the barrel, silently observing Pavel.

“Do you still not know… Cough! Damn it! Don’t you know! The king… the king has been murdered!”

“Yeah. I know…”

“No!! This country wished for the king’s death! You ignorant fool!! Failed in intelligence? How stupid…! The Frechenkaya War Intelligence Unit…!! It’s not that they couldn’t give us information; they chose not to!!”

Ivan, holding the gun, took a moment to gather his thoughts.

The War Intelligence Unit was the predecessor of the Surveillance Command, meaning it handled external intelligence before the establishment of the Cleansup Unit.

Not particularly competent, but not exactly incompetent either…

“Do you remember why the king had to personally take the front lines?”

“Because the continuous defeats were shaking the monarchy…”

“Yeah! Even if he couldn’t become a victorious lord, he had to reclaim authority as a warlord! At that time, the nobles, those pig-like scumbags, were always ready to abandon the king!”

Pavel exclaimed with blood-tainted determination.

“Kirill… Kirill, that bastard…! He wanted to reclaim the fallen monarchy with the majesty of the late king, who valiantly sealed it!!”

“…”

“The king was murdered. To his most cherished son! Still, even so, do you think this country has the right to demand our loyalty? Ivan… ‘Little’ Ivan!! Think of your name!! Did you ever ask me for the price of betrayal!?”

Pavel, swaying, managed to rise.

“I will ask you. If this country’s betrayal demands a price, what would it be…!”

Ivan involuntarily lifted his gaze.

A colossal statue was looking down on him.

The statue of the late king, ‘Conqueror’ Ivan.

“Now is not too late. Ivan Petrovich. Take my hand. There are comrades with the same purpose as us.”

Ivan slowly closed his eyes. Pavel’s voice was echoing in his mind.

Ah.

The remnants of the demons stir underground.

The royal family betrayed the nation and vanished.

The divided nobles of the kingdom harbor ambitions beyond the cities.

The allied kingdoms no longer consider each other allies.

The deeds of warlords, the intrigues of the ambitious, a world consumed by the deterioration of the state and famine.

Four years have passed since the hero killed the Demon King.

It has been thirty years since he fell into this world.

Peace still fails to hold a meaning beyond a joke. Perhaps, forever.

The king killed by his son, and the seniors who sacrificed their lives to protect that king.

Countless conscripts who raised their weapons solely wishing the fangs of demons wouldn’t reach their families.

The foundation of this nation built upon their corpses is so fragile.

– “Jim was a hypocrite all his life, so you will live as a hypocrite too.”

At that moment, the statue of the late king whispered to him.

The last voice of the late king he remembered.

Hypocrisy, hypocrisy.

Ivan opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings.

People were fleeing. There was a fight. Invaders from an unknown origin were attacking those who participated in the festival.

In the slowly passing time, Ivan surveyed his surroundings.

A festival.

Yes, the country had recovered enough to celebrate a festival.

The smell of grilling meat filled the streets more than once a week.

Every morning, smoke from baking bread rose from the alleys of Frechenkaya.

Such times had arrived. Despite conspiracies, intrigues, invasions, and terror lurking in the city’s shadows.

After the war, the country was gradually recovering, just as the late king envisioned.

Frechenkaya was rising.

-“Even lies can eventually lead to the truth, don’t you think?”

Even if the city’s scenery, the expressions of women preparing meals, the faces of men heading to work, and the laughter of citizens forgetting the war were all lies.

Still, even those lies. They were exactly what the late king had wished for all his life.

Perhaps the late king knew of his son’s betrayal. He might have considered it the best option and accepted death with a smile.

It’s uncertain.

Yet, one thing can be certain.

As the late king reflected, he would probably be satisfied with the current Frechenkaya.

Denial and corruption can be eradicated.

What’s crucial is that all citizens living in the city escape the threats of war and famine, forget the war, live each day not just for the present but towards tomorrow, and walk forward with smiles.

So, even if the gathered hypocrisy created truth….

-“Live on, continuing my hypocrisy. Can you promise that?”

The thought was to uproot the evil lurking behind the shadows of this country, so that the late king’s ideals would no longer be hypocrisy.

-“Yes, Your Majesty. I pledge to do so. I will certainly fulfill that.”

-“That’s enough then.”

The late king’s death, our sacrifices, were not in vain.

That’s enough.

“I believe your words.”
“Ivan…!”
“But, I don’t agree with your methods.”

Ivan walked slowly, gripping Pavel’s collar.

“My loyalty still belongs to the late king, Pavel. Your methods only make his death in vain.”
“Kirill is not fit to be a king! He doesn’t deserve our loyalty!”
“Yes. But the royal bloodline continues.”

Ivan lifted his head while gripping Pavel’s collar.

In the distance, towards the main building of the university.

In the direction of Elizaveta’s office.

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