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    First, we disposed of the corpse.

    We couldn’t just leave it to rot in the underground parking lot. And this kind of miscellaneous work always falls to the youngest member.

    However, my fellow trainees refused my helping hand. The gist was that they couldn’t make someone whose injuries were uncertain do any work.

    Every time this happens, it really hits home that I’m holding everyone back.

    Tom and Heshey carried the dead pig creature’s body outside. While I was forcibly seated in a torn-up chair in the lobby, Iho, Cal, and Angela wiped up the blood that had splattered from the corpse.

    The two unnamed female seniors seemed to be keeping watch in front of the supply storage.

    Only Yoon and Twain weren’t working. The first graduates of Black Badger both looked down at me sitting in the chair.

    To be precise, Yoon was scanning my condition while Twain came to spectate.

    “A sword?”

    The blond man spoke while crossing his arms and dully staring at me and my instructor.

    “What era are we in that you’re making him use a sword?”

    “He sustained some internal injuries and is recovering.”

    Yoon ignored Twain’s words and delivered his diagnosis.

    He smoothly slipped the oval-shaped device into his combat uniform pocket and straightened his bent back.

    “Once we return to the Core, let’s set a date and go see Samuel. Both for your arm and to get an accurate assessment of your recovery state.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Let’s take our time considering what type of sword would suit you best.”

    “Yes, thank you.”

    “Are you serious?”

    Twain let out a voice full of disbelief and dissatisfaction.

    Finally, my instructor turned his head to meet Twain’s gaze. As always, Yoon had thin, inscrutable eyes.

    Seeing those coarse eyes, Twain clicked his tongue.

    “A sword in this day and age. You think he’s gonna use it to show off?”

    “If he can wield it properly, it’s a good weapon for us. Just look at that pig right now.”

    “Is using a sword as a secondary weapon the same as using it as a main one?”

    The cold wind from outside brushed past my back as it entered. Heshey and Tom, who had carried the corpse out, were coming back inside. The seniors who had cleaned up the blood also came up to the lobby via the ramp stairs.

    It was already almost midnight.

    The creature blood dried on my body felt gross. At least I had roughly wiped the blood splattered on my face.

    I vigorously rubbed my sleeves against my neck to wipe off the stuck-on blood.

    Twain’s nitpicking continued.

    “And this kid can’t even properly function as a Badger, but you want to give him a close-range weapon.”

    “If using a sword bothers you that much, then go complain to the others who use swords too. I haven’t seen you bitching at Jonathan Kudo about his weapon.”

    “That Japanese blade?”

    At Yoon’s point, Twain curled his lips and let out a scoffing laugh.

    “You think that stubborn bastard would listen to anyone?”

    Who’s Jonathan Kudo?

    I looked at Yoon with puzzled eyes, and my instructor explained in a dull voice.

    “The guy who was next to Sordie in the auditorium.”

    Ah! That tall and handsome man.

    “You don’t need to memorize his name. It’s not like you and he will have any reason to talk.”

    His personality must be pretty damn bad.

    I’ll have to work hard to avoid him. That was the thought that immediately came to mind upon hearing my instructor’s explanation. With just Yoon, Ricardo, and Twain, there were already plenty of people with bad personalities around me.

    Twain turned his head to look down at me.

    “Why did you practice swordsmanship?”

    I was at a loss for words at the sudden question.

    The people who had finished their work gathered near us one by one. People who stand next to two war heroes. There were more ears listening, but I had no answer. I didn’t even know I could wield a sword until a few days ago.

    What excuse should I give?

    As I pondered in silence, Twain furrowed his brow.

    “Don’t tell me you’re one of those pathetic types who started learning the sword after seeing Ye-hyeon’s video.”

    “What is Ye-hyeon’s video?”

    Did the commander-in-chief film some public service announcement swinging a sword in the past?

    I asked lightly. But the reaction that came back was not light.

    “Huh?”

    Everyone except Yoon made puzzled expressions. Twain in particular raised an eyebrow as if he had heard nonsense.

    He made a face that seemed to say ‘why are you so frustratingly slow on the uptake’.

    “Why can’t you get this. That video all the humans make a big fuss about, calling it the birth of a hero in turbulent times or whatever.”

    “…Uh, yes?”

    “What, you don’t know the video of her killing a Stage 10 creature?”

    A hint of irritation mixed into the man’s voice.

    “The video from the 1st Creature War?”

    Ah.

    A flash of realization passed through my mind. I got a sense of which video he was talking about. I remembered the comment I had read while sitting back on a bean bag. That Ye-hyeon became commander-in-chief by killing a Stage 10 creature, and since video evidence remained, that fact was indisputable.

    He must have used a sword then.

    Relieved that I grasped the context of the conversation, I replied:

    “I do know what that video is. But I’ve never seen it myself.”

    Clear shock settled on people’s faces.

    I had definitely answered wrong. Everyone around me had widened their eyes. Even Twain’s eyes went round. It felt strange to see the man, who always wore an irritated or unlikable expression, be purely surprised.

    Only Yoon, who knew my circumstances, maintained his composure.

    Silence descended upon the lobby where the stillness of night had unfurled.

    Heshey was the first to throw out a question.

    “You haven’t seen it?”

    I haven’t seen it.

    I nodded, trying to hide my dismay, and Tom also muttered while blinking.

    “But it’s an incredibly famous video.”

    “Sorry. I’m really out of touch with the world. From living in seclusion for so long.”

    “You lived in seclusion? You don’t seem the type. Did you pour yourself into gaming?”

    “Dude, you have to go watch it! I can’t believe you know how to use a sword but have never seen that video!”

    “What, did you just get out of prison or something?”

    Twain’s snarky voice drowned out Tom’s bewildered questions and Heshey’s excited shouts.

    I turned my gaze away from my fellow trainees to look at Twain again. The senior who disliked me just for being Yoon’s mentee and crammed us three newbies into the underground parking lot together.

    That senior was now looking down at me with a strangely satisfied smile.

    Why is he suddenly looking at me with proud eyes as if he’s seeing something pleasing?

    “A uncommonly decent newbie for once.”

    “…Are you talking about me?”

    “Just go board the train.”

    Yoon interjected in an absurd voice.

    He stared at the ceiling with an expression that said he was bored of this whole affair.

    “If you have something to say, say it to him personally later. Don’t you want to clock out?”

    People yielded to Yoon’s words.

    We quickly exited the library. We head towards the train in a group, telling the two Badgers who were silently keeping watch ‘good work’.

    The train, barely revealing its silhouette thanks to the streetlights set up in the plaza.

    People slipped into the train one by one.

    Perhaps because they were tired, people disappeared into their respective compartments in an instant. I also silently bumped fists with my fellow trainees before heading straight to the bathroom of my train compartment.

    I turned on the water and washed off the blood caked on my body.

    After washing myself for a while, I heard the sound of the train revving up its engine.

    But somehow we made it through the day safely.

    It’s an exhausting life, with too much information to process and too much to hide. But it’s not completely miserable. My gratitude towards the people who accepted me hasn’t faded either.

    The rumbling train could be felt departing for the Center Core. The minute vibrations transmitted through the soles of my feet.

    I took off my combat uniform, tossed it aside, and plopped down on the bed.

    I affirmed to myself that I need to get much stronger, so my fellow trainees won’t needlessly worry like they did today.

    I will recall once more the sensation of gripping a sword. Taking in the sight of my blood-soaked combat uniform, boots, and the lightless world outside the Core.

    I drifted off to sleep while mentally whipping myself, and fell into a dreamless slumber.

    When I opened my eyes much later, the train had stopped. Badgers in casual clothing coming out into the train corridor.

    We had returned to the Center Core once more.

    ***

    They say you get a day off after leaving the Core.

    We were also given days off. Two days including the day we returned. The day we got back passed by without doing much of anything.

    As soon as I arrived at the dorm, I went back to sleep. I woke up around lunchtime and ate tacos with Tom and Heshey who had also slept like crazy. In the afternoon, I played a game Heshey lent me, and in the evening I ate pho with my fellow trainees again. Then it was bedtime.

    When the second day came, I regained some of my senses.

    Morning. I got up feeling much more refreshed and went out of my room.

    “Hilde!”

    Amy.

    I was taking a drink of water from the vending machine when I ran into the round-eyed senior in the 3rd floor hallway.

    She got off the elevator and scurried over to me.

    “Hi!”

    “Hello Amy. Good morning.”

    “Yep! Good morning! Did you go out and come back okay the day before yesterday?”

    That beaming, salty girl approached and stopped in front of me to ask. I nodded vigorously, putting my delight into it.

    Amy smiled, her eyes curving into crescent moons.

    “That’s a relief. How’s your body? I heard from Cal that you got hurt so I came because I was worried.”

    “Ah. Thank you. But I’m totally energized. I slept all day yesterday and I think I’m all better now.”

    “That’s great. Oppa didn’t seem seriously injured either so they said they sent him back to the dorm. But let’s go see Samuel later just in case.”

    I obediently nodded.

    But Amy craned her neck and gave me a once-over. Only after confirming that I really did look to be in good condition did she meet my eyes again.

    She grinned while looking straight into my eyes.

    “How was it going outside?”

    “I came back feeling just how lacking I am. From now on, I’m going to practice hard without making excuses.”

    “Aw~ You did well. I heard everything. Cal and Angela said this batch of newbies is pretty good. Maknae oppa also said you seem decent, Hilde.”

    Maknae oppa?”

    Who’s Maknae oppa? Choi Yoon?

    Amy nodded while going “ah”.

    “Yeah. Yoon-oppa.”

    “Huh? You have another oppa? I thought it was just the two of you siblings.”

    “Oh, I have two more oppas. But my only biological brother is Yoon oppa. The siblings were adopted together.”

    My opened mouth wouldn’t close.

    Amy quickly reassured me while waving her hand.

    “You didn’t make a slip of the tongue so don’t worry about it! I’ll explain in more detail later.”

    “Ah, okay okay. Thank you.”

    “I heard this from oppa too.”

    Amy skillfully brought the topic back to the original subject.

    Seeing me looking puzzled, she widened her smile.

    “That you use a sword. So cool.”

    “Oh!”

    That video!

    My voice rose without me realizing it.

    Amy’s eyes went round, surprised by my reaction. No matter when, her reactions were so abundant unlike Yoon.

    I reflexively smiled while looking down at Amy.

    “I’m sorry. I just remembered something I had forgotten… I was planning to find that video today no matter what.”

    “Video? What video?”

    “The video of Ye-hyeon killing a Stage 10 creature.”

    Understanding dawned in her round, dark eyes.

    She lowered her head and promptly took out her cell phone from her cardigan pocket.

    “You haven’t seen that yet, huh.”

    “No. I didn’t know it was such a famous video… I mentioned offhand that I hadn’t seen it, but the others seemed to find it odd.”

    “I’ll show you.”

    She firmly tapped on the screen with her fingers.

    Then she quickly flipped the cell phone to hold it out to me.

    “Here it is.”

    Ruins.

    A grey city. A scene of ashes completely different from the landscape that had enveloped the Library of Beginnings. The devastated, crumbled cityscape unfolded on the screen.

    And the video soon captured two beings that remained standing amidst the ruins. Perhaps because it was filmed from afar, the subjects caught on camera were small. But the focus didn’t waver, and it precisely captured them in the center of the frame.

    Two figures.

    No.

    One person and one creature.

    Ye-hyeon, and a creature with a appearance identical to a human.

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