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    Chapter 86: Apocalypse of Another World (1)

    It was a world where the sun had completely disappeared.

    A frigid air devoid of life’s warmth.

    From the sky, a sticky rain fell incessantly, covering a land of countless, rapidly cooling corpses—a realm of death.

    It was only later that Nate realized the viscous fluid wasn’t rain but blood. Everything—the sky, the earth—was steeped in a deep red hue.

    Standing alone under the crimson sky, Nate remained quiet.

    This was the visage of Delcross post the advent of [Catastrophe].

    Had equilibrium finally been shattered?

    [Ha ha.]

    A faint laugh echoed from somewhere.

    Slowly, Nate moved his feet.

    Every step he took squelched against the sprawled corpses of soldiers that covered the vast plains. Puddles of spilled blood formed splattering sounds beneath his every step.

    Soon in his sight lay a crumbling city wall.

    Or should it even be called a wall anymore?

    With its semi-broken gates and partially remaining stone walls, what once was a fortification now stood soaked in blood.

    And in the center of that gate hung a horrendously mangled corpse.

    Hundreds, if not thousands of dull blade wounds had torn it to a degree beyond recognition. It took Nate a while to even figure out that this had once been a human.

    A deed carried out by someone harboring a hideous grudge.

    As Nate frowned, a voice whispered in his mind.

    [That man was the king of Rohan.]

    Was it that good-for-nothing Amelia was so obsessed with? How did he end up like this?

    [It’s the retribution he deserves.]

    The voice conveyed no emotion, making Nate feel all the more uneasy.

    Surveying his surroundings, Nate moved towards a patch of dry ground untouched by puddles of blood.

    But he had to stop, lost for words. Lying before him were people he knew all too well—now lifeless.

    The young woman lying with her face to the sky wore a tattered dress, a small dagger embedded in her chest. Though her hair had shortened and her face had aged, she remained beautiful in her pale, lifeless visage.

    Amelia.

    [A pitiful sprout. I nurtured it with care through its neglected youth, only for it to wither in its small pot without ever blooming. She was a child full of dreams and talent…]

    Beside her lay a young man in black armor. Arrows pierced his back, and he lay fallen.

    Though his face had grown sharper and harder with age, a youthful innocence still lingered on his pale features.

    My son.

    [A child with great potential. I built fences around him, worrying he might fly away. In the end, he mustered the strength on his own. I should have let him spread his wings earlier…]

    Nate’s hand began to tremble.

    The other kids…

    [Stop. You’re not ready to handle this.]

    Hwaak.

    With those words, he was abruptly pushed out of that red world by an intense force.

    The sky and the ground inverted, and in an instant, his vision blurred and he found himself in a completely different place.

    “…Ha!”

    “Your Majesty!”

    Nate opened his eyes to the desperate voice calling him. Lifting his head, he saw the face of Chief Chamberlain Louis, who was looking down at him with a worried expression.

    He was leaning back on the sofa in his office. In his hand was Amelia’s pendant that Louis had brought to him earlier.

    The pendant, which the chambermaid of the Silver Rose Palace had sent for repair, had been intercepted and brought to him by Louis.

    “Are you alright, Your Majesty? You skipped your meal and stayed in your office. I came to check on you, and you’re sweating profusely.”

    “…No, it’s nothing.”

    Nate took a deep breath and waved his hand at the chief chamberlain. His racing heart slowly started to calm down.

    He brushed his face with one hand and looked down at the shattered pendant he was holding. The tiny droplet-shaped gem was still sparkling brilliantly even though it was broken in half.

    It looked completely unrelated to that ominous world filled with red light.

    “It’s nothing,” he said again to the chief chamberlain, who still had a worried look on his face. Nate opened his desk drawer, put the gem inside, and slammed it shut.

    ***

    Several days had passed since the establishment of the special task force for dealing with monsters.

    The Holy Assembly was still in heated debate over whether to recognize these “monsters” as such, or to categorize them as a type of demon race, as there was no specific mention of otherworldly beings or monsters in their scriptures.

    The point of contention was a single line in their scriptures:

    “The Lord’s representative shall be present, and the Lord Himself will bestow blessings, ensuring that the likes of demons cannot set foot on this land.”

    Depending on the interpretation of this line, the creatures would either remain classified as monsters or be categorized as demons.

    “The scripture doesn’t mention anything other than demons! To say otherwise is heresy!”

    “But this line clearly uses the term ‘the likes of,’ implying there could be others!”

    “Implying? Did you just say implying? It’s dangerous to make such expansive interpretations. That’s heresy!”

    “What? Have you finished speaking?”

    They had been arguing for a week over a single line in a book. Theologians were indeed fascinating individuals.

    “This is the current situation. I thought we’d be roaming the streets investigating the plague immediately, but here I am, stuck in the office reading books,” Seongjin grumbled while crunching on a cookie. The Holy Emperor, sitting across from him, quietly listened to the story as he sipped his tea.

    It was the first leisure time they had since Bruno’s treatment. Seongjin had a lot to tell the Holy Emperor, given the numerous events that had occurred in just a few days.

    Firstly, the aura layer of the short blade was nearly reaching the 6th level. It would be complete within a few days.

    Considering it generally takes 3-4 years to progress from the 5th to the 6th level, Seongjin’s progress was extraordinarily fast. At this rate, he would soon surpass being a squire and be on par with a newly initiated low-ranking knight.

    The admiration from the priests and resident knights wasn’t a one or two-day affair. Even Bruno, the knight commander, couldn’t hide his astonishment. He looked almost betrayed.

    -Why, if someone this capable exists, why didn’t I notice him in my own class?

    He didn’t even seem to consider Morres as his disciple, so why the fuss now?

    “Commander Bruno’s regaining his Aura thanks to Father. As his Aura becomes more active, his disposition changes day by day. It won’t take long for him to reach the level of a Decalon Knight.”

    “……”

    Holy Emperor didn’t respond, but Seongjin felt that he was listening more attentively than usual.

    Anyway, Commander Bruno also accumulated his Aura quickly and recently reached the 4th level.

    He usually seemed to be relaxed, but lately, he seemed to be invigorated, intensifying his meditation. His mustache becoming longer and sharper was a bonus.

    Another topic was the newly formed monster special task force.

    For the last two days, Seongjin had been showing his face daily at the task force’s office with Masain. Since the department was officially launched, they had started what could technically be termed “going to work.”

    Of course, there were no specific plans for work yet, and people were just getting to know each other on the team.

    At first, according to Commander Leandros, they were recruiting talents from various places. However, the appointed advisors were busy arguing in the assembly. On top of that, Commander Leandros, who had a lot of work of his own, didn’t even think about coming to the office.

    Exorcists and Inquisitors who had been roaming the country anyway just continued their existing work, now with the added task of “monster” hunting.

    In the end, the ones consistently showing up at the task force’s office were a half-crazy Exorcist, a cheerful red-headed Inquisitor, and a perfume charlatan from the Lyora Plague Guild.

    Seongjin had a lot to say about this Lyora charlatan.

    Jibril Seymour.

    She had attached herself to the monster task force after breaking into the capital’s guard unit with Seongjin not long ago. She was the same plague doctor who had once sprayed rose-scented terror on Seongjin’s group in front of the tribunal.

    Of course, her first day in the office was no exception. She greeted the new members not with words but with a baptism of perfume.

    “So the whole office smells like roses when we go to work! Ah, really! I don’t know why Commander Leandros brought in that charlatan.”

    As Seongjin pouted, Holy Emperor, who had been quietly listening, tilted his head slightly.

    “But the scent is pretty good. Those who take care of plague patients often have to deal with foul smells, so it’s not incomprehensible for them to be obsessed with perfumes.”

    Huh, has the scent grown on you too?

    Seongjin sniffed his sleeve and then looked up suddenly.

    “So you don’t believe that nonsense about the scent driving away the disease, do you?”

    “Hmm……”

    Holy Emperor averted his gaze. He seemed unable to directly criticize the plague doctors who were officially endorsed by the assembly as quacks.

    “Anyway, this is what we do with these members. We open the scripture and theology textbooks and discuss what we should do next, and half the day just passes by.”

    When will the assembly finally end? We should just investigate; I don’t understand why there’s so much fuss.

    Listening to Seongjin’s grumbling, Holy Emperor faintly curled his lips.

    “So does that mean you finally read a bit on the Introduction to Theology, huh?”

    “Um……”

    I just flipped it open and become lost in thought myself.

    This time, Seongjin also averted his gaze.

    As he lowered his gaze, Seongjin noticed that there was a sword hanging at the Holy Emperor’s waist that he had never seen before. Unlike his previous Nutcracker, it was a short sword with a white blade.

    At first glance, its simplicity suited his taste. But wasn’t it much shorter than the one he used to use?

    “No big deal. When I use the Aura Blade, the length doesn’t matter. All I need is a sturdy sword that doesn’t require much maintenance,” Holy Emperor said.

    Ah, for someone whose Aura goes wherever his heart desires, the length of a physical sword doesn’t seem to be of much concern.

    Seeing Seongjin’s keen interest, the Holy Emperor willingly unsheathed the sword to show him.

    The new sword had a white hilt and its blade was also made of a rare white metal. It felt surprisingly light yet sturdy. The more he looked at it, the more it seemed like a fine piece. Despite the absence of any special decoration, it looked incredibly luxurious.

    The Holy Emperor seemed quite pleased with the sword as well.

    “It’s as agile as a fish, don’t you think? Hence, I’ve named it ‘True Salmon.'”

    Wait, what?

    “…Is that the original name of the sword?”

    “I’m not sure. I just picked something that seemed appropriate from the imperial warehouse.”

    If it’s from the imperial warehouse, shouldn’t it be a treasured sword? Wouldn’t it have a grand name?

    “Father, it might be a sword with a significant legacy. Shouldn’t we find out its proper name?”

    Seongjin was sweating nervously. He had to prevent another embarrassing naming debacle.

    The Holy Emperor slightly tilted his head.

    “Do we need to? If it gets a better name, then that should be enough. Salmon is a very tender and delicious fish, after all.”

    “…”

    This man, does he have a thing for seafood?

    Seongjin frowned and pondered for a moment. How should I persuade him?

    Even if it’s not a significant issue, still, ‘The Emperor’s Beloved True Salmon’? Doesn’t it sound a bit… odd?

    “Um, Father…”

    Seongjin hesitated.

    “Of course, this sword is not a living object, but if it has once been given a name, then forgetting that name seems like a regrettable thing.”

    “…”

    “If you’re going to cherish it, shouldn’t you also respect its name?”

    Right. Names are really important.

    Wasn’t that the case with the twins as well? A name binds someone to this world, and if you continuously deny that name, you won’t be able to set foot in the world.

    Moreover, whatever the sword’s original name, I’d bet my entire fortune that it would be cooler than ‘True Salmon.’

    Of course, that would be the fortune that I received from Father.

    Then the Holy Emperor, who had been fixated on the name ‘True Salmon’ was silent for a moment.

    He then looked at Seongjin with an indecipherable gaze and finally nodded slowly after some time.

    “…Your words are correct. It is never desirable for the original name to be forgotten.”

    So?

    “Then I’ll instruct Louis to look into the records in the imperial warehouse.”

    Done! I’ve averted a second Nutcracker incident!

    Elated, Seongjin clenched his fists and cheered inwardly. As a result, he failed to catch the fleeting expression that crossed the Holy Emperor’s face at that instant moment.

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