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    There are no bad villains in this world.

    How paradoxical yet alluring those words sound.

    The book, pulled out on a whim due to its intriguing title, was quite excellent despite being published 8 years ago. I would gladly recommend it as mandatory reading for those who enter my torture villa.

    While I enjoyed the overall content of the book, I particularly appreciated how it truly understood the hearts of villains who became evil due to unavoidable circumstances. I was thinking it would be nice to have just two or three more books like this become steady sellers when I heard a coughing sound from below.

    Sa-yoon put down the book he was holding.

    “Ugh!”

    The man who was hit squarely by the book that fell from above let out a groan. With trembling hands, he grasped Sa-yoon’s foot that was trampling on his chest. Only the man’s moans echoed within the gate.

    “Why…”

    “……”

    “Why are you doing this…!”

    The man, his face contorted, spewed out his resentment. Meeting the gaze filled with vengeance, Sa-yoon glanced at the system window that occupied a large portion of his field of vision to an annoying degree.

    “Well…”

    A languid voice drowned out the groan.

    “Does one really need a reason to do something like this?”

    At the brazen rhetorical question, the man was at a loss for words. Sa-yoon’s gaze turned to the corner.

    “Why did you kill those ones over there?”

    …Those ones?

    Following the inquiring tone, the man turned his head and saw the monster corpses piled up on one side of the gate. It was a common sight that could be easily seen anywhere within a gate.

    Why that?

    As he questioned with his eyes, Sa-yoon stomped on the man’s wound. Cough! The man coughed up dark red blood and trembled slightly as he let out a few rough coughs.

    “When someone asks you a question, you should answer.”

    His tone was gentle, but no warmth could be felt. As if looking at a corpse rather than a living person, the man’s gaze rose above his own head.

    “Hiiik.”

    The man, his eyes meeting those of his dead comrade, hiccuped and hurriedly grasped Sa-yoon’s foot, driven by his survival instincts. It was a sight that immediately brought to mind the word “begging.” Sa-yoon smiled crookedly at how desperately sincere he looked.

    Just look at those hands, yearning so earnestly. Doesn’t it look like he’s grasping at a lifeline?

    It was a pitiful thing.

    Not even realizing the rope he grabbed was rotten.

    “Be-, because of the quest…!”

    “Hm?”

    “Because of the quest… we have to clear the gate, so… when, when those things attacked, wanting to live…”

    The man answered miserably and glanced at Sa-yoon. He had spoken quickly lest he meet the same fate as his dead comrades if he didn’t answer promptly, but questions swirled endlessly in his mind.

    How could a man who was clearly a ranker break into a beginner’s gate, why he killed the man’s comrades, why he was asking these questions.

    There was not a single thing he could understand, so it was terrifying.

    Where in the world would you find someone who asks why you killed monsters?

    They were creatures that would overflow the gate and swarm humans if not dealt with. Monsters had to be killed both to clear the gate and for the future, yet was he really asking because he didn’t know that?

    How could that be?

    That murderer just wanted to toy with him. For a moment’s amusement.

    Once the entertainment disappeared, he would likely meet a fate similar to his comrades who had departed before him.

    The man, imagining his future, turned deathly pale. Sa-yoon bent down and brushed the dirt off the man’s chest where his foot had been. Scritch, scritch. The sound of the knife tip scraping off the dust was so threatening that the man squeezed his eyes shut.

    “See. In the end, you also killed the monsters because if you didn’t, they would’ve been a threat to you.”

    “Y-, yes…!”

    “I’m the same.”

    “…Pardon?”

    “What I’m saying is, if I don’t kill you all, I’ll be in danger.”

    “……?”

    The man, who had affirmed without hesitation in his desperation to live, shut his mouth. The murderer before his eyes was spouting utter nonsense with sincerity.

    No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t fathom what harm they could possibly inflict on him while alive. That was only natural, as he was still a new Awakened and the man before him was clearly a ranker with excellent skills. Three of his comrades had died with a wave of this man’s hand, so how could he possibly be a threat?

    “What do you mean…”

    As he tried to ask, not understanding or empathizing, a sudden snapping sound rang out.

    “Aaaargh!”

    It seemed he had put weight on his foot, as the man’s ribs were shattered. As the man screamed at the pain that assaulted him, Sa-yoon frowned and rubbed his ear.

    “Why are you making such a fuss over a few broken bones?”

    “Cough, ugh!”

    The man writhing in pain couldn’t speak out of sheer unfairness. In truth, it was closer to him not daring to refute in the slightest lest he immediately suffer a terrible fate.

    It’s said that even D-rank Awakened can make a decent living, much less himself as a C-rank. If he could just clear this beginner’s gate and get out, he could be treated well wherever he went, so his desire to live was that much more desperate.

    Swallowing his pain, the man looked up at Sa-yoon with moist eyes.

    “Please spare me…. I won’t say a word even after I get out of here. I’ll keep it a secret and live forgetting everything. So please…”

    “The monsters you killed probably said the same thing before they died too.”

    How would you know that?

    Even amidst his fear, the man’s thoughts turned weirdly rational, driving him crazy and making him want to leap up. How could every word out of his mouth be so preposterous? It’s not like she’d heard the inner thoughts of the monsters he killed, so was he some kind of monster-lover?

    He was thinking he had terribly crossed paths with a lunatic.

    The man’s thoughts, thrown into confusion, could not continue to the end.

    “Ugh…!”

    A choked groan flowed out with difficulty.

    He had been struck in a vital spot while off guard. The man stared at Sa-yoon with shocked, widened eyes, twitched a few times, then soon went limp.

    Crackle. The corpse began to freeze over. Sa-yoon straightened up from his bent position and swept his gaze over the surroundings.

    One, two, three, four.

    There were a total of four frozen corpses within the gate. With this, the lacking personnel had all been filled.

    Ding!

    <Congratulations! ‘The true evil of humanity sees no seed of hope.’ has been achieved. As a reward for slaying 100 new Awakeneds, 1,000 karma will be granted! (b ᵔ▽ᵔ)b>

    “Annoyingly lucky timing for a smile.”

    Sa-yoon smirked at the system window that popped up before his eyes, matching the timing.

    Finally the 100th one. With the end of the tedious repeating quest, Sa-yoon wiped the blood splattered on his face with a liberated expression and walked over to the collapsed man to retrieve his dagger.

    His cherished item was too valuable to leave behind for those unfortunate enough to cross his path, as their lives were worth less than the dagger. As it was an SS-rank dagger, he shook the blood-stained blade a few times and returned it to the sheath at his waist.

    Suddenly, the title of the book that had fallen to the floor caught his eye.

    “There Are No Bad Villains in This World.”

    It was alluring, but honestly not quite correct. The perspective that villains shouldn’t be seen as purely evil was refreshing, but villains were villains in the end.

    It would have been better to change the book’s title to “There Are No Villains Without a Backstory.” Just as he was harboring this small regret, a system window popped up stating that the conditions for clearing the gate had been met and the entrants would be expelled. As expected, there was no reward for clearing the gate.

    Sa-yoon was no beginner, so it was only natural.

    Rumble rumble.

    After retrieving his dagger and even the book, the space began to vibrate. At the earthquake-like tremors, Sa-yoon rummaged through his belongings and pulled out a Fireball.

    Plop.

    With a half-hearted toss of the Fireball and the dismissal of his skill, the ice melted and the four corpses caught fire.

    After concluding the funeral that some might call hypocritical, Sa-yoon turned away from the burning corpses. Flash! The vibrating gate emitted a bright light, obscuring Sa-yoon’s vision.

    ***

    —Breaking news. The leader of the criminal group Night Rats engaged in a terror war with the Russian Guild last night…

    As soon as he exited the gate, the large screen was reporting urgent breaking news. Clicking his tongue at the news reporting on events from quite some time ago as if they happened yesterday, Sa-yoon called someone.

    “Hey, Jongsik-ah. It’s me. …Yeah, I got called again so come pick me up. Where am I…”

    With the frequent summons as of late, complaints could be heard from the other end of the phone. He grumbled about not wanting to go, but being the loyal type, he would eventually come find him in a sedan.

    As he waited for Jongsik to arrive, the voices of people who had heard the news and were murmuring reached his sensitive hearing.

    “Is it about the Night Rats again?”

    Sigh, how can we live in this chaotic world?”

    “What are the police doing instead of catching the Night Rats?”

    “They’re like foreign mafia. If they want to catch them, they’d have to wage war, so they just impose moderate sanctions.”

    “It’s so scary, honey. Can’t we just flee abroad?”

    Oh boy.

    You think I won’t be there even if you flee abroad?

    Laughter flowed out as he quietly listened to people’s conversations. Deciding there was no need to listen any further, he reduced his detection range. As people’s loud voices seemed to grow smaller little by little, the surroundings soon fell quiet.

    “The System must be overjoyed.”

    The world’s worst criminal information guild, Night Rats.

    For Sa-yoon, their leader, there was no higher praise than being called the worst of villains.

    Thinking the system that compelled him to become the villain among villains would be so happy it would dance if it heard, sure enough, a blue window popped up.

    <Congratulations! ‘The true evil of humanity strikes terror in all.’ has been achieved. Infamy has increased by 100. (b ᵔ▽ᵔ)b>

    It had no tact whatsoever, that thing.

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