Chapter 375: Episode 71 – 50 years later (3)
While on our way to the audience chamber, I continued to engage Bilston in conversation. “Sir Bilston. By any chance, have you lost anything recently? Maybe often, as well? For instance, an empty cartridge….”
[A term not fitting the worldview has been used and therefore….]
“I mean, such as misplacing a portable magical explosive….”
“Your highness, do I look like such a pathetic fool capable of doing that?”
I just couldn’t think of what to say here.
When looking at that stiff walking posture or the firm pectoral muscles, or even that slightly dopey expression on his face, this guy was definitely Yi Hyeon-Seong, but…. But, according to ‘Character List’, he was not him, but the character of this world’s setting, ‘Bilston Framer’.
I re-read the ‘Overall Rating’ portion at the bottom of the Character List.
– Once upon a time, there used to be two souls living within this body. He was a knight of the kingdom, and at the same time, a shield of someone else.
The ‘knight of the kingdom’ bit must be referring to ‘Bilston Framer’, while the ‘shield’ bit must be referring to Yi Hyeon-Seong.
– The shield waited for his master to appear. He waited, and then, waited some more. Finally, the master of the shield has appeared after a long wait, but the shield can no longer perform its role anymore.
The most important portion was this part. I kind of realised that Yi Hyeon-Seong had been waiting for other companions to arrive.
The issue here was with the number – just how much time was this ‘long wait’ thing implying here?
I couldn’t help but feel complicated when looking at the man staring back at me with those dopey eyes.
There were only two things I could be sure of at the current juncture.
One, Yi Hyeon-Seong had been entered into this scenario far earlier than me.
Two, he had been swallowed up by this world’s Great Fable and his ego had disappeared.
[Great Fable, ‘Kaixenix Archipelago’, is smacking its lips in your direction.]
[‘The 4th Wall’ is glaring at ‘Kaixenix Archipelago’.]
In that case, could the others who didn’t possess [The 4th Wall] have ended up in the same state as Yi Hyeon-Seong?
“Your highness, did something happen?”
I wordlessly stared into Bilston’s large eyes.
This guy was definitely Yi Hyeon-Seong. But, could he really be called ‘Yi Hyeon-Seong’ right now?
“I’m sorry, Sir Bilston.”
“I beg your pardon? Why so suddenly….”
“I must’ve put you through a lot of hardship. I know that it was difficult for you to protect me until now.”
I wasn’t addressing Bilston Framer right now.
“I always used the excuse of being too busy and didn’t take good care of you. Even though you have saved my life several times already.”
Yi Hyeon-Seong helped me out many times during our journey towards this scenario. I had enough chances to share a deep, meaningful and personal conversation with him, but as it was the usual case, his spot in the queue continued to get pushed back under the pretext of me preparing for the next scenario.
I believed that we understood each other without the need to say something. I believed that the Fables we earned together could ably sub for us in that regard.
And the end result of that was this.
Bilston must’ve thought of something after he heard me because he wiped his nostrils while shifting his gaze to the outside view.
“Your highness, you really do possess a warm, gentle heart.”
[Character, ‘Bilston Framer’, has been moved deeply by you.]
….I wasn’t trying to impress him but someone else, though.
Without saying anything else, we continued down the long hallway.
Portraits of the previous kings lined up the walls of the hallway in sequence. The one that caught my eyes the most among them was a depiction of a lone man holding up a broken sword in the middle of a storm.
– The First Ancestor, the Storm King Ulysses Kaixenix the First.
I stopped walking for a moment and studied that painting.
“It has been my honour to serve you throughout my life, your highness.”
I turned my head around, and Bilston began telling his tale as thick teardrops formed around his eyes. He locked his gaze at the distant parapets of the castle and continued on.
“Can you still remember it? I almost lost you when you were around seven years old, your highness.”
“Just by recalling the sight of you precariously dangling on the castle’s parapet still causes my heart to tumble to the pits of my stomach, your highness. Was that all? When you were thirteen years old, you went to the lavatory and then….”
Hey, hang on a minute, this dude…. He’s way too similar to Yi Hyeon-Seong, wasn’t he?
“But then, you’re still worried about this lowly one even until the last moment….”
Bilston stared back at me with sorrowful eyes, before quickly avoiding meeting my gaze.
“…..We’ve arrived. Let us go inside.”
The doors to the audience chamber were before us already; they opened up to reveal the royal guards lining up on either side of the red carpet. And the captain of the guards, decked out in the silver crest, stood proudly in the middle.
“Sir Bilston, why are you so late?”
“I was sharing a final goodbye with his highness the prince.”
There were several spots in their conversation that I wanted to butt in, but thanks to the overall atmosphere, I couldn’t squeak a word out.
Bilston, who had been in a tearful mood only a minute ago was now carrying a grave, serious expression. The gazes of two people growling at each other collided in mid-air.
The captain continued on. “A final goodbye, is it. A traitor found guilty of high treason dares to enjoy unnecessary luxury.”
“You better watch what you say.”
The two of them got into a battle stance simultaneously. Bilston pulled out a bastard sword, while the captain…. Eh?
….Why was this person carrying that sword?
Indeed, the weapon held in the captain’s hands was something that I was intimately familiar with. I personally collected the materials and had it crafted for the sake of a certain someone, after all.
[Sword of Judgement]
“Sir Bilston, do you wish to become another dewdrop of the execution ground alongside your prince?”
The captain’s red eyes wavered threateningly from beyond ‘his’ helm.
⸢”Oh, my king…. If you will it, then so be it….”⸥
⸢”Dok-Ja-ssi, you’re trying to do it by yourself again… I told you not to do that, didn’t I?”⸥
I knew who this person was.
“Stop, both of you!!”
Bilston heard my urgent cry and stopped gathering momentum, and stepped back. Meanwhile, the captain of the guard, glaring at me with hostile eyes, removed ‘his’ helm.
And ‘his’ face matched exactly that of Jeong Hui-Won’s.
[Exclusive skill, ‘Character List’, is activating!]
Name: Erich Striker (???)
Constellation Support: None
Exclusive Attributes: Loyal Servant, Swordmaster
Exclusive Skills: [Demon Slaying Lv.10], [Kingdom’s Royal Swordsmanship Lv.10]….
Overall Stats: [Physique Lv.75], [Strength Lv.80], [Agility Lv.90], [Magic Power Lv.70]
Overall Rating: Once upon a time, there used to be two souls living within this body. ‘He’ was the Guard Captain of the kingdom, and at the same time, a sword of someone else. The sword waited for that someone to appear with the shield. ‘He’ waited, and then, waited some more. Finally, the sword met the one he’d been waiting for after all this time, but ‘he’ can no longer remember him.
Bloody hell, even Jeong Hui-Won was in that state, too?
The captain staring at me with quiet, still eyes eventually spoke up. “It seems that the prince is aware of the situation he is in. Guards, place the criminal under arrest.”
I was caught by the guards without a chance to resist. But then again, I couldn’t fight back even if I wanted to, what with this body’s average Stats being only 10.
I could see the guillotine beyond the lines of the guards. Only then did I realise why I was brought to this place in the first place.
It was quite likely that this scenario would begin with my execution.
Among all the novels I read in the past, there was this genre referred to as the so-called ‘hooligan tales’.
The story usually went along the lines of the hooligan protagonist being born as the last-born child of a royal family or nobility, and he’d become a better person by going through all sorts of trials and tribulations.
Now normally, most of those stories began in a similar way.
⸢The Kaixenix Royal Family was ruined.⸥
Such as, the family being ruined even before the start, and….
⸢The ruler of the Archipelago died after being stabbed by the dagger of his most trusted adviser.⸥
….And, he’d fall into moments of mortal danger after his parents and best friends were killed off.
⸢The Second Prince, renowned for his mastery of the sword, and the Third Prince, renowned for his magical prowess, lost their lives at the hands of the usurpers.⸥
….What the hell. What was I supposed to do when such important memories came back to me only just now?
“I shall guide the criminal personally.”
All thanks to that, I ended up delivering myself to my own execution ground like an idiot. Many different thoughts floated up in my head; I was wondering why this wastrel killed himself, but huh, maybe he didn’t want to be executed?
Bilston, now being forcibly held back by the guards, could only call out to me in desperation. “Your highness! Prince Ricardo!!”
The captain grabbed a hold of my hair and dragged me towards the gallows. If Jeong Hui-Won’s consciousness was still here, this would’ve turned into a rather amusing spectacle, but alas.
I spotted a lunette designed to perfectly accommodate my neck. In a short while, I’d be forced up on the gallows and have my head cut off. And when that happened, I’d fail this scenario.
[Unique Skill, ‘the 4th Wall’, is strongly activating!]
I looked up at the face of the Guard Captain and asked ‘him’. “Are you really going to do this?”
The captain smirked back. “Oh, so you feel scared now that you’ve come this far?”
“That’s not it.”
“Didn’t you promise to become my sword?”
A faint sense of fluster floated up on the Captain’s face.
“What rubbish are you spewing now?”
“Have you forgotten your pledge already? Was that all a lie, your promise of seeing the end of the scenario alongside me?”
[Character, ‘Erich Striker’, is feeling a small amount of confusion towards you.]
“Looks like you’ve begun rambling nonsense now that you’re about to die.”
Just like it was with Yi Hyeon-Seong, Jeong Hui-Won’s ego didn’t want to return that quickly.
The coldness of the wooden lunette surrounded my neck. It was at this point in time that someone loudly shouted out.
“Her majesty is making her entrance!”
I heard the sounds of curtains being pulled back. Someone was walking towards the audience chamber enveloped in still silence. The footsteps sounded dignified, light, but at the same time, weighty. Accompanying those footsteps, Ricardo’s memories flowed into my head like a song.
⸢The enemy of my father and my brothers.⸥
⸢The Dark Magician of the Kaixenix Archipelago.⸥
My heart began powerfully pounding away.
⸢The woman that I used to love.⸥
“Convict, raise your head.”
I slowly raised my head and saw a short-statured ‘king’, decked out in a black medieval-style cloak embroidered in silver, with neat and tidy tights underneath.
“Do you have any final words?”
I dazedly stared at this ‘king’ and murmured something inside my mouth.
[Exclusive Skill, ‘Character List’, is activating!]
[Due to an unknown reason, only a portion of the applicable individual’s information can be viewed.]
Overall Rating: The applicable individual’s? overall? rating? is still being pre?pared.
The info on the ‘King’ didn’t show up properly. However, her face looked to be in her early 20s no matter how hard I looked.
I stared at the face of this king, the one that couldn’t be the age as declared by the Character Information, for a long time.
Both Yi Hyeon-Seong and Jeong Hui-Won were characters from the pages of the ‘Ways of Survival’. However, what would it be like for someone who wasn’t a character, to begin with?
Just like me, who wasn’t the character of the novel?
I was holding onto a certain expectation, a hope.
“I asked you if you have any last words.”
If it was her, wouldn’t she be able to remember me?
⸢He didn’t know that, by the time Kim Dok-Ja got to meet her again, 50 years would have passed by already.⸥
Those were the words from the final revision of the novel that I saw just before I was thrust into the scenario.
So, this was what they meant, huh.
“Then, I permit the convict to speak.”
“I…” I forced a smile and spoke up. “….I’m sorry that I came so late, Su-Yeong-ah.”
Powerful sparks wrapped around me from my declaration that didn’t align with the worldview’s Probability. I had to say those words out loud, though.
It was unknown how Han Su-Yeong took my words, but she simply continued to look down on me without any movement whatsoever. But then, she slowly lowered her head and matched my eye level.
Her emotionless eyes; the beauty spot just below one of them; and her lips that always mocked me for fun, now arching up in a smooth line.
“Proceed with the execution.”
The guillotine’s blade chopped down. But, I didn’t try to dodge it.
I had my reasons, of course.
⸢Scenarios of the Main Island are all based off on the ‘3rd generation of Fables’.⸥
If my thoughts were correct, then ‘Ricardo Kaixenix’ would not be killed off in this manner.
One of the castle’s walls exploded, and at the same time, the guillotine falling down was destroyed. I could see the broken blade of the guillotine through the grey dust cloud rising up.
“It’s the Revolutionaries!”
“Protect her majesty, now!”
Amidst the chaos, I could hear the loud shouts of the royal guards. Soon, the audience chamber became the scene of pure pandemonium filled with pained moans and screams.
“Damn it, it’s the First Prince!”
“Stop him! You must stop him at all cost!”
It was the First Prince of the Kaixenix Archipelago – Ricardo’s blood brother, as well as a genius in swordsmanship and magic as well as academia.
“I’ve come to save my little brother.”
I was greeted by this overflowing sense of happiness. When the arrestingly-beautiful sword light danced and sparkled within the audience chamber, the royal guards rushing in all collapsed one after another like puppets with strings cut.
There was someone who’d never change even if the worldview or scenarios around him did. Indeed, there would ever be only one such person even if you searched through this entire world-line.
But, I closed my lips just as they opened up half-way. I wasn’t sure why, though.
[Great Fable, ‘Kaixenix Archipelago’, is enjoying the bloody, gory battle.]
My comrades so far had forgotten about me. I was sure it’d be the same story for that dude, too. In a way, it might be the best thing for him, I thought.
[Fable, ‘Comrade of Life and Death’, has begun its storytelling.]
It was then – the First Prince suddenly glared at me.
And then, a message popped up in my head.
– You fool. You must be Kim Dok-Ja.
<Episode 71: 50 years later (3)> Fin.