To Hell With Being a Hero! - BestLightNovel.com
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Chapter 130. Theory of Relativity (2)
The day Chi-Woo met Philip in the palace bas.e.m.e.nt, Chi-Woo asked Eshnunna if there was a place where he could find useful pieces of equipment. Eshnunna’s expression turned odd then, and rather than thinking if there was such a place, it seemed that she was wondering whether or not she should tell Chi-Woo what was on her mind.
“…Well, I think it would be okay to tell you.” After thinking about the matter deeply, Eshnunna asked Chi-Woo to wait a bit and went off somewhere. “Honestly, I am hesitant to tell you, but since you defeated a G.o.d…”
Then, once they returned upstairs, Eshnunna opened up a book with faded pages and slowly began her explanation.
“A…Academy?” Chi-Woo blinked hard after hearing her out.
“It’s an event that happened during King Seong’s time according to Ophecialis’ record, which served as a foundation for Salem’s written history. Although King Seong was revered as a great and esteemed leader, the records show that the king’s reign was marred by a mistake he made.”
The mistake was ‘Salem Academy’.
“He had good intentions when creating the academy, and he accepted anyone with talent regardless of their age, s.e.x, and cla.s.s for his country. The royal family also covered all the expenses incurred by the academy.” In other words, this was no ordinary government school. Salem Academy was a high-cla.s.s inst.i.tution in charge of nurturing talents who would later become pillars of the nation’s future.
“Apparently, it cost an astronomical amount to establish and maintain the academy. Besides emptying the treasury, the administration needed to save tenaciously for several years and set aside only the minimum operating costs for the palace. For example, one of the academy’s cla.s.srooms was made entirely of magic stones. That should give you a rough idea of how much everything would have cost, right?”
Eshnunna’s example didn’t mean much to Chi-Woo, but it was truly an astonis.h.i.+ng feat. In Earth terms, it would be akin to having a cla.s.sroom built entirely out of gems.
“After putting so much attention and care into establis.h.i.+ng the academy, however, they closed it down after only three years for a mysterious reason.”
They didn’t just close the school. Following the sage’s advice, King Seong erased the academy without leaving a trace. Not only did he give up on all the items inside, he also abandoned all the professors, students, laborers, and the two rescue teams that had been sent to the school, leaving them completely cut off from planet Liber.
“Is the rescue signal still coming?”
“I don’t know.” Eshnunna shook her head. “In a deleted record, it says that they continue to receive signals for help even after 30 years had pa.s.sed. It’s hard to believe though.”
‘For that long?’ Chi-Woo thought and then asked, “Can we a.s.sume that communication with them has been cut off now?”
“I don’t know. The signals could be still coming. After King Seong pa.s.sed away, records state that King Ye didn’t let anyone even bring up the topic of the academy. It seems King Jeong, the successor of King Ye, tried to solve the problem again, but…they didn’t seem to make any progress.” Eshnunna explained that afterward, what the sage had said was only pa.s.sed down to members of the royal family for generations to come, and everything else was lost in history.
Chi-Woo caressed his chin thoughtfully. That prompted Eshnunna to ask, “Why? What’s there for someone who can defeat G.o.ds to be scared of?”
“That’s not it…” Chi-Woo smiled blandly, “I’m wondering if that place would really have the items I want.”
“Why wouldn’t there be?” Eshnunna asked. “Think about it. In that time period, what kind of humans would be able to unleash the greatest fighting prowess?”
Chi-Woo thought it over and answered immediately, “A mage?”
“Yes, a mage.” Eshnunna nodded. “And it seems the country not only supported mages, but also invested in anything related to magic, such as a weapon enhanced with spells, or an item made by an artisan…”
Chi-Woo gasped. “Ah, I see.” If what Eshnunna said was true, he would be able to retrieve a couple of useful items. On the other hand, it also made him think the place would be more dangerous than he had thought. This was why he had thought he should talk to Ru Amuh about this matter, only to find out that Ru Amuh’s schedule didn’t fit; in the end, he made up his mind that day to focus on training rather than going on an adventure.
* * *
‘Where is this place…?’
Everything was in ruins. Chi-Woo was standing alone in a city devastated, where buildings, castles, and everything else were destroyed. The whole world was colored in ashes, and there was no one around him.
‘What in the world…? Huh?’ Chi-Woo scanned his surroundings and felt a strange sense of déjà vu.
It was Salem’s former capital. Because it was in such ruins, Chi-Woo hadn’t recognized it before he spotted a few familiar landmarks.
‘But why is the city in such a state?’ It was as if the city had fallen. Last he remembered, Salem’s capital was finally turning back into a city that humans could reside in. It was then Chi-Woo noticed someone. He saw a woman slowly walking toward him in a hood and a white robe. And when Chi-Woo noticed the balance scale in her left hand, his eyes turned wide.
‘Lady La Bella?’ The G.o.ddess who guarded balance and scales had appeared.
‘Lady La Bella! Lady La Bella!’ Chi-Woo’s body sprang into action as if it had a mind of its own. Rather than thinking about why she was here, Chi-Woo felt a strong urge to chase after her. But for some reason, he couldn’t. Even though La Bella was clearly walking slowly, no matter how fast Chi-Woo ran or chased after her, he couldn’t shorten the distance between them. Then La Bella disappeared to her destination.
‘I know this place.’ Chi-Woo heaved and stopped running to collect his breath. This place also looked familiar to him. Although it was likewise destroyed, he could tell it was where the royal palace used to be based on its layout.
‘Lady La Bella…’ Chi-Woo s.h.i.+fted his gaze away and blinked hard. There, in the distance, La Bella had stopped walking and was standing alone.
‘Lady La Bella…?’ Chi-Woo was about to follow her instinctively when he stopped. It felt different from before. His senses told him that it was dangerous for him to approach her now. And after he stared at her from afar for a good moment, La Bella slowly turned around. She bowed slowly like she was telling him to look at where she was.
‘I can’t see anything though…?’ All Chi-Woo could see was a gray void. Chi-Woo tilted his head, and La Bella raised her left hand slowly. The balance in her hand had been in perfect balance, but as soon as she raised it, the balance tilted to one side. It tilted more and more until the beam was perpendicular to the ground. It was an extreme imbalance that naturally brought discomfort to any viewers. Not long afterward, La Bella pointed to the sky with the index finger of her empty hand. She seemed to be telling Chi-Woo to look up instead of forward. Chi-Woo obliged and looked up, his jaw dropped immediately.
Gasp! Chi-Woo panted as he jerked awake and opened his eyes. As soon as he sat up, he looked around and frantically fumbled around the floor. He unconsciously pulled out his club from the bag beside his bed, but stopped when he got a clear look at his surroundings… The capital was just like how he remembered, and his confusion began to settle down. Chi-Woo gave his house another once over before putting down the club he had been clutching with a vise-like grip. Then he sighed deeply and hung his head.
‘Just now…’ It had been a dream, but the dream had felt so real and fresh in his mind. Usually, he forgot dreams as soon as he woke up, but that wasn’t the case for the dream he just had. His memories of it were still clear in his mind, and above all, La Bella had appeared.
‘It isn’t…the first time.’ After Chi-Woo fell off a cliff in the Evalaya mountains, Chi-Woo had dreamt of La Bella. And thanks to her guidance, Chi-Woo had been able to come back to the living world from the underworld. Thus, Chi-Woo couldn’t simply dismiss this dream as a nonsensical one, and he was sure there was a reason why La Bella had appeared and tried to show him something.
‘It seemed like a grim warning for me…’ Chi-Woo struggled to make sense of it while clutching his head. He must be missing something. He thought back to everything that had happened.
‘The capital…I recently went to the palace.’ Chi-Woo had gone to the royal palace under Eshnunna’s guidance and met Salem Philip there.
‘Will that become a problem?’ No, there was no way. La Bella had pointed up instead of down at the bas.e.m.e.nt.
‘Now that I think about it, that’s not the only thing. There’s another thing she could be warning me about: the adventure.’ After Eshnunna finished her business with him, Chi-Woo had asked her if she knew a place where he could get useful equipment. He expected her to know a lot as a princess, and after thinking deeply over the matter, Eshnunna had told him that there was a place like an ancient ruin. And since it was difficult for her to explain what it was, she offered to show him records of it.
Chi-Woo went through the records she found for him, and after learning a considerable amount about the place, he fell into deep contemplation about whether he should go there or not. A part of him thought it was better to not go.
‘It looked too dangerous.’ That was also the reason why he had given up on it after talking to Ru Amuh. He didn’t feel the need to go there while undertaking that much risk. While he thought it was a shame, he could always get equipment elsewhere.
‘But…is that really connected to this dream?’ Chi-Woo was taken aback. He couldn’t think of anything else that could be connected. He could interpret his dream to mean that La Bella was telling him to go to the place Eshnunna told him—to go there before something serious happened. That seemed to be more of the case considering the text he’d read, which stated the problem could arise again.
“Haaaa…” Chi-Woo let out a sigh. After thinking long and hard about it, he covered his face with both hands.
‘I don’t know.’ Truthfully, he didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to take another unknown risk again. It was different from the time he had to go deal with a G.o.d. He felt a physiological aversion to the idea, but it wasn’t as if he could simply ignore the issue. It bothered him that if he didn’t do anything this time, he would be leaving a potential problem that could arise anytime unchecked. But then again, maybe he wouldn’t be able to stop it from happening. From his past experiences, Chi-Woo knew better than anybody else that it was better to take action whenever he felt this way.
“It could have been the manifestation of my worries. Or just a nonsense dream…d.a.m.n it!” Because he didn’t want to go, he kept coming up with interpretations that would excuse his inaction, but eventually, Chi-Woo shook his head hard and gritted his teeth. He shouldn’t seek to be leisurely and carefree so desperately in a world like this.
‘But…even if I decided to do it, I don’t know what to do.’ Chi-Woo struggled to make up his mind. Closing his eyes, he pushed a hand into his pocket. Although he had promised to never rely on the die again, he felt like he needed to get an answer through it this time so that he wouldn’t make an irreversible mistake.
After breathing in deeply, Chi-Woo rolled the die and prayed.
[Rolling the World’s Milestone.]
The die rolled to a stop on the floor.
[Inherent state [Blessed] Luck consumed (75 → 69)]
[The world’s flow twists and separates.]
[Success. An incident occurs.]
[Long ago, a calamity that could plunge the world into ruins arose because of one human’s greed. Thanks to a wise sage’s quick thinking, the world was able to avoid ma.s.s destruction, but the problem didn’t completely disappear. This problem must now be solved as soon as possible, and part of the stolen world must be returned. To fix the distorted balance, a scale will open a tunnel momentarily and match the balances of the two worlds. 「Temporarily opening a pa.s.sage connecting the two Worlds and fixing for time differences.」]
It was what Chi-Woo had feared. Without even celebrating that his die roll was a success, he muttered, “…d.a.m.n it.” His eyes narrowed as he read the message hovering in the air.
* * *
A magnificent and majestic building occupied a vast area before them. Even the front door Eshnunna was standing at boasted an overwhelming height and width. But besides its enormous size, what glued their eyes to the building was something else entirely. First of all, the structure was half-transparent; it didn’t seem to be real, like a reflection in fluctuating water. While they could see it with their eyes, it looked intangible. Moreover, none of them could conceal their discomfort as they stared at the building. They didn’t know why, but they felt an instinctual sense of reluctance to get close, similar to the kind of trepidation someone with trypophobia would feel seeing a cl.u.s.ter of holes.
“…Uh…” Eshnunna touched the door and suddenly began to tremble. She couldn’t put the feeling into words since she wasn’t familiar with this phenomenon. She simply felt a great discomfort coming from her hand.
“…This is strange,” Shadia said after sensing the sudden enormous burst of mana. “I’m no expert in barriers, but didn’t you say this particular one has been maintained for hundreds of years? But for some reason, the flow of mana in a particular spot is especially unstable.”
“Well…perhaps something bad has happened from the inside,” Nangnang said, and Shadia shook her head.
“No, the other parts of the barrier are too intact for that to be the case. It’s just this one spot...” Shadia focused her eyes and glared at a specific point before continuing in a low voice, “In cases like this, it usually means one thing. Someone knew about the existence of this place and had already forced their way in.”
“That’s impossible.” Eshnunna shook her head to emphasize her point. “This barrier can only be lifted by Salem’s royal blood.”
“That’s what you think,” Shadia replied curtly. “I admit the barrier is well-hidden and differentiates bloodline well, but even I would be able to make enough of a gap to force my way in when I was at my peak; as long as I knew it was here, that is.”
Eshnunna blanched. Who was she to argue with a hero who already had experience in saving a world?
“I have a bad feeling about this…” Shadia looked reluctant to continue further.
“To my ears, it sounds like we have to quickly go in before something happens.” Unlike her, Nangnang smirked. He seemed to be the kind to be invigorated by daunting challenges. “Since it looks like the entrance might disappear at any time, let’s quickly prepare. Let’s first decide the order in which we enter. I’ll take a point, followed by the giant, alchemist, boss, and silver hair. People at the back, grab the clothes of the person in front of you.” Then, Nangnang stepped forward and quickly said, “Once we go in, everyone should form a circle around the alchemist at my signal. I will of course stand in the front, boss and the giant would take the left and right, and silver hair would take the rear. No one has any complaints, right?”
“Why are you acting however you please?” Shadia protested; it seemed she didn’t like that Nangnang was ordering people around.
“Acting however I please?” But in response, Nangnang stared at Shadia like she was the strange one. “We’re going on an expedition to fulfill a request. And the boss brought me here as the guide. Of course, he would have the final say on important decisions, but I have the right and responsibility to decide which path we should take and what direction we would go in.”
Shadia fell silent. Nangnang was right.
“Or are you just not planning to go in?” Nangnang stared at her, and Shadia looked away. Chi-Woo sighed inwardly. He empathized with her feelings, but they had no choice. They needed to enter the academy to at least correct the distorted balance and prevent the dream he had from becoming a reality. Having hardened his heart, Chi-Woo grabbed Shadia’s robes by its hems.
The group began to walk toward the swaying door—to the place that used to be part of Liber, but was now part of a completely different World. As they pa.s.sed through the barrier, their vision shook again like what they had seen outside. It was almost as if they were looking inside a bowl of water. They also felt a different sensation as soon as they crossed the barrier. It was like a black hole was sucking them in or stretching different parts of their bodies. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation in the slightest.
Chi-Woo began to feel anxious; it felt like he was really entering another world. Worried, he clutched the hem of Shadia’s robe even tighter. After an unknowable stretch of time, he saw a flas.h.i.+ng red light that reminded him of a red-light district. The fluctuating waves seemed to quell and subside until their surroundings came into focus. It was then Shadia suddenly stopped, and Chi-Woo followed suit.