At this point, it was a compulsion, not a choice. A choice without choice.
580… 579… 578…
Now that I look at it… A whopping three digits of time, just when he had to make the worst choice.
499… 498… 497…
It seemed like it was trying to tell him something. Something like “Find the reason.”
There has to be a way out of this situation. Seol-Hwi frantically analyzed everything he remembered. If there was an answer, there was a way out.
One conclusion arose: his one option had to be the best choice, rather than the worst choice. If it was the worse choice, there literally would be no answer.
That’s what I’ve noticed so far. As he’d realized from his other choices, making the best choices kept him alive. If so, this choice:
▶ You seem to be in the same situation as me?
The worse one didn’t have to be the worst. But it could be.
Regardless, it was the only choice he had.
462… 462… 460…
Seol-Hwi continued to ponder. How could he convince this disciple of the Heavenly Demon, who was obviously hostile? There had to be an answer.
The only reason he was here was because he had good choices in the past.
432… 431… 430…
399… 398… 397…
355… 354… 353…
210… 309… 208…
Seol-Hwi came to a realization.
“That is surprising. That man really doesn’t have the personality to ask someone for such things.” His tone wasn’t friendly. Seol-Hwi noticed that, to the Earth Demon, they were all being divided up under the premise of “family”.
“I don’t know how you found out, but it won’t change anything. I am just someone who has been dragged into this power struggle.”
A disciple of the Heavenly Demon wanted to be free of the struggle? Did this man really not care about the power struggle?
Seol-Hwi was too young to know much about the Sect’s internal affairs, but he knew one thing: survival of the fittest. The Sect was dedicated to the strong.
▶ You seem to be in the same situation as me?
What exactly did that indicate? It meant that both of them were in similar positions. So… his heart would long for power more than anyone. Because Seol-Hwi was the same.
40… 39… 38…
Thinking about it a different way… assuming he could give this man power…
What could he do? How could he offer him strength?
21… 20… 19…
Right! Goo Jong-Myung! That person came to mind. When he thought about it, the Lord of the Supreme Pavilion did too.
Seol-Hwi had information no one else could get.
“How did you know?” Someone in the upper ranks of the Demonic Sect was in contact with someone from a different sect? That was the Lord of the Supreme Pavilion’s weak point, an opportunity for the Earth Demon to flex his power. It might satisfy him.
That’s what I think, but… Seol-Hwi examined the man in front of him.
The moment of truth had come.
<You have selected “You seem to be in the same situation as me?”>
“What?” The young man hesitated. Still, Seol-Hwi couldn’t tell what he was thinking; in a way, the man seemed flustered but angry at the same time.
No, he’s definitely angry. The dark blue demonic energy rising from the blade made his nerves tingle.
Was he too late? It was hard to imagine convincing someone who was this angry.
But he had to try. If his words could reach him, his life would change once again.
“Earth Demon! When you were chosen by the Heavenly Demon, the other disciples had already laid their foundation and gathered support. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to close the gap.” The other disciples were at least ten years older than this man, and it had only been five years since the Heavenly Demon chose the Earth Demon. It wouldn’t be easy for a latecomer to overcome this head start.
“Nevertheless, the fourth disciple overcame the crisis with his own power. That face that you made a specialized assassination faction is something no one in the Demonic Sect wouldn’t know—”
Suddenly, the young man’s blade was at his throat.
“Don’t turn away. What are you trying to say?”
He’s listening! Seol-Hwi found a thread of hope—he’d caught his attention.
“Go after the Lord of the Supreme Pavilion.”
“...What?” The Earth Demon’s eyes shifted. Seol-Hwi jumped at the opportunity and prostrated himself.
“The Supreme Pavilion is a core branch of the Scarlet Demon. If you catch the Supreme Pavilion, you will be taking a core organ from the faction. Isn’t that why you came to see me?”
The Earth Demon flinched, and the demonic energy on his sword began to disappear.
“The Earth Demon didn’t come looking for that book. You weren’t even slightly interested in it, or else you would have gone looking for it right away.”
The man stared at the floor.
“I’ve been thinking.” With every word, Seol-Hwi’s voice steadied. “Why would the disciple of the Heavenly Demon come to this place? Why bother talking to me? It couldn’t have been just to find a book or to speak to me, the lowest of the low. That was when I realized something.”
Bu Il-Gi eyed him.
“You came to find me—more precisely, you came to find a person who knew the weaknesses of the Supreme Pavilion.”
The young man’s expression tightened, and he turned his gaze back towards the ground.
“What makes you think that?”
“The mission the Lord of the Supreme Pavilion was trying to give me. Coincidentally, wasn’t I the only one left out?”
It had been a month since Seol-Hwi was appointed to the library. All his subordinates were dead, if events flowed according to his memory. “Members of the Flying Faction, dead at the hands of a Mount Hua warrior.” A month would have been enough time for the news to reach the Demonic Sect; the Earth Demon must have heard it too.
There was simply no other reason a disciple of the Heavenly Demon would come to see me. Not Seol-Hwi, the weakest of the weak. Even if it had happened by chance, the Earth Demon wouldn’t pay so much attention to him.
“Hahaha! Hahahahaha!” The Earth Demon laughed. He was grinning.
“Really… you are an interesting one. I can see why Sama Gwi hated you.” An ambiguous sort of statement. Seol-Hwi knew he wasn’t safe yet; just withdrawing his sword didn’t mean he was withdrawing his hostility.
“Well, it’s fine. Let’s move on for now.” Bu Il-Gi nodded thoughtfully. “So, you’re saying you can fill in the gaps?”
“Right. That’s right.”
Seol-Hwi didn’t answer.
“What? Can’t think of anything? After all that, this is how it turns out?” His lips curled irately, and his expression turned cold.
“Then why aren’t you speaking?”
“There’s an issue.”
“An issue?” The Earth Demon’s eyebrows rose, but Seol-Hwi was unperturbed.
“If I give you what you want, what do I get?”
“...What?” The young man’s face crumpled.
But Seol-Hwi wasn’t about to back down now. He’d been doing a lot of thinking about the cycles of life and death while he was in the library basement. He couldn’t afford to live the same way anymore. He didn’t want to live his life being dragged around by other things—things like the man in front of him.
“Earth Demon, I’m risking my life here. I think that if there’s something to gain, I should benefit somehow.”
No more being dragged around. He’d lead his life under his own power.
“How much do you think your life is worth? Do you forget I can kill you before you even realize?”
“I know. However, if the Earth Demon spares me the time and effort and a fair chance, don’t you think it would be worthwhile?”
“Time and effort?”
The Earth Demon didn’t answer. He crossed his arms and spent a long minute pondering.
“If you have useful information… I’ll give you a worthy reward.”
Seol-Hwi nodded. The time had come.
“The Supreme Pavilion’s weakness is Goo Jung-Myung of Mount Hua Sect.”
Bu Il-Gi just stared blankly at him.
“Is there any evidence for that?”
“The Lord isn’t some senile old man to leave evidence behind.”
“So, just an assumption?”
“It might be an assumption on my end… but it doesn’t have to be, for you. If the problem is narrowed down to one person, don’t you already possess the ability to verify the assumption?” Seol-Hwi believed the Earth Demon had backers—among them, there would be many who could find the truth of this.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Seol-Hwi, huh?” The Earth Demon bent down to meet his eyes. “Let’s check it out.”
“Ah…” Seol-Hwi groaned in relief.
“But before that, there is something you need to do.”
“Jeok-Myung. Kill him.”
Seol-Hwi was shaken. Jeok-Myung, his long-time bully; the captain of Black Moon, one of the Supreme Pavilion’s men.
“What? Don’t want to?”
“It’s not that, it’s just…”
“If you want me to trust you, I have to vet you.” The Earth Demon made a sly expression. “Who knows? You could be one of the Supreme Pavilion’s men.”
Right. Just like the rumors said, this man didn’t trust anyone. Seol-Hwi had no evidence, so he had to offer something else.
“Can you do it?”
Seol-Hwi didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t a matter of “can” or “can not”.
It had to be done.
“I’ll do it.” Seol-Hwi raised himself up on one knee.
This time, he spoke with an undeniable confidence:
“I will kill him.”
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