Villain Hides His True Colors
[Translator – Yasi ]
[Proofreader – Karane ]
In the distant past, mankind would think of God's existence whenever they saw lightning descend from the sky.
Perhaps above the high clouds and beyond their reach was an omnipotent being looking down on the world.
As such, people would often say it was the 'heaven’s will' and attributed it to fate when they would face a sudden misfortune or something beyond their control.
However, Shin Cheonho hated that fatalistic way of thinking when he was a child.
If the outcome of everything was really fixed, then he, who was born without talent, wasn't even qualified to dream.
"Wow! What kind of hero doesn't have superpower? You should know your place!"
"Right. There's a thing called fate that everyone is born with. Only a miserable fate awaits you if you indulge in such ideas."
He was scolded by the adults around him for wanting to become a hero. A vain dream would only fester after all.
On the contrary, he became more determined as his dream of becoming a hero grew in his heart.
To him, fate was just an excuse for the defeatist who had given up the challenge.
Limitation and fate. Who gets to decide that?
I'm not like those cowards. A true hero is someone who can overcome any hardships.
He swung his sword to the point of exhaustion every day and worked without sparing himself just so he could stand side by side with the heroes he yearned to be.
To prove to those who had once laughed at his dream.
Not through luck like those born with an ability but from the strength gained through effort.
"Why! Why only this far? I've worked so hard!"
The result was at best a third-rate mercenary after a lifetime's struggle. Those around him were also defeatists who lived by alcohol rather than sweat.
It was a life very far from the ideal he had dreamed of as a child.
I...I can't let it end here. If I just try a little harder...
He didn't want to admit such a reality. He wanted to believe that one day his efforts would be rewarded.
However, he sank deeper into despair when he saw that his situation wasn't much different from the other mercenaries.
My talent...From the start, was there really no way for me to become a hero?
In the midst of repeated failures, the spite he had harbored gradually faded away and in the end he had no choice but to admit the truth.
That there was such a thing called 'fate' in the world and it was beyond one's control no matter how hard you struggled.
Everyone was right...Mankind cannot go against heaven's will.
Ironically, he was saved from despair as a result of an encounter with a mythical existence from heaven.
As if it was fate, he had encountered the 'Thunderbird' during one of his missions. He instantly became an S-Rank hero after forming a contract with it.
Just like the abilities gained by luck from birth, it was a power he had gained without any effort. It was the sort of thing he had always hated.
However, he was no longer ashamed of the fact.
It doesn't matter.
After all, now he knew that life was determined by something greater than an individual's will or effort...
A wife who departed the world before even saying goodbye. A daughter who always had to live with the danger of her mana running wild. And even himself who was a puppet of the World Government.
The world was full of things beyond one's control.
In the face of such fate, all one's efforts were simply useless.
It was the same as having the common sense to not run toward lightning descending from the sky.
...To this child also, I need to let him understand the reality.
That was what an adult like himself should do. He looked at Noah sharply.
"Your talent is certainly astonishing. But you still don't know the most important thing."
"There are things in this world you can't overcome no matter how hard you try."
Dark clouds suddenly began to cover the ceiling of the gym.
Lightning flashed between the clouds as the gym shook like it was going to collapse due to the constant rumbling.
"The World Government now deserves to be called heaven. There's not a single place in the world beyond their reach. Resisting against such an existence isn't something an individual can do through effort or will!"
The thunderclouds that had covered the ceiling in an instant seemed to have no gaps.
There were no blind spots where it couldn't reach.
To the point where the gym had really become Shin Cheonho's domain. Having isolated the area, he spoke to Noah.
"Heaven is called heaven because it's out of human reach. So I'm telling you this for the last time. Surrender now and just accept it."
After hearing Shin Cheonho, Noah tilted his head with a perplexed expression.
"Hmm, you've definitely grown a little strong, but I don't think it's to the point where you should be so full of yourself...Ah! Or maybe ahjussi is just too weak?"
"How dare you! Are you still trying to provoke me?! You don't know anything about their true power! If they put their mind to it..."
Noah cut off Shin Cheonho's words and spoke firmly.
"No. I think I know that better than ahjussi."
A confident expression. Noah smiled as if he really didn't care about the World Government.
Seeing that, Shin Cheonho realized that there was no need for further persuasion.
Perhaps it was confidence out of ignorance.
He had thought it was due to Noah's inexperience rather than being blinded by his own talent.
"...Foolish. You'll regret your decision."
Shin Cheonho drew his sword again and raised it in the air.
At that moment, deep blue lights seemingly flashed between the dark clouds and in an instant a lightning bolt descended toward Noah.
A terrifying power that could split a giant tree in one breath.
Had it been an ordinary person, they would have evaporated without a trace.
The attack didn't reach Noah. He had narrowly avoided it the moment the lightning bolt descended.
Shin Cheonho looked at Noah with a genuinely surprised expression.
"...It was avoided?"
The attack just now wasn't a borrowed power like usual but was the direct use of the Thunderbird's power.
Its speed was naturally incomparable to earlier.
Even he wasn't confident in avoiding it unless he knew the direction of the attack beforehand.
An ability? Or just a fluke?
In fact, there wasn't much to say. He was simply surprised by Noah's movement that had exceeded his expectations.
This place had already become the Thunderbird's territory. Victory was as good as a foregone conclusion.
The more I watch him, the more I'm amazed...But there won't be a next time.
Shin Cheonho silently lifted his sword and brought it down quickly.
Like before, light flashed in the thunderclouds and lightning descended.
As many as three lighting bolts this time.
It came down one by one, but it was so fast as if three had struck simultaneously.
The highly strengthened floor made specifically for training shattered like straws, scattering debris in all directions.
Shin Cheonho looked to where his attack had fallen. Soon, his eyes widened so far as if they couldn't get any bigger.
Standing there was Noah unscathed.
Just like before, he had narrowly avoided the attack.
"How the hell did you do it?!"
Even though he had controlled the output, the speed was certainly the same. As a result, he couldn't understand how Noah had avoided his attack.
This...is it talent?
No, even for a remarkable genius, this really didn't make any sense.
If Noah was really born with such a difference in talent, wouldn't such a power be unreasonable?
Noah frowned and answered with a tone of annoyance.
"I've told you earlier. It's because ahjussi is weak."
Shin Cheonho's rationale that was barely held together immediately scattered. He didn't even think to control the output anymore.
Leaking from the dark clouds, countless lightning bolts descended simultaneously.
The gym was covered in white light as the area where Noah stood boiled and melted.
In the midst of such hellish lightning, Noah had survived by a hair's breadth.
Although the attack just now was due to Shin Cheonho's momentary inability to hold back his anger, he had put everything behind that attack.
How is this possible?
Shin Cheonho couldn't believe the current situation.
Looking at Noah's fatigued expression, it could clearly be seen that he was already at his limit after having to move his body at an unreasonable speed.
However, in the midst of that, Noah had yet to allow a single attack.
No matter how good a person's reflexes were, these weren't attacks that could be avoided simply by observing it.
Unless Noah had fought him in the past, this phenomenon was completely inexplicable.
Even now, wasn't Noah moving one step ahead as if he knew where he would attack?
However, this was naturally the first time they had met each other.
If that was the case...
Don't tell me...does he have foresight?
Shin Cheonho had only heard of it in the legends of other dimensions. However, it all pointed to that being the case given what he had seen.
The reason why Noah was able to predict and respond to every attack so far.
And also the reason why he was able to stand out at such a young age.
Just because he can read the future doesn't mean there's no way.
If avoiding was the cause of Shin Cheonho's dilemma, then it was enough to fire an attack that Noah knew but couldn't avoid.
* * *
[ Translator - Yasi ]
[ Proofreader - Karane ]
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* * *
Shin Cheonho, who had been sending down lightning until now, suddenly stopped.
He slowly lifted his sword and took a thrusting posture.
Dark clouds filling the gym began to rapidly gather at the tip of his sword.
The power that had spread out compressed into a single point.
At last, when the power was concentrated, he thrusted his sword in Noah's direction.
A piercing cry rang out as lightning in the form of a grouse flew in a straight line toward Noah.
An attack that threatened to vaporize everything in its path.
Let's see how he can avoid this.
Contrary to expectation, Noah frowned and seemed to have no intention of avoiding it.
Rather, as if he had given up, he ran toward the grouse and threw himself at it with open arms.
A golden shield formed in front of him and collided with the grouse, blocking its path.
As a result, along with a blinding light, a huge shock wave erupted.
Noah, who had blocked the attack, bounced away at a high speed and collided with the barrier of the gym.
Cracks formed in the barrier that had endured all kinds of shocks until now, and as a result, the side of the gym collapsed.
Soon after, as the dust settled, the figure of Noah, who was limp like a broken doll, was revealed.
Every joint was twisted in opposite directions, and his arms, which had blocked the attack directly, were charred black up to the shoulders.
In the end...it came to this.
After seeing Noah's condition, Shin Cheonho released the power he had barely maintained.
His body that was surrounded by lightning returned to its original state as he coughed up a mouthful of blood.
It was the result from having used such a power twice today. Let alone his physical condition, his lifespan must have also been drastically reduced.
However, Noah was simply a talented genius who couldn't be dealt with unless risks were taken.
Maybe in the next few years he would have become a fearsome monster that even he cannot handle.
I can't believe I broke that diamond with my own hands...
Perhaps he could have suppressed Noah without injury if he had been a little weaker.
Or if he wasn't talented in the first place, then he wouldn't have caught the World Government's attention and could live in peace.
This is also a fixed fate...
Shin Cheonho frowned as he wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth.
The moment he was about to turn his back, Noah's faint voice was heard.
At first he thought he had heard wrongly.
However, when he looked at the fallen Noah again, he could see that his chest was moving up and down, even if just slightly.
"Oh my god! How is he still breathing?"
Shin Cheonho ran straight to Noah. When he saw his appearance up close, he opened his mouth in surprise.
"Really, this guy...is a monster."
Noah's condition was still grave. It was a gruesome sight to the point where it felt like a miracle he was alive.
However, his body was recovering so quickly that the changes were visible.
The twisted joints regained their place, and the skin tissues, which had been charred black, began to show a luster.
At this rate, it won't be long before he completely recovered.
Shin Cheonho thought he could complete his mission without killing Noah after all.
He took out restraints from his chest with the intention of suppressing him before he could fully recover.
Looking down at Noah, he spoke bitterly.
"I know you're innocent. You deserve to be called a hero even more than someone like me. But...in the first place, justice exists for the strong. You can call it whatever sin you want. So, Choi Noah. I'm arresting you here on suspicion of colluding with Eighth Layer Hell."
Shin Cheonho activated the restraints in his hand and brought it to Noah who was recovering quickly.
"...You can curse me all you want."
As he was about to arrest Noah, a familiar voice came from behind him.
When Shin Cheonho looked back in surprise, Shirahui was looking at him with an extremely shocked expression.
His thoughts stopped temporarily the moment he saw her.
Why was she here? Was she unconscious all this time?
A-ah...What the hell did I do?!
His pounding heart sank. He had poured out all those attacks while unaware that his precious daughter was here.
If Choi Noah had avoided the last attack...
He inadvertently examined where the two had clashed. Then, he suddenly noticed the truth.
D-don't tell me...In order to protect everyone, did he deliberately block my attack?!
He didn't want to believe it, but he had no choice but to admit it the more he thought about it.
Shame and guilt. An unbearable self-loathing pressed down on his chest.
While Shin Cheonho was in a state of chaos, Shirahui asked.
"F-father, what the hell did you just say...commiting a sin..."
Shirahui staggered. Her body looked precarious as if it was going to break at any second.
What had happened here? How come he couldn't feel any life from his daughter?
Startled, Shin Cheonho hurriedly approached Shirahui and put his hand on her shoulder. However...
Shirahui swept away his hand.
"Don't...touch me. More than that...Answer me."
"Th-that's...I'll explain it all later! S-so please calm down first..."
However, Shirahui gripped Shin Cheonho's collar as if her body was fine.
"How...can you...It's not someone else but my father...My father who taught me the meaning of justice!"
A powerful cry to the end. At that moment, Shirahui's body faltered greatly.
She fell to the floor and lost consciousness.
Shin Cheonho hugged Shirahui with his remaining left arm. He immediately instilled mana into her and tried to seize her flame of life.
"I-it can't be. No, Rahui! If you also leave me...!"
He prayed earnestly to fate that was tormenting him again. For it to please overlook it this time.
However, contrary to his earnest wish, Shirahui's breathing became thinner and thinner.
And in the end, her breath completely stopped.
Shin Cheonho cried out. His animal-like howl vainly spread out in the gym.
He had done all kinds of dirty things without hesitation to protect his daughter from the World Government.
In the case they would harm his family, he had conformed to their will.
But was this karma? If so, it was a cruel punishment.
"If it's like that, then take me instead!!!"
As he fell into endless despair, Shirahui's body suddenly floated up in front of him and dark clouds began to wrap around it.
In the space that was connected beyond such clouds, a mysterious giant figure shrouded in light could be seen.
A pressure that made it hard to even breathe. An overwhelming presence he had never felt before weighed on his spirit.
Wh-what the hell is this...
If fate had a form, perhaps it would look something like this.
He instinctively realized. Every creature in this world could never go against this existence.
From that kind of existence came its voice directly in his mind.
“The child's breath has stopped, so I'll take her in accordance with the contract.”
The giant said as it stretched out its huge arm from beyond the clouds and grabbed Shirahui's body.
Although Shin Cheonho didn't know the giant's identity, he wasn't going to let it take his daughter.
He tried to stop it, but his body was as stiff as a statue and wouldn't move.
Biting his tongue and circulating his mana, he tried desperately to move his body, but it was no use.
Even his old partner, the Thunderbird, hid itself under the overwhelming pressure of the giant's presence.
There was no way anymore.
Like the story of his life of having always conformed to a greater power, his body refused to move as if it was conforming to the existence in front of him.
Meanwhile, the giant's arm holding Shirahui was already disappearing beyond the clouds.
All he could do was curse heaven for such a fate.
Don't take anymore from me!!!
As Shin Cheonho screamed in his heart, a voice in the same vein as his inner thoughts was heard from behind.
"Don't take my reward!"
Something carrying a red trajectory brushed past him.
It was none other than Noah who was lying on the floor moments ago.
Noah had fully recovered, and before Shin Cheonho knew it, he had kicked off the ground and leapt into the air.
Without any hesitation, he threw himself beyond the clouds that were slowly closing.
Like that, he disappeared along with the clouds. As if nothing had happened here.
"Wh-what the hell..."
Shin Cheonho, who had witnessed everything, finally lost strength in his legs and collapsed.
He stared vacantly at where his daughter and Noah had disappeared.
* * * * * * * * * *
After entering through the clouds, an unfamiliar landscape welcomed me.
Tall snow mountains stretched in the horizon, and countless constellations filled the sky.
A bastard was stealing my reward, so I had followed him blindly and arrived at this unknown place.
However, there were no signs of Shirahui or the thief anywhere.
"Where am I?"
As if to answer my question, a message appeared in front of me.
You've entered the dimension 'Olympus.'
The same place from Greek mythology?
I wasn't even aware of the existence of Gods in the first round...It was unbelievable that this kind of hidden content existed.
A new dimension has been discovered.
Condition for the Challenge - Dimensional Traveler has been met (2/3).
This was the quest I had received when I had found a dimensional gate in Choi Bokhui's castle.
Along with the fact that I had briefly visited the demon world when I was kidnapped by Azazel, this was already the second dimension.
That meant one more dimension and I'll be rewarded...
I had left it alone for the time being because there was no way to do it, so this was really an unexpected harvest.
By the way, it can't be that I failed the Challenge...?
I had followed her in a hurry, but now that I think about it, I wonder what will happen to the Challenge to protect Shirahui until the end of the school festival.
Just as I thought as such, more messages appeared before me.
Part of a Challenge completed.
"Oh! So that was the case."
Fortunately, it seemed the Challenge didn't fail.
But how come it was updated and not completed? I had a bad feeling.
I checked the contents of the updated Challenge. And in the end, I had no choice but to give a deep sigh.
"As expected...I thought it would be like this."
Like what I had experienced before, there were many things to pay attention to when it came to 'save' Challenges because the conditions were vague.
Well, in this case, it could literally mean saving Shirahui, but I think I'll need to wait and see the exact situation.
However, I was certain of one thing.
"God or whatever, I won't let anyone take my reward."
I walked toward the snow mountains in front of me step by step.
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