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Chapter 110

I'm an Infinite Regressor, But I've Got Stories to Tell

WE TRIED TRANSLATIONS


Translator/Editor: Ryuu

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◈ I'm an Infinite Regressor, But I've Got Stories to Tell




Chapter 110

──────

One Who Was a Companion II



“Hello, teacher!”


“Oh, it's Yo-hwa.”


“Yes! Hehe, it’s been a while!”


One day, Cheon Yo-hwa descended to Busan with a few of her close aides.


As expected of Baekhwa Girls’ High School, all of them were dressed in white sailor uniforms. Now that Cheon Yo-hwa was no longer a senior but roughly a ninth-year high school student, she should be graduating soon.


The top guild master of the Korean Peninsula was in a witch cosplay, and the second-in-command guild master was in a school uniform cosplay. The future of this land was grim.


“Have you been well?”


“Of course. I’m always doing well.”


“Haha. Indeed, it seems like even if you were dropped in the middle of the Sahara Desert, you'd come back just fine. By the way—”


As we chatted, the rest of the Baekhwa Girls’ High School guild members had already moved away. In the plaza, only the two of us remained, and Cheon Yo-hwa glanced around.


“Busan has changed a lot.”


“Hmm.”


Cheon Yo-hwa was right.


The 173rd cycle’s Busan boasted a city view unseen in past runs.


Previously, even though Busan was the premier city of the Korean Peninsula, it wasn’t very glamorous, fitting the apocalyptic times.


Red-light districts might have adorned themselves with expensive electricity in yellow and pink lights, but most buildings didn’t exceed two stories. The elevator and sewage systems required to maintain high-rise buildings had completely collapsed.


But now it was different.


Most buildings were four or five stories high, with some even exceeding ten stories. Civilization wasn’t fully restored, but the most expensive real estate was still on the ground floor.


Living in a five-story building and going up and down the stairs to the restroom each time was a workout many were willing to endure, as more people desired to live in Busan.


“It's quite splendid.”


“How’s Sejong these days?”


“Ah—well, it’s the same. Since we have a strong grip on Sejong, people still gather there, but other cities are in dire straits. The other guild leaders often complain when we meet, saying all the specialists have been snatched up by Busan.”


Cheon Yo-hwa’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the new capital of the Korean Peninsula.


“But it’s hard to focus on those complaints. There isn’t a guild leader strong enough to confront the National Road Management Corps leader, right?”


“Who knows. You’re here, Yo-hwa.”


“Haha. The guild leaders always say that.”


Cheon Yo-hwa laughed awkwardly, waving her hand dismissively.


“Why would I engage in a power struggle with the management leader? I’m content feeding my kids, hunting anomalies, and occasionally traveling to meet you!”


“That’s very like you.”


“Hehe...”


But for someone with such a humble lifestyle, the aura of the guild members accompanying Cheon Yo-hwa was extraordinary.


She must have formed the delegation with the best elite members of Baekhwa Girls’ High.


I glanced at the waist of Cheon Yo-hwa. Like a Pokémon trainer with Poké Balls, anomaly master Cheon Yo-hwa wore a custom belt with hourglasses attached.


One particularly white sandglass stood out. Despite its appearance, it was an indestructible anomaly seal.


The Infinite Void.


It was Cheon Yo-hwa’s most powerful weapon. Perhaps recognizing me even from inside the hourglass, her doppelgänger ‘Cheon Yo-hwa (天寥化)’ stirred the sand.


Sensing the vibration from her waist belt, Cheon Yo-hwa’s gaze turned icy. The vitamin-like smile that had been radiating in all directions evaporated instantly.


“Shut up.”


The hourglass trembled briefly before settling down. It might have been my imagination, but the vibration felt like mockery.


At that moment.


- Ah, ah—


From the speakers erected like utility poles throughout Busan, a small song began to play.


It was an acapella recording of Dang Seo-rin’s voice.


- Ah... Ah... Ah... Ah... .


The melody resembled a children’s song but it was bright enough not to irritate anyone's nerves.


As the quiet song briefly washed over us, Cheon Yo-hwa’s eyebrows relaxed.


“Ah—this is. The famous Busan specialty, right?”


“Yes. It’s the song of the National Road Management Corps leader.”


“Hehe... it really makes you feel at ease listening to it? No, I should say it makes you feel good. Is this a drug?”


It actually had a drug-like effect.


‘The song of the National Road Management Corps leader’ was broadcast every hour from 7 AM to 10 PM daily. The effects of Cursed Song Incantation subtly changed with the time of day.


For example, at 7 AM, it was a song that had the effect of waking you up feeling refreshed and clear-minded. At 10 PM, it made you pleasantly sleepy and ready for a good night’s rest as soon as you lay down.


“Thanks to it, there are no insomniacs in Busan. No one in the world sleeps as healthily as Busan citizens.”


“Hmm...”


“And during work hours, songs that invigorate and energize play, while songs that reduce stress and create a slightly excited atmosphere conducive to enjoyable conversation play during dinner time. Labor productivity and overall life satisfaction are at their highest.”


“It’s a happy city.”


Even now, dozens of citizens were huddled under the speakers. Once the song ended, they wore refreshed expressions and returned to their workplaces in groups.


‘A city made of songs.’


That was the current Busan.


“It’s no wonder other cities keep losing their population to Busan.”


To establish this system, Dang Seo-rin and I worked tirelessly for six years.


We developed five types of magic tailored to various situations, and used anomaly artifacts to ensure the magic effects were preserved in recordings.


“Well, teacher. I have a meeting scheduled with the owner of that song. I’ll excuse myself!”


“Ah, sure.”


“Yes! See you later!”


Dang Seo-rin and Cheon Yo-hwa, the representative of white magic and the representative of black magic, the de facto ruler of Busan and the warlord of Sejong, the leader of the National Road Management Corps and the student council president of Baekhwa Girls’ High School.


A secret meeting between the two awakeners, considered rivals in many respects, was held. Of course, thanks to the Saintess’s Clairvoyance, I could eavesdrop on all the main details of the secret meeting.


The Saintess was reluctant to share the detailed nuances of the negotiations for some reason.


As a result of the meeting.


“Hehe. Now we’re neighbors. Please take care of me from now on, teacher!”


“......”


Baekhwa Girls’ High School decided to move its headquarters from Sejong to Busan.


Yeongdo District was allocated as Baekhwa Girls’ High School’s territory, and Sejong’s citizens were freely allowed to relocate.


Cheon Yo-hwa maintained her title as student council president of Baekhwa Girls’ High School but was also appointed as the deputy leader of the National Road Management Corps.


Anyone would interpret this as Cheon Yo-hwa leading her guild to a dramatic surrender to Dang Seo-rin.


That was the final blow.






Let’s accelerate time a bit more.


When Cheon Yo-hwa, the only one considered a rival to Dang Seo-rin, easily bowed her head, the other guild leaders couldn’t hold out either.


One by one, the guild leaders, who ruled like kings from their respective bases, bowed their heads. They flattered the leader of the National Road Management Corps to maintain their value and status.


Dang Seo-rin was generous.


“Undertaker. You said that underwater tunnel could be connected to Kyushu, Japan, right?”


“Hmm.”


“There are many famous hot springs in Kyushu. Can’t we extend the tunnel near there? If we build luxurious villas around them as gifts, the other guild leaders should be reasonably satisfied.”


And so it was.


Some warlords tried to cling to power until the end, but it was futile. The National Road Management Corps had the Sword Marquess. Unless Sword Marquess trampled the farmlands, the sovereignty of the Korean Peninsula’s food supply rested entirely in Dang Seo-rin’s hands.


Dang Seo-rin lightly swirled her wine glass.


“I always respect your thoughts, Undertaker, but I think differently about the operation of the National Road Management Corps.”


“Do you?”


“Yes. There’s no need to inefficiently leave multiple cities unattended and order the management members to patrol until they die. There’s only a handful of people left on the Korean Peninsula anyway. Busan alone is enough.”


“......”


“I’m going to make Busan the premier city on the Korean Peninsula… No, the world. No place in this post-apocalyptic world will be as good as this city.”


“If you do that, the entire Korean Peninsula will be consumed by the void. There’s a high probability of a 'monster wave' occurring. You’ll witness near-infinite anomalies invading from beyond the horizon whenever you feel like it.”


I warned her.


“To be honest, it’s unpredictable what will happen. Monster waves are practically impossible to exterminate. Do you plan to play an endless defense game in reality?”


“That’s frightening but… Yes. We can do it. With your power and my magic, it’s possible. Undertaker, will you follow me?”


“......”


I hesitated for a moment.


Perhaps it was an instinct honed through my time as a regressor, but I sensed this moment was a point of no return.


Even so, my answer was already decided.


“...Of course.”


Dang Seo-rin beamed brightly.


“As expected of you, Undertaker! I trust you!”


Acceleration.


Four years later, only the city of Busan remained on the Korean Peninsula.


Ironically, the world of a certain witch, who wished more than anyone to travel and wander around, had become narrower than in any other run.


The average height of buildings in downtown Busan increased. It was enough to call it the last metropolis of humanity.


Even the Saintess, who always stayed in Yongsan, Seoul, moved to Busan. There was no longer a need to stay there and monitor the awakeners of the Korean Peninsula.


In the center of Busan, where land prices skyrocketed, a plaza without any buildings astonishingly spread out.


A plaza designed to seat tens of thousands of people. The center was hollowed out so that everyone could watch what happened below.


Like the Colosseum.


That was Dang Seo-rin’s ‘courtroom.’


Dang Seo-rin sat at the top seat of the judge's bench. Beside her was Cheon Yo-hwa, who had dyed her white sailor uniform black at some point.


The judges looked down.


In the magnificent courtroom, a defendant knelt.


“I committed violence against a passerby.”


The defendant’s low self-confession echoed throughout the wide courtroom. A feat of Dang Seo-rin’s [Amplification Magic].


“Sometimes I can’t control my body. It’s rage, I guess. It wells up. When I come to my senses, it’s always like this. This time, if others hadn’t stopped me, I would’ve beaten someone.”


Boo, boo— jeers erupted from the audience of tens of thousands.


But when Dang Seo-rin lightly tapped her gavel, the entire city fell silent as if it had never happened.


“Continue.”


“…Yes. I hate this side of myself. I apologize and repent to all those I’ve harmed. Above all, please, Your Excellency the Judge, correct this character of mine...”


The defendant bowed their head.


Dang Seo-rin shook her finger coldly. A golden scale glowed in the air.


The magic of Equivalent Exchange.


“Defendant. Do you repent your wrongdoing?”


“Yes.”


“As you wish, [from now on, you will be stripped of your inner violence]. Under this condition, the victim has graciously offered to forgive the violence you committed.”


The victim had received a judgment in the same place a year ago to [forgive anyone who wrongs them with a compassionate heart].


“Do you agree to the victim’s proposal?”


“Yes, of course. Thank you. Thank you, Your Excellency. Thank you...”


“Executioner, please proceed.”


Cheon Yo-hwa, in her black uniform, stood up.


She approached the defendant and placed her hand on their head. Cheon Yo-hwa’s murmured words were muted, not echoing in the courtroom, but I guessed she was ‘brainwashing’ the defendant.


Personality alteration. Infusion. Distortion.


That was Cheon Yo-hwa’s ability.


“Ah...”


Finally, the golden scale shimmered.


On the left pan was the victim’s forgiveness, and on the right pan was the defendant’s violence.


The scale, having gained the consent of both sides, balanced itself and granted their wishes.


The defendant stood up abruptly.


“I can’t feel it... I can’t feel it! The emotion that’s tormented me all my life, it’s no longer there! Ah! Thank you! Thank you! Your Excellency, the Judge, thank you!”


The audience of tens of thousands clapped in unison. Cheers of encouragement for the defendant and praises for Dang Seo-rin and Cheon Yo-hwa’s powers echoed.


They, too, were citizens who had received something [in exchange] at the courtroom for trivial or significant reasons.


“Ah, Protector.”


Suddenly, a voice came from beside me. I turned my head to see Yu Ji-won standing there.


“Ji-won.”


“Yes. Why are you watching the trial from such a remote place? As the Protector, you could watch it more closely.”


By the way, ‘Protector’ was the title given to me. The city’s protector.


It was a title dripping with Dang Seo-rin’s preference, one I personally didn’t like. I almost missed the days when Yu Ji-won exaggeratedly called me ‘Your Excellency.’


“I was just passing by. I have to leave to block the monster wave again anyway.”


“Ah... as expected. You’re really busy.”


Yu Ji-won smiled.


A natural, warm, and thus completely uncharacteristic human smile that the original Yu Ji-won would never have made.


“But thanks to Your Excellency’s efforts, the citizens of the city can live in peace, right? I always support you. If you ever need my guidance, just let me know.”


“......”


I felt the sincerity in all those words.


In a situation where it was difficult to find truth in sincerity, I was momentarily at a loss for words.


Yu Ji-won had also recently had her psychopathic tendencies erased by Dang Seo-rin’s [Equivalent Exchange] and Cheon Yo-hwa’s [Brainwashing].


Yu Ji-won had a long-standing habit akin to an incurable disease: she secretly hunted and butchered small animals like cats, dogs, and birds.


But unlike the normal Yu Ji-won, she was caught in the act, and eventually, she was brought to Dang Seo-rin’s ‘witch trial.’


“Ji-won.”


“Yes?”


“Are you satisfied with your life these days?”


Yu Ji-won blinked.


“Of course. I’ve never spent more fulfilling days. Since the day of the trial, I’ve felt like I’m truly living as a person.”


“......”


Was that really so?


I had a slightly different interpretation.


I had never heard of Yu Ji-won enjoying such a stress-relief method of butchering small animals.


Even if it was a new hobby acquired in this run, it was hard to believe that someone like Yu Ji-won would ‘accidentally’ expose the scene of butchery.


Perhaps it was a deliberately disguised hobby and an intentional exposure.


The person before me had fabricated acts that made her look like a psychopath. And then she underwent a witch trial to correct her personality.


To survive here and continue to live as a city’s power, she had judged that ‘this way’ was advantageous.


Yu Ji-won could see the world as a maze with set entrances and exits. Even her personality and way of thinking were just means to reach the ‘correct answer.’


“…I see. That’s good. Keep up the good work, Chief Yu.”


“Yes, Your Excellency.”


I walked down a passage with no visible exit.


Waaa—! A cheer erupted from the far-off audience. A tremendous roar.


Dang Seo-rin! Dang Seo-rin! The courtroom vibrated as if struck by a rushing train.


Before leaving the courtroom, I looked down once more.


At that moment, another part of a defendant’s personality was placed on the golden scale for exchange. Dang Seo-rin whispered something to Cheon Yo-hwa, who nodded.


Then Dang Seo-rin and I made eye contact.


“......”


“......”


But only for a moment. As the ruler of the city and the judge of this space, Dang Seo-rin turned her head to continue her duties.


I did too.


Even as I walked down the corridor, the cheers from behind did not stop. Dang Seo-rin! Dang Seo-rin! Dang Seo-rin...


Cheers never ceased in the courtroom, and the songs never stopped playing from the city’s speakers.


I walked, trailing the dual melodies like shadows at my feet.




Footnotes:





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