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Chapter 400

SSS-Class Hunter who Dies to Live

WE TRIED TRANSLATIONS


Translator: Ryuu

Editor: Abstract

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SSS-CLASS HUNTER WHO DIES TO LIVE



Chapter 400: SSS-Class Hunter who Lives to Die (2) (End)




As my cup was filled, I took the bottle and poured some for the Tower Master.


"Kim Gong-Ja, you're slated for a Pillar position, aren't you? Has your mind changed on that?"


"Yeah, I am."


As I poured the drink, I continued. 


"And I haven't changed my mind about aiming to become the Tower Master either."


"Hmm. It's common for all new employees to aim for the CEO's position. It's a valid ambition."


The Tower Master spoke while looking at the rising liquor in her cup.


"Just be careful not to shatter that ambition. You've barely managed to take on the [netherworld] among the portfolios the Pillars manage."


"......"


"If you wish to challenge me, Kim Gong-Ja, plunder the sanctuaries held by all the Pillars."


The cups were now full.


I set the bottle down.


"What sanctuaries do the other Pillars hold?"


"That's for you to discover in time. While ambition is good, discussing work matters at a welcome party might dampen the mood."


"Fair point."


I lifted the cup filled by the Tower Master.


She, too, lifted the cup I had filled for her.


"Wait."


"I will."


Our cups clinked together.


With a clear sound and ripples in the reflected surface, the two of us smiled. I drank the liquor filled by the Tower Master. Initially cold, the drink ignited a fire in my veins as it slid down my throat. A sense of fulfillment, relief, and anticipation for tomorrow.


There were no explicit messages, but I realized that I had become a Pillar, officially taking charge of all the netherworlds in this tower.


While I was immersed in this realization, the Tower Master also poured some liquor for the Sword Emperor.


"Thanks for coming."


The Sword Emperor took the bottle and reciprocated by filling the Tower Master's cup.


"No need to mention it."


The bottle was placed back on the tray.


They clinked their full cups and drank. After a sigh laced with the spirit of the drink, the Tower Master said,


"Kim Gong-Ja, a Pillar position was destined for you. You've accepted that position."


"Congratulations, Gong-Ja. You've made it as an executive in a conglomerate."


"But, Sword Emperor, there was no specific promise made to you."


The Tower Master looked directly at the Sword Emperor.


A purple mirror reflected the Sword Emperor.


"What do you desire?"


"Nothing in particular."


The Sword Emperor answered plainly.


"If there's a difference between a tower and a mountain, it's whether someone built it or not. But what does it matter to someone who's reached the top, be it a tower or a mountain?"


Holding the bottle again, the Sword Emperor filled the Tower Master's cup.


"It's time for me to leave."


The Tower Master hesitated.


To the Tower Master, the Sword Emperor said,


"Grant me the 'Authority to Leave the Tower.'"


"Ah."


The Tower Master sighed.


"So you're bringing that up."


"You guessed?"


"From the start, your reason for entering this tower was to have a drink with me."


Snow-like amethyst breaths accumulated on the white pinnacle.


"I'm possessive. I don't wish to let go of any treasure I hold. Literally, until my skin rots, my flesh crumbles, and my bones collapse, even as those bones mix with the earth, I wish for them to mix within my box."


That was something I too had realized when I learned there was an netherworld in the tower.


"But even so..."


Drinking the poured liquor, the Tower Master muttered with his gaze lowered.


"A warrior cannot be leashed."


With her face obscured by the cup, the Tower Master appeared powerless, unlike when she hinted at the domains of the Pillars earlier.


Instead, she seemed infinitely fragile and lonely.


I realized this look was familiar.


'Ah.'


It was the director.


The current expression of the Tower Master resembled that of the director watching our backs as we left the orphanage.


'.........'


In hindsight, the Jaa Soo-Jeong in the side story had also bid me farewell with such a face.


Perhaps all parents share the same expression when parting with their children.


"I'll visit occasionally."


The Sword Emperor, having drained his cup, thumped my head gently with his large hand.


"I'll come to see this garden turn grey. And if this guy is moping around, I'll kick his ass."


"Ah, when have I ever moped..."


Ignoring my muttering, the Sword Emperor looked at the Tower Master.


"I'll visit occasionally, have a drink with you like this, so don't worry."


"Yeah."


The Tower Master said.


With a visage clearly struggling to suppress his loneliness.


"Please do visit occasionally."


To the Tower Master, who has encompassed countless numbers of worlds within the tower's box and witnessed even more lives and deaths, farewells must always be a freshly painful thorn.


I thought of the fox. During my ascent of the 90th floor, the fox, along with the Goddess and the snake, had hidden herself, suffocating in her loneliness. The Grey Spider beside me now, the Sword Emperor, my master, and even Raviel had all faced their greatest enemy not as a more powerful being but as the sheer absence of anyone beside them.


Even for the mighty, loneliness is the only blade that reaches them.


I deeply felt that the Tower Master was also struggling against that blade.


I bowed my head.


"Thank you."


The Tower Master lifted her head.


To the Tower Master, who still wore a face tinged with loneliness as she looked at me, I said, just like I had once thanked her before,


"Thanks to you establishing this tower, we were able to come this far."


I said.


"I was able to become someone."


I spoke of what I had learned.


"The Sword Emperor wasn't the only one."


I spoke of what I had learned.


"Ester didn't need to become a Demon King."


One by one.


"Hwiya didn't establish a wrong nation. Kim Yul wasn't born trash. Master…"


One by one.


"Master didn't face a meaningless death. Raviel could be a bit happier, and Silvia could find happiness without hurting or belittling others. Anastasia could smile more genuinely, and Paladin could pursue justice without actually killing anyone. Bambolina wasn't an incomprehensible monster. Liǎofàn…"


Each name, like raindrops, seemed to pour into me from somewhere else, not here. With every overflow from my heart, there were people I had met. I,


"Sarbast Aegim,"


"Hamusutra,"


"Fox,"


"The first wave,"


"The director,"


"Yoo Soo-Ha,"


I am.


"I wasn't born wrong."


I filled the Tower Master's cup as I bowed deeply.


"Thanks to you building this tower, all of this could be proven."


Liquor overflowed from the cup. My reflection appeared in the spilled drink on the tray.


It soon became unclear.


Tears falling from my chin had disturbed the surface.


"Thank you, mother," I said to the Tower Master.


"Thank you, brother," I said to the Sword Emperor.


"I'm glad to have met both of you."


Silence fell.


"Mm."


Breaking the silence was the Tower Master.


"Mm."


With her arms crossed and head bowed, the Tower Master repeated it several times.


Mm, mm, and then,


"I'm pleased!"


The Tower Master's face, as she spoke, was brighter than the sun reflected in the Sword Emperor's coronet.


A hand touched my forehead. With the same warmth as that hand, the Sword Emperor said,


"Call me anytime."


"Yeah."


I wiped my eyes and nodded.


"I will."


Time passed.


We shared a few more cups of liquor.


When the fried rice was all gone, naturally, the bottle was empty too.


"Then..."


"Yeah."


Both the Sword Emperor and I carefully stood up.


The Tower Master did not. She sat there as she had when drinking, because this was her home.


It was her place.


But the Tower Master clasped her hands and looked at us.


"May fortune be with you both."


And with that, she let us go.






There's not much to say after that. Everything mentioned before covers it all.


I became a Pillar.


I didn't start working right away. Even I needed some rest. The souls that had waited for me while I climbed to the 100th floor, I'm sorry, but please wait a little longer. I intended to meet those who were still waiting for me in life first.


How can you skip work on your first day, the Staff of Time Immemorial scoffed. I joked that if it was already upset about this, how would it endure the time we would spend together? The Staff of Time Immemorial just sighed.


I parted ways with the Sword Emperor.


The Sword Emperor received the ‘Authority to Leave the Tower.’ Astonishingly, this authority applied to ‘all worlds where the tower was established.’ In short, the Sword Emperor could not only return to the original Ten Thousand Sword World but also to my modern Earth, the outside of the Grey Spider's Tower, and even the world where the Tower Master was born.


The Sword Emperor, who seemed to have developed a competitive spirit after our encounter on the 10th floor, surprisingly burned with a desire to compete. When parting, he said he would visit the world of the great Tower Master to face the being praised as the strongest swordsman across all worlds, the Absolute Sword Duke.


However, it seems it will take a considerable amount of time before that plan comes to fruition. The Sword Emperor, who had been stuck on the 99th floor for a long time, had just as much to catch up on. He would first visit his homeland, the Ten Thousand Sword World, to meet those still alive. Then he would come to Babylon, the 1st floor of our tower, to share a drink with the Sword Saint. If there were others he had been close to, he would share a drink with them too. After that, he would visit my flower garden to pay respects to the Grey Spider. Only then would he set off for the Tower Master's world.


I envy the carefree Sword Emperor, but like he made his choice, I made mine. I have a responsibility to live my life.


I talked with my comrades.


To be honest, I never imagined I'd receive so much scolding in my life... well, to be more honest, I did imagine it. I think it's only fair to be scolded after making them worry and wait. That, too, is a responsibility I must bear in living my life.


Even though hearing all those scoldings felt like my heart would break, being able to touch the fox's fluffy fur helped me calm down. Although the fact that the fox later bit my finger is a secret just between us. As we talked, I shared my experiences, and my comrades shared theirs. Given what they had observed and experienced while I ascended the 90th floor, the situation was sorted out quicker than expected. The snake, who had appeared at the fox's call, had evolved into something akin to an Anaconda, gathering divinity during my absence. Nonetheless, the gaps were filled thanks to the secrets it shared along the way. I'm truly grateful for that.


Once the situation was sorted, the topic of future plans came up, and that's when this press conference was planned. It was Anastasia's suggestion. I gladly followed the advice of a wiser friend.


"That's all."


Most of it, I shared with the journalists watching me through the projector screen. I hid what needed to be hidden and omitted what needed to be omitted, but it still took quite some time to tell the tale.


Perhaps the journalists will have an easy time finding stories for a while. Whether that's a happy or a troublesome thing, I'm not sure, but if any of them find joy in it, they're welcome to delight in it a bit more. I was ready to answer all the questions that came from this conference.


Then, a journalist asked.


"What do you plan to do now?"


I lifted my head.


I saw the journalists looking at me, the camera capturing me, and beyond that, the many people watching me through the camera.


"What will I do now?"


First, I plan to enjoy being alive by playing with Raviel. That's truly my plan for the future, without a hint of deception.


But I didn't say that.


Because surely, somewhere beyond that camera, there's someone like me from the past, cooped up in a small room, looking at me on the television with the same face I had when looking at the Flame Emperor.


In those days, the Flame Emperor never said the words I wanted to hear in any interview. And now, I understand it's not something to resent. The Flame Emperor lived as the Flame Emperor and spoke as the Flame Emperor.


If there are words I wish to hear, I have to be the one to say them.


"Mm."


The words I, at thirty-three, wanted to hear.


The words I wished my idol would say to me.


"I will…"


I spoke of something I could share with everyone.


"Live through today."


That, too, was an utterly honest plan for the future.


- The End of SSS-Class Hunter who Lives to Die -





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