Sun Wukong asked Su-hyeun about what had happened.
The latter pondered his answer for a little bit before making his reply. Others didn’t need to know, but he felt Sun Wukong was an exception.
“It was difficult trying to calm the powers I absorbed from Vishnu and Shiva. After the battle, I needed to work my butt off for a few months, trying to control this power. I think I even blacked out a few times, too.”
“Does that mean you will be fine now?”
“No,” Su-hyeun shook his head. “This power isn’t something I can wield, unfortunately. The power of Destruction is still eating away at my soul.”
“Wait, that means you will die?”
“I think I can hold on for another hundred years or so.”
Su-hyeun sounded unperturbed in his reply.
That was unsurprising. Su-hyeun never thought about living for thousands or even tens of thousands of years from the very beginning.
However, to beings like Sun Wukong capable of living for eternity, this revelation carried a different meaning. “You only have 100 years remaining?!”
“I don’t know about you, Third Brother, but it’s pretty long enough for me. You don’t have to worry.”
Su-hyeun was being genuine here. However, he chose not to mention one thing just now.
“Well, I think there’s no need to bring it up now,” he thought.
A hundred years was basically the lifespan given to Su-hyeun, who should have been able to live on forever after ascending to godhood.
However, he welcomed this development far more than the promise of eternal life. He wanted to live like an average person, so what meaning was there if he lived on forever, which was quite unlike an actual human being?
“Why do you need to go that far?” Sun Wukong asked, sounding as if he couldn’t understand it.
It was unsurprising.
Unlike Su-hyeun, Sun Wukong didn’t have a fixed sense of justice or something similar to that motivating him. He simply enjoyed fighting.
The reason why he fought against Vishnu along with everyone wasn’t due to his sense of justice but more like his desire to cooperate with Su-hyeun.
That was why he couldn’t understand it. Su-hyeun had the option to turn his back on the world as the Bull Demon King had done, so why did he have to go that far?
“Do you even need to ask?”
However, Su-hyeun replied matter-of-factly at the question he heard so many times that he was almost fed up with it by now.
“It’s not like I need a reason, now do I?”
* * *
Everything was taken care of.
Only one task remained for Su-hyeun now.
“What should I do now?”
Su-hyeun was stunned. This was his first time thinking about that topic in the last several decades.
After lengthy deliberation, he tried out traveling around the planet as a tourist.
He had already been to many countries around the world, but when he thought about it, he only went there to raid dungeons. Also, he had to either re-enter the tower or hurriedly travel elsewhere as soon as finishing up the raid itself.
Initially, people recognized him everywhere he went, making it a bit cumbersome. However, using magic to change his face solved that problem.
“It’s beautiful here.”
He was currently in a small village in Switzerland.
The scenery of exotic buildings in a lively village wasn’t an unfamiliar sight to him.
Still, even a familiar sight would impart a different feeling depending on the current atmosphere.
This village was no longer suffocating from the fear of dungeons but filled to the brim with vitality. This sight alone looked beautiful to Su-hyeun’s eyes.
After he finished going around the world, he began reading. He sought out quiet little cafes to read all those books he didn’t get a chance to read, spending his time in a leisurely manner.
Sometimes, Sun Wukong would suddenly show up and ask for a fight. It was his favorite pastime, but Su-hyeun also enjoyed it.
However, it wasn’t possible to continue to while away his time doing nothing.
“The thing is, the awakeners have turned to the life of crime after dungeons vanished, you see? We’re short on manpower, so if you have time, would you like to help us?”
When Lee Ju-ho offered a job, Su-hyeun said yes without much hesitation, “Sounds like it’ll be a good distraction.”
He didn’t even need to ponder his options and quickly made up his mind.
He didn’t have anything better to do, anyway, so it might be nice to apprehend criminals now and then. He was even looking forward to it, too.
The truth was, there was a dream he had to give up on after reality got in his way. That dream that he held since his childhood was to become a police officer.
* * *
Right after the articles detailing Su-hyeun stepping forward to apprehend awakener criminals were published, crimes involving awakeners decreased by 40 percent in a month.
Just his name alone had this much impact. However, that ended up decreasing his workload considerably.
Twenty years flew by like that.
After taking off and hanging up the formal black suit, Su-hyeun plopped down on a couch.
Sun Wukong was expertly using a tablet PC to watch videos of someone fighting. “You said it’s that old man’s funeral, right? Was it Kim Dae-ho?”
“Yes. Uncle was getting on in years, after all.”
“I guess. Does his age mean he lived for a long time?”
“Not exactly, but he didn’t have a short life, either. That’s why I used to tell him to mind his health more.”
“You are grieving, aren’t you?”
Su-hyeun looked a lot more lifeless compared to his usual self.
Even though he was prepared for it, even though he knew that Kim Dae-ho had lived a fulfilling life already, there was not much Su-hyeun could do about feeling bitter and sad after realizing that he would never get to see him again.
“Someone close to me passed on, so it’s only obvious. Third Brother, you will also be sad after I’m gone, right?”
“Hmm...I wonder.” Sun Wukong pondered his answer for a bit before continuing, “Instead of mopping about, I think I’ll probably try to find you.”
“Aren’t you going to reincarnate again, anyway? In the next life and then the one after that, I’ll keep searching for you... because you’re my little bro.”
Su-hyeun chuckled at that.
That didn’t even make any sense.
Finding a single person in this expansive universe? Not only that but someone who lost all of their memories during the reincarnation, too? How would anyone find someone like that, never mind recognizing them in the first place?
“I’m grateful for the sentiment, at least.”
Nonetheless, his heart felt warmer just from hearing Sun Wukong say that.
By some miracle, if he could meet Sun Wukong again after his death and reincarnation, he thought it would be great if they could meet again and become brothers once more.
“No way that’ll happen for real,” Su-hyeun thought.
* * *
One hundred years as a span of time was long. Still, to someone, in particular, it was also too short.
The exact length of time was long for Su-hyeun but short for Sun Wukong. As time passed, Su-hyeun progressively grew weaker, and he began suffering from pain more and more as if he was ill.
It was all because the power of Destruction permeating his body and soul was spreading unchecked.
“First Brother, isn’t there anything you can do?”
Sun Wukong, ready to grasp at straws if that could help, even resorted to summoning the Bull Demon King.
After the battle against Vishnu ended, the Bull Demon King practically didn’t show himself to the mundane world, but this matter involved Su-hyeun. Therefore, for the first time in a century, he chose to make an appearance.
Unfortunately, nothing had changed despite his appearance.
“This is not something I can fix, Wukong.”
“Don’t worry, everyone. I’ve already lived a fulfilling life.”
The only one worried here was Sun Wukong.
Lying on the bed, Su-hyeun appeared calm and relaxed. “This is how it’s supposed to be, you know.”
“I don’t care about how it’s supposed to be for humans. Punks who can’t even live for a century...”
“Is that so?”
Su-hyeun sensed that he didn’t have much time left.
A century had passed, and most people he used to know had all passed on. The only ones remaining were Hak-joon and Gordon Rohan. Despite their advanced ages, they remained as healthy as ever.
On average, awakeners lived for 10 to 20 years longer than regular people, and those two were among the strongest among the ranks of awakeners.
“Third Brother, you told me something in the past, didn’t you?”
“What did I say?”
“That you’ll find me after I die.”
“There’s something I didn’t tell you back then.”
Sun Wukong began tilting his head at what Su-hyeun said.
“I don’t think I will be reincarnated, after all. My soul is disappearing, so this might be it for me.”
Su-hyeun couldn’t be sure he would revive like Shiva, who had disappeared due to the power of Destruction. As for his soul, most of it was gone by now after a century of being eaten away by the power of Destruction.
“So? What about it?”
However, Sun Wukong’s response was not what Su-hyeun anticipated.
“You say it ‘might,’ right? Meaning you might reincarnate somewhere. Besides, I won’t die, anyway. Aren’t I immortal? I have all the time in the universe, so if I keep searching, I’ll find you eventually.”
“How will you even find me, though?”
“I’ll try whatever, maybe even threaten Yama or something. Besides, I should recognize you the moment I see you. Like, when I saw you the first time, I had a certain feeling, you see?”
Su-hyeun could only chuckle wryly at that.
Then again, it was like this when Su-hyeun first encountered Sun Wukong and the Bull Demon King. The two of them started trusting him without any solid basis, even going as far as accepting him as their little brother.
If there really was something like a “certain feeling,” they might meet again someday.
“You aren’t dying. It’s just a brief goodbye.” Sun Wukong pounded his chest as if to say they could trust him. “I’ll find you sooner or later.”
Even though Su-hyeun said that he didn’t feel so bad even as his final moments loomed, and for some reason, he also felt reassured by Sun Wukong’s baseless claim.
He felt like they could really see each other again somehow.
Su-hyeun slowly closed his eyes.
And right at that moment...
[“Six Paths – the Return of the Dead” is activating.]
[Damaged soul will now be repaired.]
* * *
* * *
A dull impact landed on a boy’s head, making him dizzy. His legs gave out, causing his rear to kiss the ground.
“Son of a b*tch. Man, he just doesn’t want to go down, does he?”
A glob of saliva splattered on the ground near the boy’s feet. However, none of it landed on him.
The boy looked up.
Three people were standing behind the one spitting just now. All of them were scions of aristocrats.
The boy spoke, “Does ganging up on one person with five people make you happy or something?”
“Yup, very happy.”
“You’re just a little punk acting tough because of your friends.”
“Then, what about you, dumbass? What makes you act so tough when your so-called great family fell into ruin long ago?”
“What do you mean, what?” The boy got back up while forcing his shaking legs. “Obviously, it’s my fists!”
The boy swung his fists as powerfully as he could.
Soon, two of his opponents collapsed on the floor, even though they were older upperclassmen of the same academy as the boy.
They exchanged several more blows, and another person collapsed by the end.
However, the boy couldn’t hold on either and found himself sprawled on the ground, too. He just couldn’t make his muscles listen to his commands now.
“This son of a b*tch... Seriously, he sure is good at fighting, isn’t he?”
“Hey, let’s break this bastard’s arm or something. That’ll stop him from trying to be a hero.”
“Sure, why n—?”
“Hey, over there! You punks!”
Suddenly, a loud yell came from somewhere.
This location didn’t see much foot traffic within the academy. Still, someone seemed to have rushed here after hearing all that commotion. The upperclassmen looked deeply flustered before turning around to leave.
“H—hey, let’s get out of here. Hurry!”
“You bastard, try sticking out one more time, hear me? Consider yourself lucky!”
The still-standing two upperclassmen picked up their friends, put them on their backs, and started running away, while the last of the five quickly limped away.
The boy sighed in relief, thinking that he got lucky this time.
Right after that...
Someone walked up to the boy. Another boy had been huddling in fear in a corner nearby.
“You should get going, too.”
“B—but, what about you?”
“My legs are kind of shaky, you see. You gotta bounce before the professor sees you, though. It sounds like he’ll be here any second now.”
“Also, let me know if those punks bother you again. I’ll definitely beat some sense into those five when they do. What are you doing? Come on, get out of here!” the boy grinned.
The bullied boy looked uneasy, but eventually, he also left the location.
The boy was sprawled on the floor, preparing himself for a stern lecture about to come. However, the professor didn’t materialize like he had been expecting.
“What’s going on?” he thought.
Footsteps suddenly grew closer.
The boy jumped up in surprise and hurriedly turned his head to look. He had no idea when it happened, but a man with long white hair stood there.
“Ugh! You startled me.”
“Hey, kid. That boy earlier, was he your friend?”
“Who are you, uncle?”
The boy studied the man standing before his eyes.
The man’s white hair extended past his handsome face all the way down to his waist, while his irises glowed in a golden hue. For some reason, his facial features gave off an impression of a mischievous prankster, but his current expression was incredibly serious. There was a long staff tied to his back, too.
He didn’t look like a student of this academy. He seemed too old for that.
“And he’s not a professor either,” the boy quietly observed.
If a person with such unique looks worked as a professor, the boy would have remembered him.
The man took his time studying the boy before asking one more time, “Is he your friend?”
It was a repeat of the earlier question.
The boy shook his head, thinking it didn’t matter either way. “Nope. It’s my first time seeing him. He’s probably from another class.”
“Why did you help him? Don’t you know that it could’ve ended very badly for you if I hadn’t shown up?”
The boy was surprised by what the white-haired man said, “Wait, that voice just now was yours?”
“Just answer my question.”
It seems that this man pretended to be a professor to help the boy out.
“Uhm, you know, I was walking by and happened to see what was going on. That’s all.”
“But you could’ve gotten hurt, you know? And if luck was not on your side, you could have died.”
What a weird man he was.
Although the boy was thankful for his assistance, he wondered why the white-haired man asked all these questions.
Still, whatever the case might be, the boy was unscathed thanks to the older man’s help. Besides, he felt a vague familiarity, a certain sense of closeness to the man.
“You know, that’s what fighting is like, right? I might injure my opponents badly, or they might injure me. Wait, maybe that’s a bit off? In any case, that’s what someone told me.”
The white-haired man stood there, speechless.
His lips quivered up and down in silence before continuing in a trembling voice, “Why did you have to go that far?”
“Do you even need to ask me that?” the boy chuckled wryly in reply. “It’s not like I need a reason, now do I?”
The boy spoke matter-of-factly and then carefully studied the white-haired man’s face.
The boy was sure that this was his first time meeting this man. No one in this country dressed like this white-haired man, never mind the academy, so seeing him just once somewhere would have left quite an impression.
Even so, the boy felt an inexplicable sense of familiarity. “By the way, uncle? Have we met somewhere before?”
It was right then that the white-haired man suddenly grabbed the boy’s shoulder.
Sun Wukong lowered his eye line to match the boy’s and smirked deeply, “Finally found you.”
The boy had no idea at that moment how much time Sun Wukong had to sacrifice to say those three little words—finally found you.
(The Hero Returns – Complete)
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