Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
It was the story of a youth that happened a long, long time ago.
He was fourteen that year, wearing black mourning garments as he dug a hole on the mountain behind his house. He placed the cadavers of his parents, so that their graves would accompany the small grave mound that was his sisters, praying to the gods so that they could be reunited in the nether soil.
The youth was in grief over his paraplegic parents’ passing, but was glad that they could leave this world that was filled in malevolence. With him alone now, there was nothing of warmth for lingering sentiment.
It was the second year after the total war between Ultrahamans and the World Government ignited. As the Extremist faction of Ultrahumans launched suicidal attacks against various metropolis, the prosperous cities of Simboa fell overnight, with twenty-two out of thirty-seven nations of the Alliance destroyed. More than two hundred and fifteen people died in ‘Three Dark Days’ at the start of the war, and people several times that number perished in the ensuing chaos and small-scale ambushes. Along with the two years of total war that followed, the grand population of Simboans fell by one third.
The Extremist Ultrahumans believed that they represent the future of humans, and those without Ultra-powers were outdated species that should be eliminated. And yet, those old species dared to reduce their influence, and it was hence a debt of death. These crazed Ultrahumans had no qualms about using their full power to destroy everything in sight, sparing none, even the weak, the old, the women and children—with some targeting them especially.
In truth, if those Ultrahumans with lesser objectives but held greater power freed their base of morality and attacked indiscriminately, there was nothing in the world that could stop them. Normal humans and armies may have a little way of retaliating in direct confrontation, but battles in cities meant great losses to the World Government regardless. Because there was difficulty in preventing the next ambush, the metropolis housing ten million peoples no longer existed as the world government split each city under their wing, creating fortresses that protected each other while it may be futile more often than not.
If not for some Ultrahumans allied to the World Government who could control and prevent the attacks of the Extremists, worldwide Order would have long fallen instead of the current situation where the World Government still held control over most of the world, while sending mechanized troops to purge Ultrahuman organizations located in various places. These Ultrahumans were willing to stand against those who hated normal humans because the things they cherished had been destroyed by the Extremists.
The world called these Ultrahumans who preyed upon other Ultrahumans ‘Hunters’, and the youth was one of them.
While he was one of their youngest, the youth had already gone through many battles—he would become lost over murder at first and actually feared the blood in his hands, but he would not stay his hand once he recalled his home and family, destroyed and killed by the Extremists. He thus became cold-blooded, cruel and unforgiving.
The youth would act alongside a party of hunters, pursuing Ultrahumans lurking in cities and doing battle against members of the Extremist faction in barren wastelands. With his ability, the youth escaped life-or-death situations and triumphed against powerful foes, which was in turn precisely why he understood the essence of his power after using it time after time.
And that was ‘Standstill’.
It was the complete opposite of ‘Acceleration’ ability that the youth thought he had, for the essence of his power was to stagnate everything in a large area around him. Inside that Standstill zone, only he could move, and his ability was without equal in most situations it was in action: no matter how fast the attacks leveled against him, he would certainly decelerate it to the point that he could dodge it.
Even if it sounds inconceivable, it was nothing too wonderful for Simboans, since the Simboan World Government had concluded that Ultra-powers had no rules after long years of research.
Ultra-powers came in all manners and oddities. Some were normal and explainable by science, while others completely disobeyed common sense and ignore various fixed principles, which applied even to the process of Awakening. Until now, neither Extremists nor the World Government could find any pattern in Awakening—the Awakened could have been a beggar seeking alms on the streets the day before, just as the progeny of two Ultrahumans might not be able to awaken Ultra-powers for life.
There was no question that there was a pattern within. However, with the Simboan Central Research Center which did the furthest sturdy having been destroyed at the very start of the war by several powerful Ultrahumans, the pattern remained undiscovered.
Meanwhile, due to the youth subconscious vigilance and deliberate secrecy, almost everyone thought that his Ultra-power was teleportation, which certainly did not differ much on the surface. In actual battle, however, Standstill was very convenient when used against Ultrahumans with weak bodies even if it could not cause widespread damage. With that ability, the youth took out more than eight Extremists in hunts spanning two years—a kill count that was almost equal to that of other hunter parties. Though there was no shortage of Ultrahumans who could destroy an entire army alone, they were defenseless in the stagnated space, and their heads would end up rolling, becoming the youth’s bounty.
Thus, another two years passed amidst strife. The world population was still reducing, but the state of affairs was stabilizing.
If the war continued as it did then, the Extremists would only find death and defeat. While they had Ultrahumans with destructive capacities comparable to the most powerful Ultrahumans, the World Government had enough Hunters to fight them, and there was no population to support them. Just as years of total war had not only reduced worldwide population by one-third, the Extremists’ numbers decreased by a wider margin: now, apart from the dozens of Extremists organizations left, most of the other groups were completely culled.
On the other hand, the World Government that relied upon the base populations for more Awakened had boundless sources of Ultrahuman, and as the advantage grew significant with the Extremists’ losses, the war appeared that it would not last… In various fortresses, television channels began countdown to a complete counterattack, broadcasting stirring speeches about the looming conclusion of the chaotic era of Ultra-ability. Everyone thought that the dark days was about to past, and a new Order would soon be established.
The youth was one of them. He was now seventeen, having bonded with a few reliable Hunter comrades. Friendship and bonds allowed his cold heart to regain warmth, and now a young man, he could not help looking into the future: what life should he lead after the war? Should he seek a beautiful wife in marriage? Who would he invite to the ceremony? How many children should they have? What would the children be in the future?
Such was Simboans. They favored Order and the predictable, a controlled living just as the youth was no exception. He even prepared for the birth of a child, purchasing several pre-war books about childcare in old markets, even planning renovations at his new home in anticipation of the arrival of a female owner… Even his comrades’ good-natured sneers could not stop him from imagining it all, and that was perhaps the taste of bliss.
It would have been great if everything was beautiful as imagined.
In a cool, damp autumn Afternoon, a drizzle that seemed to seep into the marrow poured. Beneath such skies of gloom, the last few large organizations of Extremists had been jointly purged by the Simboan World Government and the Hunters. The world no longer had any noteworthy groups of Ultrahumans, only the disavowed spread across all parts of the world.
The youth who had fought bitterly for years was now a fully-grown man. He sighed exhaustedly as the smoke cleared in the final battlefield, having used his ability several times to save his own party from danger and protect his comrades who fought alongside him for years. He felt that he had overexerted his ability after using it more than twenty times in a day, but he did not feel the pain since it was the last battle. After this, the world would regain Order as they weathered the dark nights of war: the dawn of peace was before him.
The man was now one of the leaders of the Hunters, leading several powerful Hunter parties. This time, they had faced the few remaining pockets of Extremists who also happened to be craziest ones: virtually every Hunter was dispatched although it did not make the battle any easier.
There was not a single weakling among the Ultrahumans who could live through the war until now. Everyone had their own ability that could stand against an entire army, able to summon storms and form natural calamity, just as others wielded powers of physical blasts or control physicality. There was no shortage of those who could control minds as well, but without the full support of the World Government, the Hunters alone would never triumph. Both sides were dealt serious losses and almost died together, with entire government legions losing all their troops.
But in the end, the Hunters won. The few of the most powerful Extremists who wielded nuclear class destructive abilities were assassinated by the man one by one, just as the others beyond Simboa’s atmosphere were encircled by flying machines and other hunters. As the man looked up at the skies filled with dark clouds and the occasional flashing lights beyond, he could not hold back a smile.
The war was about to end, and he was even imagining what kind of peace ceremony he would hold tomorrow. His and his comrades’ faces were brimming in happiness, a smile of people that had a future and hope.
And that smile froze in the very next moment.
His former allies—armies serving the Simboan World Government had suddenly turned against the hunters.
Heartless bullets and missiles were discharged from their backs without mercy, and one-third of the surviving hunters died on the spot. Outraged, the surviving Hunters glared at the indifferent expressions of the army, cursing them—but even as their battle-hardened conditioning allowed them to swiftly begin a counter attack, a steel instrument akin to a signal tower were raised amongst the ranks of the military before they could activate their abilities. Formless boundaries unfurled, and almost all hunters thus lost their Ultra-abilities.
After years and almost all Ultrahumans forget the matter, the Anti-Superpower Disturbance Field had been successfully developed despite the many rumors.
And their first targets were former comrades.
“This world doesn’t need Ultrahumans.”
The man could hear that cold and callous voice as he saw his comrades fell, one after the other: bullets were piercing their brains while bomb shrapnel tore their bones and insides apart. The man looked around, lost—but before the Anti-Superpower Disturbance Field could reach him, everything stood still, blocked by the stagnated space. It saved him from the unprecedented ambush, just as it forced him to watch while every one of his comrades died in extreme slow motion.
The man felt as if he was a twelve-year-old boy again, witnessing firsthand as things precious to him was destroyed, while he could do nothing but watch. But unlike the past where an Ultrahuman was at fault and his bitterness was out of ‘inability’, this time, it was the dark outcome of ‘betrayal’ from ordinary humans.
Was the betrayal sudden? Actually not. Before that, the man had sensed various omens—the Hunters’ budgets were being reduced, the propaganda both discreet and public spreading opinions that pinned all faults on ‘Ultrahumans’, and not just the Extremists… As everyone basked in the narcotic called triumph, the World Government was sharpening their blades. He certainly sensed that as a leader of the Hunters, able to foretell that the Hunters would disband post-war, but never could he imagine that the World Government could be so determined and unsentimental.
Muddleheaded, the man escaped the battlefield without anyone noticing. The World Government’s military hurried back to their base after accomplishing their mission and getting rid of the Ultrahumans’ corpses, having a lot of things to do—one of which was to cull the Hunters’ remnants and capture any Ultrahumans living in the cities.
Bewildered, the exhausted man sprinted back to the fortress he used to live, only to find it in pandemonium. Countless ordinary humans were madly charging into the houses of Ultrahumans and lynching those without much ability to fight back… All powerful Ultrahumans – Extremists and Hunters – had already been wiped out by the World Government, leaving weaklings who could not be of help.
And they were now resisting, not knowing why their friendly neighbors were suddenly attacking them, just as other Ultrahumans screamed at them to stop and that there must have been understanding. Their heads were taken off without exception as decorations amidst the euphoric chaos, a scene that happened everywhere across the world, be it the superior departments of the government or impoverished districts.
It was due to very simple reasons too: Ultrahumans were eligible for subsidies that far eclipsed that of civilians, Ultrahumans never saw ordinary beings as their own kind, Ultrahumans always had that smug expressions on their faces as if they were different from the others.
Most importantly, Ultrahumans had Ultra-powers, while they did not.
The man who slipped back to the street he lived in that the homely house that was just renovated no few days ago was now burning, while a headless, shriveled corpse was burning on a nearby lane.
Whose corpse was that?
Having seen the same blaze eight years ago when his younger sister died and his parents lost their feet, the man fell silent before laughing. He did not know why he laughed, but he was laughing happily.
On that day, ninety percent of Ultrahumans had died. Both Hunters and Extremists were utterly wiped out and Ultra-abilities was virtually extinct with one swift stroke. The surviving Ultrahumans lived in fear, unable to see future, even doubting the meaning of their existence, just as patrols hunting for any Ultrahumans searched every corner of the world.
But the world left behind was not as beautiful as the World Government imagined—in fact, it was a lot worse, for all kinds of ‘mutations’ occurred upon the world with the deaths of so many Ultrahumans.
It was rumored that Ultrahumans could consume the essences of each other’s Ultra-powers to improve themselves.
However, none knew what the essence of Ultra-power was, save from the scarce few powerful Ultrahumans. Even after they had explained that the world itself was filled with it endlessly, the others could not see it, much less consume it.
Still, there was no doubt that it existed and had a tremendous link to how the Ultrahumans Awakened and born… As countless Ultrahumans died, a wild tide stirred inside Simboa. As the formless tides rage, those crazed ordinary humans realized in panic that they now had Ultra-powers too, that they were now prey.
And that was how Ultrahumans were born by ten times the amount before—the one thing World Government never expected.
The birth of Ultrahumans had never been predictable but neither had it been swift. It was why the World Government was convinced that they could cull them completely and use Anti-Superpower Disturbance Fields to suppress the possibility of any being born, reverting the world to its original state. However, those Fields could not be energized every given moment, while the Hunters, having contributed for standing against the great adversity of the Extremists—could they live harmoniously with civilians after the war, with their new authorities and ranks? Even the Ultrahumans themselves were unconvinced.
Therefore, the World Government that stood on the side of ordinary humans all along would never sit idly by as the Ultrahumans rallied and empowered: the blood of Ultrahumans must be offered in the name of new Order.
But now, as the conflict between non-Ultrahumans and Ultrahumans escalated to the point that no grounds for coexistence or peace was left, the World Government realized the harrowing truth that their rule was collapsing… Due to the exponential spread of Ultra-ability, none could be sure that, in the very next second, they would not become an Ultrahuman—the hunted. The once-celebrated project to massacre Ultrahumans were the very reason the World Government self-imploded, for at first, the Ultrahumans who awakened naturally were allied to order.
Now, however, all of them were anti-establishment.
Just imagine it. If you would suddenly attain Ultra-powers—the ability to dominate over the lives of normal humans and no law could restrain you, and yet those civilians without powers saw you as the enemy, perhaps even with hatred, yearning incessantly to take away your power and kill you off along with the Ultrahumans. What would you do then?
Perhaps some would allow themselves to be disemboweled, but there would always be those who resist, even if they were once a part of those who wanted nothing other than the extinction of all Ultrahumans: human perspective moved as fast as light then.
Thus, Order collapsed.
Anyone could murder anyone, and there was none to stop them. With the unimaginable increase of Ultrahumans, the world fell into a cycle of destruction… the more Ultra-powers there were, the more powerful and unique abilities would exist. For self-preservation and taking the initiative, everyone fought as if they had gone mad, destroying whatever was in sight and reducing the world to a misshapen state. Ecosystems fell entirely, the land was scorched, the sky became dark.
And yet, in that genuine apocalypse, humans were still slaughtering each other.
The man witnessed it all. As he watched Order fall into Chaos, he finally realized that what destroyed Order or happiness was never Ultra-power, but the human heart.
If that was so… world and Order will always be what the human heart wants it to be.
That was the way it is.
The man, having understood that, finally resolved himself.
If the world was so crazy, then he shall change it utterly.
If the human heart was so dark and selfish, he would be the most selfish one.
If Order was so fragile, he shall create the strongest and most complete Order.
He would do it even if it takes decades or his entire life.
Thus, time flew. In the very moment that the metallic throne was forged at the heart of the world, a sturdy Order as cold as still was gripped tightly in the hands of the champion.
Steel Strength ripples unfurled, and information began to intertwine.
Joshua, who should have time reversed for him had seen the dreamlike past. The warrior stayed silent as he witnessed the man single-handedly built a brand-new Order, forge metallic humanoids as his slaves, indiscriminately treating all living things and forging tools out of souls.
Joshua looked on as Old Simboa entered ruin and rebirth.
He turned, looking toward the man behind him who had seen it all with him.
“The three-hundred and twentieth Observation has failed… It ended up like this again.
The man mumbled, turning slightly to level his gaze at Joshua. His gaze was apathetic and yet without hubris—he was simply looking on unemotionally as he spoke quietly.
“Foreigner, leave my world.”