Chapter 96. Granting Freedom (3)
Hwaya's eyes opened wide. It was to be expected. She probably didn't expect Walker's name to suddenly pop out.
But I was sure. The black clothed man who was frozen up to his stomach was undoubtedly Edward Walker. I could tell from his voice. Seeing him use a skill, I became even more confident.
I took off the mask he was wearing. A brown eyed and brown haired middle-age man was revealed underneath. Although he was gritting his teeth and glaring at me, I didn't pay it any attention and grabbed his face. Pzzt. Sparks flashed. This strong resistance made me confident.
"You even have an item that hides your identity."
"Like the one you're wearing?"
"I already said I was sorry."
I let Walker go. Since he could have the Return skill like me (though he would have used it by now), I broke both of his two legs to leave behind evidence that he couldn't get rid of. Although I wasn't sure how severe the state of his arms and legs were, that was not of my concern.
"Walker, sneaking into a lady's room is something only a piece of trash would do. Don't you think so?"
"You see, I'm quite angry. It could be because I have a younger sister, but it doesn't feel like someone else's problem. I might be a bit harsh... so start talking."
First, I lightly punched his stomach. The mana surrounding his body undulated and a strong blue light shot out for a moment. From the resistance I felt against my fist, it seemed he was wearing an impact-reducing item, as it only reacted to physical impacts, not to lightning or ice. No, perhaps the item reacted, but couldn't win against them.
I wondered how it worked. Was it a one-time use item? Or did it have a set number of uses? Perhaps it simply activated using his mana. To answer my question, I punched Walker again. He frowned, and at the same time, another blue light shot out.
It seemed he was using his own mana. Deciding that it was best to deplete his mana before he could do something to escape, I punched him repeatedly.
"Don't even pretend to be someone else."
"I'm... Walker. Kuk...!"
"Sorry, let me deplete your mana first."
"I... won't resist!"
"I don't believe you, so shut up."
I beat him repeatedly. When the blue light subsided completely, Walker's pupils dilated. It was the sign that his lack of mana was affecting his mind.
"Kuk... Yeon Hwawoo, you brute...! I was only inside the building!"
"What, you were just trying to sneak a peek on Hwaya taking a bath? Did someone like you crawl into an SS-ranker's lodge to play tag? If you're going to continue your nonsense, I can always hit you more."
"You, why would a dungeon explorer like you work under someone like Brightman?"
I, of course, judged that Walker was Brightman's subordinate and was acting on his orders. To be honest, it was rather obvious. Hwaya was also nodding her head in agreement.
"Would you believe me if I said I wasn't?"
When I raised my fist without a reply, Walker let out a deep sigh.
"You really are a brute... uk!"
"First, take off that item."
Walker glared at me, then reached his hands out to unequip his item. Then, realizing that his arms were broken, he murmured something. Surprisingly, something thin came off of his face, and he became a black haired, green eyed young man. Although his facial lines were rather thick, his green eyes gave off a calming impression.
"Ah, give me that item of course."
"... It's a Floor Shop item, so it's untradeable."
"Oh, I see."
When I picked it up, it came in my possession without any resistance. He was lying.
Durability - 98/110
Equipment Limit - Level 40+, Magic 50+
Option - Magic -20, Dexterity +15
Skill - Ghostface: Wearing this item will allow you to change your appearance into someone you've seen before. However, as the item uses your mana, you cannot use a portion of your mana while the item is equipped.]
The moment the item description popped up, I punched Walker's stomach again. As expected, blue light once again shot up. He was undoubtedly trying to do something, as he grit his teeth at my attack.
"You son of a bitch!"
"You're the son of a bitch here."
I depleted his mana once again and put Ghostface in my inventory.
"Can you disarm yourself next?"
"I can't move my body. Heal my arm at least."
"Okay, I'll just take them off myself."
"Kyak, what are you doing when I'm watching!?"
Just like that, Walker was stripped until even his important parts were showing (Hwaya screamed and turned away). I put some random clothes on Walker and burned his undergarments. Then, I checked his equipment and found what I was looking for.
"Here it is."
[Serina's Guardian Bracelet (Epic)
Durability - 551/1,120
Equipment Requirement - Bound to Edward Walker. Others who equip it will not receive its effects.
Options - All stats + 10, Constitution +10
Skill - Serina's Protection: Upon receiving physical or magical attacks that surpass its wearer's defense, it automatically uses mana to protect its wearer.]
I didn't realize at first, but I also had epic-grade items. My Crimson Dragon Scale Armor Set, Crimson Dragon, Red Dragon Felixes' Cape and Gluttony Spear were all epic-grade items.
As I didn't expect walker to have such a precious item, I couldn't help but let out an exclamation of surprise. However, as I already knew, epic-grade items became bound to their first wearers. Others who equipped them weren't able to enjoy their effects. As such, I ordered Peika to destroy Serina's Guardian Bracelet. It was a shame, but there was no other choice, since I couldn't equip it.
"No, do you know how precious that is!?"
"Walker, just shut up."
I checked the rest of his equipment, but they were only rare-grade at best. I put them together in a pile and burned them up. Walker bit his lips and cursed.
"You son of a bitch. No, you son of a devil."
"Now, let's hear your story."
"Your mouth isn't hurt. Why are you working under Brightman? Don't tell me you made him a dungeon explorer? Though, there's still only 6 people in Earth's dungeon explorer rankings..."
"You think I'm crazy? Compared to him, the only thing I have going for me is that I'm a dungeon explorer. He doesn't know that I can go to a place outside this world and grow my ability... Plus, it just so happens that my clan has been serving Brightman's clan for generations."
It really was a simple reason. Although I had doubts, Hwaya seemed to have accepted it.
"Hey, it's the 21st century."
"Shin, in this world, there are lots of people living lives you can't even imagine."
"That's... Okay, I understand."
I looked at Walker and fell deep into thought. I didn't think I would beat Walker half-dead when I came over for dinner. It was so absurd that I felt like I was looking at an answer to a math problem without any work.
"Then why were you spying on Hwaya?"
"You two are really quite friendly. Calling her Hwaya... I've never seen Mastiford allow someone to call her by her first name."
"Walker, I thought you were smart..."
Perhaps, even though he understood the dangerous situation he was in, he might have wanted to show that his mind had not yielded to me. Or, he was simply comforting himself by telling himself that he had not completely lost yet. I didn't care either way, but I didn't have any intention of letting this drag out any longer. Did I have to resort to more violence?
Walker seemed to have noticed what I was thinking as he hurriedly continued.
"As you can imagine, it was Brightman's orders. He said to observe and report everything... He probably wanted to find something he could exploit. Not to mention, Yeon Hwawoo... though it's probably a fake name, you're also someone he ordered me to observe. He was quite mad that Mastiford let you enter her lodgings."
Hwaya scratched her arms, likely from goosebumps she must have received. If I were her, I would have been creeped out too...
"Mastiford, you didn't let your guard down often. The only thing I could deliver to Brightman was a picture of you taking a shower that I took between the door gap."
Hwaya screamed and threw her flame cat at Walker. The clothes I took the trouble to put on him were burned instantly.
"Hwaya, calm down. Murder is bad."
"Creepy, creepy, this is the worst! Brightman who ordered to take pictures of me secretly and Walker who carried it out! I want to kill them both! I'm going to kill them both!"
"Be patient for now. I had something in mind. Unless you're really going to kill Walker, why don't you hear me out?"
"Huu, huu, huu...! You have a plan? I'll hear it out."
Hwaya breathed roughly and retrieved her flame cat. After half-burning a man to cinders, the cat turned around and meowed cutely.
I thought she'd refuse, but she regained her composure rather quickly. In the end, it seemed she was thinking the same thing I was.
"Really... kuk, you're letting me show very embarrassing parts of myself...!"
Half-burnt Walker murmured as he gritted his teeth. As I had just finished talking with Hwaya, I replied to him, dumbfounded.
"You should have known this was going to happen if you were discovered."
"Right... How did you pierce through my stealth? I was confident I would never be found out..."
"Don't tell me you really thought I'd tell you... Alright, Walker, you have a few choices. Listen up."
I raised a single finger up.
"First, you can go back to Brightman and reveal to the whole world that you're involved with him."
"You seem to be missing some conditions there."
"Of course, you'll use your real face and reveal what you did. Although Brightman is behind you, the British government cares for Hwaya just as much. I can be certain that it'll be quite hard for you to have a proper life after that."
Walker closed his mouth. I continued.
"Second, you can run away to the dungeon and never come back. It's probably better than the first option, though, it's still the same that you won't be able to live on Earth."
"Is there more?"
"Of course there is. Third, you can betray Brightman and come to our side."
"... You think I will? After what you just did to me?"
Walker asked me as if he had just heard the most absurd thing in the world. However, I nodded my head assertively.
"I think you will. You were only working under Brightman because you were born into it. If you thought about Brightman so much that you would always be loyal to him, you would have made him a dungeon explorer a long time ago."
"Someone who knows that would do this to me!?"
"What you did was unforgivable after all. Even if you can become my ally, you'll have to pay for your crimes."
At my words, Walker became silent. Watching him, Hwaya burst out into laughter.
"Kukuk, so this is the Walker who cared for himself so much and didn't want to help... Walker, your actions frankly disgust me, but it's not unforgivable as you didn't make Brightman into a dungeon explorer. Although I wanted to end you no matter what Shin said... If you cooperate wholeheartedly from now on, I can stop myself from ending your life. You should know this is an incredible mercy on my part."
"Someone who couldn't notice me until now shouldn't be so arrogant..."
After making Hwaya speechless, Walker turned his gaze towards me. Walker was certainly a dungeon explorer, as I could see his body naturally healing as time went on.
"I can't escape from him. Even before he became an ability user, the power and money he had was enormous. As long as I'm in Britain, I can't escape his reach. Even if I can go into the dungeon, it would be the same when I come out. Unless I plan on living in the dungeon forever like you said, I can only be loyal to him. The only way I could resist him is not letting him know that I can turn him into a dungeon explorer."
"Setting aside the question of whether or not that was really the only way... Why can't you just leave Britain?"
"Were you listening to me? There's no way to leave Britain without him finding out."
"Why don't I give a very simple example? During the Event Raid, you could have left for another country and stayed there."
"You were just scared. Admit it. You didn't have the courage to change the way you lived."
After a short sigh, Walker revealed his true thoughts.
"As long as I was loyal to him, I could have anything I wanted. You're right. Being able to thoughtlessly work under someone is indeed comfortable, and I grew used to it. Participating in a raid and running away? I don't know how I would live after that. I was working under him the moment I was born. There wasn't a single time where I acted on my own accord."
"The reason you only laughed at others in the communication channel and never participated, was it just a defense mechanism?"
"No, that was because I simply thought you guys were idiots. It wasn't a defense mechanism or the like. If jumping into danger on your own volition isn't stupid, what is?"
"You're doing exactly that right now..."
This guy, even if his body's a mess, he's mouth is alive... I decided to give him the ultimatum.
"Walker, make your decision. This is the last chance to change your lifestyle. If you agree, I'll separate you from Brightman completely. Pledging your loyalty and living for Brightman for the rest of your life, or living in the dungeon without being able to come back to Earth. I can at least offer you a better lifestyle than that."
Walker hesitated for a long time and finally answered.
Hearing his answer, I grinned.
I'm feeling a bit sick. I have a cold and my entire body hurts. I couldn't write much today. I hope I'll be fine when I wake up. Tomorrow's chapter is on the line!
Everyone, I hope you enjoyed the chapter! I'll come back next chapter with Loretta!