Volume 7 Chapter 175 – Mirages of the Great Mythra Desert (3)
Every time he exhaled, Jin felt his mouth drying, as if his breath was filled with sand.
Every day, he walked. Every night, he shivered alone in the piercing cold. Whenever he woke up, he found that his blanket turned very dry and brittle.
One time, he got stung by a scorpion that was never named. Every creature in the Great Mythra Desert had deadly venom. If he hadn’t obtained the Thousand-Poison Antidote, his journey would have been far more dangerous.
Jin ate the scorpion to conserve his food. Every bug or two-headed snake with black scales that he saw, he immediately consumed it.
Was it because he swallowed too much sand? The creatures he cooked lazily with his magic smelled and tasted horrible, but he didn’t feel it at all.
The snake got minced between his now-thin cheeks. He let the venom be a substitute for water, and he thanked Yona once more.
Then, four days passed since the first mirage.
He would have never known how much time had passed if the sun and moon didn’t set. That was the harsh reality of the Great Desert; everywhere and anywhere he went, it looked the same.
‘There really is no one in this desert…’
That was the most agonizing part.
He had never had such a lonely moment in his life. About ten days had passed since he left Tikan, but the time in the desert passed at a completely different pace than in the real world.
Another week passed.
No snake or scorpion appeared. Jin trekked and trudged through the desert in complete solitude. It would be better if he talked to himself, but his water canteen seemed to have bottomed out. Entertaining himself was not an option either.
And for him, things couldn’t get any worse.
December 11th, 1796. There was no other perfect statement to describe the Great Mythra Desert.
‘My food that I rationed… is all gone?’
As soon as he woke up, he could only scream. However, only a shallow shout came out of his dry throat.
The food he conserved in the bag he hugged as he slept was all gone. All other items remained as it was, but just his consumables had disappeared—not a single jerky or grain left behind.
He shoved his head into the bag, and even the smell disappeared. As if the food was never there.
He began to curse. He threw his empty canteen across the sand and swore at the sky.
‘Why are you doing this to me, do you wanna fight?!’
His voice didn’t even leave an echo. It just scattered into the emptiness of the desert.
He had to keep walking.
The only thing waiting for him was the sweet release of death if he just complained. Even if it was unfair, he couldn’t let that stop him.
Even the strongest warriors couldn’t survive without food or water. Jin was using his transcending grit to move forward, but it was only because he had no other choice.
A day passed, and the yellow didn’t return.
Two days passed, and his frail body began to tremble. Surviving the desert without food or water for two days straight had to be a miracle.
For four days, there were no ponds or oases, no creatures to eat.
He took a bad step and fell to the ground. All strength left his ankles and calves.
In his open mouth, a handful of sand slid in. His mouth was so dry, no sand stuck to his tongue.
He only tripped once, but he felt the exhaustion rapidly spreading through his bones. The desire to sleep forever overtook his brain like a tsunami.
Resisting the urge was not an easy feat. Especially in a hopeless situation.
‘Shit, it’s just one trip. I only tripped once…!’
He grimaced and spat out the sand. He stood up. He felt dizzy at the sunlight reflected by the sand. His weak legs didn’t feel like they were his own.
Then, he saw a hand holding a canteen.
Someone showed up right next to Jin and handed it to him. Obviously, there was no person like that in the desert.
Whether it was a mirage or a real person, it was important that he or she walked up without any footsteps and offered the canteen. If it were a sword inside of a water bottle, he would have died on the spot.
He hit the canteen with the pommel of his sword and fully unsheathed Bradamante. Without even confirming the person’s face, he turned quickly and oriented himself behind them, holding his sword at their neck.
Before the canteen even hit the ground, Jin held the opponent’s lifeline.
His speed was like that of a bullet. His body reacted so quickly, he didn’t even understand how it had enough strength to move as fast.
The owner of the canteen didn’t flinch despite having a sword close to their neck. Then, Jin realized it was a woman in a robe.
The woman held a staff in the opposite hand. A staff made of silver pine—an item he had seen many times before.
The woman’s red hair was also familiar.
Jin’s eyes widened. In his memory, there was only one person with magnificent crimson hair and a silver pine staff.
“Can you move your sword if you aren’t really going to kill me?”
Jin slowly lowered the sword near her throat.
She sighed and turned around, welcoming Jin with the face that he longed to see greatly.
It was her who taught Jin the secrets of magic.
No, it wasn’t ‘how’.
She was a mirage. Jin saw a 26-year-old Valeria. Just how she looked when Jin left her in his past life.
Was it because he couldn’t take the strenuous days in the desert anymore?
The loneliness and depression that he suppressed for the past two weeks as well as his yearning were all about to burst out.
“It’s the same as when I gave my hand to you three years ago. That day, you were on the ground as well. Just like back then, you aimed your sword at me. Though, your skills weren’t as sharp.”
That was Jin in the Garden of Swords three years ago.
However, that was not the case for Valeria. In her memory, Jin just got exiled and started roaming the land like a loser.
“Valeria… No, Master. Are you the second mirage?”
“I guess so.”
“What’s this…? Are you aware that you’re a mirage?”
“Yeah, I am. Well, the real me who’s going to turn 15 soon doesn’t, though.”
“Then what I have to do is…”
“To kill me and go along.”
It was cruel.
The first thought in Jin’s mind. Jin felt it.
The mirages of the Great Desert weren’t born from magic or an ability. The mirages until now were all real people who existed deep within Jin’s heart.
In his heart and memories were the people who were important to him. Hence, when he killed the Tona Twins, he felt like he really killed his own siblings.
And now, he could only feel like he really met his own master.
“I… didn’t want to reunite with you this way. It would have been better if we met in a better way.”
“Don’t do this, Master. Why does it have to be you?”
Valeria picked up the canteen from the ground and threw it to Jin.
“Drink up. If you fight me in that condition, you’ll die on my first cast.”
“Is there no other way?”
“You know what’s best. Don’t deny it. I heard you were reborn and got so much stronger. Your concentration is also much better than the apprentice that I remember. Don’t sound like such a pussy.”
The canteen fell to Jin’s feet. With quivering hands, he picked it up.
He walked the living hell of a desert for many days, and the water he had been searching for was now right in front of him.
However, he didn’t want to drink from it. If he drank it, then afterwards…
‘I’ll have to kill her.’
Killing her was incomparable to killing the Tona Twins.
If it weren’t for her, Jin would have never gotten a second chance at life. He would have died alone after regretting his 25 miserable years in the Runcandel Clan and roaming the streets like a wild dog.
Because she lent her hand, even when Jin smacked her hand away and wielded his sword. Because she came back to save him.
Jin could exist today.
“You’ve gotten a lot more disrespectful, my apprentice.”
Noticing Jin’s hesitation, Valeria raised her staff. She cast Mana Release, and a deep-blue mana whirlpool appeared at the tip of her silver pine staff.
“7-star magic. You’re not thinking that you can defeat me with only that, are you? Drink, Jin Runcandel. I’m also your inner voice. I’m sure you’re ready to fight me.”
He opened the canteen. One more moment of indecisiveness, and she would throw a barrage of spells at him. In Jin’s memories, Valeria Hister was more sword-like than any other warrior.
He then made up his mind. About the love and the hate. The connecting and the severing. The fighting and the fleeing.
“What am I to you?”
“My most valuable, one-and-only apprentice. So all you need to do is to not disappoint me.”
“Would you have really done this?”
“I would have shown you more love than this. I would have hugged you by now. Maybe even kissed you on the forehead.”
“That doesn’t help the situation at all.”
“Then stop asking. Kill me and move along. There’s one more, you know? Another mirage is waiting for you.”
Jin chugged the water. However, unlike normal water, it filled Jin with energy.
“You can use any trick up your sleeve. Swordsmanship, spiritual energy. Bring whatever you want to the table.”
Was the Master in his memory that strong? Enough to pour everything into this battle?
He couldn’t make a decision quickly. However, he was certain of one thing: the mana gathered in Valeria’s staff was stronger than he remembered.
“I will regret it if I take you down with my sword. You were everything for my magic, and forever more.”
“Well, I remember the best part about your looks not matching your recklessness.”
Valeria’s mana immediately took the form of electricity. The spell that instantly cooked Jin during his apprentice days.
“And that recklessness got me in trouble every day.”
Before he could even finish talking, five bolts of lightning fell from the sky. So fast that Jin could barely react.
Flaming with mana, Valeria’s staff was already prepared to release another spell.