Chapter 94. Granting Freedom (1)
As an S-ranker who had come to Windermere because of Hwaya’s request for help, I was treated very well.
Because a Field Dungeon appeared, Britain had built a building for ability users at Windermere, where modern buildings had traditionally been avoided. Although it was an eyesore outside, the view from the inside was truly marvelous. It was especially so the higher you went in the building. Naturally, higher ranked ability users were situated on higher floors.
I received a room on the same floor as Paul and Mike from Hwaya’s team. It was the second highest floor of the building, as the entire floor above mine was given to Joshua Brightman. For meals, I could eat at the hotel restaurant or order room service. After being kicked out of the dungeon, I came back to the hotel room from my mansion in the Residential Area. After a short nap, I chose to go to the restaurant. Paul and Mike both welcomed another guy joining Hwaya’s team, and wanted to talk to me as we ate.
“So T.K., what country are you from?”
“Like I said, don’t call me T.K… and it’s a secret, of course.”
“Your guard is high, I see. I think you’re Korean though.”
“Right. Mastiford always said her mother wanted her son-in-law to be Korean.”
Letting out a short sigh, I rolled a piece of toast and threw it into my mouth.
“Nom nom… I’d like it if you guys didn’t make our relationship to be like that. I don’t really care, but Hwaya would probably be angry.”
“Right. She would hate it if others forced her into a relationship without her knowledge.”
A voice that wasn’t mine, Paul’s, nor Mike’s rang out. I drank my red tea.
“Haa… It’s sweet.”
“Of course, with how much sugar you put in… You know this is red tea, not milk tea, T.K.”
“Did you perhaps not hear me?”
As Mike and I were talking to each other, the voice rang out again. Huu. I sighed and turned my head in the direction the voice came from. I saw a tall man standing there in a suit. He had a large body, halfway between the old and current me, and had short silver hair that was combed over with pomade. The two blue eyes on his angled face seemed to be glaring at me for some reason. Although I had heard he was in his late thirties, he seemed like he was in his twenties. In any case, the strong spirit that could be felt from his entire body proved that he was another SS-ranker.
He extended his hand toward me.
“I’m Joshua Brightman. Nice to meet you.”
“Uh… Mm. I can’t say it’s nice to meet you, but hello. I’m Thunder Knight. Hwaya invited me here.”
When I grabbed his hand thinking, ‘This situation seems familiar,’ he really put all his strength into the grip like a scene from an old movie. For a moment, I seriously considered flipping him over, but I felt that reacting in such a way would be taking his bait, so I didn’t.
“I heard you’re an SS-ranker. You really are strong. With your grip being this strong in handshakes, it must be hard having a normal life. Looks like you need to practice controlling your strength a bit.”
“Ha! What an interesting fellow.”
“I don’t find you very interesting. You’ll need to practice joking too.”
I retorted as I wiped my hand with a towel after shaking his hand. A young man behind Joshua Brightman became angry and stepped forward. He was blonde and had blue eyes just like Brightman. I instantly realized that he was Britain’s last S-ranker.
“How impertinent, Asian.”
“If you want to call me impertinent, you shouldn’t bother me when I’m eating and screw off, Westerner.”
I responded coldly and tapped the teacup I was drinking from. At the same time, Paul and Mike burst into laughter.
“He got you good there, Tommy! Yep, not even dogs would bother a man having his breakfast tea.”
“You should drink when you can these days. Eh, Tommy?”
“Don’t call me Tommy!”
It seemed all the S-rankers were familiar with each other. Interpreting their conversation as such, I calmly drank my sweet tea. Mm, yep, I really did put too much sugar. Next time, I’d have to lower the amount to only 12 spoons.
Then, the restaurant door opened. Given that the entire restaurant got brighter, it was undoubtedly Hwaya.
“Shin, T.K.! I told you, we should eat toge… gek, Brightman…”
No, wait, is T.K. an actual name? Why is everyone saying it so naturally!? I said call me John Smith! As I murmured unhappily, I shook the teacup that was now empty. It seemed Hwaya didn’t see it.
“Oh! You’re beautiful as always, Miss Mastiford.”
“You’re disgusting as always, Brightman. I’m here to talk to my comrades, so I’d like it if you can give us some space.”
“You’re sharper than usual today. Is that because of this friend here?”
“I don’t remember becoming your friend…”
I answered weakly and got up from my seat. After putting my teacup down on my plate with an audible sound, I continued.
“You’re probably here because you were annoyed with me who’s Hwaya’s friend and getting in the way of your schemes, and that loyal dog is probably here so that you can test out my strength. Luckily, something annoying happened to me too yesterday, so I’d be happy to beat someone to a pulp, and, not to mention, Hwaya would probably burn up the entire building if she kept talking to you, and others would be annoyed with us if we kept taking up space, so why don’t we take it outside?”
The restaurant became silent. Then, someone burst out into laughter. It was Hwaya.
“Ahahahahaha! What’s that!? Do you think he’d really do that? Not even a third-rate villain from a movie would think like that!”
“I know, right, Hwaya? I was just saying it.”
I stared at Brightman as I said that. He smiled as if he found it amusing, and rubbed his chin with his hand wearing a white glove.
“You must be quite confident in your ability. Why don’t you be my opponent for a bit? For a morning exercise, of course.”
“An SS-ranker like you shouldn’t use your strength to bully weaker people. You must be joking.”
In truth, I wouldn’t be able to beat the current Brightman, not without revealing all my skills at least. The sheer amount of mana his body was naturally emitting was enough to intimidate ordinary people. His body clearly showed signs of regular training as well as that overwhelming amount of mana. I wouldn’t be able to inflict a fatal injury even if I used Heroic Strike. Of course, it would be my overwhelming win if I was just running without a direct confrontation. It was why I could be so cheeky.
“He’s right, Joshua. You don’t have to step in. I’ll crush that arrogant Asian’s mouth.”
Tommy stepped forward. Brightman pretended to be concerned for a bit, then nodded his head. It was pretty clear that this was his intention from the start.
“My, if you’re that scared of sparring, there’s nothing I can do. But you should be careful, he’s a master of the sword.”
“Sniff sniff… What perfume do you use? … It’s the same fragrance as the one I smelled in Hwaya’s house. Since there’s no way Hwaya invited you to her house, you must be using the same perfume as Hwaya.”
At my words, Brightman and even Hwaya froze. To be more concrete, the traces I felt in Hwaya’s house was the same as the one I felt from Brightman. However, it wasn’t Brightman. His ability wasn’t one that would allow him to hide somewhere stealthily. One of his subordinates, however, could have such an ability. Of course, I already knew the answer.
Thinking back to what I said yesterday, Hwaya seemed to have understood what I meant, and Brightman seemed to reach same conclusion. He frowned for an instant, but soon answered with a smile.
“Ha, that’s impossible. It must be because I hung around Mastiford too much recently.”
“That must be it, right? I didn’t really like the smell, so I told her to stop using it. If you were using the same perfume, I was going to tell you the same thing.”
“That’s… very presumptuous of you…”
This was enough of a warning. However, if the same thing happened again, I wouldn’t be able to do much about you, but I could certainly take care of your subordinate. Brightman glanced over my words with a snort, and I also grinned.
“Ah, also, you shouldn’t cling to her so much that her perfume would stain your clothes. As a man myself, it’s a bit sad watching another man going after a girl who clearly hates him.”
“It’s only a matter of time before she opens her heart up to me. It’s not something others should care about.”
“Brightman, that will never happen, so please screw off. You’re free to have your delusions, but as a friend, he has the right to care.”
“Oi, Asian. Are you going to just blabber on? Stop barking like a dog and follow me out.”
Tommy was calling me. I didn’t like fighting with words either. Because of my increased intelligence, I was uselessly talking more. I followed Tommy outside. It seemed people enjoyed watching a fight no matter what country they were from, as people followed us out, forming a circle around us.
[Shin, your ability is going to be shown for all these people to judge. Are you okay with that? If not, I can stop the fight. They’ll find out how amazing you are from your results anyways.]
[Don’t worry. With his strength, he won’t be able to draw my real strength out.]
I responded to Hwaya’s worried message and gave her a wink. She smiled in response. She really was pretty.
As I stood inside the ring made my spectators, I thought about how everything had turned out like I expected. Although it would be a performance, instilling my ability into their minds would help me in my time here. I hadn’t fallen for Brightman’s provocation without thinking.
First, I took out white work gloves from my inventory and wore them. Then, I summoned Peika and infused her into the work gloves. Seeing the sparks flicker from the work gloves, Hwaya opened her mouth as if to say something, but didn’t.
Tommy took out a longsword that was apparently his beloved weapon, pointing it towards me. Ability users generally wore armor made out of monster remains, but he wasn’t wearing anything.
“You’re not wearing any armor. Will you be okay?”
“You should be worried for yourself.”
Mm, I liked his confidence. I nodded my head and reached into my pocket to take out a coin. Then, I realized I only had Korean wons. Hwaya seemed to have read my mind as she took out a 10 pence coin and threw it over. After catching it, I asked Tommy.
“Do you want me to do it, or you?”
“You can do it. We’ll start the moment it hits the ground.”
I flicked the coin apathetically. The coin spun in the air. The moment it hit the ground…
He was right in front of me. He really was fast. It seemed his ability strengthened his speed the most. The sword he raised up let out a strong light from the black mana imbued in it. It fell directly on my head.
His technique wasn’t bad either. About mid-rank level 4? I reflected on my mistake, thinking that he was a fool with only his body strengthened by mana. When the opponent was vastly weaker than me, it was hard to assess his strength accurately.
No matter how fast he came at me, I would not be hit unless he struck me before I could respond. I thanked him inwardly for saving the trouble of having to run at him. I grabbed the arm he raised up with one hand and punched his stomach with my other hand. Sparks of lightning flashed and the clothes Tommy was wearing was burnt black.
When I used Divine Speed and sent a few punches in less than a second, there was no more strength in his arm. I first bent his arm and took away his longsword, throwing it away on the ground. Then, I jumped on top of him. Although all this took a while to describe, it had happened in exactly 1.7 seconds.
“First, let’s hit you a bit.”
From that point, I punched his face for 37 seconds before he could finally shout the word ‘surrender.’
“Even with an A+-rank healer healing him, he won’t be able to fight for a week… Thunder Knight, that was too much.”
The five of us embarked on a battleship that was a modified cruise ship. It seemed the old and kind-hearted Madam Brown didn’t like that I beat up Tommy to such extent. Then, Hwaya, who had her arms stretched out to her side to enjoy the lake’s wind, answered in my place.
“But Madam Brown, you didn’t heal him.”
“Of course, I thought he should take a beating too.”
“Madam Brown is scary…”
“I was quite happy. As the only melee attacker out of Britain’s four S-rankers, he kept bragging about how he was the strongest.”
“Really, how did you overwhelm him by that much?”
As a melee range ability user like Tommy, Paul seemed to be curious how I could deal with Tommy so easily. I answered Paul’s question with a light laugh.
“When fighting monsters, things like strength and magic are important. But in a fight between two people, there’s something even more important. Technique.”
“Technique… I understand what you mean, but how? You’re an Awakened just like him.”
“I learned martial arts even before that. For about 13 years.”
“Ah, so that’s it.”
“Mm, I still can’t understand. Is how you move your body that important? I only block with my shield, so I’m not sure.”
“You should know the force is different depending on where on the shield you’re attacked. It’s like that.”
“Ah, now that you put it that way, I have a better idea.”
It seemed I could fit in better with this group after what happened his morning. I was quite content with it.
“But I’m worried about what Brightman will do from here on out.”
“He won’t stay still. Be careful, T.K.”
“No, he can’t harm me in the slightest.”
“He isn’t stupid enough to make a move on me himself, and I’m not afraid of anyone other than Brightman himself.”
If I had revealed my ability, it could have been a bit more dangerous. After all, his influence was strong enough to reach Korea. Annoying things could happen if he found out. Of course, as I was hiding my identity right now and only working as an Awakened known as Thunder Knight, his influence was extremely limited in its reach. The best he could do was frame me for something I didn’t do to decrease my fame and area of activity.
For example, he could frame me for crimes like rape or murder. With the increased rate of crime from ability users, special ability user units were created to deal with them. If he could frame me for a severe crime like rape or murder, it could be fatal. There could also be other ways to bother me. After all, money and political power were strong.
“You can prevent that much, right, Hwaya?”
“Hmph, don’t underestimate an SS-ranker’s strength. The British government can’t ignore me. Even if I go around killing people, they’ll cover up my crimes.”
“Unfortunately, that applies to Brightman, too.”
“That’s true. So hurry and get stronger, so you can crush him, Shi… T.K.”
“It shouldn’t take long. Look forward to it.”
When I answered her and smiled, Hwaya stayed silent for a bit, then returned a smile back.
“Alright, I’ll look forward to it.”
The others watched our conversation from the sidelines and whispered.
“… They’re dating, right?”
“Sh, let’s just watch over them slowly.”
“I used to be like that with my wife too…”
These spectators weren’t just in Korea!
“Anyways, what have you been doing since a while ago, T.K.?”
Mike asked me. Looking at the knife I was sharpening with a whetstone, I replied.
“Hm? Oh, you’re asking why I’m sharpening a knife?”
“Oh! So you can wield knives too? That’s something to look forward to!”
“No… What is everything talking about?”
As I looked at the 8-meter long tuna breaching out of the water, I replied.
“Sashimi is best served fresh.”
While everyone was silent from being touched, I hummed and aimed the sharpened knife at the tuna. Today’s lunch would be a tuna sashimi special!
I’ve given up. I can’t just cut it in the middle. I had no choice! I can’t just say “look forward to the next chapter” while sparks are flashing.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, everyone! I hope you finished the day with ICDS!
PS – 13 spoons of red tea. Did you get the reference? I used to really like that red tea drinking character…