“What are you—” It hurt so much that tears sprang to my eyes, and I was ready to argue with him. However, hyung suddenly hugged me tightly as if he would never let go.
“Never again.” I felt my shoulder grow wet.
“Don’t ever leave without a word again. I’ll really kill you if you do.”
He was saying that we should never split up again, right? What a tsundere. No, his tone was more like a yandere’s. Of course, I didn’t say it out loud because I would probably get hit again. I hugged my brother back. “OK. I’m back, hyung.”
* * *
Yeon-woo slowly opened his eyes. He was in the real world once more and not the white world of letters. Brahm and Henova were looking at him with concern.
“Are you all right?”
“Fool! Why did you suddenly faint after touching the pocket watch?!”
Brahm cast magic on Yeon-woo to check if he was hurt, and Henova’s face was filled with worry as he shouted at Yeon-woo angrily.
Yeon-woo confirmed that he was fine and turned to Brontes, who was staring at him. “How long was I like this?”
『It’s been about three days.』
Yeon-woo clucked his tongue. He didn’t realize so much time had passed. But in a way, it wasn’t a surprise. He needed an extreme amount of concentration just to deal wiht the energy of the Soulstone, and considering what happened in the white world, three days was actually a short period of time.
『I told everyone else that you were busy because something had come up.』
『But…』 Brontes narrowed his eyes as his voice trailed away. 『Looks like you unsealed the Soulstone, is that right?』
『Huh! Didn’t realize that was possible.』
“Thankfully, I had help.”
『Still, that’s amazing.』 Brontes had studied Soulstones his entire life, and he was beginning to admire the two brothers for being able to handle it. 『Do you think you can use its power?』
Yeon-woo shook his head. “There’s a big difference between handling it and wielding it. But I think if I continue researching, I might be able to someday.” Yeon-woo felt the Philosopher’s Stone weight next to his heart. It was vibrating normally, as though he’d never absorbed all that energy. He couldn’t sense any differences at all until he used it as a core to move magic power.
His magic power was stronger than ever, and just by the flow of the Magic Circuit, he felt all his senses sharpen and the three Factors—Draconic, Divine, and Demonic—activate. The quality of his magic power couldn’t even be compared to what it had previously been. Could it even be called magic power considering how pure and concentrated it was, as sticky as the darkness in the Void? It was completely different, and he thought about giving it another name. ‘Later.’
Gathering magic power in his hands, he smiled faintly. ‘This is enough.’ Clearing away his thoughts, he said to Henova and Brahm, who were still looking at him concernedly. “There’s someone I want to introduce to you two. Would you like to meet him?”
The two tilted their heads at the nonsense he was spouting. Henova frowned and touched Yeon-woo’s forehead. “Do you have a fever?”
“Then what—?” Before Henova finished speaking, Yeon-woo pushed the magic power in his hands into the pocket watch. Whoosh! The stopped hands began to whirl around and vibrate. Black letters began to float above the watch glass.
The letters inside the diary came out and swirled around him before they began to gather and turn into the shape of a human. The clearer his facial features grew, the greater the number of emotions that flashed across Brahm’s and Henova’s faces. First, they looked interested, then curious, then suspicious, and then in a sudden rush: shock, certainty, and joy.
“Y-you…!” Henova was so shocked that he almost fell over.
When the letters finished forming Jeon-woo’s face, he looked around and smiled mischievously at Henova. 『Old man, long time no see.』
Clang! The hammer in Henova’s hand dropped to the floor as tears trickled from the wrinkled corners of his eyes. He was looking at the face that he missed and hated so much. “I-is it really you?”
『Goodness. Our old man must be losing his eyesight due to old age. How can you be so nearsighted already? Wait, my face is pretty memorable, then that means…do you already have dementia?!』
“I see it really is you after hearing your blabbering on!” Henova fumbled with his short arms and pulled Jeong-woo to him.
『Gosh, why are you being so embarrassing?』 Jeong-woo talked like he was going to push Henova away, but he returned Henova’s hug with a grin. He had also missed Henova, the only person who never left his side throughout the endless cycle of dreams. He truly was like a father.
Brahm looked at the two with reddened eyes, also feeling tearful. He despised his Homunculus body during emotional moments like this, but he realized something and looked at Jeong-woo with his head cocked. Finally his eyes widened and he turned to Yeon-woo. 『Yeon-woo, did you…?』 He quietly asked through their connection so Jeong-woo and Henova couldn’t hear.
Yeon-woo shook his head firmly. 『Please don’t tell them anything.』
Brahm’s eyelids trembled for a moment, but he bit his lower lip and nodded. 『All right. Understood.』
* * *
『I’m really tired. I can take a nap, right?』 Jeong-woo glanced at Yeon-woo while nodding. Although he was acting fine, he was actually extremely worried because his soul was worn out after going through all the cycles of the benefit.
He could be scattered into a basic spirit at any moment, and it was a miracle that he’d managed to preserve his identity in the first place. Although Yeon-woo filled Jeong-woo with black energy, there were limits to restoring a damaged soul. It was possible to raise him to the Guai level, but things might become worse.
Jeong-woo knew his condition well, and he was cautious. He was finally seeing all the people he missed, and he didn’t want to close his eyes again. But since he was less than a ghost, there was nothing he could do at the moment.
“Don’t worry.” Yeon-woo patted his brother’s on the head.
Although his voice was emotionless, Jeong-woo still felt comforted by it. 『OK.』 Jeong-woo closed his eyes with a bright face. With a swooshing sound, his spirit body scattered, and the letters returned to the pocket watch.
Yeon-woo stroked the pocket watch and turned to Henova and the others. “This watch is like Jeong-woo’s house. We have to fix it if we want to heal Jeong-woo.”
“All right. I’ll help you as much I can.” Henova rolled his sleeves up, asking where they wanted to start.
Brahm and the three Cyclops brothers moved busily as well. Yeon-woo assigned them all different tasks, and they fell on the pocket watch to begin repairing it. Thankfully, now that the purple energy had moved into the pocket watch, it was easy to examine it.
“It was created using ‘Sutra Bhasya’ as a foundation. It should be easy to fix.” Brahm smiled as he examined the structure of the pocket watch. Sutra Bhasya was something that he had created, and he was proud that it had been raised to this level.
Yeon-woo had seen most of the secrets of the pocket watch when he peeked into Jeong-woo’s benefit, so repairing it went faster than when they created Kynee.
『The exterior is the best.』 Jeong-woo left the pocket watch often and moved about freely, so full of energy that it was clear all the fears of him not waking up again were unfounded. He poked into what they were doing so much that Henova, who was trying to understand him as much as he could, exploded. “You’re such a pest! Go away!”
Of course, Jeong-woo didn’t listen, and it was a relief that he couldn’t move too far away from the pocket watch. If not, he would probably wander around the entire holy territory.
After that small commotion, the pocket watch was repaired. Tick-tock! Under the clean watch glass, the hands of the clock finally pointed at the right time. The seconds hand moved forward, each click evidence that the pocket watch was functioning perfectly.
The only number that they left behind was XII so that its original form wouldn’t be gone forever.
『When I look at this, I realize how much I’ve missed it.』 Jeong-woo grinned, rubbing the pocket watch. His smile faltered a little when his finger passed through the pocket watch. He could touch it with his soul power, but the fact that he had died suddenly brought him up short. However, Jeong-woo didn’t show his feelings and turned the pocket watch over with a bright smile to look at the familiar letters: J. W. CAH.
『When I saw this, I wondered when you would grow up.』
Yeon-woo frowned. He didn’t have any words to say. Back then, he really hadn’t known anything, and when he’d tried to study, it had been a horrible ordeal.
『And then you went to Africa with the military. A lot has changed, hasn’t it?』
Jeong-woo and Yeon-woo had had many conversations after Jeong-woo came out of the pocket watch, and Jeong-woo finally learned what had happened during the time he was gone. He thought many things had changed. Five years on Earth was a long time, and he was amused at the things Yeon-woo had experienced in the Tower. Jeong-woo hadn’t really expected Yeon-woo to find him in the Soulstone since its formation was so complex and its secrets couldn’t be unlocked easily. He was surprised to hear that Yeon-woo used the Philosopher’s Stone that was in his heart. He hadn’t left any information about the Philosopher’s Stone in the hidden pieces.
In fact, Yeon-woo had accomplished many things on his own, like finding Vigrid and developing the Demonic Divine Dragon Body. Jeong-woo thought that even if he hadn’t left information behind, Yeon-woo would’ve grown well on his own although it might’ve taken him longer. ‘That’s hyung for you.’ It was just like Yeon-woo to do that. 『Hyung.』
Jeong-woo could finally ask the question he’d been reluctant to voice. 『What about…Mom?』
Although he hadn’t been expecting it, he thought that Yeon-woo would only find him once he reached the fiftieth floor and gained the elixir. He had been hesitating because he thought Yeon-woo would have returned to Earth to heal their mother right away. While he waited for the answer, his heart thumped in his chest.
“She left peacefully.” In a calm voice, Yeon-woo gave Jeong-woo the answer that he was dreading.
“She believed in you until the end. She smiled because she didn’t want to look sad when you came back.”
『I see.』 Jeong-woo clenched his fists. A shadow appeared on his face, and Yeon-woo couldn’t read his expression. He pretended not to see anything and turned away.
Jeong-woo’s shoulders shook, then, he raised his head, composing himself. He didn’t look sad anymore, and his determined eyes made it clear that he’d just decided something. 『I heard that I have a daughter.』
Brahm had told him already? Jeong-woo didn’t seem fazed at all to hear about his daughter. He’d probably come to terms with it and set a new goal for himself. Although he couldn’t save their mother, the will to at least save his child helped Jeong-woo get up again. 『I was a bad son, but I want to be a parent like Mom.』Their mother had loved them so much, and Jeong-woo wanted to be like her. 『So…』 He emphasized each word. 『I want to live again.』
Yeon-woo looked at his little brother.
『And I want to hug Sesha just like Mom used to hug us. Do you…think that’s possible?』