IBTVTHIOW - C206
Chapter 206 – The World After Destruction
The headquarters of the American Association.
A hidden underground bunker far below the surface.
It’s known to only a select few, and even the president of the United States would not be able to enter here without permission.
This secluded place was heavily fortified and isolated from the outside world to prevent any intrusion by superpowered individuals.
It lacked mirrors and televisions, always brightly lit due to the presence of a teleporter who could freely move in darkness. The bunker was equipped with various devices to counter teleporters.
This place was the residence of the world’s most important hero, ‘X-Machina,’ the only individual in the world with the ability to turn back time.
And he was currently leaning against the wall, coughing up blood.
Heaving a deep sigh.
He struggled to catch his breath.
His brown hair was now tainted with yellow, and his skin turned pale, likely due to fear.
Wobbling, he walked through the deep corridors of the underground complex.
“I stopped it.”
Unknowingly, he mumbled in a hoarse voice.
Cough. Another bout of blood.
He clutched his trembling hand tightly and dragged his feet, finally reaching his own room.
The trail of blood marked his path.
Once inside his room, he collapsed onto the floor.
X-Machina, his real name is James Machina.
He coughed up blood while placing his hand on his chest and murmured.
“….With this, all of this will come to an end.”
It took too long. The range of time that his ability could handle had surpassed its limit.
If he turned back time now, he would have to stake his own life, which he had protected so far to prevent the danger to humanity.
“…Hah, it’s ridiculous. Humanity has already been annihilated, what’s the point?”
Yes, as far as he could ascertain, he was the last survivor. There was no longer any meaning in trying to prevent the end. He had been living all this time to prevent it, and now this was the end he had tried to stop.
With trembling eyes and a face filled with fear, James muttered faintly.
…He had figured it all out—the cause of the incident and the solution. Now that he had turned back time and activated the ‘device’ he had last revealed, he would fulfill his duty to prevent the destruction.
Even if it meant losing his life in the process.
It didn’t matter.
Because he was a hero.
A hero who protected people, who saved the world.
His own life…
He could gladly give it up.
If that thing returned again next time…
Who would stop it then?
Could it be stopped at all?
“Oh, God… Please save this world…”
Unconsciously, he murmured his final words, not to the divine but to his own beliefs.
And then, he tightly clenched his heart even harder.
At that moment, the white underground room was filled with blinding yellow light.
And like that…
Not just the underground room, but the entire world was enveloped in yellow light.
The world that had been destroyed, all of it, was now filled with yellow light.
In the Ego Stream headquarters, the main house.
“Yawning… What are you doing, Da-in?”
“Hmm? Oh, I’m just watching TV.”
“Why are you so focused on watching that? What is it?”
Seo-eun looked puzzled as she picked up a piece of apple with her fork and asked me.
The living room in the morning, where everyone had gathered.
I was watching TV with great concentration.
To experience the moment of destruction.
“At this moment, the United States is celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the US Branch Association with festivities still taking place in front of the Statue of Liberty.”
As the anchor spoke, the image of the Statue of Liberty appeared on the screen.
I was watching it intently.
Yes, it’s almost time.
The moment when it will be decided whether I will be caught in the time of destruction or not.
[The head of the Statue of Liberty suddenly explodes, and the tragedy begins.]
Those were the words clearly mentioned in the original.
If the head explodes, it means the destruction is beginning.
If it doesn’t explode?
It would mean that the destruction has already taken place, and time has returned due to the sacrifice of X Machina.
I have already experienced all the destruction, but here I am sitting without any memory of it as if it never happened.
Now, here we go.
Will it explode or not?
That’s the question.
I focused on the TV like that, and finally, at the moment when the minute hand pointed to twelve.
“Yay! Even though quite some time has passed, people are still enjoying the festival in front of the Statue of Liberty. This is Kim Yumi, reporting from the night in the United States.”
I collapsed onto the sofa.
…Fortunately, it seems to be a time period where I don’t have to deal with anything.
Well, if you think about it, technically the past me already dealt with it, but it’s not my problem anymore. It’s not my job to handle the past.
“…Da-in, are you feeling unwell?”
“No, you’ve been sighing a lot since earlier…”
Eun-wol looked at me with a worried expression from across the sofa. I reassured her not to worry and patted her head. It was a sigh of relief, Eun-wol.
I leaned back against the sofa, putting my hands in my pockets.
…I could feel something round like a ball.
Perhaps, if the head of the Statue of Liberty exploded and the destruction began, I would have triggered this smoke gas first.
But now, it’s not that time, so there’s no need for that. I’ll have to put it somewhere in my room again.
“Jayeong unni, that was mine, right…?”
“Ah. Seo-eun, where’s yours, where’s mine? Everything is ours.”
“Hmm. The apple flavor is sweet. I don’t think it was this sweet the last time I had it.”
“Shin Ryeong, should I get you one more?”
Like that, in the lively living room.
I quietly sank into my thoughts.
…There isn’t much information on the internet, so it seems like the destruction was indeed avoided. Perhaps X Machina sacrificed itself to reset time on a large scale.
Since the original work didn’t properly explain the cause of this event or how Machina stopped it, there’s no way to know for sure. Anyway, it’s a relief.
Now, the important thing is to think about what to do next.
…Soon, the news of X Machina’s sudden death will likely be revealed to the whole world. His identity, which was kept a secret, will probably be exposed due to this unexpected death, I remember.
Anyway, that’s a story for a few days later, so let’s forget about it.
But there was something more important to ponder.
That is, what did I do in that destroyed timeline?
According to my plan, I was supposed to meet a tormented Stardus without knowing that time was reset, and I tried to comfort her so that she wouldn’t unnecessarily suffer. I’m not sure if I did well. She might not have listened to me. It’s probably something I’ll never know.
…But, if things went well.
If she believed me and stood by my side.
I probably would have told her everything, without hiding my secret. After all, it’s a time that will disappear. A forgotten memory.
“Haha… I wonder how Stardus reacted.”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
When Seo-eun turned her head, wondering about my quiet muttering, I smiled, made an excuse, and walked to my room.
…I wonder what Stardus’ reaction was.
Did she get angry? Did she show contempt? Or maybe she was taken aback. She might have been bewildered and laughed.
Well, it’s something I will never know now.
Since I can’t remember anything either.
As I grabbed the doorknob of my room, I couldn’t help but feel a slight ache in my chest.
As time passes… moments are gathered…
“….Urgh. What’s wrong with me? Am I having an arrhythmia?”
I don’t know.
Why does my chest keep aching?
Why do I feel like I forgot something important?
Why does my heart keep pounding?
“Seriously, I don’t know.”
I muttered as I sat in the chair.
Is it a side effect of time regression? …But I haven’t regressed in time. It’s strange. Maybe it’s just because I feel empty inside.
However, a sudden thought crossed my mind.
For some reason, out of nowhere, I blurted it out unintentionally.
“…I miss Stardus.”
Korean Hero Association Headquarters.
Sitting there, holding a pen and clicking it, Shinharu absentmindedly pushed out a calendar and peeked at it.
…Well, I’ll be able to see him again next time, I guess.
It’s been a month since Egostic came riding on the dragon during the last terrorist attack. He said I’d see him again soon, but a whole month has passed. What’s so soon about that? He’ll probably come back in another three months like usual, and he’ll call that soon?
With a soft sigh, Shinharu leaned back in her chair and lifted her head.
Then, her eyes caught the TV screen hanging on the opposite wall of the office.
[At this moment, the United States is still celebrating in front of the Statue of Liberty, commemorating the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. branch association.]
On the screen, the image of Americans enjoying the celebration was being shown.
For some reason, she couldn’t take her eyes off that screen. Unknowingly, she kept watching the scene.
As time passed…
[Yes! Despite a considerable amount of time passing, people are still celebrating in front of the Statue of Liberty. This was Kim Yumi, reporting from Nighttime America.]
Well, nothing particularly unusual happened. It was just a regular news broadcast showing the festivities and then ending.
…Why did I want to see that?
She turned her gaze away and returned her attention to her work.
And there, at that moment…
A sudden droplet fell onto her document. …Where did that come from?
With a puzzled expression, she reached up to her eyes, feeling something strange.
“….What is this?”
Then, at that moment…
She finally saw her own reflection on the turned-off computer screen.
From one of her eyes, she realized there was a tear rolling down her cheek.
“….What? Why, sniffle, why is this happening?”
…Am I going crazy?
Shin Haru thought that while wiping her tears.
But at the same time…
Suddenly, a thought occurred to her.
…It feels like I’ve forgotten something.
It’s not the end.
Even if time goes back, we’ll still be together.
A certain feeling settles in the corner of my heart, a tangled emotion.
“….Why is this happening…”
…I wanted to remember. I didn’t want to forget.
If I forget, we might never know each other again.
Something I really wanted to remember.
This feeling of seemingly forgetting.
And along with that feeling,
She suddenly felt a strong impulse.
…I can’t let it go like this.
At least this emotion, please remember.
Someday, we’ll be able to have a conversation like this again.
Just like that.
In the middle of her sudden and confused thoughts, she unknowingly shed tears. She gathered her thoughts, her dizzy mind, and sorted out her confused emotions.
Soon, she quietly leaned back in her chair.
…I don’t know why this is happening. I can only guess that it might be due to the stress I’ve been under lately.
A certain thought has been coming to her mind since earlier.
The perplexing and inexplicable thoughts ended up revealing her heart.
Shinharu softly murmured.
“I miss Egostic.”
Somehow, for some unknown reason,
She wanted to see Egostic.
Right now, right away.