The sight of Yoo Joonghyuk furrowing his finely sculpted brows into a familiar glare as soon as his dark eyes flew open made my lips twitch into the barest hint of a smile. Bihyung’s announcement of how the sponsor selection has now ended only served to deepen Yoo Joonghyuk’s scowl.
It wasn’t intimidating at all, especially since he was facing the wrong way and glaring daggers into empty space. Quite unfortunate for him.
‘Glad to see that the 0th turn’s Yoo Joonghyuk still acts the same when he’s infuriated. He had me worried with how out of character he was in the first scenario.’
I was hovering above some smoldering subway wreckage off to his right-hand side, observing Yoo Joonghyuk’s side profile. An echo of “I’ll kill you Kim Dokja” unwittingly popped into my mind, but I quickly banished that unwanted train of thought.
[The Fourth Wall] cackled. ⸢Kim Dok ja is be ing petty.⸥
‘I had to make sure that he wouldn’t choose any other backers besides me.’
⸢Kim Dok ja just wan ted to pro ve that the De mon King of Sal va tion is n ot a weak ling.⸥
I decided that now was the perfect time to fiddle with the settings of the blue viewing screen I had access to as a constellation to avoid admitting anything. The message log had exploded after the little stunt I pulled.
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', roars who has a death wish!]
[Constellation, 'God of Wine and Ecstasy', calmly points out that Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk didn’t say who he would select before he was knocked out.]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', boasts that Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk spent the longest time considering his modifier.]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', warns that someone better fess up fast or else!]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', is covering half of his face with his bandaged hand.]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', turns towards—
I muted the message log. It wasn’t the right time to taunt Abyssal Black Flame Dragon. Yoo Joonghyuk didn’t even know which of the three other potential sponsors prevented him from selecting that delusional dragon.
Which meant that I could get away with smacking the feeble 0th turn’s head and still get into his good graces for future scenarios. It was a win-win situation for me. Now, I just had to figure out how to get Yoo Joonghyuk to make me his companion in this world-line.
What could I say to convince him?
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', tells Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk to get off the subway and cross the bridge before it gets destroyed!]
Yoo Joonghyuk stared at the sight of the large monsters roaming around outside with shaking eyes.
“Why should I listen to you?”
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', says to think of him as a helpful video game walkthrough.]
“Never needed one before.”
...This sunfish’s poor survival instincts must have become nonexistent after that smack.
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', promises to show Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk how to clear a hidden scenario.]
That finally galvanized Yoo Joonghyuk into action. He abruptly turned towards me and vaulted out of the newly shattered window right behind me.
‘Ugh, I said that I’ll be your walkthrough, not that you can literally walk through me.’
I grimaced, gliding along after him. The fact that I didn’t feel any sensation when he passed through me was an unnecessary reminder that I didn’t belong in this world-line either.
⸢St op com plain ing. Kim Dok ja got a clo se up of Yoo Joong hyuk’s fa ce. And a very indirect—⸥
‘That’s not the point.’
⸢If yo u weren’t bu sy star ing at his face in the first sce na rio, you wou ld have no ticed Yoo Joong hyuk was not wear ing his tr ade mark tre nch coat.⸥
‘How was I supposed to instantly tell when he’s dressed in all black either way? I can see that now. And a very indirect what?’
⸢Ne ver mi nd. Kim Dok ja’s brain can not st op work ing right n ow.⸥
[The Fourth Wall] was blathering nonsense so I sped up a bit to keep pace with Yoo Joonghyuk. His black jacket was flapping wildly as he sprinted down Dongho Bridge. Even without [Red Phoenix Shunpo] or [Way of the Wind], his cheat protagonist stats allowed him to rapidly close the distance to the other side. Just 300 more meters and then I could double back to help out Lee Hyunsung and Kim Namwoon. Come on, come on—
[Hey! Where do you think you are going?! You’re lucky that the sub scenario is about to start.]
Bihyung had reappeared. His adorable expression did a complete 180 and turned downright demonic.
[That doesn’t mean that I’ll let you off the hook so easily. Your meager luck is about to run out! Arise!]
[The scenario difficulty has been adjusted.]
[Scenario difficulty: E → D]
[The evil thoughts of the dead have returned.]
[The surrounding earth is filled with black ether.]
[The demonic people have woken up!]
The corpses of the drivers who had died on the bridge swarmed around Yoo Joonghyuk. His progress slowed to a crawl as he focused on stabbing their weak points with the bomber Choi Han-Gyu’s survival knife.
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', complains to Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk that he shouldn’t be wasting his time on these cannon fodder. Run!]
The most troublesome one, Kim Namwoon, wasn’t even among the dead this time. Move faster!
But it was too late.
The ichthyosaur rose from the depths of the Han River, spraying water everywhere. Yoo Joonghyuk could only briefly glance up before diving out of the way as the ichthyosaur’s massive jaw snapped shut with a sickening crunch. Most of the demonic people that were blocking Yoo Joonghyuk’s way instantly disappeared, along with a gigantic section of the bridge. Dismembered limbs, shattered concrete, and warped steel rained down as the ichthyosaur retreated into the river.
“Holy shit! What was that?!”
Kim Namwoon and Lee Hyunsung finally entered the fray with a horde of demonic people from the subway hot on their heels.
“Wait a minute...you’re the famous pro gamer Yoo Joonghyuk! I’m your number one fan, Kim Namwoon! This soldier ahjussi and I are the only other survivors from the subway.”
“Both of you can call me Lee Hyunsung. I’m glad that you also made it out of the subway, Joonghyuk-ssi.”
The rather easy-going conversation happening amidst the chaos was at complete odds with my inner turmoil.
There was now an odd number of people.
Just like how it was a long time ago when I was stranded on the wrong side of the bridge with Yoo Sangah and Han Myungoh. Except the protagonist was already accounted for in this trio.
There would be no one else making a dramatic entrance this time.
⸢Kim Dok ja don’t fre ak out yet. Lo ok.⸥
Yoo Joonghyuk had taken control of the situation, shouting for Kim Namwoon to “Clean up the rest of the zombies and pile them up by the edge of the bridge!” and for Lee Hyunsung to “Come over here and help me push this tall slab of concrete!”
Even though this 0th turn’s Yoo Joonghyk wasn’t a regressor and wouldn’t ever become one...
⸢He was still the protagonist of this story.⸥
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', offers to help the remaining two people if Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk can get one person over to the other side.]
Yoo Joonghyuk, now dragging over the longest steel beam with the help of Lee Hyunsung, barely glanced at his message log before retorting, “Demon King of Salvation, don’t go back on your words.”
[Constellation, 'Mouse that Eats Fingernails', questions why you are helping Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk after getting rejected during the sponsor selection.]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', is boasting in your direction again.]
This dude didn’t get chosen either. Pay more attention to your own incarnation.
Speaking of the devil—or future demon in this case—Kim Namwoon was now dangling in the air by the collar of his school jacket. Yoo Joonghyuk hoisted him onto the end of the long steel beam that was farther away from the bridge. The beam, precariously balanced on top of a makeshift fulcrum cobbled together from the broken bridge divider, tilted to accommodate Kim Namwoon’s weight.
The other end of the beam was lifted high into the air.
“Do what we’ve discussed. Now!”
Lee Hyunsung, standing at the edge of the tall slab of concrete by the opposite end of the beam, took a deep breath to steel himself before he jumped. As he fell, his right hand formed a fist and he used his momentum to deal a powerful blow to the beam.
This move would become the foundation of his future stigma, Great Mountain Smash, capable of pulverizing the floor of a certain landlord’s zone.
The impact dented the long steel beam, but it had already done its job.
A screaming Kim Namwoon was successfully catapulted over to the other side.
[Constellation, 'God of Wine and Ecstasy', is impressed by the resourcefulness of Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk!]
[A handful of constellations are eagerly waiting to see what Incarnation Yoo Joonghyuk does next!]
[1,500 Coins have been sponsored.]
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', is hiding his proud grin behind one of his wings.]
[Constellation, 'Abyssal Black Flame Dragon', applauds his incarnation for his acrobatic landing and advises him to get used to flying in the air to score a perfect ten next time.]
“Why the fuck would there be a next time! I’m not a damn dragon!”
I was starting to miss Tartarus’ prisoner filtering system. Kim Namwoon would have already accumulated an alarming amount of penalty points by now.
[Hahaha! What a show! Now, 'Demon King of Salvation'-nim, will you be helping these lowly incarnations? There are less than five minutes left!]
Bihyung, delighted by the growing number of dazzling stars orbiting above his head, did a happy twirl. Meanwhile, Yoo Joonghyuk and Lee Hyunsung had clambered on top of the tall pile of incapacitated demonic people for a better vantage point.
Floating in front of Yoo Joonghyuk, I could see that he hadn’t stopped grimly analyzing his surroundings for alternative strategies to get across, already bracing himself for the worst-case scenario if no help came.
Yet his eyes shone with a glimmer of wary hope that had not been trampled on by time.
[Constellation, 'Demon King of Salvation', replies with ‘of course, that’s what life and death companions do.’]
I pretended not to hear Yoo Joonghyuk muttering “I thought you said that you were a walkthrough” under his breath and began telling the story of <Kim Dokja’s Company>’s survival record.