<Chapter 38. The Peddler and the Adventurer - 1>
[Master, the level of Mana Parasite has risen, increasing its functionality.]
It had been ten days since Lee Shin Woo had snuck into the large city, 'Kuroa's Glory' and had begun acting as the peddler, Lawrence. Another merchant was right about to sign his contract, but Rem chose that time to give its report.
'The level rose?'
[That's correct. The skill has leveled up before, decreasing the mana consumption and increasing its speed, but this time, it gained an additional ability... It occurred when the skill reached level 5.]
'Wait a sec. Give me the details a bit later.'
Mana Parasite was paramount to achieving his goal on the surface, so Lee Shin Woo couldn't afford to ignore Rem's report. However, now wasn't the time. The merchant was right about to sign the contract, but he looked at Lee Shin Woo anxiously.
"Is there something wrong with the contract?"
"I'm sorry. I just remembered something important... Yes, you're all set. The confidentiality clause is perfect as well. It's done."
The merchant sighed in relief. The contract referred to the wine auction. He'd hired a few trustworthy merchants among the ones he'd befriended in the past ten days, and put them in charge of setting up the auction, promoting it, and running it.
In layman's terms, they would do miscellaneous tasks and act as his 'shields', since he came out of nowhere and had hundreds of bottles of expensive wine. He'd promised to pay them, so the merchants pleasantly agreed.
"Then, I'll be counting on you for a month. You can send your regular reports to my accommodations."
"That's my line."
He thought he'd be interrogated, but the merchant didn't do so, and instead just picked up the contract. Lee Shin Woo had picked him for this very reason, so he supposed it was only natural.
Lee Shin Woo picked up his own contract and perused it again. After that, he slightly nodded his head and left. He was now being rewarded for acting as a peddler for ten days. He wouldn't have to worry about it for the time being.
"So what's the new ability?"
Once Lee Shin Woo was alone, he followed up with Rem. Rem explained the new ability with a single, concise word. Lee Shin Woo understood what it did immediately.
"As expected, it goes from a contagion to an infection."
[Exactly. Master, you must be aware of the fact that golems produced for the same purpose and stationed in the same area, are connected like a network of sorts.]
Arema Steelworker's golems were like that. According to Rem, the technique used to make the golems here and the ones underground were the same, so early on, he'd figured that the Magic Empire's golems would be connected like a network.
[I am now able to secretly infect all the golems in the network if I just infect a few of them. If the ability grows even further, then I should be able to infect other golem networks as well.]
That's a virus! Lee Shin Woo knew how dangerous Rem was. If this technique worked on humans, then it would be game over. This wasn't a hero's ability; it was a demon king's! What's worse, the Magic Empire had golems everywhere, so it was pretty much already game over.
He'd only brought Rem along to help him out, but never thought that that trivial decision would've made such a difference!
"Good job, Rem. Go wild. Infect them all."
Even so, Lee Shin Woo unhesitatingly yelled 'go'. Since there was no possibility of danger, he didn't plan on stopping, no matter what happened afterwards. He would worry about world peace after he was completely safe!
[According to the network's information sharing, there are at least 50 level 7 golems in the capital, Enart. If I manage to infect them as well, then you should be able to move more freely. I believe we will be able to hold the Emperor at bay...]
"You can infect level 7 golems too?"
[It's difficult to infect them myself, but if I infect them through the capital's network, then there's a high chance for success. If the Mana Parasite levels up even further, then the likelihood increases even more.]
"What are the chances the Emperor finds out?"
[No one will find out about the infection. I assure you.]
"...Good. I'm counting on you."
[I will begin right away.]
After it finished its report, Lee Shin Woo thought that perhaps Rem, out of all of them, was the busiest, but for some reason, decided to ignore it. Since he was doing his best too.
"Why do you keep looking at me?"
"I wasn't looking."
Lee Shin Woo led his sharp witted pack horse and hit the road.
He'd gotten rid of all his useless items in the past ten days, so he needed a new supply, but because he wasn’t a real merchant, he didn’t need to buy local products. Then how would he fill his inventory? What would he fill it with? There was only one choice.
"We're going to clear a new dungeon."
"But dungeons aren't common."
"Including the golems guarding and patrolling this city, there are thousands of golems infected. Do you really think they wouldn't have any info regarding the dungeons?"
That's right. He'd learned some facts about the Magic Empire, the popular items, as well as monster and dungeon information separate from the Underground Empire.
Of course, contrary to the Underground Empire, high level dungeons shouldn't appear near places where people lived. He was sure that the Magic Empire was more expansive than the Underground Empire, so he assumed that monsters would exist up here that could increase his stats.
"So did you find one?"
"There are a lot more than I expected."
He'd thought that dungeons wouldn't exist near cities. However, when he actually looked into it, there was a level 5 dungeon 30 minutes away by foot.
"It seems like level 3 or 4 dungeons are the ones most welcomed, based on the dungeon items sold here and people's perception. A single, renowned adventurer can clear a level 3 or 4 dungeon alone, and even if they can't, they can form a party to conquer the dungeon. In other words, people who actually fight on the surface are level 4 or level 5 at best."
"It's like the Underground Empire."
But at the level 5 mark, the danger ramps up exponentially. Normally, one would enter a dungeon one level lower than them, so an adventurer would have to form a party of level 6s to conquer a level 5 dungeon... But finding a level 6 human was in itself rare.
Well, it made sense. To become level 6, one needed a total of 3,200 stats. From level 3 to level 4, it required 400 stats, and from level 4 to level 5, it required 800 stats. And from here, the amount of stats one needed increased exponentially. This was one of the reasons that one was only considered a true hero after they'd hit level 6 in the Underground Empire.
"That's why people conquer the lower level dungeons (up to level 4), whereas the higher level dungeons (level 5 and up) are left untouched, with only their location and level of danger shared. However, monsters continue to multiply in those dungeons if left unchecked, so they will eventually come out. If they are considered dangerous at this stage, then an expeditionary force of knights will be sent to take care of it. The high level adventurers are also commissioned to help take care of the monsters."
"It's different from the Underground Empire, huh. There's an actual system in place..."
"What's with you?"
"You don't feel anything? The fact that there are others, besides us, who are doing their best to survive?"
"Mm, I guess so."
Lee Shin Woo could understand how he was feeling. Compared to the enemies they'd fought in the Underground Empire, these humans were weaklings and would group up. They would sometimes fight due to their greed or work together, but they all did their best to live. He felt the spice of life from it, which affirmed that it had been a good idea to come up here.
"Anyway, I heard a huge expeditionary force of knights and adventurers was sent to deal with the level 5 dungeon near 'Kuroa's Glory', so we don't need to worry about that one. There's an unconquered level 6 dungeon 2 hours away, so let's go there first..."
Clang. Lee Shin Woo was interrupted by a sudden bell sound. There was a giant bell tower in the center of the city. Armed soldiers passed by them and said loudly.
"Citizens, take shelter! Monsters are attacking! It's a dungeon countercurrent!"
Dungeon countercurrent. It meant that, for some reason, the monsters within would come out of the dungeon. The most common reason was there was limited space within the dungeon. But there were times where the boss itself would come out and take command over the group.
"This is something that could never happen underground."
"Yeah. If they leave, they'd then be infected by the curse and die."
Once they realized just how different the underground and the surface were, Lee Shin Woo and Jin were in awe. But unfortunately, they couldn't afford to be so relaxed right now. This dungeon, which was undergoing a countercurrent of monsters, should've been taken care of by the knights, but if the boss came out, then several level 6 adventurers would be needed to fight it off!
"Take shelter! Hurry!"
"Those who can fight, bring your weapons and gather at the eastern gate! You'll temporarily follow the adventurer guild leader's commands!"
"What about the lord? Did he say we could use the golems?"
"The guardian golems are outside of the city. The policing golems are weak, so they can't do anything!"
"Damn... Find some reinforcements wherever you can!"
The city was in chaos. It was being attacked when Lee Shin Woo was visiting, so was he lucky or unlucky? Lee Shin Woo was briefly lost, but soon made his decision.
"Alright. This is a good opportunity. This'll be the main stage for the most powerful mercenary, Kay."
"I had this planned from the start. The powerful mercenary who supports Lawrence from the shadows...! Lawrence grows as a peddler, and at the same time, we emphasize Kay's strength. They'll become the most powerful combo in the Magic Empire. Though they're both me!"
At first, he'd planned on using Kay after he'd begun his wine auctioning. Kay would take care of anyone who tried to harm Lawrence, raising his reputation. However, a great opportunity had presented itself, so he could go wild!
Lee Shin Woo clenched his fists and discreetly activated his Disguise skill. Then, Jin, who'd class changed from a pack horse to a war horse, said a bit coldly.
"Shin Woo, I got it."
"This is what you mean by 'relaxing', right?"
He'd hit the mark, so Lee Shin Woo flinched. Lee Shin Woo quickly equipped his thick, red plate armor and tied a huge greatsword to his back (it was the evolved form of Metafel's greatsword, the Lv7 Fire Dragon's Scale Greatsword). He looked like a warrior that you'd see in comics.
"You're not... having fun?"
"Well, I knew this was going to happen, so whatever."
Jin shrugged his shoulders, then tilted his shoulders to make it easier to get on, and continued.
"Let's think about it after killing them all."
"You got it. Let's go!"
Here, in Kuroa's Glory, marked the first act of the hero Kay!
...Though his actions were no different from a demon king's!Previous Chapter Next Chapter