Once separated from my body, Stigma’s magic power didn’t last long.
The same applied to any other form of magic power. Although people could materialize magic power for an instant, it usually disappeared within 10 minutes unless the user provided a constant supply of magic power to maintain its form.
[You obtained a new skill, 「Normal Skill Acquisition Scroll – Lv.0 Extraction and Permanent Materialization」].
However, this skill made condensing magic power and materializing it possible.
In other words, ‘mana crystals’, which usually took a long time to create, could be done in an instant.
Although the skill was still low-level, it should be possible.
[You activated 「Extraction and Permanent Materialization」].
I used the skill on the Stigma on my upper arm.
First was the extraction process.
It felt like my arm was being ripped off, but I clenched my teeth and endured it. From my arm, Stigma’s magic power faintly glimmered. The skill’s power forced its magic power to form a certain shape.
Meanwhile, the pain grew more intense. From my arm to my shoulder, from my shoulder to my head. It felt like I was being trampled by dozens of horses.
Then suddenly, the pain stopped.
When I opened my eyes, a crystal was resting on my palm.
The unrefined crystal was rocky like an uncut gem. Additionally, it gave off a white glow rather than a blue glow.
I checked the item’s description.
[Lv.2 Pure ‘Origin’ Mana Crystal]
Origin Mana Crystal. Despite its grand name, its effects were a complete mystery.
However, I felt like I knew how to use it.
[The chief administrator is observing you with interest.]
Suddenly, I received a rather interesting alert.
Chief Administrator, the existence overseeing all floors.
I smiled at its interest and turned on my smartwatch.
Then, I typed in the effects I desired in the mana crystal’s question marks.
[Lv.2 Pure ‘Origin’ Mana Crystal]
○Lv.2 Permanent Strength Increase Upon Consumption
○Lv.2 Permanent Speed Increase Upon Consumption
The SP required was zero, as expected.
I had created something of a blank check with my Stigma.
Since I made one, I put it in my mouth without hesitation.
[Consuming an Origin Mana Crystal increases your strength by 0.05 points.]
[Consuming an Origin Mana Crystal increases your speed by 0.05 points.]
Perhaps because my stats were still in the 2-point range, it went up by quite a lot. If I gained 0.05 points in the Tower, I should gain about 0.01 in the outside world.
Great, simply great. It was completely worthy of being called a cheat skill.
My body hurt, and I felt drowsy.
Although it didn’t specifically limit me in any way, once a day was unquestionably my limit.
I thought about jumping on the bed then stopped when I remembered the egg sleeping on it.
“…When are you going to hatch?”
Muninn’s egg still showed no signs of hatching.
A rubbed the reflective surface of the egg to scare it.
“If you won’t hatch, I’ll extract your power and absorb it all. In fact, I’ll fry you!”
However, the egg showed no signs of change. Instead of making a fried egg, I put the egg down and put the bed in my inventory. To hatch, it only needed the blanket.
“Hyung’s leaving now.”
After saying goodbye, I left the waiting room.
Although I put a lot of effort into making my waiting room hospitable, sleeping in Prestige’s hideout provided more of an advantage. Plus, being alone was lonely.
“Auu, I’m so tired.”
I trudged back to the Chameleon Troupe’s hideout.
“Oh~ Hajin, you’re back~”
It was now 11 p.m.
The three members of the Chameleon Troupe were grilling meat.
Cheok Jungyeong gestured with his index finger, and Boss stared at me silently.
“Ah, it’s okay, I’m too tired.”
I took out my bed from my inventory.
Jain and Boss’ eyes widened.
“Oh~ where’d you get that bed~?”
“I brought it from my waiting room.”
[Lv.3 Comfy Bed]
*Fully restores your vitality in 6 hours.
*Clears your mind
I lay down on the Lv.3 bed I made.
I couldn’t hold back my drowsiness any longer. Boss and Jain looked at me with envy, but I had no intention of giving up the bed for today.
I closed my eyes, hoping for the fatigue from using Extraction and Permanent Materialization to go away.
…A perilous land.
Reddish-black fragments scattered down from the shattered sky.
The world was dark.
There was no hope, no light, and only death.
I was there, resenting my birth, rejecting my existence.
I had parents, parents who regretted giving birth to me.
They called me a fabrication of a curse, an origin of evil. They condemned and cursed me several times a day until eventually, they decided to kill me.
I killed them in order to survive. I cut the flesh of the very person who gave birth to me. I slashed the neck of the person who held me when I was a baby. I died above the corpses of my parents and was reborn.
…That was the story of my childhood.
At the same time, it was a world I could live in.
I was happy to have parents, even though they hated me. I was happy to have a place to call home. I was happy to have parents who I had no choice but to love and hate.
But when I killed them, everything disappeared.
I wandered in the void. Occasionally, there were people who made me smile. However, they were all schemers who wanted to use me for their purposes. Tricked by the snakes’ smiles, I killed more and more people. Soon, the snakes began to fear me, and I killed the snakes that tried to kill me.
While living in this perpetual cycle, I met a certain man.
There was nothing special about the way we met.
There was no reason for us to be together.
However, he treated me honestly. He told me to do what I wanted, that he would become my new fence if I wanted.
That was when the real killing began.
I never resented anyone. I was simply an existence born to kill…
My eyes shot open with a resounding vibration in my chest.
The scenes of the past crumbled down, and reality appeared before my eyes.
I was drenched in sweat, and my face was heated.
An unprecedented unrest shook my body.
Was it because I wasn’t sleeping on my special bed? I ended up having a nightmare I haven’t had for a long time.
This was the reason I hated going to sleep. My past always crept up in my sleep, but my dream-self was always too young to resist it.
I calmly swallowed my saliva. Using magic power, I smoothened my flow of blood and cooled my heated body.
However, what I couldn’t understand only became harder to understand.
I opened my system log.
Kim Hajin’s inner thoughts towards me were recorded here.
He was full of emotions I couldn’t comprehend.
[Longing] [Responsibility] [Affection]
[Sadness Towards Your Past] [Trust] [Desire to Look After You]
Longing, responsibility, affection.
Such embarrassing emotions weren’t the sources of my trouble.
It was the ‘sadness towards my past’.
I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists. My fingernails dug into my skin.
Rage rose up from the bottom of my heart.
What do you know about me to have such a feeling towards me?
Just what do you know to dare to have such a thought?
Did you investigate my past secretly?
…My stomach churned.
Something inside my deepest subconscious squirmed. An uncontrollable hostility was rising up.
I got up from my bed and walked. I moved as my emotion told me. I stopped in front of his bed and looked down at him.
I wanted to ask him.
What have you found out about me during the past three years?
What is your purpose for being with me?
In the end, are you also one of ‘them’?
Magic power ignited on my hands. The black magic power of Shadow spread out towards him.
I had to kill him.
I had to kill anyone suspicious.
I had to kill him before he betrayed me.
However, my hands refused to move.
The past three years flashed before my eyes.
Among his inner emotions were ‘affection’ and ‘longing’.
How was I supposed to interpret them?
While I was contemplating…
He tossed and turned his body.
Immediately, my magic power flickered off, and I took a few steps back.
Soon, he woke up. After blankly staring at the ceiling, he raised his upper body.
He called my name.
His drowsy eyes looked straight at me.
Facing his stare, my body froze.
Gulp— I swallowed.
There were many questions I wanted to ask.
Where the emotions you had for me were coming from.
Whether I can trust you.
Why you were staying with me.
However, what came out of my mouth was…
A stupid word.
For a moment, he looked at me in a daze. Then, he burst into laughter.
“Pft, at this hour? Ah… well, I guess you were tired today.”
He jumped out of his bed and headed to the kitchen.
“I’ll make you something special to revitalize you.”
He turned on the lights.
Tak, tak, tak, tak.
The sound of him cutting vegetables and meat rang out.
He ignited the burner and poured the ingredients onto the frying pan.
Standing behind him, I watched him cook for a long time.
Next day, [Lv.0 Essence of the Strait Hideout]
Chae Nayun raised her sore tired body. Although it was still early in the morning, all the guild members were already awake and making their beds.
After her morning stretch, Chae Nayun sat down on the ground. Then, she took out her frying pan, burner, salt, and boar meat.
“Nayun~ Nayun~ my favorite Nayun~”
Yi Jiyoon snuggled up to her, giggling happily. On the other hand, the other guild members were walking on eggshells around her.
“What’s everyone doing?”
As she grilled the meat, she called them over like she always did.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
“Y-Yeah, we, we will…”
Only then did they approach her one by one.
“Kuhum, we’re really lucky to have you, Nayun-ssi.”
“I agree. What a godsend~”
Almost 2 weeks had passed since they came up to the 3rd floor. Essence of the Strait’s guild members were relying on Chae Nayun’s food.
“Kuhum, everyone, before eating…”
Kim Youngjin, the Chief Officer of the Tower Subjugation Team, gathered the attention of the guild members.
“Essence of Strait is able to advance faster thanks to Chae Nayun, so let us each give her a word of grati—”
“Don’t need it~”
Chae Nayun herself didn’t have any opinion on the matter.
She no longer expected anything of anyone. She didn’t wish for anything, and thus there was no disappointment.
That was it.
Kim Youngjin had acknowledged his mistake and apologized to her already. She knew how difficult that was for a high-intermediate rank Hero to do.
“O-Oh, okay. Ah, you can give me the tongs, I will grill the meat for you.”
She didn’t reject his offer.
Leaving the cooking to Kim Youngjin, Chae Nayun opened her messenger.
「Thanks again, Hyung-nim. Your advice really saved us.」
「Oh right, do you want to meet up sometime?」
“Is he busy…?”
Two days had gone by since she messaged Extra7, but he hasn’t answered. The only replies she had were from Shin Jonghak.
YoungFly: 「Where are you? Let’s go hunting together if you have time.」
「Do it with your guildmates.」
YoungFly: 「I’m too strong for their standards.」
Chae Nayun simply ignored him.
“Right, Nayun, are you going to buy that longsword?”
“Yeah, the Lv.3 longsword that’s being sold in the shop outside the inner wall.”
The named shop outside the inner wall. Players called it the [Brother and Sister Shop].
A longsword was perfect for Chae Nayun.
“I don’t know… I already have the Red Crystal Spear.”
Without saying much, Chae Nayun secretly touched her left shoulder. Immediately, a burning pain pulsed out. She had received this injury when fighting a [Lv.3 Banshee] four days ago. She initially believed the injury would heal over time, but because the pain was only getting more intense, she couldn’t even use two-handed weapons properly.
Chae Nayun examined her injury through the system window.
[Lv.2 Curse of the Vengeful Spirit]
The curse was Lv.1 yesterday. As expected, it was getting stronger over time.
Still, Chae Nayun feigned healthiness and asked Yi Jiyoon.
“Jiyoon, you still can’t use Healing Factor?”
“Eh? Oh, yeah, I still don’t have enough magic power. Why? Are you hurt somewhere?”
“…No, that’s not it.”
It was then.
Pshhhu! A strange alarm rang, and a holographic window popped up in the air.
Medea was on the screen.
“Oh, it’s Medea-ssi.”
The 3rd floor’s administrator.
The male members even put down their chopsticks to focus.
[Hello, Players. I’m Medea, it’s been a while~ I’m here to give you all a new goal.]
Medea snapped her fingers, and a thick spire appeared on the screen.
[This is a Demon Spire. There’s one located in each of the four cardinal directions. You can think of them as control towers.]
[I will reward the Player or group that destroys one of these with 5000TP.]
[Each Player’s ‘damage contribution’ will also be estimated. Players with the highest contribution points will receive special rewards.]
[It’s not fun telling you what they are in advance, but…]
Medea snapped her fingers again.
This time, three windows with different item information popped up.
[Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.1 Lightning of Thor] [Artifact – High-intermediate]
[Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.2 Wind of Odyssey] [Artifact – Low-intermediate]
[Trait Recovery Coupon]
Everyone’s eyes lit up. The rewards were the so-called skillbooks they had only heard about in the Community. Not to mention, they were ‘special’ skillbooks rather than basic skillbooks.
“H-Hey, aren’t those like… really good?”
Chae Nayun was especially agitated. Her injury made her more impatient.
“Calm down, everyone. We should formulate our plans carefully.”
Kim Youngjin calmed the excited guild members down and initiated a meeting.
I left the city and entered the field as soon as I saw Medea’s announcement, bringing a handmade bow along with 20 arrows.
After walking through the dark monster field for a bit, I discovered three skeletons.
I nocked three arrows on my bow.
I aimed at them and lightly fired. The three arrows pierced their head directly.
—Wow, who’s that?
—That was a good shot.
—Where did he get that bow? It looks like it’s high level.
—Should we ask him?
My performance caught the attention of a few other Players in the area.
I ignored their murmuring and approached the skeletons. I placed my hand above them and used my skill.
[You activated 「Extraction and Permanent Materialization」].
The lifeless skeletons transformed into dust. However, the dust didn’t scatter away and instead coalesced into a crystal.
[Lv.0 Skeleton Soul]
○Lv.0 Vengeful Spirit
At first glance, the crystal was useless, filled with only a vengeful spirit. However, by collecting these and using [Synthesis], I could use them as grenades that would blow up the Demon Spires.
Once all three skeletons turned into crystals, I turned around to return the way I came from.
Then suddenly, someone tapped on my shoulder.
“Um… you’re a Player, right?”
Hearing a voice, I turned around. Startled, I jumped inwardly.
Standing in front of me was the white-haired Aileen. She was a lot skinnier than the last time I saw her, but her unique confidence was still present. As expected of Temple of Justice’s Hero, Aileen had survived just fine.
But why was she here? Did she recognize me? No, that was unlikely. Although I was still wearing a hood, my equipment was completely different from what I was wearing in the tutorial.
“I saw you doing something just now… is that the Dismantling technique?”
Thankfully, it seemed that she just misunderstood my Extraction skill for the Dismantling technique.
I changed my voice and spoke.
“…Why do you ask?”
“Ah, well, I have food, but I don’t know how to dismantle it.”
So she was asking someone she just met to do it for her?
Should I say she was amicable or naïve…? Ah, no, it was because she kills anyone who tried to scam her.
“If you help me, you can have some of it!”
At that moment, I suddenly received a message.
PhantomThief: 「Hajin, I see you. You’re with Aileen, right? Keep her there and catch her attention. I’m going to try the Snatch skill I learned.」
Basic Skill – Snatch.
It was a skill that stole items or TP from the inventory.
“How about it? It doesn’t hurt to use it, right!?”
“…Yeah, I guess.”
As I said that, I peeked over her shoulders.
I could see a woman waving her hand excitedly from the distance.
“Sure, I’ll do it.”
“Really? What level is your Dismantling technique?”
“Reaaally? Nice! So that’s why those skeletons instantly disappeared~”
Aileen smiled brightly. She tapped on the air a few times and pulled out a giant boar from her inventory. Although it wasn’t rotten, it wasn’t fresh either. If I didn’t dismantle it soon, it would surely rot.
“Big, isn’t it? I’ll give you a fifth… no, a fourth.”
I nodded silently. Meanwhile, Jain had sneaked up to Aileen. Judging by the way her hands were moving, I suspected that the following was happening to Aileen’s pocket.
I examined the boar.
“W-Why? Is it too big?”
Aileen stared at me with worried eyes.
“…No, it should be doable. Dismantle.”
After Jain finished her work and backed away, I used Dismantle.
In an instant, the giant boar was split into meat and leather. With my high-level Dismantling technique, the boar was cleanly cut.
Aileen widened her eyes in surprise.
While she was busy gawking at the boar meat, I quickly messaged Jain.
[How much did you steal?]
PhantomThief: 「ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ 989 TP ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ I took it all ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋiiya, the kid sure had a lot ㅋㅋㅋㅋ un~ but they’re all mine now~ ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ」
I scratched my neck and looked at Aileen.
“Uwoah, look at all these!”
With her tiny hands, she was putting the meat into her inventory. Unaware that she just had her money stolen, she seemed happy like she just won a lottery.
I felt a bit sorry, but the food I got her was enough to last two weeks. She could sell them to other hungry Players, so I didn’t feel too bad.
Leaving Aileen behind, I turned around and walked towards the undead cave I came here to visit.
“Ah, you should take your portion!”
However, I responded without looking back.
“You can have it.”
Aileen. She was a powerful competitor for Medea’s quest.
I ended up giving her food in exchange for taking her money. I wasn’t sure how effective it would be in slowing her down.
But well, I just had to perform well and get first place.