Chapter 181. The Story Inside the Box (2)


After returning to Prestige, I checked up on ‘Riry Shop’ and the ‘6000TP plot of land’ first.
Thanks to the goblins’ hard work, Riry Shop was making great profits, while Henry and Kiri were already starting to learn the business management skillbook.
When I asked them about their incredible learning speed, they said they only needed four days to learn to read and write. (For the record, Players had automatic language support inside the Tower.)

Next was the currently empty plot of land.
It was already showing signs of fertility, with weeds beginning to grow.

[Random Dice x5]

Looking at the empty plot of land, I rolled the dice.
Two gave equipment that could be sold in Riry Shop and two gave crops that could be cultivated in this land.

[Lv.2 Clear and Clean Rice]
[Lv.3 Incredible Meat-Flavored Corn]

Afterwards, I went to work.
By asking Henry and Kiri, I searched for NPCs who had farming experience. I was able to find five NPCs in the span of an hour, and after I fed them until they were full, I ordered them to plow the land for farming.
Because they didn’t have homes, I purchased a few dilapidated houses nearby and fixed them up into decent-looking cabins.

All this only took half a day to complete.
‘Young Dwarf’s Dexterity’ was that amazing.

“We’ll do our best, Lord!”

The five NPCs bowed respectfully with teary eyes. Well, including their family members, there were eight of them.
…It was a bit embarrassing to say this, but as Prestige’s richest man, I took the responsibility of noblesse oblige and casted hypnotic suggestions.

“Work hard but don’t overwork yourselves.”

Encouraging words from a person of power often improved the efficiency of work.
After checking that a faint trace of magic power entered their bodies, I returned to Chameleon Troupe’s hideout.

“I’m back…?”

However, there was no one inside. I looked around the dark and cold hideout before turning the light on.

“Hm….”

Was it because I couldn’t smoke in the Tower? Being alone was a bit sad.

—Chirp, chirp.

At that moment, Spartan chirped on my shoulder.

“Right, you’re here too.”

I realized that Spartan shared my thoughts.
I reached over to my shoulder and stroked Spartan’s head.

—Peep, peep.

Spartan flapped his wings in joy.
I thought about what to do. There was still one day until Medea’s conference. Should I grind my stats and skills with monsters on the 4th floor? Or…
Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in my head.

“Training.”

Spirit power training that used Stigma’s magic power.
Trying to make spirit power flow out more naturally and fluidly.
Meditation to make spirit power circulate my bloodstream better.

“….”

As spirit power would follow me to the real world, I needed to get better at using it.
I walked down to the underground training room with Spartan. After putting Spartan down, I sat down cross-legged like martial artists did in wuxia novels.

My spirit power was currently level 2, which was only enough to use basic skills 30~40 times. In fact, because my basic skills leveled up, I could only use them 20~30 times if I didn’t rely on potions.

Cheok Jungyeong told me that breathing was done with the entire body. Wouldn’t spirit power be similar?
I closed my eyes and relaxed my body.

“Huup….”

I inhaled.
I tried to feel the spirit power scattered in my bloodstream. Although it wasn’t tangible or clear, I could certainly feel its existence.

I exhaled.
I fused the flowing spirit power with Stigma’s magic power. By injecting Stigma’s magic power into my body, I gathered the scattered spirit power into a cluster.
Once the spirit power was fused with Stigma’s magic power, it began to circulate on its own. From my head to my heart to my hands and feet, it was ‘breathing’ that used my entire body.

First breath.
Second breath.
Third breath.
Fourth breath…
…Dukun.

My heart throbbed. Spirit power fused with magic power surged from my body.
A yellow-colored aura that was different than magic power. I saw this light with my own eyes.

“…Uuk.”

At the same time, I groaned in pain. Something sticky was stuck in my throat.

“Uu, ueeeek—!”

I vomited uncontrollably. A black lump that was indescribably disgusting and sticky came out of my mouth. I then continued to vomit two more black lumps.

“…Ueek.”

My retching finally stopped. I wiped my mouth and stared at the mysterious black lumps.

[Lv.-2 Impurities from Kim Hajin’s Body]

“…Ah, it’s tar.”

Considering how much I smoked before entering the Tower, I wasn’t too surprised. Geez, I thought I was going through the bone and marrow cleansing process I heard about in wuxia novels.
To keep the training room clean, I put the black lumps in my inventory for now.

“Huuu….”

Then, I tried moving my neck and waist.
I felt refreshed, but there wasn’t any real change. If there was, the system would have told me about it…. Blinking my eyes, I looked up at the sky.

[…It seems a single training session is not enough.]
[But continually using that method to train may produce an unforeseen result.]

“Ah, I see, thank you.”

System-nim kindly explained. Not even the system knew everything about the Tower. This time, it sounded a bit surprised. Obviously, this was a good thing.

“Hmm….”

I decided to take a five-minute break before giving it a second go.
I wiped away the sweat on my body and opened the Community.

===
「CaptainBritain」
[(Item List) Selling items dropped by an undead monster. Message me if there is something you want.]
[Comment(s)]
—Is ‘Skeleton Legacy’ still available? Are you also trading items?
ㄴIt’s sold ^^
ㄴ;; It’s not ;; I don’t know who this is, but please don’t make false statements :( And yes, trading is okay. Come to English Royal Court’s hideout in Prestige’s district-3.
===

I saw a post from Rachel. She said she’s been busy recently with no time to use the messenger. It seemed she really was working hard.
While looking through the public forum with a smile…
Another post caught my attention.

===
「JiSUPERYoon」
[Does anyone know how to get rid of the vengeful spirit’s curse? ㅠ.ㅠ my friend is dying ㅠ.ㅠ if you do, please come to Essence of the Strait’s hideout. We’ll reward you not only in the Tower but outside the Tower as well.]
[Comment(s)]
—Who cares? We have 7 lives anyways.
—Just tell him or her to die once.
ㄴNo, that’s not it… haven’t you heard of banshee’s curse? It permanently killed several people recently.
ㄴOh that. Yeah, I heard there was no cure for that. Good luck.
===

The effect of the banshee’s curse became widespread after ten or so people permanently died from it.

“Essence of the Strait….”

Looking at it, I remembered Nayunjajangman mentioning the banshee’s curse four days ago. Chae Nayun was also in Essence of the Strait. It was unlikely to be a coincidence.
Of course, Nayunjajangman said a ‘friend’ got the banshee’s curse.
But since Chae Nayun was never the type to show any weakness….

—Chak!

I slapped my cheeks.
‘Stop thinking about strange things and just focus on training!’
I sat cross-legged again and closed my eyes.
Huu, huu…
Then, I continued my ‘spirit power awakening breathing method’.

**

…30 minutes later.

[Lv.2 Essence of the Strait’s Hideout]

In the end, I found myself standing in front of Essence of the Strait’s hideout. I wasn’t wearing a mask in case they saw me as a suspicious person, but I put on a fake beard so they couldn’t recognize my face.

“….Um.”

Seeing me loitering in front of the entrance, Essence of the Strait’s guild member standing guard called out to me.

“Who are you?”

He seemed to be wary of me. I couldn’t blame him since my huge hooded robe was suspicious no matter how one looked at it.
I used ‘Demon’s Cunning Speech’ to change my voice.

“I saw the post in the public forum.”

“Public forum…?”

The guild member tilted his head. At that moment, someone else walked down the stairs and came out to the entrance. Her eyes were swollen from crying. I could immediately tell who it was.
I called out to her.

“I came here to get rid of the curse.”

“Pardon?”

“…?!”

Yi Jiyoon, who was looking depressed, quickly ran over.

“…C-Curse?! W-Who is he?”

“Uh, he says he’s a mercenary. He apparently saw a post in the public forum, but we didn’t post anything…”

“Ah, I posted it not too long ago!”

Yi Jiyoon examined my face. I looked away purposely, hoping she wouldn’t notice me.

“Hey, can you take off your hoodie?”

The guild member whose name I didn’t know spoke, but Yi Jiyoon quickly exclaimed in surprise.

“…Ah! Um… this person is fine. Let him in.”

Her voice turned soft and relaxed. I was just as surprised as the guild member who looked startled.

“We need to know who he is….”

“Don’t worry, I’m really good at recognizing people’s faces.”

Yi Jiyoon said that as she poked my side. Judging by the mischievous smile she was making, it seemed she found me out.
Without any other choice, I followed her closely.

“Where’s the patient?”

“…You’ll see. By the way, you never cut your beard?”

When I heard this, I realized how stupid I was. She had recognized me because of my beard.

“No, this beard is fake. I don’t grow beards anymore.”

“That’s nice. Anyways, let’s hurry.”

Yi Jiyoon pulled on my wrist.
As expected of an advanced guild, Essence of the Strait was using a 3-story hideout. We went up to a room on the third floor.

“…It’s here.”

Kiik—

Yi Jiyoon opened the door. A white hospital-like room appeared.
There, two patients were lying unconscious. One was a man I didn’t know. He wasn’t inflicted with a curse either.
But the other one….

“….”

I walked in. Rather, my feet moved on their own towards the girl lying half-dead on the white bed.

“She’s been unconscious since two days ago.”

The girl was only faintly breathing, and the black curse was encroaching upon her neck.
It was as I thought. I couldn’t deny the truth any longer.
Nayunjajangman was… Chae Nayun.

“Her curse is already at level 5… is it possible to treat her? It is, right?”

I looked down at Chae Nayun. Her face was pale, and her body trembled every time she breathed.
Looking at her, my chest felt heavy. The tar I spat out today seemed to be going back into my throat.

“…How did she get it?”

“Ah, um, one month ago… Nayun was trying to save me… hic… I thought it was okay back then… uaaaang.”

Yi Jiyoon began to sob, then burst into tears before she could finish her sentence.

“…I can treat her, so don’t cry. You’re too loud.”

According to the system’s explanation, a level 5 curse was something a human couldn’t withstand. On the other hand, the ingredients needed to make an antidote could only be found on the 6th floor.
But since I already made a counteragent with my ability, I should be able to lower the curse’s level with it and extract the rest using [Extraction and Permanent Materialization].

“Hic, what, hic, should I do? Hic.”

“I’m telling you, you’re too loud. Here, take this.”

I took out the counteragent from my inventory and gave it to Yi Jiyoon. It was a precious medicine that took 1500TP to make.

“…What’s this?”

“A curse counteragent. You have to apply it on her skin directly.”

“…A-Amazing! Amazing—! Amazing—!”

“Hurry up, will ya?”

“Y-Yeah!”

Yi Jiyoon pulled the shoulder area of Chae Nayun’s shirt down. A black spot on her left shoulder was giving off an eerie smoke.

“I just have to put it on her?”

“Yeah.”

Yi Jiyoon opened the counteragent’s lid and practically poured it on the ‘curse root’, which was shaped like a human face.
The moment the counteragent touched the curse root, a strange smoke and a horrifying shriek rang out.

“W-What’s happening!?”

Yi Jiyoon jumped in surprise but didn’t back off. She continued to courageously apply the counteragent on the screeching face of the curse.

“Die, die, die you bastard!”

“…It’s fine now. Get back.”

I pulled Yi Jiyoon back and rolled up my sleeves.
Now, it was time to extract the curse. By focusing my body’s spirit power and using it in one go…

“…What?”

However, an unexpected phenomenon took place.
Before I could extract the curse, it began to die on its own.
I couldn’t understand what was going on. But from what I could gather with my eyes, the curse was being ‘devoured’ by Chae Nayun’s magic power.

“What’s happening?”

“…I’m not sure.”

Chae Nayun’s magic power shot out, enveloping the curse. Was her magic power revolting after being suppressed by the curse all this time?
No matter the case, the situation had flipped, and it was the curse that was now under attack by Chae Nayun.

“It looks like it’ll be okay.”

I looked at Chae Nayun.
She was clenching her teeth and shaking as though she was having a nightmare.
Was she fighting the curse alone in her sleep?
I wanted to help her out if possible.

…I took out a handkerchief and wiped off the sweat on her forehead.
I was probably mistaken, but it looked like she became more relaxed.

“Hmm….”

In any case, it looked like I was no longer needed.
I smiled bitterly and turned around.

“I’m leaving.”

“Eh? W-Wait, we have a reward for you. Take it when Nayun fully recovers.”

“…I don’t need it. In exchange, don’t tell her it was me who treated her.”

I spoke, even utilizing hypnotic suggestion. However, Yi Jiyoon tilted her head and asked.

“What if she asks? She’s going to try to figure out who helped her. She’s not going to leave me alone until I do.”

Yi Jiyoon was right.
I knew Chae Nayun’s personality too.
After mulling over it for a moment… I left behind a solution that would cause the least amount of trouble.

“…Tell her that an ‘extra’ treated her.”

“Extra? What’s that?”

“Background actor? You don’t even know that?”

“But….”

“It’s fine. She’ll understand what it means. Just tell her that.”

**


Outside the Tower, ‘Yoo Jinhyuk’s Office’.
The usually peaceful North Hamgyeong Province was currently faced with a calamity. The inside of Yoo Jinhyuk’s office looked as though a tornado had gone through it, and it was even filled with hot magic power.

“Not even a match… kuhuk. Dammit.”

Yoo Jinhyuk was lying in the middle of this pit of hell, coughing up blood.

“Argh, my body. Can’t you go easy on me?”

Three minutes ago, a monster had visited him. There was no room for negotiation. The monster asked about Kim Hajin the moment it arrived, and when Yoo Jinhyuk remained silent, it began to rampage.
Three seconds. Three seconds was all it took for him and his office to turn out like this.
Although he was no longer an active Hero, the difference in their power was too unbelievable.

“….”

Yoo Jinhyuk’s eyes met the eyes of the girl looking down at him. She looked like a lion. Her hair fluttering in the air through her magic power looked like a lion’s mane, and her sharp eyes looked like a cat’s.

However, the lion didn’t seem hungry for blood. A lion that revealed its fangs because it was scared, a lion that was only trying to look threatening, that was what she looked like.

“I don’t know why an overpowered monster like you is interested in Kim Hajin, but just so you know….”

Yoo Jinhyuk pulled himself up. Then, he sat down on his half-broken chair and turned on his computer. The hard drive contained information regarding Kim Hajin.
However, Yoo Jinhyuk planned to delete it. An informant was someone who made a living by being heavy-mouthed.

[Delete]

When he was about to press this button…

—Ah! Something happened in Lord Jinhyuk’s house!
—Bring your weapons!
—Who dares to trouble our lord…!

Foolish voices rang out outside the window. The girl glanced out, then looked back at Yoo Jinhyuk with an evil smile.

“…Haa.”

Yoo Jinhyuk sighed. Since his weakness was revealed, he had no choice. The moment the villagers were taken hostage, it was over for him.
He clicked his tongue and moved his hand off the keyboard.

“You want to know that much?”

The girl nodded.

“Why? You’re going to kill him?”

The girl shook her head.

“I see.”

The girl didn’t say anything.
Yoo Jinhyuk stared at her fixedly. Her beauty was enough to put him in a daze even in this situation, but the first thing he thought of was a certain scene.
A girl leaving Kim Hajin in an orphanage.
She looked too much like the girl for it to be a coincidence.

“…I’ll tell you, so let me ask you one thing. You’re the new leader of the Chameleon Troupe, right?”

As expected, the girl didn’t say anything. However, Yoo Jinhyuk decided to take silence as a yes. If someone this strong wasn’t the leader but an ordinary member, he would have been too embarrassed.

“Alright.”

That was enough. Pieces of the puzzle fell together in Yoo Jinhyuk’s head.
He transferred the data he was about to delete into a USB.

“This should have everything you want to know.”

The girl stepped towards him, but Yoo Jinhyuk quickly held his hand out and stopped her.

“But wait, your old boss and I were acquaintances. We even fought once, though the result was… something I’d rather not talk about.”

The girl’s eyebrows twitched.

“Anyways, listen up, it’s advice from an adult.”

Yoo Jinhyuk continued.

“There is a high chance you’ll regret seeing this. No, I’m certain that you will. Whether you want to kill Kim Hajin or keep him alive, as long as you’re related to him, you will not like what you see.”

He held the USB out.

“Are you still curious?”

The girl reached out without saying anything. Her lack of hesitation made Yoo Jinhyuk pull the USB back. The girl frowned. Yoo Jinhyuk felt like a trainer trying to tame a lion.

“You don’t know the contents of a box before you open it. That makes you want to open it even more. But after you do….”

“…Shut up and hand it over.”

The girl unleashed her magic power once more. Yoo Jinhyuk shrugged and put the USB down.

“Let me ask you one final question. Do you remember everyone you killed?”

“….”

The girl didn’t reply and reached towards the USB. Yoo Jinhyuk picked up the USB again, and the girl sighed.

“If you don’t remember or if you don’t want to remember… uwuk!”

A sharp pain struck his stomach, and he blacked out.
Yoo Jinhyuk’s memory of the day ended there.

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