Chapter 182. The Story Inside the Box (3)


Boss sat in her chair and stared at the flash drive.
The first thing she thought of was ‘where do I put this?’
She had learned it from Jain before.

“……Oh.”

Fortunately she realized not too late.
The smartwatch.
Boss opened the flash drive to reveal a small piece and plugged it into the smart watch.
The information stored inside then popped up as a hologram.

[Kim Hajin]
—174.3cm, 73kg, body fat 8%
—2025, admitted into Korea’s Hero Training School [Cube] at rank 934.
—2025, achieved rank 334 after the first Cube final exam.
—2026, achieved rank 121.
—Went up 813 ranks in one year. The biggest increase since the beginning of Cube's history.
—However, he suddenly dropped out after the ‘Destruction’s Cube Attack Incident’ that took place the same year.
—Since it was a pretty interesting turn of events, the media covered it ferociously. Some say he felt turned off by the restrictions that would be placed on him when he became a Hero.
—Subsequently joined Jeronimo Mercenary.

It was Kim Hajin’s career that everyone already knew. Staring at it, Boss’ eyes sank coldly.
Should I go back and this time, kill him for good?
Fortunately for Yoo Jinhyuk, more interesting information soon followed.

[Private records of Yoo Jinhyuk]
—July 2025, started investigating Kim Hajin at the request of my niece.

At first, it was again a series of useless information, so she quickly scrolled down.
But then.

“……!”

Her fingers that were touching the hologram tightened. The following information was recorded at the spot where her trembling fingertips stopped.

—October 2025, found vital keyword.
[‘Kwang-Oh Incident’]

“……”

‘Kwang-Oh Incident’.
As soon as those letters were reflected in her pupils, BEEP--- a loud noise filled her ears. Those characters kept repeating themselves inside her head.
Kwang-Oh Incident, Kwang-Oh Incident….
It happened more than 20 years ago.
She had buried it deep within her subconsciousness but still it was an unforgettable day.
The first test she faced at the order of the ex-boss who took her in.

—Found possibility that Kim Hajin may be the sole survivor of the ‘Kwang-Oh Incident’.
—Not baseless but evidences are still weak.

It was a story from a long time ago. It rained heavily that day. When we showed up at the dark shelter, the people inside trembled. They were afraid, and so was I.
But my partner at the time, Bell– the former Black– spoke.
Kill or be killed.
Otherwise I will be abandoned by Boss.
Bell made me do everything under the pretense of ‘training’, and I, being a child, carried out the massacre.

—Evidence #1: There was a full-blown pregnant woman there. Labor was imminent.

That day, I killed many people.
But there was one life that I did not take away.
A baby, crying, covered in blood. A baby hiding in his mother’s arms---no, a baby that the mother had desperately tried to hide.

—Evidence #2: The date that he showed up at the orphanage and the date that the incident took place are about the same.

A child too young to kill me.
I couldn’t kill a child who didn’t have the ability to kill me in order to save myself.

—2026, discovered new information.

A strong headache arose. The pain was tearing her brain into pieces.

—According to the informant, it was confirmed that the assassin who attacked Kwang-Oh Evacuation Shelter left a baby intact. Very strong connection to Kim Hajin’s birth.
—Then, is that baby Kim Hajin, and did the assassin leave him at the orphanage?
—Not sure yet.

[Warning:This information is stored in Violet Banquet’s personal database, and will automatically be destroyed if it comes into contact with magic power other than Yoo Jinhyuk’s.]

Memories of that day loomed before me.
Bell smirked at me who couldn’t kill the baby.
And he said: “We were ordered to kill 96 people. No orders were given about the unexpected 97th life. So, Byul, you can let him go. It’s up to you.”

Maybe that was part of the test.
But still I did not kill that child.

“Well, if that’s your decision, I’m sure Boss will understand.”

I, who never should have been born, was born and raised in curses and hatred.
But the child who deserved a happy childhood and love from his parents was now buried in blood and death because of me.

‘……If I had not been born, you would have lived an ordinary life.’

I felt sorry for all that.
And I felt excruciatingly guilty.
That’s why I couldn’t kill him.

“……”

Back from the past, I opened my eyes.
The reality laid before me.
Suddenly, all those feelings that Kim Hajin harbored toward me came to a new meaning.
Although I had learned the truth, my tears didn’t flow.
I was not angry, either.
As if my emotional flow had been blocked, I became more calm.

……Did Kim Hajin know all of this?
And to show no intention of killing despite that– does that mean he forgives me?
Or is this just… some kind of ‘probation’ or ‘test’?

I have no idea.
From the start, I wasn’t that smart.
Right now, all I want is……
To stop thinking for just a moment.
So I closed my eyes.
Soon, sleep crawled in and gnawed away my consciousness.

**


Next morning.
Chae Nayun woke up basking in sunlight shining through the windows.
The view that was normally blurry was clear today for some reason. Still her mind was a bit hazy.
She kept lifting her eyelids up and down, trying to control her breath.
Then…

[Although you received the help of a counteragent, you are the first to overcome the vengeful spirit curse.]
[Achievement Unlocked - 「Hard to Kill」]
[Because you received the help of others, the achievement bonus is limited to 50%. The other half will be unlocked once you reach the sixth floor.]
[Trait acquired - 「Magic Power that Swallows Curses」]

“……?”

Words she could not understand popped up on the ceiling. She couldn’t grasp what they meant even after she finished reading them.
‘Did I become stupid? Both my body and my head don’t work the way I want them to.’

“…..Oh, Nayun! Are you up?”

Suddenly, Yi Jiyoon’s face popped up in the corner of her eyes.

“You are up! Oh, thank God!”

Yi Jiyoon smiled brightly, but suddenly frowned and hugged her tightly.
Chae Nayun could not breathe. The feeling of her neck becoming wet with tears was disgusting. But thanks to that she regained her consciousness.

“……Get off.”

“Mm? What?”

“Get off of me.”

However, Yi Jiyoon held her tighter and pushed her face closer.

“Thank goodness….”

“……Haa.”

After letting out a heavy sigh, Chae Nayun lifted her upper body and pushed Yi Jiyoon away.

“…So what happened?”

She then asked Yi Jiyoon who was crying tears of joy.

“Oh, um, I posted on the forum, asking if anybody had the antidote for the curse.”

Yi Jiyoon answered, fiddling with her fingers. Because she had been requested by Kim Hajin to “not tell anyone”, she obviously looked awkward.

“…And?”

“And, a man who had the antidote by chance came. And he helped us.”

“……”

But of course Chae Nayun didn’t believe that so easily and stared at Yi Jiyoon with a suspicious look.

“What, what?”

“I mean thanks, but… he just helped?”

“Y-yeah.”

“Without asking for anything in return?”

Chae Nayun had grown to doubt kindness without reason. She had a chronic distrust of human beings.

“Yeah, but anyways Nayun, how’s your arm?”

But the solution to that is simple. Turning Chae Nayun’s attention away from something was easier than fooling most kids.

“……Arm?”

Chae Nayun coughed and turned her left arm up and down.
Although it was stiff from not being used for a while, it certainly had been cured.

“It’s good. Fine. No, but more than than, who in the world─”

“Oh, right. You could use the longsword now, then?”

“……Longsword?”

Longsword.
At that one word, Chae Nayun had already forgotten what she was about to ask, and a spark of interest rose in her eyes.

“Yeah. The thing you got from the quest.”

“Of course I know what it is. Back then, I……”

About three weeks ago, it was the first group quest she got ever since she entered the tower.

“…was really happy.”

The recollection of that day, still considered one of her greatest accomplishments, came back alive.

[Hidden Quest!]
[Intermediate-rank group quest has been found. At least 8 people are required to continue this quest.]

Upon receiving the quest, she immediately summoned eight members of Essence of the Strait.
At first, a few undead monsters were all there was, but soon they found a sword glowing blue at a blind spot in the cave. Everyone screamed with joy.
She almost fainted after checking the item information.
They were nearly out of food when they found this rare item.

===
[Lv. 3 High-quality Longsword Polished with Ice Crystal] [Rare]
○Lv.3 Attribute - Ice
○Lv.3 Frost Damage
○Lv.3 Attack Power
○Lv.3 Durability
===

A weapon that was almost equal to… no, a weapon that overpowered Lv.4 weapons.

“……Did team leader leave it behind?”

However, Team Leader Kim Youngjin had been using it these past 3 weeks. Chae Nayun had not been in the condition to use the sword.

“Uh-huh. He left it behind today, saying he couldn’t possibly use it when you are sick. Instead he took the Red Crystal Spear.”

“……As expected of the Weapon Master.”

Weapon Master.
That was Kim Youngjin’s Gift which enabled him to wield any weapon as if he had been using it for years. His magic power was plain, but it was thanks to this Gift that he would become a high-rank Hero by next year.
Yi Jiyoon grinned and grinded her face into Chae Nayun’s shoulder.

“This shit again.”

“It’s to celebrate your recovery~”

“I’m not fully recovered yet. Stop pushing, it hurts…… Oh, right.”

Chae Nayun opened her eyes wide.
It was as if she remembered something.

“Hey. Who was it that gave you the antidote?”

“……”

“Stop evading the question and answer.”

Yi Jiyoon shook, but soon smiled. If it was something else, Chae Nayun would have surely forgotten about it for days. This must really be getting on her nerves. Maybe she felt something intuitively. A woman’s intuition, so to say.
‘I’m in a good mood, so maybe I’ll just tell her.’

“……He, well. So…… Um.”

‘Oh, but not now. Later, I’ll tell her when we get into something dramatic. I’ll give her a surprise.’
Yi Jiyoon suddenly put on a serious look.

“He said you would know if I tell you that a ‘background actor’ stopped by.”

“Background actor?”

“Yeah.”

“The heck is……”

Chae Nayun’s eyes widened.

“Do you know who he is?”

When Yi Jiyoon asked, Chae Nayun smiled softly and held her face.

“Hehe…… yeah, I know. I got it. Now go.”

“Who is he?”

Yi Jiyoon tried hard not to smile.

“Just an old teacher.”

“T-teacher?”

Yi Jiyoon almost burst out laughing just now.
At that moment, Chae Nayun asked urgently.

“Hey, hey. Did you tell him my nickname?”

“No, no. I didn’t”

“……Good then.”

Chae Nayun nodded and turned on the Messenger.

[I heard from my friend that you gave her the antidote. Thanks ㅋㅋ You didn’t answer back so I thought you deleted me cuz I kept bothering you OTL]
[……Btw the person you cured is my friend ㅋㅋ not me ㅋㅋ]

She sent the above messages to “Extra7”.
Then she turned again to Yi Jiyoon.

“How did he look? Did he look old?”

“Uh….. He did look a bit old, with a beard.”

Beard.
That was a biggest hint Yi Jiyoon could provide.

“Beard?”

“Yeah.”

“Beard……”

But Chae Nayun only smiled as if she had something else in mind.

“That does sound like him. I thought of him as an old guy who’s good at playing games.”

Chae Nayun mumbled, suddenly feeling her heart warming up.

‘Even in a world like this, there is one person I can believe in.
No, no.
Now that I think about it, there’s surprisingly many.
Dad. Grandpa. Yoo Yeonha. Kim Suho. And although he’s a little idiotic, my childhood friend Shin Jonghak.’

“……”

Despite saying that she wanted to die everyday, she realized one thing after almost dying.
In the end it was human nature to want to live.
Don’t be so pitiful.
Move forward.
Stronger. Harder.
Chae Nayun shook her head and jumped to her feet.

“Where are you going?”

“To work out. I didn’t get to practice my sword for 3 weeks. I think I might have… forgotten a lot. I gotta get back on track.”

**

Afternoon. Because of Prestige’s lack of a sun, it was as dark as night.
Players who were busy conquering the higher floors returned to Prestige for the very special event that would take place in Medea’s palace.

“Yo, Newbie.”

“Hey Hajin~”

Cheok Jungyeong and Jain, who were loitering in front of the palace, walked over to me.
They said they were playing around on the 5th floor, and their higher-quality equipment told me that was true. Jain was wearing a high-quality cape and a jeweled necklace, while Cheok Jungyeong was wearing a gauntlet made of bones.

“How was the 5th floor?”

“Fun and exciting. You should come next time.”

The 5th floor was designed to look like the demon realm. Its theme should be ‘adventure’. Breaking through six fortresses, ten gateways, eight outposts, and five castles to arrive at the end of the world. That was the goal.

“How far did you go?”

“I’m not sure. We stayed in the ‘Swamp of Beginnings’ for about two days. There were idiots waiting there to find party members.”

The 5th floor was half the size of the Korean Peninsula. As such, two days was nowhere near enough to get anywhere.

“I’ll go with you tomorrow.”

As I said that, I peeked over Cheok Jungyeong’s shoulder.
The person that should normally stand out the most was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Boss?’

“Boss~? Ah~ she must have something to do~”

Immediately, Jain put on a scary frown.

“She left with a face like this, so something serious must have happened. Anyways, let’s go in~”

Jain hopped over and linked her arm to mine.
I would have been fine with it if not for the fact that Jain was currently disguised as a man.

“Oh right, disguise me too.”

“Okay~”

Because the black lotus symbol was left at the site of the destroyed towers, I had no choice but to go into the palace as Chameleon Troupe’s Seat of Black. As such, I changed my face through Jain’s help.

After disguising ourselves, we walked to the main gate of the palace. We presented our citizenship card to the guard standing in front of the gate, and the guard gave us different badges after checking our contribution points. My badge was made of diamonds, while Cheok Jungyeong and Jain’s were gold.

“Go in.”

We entered the palace safely.
As soon as we entered, we saw a beautiful, wide lobby. The floor was covered with a red carpet, the ceiling was high like the Pantheon, and a beautiful chandelier hung in the center. There were even maids and butlers dressed formally and standing nearby.

“We will check your badge rank.”

An old man who seemed to be the chief butler walked in.
I was first.

“Diamond-rank has been confirmed. Please tell us your honorable name.”

“….”

Honorable name… didn’t mean real name, right?
As though he read my mind, the butler quickly added.

“A false name or a nickname is fine.”

“…Ah, then I’ll go with Buyong.”[1]

The old butler quickly made a nametag.

[Diamond - Buyong]

Next was Cheok Jungyeong and Jain. Cheok Jungyeong seemed to have thought that the names had to be two characters as he went with ‘Jungyeong’, while Jain went with an anagram of her name - ‘Anji’.

“Follow me.”

After putting the nametag on our chests, we followed the butler past the lobby. Soon, we found ourselves standing in front of a huge silver door. However, we quickly walked past it.
Next was a golden door.
The butler stopped in front of it.

“Anji-nim and Jungyeong-nim may go in through the golden door.”

“Eh? We’re not using the same door?”

“The door you use is determined by your rank. But no worries, you will all end up in the same reception hall.”

The butler calmly explained.
Just like he said, Medea’s palace was an extradimensional space formed from magic power. The different colored doors would all lead to a single reception hall.
In other words, Players would gather in the same place to receive their rewards. The reason Medea split up the doors was to make their entrances more flamboyant.

“…But we get different rewards, right~?”

“That is right.”

“Ah, if I knew beforehand, I would have destroyed the tower myself. Hajin’s going to end up taking everything~”

Jain glanced at me.
I laughed.

“Don’t worry, I’ll share the rewards with you.”

“…Really?”

“Of course.”

“Yay~”

Jain hopped over to the golden door, and Cheok Jungyeong followed. When Cheok Jungyeong entered the golden door, his back muscles fiercely tingled.
Wondering what was causing such a reaction out of him, I peeked at the reception hall beyond the golden door.

“Ooh.”

As expected, the room was full of powerful people who were making Cheok Jungyeong’s blood boil.
Kiiik-
The golden door closed shut.

“Next, I will guide you to the Diamond-rank door.”

I followed the butler, walking past a ruby door, sapphire door, and an emerald door.
By the time we arrived at the diamond door, my body was completely tense.
I was only a mere fish compared to the whales inside the room.

“Are you ready?”

The butler asked.

“Um… it’s okay for me to wear this robe, right?”

I was still in Jain’s disguise, but I didn’t want to reveal my face if possible.

“Yes, it’s fine. Medea-nim enjoys wearing robes as well. In fact…”

The butler glanced at my robe.

“That robe is beautiful enough to make Medea-nim envious.”

“……Haha.”

It was made by Aether who loves beauty, so it couldn’t be helped.

“Then I’m going in.”

“Yes, I hope you enjoy your stay.”

The butler opened the door for me.
The highest-ranking door opened with a loud roar. I stepped into the reception hall.

“……”

There were two long tables joined together, forming a single 100-meter table. The gazes of the people inside all fell on me.

Essence of the Strait, ‘Kim Youngjin’.
High-rank Heroes I met while I was in Cube, ‘Oh Junhyuk’ and ‘Seo Youngji’.
Satan’s Servant, ‘Kim Ohsung’.
Hunter of the Vast Expanse, ‘Kim Junwoo’.
Desolate Moon, ‘Shin Jonghak’. It was nice to see him again.
Heroes from the Temple of Justice, ‘Aileen’ and ‘Yi Yongha’.
And… a mysterious man wearing a robe.
The ones gathered here were all powerful men and women who had made great achievements in the Tower. Shin Jonghak was obviously the weakest one among them.

“The Diamond-ranked Buyong-nim has arrived.”

The butler introduced me respectfully.
I walked in as leisurely as I could and sat down on the diamond-adorned seat near the head of the table. The mysterious robed man was sitting in front of me, and next to me was Aileen.

“….”

Aileen stared at me with sparkling eyes.
No, it wasn’t just Aileen.
The moment I sat down, everyone in the room began to observe me. Not many were kind.
If I had to describe their gazes… mm… it was like they were trying to estimate the power of the strongest person in the room.
I pushed my hood down.
If they were tigers, I was only a hyena.
It was too uncomfortable.



1. Buyong = Lotus

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