Chapter 183. Imprinting


Chief Officer of Essence of the Strait’s tower subjugation team, ‘Kim Youngjin’, guessed the contribution rankings for Medea’s quest.

First was the destruction of the demon’s control towers.
In this aspect, guilds were severely lacking. This was because relationships between guilds had deteriorated to the point that cooperation was near impossible.

One side would suddenly ambush the other after planning to cooperate, or one side would suddenly say different things than what was originally discussed. Although no one would ever find out, these conflicts were all caused by Jain, who were messing with them in disguise.

While the guilds’ relationships were in shambles, an ‘irregular’ had taken care of the control towers.

Even to this day, Kim Youngjin became dumbstruck whenever he thought about it. He had woken up like any other day, but three control towers had been destroyed without leaving behind a trace.

That day, leaders of each guild quickly ran to the places where the tower ‘existed’.
However, the only thing that was left there were remnants of the tower and a black lotus symbol engraved with magic power.

As Essence of the Strait’s executive, Kim Youngjin knew what the black lotus symbolized, as Pandemonium’s serial terror incident was something high-ranking Heroes often talked about.

In any case, ‘Black Lotus’ had taken all the contribution points related to control towers.
Shocked by this incident, the guilds came together and conquered the final control tower. It was thanks to this that Kim Youngjin was able to achieve at least the Ruby-rank.

Next up was the hunting of demons and undead monsters near the city.
Although the rewarded contribution points were lackluster compared to destroying the control towers, analysts from guilds concluded that one was able to achieve Gold to Ruby-rank by faithfully doing this.

Finally, there were the various quests.
Prestige’s quests were determined to also give contribution points. Although not all quests gave contribution points, some quests, like the [Lv.3 Longsword Forged with Ice Crystal] quest Chae Nayun received, gave rewards that made any Player envious.

‘…In that case.’

Kim Youngjin looked around the reception hall nervously.
Exactly 100 Players were in the hall. They were the top 100 Players in terms of contribution points.

The 100 Players were all sitting around a long table, looking at each other. At first glance, they seemed to be on equal standing, but in truth, there was a clear hierarchy among them.

First were the ones close to Medea.
One Diamond, three Emeralds, and six Rubies including Kim Youngjin himself.
Although the Diamond seat had yet to arrive, the most eye-catching Hero was… the Emerald seat’s Aileen.

“Ah, I’m starving. When is the administrator getting here?”

The Hero Association’s ultimate weapon, known as the ‘Human Dragon’ and the ‘Final Spirit Speech Master’. This white-haired expert was a true giant, and Kim Youngjin felt honored to be in her presence.
She had made great contributions in the destruction of the western control tower and slaughtered a countless number of undead monsters. She was undoubtedly worthy of sitting on the Emerald seat.

“The most important person isn’t here yet.”

At that moment, ‘Seo Youngji’, the high-rank Hero sitting next to Kim Youngjin, whispered. Kim Youngjin was also thinking of the same thing.

“Right, Black Lotus isn’t here yet.”

The only Diamond-rank seat undoubtedly belonged to ‘Black Lotus’.

“Since he carved his signature inside the tower, he must be planning to reveal himself more and more.”

Seo Youngji muttered as she gave Kim Youngjin a strange look.

“By the way, Youngjin-ssi, I heard you found a rare item in one of your quests.”

“…Us?”

“Ei, don’t pretend like you don’t know. I saw you swinging that blue sword. Ice-attribute right? It looked amazing. Where did you get it?”

Kim Youngjin shook his head.
In his mind, the blue longsword wasn’t just a weapon. The ‘Tower of Wish’ was determined to have all sorts of valuable items, and as items from the outside world couldn’t be brought in, good weapons found inside the Tower were valuable assets for any guild.
Although Seo Youngji was a senior from his days in Cube, Kim Youngjin couldn’t tell her any info.

“Kuhum, rather than that, don’t you think Prestige has been changing rapidly?”

Kim Youngjin changed the subject.
Seo Youngji also accepted his indirect silence.

“…The outer city became more energetic. Crops are growing too.”

As their conversation was coming to an end…

DUN—!

A large gate that stayed shut all this time suddenly roared.
The gazes of all Players in the room turned towards the gate decorated with beautiful diamonds.

Kiiik—

The beautiful door slowly opened, and a man walked through it with steady steps.
The butler standing near the door introduced him.

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

The man didn’t look simple. He was wearing a black robe embroidered with white patterns, which was elegant and beautiful enough to capture the eyes of the crowd. In fact, magic power was flowing along the surface of the robe.
What level could it be?
Kim Youngjin couldn’t help but wonder.

“….”

The man sharply scanned the Players in the room. His hawk-like eyes seemed to pierce through their secrets.
After five seconds, the man concluded his brief observation and sat down on his seat.
At the same time, the room became louder.

“So he is….”

“Sh.”

Seo Youngji put her index finger to her mouth.

“Nothing good will come from being involved with him.”

“….”

Kim Youngjin nodded silently.
That man was without a doubt the strongest Player in the room. Kim Youngjin was thankful that he met the Black Lotus in the Tower. In this place where everyone’s abilities were restricted, he felt he stood a chance.

“By the way, is it true?”

Kim Youngjin asked Seo Youngji.

“What is?”

“That the Divine Archer Jin Seyeon-nim is also looking for a ticket.”

“…I don’t know.”

“You’re her direct junior and a member of the Association. Shouldn’t you know?”

Seo Youngji laughed and shook her head.

“Members of the Association don’t know everything regarding what Heroes are doing in their spare time. But why do you ask?”

“Black Lotus uses a bow. I think that we Heroes need someone who can suppress him.”

“…Why can’t that be someone from a guild? You guys sure like to bring up the Association when it’s convenient.”

Black Lotus likely destroyed three control towers with a single arrow each.
Only an archer was able to suppress an archer of such a level. No matter how amazing a warrior was, he would never be able to defeat an archer hiding in high-ground. In fact, he could only hope that he wasn’t a sitting duck in the archer’s vision.

That was also why Jin Seyeon was given the Master-rank title. The peak of the bow was a realm much harder to reach than the peak of the sword.

“…To be honest, I hope she doesn’t come. I don’t think the Divine Archer can beat him either.”

Seo Youngji spoke as she shook her head.

“No way, there’s a reason she’s called the Divine Archer.”

“No, I’m positive. Look, there’s an ominous and dangerous aura about him, and he hasn’t even shown his face.”

What Seo Youngji didn’t know was that Kim Hajin’s aura was coming from Jain’s ‘Disguise’ Gift, which was unstable because of her restricted stats. Seo Youngji mistakenly thought Kim Hajin was emanating a ghastly aura because of his level of attainment.

“…I guess you’re right.”

“I hope nothing bad happens here.”

“It should be fine. Aileen-nim is here as well.”

“…I don’t like her that much.”

Seo Youngji grumbled. It was then.
Tk, tk, tk, tk.
The lights went off, and the room became dark.
Not long afterwards, a white sphere of magic power rose up and lit up the room.

“The administrator of the third floor and the master of this palace, Medea-nim, has arrived.”

Along with the butler’s introduction, the door behind the head of the table opened.
Wearing a blue dress and a red robe, Medea walked in elegantly and gracefully.

However, Medea’s entrance felt a bit boring because of the huge impact left behind by Black Lotus’ entrance.

“Welcome, Players.”

Medea was about to sit down at the head of the table but stopped. She stared fixedly at Black Lotus, who was right next to her.

“…As expected, the administrator recognizes his strength.”

Seo Youngji murmured quietly.

“It looks like it.”

Seeing this, the Players once again began to talk among themselves.

**


“Welcome, Players.”

After her grand appearance, Medea suddenly stopped and looked at me. To be exact, she was looking at my robe.
It seemed the butler wasn’t lying when he said it was beautiful enough for Medea to take interest in it.

“…Kuhum, I am the administrator of Prestige, Medea.”

Medea soon turned back and finished her introduction. The 100 Players in the room all greeted her together. Medea returned a kind smile then sat down at the head of the table.

“I am glad that we are able to gather on this joyous day. You all must have walked through your respective door of contribution.”

Snap.
Medea snapped her fingers.

[You received Diamond Door’s Blessing.]
[The amount of TP gained by completing Prestige’s ‘common quests’ permanently increases by 11%.]

A system alert popped up.

—…Hm?
—What’s this?

Players widened their eyes in surprise.
Medea smiled.

“Huhu, that was the first reward. Don’t be surprised. This is only the beginning.”

This time, she clapped. Classical music began to play, and several servants walked in carrying food.

“First, let us enjoy our meal.”

[Lv.3 Steak]
[Lv.3 Beef Soup]

High-quality food began to be served. As good food was hard to come by in Prestige, Players smacked their lips as they glanced at Medea.

“Dig in. You must be starving.”

Hearing this, Players began to eat.
I looked around the table as I cut my meat. The top 8 other than me were all people I knew.
The robed Emerald-ranked Player in front of me… although I couldn’t be certain, he was likely Bell. Just like me, he was someone who didn’t exist in the original story.

“Feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Players should work together, right?”

Medea laid the groundwork for a conversation. Immediately, a gaze fell on me. I turned my head, wondering who it was. Surprisingly, Shin Jonghak was staring at me passionately. It seemed he wanted to talk to me strongly.
Of course, I ignored him.

“You.”

Poke.
The woman sitting next to me poked my shoulder.

“…?”

“Hi.”

When our eyes met, she waved her hand.
Aside from the Nine Stars, she was the Hero considered the strongest individual force – Aileen.

“You know me, right?”

Aileen asked.

“….”

However, I focused on my steak without answering her.

“We met before in Tutorial Town. We met~ we met before~ it was you who threw the vodka at me~”

Annoyed by her incessant talking, I activated [Demon’s Cunning Speech].

“…I don’t recall. Can you eat quietly?”

However, even I was surprised by how fierce my changed voice sounded. Players, who were more concerned with eating the food in front of them, quickly turned their gazes at me.
…I should have learned how to use it properly.

“Oh? You’re using magic power in your voice… are you provoking me?”

Aileen was still smiling, but her gaze was sharper. Her hostility had also gotten clearer.

“It’s you, isn’t it? The ‘black’ color.”

Everyone in the reception hall was focused on me and Aileen. Bell and Medea were obviously among them. Well, Medea liked fights and conflicts, so it wasn’t surprising.

“….”

I turned towards Aileen. She was glaring at me.
I wasn’t scared.
After all, she looked like a kid.
However…

“First, take off that rob… uup!”

Aileen spoke with magic power. But before she could finish her sentence, I stuffed a big chunk of steak in her mouth.

“Eat.”

I had an item that let me cast hypnotic suggestions, which was similar in function to Spirit Speech.
Of course, it wouldn’t work on someone with high magic power stat like Aileen, but if the content was something that was hard to be picked up as a hypnotic suggestion, it should work much better.

“It’s delicious, isn’t it?”

For example, this.
Hypnotic suggestion that amplified flavor.

“….”

Aileen stopped glaring at me and quickly began to chew. Nom, nom, nom, nom. Nom, nom, nom. Because of her small mouth, it took her ages to finish chewing and swallowing the meat.
I breathed a sigh of relief inwardly and leaned back.
I looked at the Players who were staring at me for a while. When our eyes met, they quickly averted their gaze.
However, the ‘giants’ I mentioned continued to look at me with interest.

“….”

I shook my head.
At that moment, Medea clapped her hands.

“Great, it seems the rank 1 Player has the heart to give away his own food to others. That was a fun spectacle.”

Medea spoke up.

“Now then, let’s begin the conferment ceremony.”

Her announcement was too sudden. The startled Players hurriedly finished their food or stood up with food still on their plates.

“No, no, you don’t have to stand.’

Medea smiled and stopped them.

“Feel free to continue eating. I’ll take care of the reward ceremony. I dislike unnecessary and uncomfortable formalities.”

That was a lie. Medea would probably not hesitate to throw disrespectful people in jail or use them as sacrifices in magic experiments.

“Kuhum.”

Before starting the conferment ceremony, Medea cleared her throat.

“First up, rank 51~100. Silver-rank Players will receive 500TP on top of the Silver Door Blessing.”

50 butlers walked into the room and gave five gold coins to each of the Silver-ranked Players.

“Next up, rank 11~50. Gold-ranked Players will receive 1000TP on top of the Golden Door Blessing.”

1000TP was given in the same way.

“Finally, rank 1~10. Their rewards are… as follows.”

An inventory-like window popped up in front of the top 10 rankers.

[Trait Recovery Coupon]
[Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.1 Lightning of Thor] [Artifact – High-intermediate]
[Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.2 Wind of Odyssey] [Artifact – Low-intermediate]
[Orb of Regeneration]
[Mystic Key]
….

“…Rank 1~10 Players will be able to pick their rewards from this list. First up is the Diamond-ranked Buyong-nim. You may pick four items from this list.”

Medea looked at me with interest.
Four items.
It was indeed a reward worthy of first place.
However, if I took all the skillbooks, the Players behind me would undoubtedly be discontent. That was likely the outcome Medea was hoping for as well.
Of course, I was confident in being able to pave through the Players’ unhappiness, but the skillbooks weren’t what I wanted anyways.

“Have you made up your mind?”

“Yes.”

“Haha, I guess it’s not too hard of a decision. Announce your choice.”

I selected my items in front of the other nine rankers.

First was the [Trait Recovery Coupon]
Second was [Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.2 Wind of Odyssey].

The others likely expected this. However, the final two rewards I chose were…

[Orb of Regeneration]
[Mystic Key]

Immediately, the room stirred.
Medea also looked surprised.

“…D-Did you click the wrong button?”

“No.”

Orb of Regeneration.
Mystic Key.
Since I needed much better skills than Medea’s special skills, I chose the ‘evolving items’ that would only get stronger in the future and could only be acquired from Medea.

**


“Why didn’t you choose the other skillbook?”

Even after we left the palace, Jain was still grumbling about my choice.

“Lightning of Thor isn’t all that good.”

Although Medea offered two special skillbooks as rewards, neither of the two were particularly good, even for special skillbooks.
Yes, the Lightning of Thor was a high-intermediate rank artifact. However, skillbooks followed the grades: ‘average - rare - artifact - historical - legend - mythical’. There were three grades above the artifact-grade.

“Jain-ssi can learn this.”

I gave Jain [Lv.2 Wind of Odyssey]. I didn’t learn it to save my skill slots, but Wind of Odyssey wasn’t a bad skill.

“Eh~? You’re giving me this~?”

Jain’s attitude did a 180.

“Yes, it suits Jain. And for Cheok Jungyeong, here. 5000TP.”

I gave Cheok Jungyeong 5000TP.
However, he was standing in a daze.
He seemed to have gone delirious after not being able to fight anyone in a room full of powerful rankers. Or, maybe he fell for Medea.

“…You don’t want it?”

“….”

Cheok Jungyeong didn’t say anything.
I put the 5000TP back in my inventory.

“By the way, Jain-ssi, doesn’t this face look too much like mine?”

Then, I remembered the disguised face I was wearing, which wasn’t all that different from my real face.
Kim Hajin’s general look was still there. It was just that I had a beard and a more clearly defined facial features. Admittedly, I looked more like Jake Gyllenhaal now.

“Ah~ I didn’t have a choice because my ability is being restricted. Any more and someone would have noticed. But don’t worry, they’ll never think it was you. Your real face is a lot uglier, hehe~”

“…Not a lot.”

“Hm? I’ll change your face back. You can be the judge.”

The beard on my chin disappeared and my face returned to normal.

“How is it?”

“Hm.”

Well… maybe I was just a ‘little’ uglier.
While I was being hurt at my appearance, I caught sight of a woman walking towards us.
It was Boss.

“Oh, it’s Boss~!”

“Boss!”

Leaving behind Cheok Jungyeong who was still standing in a daze, Jain and I ran over to Boss.
A week had passed since the last time I saw her.
Of course, there was a part of me that felt a bit uncomfortable because of Chundong’s past.
But as Kim Hajin, I already decided to bury the matters of the past.

“Welcome back, Boss. What have you been up to?”

When I asked, Boss looked at me silently for a long time.
Did something happen on Earth?

“…No, it’s nothing.”

Then, she sighed and shook her head.

“Your face looks a lot skinnier for it to be nothing.”

“…My face.”

“Yes, let’s go back to the hideout. I’ll make you a good meal.”

I began to walk to our hideout. However, Boss didn’t move. She was only staring at me with somber eyes.

“Boss, aren’t you coming?”

“Hajin.”

The word that came out of her mouth startled me.
Unless it was something serious, Boss always called me ‘Newbie’.

“…Yes?”

However, Boss soon shook her head.

“…It’s nothing.”

Her awkwardness made me feel awkward too, but I spoke brightly.

“Oh right, Boss, we have a new family member in our nest.”

“Family member?”

“Yes.”

Right, we had a new member in our ‘nest’.

**

[Lv.5 Chameleon Troupe’s Hideout]

—Chirp?

Spartan tilted his head.
He scanned the four people in front of him with clear eyes.

“…So this is your pet?”

Cheok Jungyeong asked.

“Yes. He’s quite loyal, so he should only like me.”

“Oh?”

“He’s clever and only follows one master. His name is Spartan.”

Chirp— chirp—
Spartan chirped and flapped his wings at the three people he was meeting for the first time.

“Isn’t he cute? He’s flapping his wings to protect his owner. He’s worried that you’d hurt me.”

“…Is he?”

“Yep, so don’t hate him too much.”

“How cute~ he’s loyal to his master~?”

Cheok Jungyeong seemed skeptical, while Jain stared at Spartan in awe.
Chirp, chirp—
Spartan chirped a few more times, then hopped over.

“C’mere, Spartan.’

I opened my arms.

“…What?”

However, Spartan didn’t jump into my arms.
Instead, he hopped over to Boss, who was sitting on the couch reading a novel, then dug into her embrace.
Boss was startled by Spartan’s sudden snuggling as well.

“…?”

Boss looked back and forth between me and Spartan.
I fell into a daze.
However, Spartan didn’t even spare me a glance.

—Chirp, chirp.

He rubbed his head on Boss’ chest, coaxing her into petting him.
Cheep~ cheep~
He was even singing.
The hell?

“…I see, he’s very loyal. Heh, hehehe.”

Cheok Jungyeong snickered as he held back his laughter.

“How funny~ Spartan is definitely a male~”

And Jain discussed Spartan’s gender.

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