Chapter 186. Materialized Demon Realm (3)


Yasha Transformation.
It was one of the numerous abilities included in Boss’ Gift, ‘Shadow’.
In this state, her eyes, including the pupils and the sclera, turned red, and her iris took the form of a beast’s, resulting in her dynamic vision and physical ability increasing indefinitely.

If her abilities and stats weren’t being restricted, simply staring at the opponent would have released magic power that could tear down the entire space.
But inside the Tower of Wish, the only effect Yasha Transformation had on her was an increase in physical strength.

She rushed forward recklessly like a beast. Her body moved like a bullet at a speed that couldn’t be captured by the naked eye.

However, Bell easily returned her attack.
No, it was not even necessary to return.
His body vaporized.
Boss could not bring down Bell, who rose to the sky in the form of blue magic power.

Still, Boss did not give up. She pursued him, swinging her shadow blade in every direction. The edge of the blade shattered the valley and cracked the earth.
The entire valley was turned into a chaotic battlefield.

“You haven’t changed.”

Bell spoke as his magic power clashed with Boss’.
Hearing this, Boss flew in with greater rage. The number of her shadow blades multiplied, and her shadow deepened to the point of devouring darkness.
However, Boss couldn’t maintain this form for long. It took up too much magic power.
I sighed and took out the Desert Eagle.

I was curious why Boss lost her cool all of a sudden. However, now wasn’t the time to ask. I surrounded the bullets with Stigma’s magic power.
The magic power attribute I needed right now was… anti-magic.

Bell and Boss were tangled up with each other. Boss continued to chase after Bell who was constantly running away.
Of course, if I couldn’t hit a foe while avoiding a friend, it would be shaming the name of my Master Sharpshooter Gift.

I aimed at Bell and activated Bullet Time.
The world slowed down.
Still, Bell and Boss were incredibly fast.
Which angle should I choose to strike Bell and not Boss?
The calculation and the decision were instinctive.
I pulled the trigger lightly.

Chwaaa—

The bullet shot towards Bell.
The trajectory displayed an exquisite combination of speed and angle.

“…!”

The bullet touched his shoulder.
Immediately, he regained physical form.
Boss put in a good punch, not missing the chance.
Her fist, loaded with magic power, flew straight towards Bell’s stomach. Bell was sent flying, coughing up blood.

Kwang—!

His body dug into the cliffside of the valley.
One could tell at a glance that the wound wasn’t fatal.
That blow ended the battle, but Boss couldn’t finish him off.

“…Uk!”

The magic power needed for Yasha Transformation was much more than what Boss could currently handle. The color of her pupils had already returned to normal. Her magic power probably wouldn’t last another three minutes.
Boss stared at Bell with killing intent but couldn’t move her body.

Instead, I stepped towards Bell.

“Hello.”

Bell grinned at my greeting.

“Pft…. Yeah, hi.”

But I could tell that he was just acting tough.
His battle with Boss probably lasted less than 3 minutes, but the battles of the strong always end in a moment.
He no longer had the strength to stop me.

“Last time, I let you go… but there won’t be a second time.”

I said that and pointed the shotgun to his forehead.
Letting an injured enemy go or other kinds of cheesy clichés— such a thing wouldn’t happen.

“I know. I shouldn’t have met you here, what a shame. It’s hard enough dealing with one of you, but 2 versus 1?”

However, Bell answered unperturbed. Even considering the fact that he had seven lives, he was way too calm.

“Say hello to your boss for me.”

He even grinned a little and returned what I had said to Jin Sahyuk sometime ago.

“See you later.”

“….”

So this was what it felt like to hear that remark.
How shitty.
I wrapped anti-magic power around the bullet and fired without hesitation.

KWANG—!

A loud bang filled the air.
Soon, everything became silent, and his body scattered into a current of magic power.
Just like that, he died.

“….”

It was a simple ending.
But I couldn’t rejoice.
There were too many questions I wanted to ask.
What was his relationship with Boss?
What happened between them for Boss who was always so calm to lose herself like that?
While I was pondering— a strange noise came from behind.

“…Ah, Boss!”

I turned to my back and saw Boss spazzing out.
I quickly ran over.

“Hey, hey. Relax. Relax!”

Boss was still trying to use her magic power. She lost her reason and was still fighting Bell inside her head.
Her eyes were turning red. She was struggling to pull out Yasha once more.

“It’s over! Calm down! Hey!”

At this rate, all her blood vessels would burst and she’d die at least once.
I had no choice but to restrain Boss in order to stop her from using magic power and from moving. I took her into my arms, and our bodies crossed each other.
Boss trembed in my arms. I could feel her shake vividly.

“Please calm down. Calm down.”

I even used ‘Suggestive Voice’’. Still, I felt that wasn’t enough, so I stroked her with my best effort.

“…It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

Perhaps Dwarf’s Dexterity worked even in these kinds of situations. Boss began to calm down, and the magic power of Yasha that would likely burst her blood vessels also subsided.

“….”

I held her without saying anything. Her body was as cold as ice, and her breathing was disconnected. The outburst of magic power had stopped, but now the side effects of using too much magic power were appearing.
Still, this was better than going on a rampage.

“…Sleep tight, for a while.”

I whispered, took out the Orb of Regeneration, and infused the orb with my magic power. Soon green light rose from the orb, wrapping Boss in warmth. Thanks to the warmth, her trembling stopped and the freezing body temperature returned to normal.
But at the same time, Boss’s consciousness was broken into bits.
She sunk into deep slumber, and I turned my head with her in my arms.
The NPC Kedrick was looking at us.

“…!”

The moment our eyes met, he turned his head in surprise.
I carefully laid Boss down on the ground and stepped towards Kedrick. After all, he was the reason we were here. I wasn’t expecting this big of an event to happen in the first place.

“Hello.”

“…Huh? Oh, yes. Hello.”

Despite the fact that Bell was holding him by the neck just a few moments ago, Kedrick seemed okay.

“Haa….”

If this was a game, there would have been a lot of conversation needed at this point. Maybe cheesy self-introductions and an exchange of greetings.
But I jumped straight to the point.
I was too tired to chatter.

“I came to save you.”

“…What? All of a sudden?”

“You were held captive here, no?”

I pointed at the shackle wrapped around Kedrick’s neck.

“Ah….”

Kedrick nodded. Unlike his muscle-blown body, his personality seemed meek and docile.

“But why did the man who was just here try to kill you?”

“Huh? Oh, that’s… I don’t think he was trying to kill me.”

“…Hmm?”

That was a little unexpected.
When I looked at him curiously, Kedrick fumbled around with his shackle.

“I think he was just trying to break this shackle. I told him he wouldn’t be able to by force, but he kept trying. I almost died of suffocation.”

“Uh… Aha. So that’s it.”

Only then did I realize that Bell was holding his neck out of good intentions.
…He shouldn’t have done it so violently.

“I’ll get rid of it for you. By the way, he was a villain.”

I spoke, pointing at the spot where Bell was just a moment ago.

“Oh, I see. Thank you, but that won’t be possible. This shackle can’t be destroyed by normal means. You have to kill Krakoon and get his key.”

Kedrick was devoted to his role as an NPC.
I took a look at the quest he gave me.

===
[Kedrick’s Quest.]
[Subquest - Rescue]
[Rank - High-intermediate]
[Goal - Infiltrate the office located at the end of the Valley of Darkness and kill Krakoon or steal his keys and escape.]
===

“I don’t need to.”

However, I shook my head.
With Boss like this, I didn’t intend to continue the quest. I didn’t need to either.

“Show me your neck.”

“Eh? No. I mean, this is not a matter of necessity….”

“It’s fine.”

I said, and took out the [Mystic Key] from my inventory.
In the first place, I had chosen the Mystic Key to save time in situations like this. Quests were more fun when you destroyed the given process in a creative and radical way.

“What’s that?”

Kedrick opened his eyes wide and tilted his head in a cute way. It really wasn’t befitting of a man with a beard and all that muscle.

“…A key.”

I answered lightly and shoved the key towards Kedrick’s neck. Kedrick seemed surprised, but the Mystic Key dug into the shackle. A keyhole wasn’t even necessary. It was a gentle contact, as if putting the key into water.
Click.
The key which had infiltrated the shackle stopped at a certain point.
At that, I turned the key 180 degrees.
Click—
The disassembled restraint fell onto the ground.

“Huh? But how….”

There was no time for me to enjoy his surprised face.
We had made quite a scene just now.
The demons in charge of this valley would soon come rushing.

“We have no time. Is there anyone else to go with you?”

“…Oh, right! M-my wife, she’s also locked up here!”

Kedrick started running towards somewhere.
I carried Boss on my back and followed him.


*

[Lv.3 English Royal Court Guild]

“This is our guild’s hideout.”

Click— Rachel turned on the light.
Though not glamorous, the well-managed hideout that looked like a private home appeared before their eyes.

“There’s something called the ‘Hideout System’ in Prestige. It’s a system that allows you to earn boosted stat increase and various buffs if you stay in the hideout for a fixed amount of time. The level of the buffs depend on the level of the hideout.”

Kim Suho, Jin Seyeon, the Fermun brother and sister, and Yi Yeonghan followed Rachel who was explaining the system.

“Our Royal Court guild hideout is probably one of the five best hideouts in Prestige.”

Rachel bragged unassumingly and scanned for their reactions. Kim Suho and others were looking around with interest.

“Hu, Huhu.”

She shrugged with pride.

“Mm…. It’s a good hideout. But how do we get to the upper level?”

Jin Seyeon asked.
As expected, her goal seemed to be climbing the Tower.

“If you want to make it to the 4th floor, you first have to build performance points.”

Destroying the demons’ control towers helped them discover crystal steles which led to the fourth floor, but to enter the fourth floor Players need something called ‘performance points’.
Players only had to clear a couple of common quests, so it wasn’t that hard to meet the requirements.

“Performance points…?”

“They’re given out every time you clear a common quest. You should have gotten a system alert with a list of common quests when you bought your citizenship.”

“Ah, those. So we just have to kill monsters. Sounds fun.”

Jin Seyeon nodded enthusiastically.

“….”

Rachel observed her childhood hero standing before her.
She’d heard how Kim Suho and Jin Seyeon had gotten together on the way. It wasn’t anything dramatic. They just happened to be on the same elevator that Kim Suho discovered.

“…Oh and, sometimes the administrator Medea will give out quests. You should definitely clear those. The rewards are good.”

“Aha….”

Kim Suho, who had been listening to Rachel, asked Jin Seyeon.

“So what will you do now, Senior?”

“Oh, me?”

Jin Seyeon grinned.

“First I’ll meet up with the people from the Association. Youngji and Junhyuk are here as well.”

High-rank Heroes from the Hero Association, Seo Youngji and Oh Junhyuk.
Jin Seyeon had added them as friends as soon as she got on the elevator to the 2nd floor. From them, she heard something interesting.

“…I want to hear more about this ‘Black Lotus’ too.”

Jin Seyeon muttered with a serious face, unseen until now.

“Then, I’ll leave now.”

“U-Um.”

Rachel subconsciously grabbed Jin Seyeon who was about to depart.
Jin Seyeon smiled and tilted her head a bit. She was asking why Rachel had caught her.
But Rachel had nothing particular in mind, so she just said this.

“I saw you… on TV. I watched you do… volunteer works.”

“Oh, that? I’m a bit different from how I appear on TV, huh?”

Jin Seyeon scratched the back of her neck bashfully.

“Half is just pretending, and the other half… I’m a little shy in front of cameras. Haha.”

She laughed heartily and bowed.

“Anyways, I’ll be leaving now.”

“Ah, yes. It was nice to meet you.”

…Rachel thought while looking at Jin Seyeon.
She had only met her for only half an hour.

“Please come back anytime. I can offer you a place to stay.”

But during that half an hour, she realized why Jin Seyeon was admired and respected by others so much.

“Those words are enough, Vice-leader Rachel.”

There was no other Master-rank Hero in the world who would use polite speech to a junior.
Rachel was touched once again at Jin Seyeon’s courteous farewell.


*


A lot happened, but we successfully rescued Kedrick and Lirko. The rewards were the [Mysterious Pocket], [Kedrick’s Ghost Sword], and some [Treasure Chest] that Kedrick kept hidden from Krakoon.

Together we arrived at the 3rd floor, Prestige.
They were originally Prestige’ residents before they were kidnapped by the demons, so this would be the first time they visited their home in a long time.

“…We’re back again.”

“Right.”

But they didn’t seem too happy.
Kedrick glanced at me and explained why.

“You see, our relationship is a bit complicated. I was a blacksmith working for the government, and Lirko was captain of the inner city’s vigilante group. We wouldn’t be allowed to exchange even a glance.”

“…I see.”

This was the NPC’s past that I didn’t set.
Love beyond status and money; it was a likely romance story.

“But you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“What?”

Lirko and Kedrick tilted their heads.

“Prestige has changed a lot since then.”

Only three months had passed since I first arrived in Prestige.
But that was enough time to change the city greatly.
A lot had changed.
First, I succeeded in cultivating [Lv.3 Amazing Meat-flavored Corn] and [Lv.2 Clear and Clean Rice]. I handed them out to NPCs for free or for a very low price.
Second, a commercial district rose up around Riry Shop.
As part of the strategy to appear more high-class, Riry Shop didn’t treat low-priced items. So the players had no choice but to sell their drops to resident NPCs. Riry Shop repurchased these items from NPCs and made potions out of them.
The result of this cycle was the following.

“…Huh?”

Kedrick and Lirko blankly looked at the Prestige before their eyes.
It was undoubtedly a different Prestige than the one they remembered.
Residents working as street vendors, mothers returning home with distributed corn in their hands, fathers heading towards farms or mines to work, and players walking here and there.
Many things had already changed in Prestige.
…For the record, at least a fourth of the land was mine. I invested in land everytime I earned money.

“It changed a lot, right?”

I smiled and asked.
Kedrick was still stunned, so Lirko answered instead.

“Yes, yes. You’re right. I think we could live in happiness without going inside the walls.”

Lirko said and looked at Kedrick. But Kedrick was too busy looking around Prestige.
Lirko pinched Kedrick’s side lightly. Kedrick’s face crumpled.

“Kuaaak—!”

…Maybe it wasn’t ‘lightly’.

“Well then, follow me. To pay you back for what I’ve received, I'll let you stay here for free.”

“…For free?”

I brought the astonished Kedrick and Lirko to the house I had prepared beforehand. The first floor would be Kedrick’s workshop, and the second floor would be the home that they use together.

“By the way, aren’t you uncomfortable?”

On our way there, Lirko asked me. She was looking at Boss who was on my back.

“Ah, don’t worry, she’s really light.”

“Oh.”

Was she asleep or did she pass out?
Anyway, with the unconscious Boss on my back, I walked onwards.

“We’re here.”

After about 10 minutes of walking, we arrived at the house-cum-workshop.
Lirko and Kedrick looked around in surprise.

“It’s a blacksmith’s workshop.”

“Yes. I’m also good at making things. Only the first floor is the workshop, the second floor is a regular home.”

I made this place to utilize Dwarf’s Dexterity. I just haven’t had the chance to use it.

“For now, stay here. We’ll talk more later… There’s a kid called Kiri. I’ll send her over.”

“Ah, yes. Thank you.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much for helping us.”

“Oh, don’t bother. I’ve already got compensation.”

The sincerity of their gratitude made me feel a little awkward.
In any case, after taking them there, I returned to the hideout. It was hard walking with Boss on my back. She was surprisingly voluptuous.

Chirp—! Chirp—!

Spartan rushed towards me the second I opened the door.
I headed towards the bedroom with Spartan by my side, and laid Boss down on the bed.

“Argh, my back…?”

I was a bit startled.
I wasn’t sure when she woke up, but she was awake.

“Ah, geez. Boss, when did you wake up?”

“…About 5 minutes ago. Was I that heavy?”

Boss asked.

“No. You were light.”

I smiled and covered her with a blanket. Boss snorted in disbelief.

“You just said I was heavy.”

“Rather than that, I have a lot of things I want to ask you. You went on quite a rampage today. Our plan almost went awry.”

Boss moved only her eyes and looked at me. She looked rather embarrassed and sorry.

“But I have a feeling that you won’t tell me even if I ask, so for now I’ll let you rest.”

Leaving exploring the Demon Realm to another time, I stood up.
Click.
I turned off the light and was about to step out of the room.

“Hajin.”

Boss called me.
I looked at the bed again.
Boss, lying straight in the bed, muttered.

“…I can’t move my body.”

“…Wah?”

I rushed to Boss.
Was it magic power exhaustion? She was just blinking, looking at the ceiling.

“…Is it magic power exhaustion?”

“Yeah. I can’t move at all.”

At that moment…
Growl—
Suddenly, a thunderous sound came out of Boss’s stomach.

“….”

“….”

We observed each other for a moment.
After staying still for about five minutes…

“…Are you hungry?”

I asked first.

“…Yes.”

She answered looking embarrassed, and added one word.

“…Sorry.”

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