Chapter 190. Ranker (1)


[You are the first to reach the sixth floor!]
[3 hours from now, the news of your advancement will be announced to all players.]
[All stats increase by 0.3 points.]
[You acquire two Lv.3 Skill Level-Up Coupons.]
[You acquire one Lv.2 Consolidation Coupon!]

I arrived at the sixth floor alone, bathed in mud, vomit, and garbage.

“Uuuk—!”

I fell to the ground and threw up again. My stomach churned as yellowish gastric juices gushed out of my mouth.

“Ugh….”

I came to my senses only after completely emptying my stomach.
I brushed the disgust aside with a sigh and got back on my feet.
It was then that I finally had a full view of the 6th floor.
What I came to face after traveling through the most disgusting passage was…

“…Wow.”

…the most beautiful sight in the entire world.

[Welcome to the 6th floor, ‘Splendor’.]
[The 6th floor is a neutral floor.]

I was at a loss for words. My mind blanked, and my heart stopped beating all because of the stunning, breathtaking view.
The sun and the moon gave off a magnificent flash in unison. The sky was painted blue and navy, and clusters of stars and milky ways were glowing in it. There was the emerald waterfall, where the water shot out from the ground into the air, and the pink forest full of trees with leaves that sparkled like jewels.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the spectacular sight.
If Heaven existed, this was surely what it looked like.
Even the Garden of Eden wouldn’t be as wonderful.

“…Ah, ah.”

But soon, I shook my head. I came to my senses and recalled the reason I had come here in the first place.

My top priority was to get to the 8th floor.
Then I had to impede the ‘bridge’ that connected the 8th and the 9th floor.
Why?
It was because the 9th floor contained a calamity that needed to be delayed as much as possible.
I didn’t know what would happen if people rushed in like they did in the original novel.
I would probably get an alert saying something like: [It was determined that the ‘calamity’ as described in the original is too weak…], significantly increasing the level of difficulty of the calamity.
I could expect that much from my experiences so far.

Of course, Players who were risking their lives to climb the Tower would still try to proceed to the 9th floor without delay.
I had to stop them.
Currently, I could think of only one way to do so.
Shooting arrows and showing them that they were not ready for the next floor.
To do that, I needed to hone my skills first.

“…Hm.”

I stretched my limbs as I looked around.
The 6th floor’s crystal stele was nearby.
As soon as I touched the crystal stele to save my current location, someone appeared before me.

“U-Uwoah! That surprised me….”

Without a sound, a woman appeared out of nowhere and stood like a stone statue.
But I knew who she was.
Eirene, the administrator of the 6th floor.

“Uh… Nice to meet you. Are you the administrator?”

I introduced myself politely.
Yet all Eirene did was smile.

“Put your clothes back on first.”

She waived her hands lightly. Refreshing magic power flowed out from her fingertips. It caressed me and removed the mud on my body.

“Ah, yes. Thank you.”

Eirene watch me as I put my clothes back on in a hurry.
Then she asked.

“Did you come here alone?”

Her voice was soft and tender, just like that of a mother speaking to her son.

“Yes, yes. But I do plan on… bringing more people in the future.”

“Is that so?”

Eirene smiled. It calmed me down.

“Yes, yes….”

“Oh, that’s right. I haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m ‘Eirene’, the administrator of the 6th floor.”

I already knew that but, nonetheless, I nodded my head with sincerity.

“As you can see, the 6th floor is very peaceful. And I wish to retain this peace.”

“Yes.”

“For that reason, one cannot stay here for long, nor can many people stay here at the same time.”

Then, a system window popped up over my head.

[1/111] [199:57:58]

I was surprised and elated at the same time.
I had 200 hours, which was not much different from Kim Suho. For the record, the length of the 'time limit' depended on how you treated the system.

“…It seems that the child watching from above has taken a liking to you. So I gave you extra time.”

Eirene smiled.

“Now, I shall not interfere any longer. Do what you must. Oh, the ticket to the 7th floor is hidden somewhere on this floor.”

As soon as she finished her sentence, a ray of sunshine fell on me.
The light was too bright, and I had to close my eyes.
When I opened them again, Eirene had already vanished.

“Phew….”

I took a deep breath.
Eirene skipped a lot of details. The 6th floor was one of the most important floors I set up. Here, one could improve their skills dramatically over a short period of time.

The objective of the 6th floor appeared straightforward on the surface.
It was a treasure hunt. Players had to find tickets to the 7th floor while evading illusory beasts that came out from time to time. If a Player failed to find a ticket in time, then his climb would end there, since one could only stay on the 6th floor for as long as the time that was given to them.

But there was no need to worry. The tickets were literally everywhere.
That said, it was simply foolish to move on to the 7th floor immediately after finding a ticket. It was better to spend all the time allotted on this floor.
Why? That was because the 6th floor was the ‘Floor of Growth’.

“….”

I checked the time.
3PM.
I’ll spend just 12 hours today.

“Mm… Ah, hmm….”

But in the next moment, my thoughts halted.
‘What was it called again?’
There was a hot spring that Kim Suho used, but I couldn’t remember the name.
I glanced at my smartwatch and took a look at the settings once more.

[Spring of Peace]

“Ah, that’s right.”

Spring of Peace.
It was a natural training ground. Filled with half water and half spirit energy, the spring restored all energy as soon as it was consumed, whether it be magic power or spirit energy.
I found the location of the spring through the Book of Truth and got on the Dwarven Supercar.
The system alert popped up again just as I was about to drive off.

[Your pet ‘Spartan’ is growing!]
[Spartan awakened a new Trait.]
[3rd Trait — ‘Summon’]
[It can now be summoned by its master whenever and wherever.]

“…Oh?”

The timing was perfect.
Spartan could become stronger if he came here. We should train together.

“Summon.”

I muttered quietly.
But no matter how long I waited, there was no sign of a summon, and the 6th floor remained as silent as a library.

“…Summon?”

I assumed that a portal would show up, but nothing happened.
‘What is this?’
I bobbed my head in confusion.

Kieeeek—!

Suddenly, a loud cry filled the air.
I looked up, startled, and saw Spartan fly in between the clouds, the sun, and the moon.

“What?”

There was no trace of magic powers or magic.
Spartan just appeared out of nowhere.

Kiiiiii—!

Spartan circled the sky, flying between the sun and the moon, then landed on my shoulder.
His dashing figure finally looked a little like an eagle.

“…Let’s go do some training.”

—Peep!

His chirping sounded a bit more mature now.
I headed towards the hot spring with Spartan.

After driving the Dwarven Supercar for about 10 minutes, I arrived at the hot spring. The spring was surrounded by sapphire rocks, and the color of the water was very bright.

I took my clothes off and went right in. Spartan hesitantly followed me.

[The heat from the hot spring engulfs your body.]
[Stats increase 30% faster.]
[Stamina, magic power, and spirit power recovers 100% faster.]

It gave a series of incredible buffs.
But before I began my training, I decided to close my eyes and enjoy the hot spring itself.

“Ah, so good….”

My body became warm and my head turned foggy.
‘This must be what Heaven is like.’
About 3 minutes in, I suddenly gave a loud laugh.
Spartan was floating on the surface of the water with his stomach up. If someone was watching, Spartan would surely be mistaken as a bird that drowned.

“Hey, hey, sit up straight…?”

Suddenly, something caught my attention.
I could see something black in between the leaves and through the steam from the hot spring.
At first, I thought I was mistaken.
Then I realized that I couldn’t be wrong.
The Thousand-Mile Eyes were always right.

“H-Hey, Spartan!”

I pulled myself up.
I was naked, but that didn’t matter.

“Spartan, go that way!”

I pointed towards the direction where the dark figure was just at.
Black fur, glossy mane, and a sleek yet well-built body.
If what I saw was correct, just now that should have been the legendary horse ‘Bucephalus’.

**


The first castle attack came to an end.
The result involving 53 participants from 3 different guilds was… a ‘success’.
After much struggle, the Allied Team managed to break down the gate, kill all the demons inside, and occupy the castle.

“…Auuu.”

With the castle attack being successful, the 53 Players were enjoying their victory to the fullest… not. In truth, their fatigue had them sprawled all over the ground.

“…Haa, haa.”

Chae Nayun caught her breath in silence. Her arms ached as if they were about to snap, and there were sharp pains in every muscle of her body.
How many times did she swing her sword? How many sword strikes did she fire and how much magic power was pulled out of her?
It was at least enough for her to worry about the durability of her longsword.
She’d heard of a new blacksmith’s workshop opening in Prestige. She decided to pay a visit there when she got back.

“….”

Chae Nayun looked at a spot not too far from her.
About 10 steps away was Rachel.

Being a member of a royal family, Rachel surely had a refined way to rest. She was on her knees with her eyes closed as she breathed in and out slowly. With every breath, the nearby wind and earth shook.
‘…So it’s an elementalist’s way of breathing, not a royal family’s.’
Chae Nayun watched in awe before finally speaking.

“…Hey.”

Rachel heard Chae Nayun’s whisper and opened her eyes.

“…”

Rachel didn’t answer and simply stared at Chae Nayun.

“Uh… Umm.”

Although she was the one who called on Rachel, Chae Nayun was at a loss for words. She finally said just one thing.

“Good work.”

“…You too.”

Rachel answered casually and went back to meditation.
Chae Nayun carefully observed Rachel.

“Hey.”

She called again.

“…”

Again, Rachel didn’t answer and stared at Chae Nayun.

“…I mean, it’s nothing. It’s just, we fought together… and I want to ask you something.”

Something was bothering Chae Nayun. It didn’t come up suddenly; it had been bugging her for a while. Every time she saw Rachel, a thought sprang up in her mind. Sometimes, the thought would make her blood boil with blind anger.
Everybody knew the relationship between the English Royal Court and Fenrir.

“Uh, um… you see….”

If things ended there, there wouldn’t be any problem. But rumors had been circulating that Rachel and Fenrir were in a scandalous relationship.

That really bothered her.
She knew it wasn’t any of her business and thinking about it only made her angry. Still, forgetting about it was… just too hard. A person’s feelings weren’t something they could control.

“You and Kim Ha….”

But it was difficult for her to speak that name out loud.
Chae Nayun stopped. She clenched her teeth while looking at Rachel, who was tilting her head in curiosity.

“Anyway, you and him…”

The reason Chae Nayun entered the Tower of Wish.
Her top priority right now was to find Kim Hajin. In the first place, she was interested in the Tower of Wish because she was confident that Kim Hajin would come here.

“Have you guys met? Inside this Tower?”

Chae Nayun finally managed to bring up the question.
However, Rachel shook her head in denial.

“No.”

“You’re lying.”

“It’s true.”

“…”

Chae Nayun licked her lips at the straightforward response. A princess of a kingdom wouldn’t lie without blinking an eye, right?

“Then, is there… something between… you and him?”

“…What do you mean?”

“No, I mean… Well, um… Sigh.”

After a moment of hesitation, Chae Nayun finally frowned.

“No, nevermind. Just let me know if you happen to run across him later. Keep it a secret from him.”

“…Why?”

Rachel’s crystal-like eyes stared at Chae Nayun.

“…You don’t need to know why. I mean, it’s better to stay on good terms with each other. I’m pretty influential in the Strait, so I’ll tell them good things about you and the Royal Court guild.”

“Pft.”

Others must have been eavesdropping as quite a bunch, not just one or two, snorted out loud. Of course, they all lowered their heads when Chae Nayun glared at them.

Chae Nayun blushed in embarrassment and glanced at Rachel. To her surprise, Rachel smiled softly and nodded without a hint of mockery.

“…Okay.”

“….”

That made Chae Nayun even more embarrassed.

“…B-By the way, I got this sword from a quest. Do you want to see?”

She fiddled with the rare longsword for no reason.

“It’s nice. Can I hold it?”

“Oh, y-yeah. Here you go.”

Rachel’s eyes widened as she examined the sword.
‘Yup, it’s awesome.’ Chae Nayun secretly smiled in satisfaction.

“Oh, that sword is upgradable too. The blacksmith told me that I could get it to level 5 or 6.”

“Wow, really?”

“Good work, everyone! The alert for the rewards should be coming out at any time!”

It was right then that Kim Youngjin shouted, clapping.
Players who participated in the castle attack screamed with joy.
Soon, a system window popped up.

[You successfully conquered the first castle!]
[Contributions are being calculated based on merit….]

Players watched the system in silence.

[…Calculation complete.]

“Oh!”

The team leaders of each guild had a different reaction. Essence of the Strait’s Kim Youngjin appeared confident, Rachel pulled her hands together as if she was praying, and Frost Sanctuary’s Jung Hosun licked his lips.

And thus, the 53 participants looked at the system window, each with different expectations in mind.

[Participants — 3 parties and 1 individual Player.]

[Party 1: ‘Essence of the Strait’]
[Contribution – 32%]

[Party 2: ‘Frost Sanctuary’]
[Contribution – 27%]

[Part 3: ‘English Royal Court’]
[Contribution – 24%]

[Individual Player]
[Contribution – 17%]

“….”
“….”
“….”

There was no cheering.
There were no pats on the shoulder.
Without a sound, the crowd became completely silent.
There was only one reason for the deadly stillness.

[Individual Player]
[Contribution – 17%]

It was all because of the existence of an ‘individual player’ who shouldn’t exist.
Amidst the confusion, the system kept spitting out new messages.

[Rewards will be given out based on contribution.]
[A total of 15000 TP will be divided according to the contribution ratio.]
[The lottery for a ‘special item’ will now proceed.]
[The higher the contribution, the higher the chances of winning the lottery.]

“L-Lottery? What is this?”

The whole place became noisy again.

[Lottery in process…]

Gulp.
The sound of nervous swallowing filled the castle.
They didn’t know what this lottery was for, but it was surely for an amazing item. ‘A special item is most likely to be a skill book, so our guild should get it if possible….’ Such a thought was in the minds of every Player.

[‘Individual Player’ is the winner of the lottery!]
[The special reward will be sent to the individual player.]

Icy silence filled the air.

“…Younghyun.”

Kim Youngjin broke the silence and called out the name of his subordinate.

“Y-Yes!”

“…I did ask you to record a video of the castle attack, right?”

“Yes. I did record it with the Player Shop’s Recorder….”

“Show it to me.”

However, before the Allied Team had a chance to grasp the preposterous situation—

[Notification: an unknown Player has reached the 6th floor!]

A new storm of shock struck them.

**


[3F Prestige – Riry Restaurant]

This was a restaurant owned by Henry and Kiri and was the first of its kind to stand outside the inner walls.

“…So you’re saying it’s all Black Lotus’ doing?”

Jin Seyeon asked as she stuffed the restaurant’s best dish, (meat-flavored) corn fried rice, into her mouth.
Next to her was Seo Youngji.

“Yes. An arrow came flying from somewhere and killed 10 magicians simultaneously. Kim Youngjin wanted to know if it was you who did it, but since you said no, it must have been Black Lotus.”

Jin Seyeon grinned delightfully.

“So, this Black Lotus guy helped finish the first castle attack, then ran all the way to the 6th floor?”

“Probably? They’re not sure if it was him who climbed to the 6th floor.”

“…Amazing.”

Jin Seyeon laughed out loud at the interesting turn of events. It was then that a particular individual caught her eye.

“Oh? Youngji, over there.”

“Let’s see… Hm? It’s Aileen Hero-nim.”

Aileen was plodding her way through the entrance of Prestige. For some reason, she had her hands stuck in her pockets.

“What’s wrong with her?”

Jin Seyeon asked out of pure curiosity. Aileen was on guard and walking in a cute manner.

“Oh, I heard she lost some TP before. Ever since then, she’s been on alert in the city….”

Right then, Jin Seyeon and Aileen’s eyes met.

“Aah?”

Aileen grimaced.
Jin Seyeon gave a polite nod regardless. Aileen looked at her with disapproving eyes, then approached her and Seo Youngji in quick steps.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Aileen.”

Jin Seyeon stood up and greeted her.

“…So you came?”

Aileen pouted, slightly humiliated at having to look up at Jin Seyeon who was more than 20cm taller than her.

“Haha, yes. I did.”

“…Hmph.”

Seo Youngji looked at their battle of nerves. Well, it was more like Aileen picking a fight.

In any case, she thought to herself.
‘Who was stronger between the Temple of Justice’s Hero and a Master-rank Hero?’
The subject was quite controversial. Some said it was the former, while others said it was the latter.

“It’s an honor to meet the Spirit Speech Master. I apologize for the late greeting, I had a lot going on.”

However, Aileen was one of the strongest members, even in the Temple of Justice. As she was treated as a giant who was second only to the Nine Stars, Jin Seyeon adopted a modest attitude without a moment of hesitation.

“…Anyways, what brings you here? You should have just kept doing volunteer work.”

Aileen decided to use polite speech, too. The difference in their age wasn’t that big, and she didn’t want to become friendly enough to speak casually.

“Ah, did you not hear the rumors?”

“Rumors…?”

Aileen appeared oblivious at first, but soon nodded knowingly.
‘She’s probably talking about Black Lotus.’

“You’re here to catch him too?”

“…Does that mean Miss Aileen is here to do the same? That’s right, did you hear about what happened at the castle attack today?”

Aileen didn’t answer. It was a tacit consent.
Suddenly, Jin Seyeon pointed down the street.

“Ah, here comes the participants themselves.”

Kim Youngjin, Jung Hosun, Rachel, Chae Nayun, Yi Jiyoon, etc…. The so-called ‘Rankers of the Great Guilds’, revered by all players, were approaching the restaurant.

“Miss Aileen, why don't we hear what happened directly from the participants?”

“…Well, that doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Then please, have a seat.”

Jin Seyeon pointed to the seat next to her.

“….”

Worried she might lose her money again, Aileen slowly sat down with her hands still in her pockets.

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