Floor administrators were existences summoned using the immense magic power condensed in the Tower. Some, such as Medea, Eirene, and Heimdall, were mythical heroes, and others, such as Luke and Simad, were my original creations.
Mythical hero or not, they were far from perfect. They had their own obsessions and desires as they possessed self-consciousness far greater than any human. This was also precisely the reason that they helped or hindered Players from climbing the Tower.
At any rate, TP was an important asset to the administrators as well.
Medea threw an additional 5000TP on the table.
I put down 5000TP as well.
Medea rested her chin on her hand, keeping a poker face.
…I was currently playing poker without any complicated rules like the high-low rule. It was just the traditional Texas hold’em where the Player with the better luck and guts won.
Surprisingly, we were evenly matched in the beginning. I didn’t get anything better than two-pair and I was often the one with a worse hand. I panicked a little thinking the administrators were scheming against me together.
But economies of scale and the law of large numbers finally played their part. Over time, as the number of rounds increased, I gained the upper hand.
And this was the result.
My opponents were Simad, the 7th floor administrator, Cadmus, the 5th floor administrator, and Medea, the 3rd floor administrator. Half of the money they had on the table was now in my possession, and the last two standing were Medea and me.
“How much did you win from me?”
Medea asked casually.
After two hours of playing, I had won quite a sum of TP from her, totaling at least 100,000. That was the reason Medea had abandoned her formalities and started addressing me more casually.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 130,000~140,000?”
Medea silently bit her lip.
Then she threw a golden bill worth 10000TP on the table.
“Will you keep going?”
I smiled at Medea.
“Yes, of course.”
I had no idea what kind of cards Medea had. In fact, I didn’t even know the proper amount to bet and generally had no clue how poker worked.
Still, the only way I could lose at this point was if she cheated through ‘card forgery’.
However, the cards we were using were made with great magic. Even I couldn’t see through them with my Gift. Medea couldn’t possibly forge cards like these. Well, perhaps she could, but the magic power needed to do something of that level would surely be noticeable.
“Really? Your must have a nice hand.”
I put forward 10000TP in silence.
Currently, the money on the table was 148000TP. The bet was large enough that even Medea couldn’t casually glance over it. Yet, she added another 30000TP on top of that.
I finally started getting anxious… or not. There was really no reason.
I pretended to think long and hard, scratching the tabletop with my fingernails to fake nervousness. Then, with a sigh, I took out all the TP I had in my inventory.
“I only have 23000TP left….”
I took off the robe that Medea had been eyeing for a while.
“Will this work?”
A small smile spread across Medea’s face but she buried it quickly and then nodded hesitantly.
“…Yeah, sure. That’s okay.”
It was now time for us to reveal our hands.
Although I was a little nervous, I was confident that I wouldn’t lose.
The best Medea could have was probably a four of a kind.
“Please, go first.“
Medea opened her hand with a smile.
Four aces, as expected.
It was a four of a kind made up of aces.
I deliberately put on a shocked expression. I widened my eyes and shivered with my gaze fixated on her cards. In truth it wasn’t acting but a natural physiological phenomenon. To think that all this TP belongs to me now….
“Well then, I’ll take them now.”
Medea’s lips curved into a smile. She put both of her arms on the table and wrapped them around the 200000TP. She started raking in the money and the robe, when…
I grabbed her.
“…What? Are you crazy?”
“Ah, a bummer.”
I spoke in a trembling voice to the frowning Medea.
“Oh, I, I won.”
I showed my hand.
Medea’s body stiffened instantly.
Her eyes which had been sparkling like diamonds just a moment ago were now robbed of their vitality. Every gesture of her hand and her body used to be so elegant but now she was nothing but a frozen statue.
“Oh?! A straight flush? Wow, this is, wow~”
Simad, who had been watching from the sidelines, expressed amazement.
“I played poker for 100 years and I’ve seen this hand only 1001 times. Uhahaha, congrats!”
I pushed Medea’s arms off the table. She moved without resistance and leaned her back against the chair. Her face looked as if her soul had escaped from her body.
But she only had herself to blame. There was no room for manipulation or fraud in this game. Medea probably knew better than anyone else that magic or a trick could never deceive them.
The game was played fair and square with only luck and skill as assets.
Medea was lucky enough.
Only, I was the emperor of luck when it came to games of chance.
I put the 200000 TP in my inventory. Medea vacantly watched the money disappear into thin air.
Gambling is the path to ruin. That was probably right… for most people. Just not for me.
I had over 360000TP. Considering that I started with 25000TP, I really robbed them big time. About two thirds of the money I won probably belonged to Medea originally.
“A straight flush over quads… W-What’s going on? Just what is….”
Yet to recover from the shock, Medea buried her face in her hands.
It was such a pitiful sight that I set the robe back down on the table.
“…You can have this robe.”
‘Think of it as a winner’s tip.’
But I didn’t bother saying the last part out loud.
After all, nothing good would come from provoking an administrator too much.
I got out of the gambling house and stood in front of a sign in the corner of the 7th floor with the words [Upgrade Center] written across it. Now that I had the money, I was going to spend every last bit of it on enhancements.
—Welcome to the Advanced Neurotech Chip Upgrade Center.
A robot that looked similar to APG but with a more mechanical style of clothing welcomed me.
“Hi. I’m here to make enhancements.”
— Please select what you would like from this list.
The robot projected the catalogue in the air.
[1. Increase Strength by 1 point — 15,000TP]
[2. Increase Speed by 1 point — 15,000TP]
[3. Increase Stamina by 1 point — 15,000TP]
[4. Increase Perception by 1 point — 15,000TP]
[5. Increase Vitality by 1 point — 15,000TP]
[6. Increase the unique function of Extra7’s Personal Chip, ‘Battle Sense’ — 30,000TP]
[7. Add function ‘Connection & Synchronization’ — 120,000TP]
—You can repeat the enhancements as many times as you’d like, but the price will increase by twofold with every purchase.
“Yeah, I know. For now, I want to do everything from 1 to 6.”
I could do anything now, but I noticed a subtle ambiguity.
“What does number 7, ‘add function’, mean?”
—I have detected something other than your personal chip wrapped around your body. You can connect and synchronize it to your personal chip, and you will be able to utilize it more easily.
“My body… Ah, you mean Aether?”
I gathered Aether surrounding my body onto the palm of my hand. The robot scanned the transparent ball of Aether that was about the size of a baseball.
—Yes. This appears to be the material. It is special and marvelous. It only adheres to you and makes your body stronger.
“Uh, so that means I can connect my personal chip to Aether?”
—Yes. Because the procedure is complicated, the price is high. However, after the initial sync, this ‘Aether’ will become much stronger.
Robots did not lie.
I couldn’t even dream of spending 120000TP under normal circumstances, but I didn’t have any reason not to undergo this procedure right now.
In other words— thank you, Medea.
“Then I’ll do everything up to number 7. You’re the one performing the procedure, right?”
—Yes, that is correct.
“Before that, can you give me your hand?”
The surgeon robot stretched his arm towards me.
I grabbed his wrist and whispered.
Robots, despite their intelligence, were treated as objects. At my words, the number ‘22' appeared on his wrist.
With this, he’ll be able to perform the surgery better.
“Here, 225000 TP.”
After that, I paid 225000 TP in cash. The surgeon robot checked them for counterfeit and then opened the door which led to the operating room.
—Please follow me.
“How long will it take?”
—An hour should be enough.
“That’s good. Can you do it so that it doesn’t hurt?”
—That is impossible.
English Royal Court’s hideout was home to a total of 23 guild members.
The hideout was already at level 4—it even has an office for the vice-leader now—all thanks to Rachel whose reputation as an elementalist was growing day by day. Inside the hideout, the dignified vice-leader was browsing the public forum.
[Anyone see Black Lotus on the 5th floor?]
—I did. Too bad I didn’t have a Recorder on me :(
└How was it?
└I couldn’t see clearly. He shot arrows instantly killing the Djinns, then everyone stopped moving. He was like “I’m here to finish the war~!”
└Why didn’t they move though…
└;; To evade any arrows that might come their way? Have you never fought before?
[Seriously though isn’t this Lotus or whatever basically on the same level as Nine Stars in reality? It doesn’t make sense otherwise.]
—Probably as strong as the Immortal, I’d say.
└But isn't Chae Joochul stronger than the Nine Stars?
—Here’s my verdict as someone who’s seen the battle. Chae Joochul wins in close combat and Lotus wins in long-ranged combat.
└Is Chae Joochul or Lotus your friend? Who are you to judge them?
[Has anyone been to Earth recently? Is there a bounty on Black Lotus??]
—What bounty? He hasn’t committed any crime yet; And even if there was, who the hell is going to kill him? ㅋㅋ They’d be dead long before they even get to see his face.
—lololol what can you do even if there was a bounty lolol
—Black Lotus is gonna come and find you now after reading this ㅋ
Rachel had just returned from a castle attack, but everyone was only talking about Black Lotus.
Rachel put on a sullen expression and pursed her lips in a pout.
After scrolling through the forum a bit, Rachel checked to make sure there was no one nearby and searched for her own name.
「Search ▷ Rachel, Elementalist」
[How did the castle attack turn out this time? Heard there was an elementalist.]
[Elementalists must be super effective in castle attacks for the top guilds to be letting that lousy English Royal Court guild keep participating.]
However, it just made her feel worse.
‘If you’re gonna compliment me, do just that, but don’t talk bad about my guild.’
She regretted looking herself up.
Afterwards, Rachel pulled up the Guild Alliance group chat.
「Guild Alliance (25/25)」
This was a chat room consisting only of the leaders and executives of each guild.
There was a new announcement.
[Before we capture the 5th castle, there will be 2~3 days of rest. Everyone can return to Earth or do what they want in the Tower.]
WeaponMaster: 「Essence of the Strait will leave behind 7 members and return to Earth.」
Youngfly: 「Desolate Moon will leave behind 6 members.」
The purpose of this announcement was to prompt everyone to take a break together. If some took a rest while others worked, then the ones taking a break were likely to feel left behind. To prevent this, everyone would rest at the same time.
Rachel agreed readily. It was about time she went back to England anyways.
Suddenly, she received a message.
It was from 「Extra7」.
He finally replied back to the message she sent two days ago.
A reply in 36 hours.
Rachel narrowed her eyes and stared at the message.
Extra7: 「Oh, rest days? Yeah, I read about it on the public forum ㅋㅋ There was even an announcement. I plan on heading out then, too.」
The Guild Alliance was actively encouraging participation in the rest days.
They even asked the individual Rankers for cooperation.
‘You worked hard until now and it’s about time you take a break’ was what they wanted to say.
「Where are you now, Hajin-ssi?」
As she sent the message, she sulkily thought to herself:
‘Will the reply take about 48 hours this time?’
Extra7: 「Me? I’m on the 4th floor. I’m just grinding away because there’s something I need to make.」
But to her surprise, the reply returned quickly.
She rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly and wrote her message in a more lighthearted tone.
「Aha =) Then come see me in England. There’s a festival on Clancy Islet around this time of the year (๑＞‿＜๑)」
Extra7: 「ㅋㅋㅋ Okay. You said things were going well in England?」
「Yes ◕‿◕. Please give me a call when you arrive. I’ll send someone to pick you up.」
Then, a minute passed.
The reply stopped shortly after.
She had already gotten used to it. Something probably came up, or maybe he ran into somebody.
Rachel turned the messenger off and opened the auction house.
Immediately, something caught her eye.
「Lv.4 Black Suit (J - Green Order)」
Rachel didn’t know this, but the real name of this suit was 「Lv.4 Black Messiah’s Horrible Suit」. Kim Hajin had been using it for a while and he put it on the auction house to switch to a better piece of gear.
The moment she laid her eyes on the suit, she gave an involuntary exclamation.
The design was beautiful.
It was cool and efficient and had great effects as well.
Rachel swallowed her saliva and slowly moved her finger towards the [Bid] button.
The next morning.
The third tutorial had ended and Players had arrived on the 2nd floor.
Jin Sahyuk was hiding herself thoroughly. She put on a robe she bought in Tutorial Town and even applied stealth oil all over her body.
She even had that skill she got from the black ticket, survival shouldn’t be too difficult. It was humiliating to have to hide like a cockroach, but she consoled herself with the thought that she had only taken a step back now in order to move forward two steps in the future.
And things were going well in the beginning.
She didn’t place her magic power on display like she stupidly did last time. Instead, she concealed it just like a wild beast. During this time, strange men calling themselves ‘Newbie Hunters’ attacked her, but she easily fought them off and even stole their TP.
Really, everything was going smoothly.
However… when she was wandering about the Jungle in search of the elevator, she suddenly felt a chill.
At the same time, a wind blew that shook the atmosphere.
Before she was even aware of the attack, Jin Sahyuk had thrown herself on the ground out of instinct.
Something that had shot toward her brushed her side. Even though it was only a graze, a lump of her flesh had been cut off.
She stopped the waterfall of blood with magic power and thought to herself:
Her body trembled and her heart rate went up.
‘Where is he?’
She scouted the area by infusing magic power into her eyes but found nothing.
Streaks of light, much stronger than before, began pouring down on her again.
Jin Sahyuk shrouded herself in magic power and rolled on the ground. The air pressure cut her hair and left a scar on her cheek.
Jin Sahyuk couldn’t predict the attacks. She couldn't point out where he was. The black trajectories made it difficult for her to track their source. The shooting from afar was tens of thousands of times more threatening than a blade out in the open.
With no other choice, Jin Sahyuk ran.
She ran with all her strength, making her way through the bushes and jumping over swamps.
She could feel her hands and lips tremble.
Not out of excitement nor exaltation.
Not happiness, joy, nor delight.
She had never felt this way before. She didn’t want to admit she was having this feeling, yet the streaks of light poured down again as if to ask for her recognition.
Arrows caused explosions all around her.
Jin Sahyuk managed to jump into an animal hole in the ground in time.
She covered the hole with a barrier and caught her breath.
Then she checked her HP.
The situation was dire.
It was only a matter of time before she was killed.
She would die once again at his hands.
Anger and resentment brought tears to her eyes.
Her lungs filled with blood and her nose reddened.
“That fucking bastard….”
Jin Sahyuk whispered in a trembling voice.
Then suddenly, a pillar of unknown magic power shot up from the ground.
The wave of magic power slowly began to take the form of a man.
Jin Sahyuk was well aware of the phenomenon taking place before her eyes.
She called his name out loud.
The magic power completely materialized shortly after, and its owner gave a small smile.
But Jin Sayhuk was more furious than welcoming.
“You son of a bitch!”
“Don’t get so upset. I came to help you, after all.”
The first thing Bell did was put up a barrier. Sssss— A dome-shaped barrier engulfed the hole they were in.
“You asshole, if you hadn’t taken my ticket in the first place….”
“Shh. You’ll break the barrier if you create a disturbance.“
The next explosion shook the hole. It was the arrows again, but Bell’s barrier managed to block them just once.
And that was enough.
A violet light filled the hole.
It was Bell’s skill— ‘Mass Teleport’.
“What the hell is this? You, you fucker.”
“Let’s go home. Even I can’t win against him right now.”
Bell said that with a grin.
Jin Sahyuk clenched her teeth. Bell was right.
She needed to escape right now.
“I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna kill you for real.”
“…I know. I said it myself, right? That someday, you’ll have to do so.”
Bell and Jin Sahyuk.
They shared words that could be either a greeting or a curse and then turned into violet magic power and flew away.
…About 3km away.
Atop a tall zelkova tree, a man tilted his head.
Kim Hajin put his bow and arrows away without much deliberation.
It didn’t really matter that the target had escaped.
From the start, his goal today had been to make sure that she ‘didn’t notice’.
As long as she didn’t realize what was on the arrow that grazed her, or if she realized too late, she would, without a doubt, face death.
He collected the dark ore arrows with a murmur.
The arrows took about 3 seconds to fly back. He had shot his arrows from an incredibly long range.
The only reason Jin Sahyuk could survive the initial shot was because of the distance between them.
Although he failed to kill his target, Kim Hajin looked at the tip of an arrow without a hint of regret. A small amount of dark, sticky liquid was there.
[Lv.4 Liquified Banshee’s Curse Crystal]
This was a solution made from the crystals that Kim Hajin collected on the 4th floor by deliberately being cursed by 13 banshees.
After extracting them from his body, he had put it on the arrowhead. By now, the curse should have seeped into every part of Jin Sahyuk.
“I wonder how long she’ll last.”
Mercy was never an option to begin with.
The moment he did, he would be the one to be killed in the future.
He stared at where Jin Sahyuk was, then tore up the entrance ticket to the 8th floor.
I play poker, and the betting size at the beginning made absolutely zero sense lol.
EDIT: fixed the status words not being correct (sensibility -> perception, dexterity -> speed, etc)