[You are the first Player to enter the 8th floor!]
[Welcome to 8-1F, ‘Field of Trials’.]
[You gain the first-entrance rewards.]
—Your bones become sturdier.
—Your muscles become thicker.
—Your spirit power capacity increases.
[The news of your advancement will be announced to all Players in 12~36 hours.]
[This is the ‘middle stage’ of the Tower.]
[You can advance to 8-2F when you reach the end of the Field of Trials.]
[Be careful! There are those who despise outsiders at the end of the Field of Trials. They will try to hinder your advancement.]
[But when you reach the end after breaking through all obstacles, they will acknowledge you.]
I arrived at the 8th floor, or more precisely, the floor 8-1. I was close to the half-way mark of the Tower of Wish. Strictly speaking, I had climbed about 40% of the whole thing.
But in a way, it wasn’t wrong to call it 60~70% as I would climb much quicker after the 9th floor.
In the original story, the 9th~14th floors ended in about 7 chapters. Of these, about three were about the 9th floor’s ‘calamities’.
I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
A beautiful scenery spread out before my eyes. A vast grassfield, blue and clear sky, sunlight streaming down from cracks in white clouds… Staring at the horizon, I examined Aether, which was fully fused with my body.
[Aether Infused with Neurotech Chip – Awakened, Fused] [Mystic – Formless] [Evolving]
A corporeal but formless weapon. Adheres to its master or his weapon, reinforcing their strength.
A portion of its potential was awakened through a mystical elemental’s power.
*Will not adhere to another being once a master is chosen.
○Physical Body Reinforcement
*Increases all variable stats of its owner by 0.7 points.
*Adheres to its master’s weapon and strengthens the weapon’s attack power. Aether itself can also form a weapon. (Current weapon-form Aether rank – ‘high rank’)
*Aether can manifest color and texture (cannot be too complex).
All of the above functions evolve with its owner. Depending on the state of Aether’s awakening, other functions can develop.
▷Mysteries of Science
—Fused with the Neurotech Chip, Aether has been connected to your veins and internal organs.
—Increases physical stats by 1.4 points.
—Aether can support you in battle.
—Can concentrate your body’s kinetic energy to desired parts of your body.
While I was tracking Jin Sahyuk, I was able to experience firsthand the benefits of the new Aether.
“…It sure is amazing.”
The new Aether had completely changed my body’s mechanism. I felt the change when I sniped Jin Sahyuk from a distance. As common sense would show, humans were incapable of shooting a target from 3 kilometers away. The same applied to superhumans in this world. This was precisely why archers used ‘magic arrows’, which had almost zero air resistance.
However, I was able to hit such a faraway target with a physical arrow. This couldn’t be explained with just a Gift. Having to see the target was one thing, but to shoot an arrow that far, one’s bowstring also had to be strong enough. If a bowstring was strong, the ‘strength’ needed to pull the arrow also increased drastically. That was why such a shot was normally impossible without the help of Stigma.
But after Aether fused with the neurotech chip which was connected to my body, my body moved like a machine when I was pulling on the bowstring. With Mechanical Movement, I was able to display power that surpassed what I could display alone. At the same time, I could feel that an invisible force was helping me move.
“…By the way, can I take this with me when I return to Earth?”
I asked the system.
[Yes. A few special items acquired inside the Tower can be brought to the outside world.]
[TIP! The same applies to the ‘Mysterious Pouch’ in your inventory.]
“Thanks. That’s good to know.”
With this, my strength was greatly enhanced.
‘Let’s worry about the outside world later and focus on clearing the 8th floor.’ I surveyed the surrounding area and muttered quietly.
In an instant, a black clump of light descended from the sky. This acted as a portal that transported a black horse to this floor.
Sannuri snorted unhappily as she was wet with warm water.
“…You were taking a bath?”
She narrowed her eyes and nodded.
“Sorry, but there’s something for you to do right now.”
I took out special pieces of armor that I made for her to wear. They were also made with dark ore and each piece easily reached Lv.5.
Chest, back, head…. Soon, most of her body became covered in armor. I even fed her ‘body strengthening medicine’ just in case.
“All done. How is it?”
She seemed to like it as her eyes arced to a smile.
“Nuri, this field stretches for about 200 kilometers.”
This floor was fairly simple. We just had to travel through the field and reach the end. Of course, that didn’t mean it was easy. The world looked bright and beautiful from the starting line I was standing on, but the moment I took a step forward, the earth should turn black, the sky should turn red, and unimaginably powerful blasts of magic power should rain down on me.
However, I believed in Sannuri.
“You think you can do it?”
As expected, Sannuri was full of confidence.
Before setting out, there was one last thing I had to do.
I took out the [Special Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.4 Algorithm] from my inventory.
I learned the special skill without hesitation. Since I just experienced Aether’s power firsthand, this skill was worth the investment.
With this single skill, Aether would reach a whole new level of power.
[You acquire Lv.4 Algorithm.]
[Equipment you wield will become stronger and more precise.]
[You can now set or change your body’s physical response algorithm.]
“Algorithm set, Aether, automatic defense.”
[‘Aether’ is connected to your body.]
[‘Aether’ will now defend against hostile attacks on its own.]
“Algorithm set, Aether, skill delegation, [Extraction and Permanent Materialization].”
[‘Aether’ has been delegated a skill.]
From now, Aether should cleverly protect me from any attacks coming my way.
As for its power… I could start testing it now.
I jumped on Sannuri.
“Nuri, run to the end of this world!”
She responded enthusiastically.
Since she was so confident, I wasn’t worried either.
I pulled on her rein.
Sannuri shot forward like the wind, stepping into the field. At the same time, the scenery changed, and arrows began to rain down on us from the distance.
Sannuri zigzagged masterfully, and Aether blocked any attacks that Sannuri couldn’t avoid.
Sannuri reacted to my spirited shout. At the same time, magic cannon shells shot up from the horizon. Their goal was to blow up the ground to force me to stop.
This time, Aether reacted first.
Using [Extraction and Permanent Materialization], Aether crystalised the magic cannon shells before they touched the ground. The explosives were no longer a threat, and Sannuri charged forward without hindrance.
Meanwhile, I stared into the horizon at the ones firing arrows and magic…
“Wait a minute.”
Suddenly, I felt a bit drowsy. Strength left my body, saliva leaked out from my mouth, and the world spun.
‘…Why is there an illusion circle there?’
The moment I laid my eyes on the illusion circle in the distance, my mind fell into chaos.
Normally, I wouldn’t have fallen for such a thing so easily. However, my Thousand-Mile Eyes could see the illusion circle clearer than anyone else, and when the circle entered my eyes, my body stopped. I had to drink a potion to cure myself, but I couldn’t remember which one I needed.
My head turned blank.
I leaned against Sannuri’s back.
Thankfully, Aether’s automatic defense was still working, and Sannuri was unhurt.
As such, I could only trust in them for now. That they would protect me until I woke up…
[Lv.8 Chameleon Troupe’s Hideout]
Prestige’s Players thought this building belonged to a rich NPC. Naturally, it was the best-looking building outside of Medea’s palace.
Currently, a discussion was being held regarding the ‘rest day’ suggested by the Tower’s main guilds.
“Are you also returning?”
Boss asked Jain.
“Yep~ ah, by the way, take a look at this, Boss~”
Jain took out a small box as she grinned ear to ear. The box was filled with shiny jewels.
“…What are these?”
“Jewels I can take out of the Tower~”
Items that could be taken to Earth. Such items were called ‘effective goods’ and were sold for a high price. Most effective goods were ores or gemstones. Jain had bought gemstones from the auction house and turned them into jewels.
“What are they good for?”
“I’m going to keep a few of them for viewing only and turn the rest into necklaces and other accessories~”
“…Ask Hajin to do that for you.”
Hajin’s craftsmanship was far superior to most artisans.
“Ah, good idea~”
“Rather than that, where’s Gyeong and Jin Yohan?”
“Cheok Jungyeong is training his special skill right now. Secret March, I think it was called…? Jin Yohan’s been having fun training a basic skill too, so I don’t think either of them are leaving.”
Boss nodded. Then, she thought about her position for a moment before looking at her messenger.
Extra7: 「Boss, when you get to the 7th floor, don’t skimp out and buy the 5000TP chip. You can go to the bank there and tell them my name. I left a currency called Cash for you, so you’ll be able to buy the 8th floor ticket immediately.」
While Boss was typing up a response with her inexperienced fingers, Spartan’s eyes suddenly shot open.
Jain jumped at Spartan’s sudden shriek and fell on her butt.
However, Spartan’s rampage didn’t stop.
“W-What’s going on? What’s wrong with him?”
Taken aback, Jain blocked her ears and tried to drown out the sound. On the other hand, Boss calmly examined Spartan.
Not only was Spartan shrieking, but he was also pulling on her clothes. He seemed to want to take her somewhere.
Then suddenly, Boss was struck with a bad feeling. She quickly opened her friendlist and looked for Extra7’s location.
[Current location – ???F]
Question marks. It meant he was at least on the 7th floor. Spartan seemed to be going crazy because he had lost his connection to his master.
“…Don’t tell me.”
The small ripple in Boss’ heart quickly grew bigger.
“Jain, wait for me here.”
“What? Why? What happened?”
Boss didn’t reply.
She put on the most serious expression she’d had in 3 years and tore up the ticket to the 7th floor.
Magic power undulated like falling cherry blossom petals.
A longsword transformed into several blades, stabbing a black bear. Neck, stomach, arm, leg… the parts of the body touched by the longsword immediately froze cold.
The bear’s injury would have easily been critical for a human.
Even so, the [Lv.6 Gem Black Bear] moved. It brandished its claw to wound its opponent.
A longsword clashed with its claw.
On the moment of impact, the magic power condensed around the longsword exploded once again. KWANG—! The explosion swept the black bear’s face, putting an end to the fight.
Immediately afterwards, Chae Nayun wiped off her sweat with a sigh. A mountain-sized bear promptly fell next to her.
A one-on-one victory.
The monster she had been chasing for two days had finally been killed.
Speed of growth was indeed unimaginably fast inside the Tower.
Chae Nayun turned back without much thought when a system window popped up.
[Pick up the items, will you?]
Chae Nayun turned around, hearing the system message. Indeed, an item list was projected above the bear’s corpse.
“Oh right, thanks.”
She thanked the system and put the items into her inventory.
[Lv.5 Invitation Letter to the Love Room]
—You can summon a chosen Player to your location. Note, you cannot be in a battlefield when using this item.
[Lv.3 Infinitely Multiplying Origami Letter]
○Lv.3 Delivery of Feelings
—You can send a letter to a Player whenever you wish.
[Lv.6 Gem Black Bear’s Gall Bladder]
—Eating this will probably increase your stats.
Consumable items that randomly dropped from monsters such as the [Heart-Piercing Magnifying Glass] and [Card of Fate] often had amazing and mystical effects.
“…Are any of these good?”
At least for Chae Nayun, the item drops this time didn’t seem all that useful. She didn’t want to summon anyone, and she didn’t want to send any letters either.
“Guess I’ll sell everything other than the gall bladder…”
When she was about to take her leave, she was struck with a sudden flash of insight. Rather, she remembered the reason she entered the Tower of Wish in the first place.
Chae Nayun looked at the [Invitation Letter to the Love Room].
—You can summon a chosen Player to your location.
Its description made her think of only one person.
After staring at the item with trembling eyes, she clenched her teeth with a light sigh.
“I don’t know his nickname anyways.”
Faulting her stupidity, Chae Nayun began to walk back to her companions. She left the Dark King Mountain Range and headed towards the Hot Spring of Peace.
Soon, she discovered Yi Jiyoon and Kim Suho, who were busily chatting by the hot spring. She was about to call out to them when she overheard their conversation and quickly hid herself.
Kim Suho had a surprised expression. Next to him, Yi Jiyoon was making a mischievous face.
—Wow… ha… ha.
Kim Suho then returned an astonished laugh.
‘What are they talking about…?’ Chae Nayun wondered. However, the words that followed prevented her from speaking out.
—Hajin really came to see Chae Nayun?
—Ah, quiet! Keep your voice down. It’s still a secret….
I opened my eyes.
To my surprise, I was looking at an unfamiliar ceiling. It was okay that the ceiling was unfamiliar, but why was there a ceiling on floor 8-1?
And why was I lying down on such a comfy surface?
Looking around, I realized that I was on a bed. There was even a blanket over me.
‘Where am I? There isn’t a system alert, so I couldn’t have died.’
At that moment, a low, scary voice rang out. I glanced towards the direction of the voice. A muscular man was standing by a door.
“…Who are you?”
“If it were up to me, I would have let an outsider like you die outside, but…”
The man began to mumble about something that had nothing to do with my question. This guy… he was a proper NPC.
“Consider yourself lucky. The Ironblood Duchess wished to keep you alive.”
I asked with genuine curiosity. Who the hell was that?
“Er, who’s… or rather, where am I?”
“This is the Crevon Frontier.”
I fell into greater confusion.
Crevon? That was the name of the second residential area, a civilized world with magic and science. Furthermore, the ‘World’s End Bridge’ I needed to protect was also located at the eastern end of this residential area.
“How is your body?”
The NPC suddenly asked how I was doing. Before replying, I checked the NPC’s information fist.
[Lv.8 Royal Guard]
“Ah, yes, I’m fine….”
“Then get up. Ironblood Duchess wishes to see you.”
I got up without much thought. Since I was unhurt, I wanted to satiate my curiosity first – finding out how I came here and about this ‘Ironblood Duchess’.
When I came out to the hallway, I suddenly remembered about Bucephalus. She was most likely 80% of the reason I was alive.
“Where’s my horse?”
“In the stables.”
“…Is she getting along?”
“No, all the other horses were kicked out by her. She’s quite a violent one. She’s galloping around the front lawn right now.”
Considering her personality, I wouldn’t have believed him if he said she was getting along with common horses. Only a horse on a similar level like Red Hare should meet her eyes.
In any case, I followed the NPC and walked forward.
But even after walking for several minutes and opening door after door, no end came to sight. Was I in a maze, or was this a prison? After passing through dozens of doors, I finally arrived at a giant door.
“It is my honor!”
The NPC guiding me greeted the two knights guarding the door.
[Lv.12 Moonlight Knight]
The two knights in full platemails lightly nodded in response.
“…You may leave.”
The NPC backed off respectfully. After he left through the door, the knights grabbed the doorknob.
“The Ironblood Duchess wishes to…”
—Geez, just let him in already.
Before the knights could carry out the formalities, an annoyed voice rang out from the other side of the door.
The knights coughed awkwardly, then opened the door.
“You may go in.”
I walked through the door.
Despite the flamboyant decorations on my way here, the reception room was rather informal and empty. In the center of the room was a long wooden table, and a person was sitting at its head.
When she spoke, my mind blanked for a moment.
I couldn’t think of anything as though the neurons in my brain were malfunctioning.
“Where’s your reply?”
Slightly brown skin, athletic figure, and a beautiful foreign look.
The woman sitting in front of me was unfamiliar yet all too familiar.
“…Heh, I’m… hehe, the Ironblood… hehe, Ironblood Duchess.”
I stood dumbstruck in front of the woman who introduced herself as the Ironblood Duchess.
How was she here? She was someone who shouldn’t be here!
As my head spun with countless questions, she continued.
“Don’t tell me you forgot about me?”
I didn’t reply.
I was incapable of understanding what was going on.
“We went to the same school together.”
The questions filling up my mind all boiled down to a single one.
How was she here?