Chapter 201. Damned Long Story (3)


Fifteen layers of barriers were torn apart in less than a second, and the arrow shot down like a bolt of lightning and struck the ground. Immediately, a huge explosion erupted. The nearby wind pressure swirled in like a storm then shot outward while creating a high-temperature pillar of fire.
KWANG—!
Another explosion then erupted inside the pillar as the ‘vengeful spirit grenade’ tied to the tip of the arrow activated.
….
…Afterwards, a breathtaking silence was the only thing left where the arrow descended.
The entire area turned to ash, making no sound and leaving behind only a hot fog.

I calmly stared at the area devoid of both sound and wind.
…Soon, time passed, and the fog subsided.

“Whew.”

Even after being bombarded by several explosions, the World’s End Bridge was unscathed. However, the group of Djinns who were attempting to cross the bridge were gone without even a single trace of them left behind. As expected of an attack that used 3.5 streaks of Stigma, it had done its job fantastically.

Since I attached a vengeful spirit grenade to the arrowtip along with Stigma’s magic power, Kim Hakpyo should have died at least once unless he had a defensive skill on the level of a [Special Skill].

“Argh.”

The problem was that I overworked myself as well.
Almost six months had passed since the last time I used so much of my Stigma at once, so I felt exceedingly enervated. The scenery around me was spinning, and my stomach churned.

“Auu….”

I sat down on the ground and gripped the Orb of Regeneration. It was the only thing I could rely on as the world spun around me.
At that moment, Spartan flew down and sat on my shoulder.

“….”

I didn’t even have the strength to say anything and hoped that he wouldn’t bother me too much.

—Pieeek

Then suddenly, Spartan unleashed his magic power. As if to recover my expended stamina and energy, his magic power enveloped me warmly. It was like I was in the Hot Spring of Peace once again.
…Wait a minute.

“Oh, right.”

I shouted the trigger word to enter the waiting room. Although the feeling of moving through space made me a bit nauseous, the place I arrived in was wonderous.

[Welcome to Lv.7 Extra7’s Waiting Room.]
[Vitality will recover 50% faster here.]
[Magic power will recover 50% faster here.]
[Light injuries will be healed naturally, and the waiting room’s clear air will loosen up tense muscles.]

My waiting room was different than most. It was 16 times bigger than most Players’ waiting rooms, the floor was made of marble, and the interior was decorated with a luxury bed, couch, and other pieces of furniture I personally crafted. A portion of the room was even set aside for Sannuri to run around and play.
Ignoring the other amenities in the room, I went straight to the [Miniature Hot Spring of Peace].

“Ahh, amazing….”

Fully relaxed inside the warm water, I let my body loose and restored my lost energy.

**


[8-1F, Field of Trials]

A longsword hung behind Chae Nayun’s back as it was too long for her to hold by her waist.

“…I’m ready.”

The wind blew against her face as the Dwarven Supercar sped forward. Standing as she faced forward, Chae Nayun held the hilt of her sword.

“Go for it.”

With Yi Yeonghan’s encouragement, she unsheathed the sword. Sssssk— The longsword made its appearance with a metallic sheen. At the same time, blue magic power surfaced on the blade.
To Chae Nayun, concentrating magic power around an external object was now as easy as moving her finger.

Chwaaaaa…

A wave of arrows shot up, dying the sky black like a flock of starlings. Even so, Chae Nayun stood fearless. With full force, she swung down her longsword.

“—!”

She let out a spirited shout with her teeth clenched, and the magic power concentrated around her swordblade roared.
BOOM—!
From her sword, a crescent moon-shaped sword qi shot out, burning the arrows in the distance cold.

Soon, the sky returned to its clear self.

“…Damn.”

Yi Yeonghan muttered in astonishment. Chae Nayun’s sword qi had engulfed the enemy’s attack entirely. But that wasn’t it. Chae Nayun didn’t stop and continued to shoot out wave after wave of crescent sword qi. As the enemy attack didn’t carry magic power, they simply turned to ash.

After a few waves of their attacks were voided, no more arrows came their way. It seemed they had given up.

“I heard you devoured the curse with your magic power, but this….”

Seeing Yi Yeonghan who was about to die from shock, Chae Nayun made a wry smile.

In any case, the Dwarven Supercar safely reached the end of the field. There, a 6-meter-tall metal fence was blocking their way. In truth, the fence was better described as a castle wall as watchtowers and artillery units stood behind it.

“Didn’t we succeed?”

“I think so… where’s Aileen-ssi?”

While Yi Yeonghan and Kim Suho were murmuring, the fence began to descend underground. Startled, Kim Suho backed off.
Jiing….
A man in a full plate armor appeared from behind the fence.
Kim Suho and his party members checked his name first.

[Lv.??? Kipha]

An NPC whose level wasn’t shown. It was clear that he was much stronger than most NPCs.
Kipha scanned Kim Suho’s party with a heavy gaze and then nodded.

“You have the qualification. Your entry shall be permitted.”

With that, Kipha turned around and left. Kim Suho’s party looked at each other in confusion then followed after Kipha.

Behind the fence was a narrow pathway, which Kim Suho’s party followed. Not long afterwards, a mystical scenery unfolded before their eyes – a floating staircase that continued endlessly into the sky.
It was clearly the pathway to the next floor.

[8-2F, Ten-Thousand Staircase to the Temporary Fortress]

“This is the Ten-Thousand Staircase. You’ll be able to reach your destination at the end of it.”

“….”

Kipha’s explanation was short and simple. Climbing the staircase didn’t seem complicated either. However, Kim Suho was curious about one thing. Kipha. While he was walking, he had been thinking about this name. The knight’s Eastern look and armor also helped to confirm his suspicion.

The legend of this man was recorded in the ancient Silla’s epic, Praises and Songs. He was most likely Silla’s Flowering Knight, ‘Kipha’, whose tale was still passed down to the modern day.

“…Will I be able to come back to this floor?”

Kim Suho was in awe at being able to meet one of his personal heroes. At the same time, his desire to exchange swords with him grew.
Kipha looked at Kim Suho straightforwardly. There was no shaking in his eyes.

“If you want.”

That was enough of an answer for Kim Suho.

“Thank you.”

Kim Suho bowed lightly and began to catch up to his companions who had gone ahead.

“Ah~ It’s going to take forever to climb all these stairs.”

“We don’t need to walk.”

Kim Suho took out his Dwarven Supercar once again.

“Eh? You can ride that thing up stairs?”

“Yep.”

The Dwarven Supercar was unaffected by terrain. Kim Suho shouted with confidence, “Get on!”

**


Same time. Ironblood Duchess’ Mansion.

After 13 spars in a row, Boss and Tomer were having lunch together. They had no idea who each other was just a week ago, but perhaps because they both knew Kim Hajin, a friendly atmosphere surrounded them.

“It’s better for me if you talk casually. You’re older than me too.”

“…Kuhum, if you say so.”

They quickly figured out how to address each other. Looking at the beauty in front of her, Tomer made a light smile.

“So, what’s your relationship with Kim Hajin?”

“Hm?”

Boss, who was picking up a lobster tail, suddenly stopped.

“I’m just curious.”

Tomer shrugged.
Boss narrowed her eyes and stared at Tomer suspiciously. She thought back to when Kim Hajin hugged Tomer, their strangely close relationship, and how Tomer was showing keen interest in him….

“I’m purely curious, really.”

She didn’t seem to be lying.
Boss smiled bitterly and let out a small sigh.

“Our relationship… is just between a boss and a subordinate.”

That was the only explanation she could think of. But if she had to explain it in greater detail, she would undoubtedly say that she was ‘greatly indebted to him’.
Of course, there were still many things she didn’t know about him. She wasn’t even sure what was the truth.
Did she kill Kim Hajin’s parents? Did Kim Hajin know about it? And if he did, why was he still staying by her side?
Boss didn’t know the answer to any of the above questions.

‘If only I had an item that could read people’s hearts….’

Because of this, Boss agonized every night, thinking about methods to apologize.

“I see. Well, I figured from the way he called you Boss.”

“….”

“Ah, but why do you talk like that? It’s kind of boy-ish.”

Tomer casually asked about how Boss talked. In fact, this was something Jain often pointed out as well. But there was a good reason for it. Boss’ speech pattern, choice of words, and even habits had all come from the previous boss of the Chameleon Troupe.
Of course, it wasn’t done on purpose.
It was just that it sunk into her as she constantly told herself that she had to be like the previous boss.

“….”

Boss remained silent. She wasn’t a talkative person in the first place. Her sole quirk was that she was quiet.

“Was that too personal?”

Tomer didn’t ask further and gestured at the food on the table.

“Go ahead, you must be hungry.”

“…Okay.”

Boss accepted her offer.
Although Kim Hajin’s food was better, she enjoyed the clean and savory taste of the high-quality meat in front of her. After that, the two of them were silent. Only the sound of utensils clacking could be heard. After 30 minutes, when they were finishing up the meal, Tomer made a casual offer.

“Oh right, try a chant.”

“…A chant?”

“Yep. You know, a spell chant like the ones magicians usually do.”

Boss tilted her head. As far as she was concerned, chants were a cumbersome show that only magicians used.

“The Tower has different laws than the outside world. Skills are directly affected by chants. Even a simple one can have a huge effect on the output of a skill. It doesn’t need to be long and grand like magicians’ chants. For example…”

Tomer muttered quietly.

“Mi, luz.”

At first, nothing seemed to have changed. But soon, Boss’ eyes widened. Chairs, table, and every dish on it had floated up by about 50 cm.

“Detailed Psychokinesis makes it hard for the outside eyes to notice it.”

Tomer grinned. The floating objects then floated down.

“With a simple chant, I just increased the power of Psychokinesis by 50%. You should try it too.”

“…I can just say whatever I want?”

“No, it has to be something that’s meaningful or important to you. I guess you could say… ‘Kim Hajin, my love’?”

“What?”

Boss frowned at Tomer’s lighthearted joke.
Tomer snickered and waved her hands.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

“…I don’t like jokes like that.”

“Okay, I won’t do it again.”

Tomer nodded and suddenly took out a pamphlet.

“What now…?”

The word [Martial Tournament] was written on the cover.

“What’s this?”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like. Try to get first place. The reward is amazing.”

Tomer smiled mischievously.
Boss wasn’t pleased as she looked at the pamphlet.

===
[1st place prize]
1. Emotion Potion
2. Ancient Black Drake’s Leather
3. Thought-Piercing Magnifying Glass or Inefficient Glove
4. 30,000TP
===

“I can guess what the others are, but what is this emotion potion?”

Boss asked while making it sound like she was murmuring to herself. Tomer gave a simple explanation.

“You can think of it as a love potion.”

“Love potion?”

“Yep, make Kim Hajin drink it. If you set the potion’s target to you… voila! He will…”

Tomer stopped halfway as Boss’ face had contorted to a frightening frown. She looked like the Rakshasa or Asura from Hell. Tomer had an instinctive feeling that she would have to give up on parts of her mansion to tease her any more than this.

“I’m kidding~”

She backed off for now, but Tomer had experience making mischief.

“But isn’t it better than someone else taking it?”

Tomer, who was the primary culprit behind making Rachel and Kim Hajin’s relationship awkward in Cube, also wanted to tease this woman known as Boss.

“What if some strange woman takes the potion and uses it on Kim Hajin~?”

“….”

Boss remained silent at Tomer’s monologue. However, the slight trembling in her eyes showed that Tomer’s teasing was successful.

“Okay, I’ll be leaving now~”

Tomer left feeling content with herself.

**

[8-3F, Crevon Mainland]

Another week passed by.
During this time, many Players arrived in Crevon Mainland, and I had to go back to wearing my hooded robe everywhere.

“…Lady Aileen, cheer up. It’s been a whole week. Forget about it and move on.”

Even in the restaurant I just entered, there were many familiar faces. One was ‘Aileen’, and the other consoling her was ‘Jin Seyeon’.

“But… why does this keep happening to me… I’m just curious….”

Aileen was slouched down on the table, seemingly in tears.
‘What was wrong with Aileen? Did something happen?’ Curious, I strained my ears.

“Anyways, we’re not going to the 9th floor, right?”

The topic quickly changed, and Yi Yongha asked the other members.

“Are you talking about the bridge that Black Lotus is protecting?”

Jin Seyeon asked. News about the ‘World’s End Bridge’ had gotten famous recently. The public forum and even news stations outside the Tower were all reporting on the archer protecting the pathway to the 9th floor. I also gained 200 SP as a result.

“Yep. For the record, I refuse to go even if I die. Haha, I don’t want to die even once, you see. I promised my wife.”

Yi Yongha scratched his neck and made a wry smile. His words, which could be taken as a sign of fear, were taken by Jin Seyeon positively.

“I agree. Six parties challenged the bridge and they all failed. It shouldn’t be any different even if we go. For now, let’s focus on getting stronger.”

I breathed a sigh of relief as I was quite scared of Aileen’s party.

“Auu, auu, auuuuu….”

At that moment, Aileen began to squirm and flop her arms. She wasn’t even drunk, so what was up with her?

“You’re right~ What can an idiot who always loses her money even do~ I should just go die….”

“Come on, just forget about it. There are lots of ways to make money on this floor.”

“…Like what?”

“Martial Tournament, Craftsmanship Tournament, Smithing Tournament… there are all sorts of events on this floor.”

Jin Seyeon took out a pamphlet from her pocket and read out the contents. Aileen glanced at it as well.

[Crevon Martial Tournament], [North River Craftsmanship Tournament], [South River Smithing Conference], [Magic Seminar], etc…
Not only did Crevon have various tournaments, but it also had a bunch of random events. Of course, most of them were skipped in the original story, but things were different now.
Tiring—
At that moment, my messenger rang.

PhantomThief: 「Hajin, it’s ‘Phiunel’, right?」

It was from Jain.

「Yep.」

No matter how powerful Stigma was, it was impossible to stop Players from reaching the 9th floor forever. Since Players’ growth speed would accelerate in Crevon, I wouldn’t be able to restrain them for long.

「Keep an eye on what he’s doing.」

As such, I planned to take what I could from Crevon until the day Players broke through me.

PhantomThief: 「Okay~ I’m following him around as one of his maids right now.」

I got up from my seat. After paying for my meal, I was about to leave the restaurant when I felt Aileen's eyes glance over me. Her sharp gaze made me wary for a second, but her next words made me breathe a sigh of relief and continue on my way.

“…I wonder how much that costs~”

**


“…I wonder how much that costs~”

Aileen murmured enviously.

“What are you talking about?”

Jin Seyeon asked.

“The guy that just left was wearing this nice robe… it was so pretty… it looked like it had a magic power amplifying effect too.”

“Oh, the man that was sitting over there? I saw him too. He caught my attention as soon as I walked in.”

“Right? Ah, if only I didn’t lose my money.”

Aileen let out a heavy sigh. Jin Seyeon smiled wryly, then looked at Shin Jonghak who was busy looking through the Community.

“Oh right, Jonghak-ssi, is it true that Chae Nayun joined some group?”

“Huh? Ah, yes.”

Shin Jonghak nodded and continued.

“The entire Essence of the Strait did. Since the pathway to the 9th floor is blocked, it seems they’re focusing on earning TP.”

“Is that so? Aren’t the NPCs on this floor powerful? Will we be able to compete with them?”

“Surprisingly so.”

Shin Jonghak displayed the post he was reading on the public forum.

“[Outsiders receive special treatment… Crevon’s high-level NPCs are absurdly powerful, but Players are stronger than most NPCs…]. So it’s like that. By the way, Essence of the Strait already has a client.”

“Already?”

“Yep.”

Shin Jonghak glanced at his messenger and nodded to himself.

“The client’s name is ‘Phiunel’. From what I hear, he’s a rich businessman from the South River region.”

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