“Who are you?”
A soft voice rang out from behind my back. Thinking about it now, it was all too familiar.
It was then that I realized who it was and breathed a sigh of relief. I also found out why Aether didn’t activate. Aether’s automatic defense system judged and detected ‘killing intent’ and ‘hostility’ and reacted accordingly.
The fact that Aether remained silent meant that the person behind me was an ally.
Being confident of my analysis, I turned around.
Jain, who was disguised as a man, was standing there.
“Huhu, did I surprise you?”
“Yes, a lot.”
Stealth and Disguise. Jain’s abilities were truly suited for her personality.
Jain smiled mischievously and continued.
“How’s my disguise? I tried to copy the guy you told me to be.”
Blonde hair, a slightly thuggish appearance, a short height for a man, and a cute look unbefitting a demon. She looked exactly like Phiunel’s subordinate, whom I had investigated beforehand.
“Don’t surprise me like that next time. Stay put until I message you even if you’re bored.”
Jain disappeared along with that answer like a true phantom thief.
I calmed my beating heart and entered the entrance leading to the ‘secret room’. A demon who was pretending to be a guard was standing in front of it.
“Oi, who are—”
Aether shot forward before he could even finish his sentence and pierced his neck. Black blood splurted out along with an unsettling gargle.
The demon didn’t die. I took out a dark ore arrow from my inventory and ascertained his death. I had long grown used to such trivial murder.
I turned the silver candle hanging on the wall behind him. The wall then moved, revealing a small, dark pathway.
I needed to prepare myself before going downstairs. There should be two powerful demons waiting for me there.
After taking a breath, I took out several highest-quality potions from my inventory, each glowing a different color.
[You consumed a Dwarven Potion of Courage.]
[You consumed a Dwarven Potion of Vitality.]
[You consumed a Dwarven Potion of Wind.]
[You consumed a Dwarven Potion of Stone.]
I consumed four potions simultaneously. Their effects were instantaneous. The muscles in my body roiled, and adrenaline rushed through my brain from the amplified power.
Through ‘doping’, I gained a total of 3 points in all stats.
Although it would only last 15 minutes, I wouldn’t have to worry about being weak for this duration.
I took out the Desert Eagle.
Handguns were especially powerful up close.
After fusing Aether with the Desert Eagle, several system alerts popped up.
[Aether fused with the ‘Desert Eagle’.]
[Special Skill ‘Algorithm’ activates.]
[Aether’s neurotech chip activates.]
[The Desert Eagle’s output will increase in proportion to your physical stats.]
This was an extra ability Aether learned when it fused with me.
When Aether and the Desert Eagle fused, it would form a ‘biological weapon’ whose power changed depending on my stats.
I learned about it when I completed a mission as Fenrir last time I went back to Earth. From what I could tell, the anti-material sniper rifle’s power was no less than my dark ore arrows.
[The Desert Eagle utilizes 50% of Aether.]
But since Aether would lose its defensive functionality if it was completely focused on offense, I only distributed 50% of it to the Desert Eagle.
With this, I was ready.
I took the pathway down with the Desert Eagle in hand. As expected of creatures taking after devils, a door appeared after exactly 66 steps. I took out the demonic energy crystal and crushed it.
The door reacted to demonic energy and opened.
“Oh, you’re here. Kteron’s Mantra is he— what?”
Aether shot forward on its own just like last time. The only difference was that the enemy was quick to react.
He released demonic energy and blocked Aether. His widened eyes had turned black before I noticed.
“Who are you—?”
I immediately raised my handgun. The demon in front of me was close to Lv.14. If the fight dragged out, I would be at a disadvantage.
I pulled the trigger only thrice.
The three bullets I shot out struck the same spot.
The first bullet carried an anti-magic property, breaking the barrier of demonic energy surrounding his body.
The second bullet carried a piercing property, which tore a hole through his tough skin.
The final bullet carried an explosive property, digging into his body and causing irrecoverable damage.
The first battle ended in the blink of an eye. However, there was another demon left.
Demonic energy burst out from his body, surrounding both of us. His demonic energy storm seemed to have a lifestealing ability.
However, I didn’t need to defend or avoid it.
I changed the Desert Eagle into its shotgun mode and aimed it at him. Aether blocked the demon’s demonic energy on its own, using [Extraction and Permanent Materialization] to turn demonic energy into crystals. Although my spirit power was being drained rapidly, I was in no pressure to pull the trigger.
The shotgun shell blasted out and obliterated the demon.
The underground secret room was now empty.
Only silence filled the dark atmosphere.
I quietly walked forward and checked the items.
[Lv.13 Crane Feather Fan]
[Hwai’s Sword Technique]
[Unique Skill Acquisition Book – Lv.?? Clockhand of Fate]
[Lv.12 Serpent Dragon’s Scale]
The most eye-catching item was undoubtedly the [Unique Skill Acquisition Book]. Although it looked like an old, run-down book, it was certainly worthy of taking my sole ‘unique skill’ slot.
[You acquired the unique skill, ‘Lv.?? Clockhand of Fate’!]
[The Roulette of Fate activates for the first time!]
[The unique skill’s skill level will be randomly chosen… (the maximum possible level is 10)]
[You acquired Lv.8 Clockhand of Fate!]
Although it wasn’t the highest it could have been, I was more than satisfied. Now, I just had to leave.
I put the remaining items in a bag, as such treasures could not be stored in the inventory.
[Crane Feather Fan], [Crystal Rose], [Fiendish Flute], [Da Vinci’s Hat], [Prometheus’ Wisdom], etc…. Each item was worth at least 150,000TP.
Once the items were fully packed, I left the secret room and shouted.
At the same time, Spartan cut through the sky and landed on the ground, even breaking a window in the process. I gave the bag to Spartan.
“Take this back to our hideout.”
Spartan flew into the sky with the bag in hand. Thanks to the weight-reducing magic I put on the bag, Spartan was unaffected by the bag’s weight.
And that was it for this operation.
My body loosened up. The moment I breathed out a sigh of relief…
…Someone appeared from the foot of the staircase.
It was most likely a guard.
I wasn’t that surprised, given how much presence he was emitting as he walked.
I turned around without much thought.
Then, I immediately had to cancel what I said about not being surprised.
“I found someone whose identity is unknown, over.”
She was holding a longsword. From the luster on its blade, I could tell that it was well-made, and the blade seemed sharp enough to slice through pretty much anything.
The guard was looking at me with narrowed eyes that were all too familiar to me.
“1st floor hallway, over. Check the location, over.”
She was talking to someone. It seemed the mansion had some sort of system to detect intruders. Or perhaps it could be the doing of an elemental.
“Right, over. The first floor, over.”
I looked at her intently. Her unshaking sword was pointed at me, and I could see her unique current of magic power undulating at the tip of her blade.
However, she likely couldn’t see me. She didn’t have the ability to see through my hooded robe and mask. Even her ‘intuition’ shouldn’t be able to see through the equipment I made with painstaking care.
“I don’t have to say over? Got it, over. Ah, uh, okay.”
She was still a little dumb. Was it because she was lacking the Homer’s Ring unlike in the original story? I smiled bitterly and looked at Chae Nayun.
“I’ll suppress him for now. I don’t need reinforcements.”
She tried to swing her longsword as she said that. Although it was a clear sign of hostility, my body refused to move. In fact, the world turned blurry, as though time had stopped.
With a spirited shout, Chae Nayun swung her sword. A crescent sword qi with a shocking amount of condensed magic power shot out. It flew towards me with the intent to cut me in half, but I remained standing still.
The attack that should have cut me in half was defended automatically by Aether. The fierce wind from the attack caused my robe to flutter.
In that instant, Chae Nayun’s eyes trembled.
She might have been surprised that her attack was stopped, or perhaps she saw me underneath the robe.
Regardless of what the reason was, she voiced out.
Her hands were trembling, and the sword in her hand naturally did the same.
She began to examine me from top to bottom as if to search for something that wasn’t visible.
Wind blew in from the window Spartan broke. A gentle breeze parted Chae Nayun’s hair, and my eyes clearly captured her face.
On the outside, she wasn’t that different from the past.
“…Who are you?”
The wind carried her voice into my ears.
With a trembling voice, she was talking to me.
However, I couldn’t say anything. It wasn’t because of my beating heart or the shock from the sudden reunion. It was simpler yet more complex than that.
Furthermore, this place just wasn’t the right place for our reunion.
Violet light seeped in from the outside, and an explosion suddenly erupted.
At the same time, I felt a certain urge, and Aether did exactly what my urge wanted.
Tssss— Aether shot out and pulled Chae Nayun toward me.
She missed the timing to resist, and her longsword also fell out of her hands.
Soon, something touched my chest.
While our clothes were touching, Aether formed a barrier around us.
I used Stigma’s magic power to strengthen it further.
Immediately afterwards, a storm of demonic energy shook the world.
The explosion was only momentary, and the world regained its original color soon after, but we stayed in the same position.
The mansion hallway was littered with debris from the explosion. In the midst of it all, I was still holding onto Chae Nayun, while Chae Nayun was staring at my chest.
Then suddenly, I felt her body stiffen.
Soon, she should slowly raise her head and look at me. I couldn’t let that happen.
…Chae Nayun’s eyes slowly crept up.
I raised my left hand and covered her eyes.
Her voice rang out.
I sensed certainty in her tone.
I was afraid to let her continue. But I didn’t know how to stop her either. I panicked, which hindered my rational and logical thought process. I condensed Aether on my right hand.
I had to stop Chae Nayun from saying anything more than that.
I currently only knew one method.
A clear striking sound rang out.
A sharp scream followed.
I had smacked Chae Nayun’s head with Aether, and Chae Nayun fainted after being caught off guard by the sudden strike to her head.
My mind blanked, but the screams of people in the mansion soon snapped me out of my daze.
I didn’t have time to stand still.
I quickly messaged Jain.
[I’m done here. Start the operation.]
[8-3F, Crevon Mainland]
The demons attacked. Gargoyles appeared in the sky while giants and Yatas, who were both warriors of the demon race, appeared on land.
They had used multiple [Mass Teleports] for this sudden attack.
However, Crevon’s army was quick to react. Although the royal family didn’t place the army at the grand mansion where the banquet was held, as the surrounding streets were heavily guarded, Crevon’s soldiers were able to quickly arrive to the frontlines.
Furthermore, the famous ‘Flying General Lü Bu’ and ‘Lancelot of the Lake’ were guarding the prince and princess. Not even the demons should be capable of breaking through them.
But because the demons’ goal wasn’t to conquer Crevon, Phiunel watched the scenery of war with happiness.
His plan was progressing smoothly. Now, the demons would only have to raid the mansion, and a perfect crime would be achieved.
At that moment, someone flung the door to his room open.
Phiunel put on a worried look which turned into that of confusion when he saw who had come in.
“Yoten? What’s wrong?”
Blonde hair, a slightly thuggish look, and height that was short for a man. It was Phiunel’s secretary who had come as his reinforcement from the demons.
Phiunel furrowed his brows at Yoten’s desperate shouting.
“What happened? Aren’t things going well?”
Yoten took in several deep breaths and then shouted once again.
“T-The items in the underground secret room all disappeared!”
“H-Hurry downstairs and see for yourself!”
Phiunel forgot his old age and ran like a stormwind.
He raced from his office on the 7th floor to the secret room in just three minutes and almost received a heart attack upon seeing the empty room.
Phiunel rummaged his pockets instinctively.
As long as he met the thief once, he should be able to look him up in the Directory.
However, he didn’t have the time at the moment.
“Yoten! Contact the higher ups immedi… huh?”
Phiunel turned around before getting the Directory out.
He then saw Yoten standing right in front of him with a treacherous, sinister smile.
“…Yoten? What is the meaning of this?”
“Ah, you see…”
Phiunel suddenly felt heat rising from his chest. As his pupils dilated from pain, Phiunel glared at Yoten, who was stabbing a dagger into him.
Phiunel was not lazy when it came to personal training. However, the opponent’s magic power was thoroughly destroying the magic power connecting his cells.
Phiunel placed his hand on Yoten’s neck, feeling nothing but anger and betrayal. He wanted to strangle Yoten, but he was left without any strength.
“Your use ran out, old man.”
Phiunel gritted his teeth and glared at the man in front of him with blood in his eyes.
“Don’t be so mad. It would be more foolish of me to trust you when you lived in human society for 60 years.”
Yoten pulled the dagger out.
Blood splurted out, and Phiunel stumbled forward.
Yoten grinned and pulled up Phiunel by his hair.
Yoten brought his dagger upto Phiunel’s neck.
“Goodbye, old man.”
…At that moment.
A sudden explosion blew up the surrounding walls. The wind pressure sent Yoten flying, and the woman who suddenly appeared quickly suppressed Yoten.
“W-What!? Who are you!?”
Yoten struggled under the woman’s grasp, but the woman responded mechanically as though she were acting.
“I. am. a. guard. protecting. her. employer.”
As Phiunel’s consciousness faded away, he heard the woman’s exchange with Yoten.
He suddenly thought that his life was sturdier than he initially thought.
‘I picked a good guard…’
…Whispers rang out in a quiet basement.
“Um, Boss, it’s over now. Can you let go ~?”
“The old man’s already fainted.”
“…You didn’t kill him, right?”
“Yup, I avoided hitting any vital organs.”
Boss let go of Yoten, who was Jain in disguise.
This was the extent of Kim Hajin’s plan.
He decided that it would be a waste to kill Phiunel, and thus came up with this plan.
“So we’re going to rip him off now~?”
Jain chattered with a bright smile.
Now, Phiunel and the demons would have misunderstandings about each other.
Phiunel would cut off contact with them, thinking that he was betrayed, and the demons would equally take this as Phiunel betraying them instead.
As a result, Phiunel would inadvertently fall to the side of humans.
“Well done, Jain.”
“You came in at the perfect time, too~ Your acting skill needs some work though. Want me to kiss you?”
“Try it if you’re not afraid of dying.”
“Oh right, Hajin told me to bring an item called ‘Directory’. Let’s see….”
Jain rummaged through the fainted Phiunel’s pockets and stole a little notebook.
[High difficulty, second tutorial, nameless ocean’s nameless island.]
[Seven days after the start of the second tutorial.]
“Oh… so we can’t eat summoned monsters.”
Yoo Yeonha murmured in disappointment, hearing the idea she presented be shut down. Growl— Her stomach roared as she hadn’t eaten anything for four days.
“Of course not. I’m more surprised that you even thought that was possible.”
Ah Hae-In glared at Yoo Yeonha who suggested eating her summoned beast. Even if she was starving, how could she think of such a cruel thing?
Without any other choice, Yoo Yeonha got up from her seat.
If she didn’t want to starve to death, she had to move when she could.
The theme of the second tutorial was ‘survival’.
Although Yoo Yeonha had heard about the second tutorial outside the Tower and had made ample preparations, she was unfortunately placed on an island without any material to make a fishing rod. In addition, swimming to another island carried too big of a risk.
As such, Yoo Yeonha only glared at the sandy beach.
After standing in a daze for about 10 minutes… her eyes caught a faint movement in the sand.
She found a fat crab.
Unlike Yoo Yeonha, Ah Hae-In didn’t seem all that excited.
Yoo Yeonha followed the crab’s movements as though her life was on the line.
‘Stay calm. You learned how to catch seafood with your bare hands. To catch a crab, timing was the most important… now!’
However, Yoo Yeonha couldn’t even get near the crab.
She stumbled on a rock and fell down because of her weak physical stats.
Ah Hae-In guessed the outcome from Yoo Yeonha’s scream and continued staring at the sand.
With her strength restricted, she found it difficult to summon even a simple creature.
Even so, Ah Hae-In stared at the hole she had dug in the sand.
This was the Singularity Point training method. By focusing her concentration on a single point, she was preventing her magic power from wavering subconsciously.
“…Come, come, come to me.”
Ah Hae-In felt like she was only focusing for five minutes but 60 minutes had passed in real time. Afterwards, a small creature that looked like a baby seal squirmed out of the hole. It looked like it could easily catch fish once it grew a little bigger.
“I did it!”
Then suddenly, Yoo Yeonha’s voice rang out.
Ah Hae-In turned around and found Yoo Yeonha hugging a huge fish.
“I, I caught one! Duchess Ah Hae-In! I… uwoah!”
While running over with a happy smile on her face, Yoo Yeonha tripped on a rock.
Her time stopped for a moment.
‘Don’t, don’t tell me. Did the fish I just caught enter the water again…?’ Yoo Yeonha raised her head with despair in her mind.
Thankfully, the fish was flopping around on the sand.
“Well done, Yeonha.”
Ah Hae-In complimented Yoo Yeonha and picked up the fish.
“A glossy seafish… looks like we’ll be having a feast tonight. You can leave the fire to me.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Yoo Yeonha returned a happy smile.
Ah Hae-In grinned and started a campfire with her magic power.
…30 minutes later.
Yoo Yeonha and Ah Hae-In sat in front of the campfire drooling with saliva.
When the fish finally finished cooking, Ah Hae-In separated the meat from the rest of the fish and split it in half.
Yoo Yeonha looked at the glossy seafish in her hand and took a huge bite.
It was the tastiest food she had ever had. It felt like the entire universe was exploding in her mind. The fish dancing inside her mouth made her realize what it meant to be alive.
“It’s… it’s so good…”
“Right? It must taste better because you caught it yourself.”
Yoo Yeonha teared up at Ah Hae-In’s words.
This day, she was enlightened to a new world.