Chapter 209. A Strange Battle (4)


I lied down with my knees on the ground. Professional snipers used all sorts of additional equipment like a tripod, scope, and ear muffs, but all I needed was Aether.
Click—
I aimed my sniper rifle towards the watchtower.
I could see Jain with my Thousand-Mile Eyes.
I was located on a mountain ridge 5km northwest of the World’s End Bridge. Cold wind blew over me and starlight sparkled in the sky.

「Are you ready?」

I messaged Jain who was preparing for the show.

PhantomTheif: 「Yep, I’m good. How much is your bounty again?」

「Crevon offered 150,000TP. Jain-ssi can take it all.」

PhantomThief: 「Ooh~ This is why you’re great. If it was stingy Cheok Jungyeong….」

To me, 150000TP was chump change. That was my daily profit just from Prestige. Though, I received less than 10% of it because of my various charitable works.
In any case, the preparation was finished.
I didn’t reveal my nickname to Jin Seyeon and Aileen. Instead, I let them borrow a rare item called [Lv.4 Infinitely Multiplying Communication Letter]. Just now, Jin Seyeon’s handwriting appeared on my copy of the item.

[We’re standing at the entrance of the bridge.]

I examined the state of my weapon. I brought eight sniper bullets with me, which were magic bullets personally crafted by Prestige’s skilled blacksmiths. Naturally, they were more powerful than factory manufactured bullets.

I infused Stigma’s magic power into the bullets. I didn’t add any special attributes. Magic bullets naturally flew silently and quickly. My Stigma only amplified this natural property of the magic bullets. If I had to modify the names of the properties… it would have to be ‘increased fanciness’ and ‘false bravado’.

[Start.]

After upgrading my bullets with two streaks of Stigma, I wrote the above reply. Then, I took out the Crane Feather Fan.

“Rise, fog….”

The Crane Feather Fan was a treasure capable of controlling wind and fog. By incorporating Stigma’s magic power, I made the Fog of Darkness in the surrounding even denser.

**


[Start.]

The message signaling the start of the operation appeared. Jin Seyeon and Aileen looked at each other, then stepped onto the World’s End Bridge.
This bridge was perhaps the strongest and safest bridge in the entire universe, as it could not be destroyed and damaged.
However, the two Heroes walking on the bridge thought differently. Because of the psychological pressure Black Lotus’ existence placed on them, they were tense and nervous as if they were walking on a thin sheet of ice. The surrounding atmosphere was also eerie. The blowing wind rustled the leaves of surrounding trees, and the end of the bridge was hidden by a dense fog.

“…What skill did he learn?”

Aileen suddenly spoke. As she hated scary things, she took her attention off the eerie atmosphere by asking the question she'd had for a month.
How did Fenrir break her Barrier so easily?
She decided to think only about this until the operation began. She even put a hypnotic suggestion on herself through Spirit Speech.

“How can my Barrier be broken so easily?”

Hearing Aileen’s vexed muttering, Jin Seyeon earnestly replied.

“Fenrir is especially reliant on weapons compared to other Players. Fenrir isn’t the only ability user with this problem. People with weapon-related Gifts all share this common flaw.”

Ability users who could only display their power with weapons. To them, weapons were a ‘necessary condition’ rather than a ‘sufficient condition’.
To most ability users, weapons were a ‘sufficient condition’. For example, Chae Nayun and Kim Suho; no matter what weapon they held, as long as it had the form of a sword, they wouldn’t lose too much firepower. Jin Seyeon could also shoot magic arrows without the use of bows or arrows.

But that wasn’t the case for ability users like ‘Fenrir Kim Hajin’ and ‘Weapon Master Kim Youngjin’. They would be severely weakened without weapons to the point they couldn’t fight without them.
Such special or perhaps inflexible ability users were often created when they lacked the ability to wield magic power.

“I know. I might not look like it, but I placed in the top 300 in theory.”

“Then you should know that this flaw can also become their strength.”

When such inflexible ability users shined, it was usually due to the flaw of their Gift acted as their strength. It was simple. Because their reliance on weapons was high, their battle prowess increased drastically with the improved quality of weapons.
What if Kim Youngjin was given Xiang Yu’s legendary sword Tai’e?[1] Then he would become the Supreme Emperor Xiang Yu himself, as his Gift allowed him to wield all weapons to their extreme.
Fenrir was similar.

“There is no technology in the modern era capable of strengthening guns. Guns also have shallow history, which is why guns are rarely found as artifacts. We don’t have the technology to create guns surpassing the power of artifacts either.”

“…I get it.”

Aileen agreed.
They weren’t on Earth. The Tower of Wish had items and skills that could strengthen any equipment. Fenrir’s Gift had displayed amazing synergy with this nature of the Tower of Wish, and he had managed to elevate the ‘state of existence’ of the weapon known as the gun.
The only question Aileen still had was where he obtained his bullets.

“So he turned his life around with the black ticket.”

“I wouldn’t go that far…. He was doing well even before entering the Tower. Anyways, let’s focus. It’s about to begin.”

Aileen nodded. Black Lotus’ warning arrow should arrive soon.

“…I’m going to focus from now.”

Aileen used Spirit Speech on herself. In that instant, her perception of the world slowed down. The wind blowing past her stopped, and Jin Seyeon’s foot hovered in midair.

Aileen walked, feeling every microsecond in detail. In this state, even Aileen had trouble moving properly. However, it was the perfect state to observe anything happening around her.

Then suddenly….

She felt the flow of air twisting faraway.
Aileen could see it clearly. A wooden arrow was cutting through the air and flying towards them. It was undoubtedly Black Lotus’ warning shot.
Aileen could also see something else. Before Black Lotus’ arrow could touch the ground, a white streak of light was flying forward, tracing the path of the wooden arrow.

It was Fenrir’s bullet… no, bullets. A total of eight shooting stars tailing each other perfectly. The speed of the shooting stars far surpassed the speed of the wooden arrow. The sky turned white as Kim Hajin’s bullets flew at the speed of light.

Frankly, it was a beautiful sight. Aileen opened her eyes wide and watched the mesmerizing display.

Meanwhile, Black Lotus’ arrow still hadn’t reached their location. It was still flying through the air, yet Fenrir’s teeth had reached the nape of Black Lotus’ neck.

In the next moment, the wolf bit off the neck of the lotus.

Then, a white explosion erupted. The magic power condensed in Fenrir’s bullets shot up to a visible degree. Each bullet continued the previous eruption of power, creating a chain explosion that amplified the destructive power of normal magic bullets.

BOOOOOOM….

The eastern mountain ridge roared from the violence brought by the magic bullets. The earth split, and trees crumbled. The mountain ridge shook with pain, having received a fierce attack.
The heavy rumbling resounded. The mountain peak began to crumble down. An avalanche had started.
As expected, the wolf was a thorough hunter. He had destroyed the mountain itself to eliminate Black Lotus’ path of escape and ensure his death.

“Ah….”

The mountain crumbled down under a white light.
Just eight bullets had devoured an entire mountain, which was now left with the bite marks of a beast.
Aileen turned her head and faced Jin Seyeon.
With her Divine Archer Eyes, Jin Seyeon clearly saw Black Lotus being struck with Kim Hajin’s bullets. Although the subsequent explosion covered her vision, she knew Black Lotus had died.

Thud.

Only then did Black Lotus’ wooden arrow fall to the ground.
It all happened in a mere three seconds.
That was the time it took for Black Lotus’ arrow to fly several kilometers and reach the ground in front of them.

“…So?”

Aileen asked nonchalantly. She had quickly calmed down as she had witnessed far more preposterous scenes in her life.

“He died, I think.”

Jin Seyeon picked up the wooden arrow and opened the letter tied to its end.

[I will allow only 10 steps forward.]

It was undoubtedly Black Lotus’ arrow. But now, its owner was dead.

Aileen and Jin Seyeon stared at each other. They exchanged a meaningful look, then mustered up the courage to step forward.
One step, two steps, three steps… ten steps.
The attack they were waiting for did not arrive, and they weren’t stopped in any way.
Black Lotus had died.

[…You arrived at the Door of Calamity.]
[You are the first to open the Door of Calamity. You gain the qualification to defeat the 9th floor’s calamities first.]
[You cannot give up this qualification.]
[The 9th floor’s calamities will now descend to the 8th floor.]

**


I walked down the mountain as soon as I was done. The show met the conclusion I wanted. Thanks to weakening the foundation of the mountain with the Mystic Key, I was able to properly cause an avalanche, and from the looks of it, Aileen and Jin Seyeon didn’t suspect a thing.

“Whew.”

I let out a sigh of relief. Now, all I had to do was sit back and collect SP.
I planned to go back home. But at that moment, the shadow of a human figure jumped out of the darkness. The assassin grabbed me from behind and began to strangle me.

“Iiik!”

I was genuinely surprised but not from the pain of asphyxiation. I had not felt any presence, and the shout was from a girl as well.

“What….”

‘Who is this girl?’ I lightly activated Aether, which easily pushed away the assassin.

“Kiyak!”

The girl fainted after Aether struck her chin.
I rubbed my neck, coughed a few times, and stared at the girl.

“…Who is she?”

The girl was wearing a mask, and her NPC name was hidden as well.
Tilting my head, I unmasked her first.
But I still couldn’t figure out who she was. She just looked too average.

“The heck…”

I became genuinely curious. Her stealth technique was amazing, but her follow-up was too sloppy. Something as simple as stabbing me with a knife would have been much more effective than stupidly trying to choke me.

“…Hm.”

I checked my smartwatch as I should be able to view most NPCs’ information with it.
But to my surprise, there was nothing. Was she too unimportant or was it the opposite?
I couldn’t see any information about her, much less her name.
Feeling confused, I put the girl on my shoulder. She might die if I left her like this, as unimaginable monsters would start pouring in once the 9th floor door opened.

**


1 hour later, Ironblood Duchess’ Mansion.

“So Hajin, why did you do all that~?”

Jain asked. I felt sorry seeing the wounds she had all over her body. Even though she used a puppet for the job, it seemed it had taken quite a toll on her.

“Why not? It’s fun. We also made 150,000TP for free.”

“You’re right, but… well, yeah, money is nice~”

Jain didn’t dig into it even though she seemed to have many questions she wanted to ask.
This was why I liked Jain’s personality.
She didn’t ask questions that made the other side uncomfortable and she never pressured them. She was easy-going and knew how to take a hint.

“Oh, Hajin, your martial tournament match is tomorrow, right~?”

“Yeah, but I’m going to forfeit.”

“Why?”

“Boss is my opponent.”

I couldn’t beat her even if I was killed and born again.
Of course, I had gotten a lot stronger too. I had the confidence to beat anyone inside the Tower, and even in the outside world, I was confident I would be ‘at least’ the high-intermediate rank.
With my strengthened Desert Eagle and Aether together with my newly acquired skills, it would be surprising if I wasn’t at least at that level.

Even so, I couldn’t beat Boss. It was a matter of suitability. No sharpshooter was capable of beating her.

“Boss is going to be disappointed.”

“Disappointed?”

“She was happy she was meeting you.”

“…She likes bullying her subordinates?”

“No, I think she might lose on purpose if you ask~”

I smirked. Boss losing on purpose? I found that hard to believe, considering how much she hated going easy on someone.
As I was about to say something…

Wiiing—!

A loud siren suddenly rang.
It was likely the first outcome of opening the Door of Calamity.
I left Jain behind and quickly ran.
With my gun in hand, I quickly climbed up the stairs to Tomer’s room.

“Hm….”

Tomer was looking down the western castle wall from the balcony of her room. A heavy atmosphere filled the air.
I tapped on her shoulder.

“Yo, Ironblood Duchess.”

“…Oh, you’re here.”

Tomer looked back at me and smiled bitterly.
I walked up and also looked down the western castle wall.
A horde of monsters was rushing towards it. Their eyes were dyed red, clearly mad with bloodlust.
Only an hour had passed since the 9th floor door was opened, but such a change had already occurred. Just as I had suspected, the calamities seemed to be stronger than in the original story.

“They’re surprisingly doing well.”

Tomer’s soldiers were defending the castle wall well. I expected as much from the elite soldiers of the ‘Ironblood Duchess’.

“…Just what are you?”

Tomer looked at me with a piercing gaze and asked.

“What.”

“Are you a prophet or some sort of a reincarnator?”

“…Oh.”

I made a thin smile.
Was it three months ago? I told Tomer to train her soldiers even more strictly than she was doing before so that they could reach at least level 13. I also grilled her to not be cheap and invest money into their equipment.
Tomer didn’t understand why, but she trusted me and did so.
Since the royal family wouldn’t listen to an Outsider like me, I made sure to prepare Tomer’s soldiers thoroughly.

“Are you a reincarnator? No, you must be a Regressor.”

I had earned a strange misunderstanding from Tomer because of it.

“Regressor? As if someone like that could ever exist.”

“Shin Myungchul was one.”

“…Kuhum.”

I scratched my neck. Shin Jonghak’s grandfather, Shin Myungchul, was the world’s only Regressor. Of course, it wasn’t officially confirmed.

“No one knows for sure whether that’s true.”

“It’s more or less an established fact.”

“…Regardless, I’m not a Regressor or anything like that.”

I took out my gun. There was a 1~2km distance between Tomer’s mansion and the castle wall, but such a moderate distance did little to hinder me.

“I can shoot from here. Should I help them?”

“No, leave them be.”

Tomer shook her head.

“They need some real combat experience too.”

Looking at the battlefield, I saw that Tomer’s soldiers were overpowering the monsters. It seemed her hellish training was very effective.

“…Eh?”

It was then. Tomer suddenly let out a strange exclamation.
I didn’t even have the time to ask what.
Tomer suddenly hugged me, putting me in a daze. Something soft had touched my skin.

“Hey, you….”

Before I could say anything, Tomer unleashed her magic power. It enveloped me and burnt something off. Immediately afterwards, Tomer separated herself from my body.

“…What was that? A sudden confession?”

I asked, trying to act unfazed.

“Do I look crazy? There was a tracking spell on your body.”

“…What?”

At first, I thought she was lying to hide her embarrassment. It was hard to accept that Aether was unable to detect a spell that was stuck to my body.
However, Tomer’s expression was serious, and I wasn’t the kind of handsome man who would be confessed to by a girl.
Tomer spoke.

“I didn’t notice until I was up close. It should be Medea’s doing.”

“….”

I suddenly felt a chill run down my back.
Medea.
Indeed, if it was Medea, she should be capable of placing a tracking spell on me without me noticing.

“Be careful, it’s not like administrators can’t kill Players.”

“…But why would she do that? We’re not in a bad relationship.”

“Didn’t you take all her money? Don’t you know that Medea loves money the most? Plus, Medea is in the upper echelons among administrators. There are few who can stop her if she really sets her mind on doing something.”

I became a bit nervous. I knew Medea’s personality better than anyone else.

“If she put a tracking spell on you, you must have really gotten on her nerves. Oh, did you see the Craftsman Tournament? In fact, do you even know what that is?”

I nodded. Of course I knew what it was. I won the grand prize!

“Medea is apparently eyeing the item that claimed first place.”

My eyes shot open.
The Wolf’s Fragrance would soon return to my hands along with the first-place rewards.

“…She is?”

“Yeah. If you can, try to get it for her. She likes receiving gifts and makes sure to repay her debts.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

No matter the case, Medea was an administrator who played an important role in the Tower. Her title, Sorceress, wasn’t for show. Gaining her favor wouldn’t be disadvantageous at all.

“Oh, I forgot to say something.”

I stopped as I was about to leave and told Tomer about the mysterious girl I picked up. She was currently sleeping on the 2nd floor guest room.

“A girl? Okay, I’ll take a look.”

Tomer nodded without much thought, and I opened the door to leave.

“Ah, geez.”

Then, I flinched.
Boss was standing right in front of the door.



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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

EDIT: Returner has been changed to Regressor to avoid confusion.