I ran to the colosseum. Today, various events were planned on top of the martial tournament’s final match, so the colosseum was already packed.
Finding Boss amidst the crowd wasn’t easy even for me.
My vision changed the moment Stigma’s magic power flowed into my eyes. Like a satellite, I was able to look down on the entire colosseum from the sky. Thanks to this, I quickly found Boss. She was walking to her waiting room.
I chased after her, running like crazy. I grabbed her shoulder and abruptly stopped her. Her widened eyes stared at me in surprise.
We stared at each other blankly.
Boss didn’t say anything, and I didn’t know what to say.
I collected my thoughts calmly. If Boss’ opponent was Bell, then Boss would engage the battle with a sharper fighting spirit.
Would Boss be able to beat Bell? I doubted it, as I had seen Bell’s Gift with my own eyes.
His Gift was likely Magic Power Body, the Gift I wrote in my settings book but never implemented in the story. The reason was simple. It was simply too overpowered.
If that really was Bell’s Gift… Boss should never be able to defeat him.
After much thought, I decided to try out [Demon’s Cunning Speech]. It probably wouldn’t work on someone as strong as Boss, but the skill was also affected by how much trust the target (Boss) had for the user (me). To my knowledge, Boss trusted me quite a lot.
“…Why don’t you just forfeit and go to the 15th floor with me? There’s something we need to do together.”
Unfortunately, the magic power emanating from my words scattered before entering Boss’ ears.
“What are you doing?”
Feeling what I did, Boss’ face froze cold.
“What did you try to do just now?”
I smiled bitterly and scratched my head.
‘What should I say in this situation? Just let her fight and cause a scene when something dangerous happens? No, the colosseum had heavy security, especially during a fight. Princess Araha was here too, so causing a scene might get me banned from entering Crevon ever again.’
“…Ah, well, it’s nothing much. Just something I learned recently.”
After much thought, I decided to stay with Boss.
“If it worked on you, I was going to put in a hypnotic suggestion.”
“Yes, to tell you to do your best.”
It was a poor excuse, but considering our relationship, it wasn’t that strange. What was wrong about a subordinate worrying about his boss?
“But I guess it doesn’t work. Alright, let’s go to the waiting room together.”
I walked to the waiting room with Boss.
After entering the large waiting room, we sat down on the couch together. I bit my nails and thought, ‘if this battle happens, then it’s likely that it won’t end until one of them dies….’
I suddenly thought of a good method.
Stigma’s magic power could persist for 30~40 minutes after leaving my hand. So if I gave Boss an item with anti-magic attribute… no, Boss probably wouldn’t take it given her personality.
I clicked my tongue. It was then that Boss’ black glove caught my eyes.
“Boshy-ssi, the final is in 5 minutes.”
Before Boss got up, I gently held her gloved hand.
Boss widened her eyes and looked at me. We met eyes as I secretly infused Stigma’s magic power into her glove. Obviously, I gave it the anti-magic attribute.
“W-What are you doing so suddenly?”
I needed some time since I was putting a little in at a time. Looking at the flustered Boss, I murmured, “I’m cheering you on so you don’t lose.”
It was then.
[Ah… We’d like to apologize to all the guests present. We’ve just been notified by the participant ‘Yeokma’ that he would like to forfeit the match. Instead, an exhibition match between ‘Boshy’ and ‘Lü Bu’ will take place.]
I blankly looked up at the speaker on the ceiling.
I turned back to Boss and stared at the hand I was holding.
“You can let go now.”
I hurriedly let go.
[13F, Area of Rest, 49:03:02]
A familiar clock ticked above.
Aileen’s party resumed climbing the Tower as soon as Crevon’s calamities were taken care of, and it wasn’t long before they reached the 13th floor.
The theme of the 13th floor was ‘rest’.
The quick-witted Jin Seyeon noticed that sleep was the challenging part of this floor. Currently, they had not slept for over 50 hours.
“Is Desolate Moon doing okay?”
Jin Seyeon asked Shin Jonghak. Talking was the best method of preventing sleep. Everyone forced themselves to talk so that their eyelids remained open.
“Of course, they wouldn’t be one of the world’s best guilds if they were doing poorly just because they were missing me.”
“…Yeah~ You sure are great~ So~ Great~”
Aileen mocked Shin Jonghak’s proud reply. She was partly oversensitive from the lack of sleep, but it was also because she hated Heroes from guilds. In her eyes, guilds were, in the end, for-profit businesses created by individuals or countries.
“Ah, I’m dying to sleep. I can’t just sit here anymore. I’m going to go work out.”
Aileen shot up and skipped over to the room next door.
Jin Seyeon turned to Aileen.
“Don’t sleep, Lady Aileen.”
“I won’t, don’t worry.”
“Keep the door open.”
Aileen glared at Jin Seyeon and left the door she was about to shut half-open. Jin Seyeon carefully observed Aileen through the gap.
Not long afterwards, Aileen’s small body began to do push-ups.
“One, two, three… uk, eighty-six, eighty-seven… uk, one-hundred forty, one-hundred forty-one….”
“Guess I don’t have to worry about her.” Jin Seyeon muttered and faced Shin Jonghak once again.
Was it because her brain was half asleep? Looking at Shin Jonghak, she suddenly thought that it was perhaps time to tell him her true feelings. After all, they’ve been in the same party for a long time now.
“…Shin Jonghak-ssi, what do you think about your grandfather?”
She first asked about Shin Jonghak’s grandfather, who she knew he was proud of. In her mind, Shin Jonghak was the type of person who liked to brag about his family background.
“Yes, Hero Shin Myungchul. Many people still honor him for his hand in stopping that calamity.”
Jin Seyeon was then surprised by Shin Jonghak’s reaction.
“If you’re asking about the twilight of his life… I can only say that I still don’t understand it.”
Shin Jonghak closed his eyes and recalled the faint memory of his grandfather he had in his mind.
‘With great power comes great responsibility.’
Those were his grandfather’s words. Apparently, it was from a comic book about heroes in a time when heroes didn’t exist. His grandfather, Shin Myungchul, deeply carved those words in his heart. In the end, he saved humanity by sacrificing his life.
But during this process, he had to abandon his grandson who loved and respected him.
“Even if Grandfather didn’t sacrifice his life, the calamity would have been stopped. There are many strong people in the world, after all.”
The hero who tried to carry everything by himself died, and the heroes who didn’t lived.
The young Shin Jonghak resented it. If only his grandfather would sacrifice his life to save the world, then why did the title ‘Nine Stars’ exist? Where were the other eight?
“Grandfather should have lived. He should have stayed in this world to do far greater things.”
To Shin Jonghak, his grandfather, ‘Shin Myungchul’, was the true hero.
Jin Seyeon didn’t ask any further.
Shin Jonghak didn’t say any more either.
Silence filled the air between the two.
“Can I ask a more sensitive question this time?”
“…Are we playing the truth game or something?”
Tired, Shin Jonghak defaulted to his usual sarcastic tone. He quickly realized his mistake and flinched, but he didn’t correct himself. Thankfully, Jin Seyeon didn’t seem to mind.
“You can say so. If you’d like, I can answer your questions too.”
“…Then you can start.”
“What is Nayun-ssi to you?”
Jin Seyeon went straight to the point. Shin Jonghak frowned, but Chae Nayun’s name made him recall the fond memories he had with her.
…At first, he thought of Chae Nayun as the only girl worthy of him. The only family that suited Jinsung was Daehyun. That was the worthless thought he had.
But as time went by and he got to know Chae Nayun more and more, he stopped caring about those things before he noticed. He simply enjoyed the time he spent with Chae Nayun.
When he was with her, he felt like the weight on his shoulders was lifted.
The world that was always grey put on color when she smiled. No, it became even brighter and colorful.
“…She’s just someone I like.”
Because of this, he hated the damned wolf who took away her genuine smile.
“Then it’s my turn next. Do you have a family?”
Shin Jonghak asked a sensitive question on purpose. Jin Seyeon hated revealing any information about her family.
“Of course. My father was also an excellent Hero.”
But perhaps they were only rumors. She spoke with a perfectly calm face.
“My mother passed away while giving birth to my younger brother. My younger brother then died of an illness when he was 3.”
“Uh, you don’t have to go that far….”
Feeling sorry, Shin Jonghak averted his gaze. Jin Seyeon smiled gently.
“Oh right, take this.”
She took out a small bead from her pocket.
“An effective good. Hold this orb and set a goal. The greater the goal, the greater the reward you get when you achieve it.”
Shin Jonghak checked the item info.
[Lv.??? Orb of Hope]
○Lv.??? Set Goal
—Set a goal you wish to achieve.
○Lv.??? Achieve Goal
—When you achieve the goal you set, this orb will change into an item befitting the goal.
“I obtained two. I figured I should give one to you.”
Shin Jonghak glanced at Jin Seyeon, then put the orb away cheerful. After all, effective goods were hard to come by.
“Thank you. By the way, what goal did you set?”
Jin Seyeon didn’t answer Shin Jonghak’s passing question. Shin Jonghak looked at her, tilting his head. Jin Seyeon took out her own Orb of Hope and squeezed it tightly as she muttered.
“To take revenge. That’s it.”
Jin Seyeon’s wish was different than what Shin Jonghak expected. It didn’t suit her at all. Someone who’s so devoted to volunteer work wanted to take revenge?
“Perhaps you could say an ‘encounter’ is what I want…. I have a reason to meet someone no matter what.”
Jin Seyeon had a ‘reason for meeting’ deep in her heart. She believed that as long as she kept wishing for it earnestly, she would meet who she wanted to one day.
Of course, no one could guarantee whether the result of this meeting would end with her happy smile.
It was then.
A loud noise rang out from the room next door. Startled, Jin Seyeon and Shin Jonghak turned around. A shocking scene unfolded before their eyes.
Jin Seyeon muttered with a sigh.
“She must have fallen asleep while we weren't looking….”
The cause of the commotion was, of course, Aileen.
She was quietly wailing while disheveling her beautiful, white hair. The magic power emanating from her sadness devastated the cabin room she was in.
“…Um, Lady Aileen?”
Aileen didn’t reply to Jin Seyeon.
With her mouth wide open, she began to cry, and her tiny hands slammed down on the floor.
What dream did she have?
Jin Seyeon ran up to Aileen and held her as she would a child. Aileen hung onto Jin Seyeon’s arm and began to cry even louder.
“Don’t cry, don’t cry…. Jonghak-ssi, do you have anything sweet?”
Jin Seyeon patted Aileen’s back and asked. Shin Jonghak took out a half-eaten piece of chocolate from his pocket.
[15F, Genkelope’s Abandoned Vessel]
I returned to the 15th floor alone. A dark, eerie scenery of space greeted me. The empty passageway was darkness itself, and a puddle of water splashed up every time I took a step forward.
…To be honest, I was too scared to walk through it alone, so I summoned Spartan and Sannuri.
“Good. Keep chatting.”
I continued walking while listening to Spartan and Sannuri chat.
The 15th floor was similar to hopscotch.
The vessel was divided into 6 parts. To conquer one part, one had to finish many quests and expend a huge amount of TP. Though, in the original story, everything was summarized by saying ‘Kim Suho transferred this authority to an NPC.’
Using the Book of Truth, I identified the most important part of the vessel. [Area 3], located in the right side of the vessel, had many hibernation capsules, and NPCs were sleeping inside it. They were easy targets for me to wake up and order around.
“Let’s go, guys.”
I ran forward with Sannuri and Spartan. Meanwhile, we sensed several eerie auras, causing goosebumps to rise on our arms, but we did our best to ignore them.
Then suddenly, an alien creature appeared in front of us and blocked our path.
[Lv.12 Alien Host]
Its black carapace had holes all over its surface, and venomous fluid dripped from its large claws and tail. No other word described the creature other than ‘grotesque’.
Startled, I immediately fired at it with my shotgun.
The shotgun shell turned it into several chunks of meat. Its blood and venom splattered on me, but Aether released a barrier to protect me.
“Collect the venom.”
[You obtained ‘Alien Host’s Venom Crystal].]
Afterwards, I went back to running. The vessel was designed like a maze, but working through mazes was my specialty. It didn’t take long until I arrived in [Area 3].
I opened the tightly shut door and walked inside. The alien creatures following me from behind stopped in front of the door.
I let out a sigh of relief and wiped off my sweat.
Spartan and Sannuri also walked in, seemingly making fun of me in the process.
[Turning on power…]
[Activating spatial defense and isolation…]
[There is 3% fuel remaining.]
[Fuel can be purchased with TP.]
It was a scenery that far surpassed what modern technology allowed.
The floor was made with some sort of a carbon alloy, and complicated machines for controlling the vessel were in the center of the room. Lined up around the walls were oval hibernation chambers.
First, I checked on the NPCs sleeping inside the hibernation chambers.
[Grade-5 Navigator Liole]
[Unlocking condition – 15000TP or Quest Key]
[This NPC will follow the Player who wakes him up.]
“Mm, it’s the same.”
Thankfully, nothing changed from my original settings. Of course, I didn’t plan on paying any TP. I took out the [Mystic Key] from my inventory with a smile.
Thanks to all the item experience coupons I got from Tomer, the Mystic Key had now become level 7.
I put the key inside the hibernation chamber and twisted it 180 degrees. The hibernation chamber of [Grade-5 Navigator Liole] immediately opened.
I ignored the navigator who woke up with a deep breath and continued to wake up other NPCs. Altogether, I awakened 8 navigators of various grades.
[Grade-1 Captain – Honer]
[Unlocking condition – 300,000TP or Calamity Core or Clearing a Specific Quest]
[This NPC will follow the Player who wakes him up.]
As expected of the captain of the ship, Honer couldn’t be woken up even with the Mystic Key.
‘Can you withstand this?’
I surrounded the Mystic Key with two streaks of Stigma’s magic power and jammed it into the hibernation chamber once again. ‘If you can withstand this, I’ll acknowledge you….’
As expected, the hibernation chamber was unlocked.
After Captain Honer was… a [Chief Technician], [Chief Scientist], [Elite Doctor], [Army Commander], and more.
“It’s going to take me an entire day to get through everyone….”
I murmured with a sigh and looked around. The NPCs I woke up were staring at each other in confusion.
…On the other hand, in an outpost constructed near a Central Asian grassland.
Inside this state-of-the-art building constructed with the full effort of numerous magicians and agents, the [Essence of the Strait] team was looking around the surroundings and waiting on standby.
—The Association only set four guidelines. First, guilds can only enter with the permission of the Association. Second, guilds are prohibited from fighting each other. Third, guilds are to select their own ‘areas’. Fourth, guilds are not to drag out any fight.
Currently, 13 core members were gathered inside the outpost’s conference room. From a holographic screen, Yoo Yeonha’s briefing was underway.
—As such, Essence of the Strait sent in 35 members. Three of them learned a skill called [Mass Teleport] from the Tower, so in the case that anyone is injured or in danger….
The briefing continued, but Chae Nayun was unable to focus at all. She rummaged through her pockets, not paying attention to Yoo Yeonha.
—…Oh right, highest quality potions have been prepared for you all, so feel free to use them however you want. Good luck, everyone.
“What are you fiddling around with?”
As soon as the Chief Strategic Officer Yoo Yeonha finished speaking, Kim Youngjin asked Chae Nayun.
“If it’s a withdrawal symptom from not smoking, you don’t have to hold it in. Just go outside and smoke.”
“No, it’s not that….”
Chae Nayun scratched the back of her neck and didn’t give any explanation. What she was fiddling with was a certain ‘ticket’.
Kim Youngjin stared at Chae Nayun with an odd look, then asked in a nice tone.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes? Um, what’s up all of the sudden?”
“…The 13th floor. I heard you gave up midway.”
Last week, Chae Nayun and Kim Suho’s party, ‘Kimchipay’, challenged the 13th floor. However, they had to quit halfway. The 13th floor was too challenging for Chae Nayun, whose happy memories were clear.
“I heard you cried a lot—”
Chae Nayun interrupted Kim Youngjin.
“W-What? Bull what? You know I’m your superior—”
“I-It’s because you’re saying weird things!”
Chae Nayun shouted as she shot up.
“I’m going to the toilet!”
Chae Nayun quickly ran away.
Inside the quiet women’s bathroom, Chae Nayun let out a light sigh as she looked at herself in the mirror.
“…I bet it was Yi Yeonghan, that bastard, again.”
What happened on the 13th floor was one of her darkest recent memories. After hearing that one just had to rest for 100 hours, she lounged around until she accidentally fell asleep. It didn’t take long for a nightmare to strike her.
…But, could she really call that a nightmare?
A happy future she never dreamt of unfolded before her eyes. When she woke up and returned to the harsh reality, she cried because the reality was too cruel.
Even after knowing which side was reality, her tears didn’t stop, and her trembling body seemed to be rejecting reality. In the end, Kim Suho took it upon himself to give up midway.
Chae Nayun turned on the faucet and doused her head in cold water. Then, she murmured in a teary voice.
“Why did Kim Hajin appear there….”
At that moment…
A gasping sound rang out in one of the toilet stalls.
Chae Nayun flinched. ‘Was there someone else here?’
“Who is it!?”
Dripping water from her hair, Chae Nayun quickly ran to the toilet stall and kicked the door open.
Inside was a girl she knew well.
It was Yi Jiyoon.
Chae Nayun knew she was in trouble the moment she saw her and thought seriously.
‘She must have heard what I just said. Should I smack her head real hard and make her lose her memories?’
…However, the need to do so disappeared soon.
She found out that doing so wouldn’t solve the problem.
A familiar voice rang out from Yi Jiyoon’s smartwatch.
Yi Jiyoon was on the phone with Essence of the Strait’s Chief Strategic Officer, ‘Yoo Yeonha’.