—…Isn’t this Chae Nayun?
While sleeping with a comfortable blanket over her, Chae Nayun heard a familiar voice. Startled, she shot her eyes open.
She saw two faces in front of her.
“…What are you doing here?”
“I can’t believe you were sleeping.”
It was Yi Yeonghan and Kim Suho. They were looking down at her and laughing. Their faces weren’t hidden, though she didn’t know whether it was because Mystery Shuffle had ended or if they took off their veils.
“What are you guys doing here?”
“…What do you mean, the shuffle is almost over. We’re looking for our teammates right now.”
Chae Nayun collected her breath and looked around. Nothing but desolate shrubbery and weeds were around her. It was felt like what just happened was a dream.
“So, what’s up with that robe?” Yi Yeonghan pointed at her and asked.
Chae Nayun tilted her head, “What robe?”
“The one on top of you.”
“What are you talking about….” Chae Nayun looked down at her body. Then, she saw the cloth that was covering her. It was a mysterious robe that was as soft as silk yet as hard as a piece of armor, as heavy as steel yet as light as a feather.
“W-Whoa, it’s a level 7 item!!”
Hearing Yi Yeonghan’s excited cry, Chae Nayun checked the robe’s item description in a daze.
[Lv.7 Robe Crafted by a Master Craftsman]
○Lv.7 Shock Absorption
○Lv.6 Magic Power Resistance
○Lv.6 Haste Seal
○Lv.5 Low-grade Magic Power Amplification
It really was a level 7 robe. Seeing this, Chae Nayun was reminded that what had happened wasn’t just a dream.
Chae Nayun recalled a faint memory from the robe.
—Wait just three years.
Kim Hajin whispered with a soft voice to her groggy consciousness before a warm healing energy enveloped her.
“Hey, where did you get this? Do you want to sell it to me? Why don’t you trade it for mine?”
Chae Nayun pushed Yi Yeonghan away and got up.
“A robe like that doesn’t suit a longsword user like you. But it’s perfect for a brawler!”
As Yi Yeonghan kept blabbering, Chae Nayun sent him a strong glare before wearing the robe.
He said to wait three years.
But I’m not going to keep on waiting.
Even if I have to use my family’s power, I’ll uncover the truth myself, go back to you, and return this robe….
“I’m telling you, this is perfect for a brawler! I’ll give you my entire savings. My. Entire. Savings. Oh, I also have an Effective Goods Selector that I haven’t used. I’ll add that on top!”
“Geez, go away, you leech.”
I opened my eyes slowly to a fancy ceiling. A red background with gold embroidery; it was probably the special compartment’s ceiling.
A husky voice woke up my drowsiness. I tilted my head slightly to the side. As expected, Cheok Jungyeong was standing there.
“Argh, my head….” I clutched my throbbing head and asked, “What happened?”
“What do you mean, ‘what happened’?”
Cheok Jungyeong held up a book.
[Lv.1 Ultimate Skill Acquisition Book – Energy Blast]
From the looks of it, Mystery Shuffle seemed to have ended.
“You slept through it, weakling.”
“…Oh, you got the Energy Blast?”
Energy Blast. It was the skill that everyone was familiar with from a certain TV show. Although it sounded simple, it wasn’t to be underestimated. Just as its name suggested, Energy Blast used ‘energy’, which included both magic power and physical power. It was a high-class skill fully deserving of the ‘ultimate skill’ status, and it could display a heaven-shocking power depending on the user.
“Why, you want it?”
“No, you should learn it.”
Someone like Cheok Jungyeong was the perfect fit for it. I couldn’t even imagine what kind of devastation his Energy Blast would cause.
“Yes, it’ll be amazing in your hands.”
But to my surprise, Cheok Jungyeong glanced at the skillbook then shook his head.
“It doesn’t suit me.”
Though that’s what he said, he still put the skillbook in his inventory. I guessed I would be able to see him shouting, ‘Energy Blast~’, very soon.
It was then that I recalled how I came to faint. Of course, it meant that I remembered the words I said to Boss.
The shock she felt must have been intense for her to make me faint instantly. It was probably too late to give an excuse either.
I quickly raised my body.
“On the balcony.”
Cheok Jungyeong pointed towards the right corner of the special room. The special compartment, which had three bedrooms and a living room, also had a balcony.
I looked at the door with the sign [Balcony] written on top. Boss was beyond the door, staring at the outside scenery.
I slowly walked over.
I knocked on the door and observed her reaction.
But she didn’t react even after a long time.
Because she didn’t react to my second knock either, I opened the door without waiting for her to let me in.
Boss was sitting on a stool on the balcony and watching the night sky outside.
I carefully sat down next to her, then looked up at the same scenery she was watching.
The moon was hidden behind dark clouds, and not a single star existed in the sky.
Boss was staring at total darkness.
I called her, but she didn’t reply.
I called her again. Again, she didn’t reply.
“I’ll call you until you answer me.”
Only then did her shoulder flinch. She asked with her sight fixed in the sky.
It was just a single word, but I could feel the distress she was feeling. I picked my words carefully and asked something ordinary first.
“How long was I asleep?”
“…About a day.”
‘That’s pretty long,’ I murmured to myself and looked outside once more.
The scenery outside changed along with the movement of the train. Although the sky was nothing but darkness, mystical landscape unfolded below.
Passing by illusory sceneries that couldn’t exist on Earth, the train would climb to the 26th floor.
From then, it would be Kim Suho’s turn to shine.
The rest of us would probably have a hard time killing even a weak underling.
The upper floors were a stage set solely for Kim Suho, the wielder of the holy sword and the ‘True Hero’ who followed the path of righteousness.
While I was thinking about the scenario that would unfold in the future, Boss suddenly asked, faking nonchalance.
“Do you remember what happened before you fainted?”
However, a hint of anguish and distress was left behind in her voice.
I nodded silently.
“…How long have you known?”
“It’s been some time.”
Boss fell silent. It looked like she was unable to say what she wanted to say.
So, I tried to answer the question she swallowed in her heart.
“On the 20th floor, this was what my doppelgänger said, ‘find the cause of my loneliness’. It resonated with me deeply.”
The synchronization caused by this meeting linked me to Kim Chundong and affected my subconscious. Of course, I had no plans to explain this to Boss.
“Yes, and… the Kwang-Oh Incident.”
I brought up the Kwang-Oh Incident. At that moment, the sole source of light appeared in the sky above. It was a single star.
“I must be its sole survivor.”
As I said that, a strange sensation came over my body.
Although I was the one saying it, it felt like I wasn’t.
Because of this sensation, I stopped talking for a moment and stared at Boss’ eyes.
I had stayed by Boss for a long time. We shared all sorts of experiences and feelings. So I felt like I understood what she was feeling right now. She was scared. Boss was rarely even flustered, but currently, I felt like she was scared.
From this tiny reaction, I could guess what had likely happened. It fit the plot as well. Boss was probably the one who killed Kim Chundong’s parents…
As soon as my thoughts reached that conclusion, my body began to heat up. A spark of ember blazed inside me.
“No matter what Boss did in the Kwang-Oh Incident…”
This wasn’t my feeling.
This world wasn’t a novel, and I wasn’t a character in a novel.
I was Kim Hajin, not Kim Chundong.
As such, I refused to accept feelings that weren’t mine.
“…I won’t hate Boss just because of it.”
I simplified many things into just one sentence.
I didn’t fault her for killing Kim Chundong’s parents.
I didn’t care if it came off cold.
Even if it seemed forced, I planned to push it forward.
I no longer wanted to lose the relationships I built and the people I came to meet.
“Boss must have been young back then too.”
With both hands, I grabbed Boss’ small hand, which was cold and trembling.
“So don’t feel guilty because of it.”
Boss tried to pull her hand back, but I didn’t let her. I squeezed it tightly and kept it in my hands. Then, I unleashed Stigma’s magic power.
Stigma’s magic power rose up softly and healed Boss’ hands.
Two streaks of Stigma flowed out, erasing the scars and calluses on her hands. Boss looked at me with widened eyes.
“There’s one thing I want to ask though.”
I looked at her in the eyes.
“What’s your name?”
And I demanded the greatest trust she could offer me.
Was it too sudden? Boss stood blankly in a daze.
After a long time, she asked with a quivering voice.
“Yes, I’ll keep it a secret from the other members.”
I vaguely remembered hearing Bell calling her name.
In fact, I already knew her name.
But the important thing was to hear it from her personally.
“I-It’s so sudden….”
Boss looked at me with her shaking eyes. Then, she looked up with a face of determination. A lone star was shining in the sky.
“Byul? It’s a single character?”
Boss nodded silently. I smiled.
“It’s a pretty name.”
After a firm no, Boss hesitated. Was she trying to tell me her last name, too? I looked back at her, slightly nervous.
Boss took a deep breath and, in a quiet voice, told me to keep this an absolute secret.
“My last name is…”
But because she mumbled too quietly, I couldn’t hear her well.
“What’s your last name again?”
Hearing me ask again, Boss sighed.
In other words, her full name was Yi Byul. 
“It’s an ugly name, right?”
Now that I knew her full name, I would probably write, ‘Yi Byul grumbled’, if this were a novel. Of course, in the real novel this world was based on, I never would have reached this point because I had stopped writing.
“No, it’s a pretty name.”
I smiled faintly.
“Then, Yi Byul-ssi?”
“My name is Kim Hajin.”
Hearing this, Boss furrowed her brows.
“…Do you think I don’t know that?”
I shook my head.
“It’s just that… I don’t want you to forget it.”
The dark clouds in the sky went away and a white moon radiated its light upon us. Under the cold moonlight, Boss’ disheveled hair entered my sight, along with the dark circles under her eyes and skin wrought with exhaustion.
Just how much distress did she suffer through in a day?
Feeling sorry, I formed a comb with Aether.
“Let me comb your hair. It’s been a while.”
Boss nodded and entrusted her body to me.
I stood behind her and gently combed her long hair. However, her body was stiff. Seeing that she was still agonizing over her guilt… I suddenly had a mischievous thought.
It might seem rude, but we were technically the same age.
She could surely take this as a joke.
I cleared my throat and whispered into her ear.
“How is it, Byul?”
At that moment, to my surprise, Boss reacted strongly and fiercely.
To describe her motion with words, it was like a fish that came out of the water.
Her movements were too powerful for a mere fish, but that’s just what it was like.
[Four days later, 8-3F, Crevon’s Eastern Castle Walls]
With most of the Rankers having left Crevon for the upper floors, Crevon’s situation turned for the worse.
The outer walls had fallen, and there were less Players to combat the more powerful monsters. To make matters worse, there was even an internal political strife among the Atalos Royal Family. It had been caused by the crown prince being poisoned to death.
“Soldiers, line up!”
Even in such a situation, Rachel was doing her best as Crevon’s special army commander. She healed wounded Players and soldiers with the help of dozens of elementals, blocked large-scale attacks with barriers, and shot out sword strikes and elemental attacks left and right…
Without Rachel, monsters would have already reached the heart of Crevon.
“Things aren’t looking good. We’ll have to abandon the outer post.”
This was Ah Hae-In’s advice. Ah Hae-In was already preparing to recall her divine beast. Although the Black Turtle performed magnificently in the battle, it was exhausted by the endless waves of attacks. If this continued, it was only a matter of time before they were defeated.
Rachel clenched her teeth.
She hated the current situation. As soon as the crown prince was assassinated, she put up many posts on the Community, asking for help as the Atalos Royal Family was in a state of emergency. However, despite the debt owed to Crevon, the Rankers didn’t move. Furthermore, even non-ranking Players raced to the 20th floor after finding out that its most basic rewards were ‘unique skillbooks’ and ‘ultimate skillbooks’.
Ah Hae-In spoke again. However, Rachel shook her head.
“Our efforts would have been wasted if we can’t protect this place. Since we can’t expect reinforcements from the west, the east, or the royal family, monsters will reach the city and cause a massacre. At least half of the eastern side will be destroyed.”
Ah Hae-In couldn’t say anything to Rachel. The girl, who was raised with responsibilities to shoulder, now tried to shoulder the burdens of the weak without realizing that she herself was still a child.
Ah Hae-In wasn’t sure whether to call her immature or overly mature.
Ah Hae-In sighed, while Rachel opened her messenger and quickly typed a message.
「Hajin-ssi, Crevon is under threat…」
But she stopped before sending the message.
She had already received too much help from him. She didn’t want to inconvenience him any further.
She turned off her messenger.
No, she tried to turn it off.
To her dismay, she accidentally clicked her [Send] button instead.
I wasn’t even finished writing… She thought.
However, the endless flood of monsters charging in gave her no time to correct her mistake, and she was forced to call her elementals to fight.
A life-and-death battle then ensued.
…Then, 15 minutes later, a huge shade suddenly descended on the blue sky.
The shade covered the entire eastern castle wall region. The blazing sunlight disappeared, and all soldiers including Rachel looked up at the sky.
“What is that…?”
There, they saw a monstrosity.
—Genekelope’s Support Battlecruiser: operational.
In Crevon’s lofty sky, a giant vessel shot up, covering the sun.
—Commencing airstrike on Ship Commander’s command.
Artillery appeared on the deck of the ship.
Rachel couldn’t tell whether they were friend or foe, but it didn’t take her long to breathe a sigh of relief, as the vessel immediately began to rain fire down upon the monsters.
They were not mere magic bullets but cannon shells and lasers with highly-concentrated magic power. The 8th floor’s monsters were thus easily swept away by the fruit of science and magic, crafted to combat the 16th floor’s demons.
The train was still running.
There were other events after the Mystery Shuffle, but most didn’t require Players to participate. During this time, I stayed in the special compartment and focused on making ‘Medea’s Dress’. Before I noticed, the train had arrived on the 21st floor.
[21F, Card Kingdom]
The 21st floor was a residential area where everything happened through the power of cards. Technically, this place, the Card Kingdom, was a homage to a certain TV show where cards materialized and came to life.
The train would stay here for four days, so I went out for a quick tour.
[Pinnacle-grade Card Shop]
My first destination was the Pinnacle-grade Card Shop. I came with Cheok Jungyeong, who was itching for something exciting to happen after staying in the train for a long time.
“Do we have to buy something like this?”
Countless cards were on display inside the luxurious card shop.
Cheok Jungyeong furrowed his brows as he stared at the cards in the shop.
“Isn’t it fun?”
[Players need cards to stay on the 21st floor.]
[Certain cards will be very useful for Players.]
I was curious how the co-author materialized the brief notes I wrote in my settings book. Since the train would stay here for four days, I decided to make the best use of my time.
“Random card box…? Wow, another random box? This god damn world.”
At that moment, Cheok Jungyeong said something that instantly grabbed my attention.
I ran up to him with sparkling eyes.
[Grade-1 Random Card Box]
[Price – 40,000TP]
[Contains 4 cards that are intermediate-grade or above. Players can only buy a maximum of five boxes!]
Here, I found the gambling and luck I loved so much.
“Give me five of these.”
Ignoring Cheok Jungyeong’s shocked remark, I paid 200,000TP and sat down on a table in the shop.
“Crazy, you’re crazy. You really paid 200,000TP for these things?”
“Shut it. Don’t come crying to me about being envious later. Now, let’s see….”
I slowly opened the boxes.
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