Chapter 26. Mock Dungeon Trial (3)


“I’m sure everyone knows what kind of a monster Peanut Flames are.”

Peanut Flames were low-rank grade 2 element type monsters. They were named Peanut Flames because they look like tiny will-o-wisps, but on closer inspection, one could see that they were lizards. They were generally the size of an adult man’s forearm and looked like wisps of flame because they encased themselves in an oval barrier.

“We’ll have to kill the Peanut Flames first.”

The Peanut Flames’ only method of attack was shooting out fireballs, but because they had tough barriers and traveled in groups, they weren’t easy to deal with without ample combat experience.

“But who’s going to draw the Salamanders’ attention in the meanwhile?”

“I can do it.”

Hazuki raised her hand at Jayden’s words.

“I’m pretty quick on my feet. I got 5th place in speed.”

“Perfect.”

Jayden used English for the first time since we met. Yoo Yeonha spoke with a soft smile.

“Peanut Flames are a lot slower than Salamanders, so you only have to draw their attention.”

“Yes, then I’ll leave you to cover me.”

Hazuki stretched before shouting “I’m going—!” and rushing forward. After approaching the cluster of monsters in the blink of an eye, she hurled her axe and let out a spirited shout. The angered Salamanders then began to waddle towards Hazuki.
Using this opportunity, Jayden rushed into the enemy line.

“Huap!”

The sword he swung with a rugged breath clashed with a Peanut Flame’s barrier. A flash of light erupted from the collision of flame and magic power. Jayden’s single attack drew a clear crack on the Peanut Flame’s barrier, and a magic power arrow flew in, striking the crack. Jayden and Kim Jingyu’s joint attack easily shattered the Peanut Flame’s barrier, and Jayden cut down the exposed lizard without hesitation.

It was a perfect display of teamwork, but there were still many enemies left.

Jayden turned to a different direction. In that instant, a terrifying whip shot past his shoulder, grabbing three Peanut Flames together and marking them to be Jayden’s next prey. Jayden immediately charged towards the restrained Peanut Flames.

I also made my move. I didn’t need to run around like the others, being simple yet elegant. After finding a Peanut Flame, I pulled the trigger four times. Four bullets shot towards the Peanut Flame in a line.

The first magic bullet struck the Peanut Flame’s barrier and exploded.
The barrier still stood strong, but immediately afterwards, the second magic bullet struck the same spot as the first magic bullet. The barrier shook but still remained standing.
Next was the third magic bullet. Just like the second magic bullet, it struck the same spot, and barrier finally broke down.
With its barrier gone, the lizard inside was shot to death by the fourth bullet.

“…What?”

Next to me, a dazed interjection rang out. It was Kim Jingyu, who was also a sharpshooter.
Admittedly, what I did must have looked shocking for him.
Unlike the difficult labor that was weaving an arrow with magic power and pulling the bowstring with one’s strength, all I had to do to kill a Peanut Flame was pull the gun’s trigger four times.

“Guns are lacking in destructive power, but in exchange, they have less recoil and delay between shots.”

I boasted as I waved my gun around, but in truth, this was only possible against slow low-rank monsters like Peanut Flames. It was also likely that luck played a part in the attack.

“…”

“Focus, focus.”

Seeing Kim Jingyu’s dumbstruck face, I pointed at the other Peanut Flames. Coincidentally, Yoo Yeonha was striking her whip down at them. Her whip became grotesquely longer and swept through the ground. From her whip, I could sense a tiny spark of electricity. That was Yoo Yeonha’s Gift. It seemed she was already on the edge of achieving enlightenment.

Being impressed or congratulating her could come later. For now, I looked for my next target, another Peanut Flame.
But now that the battle was fully underway, the Peanut Flames were more excited. As a result, killing them wasn’t as easy as before. Of course, that didn’t mean it was difficult. Although I couldn’t break through its barrier even after six bullets, the seventh bullet luckily pierced through its magic core, killing it in one shot.

In any case, by the time I killed three Peanut Flames, the battle was nearing its end. Once all the Peanut Flames were dead, we jointly attacked the four Salamanders Hazuki was holding back, and there was nothing they could do to fight back.
It was easy to see why Salamanders were only low-intermediate rank. No matter how powerful their firebreaths were, they couldn’t use it once their tails were tied up.

“Whew, it’s over. I managed to kill six thanks to Yeonha-ssi.”

“…That’s good to hear. Let’s count them.”

We approached the mana puppets and counted the bodies.
One, two, three… fifteen.
We had killed them all.

“Do we keep going now?”

At the same time that Jayden spoke with a smile, a light flashed from afar.
I instinctively turned towards the light. In that instant, my mind became blank. A Salamander was breathing out a beam of fire. A firebreath the size of a pillar hurled towards us while melting the surface of the ground.
I could feel my brain yelling. This was a direct strike. There was no way to dodge it. And if it hit, I would die. I had to block it if I wanted to live.
But how?
I immediately thought of Stigma’s magic power.
If I could form a barrier of water like the Peanut Flames did with fire, I might be able to block it.

…The Stigma on my arm rose up with a blue glow, as pain spread out from my upper arm. Following my will, the magic power was released into the air.

Immediately afterwards, a wave of fire swept through us.
Tzzzzzzz—
A terrifying amount of steam erupted from the collision of water and fire. The hot steam clouded the surroundings like a fog, blocking our vision. The barrier I created was destroyed from hitting the firebreath.
Then, a momentary silence descended before being broken by a deep voice that reflected everyone’s thoughts.

“…T-That was no joke.”

It was Jayden. A thick terror could be seen on his face. He seemed to be on the verge of having a panic attack.

“That last attack, weren’t we dead if it hit us?”

‘Yeah, we would've been fried up really good.’ Thinking that in my head, I collapsed on the ground. I couldn’t put any strength in my legs. My entire body felt numb. I thanked the dense cloud of steam for concealing my pathetic state.

“Oy, sharpshooter. The Salamander’s still alive, but we can’t see anything. Tell me where that bastard is before my heart explodes.”

Jayden spoke. His voice was trembling with fear. I also tried to calm myself.
‘Calm down, Kim Hajin. It can’t see us either. We just have to kill it before the steam disappears.’

“Look at the trajectory.”

I held up my gun.
Rather than describing its location with words, it was better to just show it.

“I’m shooting.”

I pulled the trigger. The bullet shot towards the Salamander, drawing a blue trace. Although the bullet reached the Salamander in under a second, the trail it left behind stayed for a longer time. The others immediately threw everything they had at the direction of the trail.
The Salamander died without a yelp, almost as though it spent its entire energy in its previous attack.
At the same time, I could hear an unpleasant sound of metal cutting through skin.

“…Wait, is this blood?”

Jayden murmured in a daze. Just like he said, viscous fresh blood streamed down from the cut on the Salamander’s body.

“A mana puppet with blood? That’s impossible.”

“Then what the fuck is this? It’s sticky as hell. And what was that last attack? That was a real firebreath. I didn’t even touch it and my skin’s a little burned.”

Mana puppets' attacks were lowered by two ranks compared to the monster they were based off of. In other words, the attack of a low-intermediate rank mana puppet was not even at the level of a low rank monster. Mana puppets used in combat training thus sent data of attacks it received back to Cube’s scientists, who would simulate the attack on the real version of the monster and give back the result.

“Calm down.”

“You think I can just calm… Yes, you’re right.”

Jayden, who was about to erupt with anger, calmed down when faced with Yoo Yeonha.

“They didn’t tell us that something like this wouldn’t happen. It was a Salamander. It’s entirely possible that a normal salamander naturally evolved into a monster. After all, we’re in a Dungeon, even if it’s artificial.”

“…”

At Yoo Yeonha’s calm input, Jayden remained silent. He collected his breath and calmed himself down. Yoo Yeonha was always like this, but Jayden was also fairly composed for a high schooler.
Meanwhile, the steam covering up the surroundings began to dissipate.
Everyone was wet from the steam and water.

“Are you okay?”

Yoo Yeonha asked me, likely because I was directly in line of the firebreath.
My luck was 9.1, so why did it fly towards me of all people? Was the world trying to tell me to take more SP? Or was it because I was the only one capable of blocking it?
Now that I think about it, Yoo Yeonha dying would have been the greatest calamity.

“I’m fine.”

I was fine, for now.

“…Oh right. What the fuck was that?”

However, Jayden approached me, making a fuss.

“What?”

“I said in the beginning that anyone with the water attribute should come out.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, please. How did you block that firebreath then? That fucking steam was created because it clashed with water, didn’t it!?”

“Sharpshooters normally carry a shield or two to protect themselves.”

“…What?”

Stigma’s magic power had followed my will and created a water attribute barrier. This shield blocked the Salamander’s attack, and I now didn’t have any magic power remaining.
…But this wasn’t something I could just tell others.

“This son of a bitch…”

“Quiet. Let’s get out of here for now. What happened just now… I’m sure we’ll be compensated with additional points.”

Yoo Yeonha spoke as she stared at the Salamander’s corpse.

**

While walking forward, Yoo Yeonha stole a glance behind her.
A stupid-looking man was pulling his hair up. Sweat dripped from his hair. It would have looked cool if he was Shin Jonghak, but it was a bit dirty when that man did it.
In any case, Yoo Yeonha couldn’t hide the strange feeling she got.
What blocked the Salamander’s firebreath was undoubtedly a water attribute magic power. But a cadet who wasn’t Shin Jonghak or Kim Suho was capable of imbuing his magic power with an attribute?

Yoo Yeonha couldn’t help but recall Chae Nayun’s words. That Kim Hajin was hiding his true strength.

Kim Hajin explained what happened by saying that he had a magic armament.
There were indeed armaments like that. They were one of many types of defensive equipment that sharpshooters used.
Aptly called Cloth Armor, these equipment looked exactly like ordinary clothes but had an additional functionality of releasing magic power to protect their wearer in danger.

For a moment, Yoo Yeonha wondered if Jin Sechan gave him a Cloth Armor without telling her. But of course, that was impossible.
While Salamanders were only low-intermediate ranked, items that could block their firebreath cost at least 40 million won. It wasn’t an amount Jin Sechan could be responsible for. Not to mention, he had no reason to do so either.

In that case, there were only two answers left.
Either what Chae Nayun said was true, or Kim Hajin, being scared for his life, had really prepared a Cloth Armor beforehand.
Yoo Yeonha found the former to be more likely. In that case, how Kim Hajin knew the Mountain Tyrant’s vital point also made sense.
The question was why he was hiding his power.
That was what she couldn’t understand.
Just why…

“We’re here.”

At that moment, Kim Hajin spoke up. Yoo Yeonha flinched from a guilty conscious.

“W-What’s here? There’s nothing here.”

“We’re almost there. The dungeon’s boss is up ahead along with another team.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, let’s hurry. It looks like they’re in trouble.”

Kim Hajin took the lead and quickened his pace.
Yoo Yeonha followed suit, still harboring suspicion.

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