I came to a rice soup restaurant. Cube had all sorts of restaurants, but this place, Grandma’s Home Flavor, was the only rice soup restaurant that ran 24/7.
Seeing Kim Suho eating a bowl of rice soup, I became lost in thought.
Kim Suho’s current power was at least at the level of an intermediate rank Hero. This world still had many hidden pieces that I set up left undiscovered.
Among these, there were some that would fall into antagonists’ hands. Items like the ‘Lucifer’s Feather’ and the ‘Snaketooth of Beginning’ were things that I wouldn’t dare to try to obtain, but with Kim Suho’s assistance, I might be able to stop them from falling into antagonists’ hands.
…Thinking about it this way, Kim Suho suddenly became a lot more attractive.
I stared fixedly at Kim Suho. He looked like a main character no matter how I looked at him. The rice soup must be delicious as he didn’t notice that a grain of rice was stuck next to his mouth.
“You have a grain of rice stuck there.”
I took out a few sheets of tissues and took off the grain of rice.
Kim Suho spoke with a thin smile.
“By the way, are you going to do the powerpoint presentation for your class?”
“Aren’t you nervous? I would be.”
“I’ll eat a serenity pill before it, don’t worry.”
I learned long ago that it was foolish to be obstinate about eating medicine. Although I quit college to focus on writing, I still attended until I was a sophomore. I’ve been in 4~5 group projects as well, so I was fairly experienced with presentations.
I also planned on investing some SP into the serenity pill, not necessarily for me, but for Rachel and my other teammates, who had high expectations of me.
If I also add an increased eloquence and persuasiveness effect on the hornflute, it should be a breeze to ace the presentation.
I asked Kim Suho.
“Anyways, the Dungeon is near Suwon, right?”
“Yeah, we should be careful.”
Suwon was the most dangerous area of the three capital areas: Seoul, Suwon, and Incheon. During Outcall, Suwon went through a bizarre terraforming, turning more than half of the region into a horrifying mountain zone.
Because of this, the west side of Suwon was completely off-limits to the public. Kamak Mountain, which was our destination, was just at the border of this restricted zone.
It was then.
The restaurant’s door opened, and someone clad entirely in black walked in. A big hat, a black mask, and a long, full-body coat. This person could easily be mistaken for a criminal.
“Um, I just called…”
The woman clad in black notified the staff in a soft voice. She then glanced at Kim Suho and me, who were the only other customers in the restaurant. Immediately, her shoulders trembled violently.
“Ah yes, wait just one moment.”
The staff went into the kitchen. I smirked and turned to the woman. She was frozen like a statue.
“Oh, who’s this?”
I suddenly remembered. Along with hamburgers, rice soup was one of her favorite dishes.
“Yo, Yoo Yeonha.”
She was desperately pretending to not have heard my crystal-clear exclamation. Seeing that she wasn’t running away, she must still want the rice soup she ordered.
I got up and approached her.
“Since you’re here, why don’t you join us?”
“Y-Yes? Who, who might you be? I don’t know anyone like you…”
She was desperately trying to sound different, but it was too obvious.
“Eh? Yoo Yeonha? You’re Yoo Yeonha?”
Kim Suho also responded. Then, Yoo Yeonha’s eyes began to tear up under her big hat.
“N-No, no, I’m not. I don’t know anyone by that name….”
“Here you go.”
The staff then came out and handed her a packaged rice soup. Yoo Yeonha quickly snatched it out of her hands before running off.
“A-Ah, wait! You need to pay for that!”
The staff shouted at her, but Yoo Yeonha disappeared like the wind. Then, the staff’s gaze slowly turned towards me.
Without any other choice, I took out my card.
“I’ll pay for it.”
“Yes, thank you~”
For the record, for the next three days…
Yoo Yeonha couldn’t even meet my eyes.
Friday, the day of Phenomenon Realm Analysis team challenge presentation.
Currently, Chae Nayun was in a terrible mood.
Her team had been the first team to present. The result was a disaster, even by Chae Nayun’s standards.
Just like Kim Hajin said, Oh Junsik insisted on doing the presentation, stuttering throughout and messing up the entire powerpoint.
“…Ah, I was too nervous. Sorry, I’ll be better next time.”
That was what he said afterwards. Chae Nayun wanted to smack his head, but she held herself back since class was still going on.
Next up was Team Rachel. A man sitting in front of Chae Nayun got up. It was Kim Hajin.
Wearing a pair of round glasses, he got up on the podium.
“Hello, I am from Team 3. Our Dungeon was the Walsin Dungeon. This Dungeon existed on the foot of Gangwondo Snow Mountain, but because the guild in charge of it, the Desolate Moon guild, hasn’t released any information on the result….”
Kim Hajin’s presentation was smooth. His voice was soft, and he didn’t seem nervous. He first introduced the information gathered by his team, and then estimated the Dungeon’s internal structure using calculations. He even had a cross-sectional map prepared.
Chae Nayun stared at Kim Hajin’s presentation in a daze, her chin sitting on her hand. His voice was slightly different, and a sense of ease was carried in his occasional smiles. Together with his round glasses, it was as if he was giving the class a lecture.
A smart guy was surprisingly cool.
“Wait, I have a question.”
“How can you estimate the counterflow of magic power with such a small amount of data?”
At that moment, the professor interrupted him and asked a question.
“Ah, about that, if you look at the calculations here….”
However, Kim Hajin answered the professor just as smoothly as he always had. Seeing this intellectual side of him, Chae Nayun fell into a trance. With Kim Hajin’s answer, the professor backed down with a satisfied smile, and the presentation soon concluded.
“That’s it for our team’s presentation.”
Kim Hajin finished his presentation as he pushed his glasses up.
Afterwards, he returned to his seat, which was next to Rachel’s. Chae Nayun stared at Rachel half in regret, half in envy. Rachel and Kim Hajin smiled and gave each other a high-five.
After the class ended, I was returning to the dorms with Rachel.
Tomer and other team members strongly asked for a celebratory afterparty, but Rachel and I didn’t participate. I had another appointment, and Rachel just had a reserved personality.
We walked together talking about today’s team challenge. About how Chae Nayun’s team bombed the presentation, about how Shin Jonghak made his presentation so intimidating…
“…Oh right, here.”
When we reached the crossroad to Dorm 1 and Dorm 2, Rachel handed me a piece of paper.
“Are you perhaps interested in the English Royal Court guild?”
Before I could give a proper answer, Rachel continued speaking.
“In truth, I asked the Royal Court guild to contact Hajin-ssi, but it seems they assumed things on their own by looking at Hajin-ssi’s rank.”
Hearing that, I looked at the paper she gave me. It was a contract. Indeed, it had better conditions than the one I saw in the email. If I was still on Earth, I never would have imagined such a treatment.
“…Please consider it.”
Rachel gave a light bow, then turned and walked to the right.
I watched her leave quietly.
After playing with Evandel for about 30 minutes, I headed to a bus stop near Suwon Station, where I promised to meet Kim Suho.
Kim Suho had arrived long ago and was waiting for me.
“Hey Hajin, your presentation was amazing.”
Kim Suho was wearing light clothing. He was currently low on money, so I volunteered to take care of food and equipment.
“Everyone was full of praises for you.”
“Oh yeah? Well more importantly, which way should we be going?”
Kim Suho took the lead, and I followed.
Not long afterwards, we arrived at Kamak Mountain.
We then hiked deep into the mountain. Because powerful beast-type monsters lived in Kamak Mountain, we were both on the lookout to avoid them.
Finally, we arrived at a dead end. Kim Suho pointed at the wall in front of us, which was covered in moss and vines.
“…So this is why it hasn’t been discovered until now.”
Even if you knew it was there, it would have been hard to find it. Not only was it covered in all sorts of vegetation, the entrance was narrow. At first glance, it only looked like a tiny gap.
“Once we go in, it won’t be easy to escape. Are you prepared?”
I took out the Desert Eagle from my pocket.
“This is pretty strong.”
I even prepared a light bullet just in case. Swordsman of Destruction should be a high-intermediate rank monster. The difference between intermediate rank and high-intermediate rank was immense. Even this light bullet, which cost 70 SP to make, would likely only distract it for a moment. However, a moment of distraction was enough. Kim Suho would take care of the rest.
“Then let’s go in.”
Kim Suho and I jumped into the narrow gap. The gap widened as we walked, eventually becoming big enough to be a tunnel.
The inside of the Dungeon was covered by dense darkness. Instead of turning on a flashlight, I grabbed Kim Suho’s hand and guided him. Shining light unnecessarily could provoke spirit monsters.
“It’s kinda creepy.”
“Tell me about it…. Hold on.”
I suddenly stopped and widened my eyes.
There was another pathway on the other side. If we started from the right side, it meant there was another entrance from the left. Was it like this in the original story? No, I didn’t think so.
Two people were walking forward from the pathway.
—Where is this?
—A hidden stage I’m guessing?
I couldn’t tell who they were from their faces, but considering the feeling I got from them and the tattoos on their faces, they didn’t look like kind people.
“…Wait, stay quiet for a moment.”
I quickly checked my laptop using my smartwatch.
There was an alert, just as I expected.
[Criticism – Kamak Mountain Dungeon, which Kim Suho conquers, is too small considering its reward.]
[Solution – Made Kamak Mountain Dungeon a hidden stage in Suwon Devil’s Nest.]
In other words, Suwon Devil’s Nest became connected to Kamak Mountain Dungeon.
Coincidentally, today was August 14th, the day Packhorse Master would conquer Suwon Devil’s Nest. In that case, those two guys should be Djinns from Packhorse Master.
Kim Suho whispered.
I clenched my teeth. Packhorse Master’s Djinns were fairly powerful Djinns. They were disguised as Heroes, being at least intermediate rank in power. Even Kim Suho would have trouble dealing with them.
“There are other people in here.”
For now, I closely watched their movements as I eavesdropped on their conversation.
—Let’s go back first. Rather than arguing with the rest about what we got out of the hidden stage, it’ll be better to conquer it together.
—…Yeah, you’re right.
Thankfully, they went back after confirming the hidden stage's location.
“Let’s finish this fast.”
I concentrated magic power on my Thousand-Mile Eyes. In an instant, my vision expanded, and the Dungeon’s internal structure entered my sight.
The Swordsman of Destruction’s location…
Straight, then two turns to the right. The Swordsman of Destruction was sleeping inside the boss room.
[Suwon Devil’s Nest]
A medium-scale Dungeon located in the valley of Suwon Mountain Range. By the time this Dungeon was close to being completely conquered, the owner of Chameleon Troupe’s seat of Blue, an African-American man named Khalifa, looked around at the members of Packhorse Master. He had infiltrated the Packhorse Master guild.
Seven of the nine members who participated in the Dungeon raid was sitting on the ground, collecting their breaths.
“James, Johong, did you find something?”
The guild master contacted the group’s two scouts with a communication device.
—Yes, we discovered a hidden path. It seems to be a hidden stage.
“Oh, is that so?”
Khalifa quietly listened in on their conversation.
—We’re currently on our way back. We can conquer it together.
“No, we’ll go there. You guys can continue your investigation.”
“You hear that guys? It’s time to get up!”
They were currently missing two men.
In that case, now was the best time.
Khalifa tapped his ears, transmitting a signal. Then, he unleashed his magic power in the shape of a door.
Phase Shift. It was an ability that connected one space to another, so long as it was not too far apart. Naturally, this was part of Khalifa’s Gift.
“Cullen, what are you doing? Who told you to open a Portal?”
Although it had a few differences from a Portal, because it looked like one, almost everyone mistook it for an artificial Portal. Khalifa didn’t go through the trouble to correct them.
“…Cullen, close the Portal.”
Khalifa silently put on a pair of sunglasses.
Annoyed by the guild master’s loud shouting, he even put on earplugs.
“You son of a bitch….”
Enraged, the guild master walked up to the Portal.
It was then.
A black blade shot out from the Portal.
The blade cleanly severed him in two. Without even having to ask, the guild master was dead. Immediately, the guild master scattered into black dust.
…A thick silence descended.
The group’s leader had been killed by a single blow. Other Djinns simply stared into the Portal. They couldn’t bring themselves to move or even speak.
Soon, a woman walked out of the Portal.
She had an average height, but a beautiful appearance. When the Djinns met her eyes, their consciousness was sucked into a deep abyss.
One, two, three, four… six Djinns collapsed like lifeless dolls.
“We’ll have to keep one for the sake of stock price.”
Boss stared at Khalifa, murmuring in a cold voice. Khalifa grinned, then spoke.
“You’re right. Now then, should we go find the hidden stage?”
“You wait here.”
Khalifa tilted his head. Boss retorted briefly.
“The two people inside the hidden stage are candidates.”
Candidates. They referred to individuals selected by Boss and the members of the Chameleon Troupe to have the qualification of becoming Chameleon Troupe’s new color.
“Is it a… test?”
Boss liquified her body without answering Khalifa. In an instant, her body turned into a black liquid and stuck to the ground. In that state, she moved quickly.
1. A rice soup is a more homely restaurant that feels more like you’re eating at home. The food served is also less restaurant-ish and feels more like home. See “gukbap” on Wikipedia for more info on different types of rice soups.