Seeing the well-organized list, Seol's head automatically moved up and down in a nod of approval. He had no idea whose child this unknown student was, but he really did a fantastic job organizing it.
'Most likely a top of the class honor student….'
Now that he had leeway to spare, Seol no longer hurried and simply walked on the corridor in a relaxed gait. He found three, four people busily running around inside classroom 3-2, before spotting Shin Sang-Ah jumping up and down in joy while crying out “Yaaaaay!” inside 3-3. She then froze up like a deer in a headlight as soon as she saw him staring at her through the corridor window.
Seol procured three coins by the window sill of classroom 3-4, then entered 3-5 only to run into someone he didn't expect to find so soon.
It was Yun Seora. She was in the middle of searching every nook and cranny. She only took a cursory glance when she heard the classroom door slide open, before turning her attention back to the treasure hunt. She kept on opening and digging through every single desk in the classroom.
Seeing that, Seol couldn't help but tilt his head in confusion.
'Why is she searching every desk like that? Doesn't she already have a map?'
Seol's thoughts were only half correct. They both possessed maps, but the level of information contained within each one was quite different.
For instance, the information shown on the diary of the unknown student was as concise and precise as it could get, telling him 'classroom 3-5, 2nd desk in the 3rd row, x1' or '6th desk in the 5th row, x4'. However, Yun Seora's map only displayed vague hints, such as 'classroom 3-4, inside a desk'.
Unless it was something like a teacher's podium that would only ever be one in a classroom, she'd have to roll up her sleeves and do some hard labor, as the coins were hidden inside one of the many lockers or desks there.
Yun Seora finally found a single coin and became rather pleased with the result. She then dropped it inside her bag and turned around.
Then, she spotted Seol casually finding four coins that were hidden inside a desk near the door. She blinked her eyes several times in shock.
'Alright, let's see. Next is….'
Next, Seol headed to the classroom 3-6. By the time Yun Seora recovered from her shock and belatedly followed him, Seol had already swept the place clean.
'Too easy. Way too easy.'
Seol whistled and happily went about his task. He was deeply worried before, yet now that a path had opened up for him all of a sudden, he couldn't help but feel very happy and motivated here.
And so, he ransacked classroom 3-7 in the same manner. But as he was exiting the room, his steps came to an abrupt halt. Yun Seora was standing in front of the doorway.
Her gaze alternated between the wide-open door of a locker and her map, before shifting her gaze upwards to Seol. Although her face still more or less remained impassive as before, her eyes kept blinking nonstop. Inexplicably, Seol felt a wee bit scared, all of a sudden.
For some unknown reason, he even felt like he did something he shouldn't have and become a criminal in the process.
'…Maybe, I should leave 3-8 alone….'
He carefully sidestepped past Yun Seora and headed off to 3-9. His steps were quick and urgent, as the feeling of apologetic guilt pricked him.
However, while walking past 3-8…. He couldn't understand why Yun Seora chose to follow him instead of stopping by the classroom.
Seol was now beset with a sense of awkwardness and began to run. Sure enough, he could hear hurried footsteps following him from behind. Now genuinely flustered, Seol quickly entered classroom 3-9.
[Classroom 3-9, on top of the teacher's podium, x3]
[Classroom 3-9, above the TV cabinet, x1]
While Seol was pocketing the coins from the podium, Yun Seora charged forward as fast as an infantryman attacking his enemy and pounced on the TV cabinet. By the time Seol shifted his gaze towards her direction, her arm was already shooting up towards the top of the cabinet.
Unfortunately for her, her hand couldn't quite reach up there.
The TV cabinet itself was rather huge, and it easily exceeded two meters in height. In other words, it was tall enough to nearly touch the ceiling. It was obvious that Yun Seora and her height of around the middle of 160 cm would never reach up there.
….Even when she tried to stand on one foot,
….Even when she stood on tiptoes with both of her heels leaving the ground,
….Even when she jumped up and down on her not-so-new shoes.
….Her hand only swung around the empty air, so close and yet so far.
She kept doing that for a while. She could've just used a desk or a chair to stand higher, but….
Seol found her gasping and sweating while struggling like that very funny and adorable, and a short laughter broke out from his lips.
Her movements came to a standstill.
Seol hurriedly covered his mouth up, but it was too late by then. Yun Seora's head robotically turned around to face him, her expression dazed and lost.
Seol felt incredibly apologetic once more. He had no excuses to offer. Even though his personality might be on the wrong side of being blunt, he still knew he had made a big mistake just now.
Indeed, he knew that very well, yet…..
Seol had to summon every ounce of willpower to suppress the laughter trying to explode out of his mouth. Should he say that the dam had been well and truly burst open? Her reactions of now were utterly, comically different to her normally indifferent expressions. He couldn’t help but find it incredibly funny.
Didn't one of the old sayings go along the lines of, 'laughter would get progressively harder to block the more you try?'
'What should I do now?'
Seol felt like he'd explode in a fit of laughter if he tried to say something now. He gulped in lots of air, and while suppressing his laughter in the same way one would hold his breath, walked to the TV cabinet. He retrieved the coin and took a quick glance at her.
'What now? Why is she being so resentful like that?'
Seol carefully presented the recovered coin to her. She briefly looked at it resting on his palm before staring at him without saying anything. However, she seemed to be implying, 'Are you pitying me right now?'
A strange but awkward silence flowed between them. Seol was on the brink of going crazy. She needed to either take the damn coin or leave it, but the main thing was that she needed to make up her mind right now and leave the classroom so he'd get to finally break down and laugh his head off. Trying to suppress this laughter was killing him inside.
In the end, Seol couldn't endure it and opened his mouth with great difficulty. However….
“…Ta, tak, tak, tahahahahahaha!!!”
The laughter exploded out of his mouth even though he inwardly went, ‘Oh, crap!’
“No, wait! I mean, no! Take, ta, tahahaha….”
Yun Seora's complexion, visible through his desperately waving hands, was incomparably pale.
Now that he finally let the unstoppable laughter out of his system, the unavoidable reality hit him.
Yun Seora seemed rather nonplussed. Although her gaze was slightly lowered, she maintained that impassive expression of hers.
'She's feeling okay, I guess?'
Just as Seol was feeling relieved inwardly…
….He could hear a soft sniffle through her nose. Although the amount was small, her upturned eyes were wet with tears.
It seemed that her pride had been wounded. Her breathing became imperceptibly faster, and her facial muscles began twitching as well. Now that Seol took a closer look, she was also biting her lips ever so slightly.
She eventually wiped her eyes and turned on her heels to leave.
Seol continued to watch the silently departing back of Yun Seora, the coin still resting on top of his palm.
On the fifth floor, just after the treasure hunt commenced.
Kang Seok directed his followers into the bathroom and locked the door behind him.
“What's the matter? ….Is it urgent? We gotta find those coins quickly, you know!”
Hearing Yi Hyungsik's words, Kang Seok's lips formed a wry smile.
“What are you so worried about? We can start looking for them later. Or just take it from those who have found some already.”
“You want to steal them?”
After hearing Kang Seok's declaration, Yi Hyungsik rubbed his nose. Perhaps still feeling the brunt of the pain experienced not too long ago, a low groan leaked out of his lips. Jeong Minwoo's complexion wasn't so good either.
“That bastard wouldn't sit still though….”
“That's right. I think it'll be better for us to collect them the normal way.”
Kang Seok raised his voice in anger after hearing the pathetic replies from his two lackeys.
“Fuck me, you get hit only once and are now shivering like some scared cats? Why don't you just chop off your balls right now? Idiots!”
“Eh? What's the matter with you two? Are you going to take that shit lying down? Really now?”
“I can't let this shit go. I gotta pay him back with interest. 10 times, no, 100 times more. Isn't that how human nature works?”
“…You have a plan or something?”
Jeong Minwoo asked, still sounding not entirely convinced. Kang Seok licked his lips in a rather ominous manner, rechecked that the door was locked, and then beckoned his lackeys to come closer.
“Come on closer.”
Yi Hyungsik and Jeong Minwoo came closer and paid attention.
“We will also go and collect those coins. We will do our best, right until midnight. Got it?”
“Keep listening, because this is where it will get interesting.”
Kang Seok lowered his voice to a whisper and explained his plan to the two.
“W-What did you say?”
Yi Hyungsik's mouth opened up wide in surprise.
“What… But, if that happens….”
“Keep your mouth shut.”
Kang Seok growled menacingly, causing Yi Hyungsik to promptly slam his lips shut.
“…Is there a reason for us to go this far?”
“Yeah, there's a fucking reason. That asshole came out swinging first, so it's only correct that we swing back even harder.”
“But… will it even work?”
“It's going to. Look, look!”
Seeing Jeong Minwoo tilt his head this way and that, Kang Seok smirked deeply.
“What do you think this is~?”
Kang Seok then pulled out two pieces of paper from his pocket and waved them in front of his lackeys' faces.
“He's not the only one who received a starting bonus, know what I mean? If we succeed, then we'll be the ones controlling this place in no time.”
Kang Seok declared triumphantly, before slightly cocking his eyebrow.
While having his hands locked and fidgeting around, Jeong Minwoo shrugged his shoulders. Seeing this, Yi Hyungsik sighed out as if he couldn't help it, either.
“Good. No need to worry about a thing, boys. We only need what, 5, 10 minutes, tops? Now you get it, don't you?”
The two lackeys nodded their heads. Kang Seok began gritting his teeth.
“All we have to do is to defeat that fucker. When we grind that motherfucker to nothing, then we win.”
[Remaining time until midnight: 00: 36: 12]
The end of the treasure hunt was getting nearer.
The total number of hidden coins might have been 3000, but that didn't mean all of them could be found at once. After the coins were discovered and taken away in an area, they respawned after a short amount of time elapsed. Seol got to find that out after seeing the diary of the unknown student getting updated numerous times.
Thanks to that, Seol had to roam the fourth and fifth-floor several times, but eventually, he got to stretch his limbs in the end.
He felt fulfilled. He worked tirelessly and got to find almost 1600 coins in the end. Specifically, a total of 1552 of them. There were twelve survivors participating in the hunt, so this was the same as him monopolizing over half of the available coins.
'I should probably go there now.'
After lightly tapping his bag, Seol headed upstairs. If he wanted to, he could keep finding the coins, but he was mindful of the time needed to use the item draw machine.
Now that cooperating with the others was out of the question, no one knew what could happen later on. So, rather than anxiously wait till it was midnight, he knew it was smart to make some kind of preparations.
As if others were still too busy with the treasure hunt, there was no one besides himself inside the fifth-floor library. The so-called draw machine kind of resembled one of those gacha machines one could find commonly placed in front of stationery shops, the only difference being this one was somewhat larger.
[The list of items available to draw]
1. 1 coin to 9 coins: Food, daily necessities, a note from the Guide, medical supplies….
2. 10 coins to 49 coins: Relief supplies, souvenirs, various maps, a letter from the maid….
3. 50 coins to 99 coins: Weapons, defensive items, Survival Points, a brand new, cutting-edge smartphone….
4. 100 coins: Spell balls, random coin box (contains up to 1~499 coins)
5. 199 coins: Sixth-floor access key (100% odds)
6. 300 coins: SPECIAL
Seol fell into deep thought. He needed 100 coins as the usage fee, so he had to deduct that amount. And since he didn't know what would happen later, he had to reserve the amount to purchase the access key as well.
That left 1253 coins to play around with.
So, should he go for the “SPECIAL” four times, or only try that one out a couple times and get some spell balls instead?
He didn't think for too long.
First of all, he found the actions of Kang Seok and his crew rather suspicious. They ran into each other a few times during the hunt, yet they didn't try anything, seemingly only focusing on the treasure hunt and nothing else. However, they couldn't fool his eyes.
'I saw their colors.'
Originally, only Kang Seok emitted the yellowish color, but now, both Yi Hyungsik and Jeong Minwoo emitted the same yellow hue as well. In other words, he had to pay close attention to them. Since their colors were the same, it could only mean that they were cooking up something bad. So, Seol naturally chose the latter option.
He needed a weapon of some kind. Indeed, he needed an all-conquering ace up his sleeve that could help him out, even if he found himself stuck in the worst possible situation imaginable.
Seol picked up the first coin, but he soon began swearing out inwardly. Why? Because he realized that manually inserting each coin one at the time was unexpectedly a lot of work, that's why.
A somewhat lengthy time later, Seol packed the drawn items into his bag while massaging his aching fingers.
The end result was actually quite satisfactory.
[Random coin box: contains 81 extra coins]
[Spell ball: Spider Web, x1]
[Random coin box: contains 136 extra coins]
[Spell ball: Poison Fog, x1]
[Spell ball: Ignite, x1]
[Random coin box: contains 292 extra coins]
[Spell ball: Hydrochloric Acid, x1]
[SPECIAL: Mirror of Understanding, x1]
He was especially happy with the results of two of the random boxes. Although it couldn't be called a massive success, he'd happily call that at least a mid-level success.
So he still had 1061 coins remaining. Even if he went for SPECIAL twice, he'd have 162 coins left over.
Seol decided to stop around there. This should be more than enough, but also, time was running out. As soon as the clock struck midnight, the so-called Hour of the Deceased would begin. So he should quietly return to the ‘safe zone’ and wait until midday tomorrow.
Seol's steps as he walked down the staircase were confident yet easy going. What he didn't expect to find was that classroom 3-1 was still deserted. It was the so-called safe zone, and there were less than 10 minutes before midnight, yet not even an ant could be seen.
Seol stood there wondering until he heard the classroom's sliding door noisily open up behind him.
“Uh? You were here already?”
Seol turned around while inwardly thinking, ‘Of course, people should start showing up soon.’
The first one to enter was Hyun Sangmin, but he didn't look so good. A short while afterwards, Shin Sang-Ah trudged inside as well.
“What happened to you? I got nearly fucked up.”
“I mean, what the hell? It's like a crazy asshole swept away everything like a hurricane. Why is it this hard to find a single damn coin?”
“You're so right. You know, I shouldn't have been so fired up after finding a few in the beginning. I could only find 70 coins in the end.”
Shin Sang-Ah complained while massaging her feet.
“You're worse than me though. I met the 100 coin requirement at least.”
Hyun Sangmin's voice was rather weak as well.
Seol thought about it for a long while, before deciding to give Shin Sang-Ah 30 coins. Since he was already treating the remaining 162 as a reserve, he didn't even hesitate.
Shin Sang-Ah's eyes grew larger.
“A–Are you giving these to me?”
The look in her eyes was already well past gratitude and into the territory of 'worshipping a savior'.
“Wha, what the heck? 30 coins in one go?”
“Please, take it. What, you also need some?”
“Holy shit. How many did you manage to find?”
Seol scratched his cheek sheepishly.
“….Enough to survive, I guess?”
Hyun Sangmin's expression showed how dumbfounded he was before he suddenly exploded in a fit of laughter as he fell back.
“Geez, so it was you.”
“I knew it. It just didn't make any sense unless someone already swooped in and picked everything clean. I seriously searched everywhere, dude….! Uh-whew, so the guilty party wasn't Yun Seora, eh.”
“Why? What's up with Yun Seora?”
“Mm? I thought you've realized it by now. I was thinking that she knew where all the coins were and was busy hogging them all for herself. I'm pretty sure it's not only me who thinks this way.”
That made sense.
Hyun Sangmin added that he was now feeling bad after inwardly slagging her off for being a selfish bitch. This led to Seol to feel an even greater sense of guilt, knowing that he had inconvenienced everyone else, albeit it wasn't his intention to begin with.
[The Hour of the Deceased will commence from this point on.]
Finally, midnight arrived. As if the three of them had made a promise beforehand, they closed their mouths shut at the same time. However, there were only the three of them in the base even now.
“It's obvious, isn't it?”
Hyun Sangmin answered Seol's query while fishing out a cigarette.
“Even I was wondering whether I should return or not. In any case, I found 100 coins, so I decided to come back here, but…. Others probably aren't thinking the same way.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah. They are probably like, just a bit more, a bit more and then…. They should be going crazy trying to find enough for the usage fee alone. And those trying to revive the dead, well, it seems that they don't even care anymore.”
So that's how it was.
Although not as much as Seol, Yun Seora must've found a considerable number of coins for herself. What with the two of them sweeping away the majority of the available coins, there shouldn't be a lot remaining right about now.
So it was as obvious as daylight that the competition would only get worse. Seol never expected things to devolve in this manner while he was busy collecting the coins. No, he didn't even bother to think about it at all.
“Oh well. If they are worried about their lives, I'm sure they'll eventually show up sooner or later.”
Hyun Sangmin murmured while sucking on his cigarette.
“What… are you going to do?”
Shin Sang-Ah asked while cautiously studying Seol's reaction.
Seol felt contradicting emotions in his mind. He didn't care much about Kang Seok and his crew, but when he thought about Yun Seora and Yi Sungjin, he couldn't help but feel uncomfortable.
“I guess… I should find the ones that I can.”
“Yes. Let me help you.”
Shin Sang-Ah agreed immediately while her expressions showed how relieved she was. Seeing this, Seol became ever so slightly curious about her Status window. And so, just as he was about to take a peek into it….
“Oww, goddamn it.”
….Hyun Sangmin slowly stood up from his seat.
“I don't like this at all, but…. Yeah, I will lend a helping hand too. A promise is a promise, right?”
He spoke as if letting out a long groan and playfully pointed towards the door with his chin.
“Shall we go, Leader?”
….It happened then.
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