Chapter 288. After the Setup (9)

“There’s no helping it.”

Kim Hannah said in a bitter voice.

“Representative must have done it thinking about the Basic Tutorial. Killing the Gaekgwi at the beginning itself makes the rest of the stage trivial, after all.”

“But! Still!”

“What would you have done differently, Miss Chohong?”

Hearing this, Chohong shut up. To put it bluntly, she could say this only because she knew the ins and outs of the Special Tutorial. If she was participating without this knowledge, what would she have done?

“…I understand too.”

Kazuki said calmly.

“I probably would have done the same thing once I found the final boss, having a good method and spare paper talismans.”

He would have tried to acquire the special reward first before rescuing other survivors. After all, Eun Yuri was sure to outshine all other survivors in the treasure hunt, and bringing more people to the Neutral Zone would allow them to accrue more Survival Points.

It was a plan without many flaws. But the problem was…

“Tsk, tsk, he underestimated the gods too much.”

Audrey Basler clicked her tongue, then licked her lips.

“How could the great gods not have predicted that situation?”

“It’s more that this Tutorial is too complicated. No matter which direction you take, the probability of the difficulty increasing is over 50 percent. The only difference is— by what extent.”

Kim Hannah explained skillfully.

“Well, it’s several thousand times more difficult than the Basic Tutorial, that’s for sure.”

Audrey Basler shrugged, then asked.

“Anyway, how many conditions were there to increase the difficulty this high?”

Kim Hannah raised three fingers as an answer.

“Ehew. He sure is talented.”

Audrey Basler shook her head.

“Out of so many conditions, he really just hit the conditions that were most difficult to meet.”

“How many paper talismans does he have left?”

Chohong asked while pacing back and forth. Kim Hannah folded her ring finger, making a V sign.

“Two…”

Chohong frowned.

“Argh, two isn’t enough, is it? If he were to use them, that is.”

“Right, he would need five.”

Hearing Kim Hannah’s cold reply, Chohong clutched her head.

“Keuk.”

Oh Rahee sniggered.

“Well, well~”

Twirling her hair, she spoke mockingly…

“Looks like our representative got a bit too ahead of himself. And now…”

And the corner of her mouth curled up.

“He’s screwed.”

*


The power of the paper talisman was formidable, and the effect of the spell was instantaneous. The orange color was disappearing by the second.

[Aaah… aaaaah….]

Then, by the time the gas and the light mixed together and disappeared, and the ear-splitting scream stopped, the yellow color that covered half of his vision vanished as well.

‘As expected of the paper talisman…’

Seol Jihu walked forward with a grin.

“Let’s go. I’m curious what’s inside.”

Eun Yuri chased after Seol Jihu with a nod.

The cave was rather eerie. As they went deeper inside, they could see faint lights illuminating the darkness, but the chill grew stronger.

Seol Jihu advanced while breathing out white vapor, stopping when he reached a spacious opening illuminated by torches. Seeing the scenery that was revealed, he groaned shortly.

At the center of the 40-meter chamber was an altar made of stone. To the left of the altar was a cross-shaped pillory, where a naked beauty with ice-colored hair was hanging.

However, this failed to enter his eyes as he caught sight of a more shocking scene.

Mummies. Dozens of withered mummies were placed neatly on the altar. There were some corpses that had not been mummified yet, but those were littered around the altar like trash.

It went without saying that the corpses and the mummies were the survivors. It hadn’t been that long since the Tutorial began, yet close to a third of the survivors had died.

‘Most of them must have died at the empty lot.’

It made sense since four people died at the start, and there were five killers present.

Seol Jihu took his eyes off of the corpses and turned to the pillory. The vines coiled around the woman’s body seemed loose. The ones around her arms and legs were on the verge of falling off, and only the vines around her neck and stomach were tightly restraining her body.

The vines around her arms and legs too must have been tightly bound initially but had become loose for an unknown reason.

‘She said the survivors were nutrients?’

The Sixth Mother had said that she only needed a little more time. It was probably right to assume that a few more sacrifices would have loosened the vines completely and freed the woman. If the black mage was released, what would have happened?

‘That was close.’

Just as Seol Jihu was feeling relieved that he found out in time…

[Keuu…!]

The woman on the pillory groaned and twisted her neck. Seol Jihu raised his machete reflexively.

‘She’s not dead?’

Her black pupils lacked any whiteness in them, and the blood streaming down her eye sockets made her look monstrous. Although the woman possessed an innate beauty, the wicked energy erupting from her eyes was suppressing it completely.

[Damn… Damn iiiiiit!]

[How!? How can this happen!? My wish was so close to coming true…!]

An ominous voice that did not match the woman’s mystical appearance resounded in the chamber.

[It’s all because of this bitch! If not for her…! If my soul did not get trapped in this bitch’s body…!]

A disturbingly shrill cry echoed out in the cave.

[I-I refuse to perish like this!]

[I waited so long…!]

The woman seemed to struggle frantically, and one of the non-mummified corpses dried up in an instant.

Seol Jihu furrowed his brows.

‘I was wondering how she was still alive…’

It seemed she barely held on by absorbing the survivors littered in the chamber. As he couldn’t just let her recover, Seol Jihu immediately created a Mana Spear.

[Ah!]

Seeing the golden spear crackling with electricity, the woman’s expression contorted.

[This is unfair…!]

[I curse you! I will curse you!]

Seol Jihu threw the Mana Spear without hesitation.

[My children! Avenge…!]

Pak! Before the woman could finish, her head exploded. At the same time, her body radiated a pale light before freezing up completely. Pssssss. After crumbling into tiny pellets, they scattered into the air like dust of ice.

Bzz, bzz! As the vines around the woman’s corpse fell, Eun Yuri’s cell phone buzzed.

[Sender: Unknown]
#Cave (Diary of an Unknown Survivor — Page 68)

Seol Jihu was slightly startled after checking the page number. They had skipped ahead by 38 pages since the discovery of the cave.

‘Why is there such a big difference?’

Finally! The Sixth Mother finally perished!
I stared at the corpses around the altar with bitterness. The comrades who had gone missing and the comrades who had entered the cave alone were all here.
I shut my eyes. The dying Sixth Mother’s hateful curse still echoed in my ears.


I have to get out of here, fast.


Before leaving the cave, I glanced back. The pillory binding the Sixth Mother was still there.
…What did she mean by ‘unfair’? Just what was the Sixth Mother’s goal?


‘Goal?’

Seol Jihu looked up. There was something on the altar that he hadn’t seen before.

‘Ice?’

Looking closely, he saw an ice flower radiating a chilling cold. Seeing a transparent gem bashfully hidden inside its pistil, Seol Jihu activated the Nine Eyes.

[Ice Essence]
An essence of Soma, the evil-incinerating energy.
A grandmaster black mage had once fused two energies of extreme ends, experimenting in the hopes that the reversing effect of the conflicting energies would pave the way to a new path. The experiment ended in complete failure.
The black mage lost her physical body, and her soul became trapped in the body of an anti-evil energy user.
Even after sealing her evil spirit for so long, the ice essence has not lost its purity. While it does not possess the destructive power of the lightning essence or the superb flexibility of the holy water, the ice essence possesses terrifying permafrost that can freeze even the world.

Seol Jihu’s jaw dropped after reading the explanation.

‘Amazing.’

He never thought he would run into an Essence of Soma. Seo Yuhui had said that she went through great difficulties to acquire the one she gave Seol Jihu, and that it was a priceless item.

This was worthy of being called a fortuitous encounter. Although the essence was still trapped within the ice, Seo Yuhui should know how to extract it.

‘Since its property changes when it makes contact with an outside stimulus, I need to be very careful in handling it…’

“Miss Eun Yuri.”

Seol Jihu grinned after grabbing the ice flower.

“You got very lucky.”

“?”

Eun Yuri tilted her head but congratulated Seol Jihu anyway.

“Congratulations.”

“Hmm? You’re talking like it’s someone else’s business. You don’t want it?”

“Huh? Isn’t—”

“All items acquired during the Tutorial and Neutral Zone shall belong to the Inviter. I know that’s what we decided on, but— I already have an Essence of Soma.”

Eun Yuri nodded her head calmly. Judging by the way her eyes were shining, she seemed interested.

“Well, it all depends on how you perform,” Seol Jihu added with a wink. While he was at it, he decided to remind her one more time.

“Oh right, be sure to leave a paper talisman. We used one just now because we didn’t have any other choice, but we need one for the Neutral Zone.”

Eun Yuri blinked rapidly before muttering, “Ah, is it for the Impossible difficulty mission?”

“Oh? I’m surprised you guessed it right away.”

“That was the only thing I could think of.”

Saying so, Eun Yuri licked her lips while looking around.

“Right, with this paper talisman…”

She trailed off while grinning. This was only the second time Seol Jihu was seeing her smile, the first being the time they met at the start of the Tutorial.

“Okay, I was curious anyway. This is great.”

Eun Yuri vowed gladly.

“I’ll make sure to not use the remaining two talismans.”

“No, you can use one since we have two left.”

“Well, I have a plan to use one as well.”

“…For what?”

“You see…”

Once Eun Yuri explained briefly, Seol Jihu’s mouth widened. He had never thought of such a method before.

“Do you think it’s possible?”

“Um…”

Seol Jihu stammered while staring at Eun Yuri with a deep gaze. The only thing he was expecting out of Eun Yuri was the Magician class, but…

‘Where did she come from?’

His thoughts changed slightly, no, greatly.

Interpreting his silence the wrong way, Eun Yuri hurriedly continued.

“Of course, it might be doable without the paper talisman, but you never know. It’s better to be sure.”

“Right, it’s better to be sure. Do what you want. I’m all for it.”

Seol Jihu played along. Although he wanted to talk to her more, there were other matters to take care of. Talking could come afterward.

“Anyway, shall we go look around a bit more?”

The duo searched around the vines and the pillory. However, there wasn’t much of anything in the chamber in the first place. The only other things they salvaged were four healing potions found inside the leather bags of the dead survivors.

At that moment, Eun Yuri found something.

“This person… he’s still breathing.”

Under the altar, there was a survivor who had not been mummified yet. He was short and slim. Although he was bleeding from his head, his pulse was beating faintly.

“He’s quite lucky.”

Seol Jihu splashed a healing potion on him as an emergency measure before putting him on his back. Now that they had acquired the special reward, saving more survivors would benefit them the most.

‘I should be able to freely eliminate the killers too.’

Since the Sixth Mother perished, the killers should not get stronger. Seol Jihu gestured to the exit in a carefree manner.

“Should we go back to the cabin for now?”

“To save the man we hid under the bed?”

“Yes, though we can’t be sure whether he’s still alive.”

The duo left the cave in a hurry.

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