Chapter 177 – Red Desert (4)
There was a big hole. The big hole had a diameter of 20 meters. It was inadequate to simply call it a hole. It was big enough to call it a chasm.
The four Users were speechless as they looked at the entrance.
Hyrkan, who had the experience of going through all sorts of hardships, was first to open his mouth after he came to his senses.
“So shall we head in?”
“Both the Quest Content and the Gem Conch is telling us to go in.”
Whistling answered Hyrkan. At that moment, Yojori and Joba was still unable to come to their senses. They vacantly looked at the hole. Yojori, who always chirped aloud, had her mouth shut as she stared at the intimidating hole.
Of course, the size wasn’t the only reason why they were awed and intimidated.
“Crazy. You saw what happened earlier!”
Hyrkan’s party hadn’t become intimidated by the hole. It had to do with the being that had made the hole.
At Hyrkan’s words, the four of them thought about what happened earlier…. It was around three minutes ago.
While everyone was clicking their tongue in amazement, Hyrkan spoke out loud to organize his memories..
“The snake from earlier…. It sounds like a misnomer to call it a snake. Anyways, you guys all saw the 10 stories long monster?”
They had arrived at their destination by following the Gem Conch, and a stone monument was waiting for Hyrkan’s party. Of course, the stone monument was weathered, so there was nothing on it. The four of them stood on top of the stone monument with a vacant expression on their faces. Whistling put the Gem Conch to his ear, and it said to head downwards.
Everyone let out some choice words at this direction.
Did they have to dig up the ground?
However, the Red Desert couldn’t be dug out.
They couldn’t do it….
Their complaints were along that line.
Koo koo koo!
At that moment, a large sound was heard, and an earthquake could be felt. The ground started to crack, so everyone decided to retreat for now. The ground cracked as it sunk. An enormous snake erupted out of the ground when everyone was clear of the stone monument.
Hyrkan, who had pretty much experienced everything within this game, dumbly stared at the majestic mammoth of a snake.
The snake quickly disappeared back into the ground as soon as it appeared.
Since then, the situation remained the same.
“I’m sure of it. The Gem Conch wants us to go in there.”
Everyone wanted Whistling to listen to the Gem Conch again. For reference, this was the seventh time they had asked him to do this. Still, Whistling hadn’t kept count, but he continued to put the Gem Conch to his ear. Whistling was also dazed at what had just happened.
Hyrkan let out a long sigh.
‘This is nuts.’
It wasn’t as if the situation was totally unbelievable. This was a game. The large snake had appeared, and it had made a hole. The hole led to some other location. This wasn’t out of the realm of possibility of what one would face in a game. It was actually a very cool setting.
‘If that snake is the boss monster…. Will I be able to kill it?’
The problem arose if they would have to kill the large snake from earlier. This particular game was sadistic enough to make them confront and kill the snake. At that point, this would turn from being a cool setting to being a horrible setting.
Even Hyrkan couldn’t imagine himself fighting this snake.
This was why everyone had a vacant expression on their faces.
“I’ll go in first.”
Whistling was able to somewhat pull himself together, so he volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb. Hyrkan turned to look at Whistling.
“This hole isn’t an Instance Dungeon. One person can go scout and come back. If there is a problem, one could run back here.”
“Ah. Then I’ll go in first.”
“No way. I should go in. A Crusader has a higher chance of surviving.”
Yojori and Joba was finally able to open their mouths, and they each offered to be the sacrificial lamb. They spoke about it as if it was their duty.
On the other hand, the Hahoe Mask acted different from them. He became surprised at their words, and at the same time, he fell into a dilemma.
He was afraid.
He calculated the cost associated with his Game Over. He used simplified figures for his calculations. When he arrived at a figure, he clamped his mouth shut.
He didn’t like the number he had arrived at, and at the same time, he didn’t like the fact that he was weighing only his own interests.
‘When did I…..’
The Hero Slaughterer didn’t use to make such calculations. The only thing the Hero Slaughterer cared about was whether he was going to kill an opponent or not. His calculations revolved around the methods needed to kill the ones that deserved to be killed. That was it.
Hyrkan let out a long sigh.
“If we are set on this plan, I’ll go in.”
The three of them reacted to his words. Before they could speak, Hyrkan gave an explanation.
“Even if a lesser monster comes out, the only one that could defeat it would be me.”
Hyrkan was right. If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have been able to reach this location. The Red Desert was a burdensome stage even for Hyrkan. If a goblin appeared here, the three of them would be hard pressed to kill it. This game was like that.
At his words, the three Users nodded their heads.
“Then we can all go in together.”
“Yeah. We can do that.”
Instead of giving an answer, Whistling turned to look at Hyrkan. Hyrkan was still thinking over the decision.
‘It isn’t an Instant Dungeon… If things go sideway, we can run away. Yes, that’s what we’ll do. I’ll just use the Golems to buy time. If we keep a sharp mind, we’ll be able to survive even if we all go into the tiger’s cave.’
Whistling looked at Hyrkan as his eyes became bleary.
[You’ve enter the Den of the Rebels.]
[You’ve acquired the title ‘Visitor of the Den of Rebels’.]
[You’ve acquired the title ‘Inheritor of the Ruined Kingdom’s Will.]]
[You’ve acquired the title ‘One who saw the Mirage Snake’.]
The Mirage Snake had made this large hole, and the four Users slid down the tunnel like a water slide. They were instantly greeted with three presents. Three out of the four Users immediately marvelled at what they had received.
“Rebels…. It sounds nice.”
“If this is the Den of the Rebel, then the Quest Man was correct. This scenario is set up as he had predicted.”
“I don’t care about that. I just want Elves to come out and greet me.”
“Crazy son of a bitch.”
“Even I think my words were a little bit too much. Anyways, the Mirage Snake… Wasn’t it awesome?”
“I agree. A large snake made this tunnel. It was very cool.”
On the other hand, the remaining User was unlatching his wristwatch instead of looking over his presents.
[Item Slot Change Mode is unavailable now.]
He gripped the wrist watch, which he had slipped off. A darkness flowed out from the wristwatch to make a door.
[Death Knight was Summoned.]
A Death Knight appeared within the dark tunnel.
[Special Skill ‘Commander’ was activated.]
Nine Skeleton Warriors, two Skeleton Magicians and a Skeleton Knight appeared alongside the Death Knight.
[Bone Armor was summoned.]
[Madness Helm was summoned.]
As if the summoning wasn’t enough, all kinds of Skills armed the Skeleton unit again. The Bone Armor surrounded the Skeletons, and a horn grew on their heads. Moreover, all kinds of Curses was added on to their weapons.
[Life Vessel was activated.]
At the end, Hyrkan activated the Life Vessel Skill.
He optimized himself for survival, and when he finished all his preparations, he was prepared to slip into his fighting mode at any moment.
His sigh came out as if to harden his resolve.
“All right. Let’s move.”
The Death Knight rode the Skeleton Steed as it took the lead. The Skeleton Knight, Warriors. and Magicians followed behind it. Hyrkan’s group was in the rear. It was an exaggeration to say that they were in the rear. Hyrkan’s party was as far as they could be with the Death Knight and its cohort.
The distance between the two groups was quite large.
However, Hyrkan wasn’t satisfied even after putting that much distance with the advance group. He kept vigilant of his surrounding.
He was actually too vigilant.
“We’ll lead from the front.”
It was so bad that Yojori and Joba stepped forward to intervene.
“It is too dangerous.”
“At worst, we’ll die. We can live with that.”
From their perspective, Hyrkan was being overly cautious.
They didn’t enjoy a Game Over, but from their perspective, they were willing to risk a Game Over if needed. It was an option they were willing to choose.
On the other hand, Hyrkan valued survival over everything else, and he acted accordingly.
However, Hyrkan’s vigilance was eating away at their time. Up until now, Hyrkan had moved at break speed when he committed to fighting. However, Hyrkan was now moving at the slowest speed setting that could be travelled by the Skeleton army.
This was why they moved only 3 kilometers, yet it took them an hour.
Moreover, the tunnel made one feel ashamed for being so vigilant. It was called the Den of the Rebels, but until they found the ruined underground city, they hadn’t run across anything dangerous. Not a single battle was fought..
“This is amazing.”
“What is it? Where is the light coming from?”
“There. I think something is over there. The ceiling is really high. Isn’t this as big as a domed baseball stadium?”
“Unexpectedly, this place is pretty clean. I have a hard time calling it a ruin. I don’t think this place suffered any attacks. It was just abandoned.”
When the underground city was found, Yojori and Joba couldn’t hold themselves back. They started running around to satisfy their curiosity.
On the other hand, Hyrkan was still tense.
‘Where is it?’
They had basically followed a path left behind by the snake. He got ready to fight a battle with the snake. It might occur at any moment.
‘Where did it go?’
Whistling intruded into the feeling of tenseness felt by Hyrkan.
“Maybe, this is because I haven’t seen you in awhile. However, you are really make this game boring.”
Hyrkan replied reflexively. Hyrkan’s question held a sharp edge to it. However, Whistling wasn’t someone, who would back down, because he heard some sharp words.
“When we met last time, you grumbled a lot, but you seemed to be enjoying yourself playing this game.”
“What are you trying to say?”
Instead of giving an immediate answer, Whistling thought over his answer. He organized his thoughts and feelings he had, since he met up with Hyrkan for this Quest. After he thought through everything, he gave his answer.
“Each person has their own reason for playing this game, and I don’t care what that reason is. However, one’s action should match one’s motivation to play this game.”
This was a bit of an exaggeration, but Whistling had seen the Hahoe Mask as a gamer sent by the gods. He was a warrior sent by the gods to see if he could reach the end of Warlord.
He was akin to a warrior of a god!
In reality, Hyrkan created results that far exceeded his talents. He didn’t give up when confronted with difficulties. If there was a dead end, he used all methods available to him to pave a path forward. Even if it was a battle considered to be impossible, he put his life on the line to drag himself to victory.
Hahoe Mask was that kind of a User. The battle footages that was popular on youtube was the evidence. He could just order his powerful Skeleton Underlings to do everything, yet he didn’t hesitate to throw himself into the mix even at the risk to himself. He led from the front to bring about victory.
Even though he was the Hahoe Mask, he hadn’t shown any aversion for the possibility of a Game Over. He hadn’t shown fear of the risk that came with a Game Over. If one looked at the footages of the Hahoe Mask, he had always believed what he did was worth the risk of a Game Over. He fought despite the risks.
However, the current Hahoe Mask was different from the one from before.
There was a difference…. Others couldn’t tell the difference. However, Whistling had the closest seat in viewing Hyrkan from before and after the change. Moreover, he considered himself to be a friend of Hyrkan, so Whistling was aware of this change.
“If your aim is to earn money, you should act as if this is a business. You should play as if you are playing for the audiences that’ll give you money.”
Since Whistling thought of Hyrkan as a friend, he brought up this subject.
“If your goal is to achieve the highest level, you should play the game more efficiently. You shouldn’t be here. You should kill Wood Devils or monsters of that ilk to give it your all in leveling up. If you want to become famous, you should do something controversial. You can challenge one of the 30 great guilds.”
Whistling thought of Hyrkan as a friend. He had thought he had made an amazing friend in an amazing world within a game!
“If you are aiming to complete the Main Scenario Quest, you should adjust your attitude accordingly.”
If he didn’t think of Hyrkan as a friend, Whistling wouldn’t have spoken this many words.
Hyrkan didn’t even let out a sigh at Whistling’s words.
Hyrkan felt conflicted. Whistling left Hyrkan alone. He didn’t want to pile on more stuff on top of an already conflicted Hyrkan.
The thoughts that weighed upon Hyrkan’s mind deepened.
There had been no battles.
There had been no enemies inside the Den of Rebels. There were no allies either. It was just a remnant left behind by the distant past. Hyrkan’s party used the Gem Conch to find the Artifacts left behind by the owner of the Den of Rebels.
“I’ve located the boxes. There are three of them.”
There was a grave made out of rocks within the underground city. Underneath the stone grave, three boxes were found. They found a red, black and green colored boxes.
The red box had one scroll, and the black box held three scrolls. The green box couldn’t be opened.
“So this is it?”
“Yes. I’ve seen it before.”
Whistling’s party immediately guessed what was within the green box.
“It probably holds a Record Tree seed. I’ve seen similar boxes near the Record Tree.”
“It is an amazing Artifact.”
When Whistling took the green box, Whistling and his party heard a Quest Announcement. Their Quest Content had just changed. They had to deliver the green box to the Red Elves.
On the other hand, Hyrkan’s Quest Content didn’t change at all. There were no new System Announcement. Unlike his expectation, his Elven Kingdom’s Artifact was elsewhere.
However, Hyrkan didn’t get discouraged. He didn’t throw a tantrum. He just looked at his surrounding.
He looked at the unblemished Bone Armor on his Skeletons. When he saw this sight, he felt silly for being worried, tense, and wary. These emotions had been sucking his blood dry.
His actions up until now looked ridiculous in hindsight.
‘I was a scaredy-cat.’
He had flopped around like a scared coward.
Whistling was right.
When he returned to the past, he had prior knowledge, which allowed him to gain rewards. These rewards were set in stone, and he had nothing to lose. This certainty was the reason why he had thrown himself at every obstacles he encountered.
However, this wasn’t true any more. Everything he faced was shrouded by the unknown, and he had a lot to lose now.
In the past, he always walked on that fine line where a slip up would result in a Game Over. He had enjoyed walking this fine line within this game. Now he was avoiding such situations at all cost. He was only filled with wariness now.
‘I thought it was bullshit when people said a person’s position maketh the man. Jeez….’
He had been in self-denial.
Why did Hyrkan become a Necromancer? Did he become one, because he wanted to order around the Skeletons for his convenience?
No. He wanted to make a stage where the Hero Slaughterer would thrive. Skeletons were merely distractions to draw the aggro. They were supposed to be used to set up a stage where Hyrkan would be able take on the most difficult opponent. He never wanted the Skeletons and Golems to make this game easy.
‘What I wanted to do… At the very least, this isn’t it.’
Hyrkan gritted his teeth. The tail end of his lips drooped.
“What is the status of your Quest?”
Whistling queried Hyrkan.
“My Quest hasn’t changed at all.”
“You should come with us just in case. Why don’t you visit the town of the Red Elves with us to deliver the Record Tree seed?”
“No. You guys should complete your Quest. There is only one of that Item. If you lose it, you’ll never be unable to finish this Quest.”
“I’m sure our Quests are related. If you progress in your Quest to the next stage, I’m sure I’ll receive a clue for my Quest too. You should take care of your own business first. I can confirm it afterwards.”
Hyrkan continued to speak.
“Moreover, I have something I have to do. I have to cross the Urugal mountain range. I’m not in a hurry. You go do your thing.”
Hyrkan cleanly gave up on the idea of traveling with them. Yojori and Joba looked at him with anxious eyes. They were truly worried for him.
Hyrkan had put a lot of effort into this venture for them, yet Hyrkan basically had to kick an empty can down the road.
Instead of speaking unnecessary words, Whistling lightly kicked the red box towards Hyrkan.
The red box came to a stop next to Hyrkan’s foot.
“I can’t send you back with empty hands. You should keep the Legendary Rank Ancient Power.”
At those words, Hyrkan nodded his head.
“All right. We have enough where everyone will get something. There are three Transcendent Rank Ancient Power scrolls, so you guys should divvy it up amongst yourselves. Or do you want to sell it to me?”
“What price do you have in mind?”
“How about 100,000 gold each?”
When the 100,000 gold was mentioned, Yojori and Joba’s face was filled with surprise. Whistling’s expression hardened.
“You are basically wanting it for free.”
“Instead, I’ll kill all the Sand Snakes we encounter on the way back. I’ll help you guys level up, and you guys can keep the Ingredient Coins as souvenirs. Since we are friends, you should give me a discount.”
Finally, Whistling expression finally softened.
“Since we are friends, we have to make sure the deal is fair. I want 200,000 gold.”
On the other hand, Hyrkan’s expression hardened.
“Hey. Do you think 200,000 gold is….”
“Circlet of Purification.”
“······I guess I can do that. What about you two? What do you guys want to do?”
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