This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, BlankBlank, Charles, Lastear, Lei, Mathew, and Openbookworm.
Underwater City of Nodelesse
Ark’s steps were full of vigor.
It was thanks to a phone call he had received this morning.
“Is this Mrs. Park Somi’s guardian?”
As soon as he realized it was from the hospital, he was stricken with fear.
Until now, he had no memories of hearing good news from the hospital. Since her hospitalization, he had only gotten news of sudden seizures, and after his mother stabilized a little, they would call to press him about the late hospital bill. Either way, it wasn’t a welcome phone call.
His voice became automatically nervous.
“Lately, Mrs. Park Somi’s condition has improved greatly. Therefore, the doctor has said he feels it would be good to slowly begin the rehabilitation therapy.”
“Sh-she’s gotten better?”
“Yes, a procedure of this kind requires guardian consent. I’m calling to ask what the guardian intends to do.”
“If it’s necessary, we must do it.”
“Then, please visit the hospital today and sign a consent form. I will walk you through the rehabilitation program and additional costs in detail when you come to the hospital.”
It was the best news he’d heard in recent years.
Five years had already passed since his mother had been hospitalized. After receiving surgery on her entire body, including her brain, she was in a comatose state for the first two years. When she woke up, she hadn’t been able properly use her limbs.
What was worse, there had been times when she had occasionally gotten a sudden seizure and lost consciousness for a few days. Whenever that happened, Hyun Woo would hold his mother’s hand and spend the night sleeplessly.
“The cause is mental stress from excessive shock.”
The doctors explained his mother’s symptoms as such.
Stress. For a doctor, it was truly a convenient term, since they just had to attach it to any kind of symptoms.
“As of now, there’s nothing we can do. For the time being, we can only wait for her condition to improve.”
The prescription of the doctors was to wait. While simply waiting her condition to improve, he had to pay 3 to 4 million Won (~$3-4,000) in hospital bills monthly. Even so, he was able to endure it.
If his mother’s conditioned suddenly worsened, the doctor babbled he might have to prepare himself for the worst. His anger would rise at the doctor who could only say those kinds of things, but there was nothing he could do.
In a hospital, a patient’s family has no power.
Whenever it happened, the only thing Hyun Woo could do was to simply clasp his mother’s hand and cry as he prayed again and again to a God he didn’t even believe in.
He didn’t know if the prayers gotten through or not. In any case, after 4 years passed, hope began to bloom. Since last year, his mother’s condition started to improve.
Something like getting up from her bed was still a struggle, but she could eat on her own. In addition, she didn’t have any big problems when she conversed. Since the doctor who had babbled Hyun Woo might have to give up was now supporting the rehab, it indicated a huge change in her condition.
Feeling like he could fly, Hyun Woo bought a fruit basket and went to her hospital room.
“Ah, Hyun Woo.”
As soon as he entered the room, a middle aged man quickly got up.
“Hello, Detective Gwon.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while. Nothing out of the ordinary?”
“I’m fine as always.”
“It’s the day I come to the hospital, so I decided to drop by for a bit.”
“There’s no need to explain yourself.”
Detective Gwon blushed and cleared his throat. “Ahem, then have your talk. I’ll be outside.”
The middle-aged man named Detective Gwon limped out of the room.
Hyun Woo laughed as he held his mother’s hand.
“Mother, I heard. They say you’ve improved a lot lately.”
“Yes, perhaps because my body is getting better, I’ve been feeling good too.”
His mother laboriously tried to smile.
Looking at her haggard face pained his heart. His mother was already in her mid forties, but before the accident, everyone had told her she was beautiful. However, five years of life in the hospital had snatched away her past appearance.
‘No matter what, I have to return mother back to her old self.’
Even if Hyun Woo gave up on everything else, this was the one thing he wanted.
As a shadow crossed Hyun Woo’s face, his mother said in a sad voice, “I’m sorry, this isn’t the time for me to be like this…..”
His mother always started with those words when she saw him.
Hyun Woo hadn’t said a word, but his mother knew. No, there was no reason why she wouldn’t know.
After her admittance to the hospital, relatives had only visited two or three times. Also, they only chattered about how difficult life was these days and other nonsense before leaving.
No matter how sick she was, there was no reason for her to think relatives would constantly be paying the hospital bills. Those relatives had a big impact on why Hyun Woo had closed himself off to people.
In the end, the entire burden was his.
She couldn’t show him she knew this, since she was sorry for all the hardship she caused him.
“Please don’t say such things. Just concentrate on getting better sooner, even if it’s just by a day. Also, I am no longer a child. I’m 22 now. I can make a decent living for myself.
“You’re right, you’re not a kid anymore.”
As she stroked Hyun Woo’s hand, her voice became teary with emotion.
5 years… for an old person to whom today was the same as yesterday, it might be an inconsequential amount of time. But Hyun Woo, who had been a high school sophomore, had became an adult at the age of twenty-two. It was the time when youths experience the most changes.
How would she feel, having to watch her son change as the weight on his shoulders crushed him from her sickbed.
Hyun Woo shook his head as he changed the topic.
“I see Detective Gwon comes by often.”
“That’s right, I’m thankful to him. It’s been five years already…”
“Yes, it would have been really hard for me as well if not for Detective Gwon.”
Hyun Woo sincerely thought of Detective Gwon, Gwon Hwa Rang, as his benefactor.
The accident his father had caused five years ago had shaken Hyun Woo’s life to its roots.
His father passed away and the victim died. A chain collision occurred, causing over 10 people to be seriously injured. It was only for a few seconds, but the accident had even been on the news. The anchorman mentioned a Mr. Kim while babbling that this kind of irresponsible driving was hard to accomplish.
The impact from just a few seconds of news was amazing.
Criticism had poured in from all directions. Even family turned their backs.
The life Hyun Woo had believed in and thought would last forever crumbled so very easily. For the high school sophomore Hyun Woo, it was too heavy of a reality to accept.
From then on, Hyun Woo began to stray. He drank and he smoked. He even fought on the streets. He hated his father who caused the accident, and he hated the world who pointed fingers.
At that time, the one who found Hyun Woo, grabbed him by the collar, and set him right was the detective in charge of investigating the accident, Gwon Hwa Rang. For the first time in his life, Hyun Woo was beaten to a pulp.
Then he was dragged by Gwon Hwa Rang to the hospital.
The truth was he was running away from there.
The truth Hyun Woo had to acknowledge wasn’t in the night streets flashing with neon lights. In the intensive care ward, barely maintaining life through multiple IVs and a respirator, was his mother.
That day, Hyun Woo cried without restraint for the first time.
Gwon Hwa Rang always took care of Hyun Woo after the incident. When there was a problem at school, he put everything aside to come, and he used his connections to introduce Hyun Woo to a part time job with a decent pay. When Hyun Woo urgently needed a loan, he volunteered to stand as a guarantor. It was thanks to him Hyun Woo was able to safely graduate from high school.
For Hyun Woo, Gwon Hwa Rang was a savior— no, he was more than that.
“It’s just that I always felt sorry toward Detective Gwon.”
“Me too. But you don’t have to think that way, Mother.”
“What do you mean?”
“The reason Detective Gwon comes to the hospital probably isn’t because he feels responsible. He may be like a bear on the outside, but he harbors a sly intention inside. You know this too, right?”
As Hyun Woo smiled wickedly, his mother blushed to the tips of her ears.
“This guy, teasing his mother?”
“Hahaha, your face got red. Looks like you don’t dislike it?”
“You rascal, don’t even think about saying anything in front of Detective Gwon.”
Suddenly Hyun Woo spoke heavily with a sombre tone.
His mother made a slightly tense expression.
“I’m not against it.”
“Really, this guy!”
“Hahaha, I’ll be back in a bit after meeting Detective Gwon.”
Hyun Woo pulled his hand free from the mother he’d been teasing and left the sickroom.
Detective Gwon, who’d been sitting next to the hospital ward, laughed as he asked, “What do you think? She’s gotten much better, right?”
“Yes, her mood has brightened a lot too. Thank you.”
“I didn’t do anything…” Detective Gwon mumbled with a sheepish expression.
He glanced furtively at Hyun Woo while looking like he was thinking about something, then pulled out a cigarette and hastily put it away again after being pierced by a nurse’s glare. Then he scratched his head with a frustrated face and spoke up with difficulty.
“By the way, Hyun Woo.”
“I heard from the doctor that rehabilitation treatment will soon start, but… well… I’m talking about the rehab treatment. From what I’ve heard, they say it takes a ton of money. You’re not being covered by insurance. So, well, I actually have more money than it looks.”
Detective Gwon laughed awkwardly as he babbled. “Hahaha, that’s right, I have quite a lot of money. That’s it. I’ve got quite a bit left from the retirement pay I got from quitting detective work, and I get pension, and the pay from my current job is good too… No, I’m not saying I’m well off, but I have money and nothing else to spend it on. So what I mean is…”
“It’s alright.” Hyun Woo shook his head. “I understand what you want to say. I’m really grateful, but it’s alright. I can handle my mother’s hospital bills somehow on my own.”
“No, you see, don’t misunderstand. I just have nothing to spend money on.
“Detective-nim. You like my mother, right?”
Pierced by Hyun Woo’s bullseye, Gwon Hwa Rang was startled.
“Th, That is….”
“There’s no need to hide it. I am not a child.”
“What’s there to apologize for? If it’s you, Detective Gwon, I’ll welcome you anytime.”
“Then, what’s the problem?”
“Me liking you and this issue are different. Do you remember when you beat me to a pulp and dragged me to the hospital?”
“Yeah, something like that did happen.”
“After seeing my mother lying in the intensive care ward, I realized how thoughtlessly I had been living. Then I made a vow. No matter what happens, I will make her better with my strength. It’s not because I feel uncomfortable about using your money, or because it hurts my pride. I just want to keep my vow. Because it’s about my mother, and not just anyone.”
Gwon Hwa Rang gazed at him wordlessly and patted Hyun Woo’s shoulder.
“I don’t deserve those words. Not yet.”
“What you’ve said made you commendable.”
Gwon Hwa Rang nodded as he rose from his seat.
“I understand. If you’re a man, you’ve gotta be stubborn. Do as you want, but promise me one thing. If something gets too difficult to handle alone comes up, you must come to me first. You can promise me, right?”
“Yes, Detective Gwon.”
“Just call me mister, it’s been a while since I quit being a detective. I will go now.”
Gwon Hwa Rang turned and walked down the hallway.
Whenever he saw the detective’s limping figure walking away, Hyun Woo felt bitter.
‘Why does each and every person around me undergo something difficult?’
2 years ago, Gwon Hwa Rang arrested a robber, who boasted a flashy career after a bloody fight. But, while capturing him, he was stabbed in the ankle and calf multiple times and became crippled.
It wouldn’t have been enough even if he had gotten a medal, but he had to suffer ridicule instead.
The problem was the single bullet he’d fired during the arrest. The robber he shot was wounded but made a full recovery, and Gwon Hwa Rang became crippled. Despite it all, it was excessive force and irresponsible use of governmental power for many human rights groups, and there had been an uproar.
To them, the robber was a person, but it seemed they didn’t even see the detective as a person. Since the human rights groups made a fuss, the media had also rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. Once the two groups joined hands, burying one person wasn’t a problem. In the end, Gwon Hwa Rang was stigmatized as the violent cop and was forced to retire in disgrace. Thankfully, his career was recognized and he was now guiding ex-criminals as a probation officer, but it wasn’t a sufficient compensation.
From then on, the Detective Gwon Hwa Rang who used to shout, ‘REALIZE A JUST COMMUNITY’ without a shred of shame like an ignorant child always had sagging shoulders.
‘If at least his leg heals…’
When he reached the thought, New World suddenly came to mind.
There were no disabled people in virtual reality games. Since you moved the character by scanning the brain, physical disabilities were no problem.
So in the game, even Gwon Hwa Rang could be a normal person.
“Detective Gwon, have you ever played games before?”
Gwon Hwa Rang tilted his head wondering what was being said out of the blue.
“Well, I played a little in the past, but…”
“Then be sure to try out a game called New World.”
“You play games these days?”
“Yes, you will also like it if you try it.”
“New World, I did hear about it…” Detective nodded without much thought. “Okay. When I have time, I’ll try it.”
* * *
The picturesque seashore was awash in darkness.
Because of the darkness, the moon and stars rose shone even more brightly.
It was the time of he who walks in the darkness, the Dark Walker.
The Sharkmen protecting the lighthouse were, as their appearance suggested, nocturnal monsters.
As night fell, their stats rose by 30%. On the other hand Ark only received a stat bonus of 20% in darkness, even so, Ark still waited until it was night to start fighting.
The stat bonus in the darkness— it wasn’t something that only applied to Ark. The abilities of the Familiars, using Ark as their host, also increased.
Granted, it was difficult to hope for much attack power or defense, but even so, the increase in Agility and Intelligence demonstrated a significant effect in their team work. Maneuverability, understanding of the battle situation, and the ability to deal with an emergency were all influenced. It was a part of what he’d realized while learning how to use his Familiars properly. In the end, Ark’s abilities alone were increased by 20%, but the whole team’s efficiency increased by at least 40%. With the special ability ‘Stealth’ added on top of that, their usable plans became infinite.
In a way, it could be said Ark had become a true Dark Walker at last.
‘The night is long. There’s no need to rush.’
His destination was right in front of him, but Ark was in no hurry.
A Sharkman is aggressive. Fighting on the totally open seashore would definitely lead to all the nearby Sharkmen swarming in.
“Bat, go and lure one.”
Soon, Bat crossed through the darkness and annoyingly pestered a Sharkman. The Sharkman’s anger gauge gradually filled, and it cried a strange noise as it chased Bat. All the Sharkmen would have swarmed if Ark had come himself, but since it was just a bat, they didn’t feel the need to do so.
Bat lured the Sharkman all the way to the gloomy forest where Ark was using ‘Stealth.’ There’s no need to speak of what happened afterward.
The first strike was a backstab. Activating Eyes of the Cat, he continuously burst out with Dark Blade.
Ark had invested a little more in Intelligence after fighting Kundalini to bring his Mana up to 600. Even after using Eyes of the Cat and Dark Blade in succession four times, he could still maintain the Familiars for over one minute.
The Sharkman who was lured into the shade was turned into soup one minute later.
You have made Shark Fin Soup with Survival Cooking.
A soup made with the rich nutritious shark fin, it boasts a great taste. With the addition of refreshing spices, you have brought out the hidden potential of the ingredients.
Satiety +50%. 400 Health recovery over a 1 minute duration, special effect (Shark Skin): Defense increased by 20 for 30 minutes.
Once Survival Cooking reached Intermediate, the failure rate decreased. And after adding a few types of spices he’d bought in Lancel, making the same food granted new special effects.
For example, if he added a spice to the Howling Seasoned Chilies, which raised Strength in exchange for inducing a confusion hex, Agility also rose and the confusion duration was shortened.
Of course, good effects weren’t the only ones added. It was Survival Cooking, which didn’t allow letting your guard down even while making food!
If he added a spice to the Refreshing Herb Tea which simply restored only Mana, it caused a poisonous hex. So if he didn’t drink Herb Tea every 10 minutes for an hour, his Mana would become 0.
At times, food made without using spices was better.
It really wasn’t a funny effect, but it was fun in its own way.
Ark brought up the cooking information window and smiled in delight.
‘Anyway, I have already gathered 80 recipes.’
2 out of 3 of them were close to poison, but it was pleasing to have something grow.
In any case, after being forced to test the Shark Fin cooking, Bat’s stats rose another step. Then, they tirelessly hunted Sharkmen to procure more ingredients.
The Sharkmen didn’t seem to care about the disappearing allies next to them. They were too busy running around catching the animals wandering around them.
Thanks to their attitude, they were all finished off after two hours with only one Sharkman loitering in front of the lighthouse left. Perhaps because it was a chief, it was bigger than other Sharkmen and black in color.
“Eyes of the Cat.”
After checking the information, it was level 58. Ark’s level was 50, so considering the bonus from the darkness, it was a monster with a level difference of at least 10. But Ark also received bonuses from his title and quests, so various stats were high for his level. Taking this into account, the difference between them was only about 6 levels.
A smile blossomed on Ark’s lips.
‘It’s a good level to evaluate my progress so far.’
“Bat, Skull. Wait here.”
Ark put the Familiars on standby and walked towards the lighthouse alone.
As a human approached, the Sharkman puffed up its chest as it ran forward.
Ark twisted his body for a roundhouse kick into the Sharkman’s jaw, who was then thrown back. The maw shut with a thwack. That was the starting gun signalling the start of the fight.
In New World, level is a universal value. In other words, it wasn’t an absolute value.
In battle, there is no such thing as an absolute.
The surrounding conditions, judgements made on the fly, reflexes, and numerous other variables were also applied.
Combat is where a significantly stronger person sometimes loses against someone who doesn’t seem like they’ll stand a chance. New World also followed the same rule.
Of course, level and stats are still the most important. But, a significantly higher level only meant the probability of winning is infinitely close to 99%; it’s still not 100%.
Ark had learned it from the boss monsters he’d fought until now. So he poured all the techniques his body had become familiar through this recent adventure onto the Sharkman.
He hadn’t even raised his stats with food.
He didn’t use Eyes of the Cat, let alone Dark Blade. He only used the senses he had gained through actual combat to battle the Sharkman.
A chain of kicks followed by sword attacks!
He didn’t even need to borrow the power of skills to be able to discern weak points. As Taekwondo and sword attacks intersected, he dealt critical hits like crazy.
When Ark’s Health had gone down to 30%, the Sharkman finally fell to its knees and died.
“Awesome, Master! This time you were really awesome!”
Clack! Clack! Clack!
Bat and Skull gave him a round of applause as they made a big fuss.
Ark just grinned.
Once his excitement settled, his heart leapt. Even without their chatter, he’d been able to feel he had definitely become stronger.
As the Sharkman disappeared, a Shark Fin and a few other items were dropped.
Sharkman’s Shackle (Magic)
At least 120 Strength
The shackle the Sharkman leader wore; because it is made of considerably heavy rock, it will slow the movement if worn.
The defense is also low, so it’s difficult to hope it will be useful in combat. However, because of its weight, you can keep your balance even if a storm rages upon you.
Effect: Agility -15, imparts a heavy weight to the wearer’s body.
Mermaid’s Scale (Special): (Quantity 5)
The scale of Mermaids, inhabitants of the ocean; if you hold it with your mouth, you can breathe underwater.
It wasn’t a very useful item.
‘Since it wasn’t even a boss monster, this much should be about right.’
After having defeated the Sharkman leader, Ark’s gaze turned towards the lighthouse.
It was the final destination of a long journey.
The lighthouse was considerably older than when he had seen it in the image. He thought it looked beautiful from far away, but with a closer look, the bricks and paint peeling off here and there, reminded him of a haunted house. He felt this way more strongly because it was night.
But, once he rose to the top of the lighthouse, his feelings changed once again.
He looked down from the window on the entirety of the night ocean surrounding him on all sides.
In the dark, the seashore was clearly visible, its crashing waves sparkled with starlight. It had a mysterious atmosphere, just as the music from the mirror had conveyed.
‘Then, what should I do now?’
Since the Hand Mirror had guided him here, there had to be a clue to the quest. Ark soon found a small groove in the center of the lighthouse.
When he found the groove, he had a rough idea of what he had to do.
Ark took out the hand mirror and inserted the handle into the groove.
At that time, the lighthouse suddenly heaved a breath and rotated. He saw the scenery pass by through the simultaneously rotating hand mirror. And when the hand mirror pointed toward a single star, the turning suddenly stopped.
The mirror amplified the starlight a hundred fold and shot it out across the night sea, making a road along the dark waters.
With a drumming noise, the quest was updated.
The quest has been updated.
The Mysterious Mirror’s Whisper → Entrance to a New World
At the end of a long, long journey, you have finally found the lighthouse.
However, take notice: The lighthouse is not the final destination, but merely a milestone. This is the end of the world. This is the entrance to another world, only for those who have been chosen. Receive the mirror’s guidance and find the new world; a new adventure is awaiting you.
Quest Limitation: Knowledge of Ancient Artifacts
* * *
‘The mirror’s guidance? Do I have to follow the light this time?’
Ark looked at the path of light shining down on the water.
It looked as if the light was connected to the depths of the ocean.
In the end he had to pass through the ocean, but how? There was no need to worry about it. Because there is a rule the answer is always set up beside the problem.
‘Is this the reason why the Sharkmen’s leader dropped Mermaid’s Scales?’
Ark put the hand mirror away and started on his new adventure.
As expected, he was able to breathe after holding a Mermaid’s Scale in his mouth and submerging his head. With each of his Familiars biting down on a Mermaid Scale, Ark entered the water.
Even within the water they were able to move while breathing freely.
Something he had occasionally experienced in his dreams had been made possible.
It was just a game, but the unfamiliar sensation was amazing.
It was beautiful under the sea.
There was a boundless forest made of seaweed and corals shrouded with transparent shades of blue. Colorful fishes were drifting around it. It was a magical sight he’d only seen in documentaries, unfolded before his very eyes.
However the depths of the ocean wasn’t a place where only the beautiful could be seen. As the shoals of fish suddenly dispersed, some massive object attacked Ark.
A demon of the sea, it was an octopus monster with the name Devil Fish.
While brandishing its eight legs, the Devil Fish attacked.
Ark quickly avoided its body, but there was something he didn’t realize.
The physics in the real world also applied in the New World! Since he was under water, he couldn’t move well, let alone keep his balance properly.
As Ark flailed, a bright red light flashed before his eyes.
– You have received a critical hit from the Devil Fish. 180 points of damage.
Since the critical did only 180 damage, it didn’t seem to be as strong as it looked.
However the current problem was Ark didn’t have a method of fighting properly. As he was hit by the octopus’ legs, his body spun round and round. Even Skeleton and Bat could only flounder.
‘Dammit, If only I could get my balance…. Ah, that’s right!’
“Snake, Sharkman’s Shackle!”
At Ark’s voice, Snake quickly spat out the shackle.
It was truly fortunate he had entrusted it to Snake because it was too heavy.
When combat starts, weapons, shields, potions, and other items can’t be taken out of the bag. But the restriction didn’t apply to Snake.
Granted, it couldn’t be helped to be unprotected while changing equipment. He was dealt two more blows as he put on the shackles. Then, as he felt the enormous weight, his body plunged down. Thanks to that, he was able to regain his balance.
The items the Sharkman had dropped were absolutely necessary for his journey under the sea. But it alone didn’t solve everything.
‘My body is heavy!’
It wasn’t just the shackle’s weight; Ark was underwater. Breathing was made possible by the Mermaid’s Scale, but his movements being slowed by water resistance was unavoidable. His sword, which had always flown like the wind, moved like a slow-motion video.
That wasn’t all.
– Your attack has failed because of the Devil Fish’s elasticity.
Ark’s sword bounced off the rubber-like elasticity of the Devil Fish.
“WHAT THE HELL? Eyes of the Cat!”
When Ark chanted the skill, red marks were drawn on the Devil Fish’s body.
It was normal for dozens of places to show up for other monsters, but the Devil Fish only had 3 or 4. And those places only showed up momentarily when the Devil Fish attacked.
‘So I have to wait for the moment when its muscles tense up for an attack and then counterattack?’
The Devil Fish was level 40. It was lower than Ark, but the special physical limitations of the underwater environment made the difficulty feel several hundred times greater. It was nearly impossible to accurately pierce the ever-changing weak points with his immensely lowered agility in the water.
‘I’d be able to dish out damage with defense-ignoring Dark Blade, but…’
He didn’t have much Mana left because he had floundered in the beginning and wasted time.
‘There is only one way.’
He’d be late if he checked the red points by eye before attacking. He had to predict the Devil Fish’s movement beforehand and stab before the red point appeared. Ark concentrated on defense while inspecting the Devil Fish’s movements with Eyes of the Cat. Which parts emerged as weak points at which movements, he stored them one by one within his head.
‘Alright, I’ve roughly figured out the bastard’s movements. It’s here now!’
Ark dodged the incoming octopus’s feet and stabbed it with the blade.
– You have landed a critical hit!
Though it was difficult, he dealt a 100% critical hit when the attack succeeded.
‘Good, I can win as long as I know the method!’
Ark dodged the octopus legs as he successfully counter attacked about 10 times. When the Devil Fish fell into critical condition, his sight suddenly darkened as he took damage.
It was because the Devil Fish blocked his vision with ink and attacked.
At the attack he hadn’t imagined, Ark was getting completely creamed. Within the darkness, he couldn’t see an inch through, it was hard to land attacks, let alone avoid the octopus legs.
Just then, he heard Bat’s voice from one side.
“Master, this way, stab now!”
Ark swung the sword in reflex and another critical landed as his sight cleared.
The Devil Fish slowly faded.
‘This isn’t a simple matter.’
Ark’s face became serious.
The octopus’ level was 40. Outside, he could beat monsters of the same level even while picking his nose. But the octopus had driven Ark to the brink of death.
The underwater special environment was no different from applying great penalty on Ark’s abilities.
If Ark hadn’t grinded and polished his practical sense he probably wouldn’t have won even if he were 10 levels higher than he currently was.
‘I don’t know what other kinds of monsters will appear from here on. What’s certain is that since I’m underwater, they’ll be completely different in type from those outside. In my current state, can I win against monsters that are stronger than the Devil Fish?’
There was no guarantee that wasn’t the only problem.
His leather armor and rock helmet were fine, but his steel sword received a water penalty and its durability kept dropping just by equipping it.
A dagger made by sharpening the coral. The blade has satisfactory luster and shape. Excellent for use as a decoration. Because the material is coral, it is impossible to repair with the usual method.
In the end, Ark was forced to equip the lousy dagger he obtained by hunting the Sharkmen.
The entire situation was the worst, but Ark’s motivation increased instead.
‘Marine monsters can’t be beaten just because you have higher stats. Real skills are needed! This is the chance to raise my level, not my character’s.’
Ark’s maximum interest was boosted.
It was obvious, a higher level allowed you to defeat stronger enemies and created a chance to earn better items and money. But the level up Ark was thinking of wasn’t simply increasing stats or skill proficiency.
Didn’t you see how a character clinging to only levels and numbers like Andel met its end?
The player’s ability to control the character was more important than the character’s skill. It was also the reason Ark had been able to fight the Sharkman 1 on 1.
A character’s stats were meaningless no matter how high they were if they weren’t used properly. The ability to utilize 100% of level and stats! It was something only possible with the effort of the user.
‘In any case, it’s difficult to level up by hunting level 40 monsters. But there’s no where better to truly level up, not in numbers but in my ability. This is where I can level up the second time.’
There was no need to get too impatient because of Alan or the other applicants. After all, haste makes waste.
In the past, he would’ve just focused on raising his character level. But Ark had completely grasped New World’s characteristics now.
‘I’ll conquer the octopus for now!’
Ark decisively made up his mind and started to train.
The first hurdle was getting used to the water.
Ark started catching the fish wandering nearby. Fish didn’t deal damage to Ark, and because they were small and moved rapidly, they were appropriate training opponents.
Ark, Bat, and Skull floundered as they chased the fishes.
The training wasn’t fulfilled only within the game. Outside the game, Ark went to the swimming pool in his spare time. He walked and let fly punches and kicks in the water for several hours. Other people whispered as they looked at him strangely, but he didn’t pay them any attention. Self was always more important than others.
The effects slowly began to show after training for about 3 days.
“Uhahah, these guys!”
Bat became able to outstretch its wings like a stingray and swim underwater while chasing the fish. It was a change that couldn’t be compared to three days ago, when it had just flailed around.
The wingless Skull also found a measure of its own. It aptly utilized the movement of the current as it reached a level where it could roll its body.
But as useless as it was, the most outstandingly skilled one was Snake, who was always wrapped around his waist. When Ark praised Bat and Skull’s growth, Snake snorted and traversed the ocean like an eel. Then it returned and coiled itself as if asking to be complimented too.
He did praise it, but the ability was meaningless since it couldn’t be used in combat. Anyway, of course the one who felt the greatest result was Ark.
– You have landed a critical hit!
He countered all of the wildly incoming octopus legs.
There was nothing to hinder Ark’s movement. His underwater movements were still slower than on land, there were movements that can only be done in water. How to move while reducing the water resistance; no, rather, it was how to utilize the water resistance.
Ark realized the solution with his body, not his mind.
Water is not stationary. It is always flowing somewhere.
He read the water flow and didn’t resist. Rather, he moved his body with the flow.
The effect was as expected!
‘The Devil Fish is no longer a challenge.’
Ark went to a deeper part of the water.
As expected, the emerging monsters abnormal in their appearances and abilities. The crab-like Monster Crab had its entire body encased in a steel-like shell, hitting it with his sword lowered its durability. He could only land blows by precisely hitting the joints, where the shell was weak.
There was also a jellyfish like monster, Jellyfish. It swung countless tentacles paralyzing anything it touched.
They were monsters that were each incomparably difficult!
But with steady training, Ark defeated them one by one.
At first, he had to swing his sword three or four times to finally land a blow, but with every repetition the number decreased. After a week had passed, he was able to land a blow every time he swung his sword.
The Devil Fish’s ink was no longer a problem either. At first he’d been barely able to locate it through Bat’s voice, but once he got used to underwater combat, he was able to make all predictions just through the movement of the current.
The most difficult enemy was the Jellyfish. He could end it with two or three stabs to the body, but its tentacles got in his way. If it touches him, he will be paralyzed and could only stay still while getting hit until he had lose at least 20% of his Health.
But since he’d gotten used to the Devil Fish’s octopus leg attack, he became able to dodge the tentacles without much difficulty.
‘Good, I’m starting to get the feel of it.’
Ark no longer used food effects. Food made with Jellyfish had the effect of reducing water penalty by 50%, but he didn’t even eat it.
He won with just his sword and skills.
As long as he was rigged up with the ability to fight properly, marine monsters were no match for Ark. Whenever he swung his sword, three or four blows were executed in succession.
Since Ark’s actual level was higher, once he found the strategy, fighting three or four enemies at once wasn’t a problem. Ten days had passed, and although he hunted countless marine monsters, his level only rose by 2. But since he’d fought under the water penalty, his Sword-Hand Mastery rose by 100 and had surpassed 230.
In addition, his Nursing skill had also risen by 60. He had abused the skill while driving his Familiars to near death.
But the biggest result of it all was Ark and his Familiars’ combat sense had swiftly increased.
‘Now I can fight any monster that appear, as if they were on land.’
* * *
But no matter how pleased he was about the situation he couldn’t stay here forever.
Ark began to seriously follow the road of light.
The ocean road was more complicated than he thought.
There were places that looked blocked but were actually open when he went there, and vice versa. Also, places rife with strong currents were hard to even approach. Since the hand mirror’s light always showing the path in a straight line, it wasn’t easy to find the road.
Only after two days had passed, Ark reached the destination. After clearing and emerging from a dense seaweed forest, a broad underwater plain unfurled. At the center, the sight of a city bathed in light appeared.
“Is this the destination!”
An exclamation automatically burst out of him.
Brilliantly colorful light poured out from between the buildings soaring up like enormous coral reefs between the castle walls. As shocking as it was, the ones who were coming and going busily between the walls were Mermaids.
Mermaids had the lower body of a fish, and both sides of their faces had fins. The scene of them mingling with colorful fish reminded him of a scene from a fairy tale.
“Fish. Fish!” Bat said noisily while smacking his mouth.
At the end of the fishing training, he knew the taste of fish.
“By any chance, don’t say that to those people.”
“Damn, but they’re probably tasty!”
“… Just keep your mouth shut.”
After glaring at Bat, Ark approached the city entrance.
Ark talked to the entrance guard.
The guard, who was wearing armor made by connecting seashells, and holding a spear that appeared to be manufactured from some kind of horn, made a surprised expression.
“Huh, you’re a Human, right?”
“Yes, I’m Human.”
“First time seeing a human. I thought after the catastrophe the road to the outside was completely severed… Anyway you really don’t have a tail. With those uncomfortable legs I can’t understand how you arrived here. Ah, also how are you breathing? I heard humans can’t breathe under water?”
“A Mermaid’s Scale fell into my hands by chance.”
Ark added he’d obtained the Mermaid’s Scale from a Sharkman.
The Mermaid guard nodded with eyes filled with goodwill.
“Those stupid and vicious Sharkmen are the enemies of Merpeople. You, who defeated those Sharkmen and avenged Merpeople, are definitely a great adventurer. We aren’t opposed to Humans either. Since you’re a rare guest, I’ll welcome you happily.”
“Thank you. But what is the name of this city?”
“You came here without even knowing it?”
The Mermaid guard replied with a prideful voice, “This is the City of Merpeople, the people of the sea, Nodelesse. It has received the sea God’s blessing and is the sole place permitted to be called the most perfectly beautiful. If you stay here and see, you too will come to understand.”
“I am already aware. I have been to many places, but this is the first time I have seen such a beautiful city. Simply seeing the city conveys the sublimity of Merpeople.”
“Ohh, you are wise.”
The Mermaid guard smiled brightly and nodded.
Ark had maximized his intimacy with countless NPCs. Sweet-talking one fish was nothing. Ark raised his intimacy with lip service and pulled out the main point.
“Do you perhaps know a name called Christin?”
The name of a person who briefly appeared in the hand mirror’s images, Christin.
Currently it was the only clue to solve the quest.
However, the response was strange.
The friendly eyes of the guard suddenly filled with wariness.
“Where did you hear that name?”
“Actually I came here to find the person named Christin.”
“There is no one named Christin here.”
“Yes, I know. I think it is someone who had lived a long time ago…”
“I said I don’t know!”
The Mermaid guard suddenly got mad and turned his head.
Ark could feel the intimacy he had raised plunging down.
“If you hadn’t defeated the Sharkman and come to this place, I would’ve chased you out immediately.”
The Mermaid guard definitely knew about Christin. Ark wanted to get more information in any way possible, but if the intimacy fell even more then it seemed he’d be blocked entry to the city.
“I apologize. I must have been mistaken.”
Ark roughly equivocated and entered the city.
Once they were in the city, Bat let out its rage.
“What is with that guy? He is just a fish!”
“Please just be quiet. You’re driving me mad.”
Ark shook his head back and forth with an obstinate expression.
It wasn’t just the Mermaid guard. He spoke to several Mermaids after entering the city, but the reactions were all the same.
Just by hearing the name Christin they got into a temper and didn’t want to talk anymore.
He had thought once he arrived here, the quest would naturally solve itself. And the very same thought hadn’t changed yet.
The Mermaids showed such sensitive reactions meant there was some kind of story behind it. However, since they got mad just by mentioning the name, there was no way he could find out.