Chapter 1 : Special Army of Familiars

This chapter is brought to you by AnmesicCat, Asuki, Haikai, Kirito, Lei, and Mathew1122. Special mentions to Crytach and Grey.


He followed the Hand Mirror’s light for quite a while.

Ark’s journey so far was a monotonous repetition of his daily routine.

The light of the Hand Mirror that functioned as a compass only came out at night.

Since he was following the light in a straight line, he ended up on a route consisting of mostly mountains. So when the light disappeared, he couldn’t determine the direction and always wandered off.

Naturally, the method of following the Hand Mirror’s light at night and wandering the area and hunting at day solidified.

The moment he entered Argue Mountains that surrounds Jackson’s territory line, the higher level the monsters became.

The Magal Wolves possessed defensive powers incomparable to a regular Wolf, and the Bengal Tiger boasted of outrageous attack power with its knife-long fangs, constantly ambushing him.

However, Ark had raised his level to the limit in what was called the highest level dungeon in the Jackson area, the Shadow Forest.

There were no opponents dangerous enough for Ark, who had even hunted a Reaper.

The situation changed one week after the journey started; over two days had passed in real time.

The Magal Wolves’ and Bengal Tigers’ attacks gradually lessened.

Based on his experience, Ark knew what the change meant.

‘Looks like I’ve passed the territory.’

Like people, what was called disposition also existed for monsters.

The disposition determined the friendship between monsters.

In other words, if similar small monsters were set to be hostile, they did not approach each other. If they were set as a natural enemies like the relationship between a mouse and a wolf, then fights between them would break out.

Thanks to this system being in place, a monster’s domain was naturally made.

The fact that ambushes of the Magal Wolves and Bengal Tigers were decreasing meant the domain was changing.

‘What kind of monster’s domain is this?’

It’d be a sticky situation if he suddenly encountered a high-level monster.

“Bat, observe the surrounding carefully and inform me immediately if anything shows up.”

“Got it, Master.”

Ark utilized Bat to increase his vigilance thoroughly as he traversed the forest. Soon, he spotted a few monsters between the thick bushes.

‘The face of a dog and a human’s body, they’re Gnolls!’

There were three of them, and they were drooling saliva while roasting a monster that looked like a Bengal Tiger under a fire. In other words, that meant they were strong enough to hunt a Bengal Tiger.

A Bengal Tiger wasn’t an easy opponent either. If they were stronger than a Bengal Tiger, then they weren’t opponents to thoughtlessly come at.

‘What to do? Should I try fighting ’em?’

Ark was contemplating when one Gnoll suddenly raised its head and let out a cry.

“GRRRRR.”

“It’s a Human. I smell the scent of a Human!”

“Let’s catch and eat it, Human meat is more delicious.”

It was a mistake to hide with his back to the wind. The Gnolls with their sensitive sense of smell carried their clubs and approached while flaring their noses.

“Damn, no other choice. Skull, Bat. Assist me.”

Ark swung his sword at a Gnoll as he leapt from the woods.

The Gnoll caught by the ambush received a critical hit and was thrown back.

“Eyes of the Cat!”

Ark’s irises became awash in gold as the Gnoll’s weak points and information were displayed.

‘Level 45, many weak points too. At this level, I can somehow fight them.’

“Skull, Bat. We’re concentrating our attack on one of ’em! Dark Blade!”

Ark loosed a concentrated attack on the Gnoll’s weak point.

It was disadvantageous to be surrounded by three level 45 monsters. When fighting a group, it was important to focus the offensive power on one opponent first to reduce the number of enemies.

With Eyes of the Cat and Dark Blade as well as the addition of the Familiars’ co-op bonus, the Gnoll’s health decreased to 70 percent in an instant. But something strange happened.

The remaining Gnolls kept their distance even while their teammate was under attack. At that moment while Ark was thinking it was strange, the two Gnolls raised their bows.

‘Archer!’

He had not tried fighting any monster using a bow until now.

Therefore, Ark had never even considered a countermeasure concerning a bow attack.

“Damn it! Bat, block it! If you can’t block it, it’s five times of food!”

“Waah, stop, you dog head!”

At Ark’s threat, Bat struck the archer’s face while screaming.

Its outstretched wings blocked its eyes, making the arrow fly off wildly. But the other Gnoll’s loosed arrow sank into Ark’s shoulder.

– You have been hit by a critical blow from a Gnoll’s arrow! 250 damage. Movement speed reduced for 30 seconds.

The situation became desperate.

The arrow decreased attack speed and increased chance of attack failure.

Moreover, just getting hit increased the chance of getting hit by a critical hit and catching an abnormal status like Slow or Bleed.

While Ark was staggering, a Gnoll’s club came flying at him. His movements were slow and his body felt heavy, as if someone was holding onto it.

‘Damn, if I get hit again in this condition, it’ll be another critical hit…’

Clack clack clack!

Just then, Skull’s eyes flashed as it tumbled under the approaching Gnoll’s feet. The Gnoll who stepped on Skull, lost its balance and toppled down. At that moment, a red light poured from the Gnoll’s whole body.

Simultaneously, a message window popped up with a cheerful tune.

After gaining 100 skill points, the skill Eyes of the Cat has leveled up to Intermediate.

Eyes of the Cat (Intermediate, Active): Eyes of the Cat has leveled up to Intermediate, you can grasp more information and weak points concerning the opponent.

As an Intermediate bonus, if you seize a golden opportunity, you can deal a double critical effect. For 3 minutes

+Night Vision.
+Life Detection
+Weakness Perception.
+Double Critical Chance. Mana Consumption : 70

*Double Critical : The opponent will fall into a completely defenseless state.

Depending on the situation and the enemy’s reaction, a Double Critical Chance will be provided for roughly 1~3 seconds.

If Double Critical Chance is invoked, one attack can deal 2 times the critical damage.

‘Double Critical Chance!’

The timing when the enemy went into a completely defenseless state, making its whole body turn into weak points!

Using Eyes of the Cat like crazy had paid off.

Ark’s sword sank into the Gnoll’s nape.

– You have landed a Double Critical hit. As a co-op bonus with Skull, 30% additional damage has been added.

With just one attack, the Gnoll’s Health was decreased by over 20 percent. After a few more attacks, the Gnoll disappeared while screaming its death cry.

The situation changed completely once the Gnoll standing in front of him, blocking him had disappeared. There were two Gnolls left. One of them was being blocked by Bat.

‘With my consciousness, I’ll concentrate on one of them!’

Cliink—!

The reflexes he had sharpened and polished by diligently training Taekwondo shone brightly. Ark parried the flying arrow with his sword by calculating the timing.

Perhaps because he did not have a defense-related skill like Warriors did, but parry was not registered with perfect defense. However, New World was a world in which the same rules as reality were applied. The damage was reduced to less than half and a critical hit did not register.

‘As long as a critical hit isn’t invoked, something like an Archer isn’t a match!”

Ark, whose Slow hex had dissipated, quickly advanced on the Archer.

It was common sense that a monster with long-ranged attack was possibly weak to melee attacks! The Gnoll who had shot arrows became feeble at Ark’s attack and staggered.

Just then, he heard the sound of Bat caterwauling from the other side.

“Damned Master! Aren’t you even paying attention to me?”

There was a limit when Bat was blocking a Gnoll Archer alone. With an arrow lodged in its head, Bat disappeared at the Gnoll Archer’s feet.

– Familiar Hatred-bearing Bat has been forcefully recalled to the Netherworld. You have received 50% of the Familiar’s Health as damage.

A tingly sensation like surging electricity flowed into Ark’s body and he lost 100 Health.

At the unexpected damage, Ark was thrown into an extremely dangerous situation.

While he was battling against one Gnoll Archer, the other Gnoll freed from Bat’s interference, shot an arrow towards Ark’s back.

The state of abnormal vulnerability!

‘I’ll die if I get hit directly!’

Arc suddenly lift Skull.

A critical hit was dealt as the arrow penetrated its forehead, and Skull was forcefully recalled back to the Netherworld in just one blow.

His Health was once again decreased by about 100. But he would have died if the arrow had hit him.

“You swine! I’ll make you pay as a revenge for Skull and Bat!”

Truthfully, he didn’t have the right to utter such words.

In any case, Ark parried the Gnoll Archer’s oncoming arrow and rushed in. At the end of a one minute desperate struggle, he toppled the last Gnoll Archer.

“Dark Blade!”

“Kuuuaak, Human… Just wait and see!”

With a dying scream, the Gnoll’s body slowly faded away.

“Phew, I was somehow able to win.”

Ark sank to the ground as he exhaled the breath he had been holding in.

Just then, his experience bar which had been stuck at 92% reached 100% in an instant, and with a cheerful tune and his level rose.

The Gnolls gave a lot of experience compared to their level. In addition, the Gnoll was a party monster. It wasn’t an enemy that wandered alone. Exterminating a party monster that unleashed complementary co-op attacks added a 30% bonus to experience.

But he couldn’t be thoughtlessly happy.

‘Dammit, seems like it’ll be difficult to continue hunting Gnolls since all my Familiars were forcefully recalled.’

About one or two Gnolls wasn’t a match. The problem was Gnolls formed a party and fought in an organized manner.

Well, it wasn’t really tremendous strategizing since they were just dog heads. At best, a Gnoll Archer would shoot arrows from afar while a Gnoll Warrior would block Ark, an incomparably simple strategy.

However, it was as effective as it was simple.

If he heedlessly fought alone, he would probably fall over after becoming a porcupine before he could take down a Gnoll Warrior.

Of course, there would be no problem at all if Ark formed a party.

But Ark, who was consumed by a deep-rooted distrust of users, wanted to avoid party hunting if possible.

And even if Ark wanted to, there wasn’t a user who would come all the way to a remote area like this to help him, who was constantly moving because of a quest.

‘It would be better to avoid the Gnolls until I can resummon my Familiars.’

He had to wait 24 hours or three days in game time before he could call forth his recalled Familiars.

For the first time since leaving Jackson, Ark turned back.

It was the first time both his Familiars were simultaneously forcefully recalled. He didn’t know how useful and helpful his Familiars had been until they were gone.

Bat’s scouting ability, and the ability to distract the enemies attention when there were several monsters around, in addition to the co-op bonus of the Familiars. Ark hadn’t largely realized these effects. But now that they were gone, hunting was twice as hard. It also took a lot of time, so just defeating one Bengal Tiger consumed 3~4 minutes. Since it took double the time it took when he’d cleared them in 1~2 minutes, he actually felt his experience wasn’t increasing.

But the truly puzzling thing was something else.

‘Damn, why does hunting feel this boring now?’

Ark hunted without rest. When a monster appeared, he just took it down with his sword the way his body was familiar with. He picked up items and foraged food ingredients. Then he summoned Netherworld’s Egg in his spare time and made it absorb food. Since there wasn’t anything different from before, it wasn’t exciting.

‘I’m gonna go crazy.’

Ark let out a frustrating sigh.

Similar to NPCs, Familiars also had the ability to think for themselves.

Skull and Bat’s reactions changed depending on Ark’s attitude. For Skull, it was a Familiar with absolute obedience towards Ark, so its reaction didn’t change significantly. However, for Bat, if Ark just pushed him around straight up with a heavy hand, it would sulk and there were times when it wouldn’t talk for a while, and when a battle broke out, it would run away.

But then when he humored it a little, it soon honeyed him as if it would lick his boot. Sometimes it even pointed out things that Ark hadn’t thought of.

‘Why are NPCs so picky with their preferences?’

At first, he didn’t like that he had to pay attention to each and every one of those points. Moreover, since it consumed Mana when a fight broke out, his usage of skill was limited. So sometimes, there were times when he wondered if he really needed to summon his Familiars.

But it seemed Ark had adapted to them before he realized it.

After his father passed away, he was too busy making a living so he’d never hung out with friends. That same nature applied even in New World. Moreover, because his experience in the beginning was nothing but betrayal, he was stained with a deep-rooted mistrust of users and he’d come to avoid users.

However, Ark was also human.

He’d gotten used to living alone, but it wasn’t enjoyable. Even in New World, he’d sometimes felt loneliness while struggling and hunting for a few days in a dark forest. At some point, he stopped feeling lonely, which was after he had his Familiars around.

At the very least, it was evident that Skull, who showed absolute loyalty, and even Bat who constantly grumbled were on Ark’s side.

Their existence moved for Ark without desiring any price in return.

They were beings Ark hadn’t been able to find in reality or other games.

It was just that he hadn’t felt it until now, but to Ark, the Familiars already weren’t simply characters, but comrades he could trust.

’24 hours… is a long time.’

For the first time since starting the game, time felt long to him.

‘Now I won’t let the Familiars get forcefully recalled a second time.’

Ark thought earnestly of his Familiars at last.

“Damn it!”

* * *

24 hours finally passed.

As soon as it was summoned, Bat pointed at its forehead and threw a fit.

“Did you see? Did you SEE? I’m saying the arrow struck RIGHT HERE and it got stuck! Do you know how much it HURT?”

Ark was not surprised.

When a user received damage, they didn’t feel the pain. Only a stinging sensation like a slight static shock. But NPCs were different. If they were cut with a knife, they would feel the pain of getting cut by a knife. So if they were hit by an arrow, they would feel the exact pain of getting hit by an arrow.

It was just a programming setting, but everything was real to an NPC.

“If you’re the master, shouldn’t you take care of your Familiars like a master? But we endured even your HORRIBLE experiments of food since you’re our master! But for you to use us as SHIELDS! Even if you’re our master, I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! Skull! You say something too!”

Clack clack clack clack.

Skull clacked its teeth with a slightly sullen movement.

“You see! It’s so bad that Skull is also acting this way, huh?”

“Alright, I understand. I’ll be careful next time.”

“Hmph, words like that… eh? What. What did you say?”

The snorting Bat flinched and stepped back. Then it stared at Ark with eyes filled with wariness.

“Ma-master, did you eat something bad? Why’re you suddenly acting like this?”

“Like you said, I was a little extreme. I mean this as an apology.”

Ark extended food that exuded an aromatic smell.

Then Bat went pale as it shortly made excuses with a servile voice.

“Ma-master. I, I was wrong. I just wanted Master to pay a little more attention to us, so… hehehe. Well, I’m not saying I’ll disobey you, just that it’s so. Now I don’t have complaints. Really.”

“Don’t worry. Because this dish is a tasty one.”

“Huh? Sniff sniff, isn’t this is something we’ve eaten before?”

Bat tilted its head after flaring its nostrils. It had wondered whether Ark was beating in discipline with another dreadful body experiment after Ark pushed forward the food without warning. But after blindly smelling it, it was a food that had its effect confirmed not long ago. And it was made by liberally using precious ingredients, a valuable food that raised Health and Agility for one hour.

Familiars did feel hunger, and they possessed gluttony towards tasty foods. But its instinct to protect itself came before the food. Bat stared at Ark with suspicious eyes after gulping down its saliva.

“Thi-this doesn’t have poison in it, right?”

“Shall I make you one with poison mixed in it?”

“Ack! N-no.”

Bat quickly shook its head and shoved its head into the pot.

Next, Ark made the same food again and fed it to Skull as well.

During the time he was alone, Ark had keenly realized the preciousness of his Familiars.

Of course, he couldn’t stop feeding them food, since he wanted his Familiars to grow. But he did think there was a need to converse in a friendly manner now and then. Like the carrot and the stick.

Ark’s virtue allowed him to obtain unexpected information.

– The loyalty of the Familiars, who felt the sincere affection of their summoner, has increased by 1 each. Affection stat has increased by 1.

‘So Loyalty can also increase!’

Even Ark was informed of the changes in his Familiar’s loyalty.

Skull didn’t change, but in Bat’s case, if he shoveled food indiscriminately, its loyalty decreased a little. Every time that happened, it was a matter of fact that Bat didn’t listen to him as much and complained more. Until now, it hadn’t gone up even once.

‘Looks like it was probably influenced by the newly formed Affection stat.’

Ark roughly understood the situation.

The Affection stat he’d earned from succeeding the miracle of Nursing!

Until now, Ark had no idea what the stat was used for. It didn’t help at all when he raised his intimacy with the village NPCs. But he had unexpectedly learned its purpose.

That wasn’t all. The proficiency of Survival Cooking went up by 1 each when a new type of dish was create, so it rose by 4.

Food made for other had to have meaning. Since he cooked it to show his apology and gratitude towards his Familiars, bonus proficiency had been applied.

‘Attitude applies directly to the game.’

This simple fact, which he had forgotten for a long time, hit home anew.

“Huhuhu. Master. Looks like you’ve finally realized our value.”

After being a little friendly with it, Bat soon became impudent. But Ark, who missed it for 24 hours, indulgently let it slide.

“That aside, there’s something I want to say before we start battle again.”

“What is it?”

“I thought about it carefully, but I think we’ve fought with too much of a rule-of-thumb all this while. Which brought upon a problem the last time we fought against the Gnolls. So from now onwards, there’s a need to refine our collaboration. It is to increase our survival rate as well.”

“Refining our collaboration? What do you mean, Master?”

“So what I’m saying is we need to hypothesize several situations and plot our strategy beforehand. In battle, I can’t afford to assess the situation and provide commands from one to ten, since there’s no time.”

This was the conclusion Ark had came up with after brooding over it for 24 hours.

Ark planned strategies with several patterns oriented to situations beforehand. Then in battle, even if he didn’t issue each and every command, Bat and Skull would be able to judge the situation in their own and move.

It was a method inspired by an online FPS game.

[T/N: First Person Shooter]

“Yeah yeah, I got it. Master, you’ve gotten smarter.” Bat babbled impertinent noises once again.

Ark lightly ignored it and continued.

“There’ll be mistakes if it’s too complicated from the beginning. So let’s restrict it to four methods for now. First, the strategy of focusing the attack on the enemy I’m fighting is Plan A. While I’m fighting one guy, you guys will distract the others’ attention, that’s Plan B. When Skull is fighting with me, and Bat lures the other guys far away, it’ll be Plan C. And the last, Plan D, is an emergency situation. Halt all operations and you guys evade the enemy’s attacks while thinking of a way to survive. Did you understand it all?”

“Got it. I like Plan D.”

Clack clack clack.

Bat and Skull expressed interest as they nodded.

“Now, then let’s try practicing in an actual battle right away!”

Ark immediately led the Familiars and began to hunt. In the beginning, their opponents were the low-difficulty Magal Wolves or Bengal Tigers.

“Plan B!”

As Ark yelled, Bat and Skull leapt out first and drew the monster’s attention.

In the meantime, Ark attacked a monster from behind and decreased the number. When there was one monster left, he shifted the strategy.

“Plan A!”

Bat and Skull, who had been fleeing here and there, suddenly attacked the monster.

This method allowed him to quickly change commands, achieving the anticipated result.

Of course, there were also a few mistakes since it was their first time trying out the formation. Sharp-witted Bat adapted quickly, but dull headed Skull’s understanding fell short, so in some cases, where it was a beat slower were numerous. In addition, since their plans were too simple, there were also often situations where it was difficult for a Familiar to deal with.

Each time it happened, he diligently forced punishment food into the Familiar’s mouth.

“It’s a food experiment for the guy that doesn’t do it properly!”

“Aaack! I was wondering why Master became nicer somehow!”

CLA-clack, CLA-cla-cla-clack!

The Familiars became ghastly pale and went into critical condition a several times. However, since their max Health had increased quite a bit, they stayed alive. And although it was a rather low chance, they discovered growth foods which made Familiars’ stats increase steadily.

Ark also diligently taught the Familiars with patience. By adding several strategies or changing them in repeated actual battle training, these points were improved little by little.

With their horror of the food, the Familiars desperately did their best to memorize and carry out the strategies. Since he used the Nursing skill appropriately, the effect was doubled. The fact that even non-combative skills could be used without limitation according to their methods of use was a charm of New World.

In the meantime, Ark’s skill at calling the Familiars also improved.

“Plan D!”

Even in battle, he quickly made a command while constantly checking the Familiars’ Health. And when a Familiar was fleeing with all of its might while faced with a life threatening situation, he cancelled the summoning with stunning timing.

If they were to be forcefully recalled, Ark would receive a 50 percent Health deduction of his Familiar’s max Health, and it’ll be impossible to resummon them for 24 hours. But if Ark cancelled the summoning, so no penalties were applied.

On the other hand, once the target of a monster chasing a Familiar disappeared, the monster was stunned for a while.

Whenever such situation happens, Ark’s sword undoubtedly land a critical hit.

Once the Familiars’ survival rate increased, their dedication in battle flourished.

“Master, in this case, how about cancelling the summoning after I rush in? And can’t you immediately resummon again? You can also do that after you throw Skull; Master’s spiritual power is always full anyways, so won’t you be able to use it once in every battle?”

Once in awhile, Bat, whose Intelligence had risen quite a bit through food, would even suggest a strategy worth using.

‘This adorable rascal!’

Bat’s strategy was effective. Once a monster appeared, Ark grabbed and threw Skull at a weak point he’d perceived while using Eyes of the Cat. A critical hit through an unexpected ambush! Subsequently, Ark would rapidly cancelled the summoning before the monster attacked Skull. Then he resummoned again, and Skull would appear at Ark’s side.

“Groowl?”

The monsters couldn’t comprehend the situation and hesitated. Then when Plans C, B, and A unfurled one after another, it wasn’t even necessary to use Plan D.

Thanks to Ark and the Familiars’ desperate effort, they clicked perfectly. After two days of hunting in such a matter, Ark gained a level, and he entered the domain of the Gnolls again.

“Groowl, it’s a Human.”

“Impudent Human, you dare to enter our territory.”

“We’re starting with Plan C!”

Skull and Bat fanned out according to Ark’s command.

While the Familiars quickly circled the area and diverted the attention of the Gnoll Archers, Ark deployed Dark Blade and defeated a Gnoll Warrior. Then he cancelled Skull’s summoning, who was in danger, while charging at the Gnoll Archer that Skull had been distracting at the same time. While he was attacking the Gnoll Archer, Bat flew low between the trees as it evaded arrows.

Ark, who had gotten rid of even the Gnoll Archer by raining a stream of attacks against it, summoned Skull again as he changed the plan.

“Plan A!”

Ark and the two Familiars charged at the lone Gnoll Archer at the same time.

The battle with the Gnolls, which he felt was difficult to handle before, ended so easily it was boring. The battles after that were the same.

The Gnolls normally moved as groups of three or four, and some Gnolls led around Magal Wolves. Also, since these guys were on the intelligent side, they waited in ambush. They occasionally raided as well.

In some cases, they would occasionally wound up in a situation where they had to fight as many as six monsters all at once.

However, the Familiars’ strategy execution ability had grown to equal even the Special Army the Republic of Korea boasted of.

They weren’t lacking even if you did call them the Special Familiar Army. Thanks to that, as they adjusted to the situation and their strategy played out, they were able to win without much difficulty.

It was an effect for a dynamic tactic.

After going around annihilating party monsters, his experience had increased as well. When he gained yet another level, Ark checked his information window.

“Stat window!”

Character Name

Ark

Race

Human

Alignment

Good +50

Fame

480

Level

45

Profession

Dark Walker

Title

Cat Knight, Caretaker

Health

905

Mana

480 (+110)

Spiritual Power

100

Strength

146

Agility

186 (+17)

Stamina

156

Wisdom

25

Intelligence

91

Luck

36

Flexibility

10

Art of Communication

5

Affection

11

Special Stat: Knowledge of Ancient Relics

20

Equipment Effects

Sharply Shining Sword: Attack speed +5
Black Bear Mouse Leather Armor: Agility +2, Cold Resistance +20
Cat Paws: Attack speed +10%, Agility +15, Critical Hit Rate +10%
Crystal Golem’s Helmet: Mana +100

*All abilities are increased by 20% in the dark.

* The ability to hide your body in the dark has formed (Duration time 10 minutes. Cancelled if you get into combat).

* Resistance Fear, Darkness, Blind, and Charm spells is increased by 50%.

*You can bring out the true abilities from all types of tools.

Ark invested 30 of the 50 points he’d earned from gaining 5 levels into Intelligence. It was a stat he had barely distributed any points into because in the beginning there wasn’t a need to use Mana. But as he used the Familiars, he realized the severity of his lack of Mana. Even though he raised his Mana by a lot, it was still merely 480. Even after getting the +100 Mana with the Crystal Golem’s Head, it only amounted to 580.

In addition, when battles broke out, one Familiar needed 1 Mana per second. So, 290 seconds. In conclusion, he could only endure for 5 minutes from when the battle broke out. Granted, a decent battle ended within 3 minutes.

‘But I’m not able to use other skills because of the Familiars.’

To Ark, Eyes of the Cat and Dark Blade were absolutely necessary skills. But using Eyes of the Cat once was cost 50 Mana. Dark Blade consumed 100 Mana.

Which meant it was too much to cast them a few times even with if he had full Mana. What was worse was, since he kept his Familiars summoned, there were many times when it was difficult to properly cast them one or two times. Because his skill usage was limited, it was a situation where his skill proficiency didn’t increase properly either.

That was why Ark had invested up to 30 stats in Intelligence.

Furthermore, he didn’t have thoughts of regret.

‘These praiseworthy rascals.’

In Ark’s eyes, as he gazed at his Familiars, possessed an affection that couldn’t begin compare to the feelings he had about them a few days ago.

He could feel the Familiar’s growth firsthand.

‘For these rascals as well, stats aren’t simply all there is to their fighting power. It’s certain that their battle ability changes based on their experience, just like users.’

In New World, combat wasn’t determined simply with stats.

A user’s experience and their way of thought, which couldn’t be checked with numbers, were all reflected in battle.

If you only looked at stats, Skull and Bat were still incomparably lousy. A win against one Wolf or the like wasn’t guaranteed.

But by accumulating combat experience along with Ark, they were showing ability beyond their numbers.

They were becoming more and more dependable!

‘However, there’s an ambiguous part of combat experience. The fluctuation based on the situation is serious, and to guarantee definite effect, it’s best to raise their stats after all.’

Therefore, Ark concentrated on ingredient gathering above hunting in order to execute Survival Cooking, the sole method for the Familiars’ abilities. However, since the Familiars did their share, they became difficult.

“Kekeke, how’s that, Master? You survived because of me, right?”

Clack clack clack clack.

After Bat boasted, Skull didn’t lose and claimed its share of the credit.

This was exactly the problem. Bat and Skull’s skills had recently grown remarkably, so there wasn’t much of a justification to feed them food.

It was certain that if he thoughtlessly fed them for growth and decreased their loyalty, Bat and Skull wouldn’t help Ark desperately as they did now. Despite that, they couldn’t grow if he didn’t feed them food.

Matching that balance unexpectedly gave him a headache.

However, he needed the definite concept of reward and punishment. Especially in Bat’s case. Oppressively pushing it yielded the opposite effect since its loyalty was low. It was a frustrating system, but in a way, it was also the reason why Ark had come to possess more attachment to the Familiars.

“Hmph! Why aren’t you speaking, Master? Are you at a lost for words?” Bat crossed its arms and boasted.

“Don’t be ridiculous. For something like just blocking eyes.”

“Who’s the person who lived thanks to that?”

“I could avoid that much even without you.”

“N-no way. Surely you’re not thinking of being evasive like that while feeding that awful food?”

“There are sometimes tasty ones too.”

“That’s once every ten!” Bat lost its temper as it yelled.

“Eh? You rebelled just now, right? Didn’t you definitely rebel?”

“N-no. I am a good Familiar!”

“Shut up, offense taken. It’s food for you.”

What the hell, it didn’t matter if he made an excuse anyways.

Before long, Bat ate a full-body paralysis food and was sprawled on the ground.

Skull, who had avoided the body experiment thanks to Bat’s sacrifice, rolled around happily on the ground.

“You’re… ch-cheap…. Master…”

“I’m not doing this because I like it either. It’s all for your sake”, Ark equivocated while averting his gaze.

Everything was satisfactory except one thing, there were still no changes found on the Netherworld’s Egg. If the number of his Familiars increased, it would definitely be helpful.

But every time he fed the Egg food, it repeatedly trembled as if it were vibrating and just went back to being still.

“Just when is this guy even gonna hatch…” Ark muttered as he licked his lips.

Seeing as it reacted every time he fed it food, it seemed something was definitely going to hatch. But even when Bat and Skull’s stats rose several times, the egg was still an egg. Moreover, he couldn’t check the food’s effect if he fed it to the egg. Since there was a limit to the food ingredients, he felt regret when he fed the egg.

“Well, it’ll probably hatch sometime anyways.”

Honestly, he had half given up now.

“More importantly, I should really try to find a village now.”

Ark picked up the paralyzed Bat and rose from his seat.

* * *

After struggling for half a day while defeating Gnolls, he found the village.

Situated at the foot of the mountain, it was a small, sparsely populated village. There were only about 40 houses. But since people didn’t live in most of them, they were left there like haunted houses. He couldn’t discern anything such as liveliness on the faces of the 1~2 residents he saw.

Since it was a village situated too far from the city, he didn’t see users either.

Then again, if it wasn’t Ark, who had traversed the mountain in a straight line while following the hand mirror’s light, they wouldn’t have even been able to find a mountain village like this. Perhaps because it was a village with a soon-to-be-ruined atmosphere, but even when he stood inside the village, his map wasn’t even marked.

“It’s a place with a bad feeling somehow,” Bat murmured with a discomfited voice from Ark’s shoulder.

“Keep your mouth shut.”

Whenever Ark went into a village, he lifted Skull and Bat onto his waist or shoulder so they appeared like accessories; because although they were Familiars. And since they were Undead and Demon in the first place, Ark’s reputation could drop if the village NPCs found out.

‘Well, though there’s no reason to come back twice to a village such as this one, it doesn’t really matter much…’

Ark looked through the village with indifferent eyes. Even in a dilapidated village, thankfully the oasis of travelers, the General Store, existed.

‘What a relief.’

Ark blew out a sigh while looking through the contents inside his bag.

He had concentrated on hunting without rest for several days. In addition, he had gathered all the food ingredients he could get his hands on. Thanks to that, his bag was packed full of japtem to the point where there were no empty spaces. Although his bag space was expanded slightly because of his job-changed, and most of the items he had were stacked up because he hunted in the same area, he still had to throw away a few items due to lack of bag space.

At last, after arriving at the village, he recalled the items he’d thrown away and tears obscured his vision.

‘Waah, if I’d just brought all that, it would’ve made another 6 gold.’

6 gold meant 60,000 won (~$60).

He had thrown away 60,000 won on the ground and left.

If he recalled the scene of the six cabbage leaves that he adored flapping as they fluttered away, he felt like he was about to go crazy.

[T/N: The cabbage leaves are referring to won bills, and there are six of them because in Korea, there’s a bill for 10,000 won. Therefore, there are 6 bills for 60,000 won.]

‘At least it’s a relief there’s a village here.’

He feared imagining how much more loss he would’ve had to endure if there wasn’t one.

‘Since I have to travel across mountains, I don’t know when I’ll encounter a village again. I should depart after completely organizing my bag here and grabbing only what I need.’

When Ark entered the store, the owner had a surprised expression.

“Eh? Are you… a stranger?”
“Yes, I am.”

“For a stranger to come find our village… I cannot fathom how long it has been.”

Ark thought of something polite to say and got to the point right away.

“I will sell all of this.”

The store owner glanced at the items and said shortly, “Alright. I’ll give you 10 gold for all of it.”

“What?” Ark doubted his ears.

“Did you say 10 gold?”
“That’s right, is there something wrong?”

“Aren’t the items filling up the entire bag? To say it’s 10 gold without even looking properly? They aren’t some kind of junk, so how can you set the price by the weight of the bag?”

“I can tell even with a rough look. Where’s the good in higher numbers? There’s nothing worth using, so clubs and animal hides like these don’t make money.” The store owner spoke in a blunt tone.

Goods easily acquired in the area were sold for considerably cheaper price than the market price. But was that all? Because Ark had overused the Magic Restoration skill to raise the proficiency on the decent equipment, the max durability of every last one of them was 1. Items with 1 durability were recyclable items that weren’t even worth a few coppers. He couldn’t complain even if the price was set by weight like junk.

Even so…

‘It’s five days. I hunted for five days without rest and all for just 10 gold?’

On top of that, Ark had used up one deluxe repair toolbox while hunting because he couldn’t even consider touching his Magic equipment with beginner Magic Restoration yet.

In the end that meant he’d spent 15 gold on repair fee. Wasn’t it a 5 gold deficit rather than a profit? If he nitpicked the break-even point, he had to receive at least 20 gold for the numbers to be right.

But for it to be 10 gold instead of 20 gold!

‘Aack, for the result of hunting like crazy to be a deficit…’

It wrung his heart.

Ark sold the mantle and warrior equipment not long ago, bringing a fortune of 7,000,000 won (~$7,000) into his hands. But the reason those items were expensive was because they were much harder to acquire. He’d have nothing more to wish for if that kind of good luck kept up, but reality wasn’t that easy.

Rather than hoping for a jackpot, it was a little more realistic to systematically collect money through japtem, and the majority of users did use such method in order to save money. For a user, 1 gold was a colossal fortune.

But a deficit? Was it a sound that could even be possible?

Ark made his most servile expression and pleaded, “Can’t you please pay me a little more?”

“So you acknowledge the fact that it honestly doesn’t reach the market price. However, I’m planning to clear the store soon and leave the village. To be honest, even if I purchase goods right now, it’ll only become baggage, you see. If you don’t want to sell, don’t; I’ll have no regrets.”

It didn’t work, as expected. Since it was a village he’d come to for the first time, intimacy was 0. Haggling was impossible from the beginning.

If it was a store in Jackson Castle where he’d accumulated intimacy through trades, he would’ve received at least 10~20 percent more. If you considered the market value with the rarity value on top of that, he’d be able to receive over 2 times more. But he couldn’t just take his baggage and return to Jackson to get 10 more gold either.

Ark held in his tears and nodded.

“I understand. Please take care of all of it.”

“You thought well. You should know too, but since there’s no village in the area… huh! N-no way? Isn’t this Grizzly Gnoll’s leather?”

“So you do recognize it.”

Ark pricked his ears, quickly approached, and repeatedly rubbed his hands together.

“That’s the leather of a monster I defeated with enormous difficulty. The bastards were so strong, every time I fought them one by one, I really had to overcome a life-or-death crisis. Honestly it’s nothing short of being a miracle that I’ve survived till now. Isn’t it a bit too much to buy this leather that I earned with such suffering by weight? Ah, since you said you were thinking of clearing the store, I do not hope for much either. I just ask that you think of my pains, so a little more…”

“Are you saying you defeated it?”

“Of course.”

“Th-then are you perhaps saying you’ve crossed the Argus Mountains?”

“Yes, I didn’t know the road so I crossed the mountains. Why do you ask?”

“That’s surprising. Although those guys don’t travel alone…. for you to cross over such a place with your solitary strength. It seems you’re a more impressive adventurer than I thought. Perhaps…”

The store owner stared at Ark with newfound eyes.

“If it’s true that you defeated the Gnolls, I’ll purchase your goods for 20 gold.”

“Re-really?”

“In return, won’t you listen to my request?”

Ark’s mouth stretched to his ears.

‘An NPC’s request! In other words, it’s a quest!’

He was so happy he could die with just receiving more, but for him to give even a quest!

This village was still a place users didn’t know. In other words, a quest no one knew about. The reward aside, simply the fact that he had discovered a quest such as this made his heart leap.

Ark quickly nodded his head and the store owner continued with a serious expression.

“Actually, this village is a village still unknown to the outside, and was set up by several pioneers. Though it’s just a barren place situated at the foot of a mountain, it was judged that if the village was developed and roads were made, there was a possibility for it could grow as a relay point between Jackson and commercial cities.”

The store owner’s name was Galen, he was one among the first pioneers. Galen continued with a miserable voice.

“Everything was satisfactory in the beginning. We did worry because there were a lot of monsters, but we had a noble leader by the name of Lancel. He was a mercenary with a lot of experience, so most monsters weren’t even a match. We united with him as the center and completed the village. I still can’t forget the emotions people had then. Everyone else was so happy, they wept tears.”

“But the village looked like it had no vitality.”

“That’s right, all of it was because of the Gnoll bastards.”

“The Gnolls?”

“Originally there weren’t Gnolls in this area, but the Gnolls immigrated here as a group from somewhere. Then, they situated themselves in a cave deep within the mountains as their center. So the dream of fostering the village as a relay point for trade by making roads in the area crumbled apart. Rather, the Gnolls’ raids made us tremble in fear every day.”

“Did you not think of trying to ask for help?”

“Of course we thought about it. However, this is a village with only a dozen people who put their lives on the line and developed it. We couldn’t afford to hire many mercenaries or the like. And Lancel was still alive and well then.”

“He was alive and well….?”

Galen shook his head with a dark expression.

“Lancel was a truly noble warrior. He repulsed the Gnolls raiding the village multiple times. However, Lancel, who judged himself as someone who couldn’t save the village, believed he had to gather the village residents, find the cave personally, and settle the matter with the Gnolls. We also believed if it was Lancel, he could definitely do it, so we didn’t doubt. But there was a trap even Lancel hadn’t foreseen waiting for him inside the cave.”

“A trap?”

“I don’t know whether the Gnolls were raising them, but there was an enormous number of snakes inside the cave. It was a number enough to be labeled as disgusting. In the end, we were hit by the surprise attacks of the Gnolls and the snakes, and we were driven out. But Lancel didn’t give up until the end. He went inside and fought bravely. For several hours, there were resounding roars which shook the cave. However… our heroic Lancel did not return.”

“He was a noble person.”
“Yes, he was a warrior more valiant than anyone.”

Galen let out a sigh.

“In any case, after what had happened, the residents left the village one by one. They can’t be blamed. They witnessed a horrible swarm of snakes, and even their leader Lancel died, so they must have lost the courage to go on. Although it’s a village we established with hard work, it was not more precious than their lives. I’ve endured and came this far, but I was thinking that any longer would be too much.”

“Will it do if I clear out the Gnolls’ cave for you?”
“Wi-will you help?”

“Of course I will. I am an adventurer, after all. How could I ignore this?”
“I’ve said this earlier, but I can’t give many rewards.”

“I know. Since it’s something where I have to put my life on the line, it would be a lie to say I don’t want any reward, but I never help to hope for a large reward. It’s fine if you just give me your whole-hearted sincerity.”

Ark insinuated the meaning of asking for the maximum of what could be given.

Gnoll was a good monster to hunt at his current level.

Since it was mostly a party monster, he received a lot of experience from them too. If he was going to hunt it anyways, of course it was better to get a quest and hunt it.

This was exactly what it meant to kill two birds with one stone.

Galen, who had no reason to know this kind of intention, spoke with a deeply moved expression,

“Thank you. Then let’s do this. If you defeat Gnolls inside the cave and bring me their leather, I’ll pay 20 silver for each one. And if by any possibility you defeat all the Gnolls in the cave and bring peace to the village, I give you another 10 gold as compensation to your success. Of course, it’s probably not enough of a reward compared to the danger, but that’s the most I can do.”

“How many Gnolls are there?”

“We don’t know well either. However, we think there are probably about one hundred.”

’20 silvers for each one! One hundred of them is 20 gold!’

Ark vaguely heard the sound of jingling coins in his ear. It was definitely not an ample compensation, but it wasn’t that small a reward either. Level 40 monster leather normally sold for about 5 silvers in stores. But Galen had offered 4 times that price. Given it was a mountain village quest, it was a preposterous offer.

‘If you add the success compensation 10 gold on top of that, it’s not a small amount of money!’

“I’m sorry, but I can’t give you compensation concerning the snakes. Can I entrust it to you nevertheless?”

“Do not worry and entrust it to me. It’s certain I was guided to this place in order to do this job.”

Ark clasped Galen’s hands firmly as he replied with an expression brimming with confidence.

With a simultaneous thu-thu-thump a quest window popped up.

Pioneer Village Lancel’s Misfortune

You have discovered a pioneer village still unknown to the world at the end of your long journey.

As a village made after several years of effort by pioneers who followed the admired mercenary leader Lancel, it was named ‘Lancel’ after the name of their leader. They wished for Lancel to flourish as a relay point between Jackson and commercial cities.

But as a group of Gnolls lead numerous snakes and settled in a nearby cave, all their efforts had gone to waste. The residents put their lives on the line and organized a punitive expedition. However, the village’s hero, Lancel, was the sole sacrifice.

Most of the despairing villagers have left the village, and now only total desolation is left in the village. Nevertheless, Galen wants to somehow save the village, so he has requested you to subjugate the Gnolls. Galen has promised a bounty of 20 silvers per Gnoll leather, and a 10 gold compensation for your successful subjugation. You must defeat the Gnolls and save Lancel Village from despair.

Difficulty: C

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Chapter 2 : Hatchling

This chapter is brought to you by AnmesicCat, Crytach, Lei, and OpenBookWorm.


‘Found it!’

He saw the cave entrance through the overgrown forest.

When he received the quest in Lancel, the location was displayed on his map. It wasn’t far from the village. Ark left Lancel after organizing his bags and arrived at the destination in only an hour. Two Gnolls were standing guard at the entrance of the cave. They were slightly different from the Gnolls he had hunted until now as they were wearing shabby leather armor. It was likely they were about 1 or 2 levels higher than him. But he had hunted Gnolls until he was sick of it. Though their levels were slightly higher, they weren’t a match for Ark.

“Grrrr, isn’t there some kind of smell?”

“Sniff, sniff. I was thinking the same thing.”

“It smells like a human… Are there still humans lingering nearby?”

“Let’s catch him and make him into a sacrifice.”

Perhaps because they had dog heads, Gnolls had a keen sense of smell.

The Gnolls raised their spears and, with their noses quivering, approached Ark’s location.

At that moment, Ark jumped out from behind the bushes.

“You bitches are the sacrifice. Bat, go!”

Bat shot towards the Gnolls like an arrow that had been loosed from a bow. With a pa-thump sound, the Gnoll who had been struck on the bridge of its nose tumbled to the ground. The other Gnoll was alarmed and thrust its spear towards Bat.

But the Bat who had his summon cancelled and then recast was already sitting on Ark’s shoulder.

“Eyes of the Cat! There isn’t time. We’re going with plan A!”

Ark, Skull, and Bat sprang forward in a flash and concentrated their attack on the stumbling Gnoll.

They had become familiar with Gnolls through battles, so predicting their movements was easy.

Even before the Gnoll moved, Ark made evasive movements and let loose a chain of sword attacks. As a critical hit and co-op attack bonus erupted in succession, the Gnoll died before it was able to properly thrust its spear even once.

The Gnoll staggered and charged in, but instead it received several counterattacks, lost 80 percent of its health, and ran away terrified. The Gnoll was consumed by fear and ran away frightened. But Bat rushed forward to block its path, and when Skull tore into its leg, it fell to the ground again.

Double critical chance!

“Gaaah!”

The Gnoll received a strike to the heart and disappeared with a moan.

As the Gnoll disappeared it dropped a leather.

“Huhuhu, it’s too easy, and this is 20 Silvers a piece?”

A smile spread across Ark’s lips as he held on to two pieces of leather.

20 Silver a piece, so it was an item worth 2,000 Won (~$2). He was literally picking up bills that had fallen to the ground, how could he not be happy.

“Master, those eyes are creepy.”

“Shut up, what do you know? One of these leathers can become a full sushi roll! That’s an entire meal.”

“Sushi roll? What’s that?”

“It’s nothing. Cut the small talk and do the recon well,” Ark snorted as he entered the cave.

When he stepped foot in the cave, an information window popped up with a booming roar.

Ghastly Snake Lair

At the edge of the Argus Mountains, you have found a cave emanating a ghastly aura. The chilling aura you can feel from the cold blood flowing through these reptiles and an eerie smell permeates the entire cave. The noise of dogs barking can be heard from the depths of the cave, and slithering sounds are flowing from the small holes drilled everywhere.

There is no way to guess how many Gnolls and Snakes are inhabiting the cave. If you are someone with the wisdom to avoid danger, you will never enter this cave.

 

You have discovered an undiscovered dungeon. Because this is a newly found discovery, if you register your discovery in the Hall of Fame, you can gain an additional 700 experience and 50 Fame.

Would you like to register it?

“Registration refused.”

Of course, Ark had absolutely no intention to share the information.

After refusing the registration, he entered the cave and found himself in darkness.

He would have hated it in the past, but presently Ark was a Dark Walker.

The dark was Ark’s irreplaceable weapon and armor. Outside when it turned night time, Gnolls’ stats rose by 30 percent. As a result, even though Ark’s stats also rose, Gnolls were still stronger.

But right now it was daytime. So only Ark was strengthened from the cave’s darkness. His strength was replenished and he felt his five senses becoming extremely sharp. Also, using ‘Stealth’ in the darkness would further improve Ark’s chance of survival.

Dungeons were environments where Dark Walkers can display 100 percent of their abilities!

With Gnolls, even if five or six of them flocked together, he had the confidence to win easily.

“Master, four dog heads are gathered in front of us.”

Bat, who had left to survey the surroundings, reported its findings.

“Good, you guys stay here and move when I give the signal. ‘Stealth!'”

When Ark used the Dark Walker’s special ability, he was absorbed into the darkness and disappeared. While maintaining this state, Ark walked into the interior of the cave. Just as Bat had reported, about 200 meters ahead, four Gnolls had gathered and were whispering.

“We’ve run out of sacrifices. Grrr.”

“This is a big problem. God will be angry.”

“We have to storm into the village and catch a human.”

“After the humans came, God got really angry.”

“Will there still be humans in the village?”

“Even if we have to go far away, we have to capture some. If we don’t, we might get caught and be eaten.”

‘God? He’ll catch and eat them?’

He was wondering what they were talking about, but the Gnolls’ conversation ended there.

“Shh, this is strange. For some reason I can smell human.”

“Have humans come again? That’s good then…”

The Gnolls’ eyes gleamed as they looked around.

Ark went to stand behind one them and sent Bat a signal through telepathy.

‘Pretend to be a human.’

Since the Familiars were spiritually connected to Ark, communication without words was possible.

Bat received the signal and dropped pebbles as it flew around. Then the Gnolls flinched and looked away. At that instant, Ark cast Eyes of the Cat and stabbed one in the nape.

– Critical strike! Backstab effect has increased damage by 200%. The Gnoll will be stunned for 10 seconds.

Backstab effects were applied when an unexpected surprise attack from behind was dealt! It was an attack often used by Thieves who could use ‘Stealth’.

With a single strike, the Gnoll’s health dropped by 50 percent.

With a rapidfire-like attack, Ark attacked the stunned Gnoll’s weak points. After attacking the weak points exposed by Eyes of the Cat, the Gnoll collapsed without being able to attack properly.

Once ‘Stealth’ was lifted, the Gnolls roared savagely.

“It’s a Human!”

“It’s a sacrifice! Let’s offer the sacrifice. Grrr!”

The Gnolls didn’t even notice the death of their comrade.

They ran forward wildly swinging rusted spears, swords and the like.

“Bat, charge! Skull, Plan B. Support Bat!”

Following Ark’s commands, Skull and Bat charged towards a Gnoll.

When Bat violently rammed into the back of the Gnoll’s head, it yelled as it turned around.

Bat was wise. While maintaining the proper distance from the wildly charging Gnoll, he led it far away from Ark. Bat surrounded the Gnoll with Skull and ravaged it by nipping at it from both sides.

There were two Gnolls left!

‘If there’s two of them, it’s worth trying!’

Ark deflected the swords and thrust himself between the Gnolls.

The experience he had gained from fighting hundreds of Gnolls became Ark’s strength.

New World’s graphics was more realistic than reality.

When the Gnolls swung their spears, their bloodshot eyes as they faced him, the movement of their muscles, and even the swelling of their beating chests with every breath, was perfectly implemented.

If it was a monster he was encountering for the first time, it wouldn’t be easy to predict its movements by little things. The muscle movement was different for each monster.

But after facing countless battles, with just the movements of a Gnoll’s muscles, he could tell where they were thinking of stabbing.

Of course, it wasn’t something anyone could do.

Taekwondo was a martial arts where the outcome of a battle was decided in close proximity with the speed of an instant. If one light step or the movement of a shoulder was missed, a person could be defeated in the blink of an eye. The concentration and keenness of threading the eye of a needle was necessary. Also, you wouldn’t to able to make the deciding blow if you can’t read your opponent’s breathing and strike at the right moment. This was a technique that required a high degree of actual combat experience.

There were people who said the modern time usage of Taekwondo in actual combat had fallen. But it was a consequence of Taekwondo becoming world-renowned Martials Arts. As it became more renowned, there was more research done on it in order to systematically develop methods for dealing with it.

By no means had Taekwondo become weaker.

In the 1970s, throughout North America, Africa, and elsewhere, Taekwondo received praise as the invincible Martial Art. Even the gangs of Harlem showed respect to a Taekwondo Master!

Ark had been training with Taekwondo for years.

In addition, Taekwondo had more sparring than other martial arts. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say he was an expert in reading his opponent’s intentions.

‘The upper right!’

Ark tilted his upper body and deflected the spear.

Simultaneously, a red spot emerged on the Gnoll’s side. The weak points identified by Eyes of the Cat weren’t just for show. In this situation, it was the strongest strike available and it was in a blind spot difficult to defend! The area Ark had predicted coincided with it.

Before the spots were revealed, Ark’s sword was already piercing through a spot.

– Critical Strike!

While staggering, the Gnoll fell backwards.

Taking a single step, Ark twisted in the air and threw out a kick.

It was a habit formed in his movements when he was still unfamiliar with dual-blade combat.

As he reached intermediate in Dual-Blade Combat, all his movements were slickly connected. But it wasn’t easy. In fact Ark, who had begun his training once more, had lost the kinesthetic sense needed to perform an advanced technique like a mid-air roundhouse kick fluidly.

In New World one’s stat bonuses were added to their natural strength.

Here, the bonus of an intermediate level Dual-Blade Combat was applied to the technique’s success rate and power. The sharpness wasn’t comparable to reality.

With a “chop” sound, he attacked the back of his enemy’s head.

The Dual-Blade Combat’s effects were similar to Taekwondo’s points system.

Dual-Blade Combat (Intermediate, Passive 163/300): As the understanding of the technique increases, speed and accuracy will also rise. Grants additional damage to all types of swords and knuckle-related weapons, and dramatically increases evasion and critical hit rate.

General attack power is increased by 30%. When a shield is equipped, Dual-Blade Combat’s effect disappears.

* Additional Effects. When a kick hits the target, a random status effect occurs, with a probability of 5% for small monsters, 3% for average monsters, and 1% for large monsters. When a very difficult technique is successful, the probability also increases.

A very difficult attack. So if a techniques like a flying kick or a double kick hits the target, there is a greater probability of an additional effect, such as a knock down or stun, will be inflicted. This effect was not available when he first reached the intermediate level, it was only available after he had gained 150 points, so as he gains more points, probability will also grow.

The difficulty of a mid-air roundhouse kick was of the highest level!

The Gnoll received a stun hex and stumbled.

Ark followed it up with jumping crescent kicks!

He took turns attacking both sides of the Gnoll while switching kicks. After which, he unsheathed Dark Blade. The Gnoll was defeated by a stream of continuous attacks that were truly like a typhoon as it moaned in vain. Then, the Gnoll behind him thrust its spear towards his back.

Ark twisted his hips and let the spear fly past his side. When the newly formed stat, flexibility was applied, the damage was reduced. Then his kicks and sword strikes emanated like a storm!

“Grrrr, this, this Human………!”

The Gnoll let out a voice of disbelief, as if he couldn’t believe Ark’s incredible skills.

Ark was actually a little surprised.

‘My body is light as a feather!’

Sometimes while training martial arts, one experiences an awakening event.

There are times when a usual failing technique suddenly succeeds, or a feeling when nerves get extremely sensitive, which allows you to completely see through your opponent’s attack.

It was Ark’s current state.

Since starting the game, he had been training his Taekwondo without resting for even a day so he was recovering his sense from the past. With his abilities raised from the darkness within the cave, he was able to exert power even surprising himself!

Klock!

The Gnoll who was struck in its abdomen by Ark’s side kicks, flew threw several meters in the air and then crashed into the ground. It raised its body while staggering, but at the next blow struck the back of its head and it fell once again.

When the battle against the two Gnolls first began, it already only had 40 percent of its health left.

Falling down for the third time, the Gnoll was consumed by fear.

“Str-Strong!”

However, Ark got momentarily careless due to his heart-pounding vigor, the Gnoll suddenly blew a whistle.

‘This is bad. Did it call its comrades?’

“Bat, Skull! Stop him, make it so he can’t blow that whistle!”

But before Ark’s finished issuing his command, a sharp sound echoed throughout the cave.

It was then when the cave began to shake.

Ark was the first one who smelled something fishy.

A fishy smell so strong, it paralyzed his sense of smell the moment something poured and writhed from the small holes drilled into the cave like a honeycomb.

It was hundreds of snakes!

It was another danger of the cave Galen had warned him about. No matter how good of a swordsman you are, it isn’t an easy task to fight against hundreds of snakes.

However, Ark only let out a sigh of relief.

‘Fortunately he wasn’t calling for his comrades. If the opponents are snakes I’ll welcome them.’

“Spirit of the Cat!”

Nyaaaa -!

A sharp cry swept through the inside of the cave.

At the same time, the illusion of a huge black cat rose above Ark’s head. As its glittering golden eyes slowly opened, the snakes who had been making threatening sounds were left paralyzed.

The paralysis effect for small monsters!

The Gnoll screamed, “Kyaa, it— it’s a monster!”

“That isn’t something someone with a dog’s head should say!”

Ark ran forward while treading on the snakes and defeated the Gnoll.

He then dispatched the stiffened snakes at random.

“Ooh, master. For some reason you look especially strong today.”

Bat and Skull’s expressions were filled with energy.

The snakes’ paralysis soon wore off, but he didn’t need to worry.

Though the paralysis wore off, the effects of Spirit of the Cat lowered small monsters’ attack and defence by 30 percent. On the other hand, the Cat Knight title Ark had received meant he also received a bonus in attack and critical hit rate against small monsters and damage taken from them was reduced.

It wasn’t an exaggeration to say Ark was invincible when facing small smonters. That was the reason he didn’t care about the snakes when he accepted the quest.

‘Huhuhu, if it’s snakes it doesn’t matter if it’s a hundred or a thousand.’

Whenever Ark swung his sword, three or four snakes were sliced into pieces.

On the other hand, the damage he received was just 1. Ark defeated hundreds of snakes as if he was trampling on worms.

‘The quest’s difficulty being C was probably because of these snakes.’

Truly, if it had been any other user, even if their levels were a lot higher than Ark, they wouldn’t have been able to face such a tough fight with snakes as their opponents. No, they wouldn’t have even dared to enter this cave. But for Ark, who had the title of Cat Knight, snakes and such things didn’t even count as snacks.

The only thing he had to worry about was the poison that was sometimes inflicted. But since he only lost 50 Health in 30 seconds, it wasn’t a very strong poison. He just needed to make food with detoxification effects through Survival Cooking after the battle ends and eat it, so it wasn’t a problem.

‘This is a smorgasbord of a quest!’

There were no difficulties for Ark who was full of confidence.

While he wove his way left and right through the cave, he hunted down and defeated all the Gnolls he set his sight on.

‘This place really is a moneytree!’

A joyful cry unconsciously burst out of him.

To Ark, the Gnolls no longer appeared as monsters.

He saw them as if they were 2,000 won bills or a moving roll of sushi that had come to life.

Whenever Ark saw a Gnoll, he rushed towards them while drooling.

“UHUHUHU, MORE, SEND OUT MORE!”

“M-Master. Calm down, your eyes look really dangerous.”

Clack clack clack.

Bat and Skull, who had been very excited, were now trembling in fear.

When the Gnolls were driven into a corner, they had always called on the snakes, but to Ark it was nothing more than a bonus game.

Ark defeated a hundred Gnolls in just two hours.

“With a hundred, I’ve made 20 gold!”

If possible, he wanted to spend a few days hunting inside the cave.

However, perhaps because he had received the quest, the Gnolls didn’t regenerate even after he went back to the entrance.

Well, if he returned after hunting about a thousand of them, Galen, a mountain village store owner, would probably be unable to afford the reward money and go bankrupt.

In the end, the cave’s Gnolls were almost completely annihilated by the merciless Ark.

Ark crossed through the deserted cave and headed into its deepest depths.

A hole with no end in sight gaped at the end of the cave, and at its center, there was a jagged, altar-like protrusion.

A totem resembling the shape of a snake had been placed on top of the altar.

As unfortunate as it was, the three Gnolls gathered in that area were the last ones.

Ark hid his body with ‘Stealth’ and went closer.

‘Is he the Gnolls’ boss?’

One unusually dressed Gnoll caught his eye.

He was draped in a rag-like robe, and atop his head was a crown that appeared to be woven with tree roots. However for a boss-level monster, he didn’t look particularly strong.

‘He’s still a boss. I don’t know what kind of attacks he’ll try.’

“Grrr, what the hell happened? Have you still not captured the invading Human?”

“Th-that’s… the bastard is stronger than we thought.”

“Even though we let the snakes loose, we weren’t able to kill him.”

“Grrr, we won’t be able to appease the God’s fury like this.”

The Boss Gnoll trembled with a frightened expression.

“God was wounded by the Human who entered awhile ago and is furious. If we allow another human to approach…. Grrr, in any case, we must stop the Human.”

“Understood.”

The Gnolls who had received the command lifted their weapons and neared Ark’s location.

Ark stayed far away and waited for his opportunity.

When he judged the distance between him and the Boss had widened considerably, he approached at mach speed and attacked one Gnoll with a Backstab.

The Gnolls were immediately bewildered and the line of battle was disrupted. Once Bat and Skull pitched in, the fight was decided in an instant.

“Ho-how could this be! When did the Human come all the way here… grrr!” The Boss Gnoll burst out in shock as the Gnoll guards were defeated without a proper fight.

“Come on, you dog head!”

Now the only one left was the Boss Gnoll.

Ark leveled his sword as he prepared for the enemy’s attack.

But the Boss Gnoll didn’t come to attack Ark.

Instead, it hastily fled towards the altar, and while shaking the snake-shaped totem he began to recite a strange incantation.

“Nunak, nanak, sandalani! Great King of Snakes!”

‘What the hell is he doing?’

While perplexed, Ark rushed towards the Boss Gnoll.

No, the rush was only for an instant.

The cave suddenly began shaking and something enormous abruptly rose from beneath the cliff. It was a huge monster making a hissing sound as its eyes flashed… Its identity was a snake with a body width appearing to be several meters wide.

A warning message popped up in front of him.

– The boss monster Kundalini has appeared!

“Gulp! W-What is this?”

Ark was petrified.

Ark was no longer a beginner at virtual games.

Whether he saw a wolf, a rat the size of a bear, or a zombie with its flesh decaying, he didn’t even blink. But the giant snake that appeared before his eyes, Kundalini, was cut from a different cloth than those monsters.

His felt shivers go down his spine as he faced the hatred mixed with distinctive bloodthirst the snake exuded. Ice-cold sweat poured out of him like a waterfall and flowed down his back.

The will to fight that buoyed him also cooled.

“Ooooh, my God! King of Snakes! Punish the human!”

Once Kundalini emerged, the Boss Gnoll let out a cheer. They were the Boss Gnoll’s last words.

Snap CRUNCH!

Kundalini moved with incredible speed and swallowed the Boss Gnoll down.

Its jaw convulsed as it munched on the crushed Boss Gnoll, and blood gushed out. Kundalini gulped down the Boss Gnoll and raised its head. The several-metered snake raised its head as blood dripped from its mouth in the darkness!

Rooooar!

‘HOLY SHIT!’

A moan unconsciously escaped him.

The visual impact was enormous.

Ark felt like he was watching a terrible horror movie.

Kundalini’s gaze turned towards Ark. They were eyes of a predator staring at him as its prey, not an enemy.

‘Was this the reason why the difficulty was C?’

He had been severely mistaken. Ark didn’t have to worry about something like a snake. Rather, it was an enormous demon that couldn’t even be called a snake.

Kundalini slowly glided across the floor, approaching Ark as if there was no need to hurry.

‘Th-the hell is this?’

Bewilderment escaped Ark’s mouth.

He tried to raise his sword, but his arm wouldn’t move. His legs didn’t budge either, as if they were rooted to the ground.

– You looked into Kundalini’s eyes, inducing the complete effect of Forestallment. If you are inflicted with Forestallment, you will always be denied First Strike. Until you are attacked, the effect will not disappear.

‘First Strike? I’ll be swallowed in one strike, so what kind of damned First Strike is this!’

To give up the First Strike to a demon who swallowed the Boss Gnoll in one bite, didn’t it mean he was just prey? It really was a bamboozling skill for a bamboozling body.

Kundalini surreptitiously narrowed the gap as it yawned open its cavernous mouth. Ark couldn’t even move a muscle.

Just like a frog being captured by a snake, Ark could only stare with dazed eyes at the inside of Kundalini’s crimson mouth. In the instant its mouth was about to touch him, a red light suddenly flashed before him.

It was Skull.

At the very moment Kundalini was about to devour Ark whole, Skull rammed Ark.

Clack, cla-clack!

As Skull clattered, it disappeared into Kundalini’s stomach instead of Ark.

“Sku-Skull!”

“What are you doing, Master! Get yourself together!”

As the belated Familiar recall damage registered, he was shocked back into his senses. Once the effect of Forestallment disappeared, the horror that crushed his body disappeared like a dream.

‘That’s right, this is virtual reality. Even a huge snake like this is just EXP was prepared for the sake of the users. There’s no reason why I can’t win. No, I will win!’

“Eyes of the Cat!”

Kundalini’s information window popped up as he cast the skill.

When he checked the information, he sucked in his breath. Ark’s level had risen once inside the cave, so it was currently 46. On the other hand, Kundalini was a whopping level 80.

Even if he included the advantages he had in the dark, there was still a difference of 30 levels. This wasn’t an opponent he could defeat by any regular means.

However, there was no need give up yet.

‘Kundalini only had 50 percent of its health remaining!’

Ark immediately saw why.

There were exceptionally large red weak points marked on Kundalini’s forehead, and in the middle was a single sword was deeply lodged in.

Numerous thoughts instantaneously combined inside Ark’s head.

‘It’s Lancel! It’s Lancel’s sword!’

Galen said Lancel had gone to the end of the cave alone. And after several hours, deafening roars had erupted.

There had also been an hint about Lancel within the Gnolls’ conversation. They’d said an invading Human had inflicted a wound on the God awhile ago which made God sensitive.

So Lancel had faced Kundalini here, alone.

Lancel had been defeated without reaching his goal, but with his will, he had protected the village, and its residents were still living and breathing. The sword lodged in Kundalini’s forehead was his will!

A scene of a Warrior fighting desperately against a huge snake painted itself in front of Ark’s eyes.

‘You’re awesome, Lancel!’

Courage surged in him like an erupting volcano.

‘Alright! I will inherit your goal!’

Although the monster was level 80, it was a different story when its health was already down to half.

‘It’s ridiculous if I don’t win after all the arrangements have been made for me!’

Ark swung his sword like lightning and struck a red weak point.

Ba-ba-ba-baang!

Kundalini staggered with the sounds of impact. But it wasn’t that easy to close the 30 level gap. Even though he’d dealt a critical hit, Kundalini’s Health decreased by just 2 percent.

Kundalini began its counter attack.

The thick tail curved like a whip as it flew forward.

When he rolled on the ground and avoided it, the cave walls were hit so it began to crack and shake.

It had power so outrageous, it wouldn’t even allow him to block!

‘I’ll have to put my all into avoiding its attack!’

“Bat, attract its attention.”

“Dammit, you always give me the hard jobs!”

Bat wailed its complaint as it hung in front of Kundalini’s nose.

The accuracy of Kundalini’s attacks dropped. It had no time to properly concentrate on Ark, so it randomly swung its tail.

Ark waited until the tail was right in front of his nose, then rolled on the ground and stabbed it with his sword. He didn’t have the luxury of aiming for something like a critical hit.

Although he wasn’t dealing much damage to it now, it was all he could do to steadily chip off its Health.

Once he made up his mind and evaded, Kundalini’s attacks were slower than expected. The sword wedged in its forehead was probably also influencing Kundalini’s stats. However, even Ark couldn’t avoid all the attacks.

KA-POW–!

“Ugh!”

Ark was pushed back several meters.

From just one slam of the tail, he lost 400 Health and he was poisoned. Almost only half of his Health remained.

In other words, it would be game over if he took just one more attack. Moreover, he had only touched the tail, yet he was poisoned and his Health was being steadily eaten away. With an attack of this level, it would be no use even if he was to drink a potion.

If he took an attack while drinking four recovery potions, which cost 100 Gold each, he would incur a loss instead.

‘No matter how slowed Kundalini’s movements are, considering the level difference, I can’t avoid it forever. I can’t help but be hit by one attack every five. And the poison is stronger than regular snakes by 3 or 4 times. The battle will get worse the longer it goes on! Some kind of decisive strike…’

Ark’s eyes turned towards the sword wedged in its forehead.

A bigger red point than any other!

That was likely Kundalini’s decisive weakness!

‘I have no choice, I’ll have to risk it!’

Ark made up his mind and quickly commanded, “Bat, attract its attention upwards!”

“Got it, Master! Up here, you big worm body!”

Bat flew rapidly in front of Kundalini’s eyes and soared up. The moment Kundalini’s attention turned upward, Ark flung forward and clambered onto its back.

The snake was several meters wide.

Ark ran up Kundalini’s back while displaying the sense of balance honed by Taekwondo. When he climbed up to its neck, Kundalini sensed Ark’s intention and fiercely raised its neck.

As the slope became vertical, Ark slid down.

“No way!”

Ark flung himself forward and stabbed his sword into its jaw.

Kundalini lowered its neck again and a heavy noise of impact burst out. At that moment, Ark crawled up Kundalini’s neck and stood on its head. Then he put all his strength in one strike towards the forehead.

“Dark Blade!”

– You do not have enough Mana!

“Dammit it!”

Ark screamed at the unimaginable pop up message.

The chronic dilemma that had plagued him, lack of Mana, reared its ugly head in the most decisive moment.

Ark had only used Eyes of the Cat once at the start of the battle. But grating away Kundalini’s Health had consumed too much time. Because he had steadily used up Mana while sustaining Bat’s summon. He only had 80 Mana left.

It had been 7 minutes since the start of his fight with Kundalini. The Mana he’d used was 420.

If Skull hadn’t been forcefully recalled earlier, Bat would have already returned to the Netherworld. Ark had forgotten about this fact because he’d never fought this long with them before.

‘Stupid! How could I have not checked the amount of Mana I had left!’

It was an absurd mistake.

ROOOAAR!

While Ark exploded in embarrassment, Kundalini began to glow.

Ark groaned as he clutched the sword stuck in the writhing Kundalini’s forehead.

‘Damn, is it really going to end like this?’

Bat would return to the Netherworld in 80 seconds.

He couldn’t use his deadly Dark Blade, either.

Kundalini’s remaining Health was 30 percent. A win wasn’t guaranteed even if he used Dark Blade three or four times, but he couldn’t even use it once! Even if attacked it with at least a dozen normal critical hits, the remaining Health wouldn’t be depleted.

Of course, Kundalini wouldn’t just let itself be hit, either.

A way to win didn’t emerge no matter what. It would be game over if he let go of the sword he was holding onto. Even if he wasn’t eaten by Kundalini, he would die instantly if he fell into the chasm with no bottom in sight that yawned underneath him.

Suddenly, an idea flashed across Ark’s mind.

‘That’s right, I may not be able to win, but there’s a way to die together!’

Ark opted for this final idea.

Fortunately, before he left Lancel village, he had set it to be his resurrection place. Then even if he died here, he didn’t have to worry about returning to Jackson. Dying together with Kundalini was one method.

If he hurried and returned to the cave, he could still get the Kundalini’s dropped loot. Since he could complete the quest on top of that, it was worth penalty.

‘That’s the most I can do right now!’

The problem was how they could die together.

“Bat, lure it towards the chasm!” Ark shouted as he hung from Kundalini’s head.

“Understood, Master. Hey you!”

GRAAAWR!

Bat stabbed Kundalini’s eye and fled towards the chasm.

Ark clutched onto the sword hilt and was wrenched around; when Kundalini arrived at the edge, he stabbed the forehead with his sword with all his strength.

As he landed a critical hit, Kundalini grated its body against the wall. He was wedged between the wall and Kundalini’s body, so his Health dropped steadily. But Ark didn’t stop and stabbed his sword two, three times in succession.

His tenacity called forth a miracle.

Having writhed against the wall, Kundalini couldn’t balance its weight and slid towards the cliff. The bottomless pit gaped underneath it.

“I did it!”

Ark clenched his eyes shut.

He experienced a peculiar sense of floating.

A few seconds, or perhaps minutes flowed past. Then Kundalini crashed into the ground and he felt an enormous shock. Kundalini, who had received a huge amount of damage from falling, had its Health sucked out, leaving only 3 percent.

‘What? How am I still alive?’

Ark was stunned.

Even Kundalini’s incredible Health had been decreased by over 20 percent. Then Ark, who only had about 300 of his Health left, should have died instantly. However, Ark was still alive.

He had just 20 Health left, but he wasn’t dead.

Just then, a message window popped up before Ark’s eyes.

Due to Cat Knight’s ability, falling damage has been reduced by 50 percent. Effect of Flexibility while rolling has also reduced falling damage by 30 percent.

‘It’s a chance!’

Ark’s eyes flashed.

Cat Knight had reduced his falling damage! An ability that he hadn’t cared about until now had activated in a desperately dangerous moment.

Also, thanks to the Taekwondo he had trained every single day since starting the game, he had automatically attempted to roll in the moment of impact.

As a result, Ark slid past 80 percent of damage and survived.

‘I don’t have time to waste. The poison wasn’t cured, so my Health is still dropping.’

Ark sprang up.

Perhaps it was because of the falling damage, but his body didn’t move properly. However, Kundalini, who had received 100 percent of the falling damage, hadn’t even gathered its senses yet.

Kundalini was stretched out panting as its body glowed red.

Double critical chance!

“Die!”

With Bat, Ark plunged his sword toward Kundalini’s forehead. It was a single strike enveloped with the effects of Indomitable Will and Indomitable Body as well as the double critical chance.

Through double critical chance, you have landed two critical hits. As a co-op bonus, 30 percent of damage is added.

“ROOAAAR!”

Kundalini’s forehead, which had taken massive damage, split right in half.

Kundalini, which writhed like a fish out of water, slowly disappeared.

You have defeated the boss monster Kundalini.

 

Your level has increased.

You have gained 2 levels, so your current level is now 48.

Ark heaved coarse breaths as he flopped to the ground.

“Huff huff huff.”

“Ma-master! We won! We won!”

Only after hearing Bat’s shout did Ark realize that he had won.

Ark forcefully subdued his trembling excitement and pulled out his pot. After making an urgent antidote, he made food that recovered Health. His Health had dropped to the bottom, so he finally recovered after making and eating food three, four times.

The sword that had been lodged in its forehead and a skull had fallen where Kundalini had disappeared.

Lancel’s Sword (Cursed)

This is the sword used by Lancel, the leader of Lancel Village. It’s a sword that gives off such a gloomy feeling that you can’t believe that it was a sword used by a normal mercenary.

Additionally, the sword became strongly cursed after being wedged in Kundalini’s forehead and saturated by poison for a long time.

Until the curse is lifted, you cannot check its stats.

 

Lancel’s Remains

The remains of the Lancel Village leader, Lancel.

Disappointment floated across Ark’s face.

A cursed item was a kind of unidentified item. But it was harder to use than an unidentified item. An unidentified item could be checked after paying a certain amount of money to a user in a big city, but lifting a curse was only possible at a cathedral in the capital city of Schudenberg Kingdom.

That meant it was an item that he couldn’t even use until he arrived in the capital. Moreover, it supposedly took a considerable amount of money to lift a curse.

If he lifted the curse and it turned out to be nothing much, his loss would be extreme. But Ark soon shook his head.

‘No. It’s still a sword that had cut up to 50 percent of the Health of a strong monster like Kundalini. It might actually be an incredible sword. But is there any other item?’

Ark packed the sword and Lancel’s Remains and looked around.

However, he didn’t see an item no matter how much he looked. Instead, he discovered a pathway leading upwards and climbed back to the place where the Boss Gnoll had been. He was able to start leaving the cave when he saw a dim light suddenly flowing from one side.

It was the altar that the Boss Gnoll had prayed at when calling forth Kundalini.

When Ark approached and touched it, a new window popped up.

You have discovered an ancient artifact, the Altar of Incubation.

Through Knowledge of Ancient Artifacts, you have discovered hidden information about the Altar of Incubation. Located in the dreary cave in which the giant monster Kundalini lurked, the Altar of Incubation is one of the ancient artifacts. Since ancient times, the Altar of Incubation has garnered curiosity from many scholars

The Altar of Incubation has the ability to quickly hatch eggs of all kinds. It’s certain that the huge monster Kundalini used this Altar of Incubation to propagate the thousands of snakes that lived in the cave.

By gaining information about the ancient artifact Altar of Incubation, you have acquired bonuses.

Knowledge of Ancient Relics +10, Intelligence +5, Luck +3, and 30 Fame.

‘So that’s why there were so many snakes?’

It wasn’t that big a secret, but it was good since his Mana rose because of the intelligence bonus.

Since Ark couldn’t carry the altar away, Ark was about to just pass it by. But a thought that suddenly surfaced made him stop in his tracks.

‘Wait? It’ll accelerate the incubation of any egg?’

If so, it might be surprisingly useful.

Ark did have one egg. Just in case, Ark summoned the young Netherworld’s Egg. Then he placed it on top of the altar, but there was no change.

Ark tilted his head, placed his pot on the altar, and made food just in case. Then, as soon as he plunged the egg in, a message window popped up.

Survival Cooking has been completed. However, Netherworld’s Egg has absorbed all of it. You have not determined what effect the food has.

A reaction from the Netherworld’s Egg has been detected.

* Through the effect of the Altar of Incubation, Netherworld’s Egg’s growth rate has increased by 500%.

‘Yeah, this is it!’

The growth rate quickened by 500 percent. That meant that he could give the effect of five feedings with a single one!

‘If I can’t make it hatch here, I can’t guarantee when it’ll wake up.’

Ark pulled out all his food ingredients and made food with Survival Cooking. His success rate was only once every ten times. After succeeding about five times in fifty tries, Survival Cooking finally rose to Intermediate.

Your level of Survival Cooking has risen through much experience.

Survival Cooking (Intermediate, Passive): You can mix spices to ingredients and raise the success rate.

Food with added spices will have stronger effects. The duration of effects of the food will also be doubled. However, please note that not only good effects will be stronger. It will require more courage to test out the effects of the food.

At the same time, numerous cracks spread out on the Netherworld’s Egg and it finally split in half.

Netherworld’s Egg has ingested sufficient nutrition and has hatched!

“F-finally!”

Ark focused his attention on the form that was rising with hazy light. Finally, he had three Familiars!

Even two Familiars provided considerable power. If he had three of them now, his hunting speed would increase even more.

Ark’s eyes glimmered with expectation. But the light disappeared, and the form that appeared made Ark grimace with loathing.

“The hell is this? A s-snake?”

His new Familiar was a snake with a broad neck, like a cobra.

Amongst many, many animals, why the hell did it have to be a snake?

After entering the cave, he had been attacked by a thousand snakes. As if that wasn’t enough, he had almost died fighting Kundalini, so he was sick and tired of snakes.

However, when he looked more carefully, he didn’t really feel a sensation of disgust.

The Familiar’s appearance was very different from all the snakes he’d seen until now.

Its silkworm-like, smooth body even looked pretty at first sight. In particular, its saucer-like round and large eyes were as blue as sapphires. The way its eyes shined as it stared at him did have a cute aspect.

“In any case, seems like it’s somehow okay since it’s a snake… Information window!”

After checking the information window, Ark once again tilted his head.

“W-what, what is this?”

Alamone Larvae

It is a mysterious snake living in the Netherworld, an Alamone’s offspring.

An Alamone is a mysterious snake with the habit of placing all the items it sees into its stomach. Because they do not digest the swallowed items, those who desire the items have indiscriminately captured them, so now they have become extinct. Therefore, there are not many who know of them.

They are obedient and highly affectionate. Also, an Alamone recognizes the first existence it sees after hatching from its egg as its parent. The first existence the Alamone saw after hatching was you.

Now the Alamone will think of you as its parent, and it will become a loyal Familiar that will never betray its master no matter the situation. In addition, because it is tied to you by familial love, it will not consume Mana even if a battle breaks out.

Race: Creature of the Netherworld
Alignment: Dark
Class: —
Health: 50
Loyalty: —
Strenght: —
Agility: —
Stamina: —
Wisdom: —
Intelligence: —
Luck: —

* It can store the same number of items as the summoner with no weight limit.

He had struggled like crazy and had finally hatched it, but it didn’t have a single stat. That meant he couldn’t use it in battle.

However, its special ability intrigued Ark.

‘It can store items?’

Ark stared at the snake, which was charmingly clambering onto his arm.

Just in case, he tried holding out Lancel’s Sword a bit. The snake stared at it blankly, then suddenly shot out its tongue like a frog catching a fly and swallowed it.

‘Huh? Did it really eat it?’

Ark stared at the snake with a perplexed expression.

“Spit it back out!”

When Ark shouted in a bewildered voice, the snake opened its mouth again and spat out the sword onto Ark’s hand. Then it blinked its bright eyes and rubbed its head into him as if it were asking for praise.

A laugh escaped Ark’s lips.

“Ha, what the hell is this?”

Should he call it fascinating, or funny?

He felt an indescribable feeling. He no longer felt his initial disappointment, because he had desperately needed a spare bag. Moreover, there was no burden if it didn’t eat Mana during battle like his other Familiars did.

It was something he learned too late, but a Dark Walker had a smaller bag capacity in comparison to other professions. Merchants and production classes were provided 6 basic bags. Magic professions had a basic bag and 3 spare bags with half the capacity. Even Warriors had one spare bag in addition to their basic bag.

But Ark’s bag capacity had only expanded slightly with his job-change. After packing in all kinds of food ingredients, he’d found that he always lacked bag capacity.

Of course, there were ways to increase bag capacity. But the magic bag sold in large cities was a whopping 200 gold for only a quarter of the basic bag’s capacity! Ark had given up early after hearing about the outrageous price.

‘Since it can store the same capacity as a basic bag, it means I’ve earned 800 gold. Is this little guy the reason why a Dark Walker isn’t provided an additional bag?’

“Alright, from now on I’ll comfortably call you ‘Snake.'”

Snake nodded as if it had heard. Then it excitedly rubbed itself on him repeatedly and wrapped itself around Ark’s waist.

It looked like a belt made out of snake skin.

“You’re a really likable fella. I’m satisfied with this much.”

Now he had finished everything he had to do in the cave.

Ark headed back to the village of Lancel.

* * *

“You really did it!” The store owner exclaimed once Ark spread out the Gnoll leathers.

“This is the promised compensation. 20 silvers per leather. It’s a total of 21 gold. And this is the reward for saving the village.”

Galen gave him a total of 31 gold as a reward.

After completing the quest, his intimacy with Galen had risen considerably as a bonus. He was able to sell the japtem he had acquired within the cave for an additional 10 percent. Ark roughly finished tidying up and returned Lancel’s Remains as he spoke of Kundalini.

Galen was surprised, but he soon nodded with understanding.

“So a demon like that lived in the cave. Lancel was a Mercenary stronger than anyone I know. I didn’t believe that such a person could been killed by just Gnolls.”

“Yes, if it weren’t for the wound on Kundalini that Lancel inflicted, I would have never been able to win. But who exactly is Lancel? If he was able to enter the cave alone and face that demon, which indicates that his skill wasn’t common…”

Ark asked because he thought he might be able to learn more about Lancel’s Sword.

Galen hesitated with a dark expression and spoke, “You’re right, Lancel was no ordinary Mercenary. Once, he was so violent a Mercenary that they called him ‘Vampire’ in a border war. Over a hundred Soldiers died at his hands. But that was against Lancel’s will. It’s just that the battlefield and the sword made him go crazy. Eventually, Lancel regained his senses, realized the disillusionment of his actions, and left the battlefield. Then, with the determination to be a help to someone, he led the pioneers and decided to set up this village.

“So even as he fought a dreadful demon, he couldn’t give up on the village.”

“That’s right, he really was atoning, in a way.”

Galen let out a sigh.

“No matter his past, I admired him. I also love the village he set up. Now that the danger has disappeared thanks to you, I’m of a mind to rebuild this village even if I have to devote my whole life to it. Speaking of which… are you thinking of continuing your journey?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then, will you listen to my request?”

“Please tell me.”

“The pioneers who followed Lancel all love this village. The only reason why they left was because they worried about their family’s safety. But now the danger is gone. If you happen to meet them in your journey, please let them know of this fact. If it’s them, they will definitely return. Of course, it’s good if you find and send new villagers, too. This village is open to anyone.”

“I understand. I will speak of the person named Lancel to people I meet in my journey around the world. I will tell them how honorable and amiable a place this village is.”

When Ark nodded, the quest was updated.

Quest has been updated.

Pioneer Village Lancel’s Misfortune = Find New Settlers!

Lancel’s general store owner, Galen, wants to continue Lancel’s wish and rebuild the village.

What Lancel Village needs most right now are residents. Many people must gather and the laughter of children must fill the air for Lancel to be reborn as a true village.

Galen has requested that you find residents for Lancel, like the pioneers who shared Lancel’s goal in the past and even people who have nowhere else to go. Galen has accepted Lancel’s wish to become helpful in the world and has promised to openly accept all residents. If you guide them to this place, Lancel Village will definitely become the village that Lancel desired.

Finding new settlers: achieved 0%

Difficulty: C

There wasn’t any information about how to solve the quest. But after receiving the quest first, there would be a hint somewhere.

“You should hold onto Lancel’s Sword. I know Lancel would also want that.”

Of course, Ark had no intention of giving it up even if he was asked to.

Anyways, Ark left Lancel after those words.

The very first thing he did after leaving Lancel was to summon Skull.

Clack clack clack

When he saw Skull clacking its teeth as if there was nothing wrong, tears blurred Ark’s eyes.

Although it was revived again, Skull had thrown away its life for his sake. In a sense, it was an action that was harder for an NPC that actually died than it was for a player. But Skull had sacrificed itself without hesitation. In addition, Bat had done its best to help Ark.

When he looked at these Familiars, affection surged forth anew.

‘Such praiseworthy little rascals.’

Snake, the new addition to his family, was definitely lovable. Perhaps because Snake truly thought of him as its parent, but it put its all into rubbing Ark affectionately whenever it could.

‘That’s right, these guys are all I have. Sink or swim, I’ll go together with these fellas.’

It wasn’t just that his sense of unity was strengthened; there was also an actual benefit. He no longer had to give up items because of bag space. Now that he could store double the items thanks to Snake, Ark became even greedier.

‘Now that the family has increased, I have to earn more, even if it’s just 1 Copper.’

Ark scraped in all the japtem and ingredients he could get his hands on as he followed the Hand Mirror’s light. Because of that, his pace slowed even more, and he crossed the Argus Mountains after a week.

There were still unexplored regions on the other side of the Argus Mountains.

Even when he walked for several days, he couldn’t find any players, let alone NPCs.

After passing a plain where he could see the horizon and floods a few times and hunting the monsters he encountered in those places, he reached level 50. When his two bags were nearly chock full of japtem, Ark was able to arrive at his destination.

‘It’s the lighthouse!’

On one side of the beach stood a picturesque, scenic lighthouse.

It was the lighthouse he’d seen through the Hand Mirror; he had finally reached his destination after a very long journey.

When he had seen it through images, it was a place that had only looked beautiful. But when he actually arrived and looked, the area around the lighthouse was crawling with monsters he had never seen before.

They were monsters with shark-like appearances equipped with both arms and legs. When he checked the information with Eyes of the Cat, he found they were called Sharkmen. They were level 55, but they were a little stronger than monsters of the same level.

‘Well, I’ll manage to fight them somehow, but it’s hard to face more than one of them. It’ll be good to wait until night for now.’

At night, all his stats increased by 20 percent.

To fight in the dark. It was one of the Dark Walker’s basic tactics.

Back to top

Chapter 3 : Underwater City of Nodelesse

This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, BlankBlank, Charles, Lastear, Lei, Mathew, and Openbookworm.


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.

“Yes, why?”

“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 parental consent. I’m calling to ask what the parents intend 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 it happens, 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 while crying, praying 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 experiences 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 his 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.”
“Mother.”

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”
“Yes?”

“I heard from the doctor 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.”

“I’m sorry.”
“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.

“Commendable lad.”
“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 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?”
“Game?”

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.”

“You must.”

* * *

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.”

“Understood, Master.”

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.

Shark Fin Soup, a food made by Survivor 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)

Defense Type

Rock Boots

Defense

10

Durability

20/20

Weight

100

Usage Restriction

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.

Kukuku!

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.

Flash!

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.

Difficulty: E

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.

‘Octopus!’

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.

Bounce!

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 attacks.

‘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 stab 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 and 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.

Coral Dagger

Weapon Type

Dagger

Attack Damage

1~4

Durability

15

Weight

15

Usage Restriction

None

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.

‘It’s fun.’

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 fishes 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 touches.

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.

“Ex-excuse me.”

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 breath 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 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.

Back to top

Chapter 4 : Win the hearts of the People

This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, BlankBlank, Charles, Lei, and Mathew.


‘Whew, it’s really hopeless.’ Ark heaved a sigh.

He stopped Merpeople at random and asked, but it was of no use. Finding information about Christin was going to be harder than expected. Judging from past experience, there was only one way to solve situations like this. He must raise his intimacy with the Merpeople.

The problem was the information required significantly high intimacy.

Based on the Mermaid Guards’ reaction, the favor he’d earned from just a few words was no use. In addition, he didn’t know how to increase intimacy in this strange Underwater City.

‘The first thing to do is to gain information about Merpeople other than Christin.’

Ark decided to relax and took a stroll around the city.

Nodelesse was slightly different compared to a Human Village. Human Villages, no matter how small always had a tavern, inn, and various shops. However Nodelesse even though it was 3, 4 times larger than a Human Village, only had one restaurant and a General Store.

‘Should I clean out my japtem for now?’

After wandering in the ocean for nearly half a month, his bag and Snake’s stomach were full of items.

“Oh, you’re a Human. It’s surprising for a Human to come to my store. Right, what are you looking for?”

As soon as he entered the store, an elderly Merman greeted him. With his wrinkled face and shaggy beard, the Merman didn’t look quite right, but Ark still sported a friendly smile.

“I have some things to sell and things to buy. May I look around the shop?”
“Go ahead.”

Ark went through the goods in the store.

All of the items available in the store were things he had never seen before. It was inevitable since he was in an Underwater City, and because all the materials could only be acquired in the ocean. Shields made out of seashells, bows made out of Whale bones, Spears carved from tuna bones, etc.

The materials had a slightly crude feeling to them. Perhaps because it was a difficult city to come to, the stats transcended his imagination.

Clam Shield

Gear Type

Shell Shield

Defense

190

Durability

60

Weight

30

Usage Restriction

Level 50, Warrior Related

This shield was made by polishing a large Clam shell sturdy as steel, so it cannot be broken by any sword. It was made with a streamline surface, so it is easy to carry it and swim.

Price

1, 3777P

 

Electric Eel Breastplate (Magic)

Gear Type

Leather Armor

Defense

70

Durability

55

Weight

50

Usage Restriction

Level 55

Armor made from the hides of Electric Eels living in the ocean depths. Attacks will slide off its slippery surface. The characteristic of Electric Eel remains; it will emit an electric shock with a fixed chance when hit.

Attack Nullification: 30%
10% Chance of counter-attacking with an electric shock when hit.

Price

2,500P

Even a normal defensive gear, Clam Shield, had an enormous defense of 190.

Well, Shields were originally set with high defense since the defense was added when the player actually blocked with it. Even so, 190 was definitely an incredible defense.

The added special effects of the Electric Eel Breastplate were also no joke.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it rare. It is attractive enough to want to buy 1 or 2 if the price is right. But strangely enough, the price was in units of “P.”

“What does P mean?”

“Hm?”

The store owner twisted his head around wondering what Ark was talking about. After staring blankly at Ark for awhile, the store owner nodded in understanding.

“Ahh, you are a Human. P means this.” The store owner raised a Pearl as big as an eyeball. “Here at Nodelesse, Pearl is used as currency.”

“Then for 2,500P, you need 2,500 Pearls to buy the item?”
“Of course.”

Ark’s jaw dropped unconsciously.

He had gathered 3 or 4 pearls when he crossed through the ocean. At that time, Ark was very happy. Since they were rare jewels, he thought they could be sold for a really high price. So far, the jewels he’d occasionally earned were 10 Silver for the low-quality ones, and the high-quality rare ones were worth 5 gold.

But he need 2,500 of those Pearls to buy one armor? Doesn’t it mean even if he bought it for a cheap price, it would still amount to 250 gold? No matter how good the performance of the item was, it was an unbelievable rip-off.

But Ark soon changed his way of thinking.

‘No, it might be because the the value of the Pearls are unbelievably low in this place.’

If so, there was nothing more to desire. If he acquired Pearls in bulk in this place and took advantage of the value difference, he could amass a sizable fortune.

Ark thought of this and opened his bag.

“If I sold all of this, how much can I get?”

The bag was filled with Clam shells, seaweed, and things like the flesh of marine monsters.

But the store owner muttered in an uninterested voice, “Why would I buy them?”

“What? What do you mean?”
“Those things are everywhere outside, so there’s no need for me to buy them.”

The store owner was turning his head uninterested, but then he flinched. He pointed at one item with fascinated eyes.

“Wh-what is that?”
“What? This shoe?”

“Shoe? Ooh, you call it a shoe? It looks marvelous. Do humans wear those on their feet? But I think this is the first time I’ve seen such material. What is it made out of?”

“What do you mean. It is just animal hide…”

While answering with a flummoxed expression, Ark suddenly had an epiphany.

‘Right, this is an Underwater City!’

An Underwater City, the City of Merpeople who spent hundreds of years without any contact with the outside world.

Just like how the Underwater City items were fascinating to Ark, the items found on land were fascinating to the Merpeople; even if it was just a ragged leather shoe. Since they lived underwater, they never had a chance to glimpse at land animal leather before.

In other word, scarcity! No matter where you are, rarity is what decides the value of goods.

Indeed, the store owner’s eyes were filled with desire.

“Interesting! Very interesting! Are you saying this is an animal hide? Why did you only show me trash when you have such amazing goods? I don’t need the other things, but if you’ll sell that or similar goods, I’ll buy them all. I’ll give you a good price too.”

The store owner shook the bag filled with Pearls to say he wanted to trade immediately.

The items Ark currently possessed were no more than japtem. Plus, they were goods with only 1 durability, since he used them to raise his Magic Restoration skill. At a normal village, it was difficult to receive even a few coppers. But the shop owner was saying he would buy them for a good price.

This was definitely a bonanza.

But Ark’s hand that was taking out items suddenly stopped.

‘Wait, if these items have good value here, then I don’t really need to sell them at a shop, right? And I have to raise intimacy to gain information… What if I sell them to Merpeople in the city?’

He could raise intimacy. Granted, there is a limit when raising intimacy by trading. But if he raises his intimacy to a certain level, he would naturally earn the favor of the Merpeople and might come to learn of another method to raise intimacy.

“I’m sorry. I will return.”
“H-hey, wait!”

Ark quickly packed his things and left the shop.

The place Ark sought was the plaza situated at the center of the city, where many Merpeople gathered. Then he found a decent place and spread out land items. When the first Human they ever saw started spreading out items they have never seen before, Ark became the center of the Merpeople’s attention.

“Huh? It’s a human.”
“How did it get here?”
“But what are those goods? What exactly are they made of?”
“It is sparkling? Perhaps it’s what you call iron?”

In Nodelesse, iron was something difficult to even catch a glimpse of, there was no way to mine iron ores and refine them underwater. Clam shells, rock, and bones were substituted for iron.

Ark sent out a greeting to the Merpeople who gathered like clouds around him. When it came to selling things, it was something he had done countless of times in reality.

Of course it was his first time having fishes as customers…

“Merpeople with beautiful silver tails, I greet you. I am a Human who is by chance enjoying the honor of visiting the gorgeous city of Nodelesse. They call me Ark.”

“Beautiful silver tail, hmm, it’s the truth”

Merpeople are simple. He figured it out by taking to the Mermen guards. Just a little bit of sugar coating can instantly raise intimacy, but declining was also instantaneous.

“Today, I will show everyone a couple of items found on land.”

Ark skillfully explained like a celebrity who hosts a shopping channel.

“What you are seeing now are various armors made of animal hides which cannot be acquired underwater. In addition, there are iron weapons made with the hearts and souls of Humans. Ah, I know what you are thinking. You must be thinking the performance is subpar. However, these products I’m selling, are not meant for you to use.”

“Are you saying we should buy something we’re never going to use?”

“You do not understand? Think carefully again. The performance alone isn’t comparable to the great weapons of the Merpeople, but they are all made of materials unobtainable underwater. In other words, no matter how thoroughly you look, only one of these items exist in Nodelesse! Only those who purchase them from me can enjoy the right to possess them.”

“So that’s how it is!”

“For those who still don’t quite get it, close your eyes and imagine. Land monsters you cannot even take a glimpse at here. A monster clearing the forest and racing across the plains has been defeated after a fierce struggle by a Warrior. Then it left its hide and was changed into gear such as this. These aren’t just items. They are items filled with the history and a touch of the adventurer who hunted the monster galloping down the plains. You can decorate your living room with this. When will there ever be such a luxury underwater again?”

The light in the eyes of the Merpeople looking at the item changed.

Land monsters which cannot be seen or heard underwater! There was no practicality for either a glove or a shoe. But simply purchasing a single sword, they could imagine a world they had never seen.

This mentality stimulated the Merpeople’s desire to purchase the items.

Of course, Ark’s Art of Communication special stat was applied and it had a large influence on convincing the Merpeople. Art of Communication didn’t demonstrate much of an effect in normal stores. But in a special case such as now, it caused profound influence.

“What is this made out of?” A Mermaid child pointed at the glove as it asked.

Ark sported his most friendly expression as he answered, “Ah, it’s a leather of a monster called Magal Wolf. Its whole body is covered with black fur, and countless sharp canines are embedded within its gigantic mouth. They looked like they can swallow a person whole. Try touching it. You can imagine the monster called Magal Wolf by the touch it, right?”

“Whoa, feels amazing.”
“H-how much is it?” A Merman who couldn’t wait anymore fretted as he asked.

‘They’re hooked! The fish is hooked!’

“There isn’t a set price. The quantity is limited, so please understand. I will award the honor to the one who calls out the highest price. First, this glove this cute child showed interest in!”

“50P!”
“60P!”

When he finished talking, the Merpeople called out prices frighteningly.

At best, they were goods he could only get 10 Silver on land. But 60P! One pearl was 10 Silver, so it amounted to 60 Silver, 10 times the price!

Ark wanted to hit the ground and wail.

‘If I knew this was going to happen, I should have brought anything and everything japtem…’

Not even a few minutes later 20 or so japtem were sold like hot cakes.

Whenever his florid speech raised the price, his Art of Communication also rose. When he had cleaned out all his goods, his Art of Communication stat rose by 13, and he also gathered 450 pearls. Of course, all the Merpeople who bought the goods left with satisfied faces, so his intimacy also rose considerably.

But they still wouldn’t tell him about Christin.

Ark didn’t worry. ‘There should be a strategy even in an unexpectedly ridiculous place!’

After finishing his successful business, Ark became confident.

‘Cultural difference is money!’

Nodelesse was completely segregated from land, and that fact held the strategy to raise intimacy. Something completely useless on land had unexpected effects here. As long as he found out what those were, it was no problem to raise intimacy.

Ark immediately gathered information as he wandered through Nodelesse.

What came next to Ark’s attention was the restaurant.

The Merpeople had no concept of cooking. Even if you ordered food at a restaurant, only raw seaweed and shellfish were served.

It was inevitable. Fire cannot be used underwater.

However it was different for Ark. The Survival Cooking Pot Ark possessed could boil water without fire, and roast ingredients regardless of time and place! Just like the name ‘Survival Cooking’ implied, as long as you put your heart into making something, you could even make ramen underwater.

‘They’ll eat it. Without a doubt, they’ll eat it.’

Ark immediately started a food stand in the plaza.

He had so many ingredients left, to the point where they’d rotted and became overripe.

Among the dishes Ark could make with the ingredients he had, Ark chose several good tasting dishes with decent effects. The result was just as he expected.

Merpeople had never even seen cooked food before.

They couldn’t even imagine food made from land ingredients. The Merpeople went as far paying an exorbitant fee of 1P per serving and ate the food. And the word-of-mouth of the Merpeople who had eaten it once spread from tail to tail, and long lines formed day after day at Ark’s food stall.

Ark made the menu more varied as the sale improved. An invigorating meal with the effect of Health recovery and a nutritious meal raising Strength or Agility were the vanguard. Those special food were priced at a colossal price of 3P! It was really a gimmick to raise the price and receive more profit.

“Ohh, what is this?”
“Wow, it’s such a fascinating taste.”
“Is this what they call land meat?”
“For some reason, when I eat food from there, I feel my strength rising.”

In a single day, the ingredients from land became scarce. But the business stayed as prosperous as ever.

“This is the seaweed I’ve always eaten, but the taste is completely different!”
“I can’t believe it. How can you make such distinctive taste with shellfish!”

From children to elderly, from Guards to Nobles of the Merpeople, they didn’t spare their praises.

Some Merpeople brought their lovers and strutted as they ordered food. Of course Ark, who had a sense for customer treatment, satisfied the Merpeople with services second only to first-class restaurants.

Thanks to his customer service, his popularity soared even more. Soon the line of Merpeople who waited at dawn was long enough to surround the plaza.

“Welcome!”
“Give me the baked shellfish I ate yesterday.”
“You need to wait 10 minutes.”

It was difficult to handle the customers who kept coming even though he made food without rest. In just a few days, Ark became so famous, there wasn’t a single Merperson in Nodelesse who didn’t know of him.

But it was only the beginning.

“Ah, this is also almost to the point of breaking. Do I need to buy a new one?”

Guards who sought out the stall sighed while looking at the tattered armor.

Ark rapidly approached and put on a friendly smile.

“If it is okay, could I repair the equipment?”
“What do you mean repair? Surely you’re not saying you’ll fix it?”

“Yes, it won’t be in the same state as before, but you’ll still be able to use it for awhile.”
“But I have never heard of a human repairing Merpeople’s equipment?”

“For now, please give it to me.”

The Guard took off and gave him the seashell armor with an expression of disbelief.

The concept of maximum durability didn’t apply to the equipment of Merpeople. Since the materials used to make them were seashells, they couldn’t be fixed after they were broken. Even for someone who learned the technique from a Blacksmith cannot repair a seashell with a hammer. But the technique Ark had learned was Magic Restoration. It wasn’t the concept of repair, but restoring to its original state.

“Magic Restoration!”

When the skill was used, the tattered armor went back to its original condition.

At the sight, the Merpeople couldn’t hide their astonishment. Granted, since it was still a beginner skill, it didn’t completely return to original. 10% penalty was applied and durability only recovered by 90%.

A player would refuse the services even if they were paid. But this alone was a shock to the Merpeople. Since one equip was over 1,000P, replacing one was a big deal.

“You are truly incredible! Even a Magician wouldn’t be able to do something like this!”

Ark spoke while gasping, pretending to be tired, “Huff huff huff, it’s very difficult when I use this technique.”

“No wonder, since you did something remarkable. This isn’t much, but take it.”

The guard readily pulled out 50P.

It was better than selling 20 special cooking!

Ark’s pupils flashed with golden light again.

‘Nice. I was getting worried since there’s a limit to the ingredients.’

“It’s too regretful to simply throw away the great equipment of the Merpeople when they are broken. It’s difficult for me, but if you have something broken, please bring it to me any time. If it’s a normal item, I will repair it for a cheap price.”

When the rumors spread, all the Merpeople brought their equipment and swarmed around Ark.

‘Hahaha this is truly a cinch.’

He was so happy, he might turn insane.

He used ingredients he couldn’t sell in the store to earn Pearls. Was that all? Every time he cooked, he raised his Survival Cooking skill. As he used Magic Restoration while earning Pearls, he was also able to raise its skill proficiency. As a result, the proficiency rose insanely and he raised the Magic Restoration level in three days.

Magic Restoration has risen to Intermediate through a great deal of experience.

The usual penalty you received when repairing normal items is gone. It is now possible to repair Magical Items. However, each time you repair a magic item, its maximum durability will decrease by 10%.

Mana Consumption: 20

* Since both the Nursing and Magic Restoration skill have become Intermediate, you have learned Purification Restoration as an effect of set skills. With Purification Restoration, you can purify curses on any kind of item.

‘Set skill effect!’

In the past, he learned Sword-Hand Combat as a set effect of Sword Mastery and Hand-to-Hand Combat. When a couple related skills grow to a certain level, a set effect is given. But seeing it was a skill to lift curses, with Nursing and Magic Restoration being uncommon skills, this set effect was rare kind. Now he could release the curse of items without paying money to the Cathedral.

‘Lancel’s Sword!’

Lancel’s Sword immediately came to mind.

Until now, it was maddening to wonder what kind of sword it was.

“Alright, Purification Restoration!”

Once the Sword’s curse was lifted, a message window popped up with a new sound effect.

– Once the curse was released, the Sword’s original appearance has materialized.

 

Lancel’s Sword (Magic Sword)

Weapon Type

One-Handed Sword

Attack

20~30

Durability

50/50

Weight

25

Usage Restriction

Dark Attribute, Level 50

A Sword used by the Mercenary Lancel, who was famed in the past. The reason why Lancel became notorious was due to the magic sword he wielded corrupting his mind. Lancel realized this and didn’t utilize the sword for a long time, but he took up the Sword again to exterminate Kundalini, where he then drew his last breath and died.

‘It’s.. it’s the jackpot!’ Ark’s mouth was wide open with surprise.

Ark was still using the Sharply Shining Sword he had earned from defeating the Black Bear Mouse. The sword’s attack is 8-12, whereas Lancel’s Sword was 20-30.

Just by looking at the attack power, it was a perfect sword to use at level 50. Unfortunately, there was a restriction of Dark Attribute.

The players Ark knew with the Dark Attribute were so few that he could count them on one hand. Despite it being a rare-class item, it would be difficult to a get a high price at the auction. However, there was no reason to be disappointed.

‘Lancel’s Sword would immediately raise collective attack power by at least 30 percent.’

That alone gave it plenty of value.

Just then, another new message window popped up.

The Magic Tool’s ability was drawn out by the Dark Walker’s job characteristic.

Netherworld residents who are at least Intermediate class all possess their own artifact, which they call Magic Tools. Players can activate Magic Tool once a day. You can summon the host of the Magic Sword, who hides in the Netherworld. No kinds of environmental penalties apply to the entity summoned as the Magic Sword’s host.

However, the Magic Sword’s host is not friendly to players.

Job Special : If the player who owns the sword has the ability to summon creatures of the Netherworld, you are qualified to make the Familiar and the host of the Magic Sword duel. If the Familiar wins, you can combine the two entities to evolve into a stronger Familiar.

If the player attacks and uses hostile magic to side with the Familiar during the duel, the duel will automatically end in a defeat. In the cases the Familiar loses, it will be forcefully recalled and the appropriate penalty will apply.

 

Lancel’s Sword’s (Magic Sword)

Special Effect: Once a day, you can summon the low-class Vampire Dunphil.

‘What is this?’ Ark had a puzzled expression when he saw the never before seen message.

After reading it a couple of times, without being mindful of his surroundings he exclaimed.

‘A Familiar’s growth!’

They were words that made his eyes pop. Truthfully, Ark was feeling slightly doubtful about developing his Familiars, since the condition to develop Familiars was too peculiar.

Newly made dishes with Survival Cooking. However even if the cooking succeeded, if the added effects were negative, the Familiars wouldn’t grow. So although he had created about 80 new dishes, his Familiars’ stats had only risen about thirty times. And since Skull and Bat split the consumption, it was only fifteen times.

If the risen stats were converted to levels, they were only about level 15, even though Ark had leveled up over 30 times while cooking ceaselessly. Moreover, no matter how many kinds of ingredients there were in New World, there was a limit.

In conclusion, the amount of new dishes Ark can make is limited. Eventually, the Familiar’s growth would stop.

Right now they were overcoming the level difference against monsters with tactics, but it would also reach its limit one day.

When it happens, he might have to give up on his Familiars. But before it happens, he has to develop them a little more. The Familiars, who had no thoughts of rushing up to level, trembled uncontrollably at the mere sight of food…

Anyway, it was regrettable for Ark, who had special affection for his Familiars.

‘But now there was another method!’

After ending his sale in the evening, Ark went outside Nodelesse.

The reason being: combat cannot be done inside the city.

“Magic Sword summon!”

Once Ark released the seal, a monster was summoned with hazy light. It had the appearance of a middle-aged man in a suit.

Dunphil glanced around, studied Ark, and smirked. “You summoned me? What is your business?”

Its expression and manner of speech were incomparably arrogant.

It was when Ark was about to say something.

“DU-DUNPHIL!” While staring blankly at Dunphil, Bat screamed.

But Dunphil’s response was apathetic.

“Who the hell are you?”
“Y-you don’t know me?”

“You are a strange one, I wouldn’t know the likes of a bat without even a name.”
“WH-WHAT? THIS BASTARD!”

Without even a chance to interfere, Bat charged at Dunphil.

It seemed it was decided Dunphil would be Bat’s opponent.

Once the fight between the Familiars began, a message came up and all Ark could do was watch. He couldn’t even use Nursing or recall his summon.

Ark took a step back together with Skull and used Eyes of the Cat to watch the fight. Dunphil’s level was 25. On the other hand, when looking at Bat with its level 15 stats, the level difference was apparent throughout the fight.

Whenever Dunphil’s attack hit, Bat’s heath fell by 10%. Even so, Bat blindly pushed forward.

As if Bat forgot all the fighting experience it had gained with Ark, it recklessly charged at Dunphil.

“Bat, carefully lengthen the fight!”

They were underwater. Dunphil doesn’t get environment penalty. He wasn’t at a disadvantage of not being able to breath underwater and experienced any movement hindrance. He can move naturally even underwater. While on the other hand, Bat received underwater penalty and couldn’t display the greatest advantage of a winged beast — mobility. The difference was very large.

It was a disadvantageous fight from the beginning.

If Bat had a slight chance of winning, it was to use its experience of underwater battle and drag the fight on. But since Bat was only thinking about charging in and dealing damage, he couldn’t have a proper fight.

Bat didn’t even pretended to have heard Ark’s advice.

“I’ll kill you! I WILL KILL YOU!”
“Kekeke, you dare to come at me with your level of skill, how laughable!”
“KUAAAAAK!”

In the end, Bat’s Health hit rock bottom after Dunphil’s claw attack. Bat faded away while gnawing at Dunphil’s shoulder.

“How insignificant. The business is settled now, yeah?”
“Yes. F—k off.”
“If you’re going to make me fight, it would be better to bring someone more commendable.”

Dunphil disappeared while speaking with an arrogant expression. In the end, the first fight ended in vain.

‘That Bat!’

Ark exploded in rage. Dunphil’s scumbag attitude was bad too, but what made him even angrier was Bat. Thoughtlessly rushing in and tear? The fight was so absurd, it made Ark’s face go hot. What the hell had Bat learned while fighting alongside Ark until now?

Ark had returned to the city and spent 24 hours doing business.

“Hey, Bat! The hell was THAT?” After resummoning, Ark castigated Bat with a stormy expression.

But he couldn’t keep speaking.

Once it was summoned, Bat bawled as it ground its teeth.

“WAAAAAH, DAMMIT, DAMMIT!”
“Huh? What? Are you putting on a show because I’m angry?”

“Master, I beg you! Call that bastard again! I have to fight with him!”
“What the hell are you saying? Explain so I can understand!”

“That bastard… that bastard is the one who harassed me for over 10 years in the Netherworld.”
“What?”

Bat ground its teeth as it spoke.

Dunphil was a low-ranking noble in the Netherworld. The arrogant and ill-tempered Dunphil harassed weak monsters as a hobby, and for the most part, its target was Bat.

Bat, who was born as a relative of the Vampire race, was constantly harassed by Dunphil. In addition, he was ostracized by the other bats as per Dunphil’s instructions. In the end he was exiled from the race.

‘Now that I think about it, this guy…’

Bat’s original name was ‘Hatred-bearing Bat.’

An explanation how Bat came to bear hatred and rage towards the world because it suffered harassment in the Netherworld; had been attached in its description.

‘In such a setting, it can’t be helped for this rascal to fight Dunphil.’

After thinking for a while, a wicked smile blossomed on Ark’s lips.

‘It’s a chance.’

“I understand the situation, however I can’t let you immediately fight Dunphil.”

“Ma-Master!”

“If you fight like the way you did the day before, no matter how much you fight, you can’t win against him. You will lose. And if you don’t want to lose again listen to me. First, you need to get stronger.”

Bat was startled. Getting stronger; in other words, it meant he had to eat food.

However Bat grit its teeth and nodded. “I understand, if I can win against him I will do anything.”

“Alright, and another thing, you can’t fight like you did before. He’s stronger than you. But not enough for you not to win. From today onwards, I’ll train you.”

Ark did business during the day and started training Bat at night. And when a new recipe came up, he immediately shoved it into Bat’s mouth.

Food made with ocean ingredients had a high chance of having a good effect. Whenever it happened, Bat’s stats went up.

Bat’s training was sparring with Ark.

“Do it right! If you fight that way you can’t win against Dunphil! Do you want to be beaten up again?”

“N-NO! I won’t lose!”

Pow pow pow!

The days of gruesome training continued.

Unlike usual, although Bat got beaten up by Ark countless times, its fighting spirit burned. After finishing intense training for a few days, Ark called Dunphil out again and had them duel.

Though Bat’s stats had risen a few times, it alone wasn’t enough to oppose Dunphil yet. But since Bat’s skills had greatly improved over the last few days, a battle far more stable than before unfolded.

“Huff huff huff, this, this much is far from it.”

In the end it ended with Dunphil’s victory again, but there wasn’t as large of a margin as last time. Ark smiled coldly at Dunphil, who swaggered in a way unfitting for his appearance.

“It’ll be harder next time.”
“Hmph, even so, a bat is a bat.”

Dunphil disappeared to the Netherworld as if it was running away.

‘Damn, the problem is I have to wait 24 hours once it dies. Next time I’ll allow him to fight when I am more confident he can win. Until I can resummon, I should make up the training schedule.’

Ark was busy doing business, raising his Familiar, and doing miscellaneous things.

* * *

Ark accumulated Pearls while steadily doing business.

But when there is a high tide there is also low tide.

As time passed, even his lucrative business slowly died down. His land ingredients ran out so he squeezed out dishes with seaweed as its main ingredient, but since it was an ingredient the Merpeople were familiar with, it didn’t hold their interest for very long.

The business of Magic Restoration also didn’t gather customers easily after he repaired all the Guards’ equipment. Since there wasn’t a big war going on, there was no reason for the durability to drop quickly.

‘For a business, it is more important to know when to stop than knowing when to start. Well, it wasn’t something I could do for long anyway.’

In the end, Ark ended his business in ten days.

It was a business which earned him Pearls without a capital. It wasn’t without regret, but he couldn’t pick a spot and live in Nodelesse. Also, no matter how many Pearls he had, if he didn’t change them into gold then there was no meaning. It was a business he had to stop eventually.

More than anything the reason Ark was able to leave the business without regret was because he already reached his initial goal. Ark was already a celebrity among the Merpeople.

Wherever he went, Merpeople recognized Ark and pretended to know him.

When he was doing business, there were huge fans who came to the restaurant without missing a single day. Finding out a piece of information wasn’t even a problem.

“Do you happen to know someone by the name of Christin?”
“Christin you say…”

In the past there would’ve been immediate swearing first, but this time the circumstances were different.

The elderly Merman earnestly pondered and spoke, “There’s nothing I can’t tell if it’s you, but actually, I don’t know very much about a person named Christin either. It’s not just me. There probably isn’t a Merperson in Nodelesse who knows the details about him. It’s a name everyone knows, but nobody knows who exactly he was.”

“I don’t understand. But then why does everyone get upset when I asked about him?”

“It’s because we learned to act as such. I only heard from prideful Merpeople during my grandfather’s grandfather’s time that you had to hate him. But after listening to your words and thinking back on it, I didn’t hear why we have to hate him.”

He understood, why else would they be fish?

“Isn’t there a way to find out?”
“Hmm….”

The old Merman contemplated for a while and answered as if he suddenly remembered something.

“Now that I think about it, there’s a Crystal Pillar that records the history of the Merpeople in front of the Palace. I think I’ve heard something about him being recorded there too, though we don’t know what it says because it’s written in a language forgotten long ago. You who have many talents may be able to find a clue. Go there and try.”

“Thank you.”
“But are you closing down the restaurant now?”

“Yes, I don’t have any ingredients left.”
“How unfortunate. It was my sole pleasure…” The elderly Merman murmured while smacking his mouth.

Ark left the regular customer and headed directly to the Palace.

“Hey, Ark. What are you doing here?”
“I came after hearing there was a marvelous Crystal Pillar in front of the Palace.”
“There is. It’s quite a marvelous decoration.”
“Could I come in and see it once?”
“Hm, that’s a bit difficult…”

“I wish to learn more about the Merpeople whom I admire deep within my heart. I’ll just glance at it and come out so please let me.”

“Well, since it’s your request and not someone else’s, it can’t be helped. I understand, but you have to come out quick.”

Since the intimacy was at maximum, everything was progressing at lightning speed.

Once he entered the Palace, he saw a Crystal Pillar not far from the entrance.

Bead-like writing was crammed all over the surface of the 10 meter high Crystal Pillar.

‘To progress with the quest do I need to decipher this?’

It was when Ark’s hand touched the surface of the pillar. Light suddenly poured out from the pillar and countless images flashed in front of him.

* * *

A beautiful Mermaid was seated on a balcony overlooking all of Nodelesse. It was a Mermaid with brilliant shoulder-length blond hair and sapphire blue eyes.

She was watching the back of a man with unbearable sadness in her eyes. It was a big, strong, perfectly reliable back, but at that moment it filled her with complete despair and anguish. Because the back couldn’t become hers.

The man’s back slowly grew distant.

The Mermaid cried and cried as she watched the man’s back getting farther away from the balcony.

Tears distinctively appeared within the transparent ocean.

Then the scene changed.

The Mermaid clutched the items retaining the man’s scent to her chest and left for somewhere. The currents drawn by her beautiful tail conveyed keen sad