Chapter 11. The World Becomes a Dungeon (4)
Apart from light shining down on my future as a dungeon explorer, my final day as a high schooler was approaching. It was graduation.
"The scent of the evergreen pine tree..."
At the auditorium, the school's old fashioned and childish song was playing. Of course, none of the graduating students were paying attention to the song nor the principal's instruction. Only when a few students were going up to the podium to receive awards did anyone check to see if it was someone they knew.
Just like that, my graduation ended. My sister came and handed me a flower bouquet.
She had long, straight hair and a doll-like face. Although her short height could be considered a flaw, other than that she had a body even a model would be jealous of. Her chest which wasn't all that big could also be considered a flaw as well, but to my eyes, it was one of the things that made her perfect.
"Oppa, congratulations on graduating!"
"Thanks, Yua. How pretty."
"Hehe, I picked it myself."
"No, I meant you're pretty. I wonder who your lucky brother is?"
Seeing my sister laugh with such a lovable smile, I lightly hugged her. As my height went down to 190cm and my body no longer looked massive, Yua stopped instinctively trembling when she saw me. It was the dungeon that turned me into a human capable of communicating with my sister!
As I was enjoying happiness by holding the bouquet and embracing my sister, my mother slapped me on the head.
"Hey, stop right there! You're both my son and daughter, so don't get any weird ideas. If you want, I'll even let you do a DNA test."
"Of course we're your son and daughter. We take after your pretty looks."
"Whew, after you started going to that dungeon, only your talking has gotten smoother."
As I partied with explorers from other worlds for the last 3 years, I too noticed that I had become a lot more sociable. Even in the short span of time where party members gathered to defeat the Orc Lord, a lot of internal problems could happen, just like what had happened between me and Palludia.
As a party leader, I learned to deal with situations like those. It almost felt like I learned a passive flattery skill, not that that's a good thing.
"Let's go to a restaurant! We can celebrate oppa's graduation with steak!"
"But Dad's not here."
"Father's probably fooling around somewhere. Let's just go eat without him."
A few days ago, when I met Peruta for the third time, he taught me the high-rank spear technique that made use of mana. The first technique allowed one to attack for a long time by lightly imbuing the spear with mana. The second technique was an explosive thrust where one instantly imbued a large amount of mana into the spear. With just these two techniques, I was able to easily tear through the wraiths on the 6th floor.
I could now move forward. What was more important was my father. He still did not have mana, and could only remain on the 5th floor.
Some time ago, I showed myself swinging my spear with mana. He then said as he grabbed my shoulders, "teach me."
"Father, you see..."
I could not leave a mana pathway in his body like Peruta had done for me. He couldn't summon Peruta to his body either.
As a result, he decided to walk the same path I had. He would grind for compressing elixirs, obtain the Orc Lord equipment, and try for a 1-man boss fight. But because he was a lot smaller than me, I was worried that he wouldn't be able to ingest too many compressing elixirs. I made sure that he knew the negative effects of overdosing on compressing elixirs. As my father was the type to worry for his safety, I did not worry too much.
"So you're saying your father's in the dungeon?"
"Yep, he's probably fighting for his life right now."
"Whew, when will he grow up...?"
"You know, he's going to get slimmer like me."
"He'll get stronger too."
"...Gulp." My mother swallowed.
In truth, father wasn't so bad looking. It was just that his body made him look muscle-brained. Seeing mother change from disparaging father to looking forward to his transformation, Yua made a dumbfounded expression.
"Whew, who's the adult here?"
Seeing my sister act grown up was too cute, and I couldn't help myself from petting her head. Thinking how happy I was, I laughed. If only things continued like this... Of course, I knew my life would always be slightly more special than others'.
But life didn't always go as one expected.
That day, two moons rose above the sky. The world had begun to change.
Monsters appeared. Not inside the dungeon, but in the outside world.
"Breaking news. In Seoul's Ahyeon-dong, a 2 meter tall wolf appeared and began attacking people."
"The two moons and the mutant animals. The relationship between the two will be discussed by our panelist..."
"After 'Two Moon,' reports say that parts of the mountain ranges have changed formation and that the oceanic crust are acting up..."
"Members of the government are saying that a state of martial law must be proclaimed..."
"Reports say that mutant marine life have begun to attack major harbors and vessels. This incident, which is estimated to affect sea commerce, is..."
"Breaking news. A man seemingly fighting against the mutant life forms, which have shown to take little damage from guns and knives, saved several nearby citizens. Experts say this is an effect of the 'Two Moon'..."
"At the same time that mutant life forms began appearing, people with the power to fight against them also appeared..."
"Mutants that suddenly struck humanity with calamity. Would you believe that these mutants possess a secret that could advance our medical and chemical knowledge by 100 years?"
After the so called 'Two Moon,' the world became a mess. The government had even barred its citizens from stepping outside our homes. Because of strange creatures that suddenly began appearing all over the world, 20 percent of the human population suddenly died. Although various countries' militaries managed to drive them out, guns, knives, and even missiles were ineffective against them. These monsters flat out drove some countries to ruins, and feeling the danger of these monsters, the remaining countries formed an allied force against them. However, even the allied forces could only stop their advances by a little.
In this situation where Earth was going crazy, like vaccines, people that could fight against the monsters appeared.
Some beat down monsters with strange auras they imbued into their weapons, some burned them down with strange fires, and some twisted their necks off with telekinetic power.
Although they were weak by themselves, they could fight well against monsters in groups. As a result, the government began to gather these people with powers and formed new divisions to fight against the monsters.
In humanity's sudden moment of crisis, there was no time for countries to fight amongst themselves. Soon, a global anti-monster institution was established and monsters were chased out until they no longer appeared in areas populated by humans. Consequently, monsters began to gather in previously unpopulated areas or areas that had been abandoned by humans.
With this, the fight between ability users and mutant life forms seemed to slow down.
Ironically, the war resumed when scientific analysis of the mutant life forms, now called monsters, finished. Surprisingly, the monsters' corpses themselves, substances extracted from them, and blue nuggets very rarely found inside them all seemed to possess significant value for use in science, medicine, the military and energy.
As a result, the government began to change the way they worked. They began to use these special divisions, formed to protect citizens, to instead collect these resources. People were very sensitive to this change, and under the pretext of protecting the rights of ability users, many left the government divisions and formed their own institutions.
Such phenomenon occurred on a global scale. In the end, two main structures emerged for ability user institutions. One was 'Guardian,' formed under the government. The other was 'Freedom Wing,' formed by independent ability users.
What was at first considered a calamity for humanity was now considered an important resource for human advancement.
"The world became a dungeon."
We spoke as we watched an interview from a representative of Freedom Wing.
"Between fighting monsters in the dungeon and fighting monsters here, what do you think will earn more?"
"I don't really care about money, but wouldn't the monsters here give more money? They say it's 200 million won for just one."
"It looks easy, doesn't it, son?"
"It does, father."
"Want to go hunt some together?"
"It'll be annoying if anyone finds out."
"Who cares? We can just say we're rogues."
There were, of course, ability users who were not part of either Guardian or Freedom Wing. As Freedom Wing was once part of Guardian, it still had remnants of an organized structure. Ability users who disliked being tied down hunted individually or in small parties, then sold monster corpses to those that wanted them. It seemed trading centers for monster corpses were also in the making. According to the rumors, America already had them set up.
"It will be really annoying if we get branded as ability users. I'd rather go to dungeons. Besides, even if I hunt monsters here, I don't get any stronger."
"Is getting stronger all you care about?"
"Yep. I want to conquer the dungeon all the way to the 100th floor."
According to Ellos, no one had ever reached the 100th floor of the dungeon. I wanted to see the 100th floor with my own eyes.
Although I was only level 7, if I traded all the gold I had accumulated from 3 years of hunting the Orc Lord, I would have more than 500 million won. It was an awful lot of money for someone who had not even gone to college yet. Ah, of course, colleges were currently closed due to monsters. The point was, I didn't plan on doing anything bothersome just for money.
"Father, do you want to obtain an ability user license?"
"I'm thinking about it."
"But you already earn a lot."
"You can never have enough money."
"What do you need more money for?"
"I can buy a bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger ring for your mother, more expensive clothes for Yua..."
"What about me?"
"You can make your own money."
Father did not get licensed right away. It was partly because he had yet to obtain mana, but more importantly because the world wasn't yet stable. I agreed with his decision.
Although ability users were amazing human resources, beside the fact that they could fight against monsters, they were no different than normal human beings. It was impossible to know whether anything untoward would happen.
It took another half year before everything calmed down. It was a stormy period where the paradigm of human history was changing. Some sang of the end, while some sang of a new beginning.
My mother busily stockpiled canned food and ramen, my sister studied at home as schools were still closed, and my father continued to fight the Orc Lord in hopes of obtaining mana.
Of course, in that half a year, I devoted my entire time to the dungeon.