Chapter 158. The Rondo of Scarlet Flame and Silver Ice (1)
After the raid ended, I honestly just wanted to sleep. Fatigue had built up from consecutively clearing an Event Dungeon and an Event Raid, and the Mantis Queen's words wouldn't leave my mind.
The world and the invaders. The relationship that I thought was simple did not seem to be so anymore. It seemed the monsters didn't come here on their own accord. There was an existence controlling them from the shadows and forcing them here. It was already confusing that monsters were hostile to each other, but there were more things to consider now.
"Hurry up and choose your reward."
"Wait, let me take care of the risk factor first."
I put my hand on the Mantis Queen's corpse and put it into my inventory. Pepper, who was watching, narrowed his eyes and muttered.
"T.K., the Flame Drake we fought before..."
"Alright, let's choose our rewards and go eat."
I openly changed the subject and turned my attention to the reward list. Then, I was surprised. To think Dimensional Travel and Return would appear like this! I already knew that there were few ways to obtain them. So Event Raid was one of them!
"It makes sense, I guess. SS ranked Event Raids are rare..."
Guild Revival's members all knew about Dimensional Mercenaries from my explanation.
Since all Ye-Eun needed was more achievements and getting a title of an incarnation of a god, she probably wouldn't be interested in these. The one who would be interested was probably...
First, I chose my reward. Although Wild Dance of Fresh Blood was tempting, Spirit of the Collector was shouting that the 3rd item, Soul of Battle Blade, was a better item. After a bit of hesitation, I chose the blade.
Surprisingly, it was a small silver sphere. Not to mention, it looked rather familiar. Right, there was no doubt. It was the same shape as the elixirs I've gotten from 5th to 50th floors. I checked the item description just in case, and it was indeed a consumable item. Feeling a bit doubtful, I swallowed it.
[Your strength and dexterity increase by 10. You learned 'low-rank Blade Rush.' Using the skill and charging forward will create sharp blades from your body using your mana. Upon reaching your target, all blades will be shot toward the target. As strength, dexterity, and skill level increase, the blades' damage will increase.]
I was already surprised that it raised my strength and dexterity by 10, but it even gave me a skill! Not to mention, it was a charge type skill! If Gale Track was a multi-target charge skill, this skill was a single-target charge skill. I was always slightly apprehensive about Gale Track, as it took time (29 targets) to be fully-charged (200%). With this, I could focus on damaging one target, while still having the 110% amplification for charge type skills.
"Hm.... Okay, Return."
While I was checking my item and its effects, it seemed the others finished picking their rewards. Dimensional Travel and Return went to father and Hwaya, respectively. Father said he chose Dimensional Travel because it seemed harder to obtain, while Hwaya planned to choose Return from the beginning. When I asked her why, she answered.
"I got a clearer information. When I solo clear the 80th floor, I can choose to go back to level 50 and start on the 50th floor of the First Dungeon. An administrative guild's guild master told me, so I'm sure."
"Level 50? If you're falling by 30 levels, you'll lose a lot of stats, HP, and MP."
"I pretty much made up for it during all the Event Dungeon runs. More than I expected, in fact."
She was right. She started clearing Event Dungeons a month before me. She had gained about 250 bonus stat points. Excluding HP and MP, it was equal to about 50 levels' worth.
Although it should be higher, it seemed there was a limit to the bonus points Event Dungeons could provide us. After clearing 200 Event Dungeons under S rank, Hwaya couldn't get bonus stats from those dungeons. She could only earn bonus stats from dungeons that were at least S ranked. Furthermore, the amount of bonus stats she was getting from those had also decreased.
I was surprised she had cleared over 200 dungeons, but since I was nearing that number, I couldn't say anything.
Since we found out that the bonus stats obtainable from Event Dungeons were limited, being Dimensional Mercenaries was that much more attractive. Since Hwaya's desire to improve herself was as great as mine, she had wanted to become one the moment I told her about it. She couldn't give up on the First Dungeon either for the same reason. It would make her stronger.
Of course, it would still be true that she would get weaker, but Hwaya would be able to enter the First Dungeon with high stats, and she would be able to obtain the Dimensional Travel Magic Book from solo clearing the 50th floor's Wendigo. Since her level would decrease by 30, she might be able to grind it as well.
Now that I thought about it, clearing 200 Event Dungeons and raking in stat points should be something only possible for early dungeon explorers like us. In other worlds, there were probably people like us, who raked in stats when monsters first began to appear. In other words, the moment that the world changed was the most dangerous time, but also the most opportunistic. Though different worlds must have been in different situations, it shouldn't have been too different.
"I don't know what's going on, but is everyone finished?"
"Oh, uh, yeah."
I remembered that there was someone here, whom we couldn't share the joy of getting rewards with. Since Pepper was looking at me with an extremely curious expression, I first decided to leave the area. Soon, the story that the SS ranked gate disappeared would spread, and things would only get more tiring if the media began to pester us.
A few hours later, Pepper became a Second Dungeon explorer under Sumire. Using Soul Contract, we made him promise to not tell anyone about dungeon explorers. Once another SS ranker appeared in America, he would have to join Revival and clear Event Dungeons or Event Raids when they happened.
Furthermore, when he leveled up and obtained the right to appoint another explorer, he would have to get the majority of Revival's member's agreement before he could make someone an explorer. This did not apply to just Pepper, but to all of us.
Right. It seemed Hwaya was a bit dissatisfied that I made Ye-Eun into an explorer on my own. Hwaya and I were fairly closed back then, so she was unhappy that I didn't ask for her opinion on the matter. Since I felt a bit sorry, I agreed to this clause. Of course, we didn't make anyone else use a Soul Contract, but we knew that no one here would renege on a promise.
"So you've been hiding an immense secret like this, T.K.!?"
Once Pepper entered the dungeon and came back, he couldn't hide his surprise. He checked his status window or opened his inventory as he continued to make exclamations of surprise. With a grin, I told him.
"With your ability, you should be able to climb to upper floors quickly. You'll get stronger as you level up, too."
"My god, T.K..."
"You can call me Shin. My real name is Kang Shin."
"Shin... Well then, friend, you can call me Leon! Since we're now friends that share the same fate!"
Pepper... seemed to be overly excited. There was no music, but he was dancing to some beat.
"Hahahaha! Good, monsters hidden in some mysterious space! I can't wait!"
Other than me, it seemed all the dungeon explorers had strange quirks... I made a bitter smile.
After making an ally in America, we left to clear the remaining Event Dungeons. Guardian and Freedom Wing weren't just playing around either, as they cleared some dungeons ranked S or above. In the end, on the 58th day since the Event Dungeons appeared, there was only one Event Dungeon left on Earth. It was the SS ranked dungeon in Russia's snowy mountains.
The reason that it was the only remaining dungeon was simple. It was because whoever the Guardian and Freedom Wing sent never returned.
When Revival began to tour around the world to clear Event Dungeons and received an unexpectedly positive response, Guardian must have felt impatient. They didn't want to believe that a small group of fewer than 10 people could undermine their group.
There was only one way for them to recover their reputation. It was to conquer an SS ranked dungeon before us. As a result, Russia's SS ranker, France's SS ranker, and over 50 other S rankers joined to attack Russia's SS ranked dungeon.
Of course, this all happened without public knowledge. The reason we couldn't see France's SS ranker when we visited was that France's ranker had already gone to Russia. We only found out about everything when we arrived in America.
As I said before, the result was catastrophic. After entering the gate, nothing was heard from them again. When the other countries' SS rankers heard that the rankers had gone missing for over 3 weeks, they refused to enter the gate. The reason was obvious. Even if they knew that a disaster would strike when an SS ranked gate turned into a dungeon, there was nothing they could do if entering the gate meant death. Not to mention, it was another country's gate. France's SS ranker became the idiot for volunteering.
It was then that we cleared America's SS ranked Event Dungeon and even perfectly subjugated the Event Raid monster. Although it wasn't Revival, Guardian, or Freedom Wing's intention, Revival's popularity had skyrocketed. Some even called us the last hope of humanity. It was exactly the type of thing I hated.
'You Guardian bastards, can't you do anything right!?' I shouted in Africa as I stepped on crocodile monsters.
[Our government officially requests Revival. Please save Russia from its impending disaster. We will agree to any demands you have.]
The situation only got worse by the day until Russia's Prime Minister finally made an official request to us. I imagined complicated talks were exchanged in the process, but what was important was that Russia's humiliating announcement was equivalent to Guardian's surrender. Ever since we clashed in Korea, Guardian had never even mentioned us, pretending that we didn't exist. But now, they had reached out to us on their own accord.
Although it wasn't our intention, we had planned to visit Russia last. However, they may have thought that we wouldn't subjugate Russia's SS ranked gate. I could only imagine the faces they would make if the truth was revealed.
In any case, Russia's promise was a promise we would gladly take. While thinking about what we could request from Russia, we flew toward Russia on Hwaya's plane.
"Russia and France's SS ranker... Do you think they're dead?"
"They're still SS rankers, so shouldn't they be alive? Though I've never met them, so I can't say for sure."
Hwaya answered uninterestedly, as she polished her nails. I was surprised since I didn't think she would be so aloof about the death of other countries' rankers. Almost as if she read my mind, Hwaya smiled at me.
"There's no use worrying about it now, Shin. Thinking negatively will have negative impacts on yourself, your friends, and the world."
"So you're polishing your nails instead?"
"Of course, I have to always look perfect! Then, whoever looks at me will be happy. That's a good reason, right?"
As Hwaya gave a flaunting smile, I ended up laughing as well. After polishing her nails, she started doing her eyelashes. I wondered if that was something she should do in front of others, but I had to admit that she looked beautiful. I retorted.
"You're really full of confidence."
"Why, did I say something wrong?"
"No. I'm also happy right now."
"... If only you could always be that honest."
Although that's what Hwaya muttered, it seemed she didn't plan on pursuing an answer, as she hummed and continued to do our eyelashes. It seemed she was in a better mood.
I took my eyes off of her and looked at Ludia, who was leaning on my arm and sleeping. She looked as beautiful as an angel. Looking at her, I felt deep affection rising up from my heart and weighing me down.
"Shin, my mom says good fortune will run away when you sigh."
"I can't even sigh now!?"
But what a very Korean saying! I'd like to meet her!
After we entered Russia, everything was taken care of easily. The people we'd only seen on TV bowed and offered their handshakes. We stayed in the highest class luxury hotel and ate in the highest class luxury restaurant. In truth, it was quite meaningless to someone like me, who had no problem sleeping wherever or eating whatever.
Although we arrived in the middle of the night, a countless number of people greeted us. What was surprising was that they only showed their faces, then said that we should go eat and rest since we must be tired from traveling. I thought they would ask us to enter the gate immediately, but it seemed we had really gotten famous.
The next day, the prime minister asked to see me alone. I knew I had gotten famous from Revival, but I didn't think the prime minister would ask to see me personally. I became slightly flustered and told the others about it before I got on the limousine with the prime minister's secretary.
[It's fine. I can probably survive a nuclear bomb, too.]
I wasn't kidding. With my mana protecting me, neither the radiation nor the blast could damage me. I could hold my breath for 10 minutes if it came down to it, and if it was looking bad, I could always escape to the dungeon.
I had some idea about what the prime minister would say. It would probably be an explanation for Guardian's actions until now, an apology, and things regarding the future relationship between Russia and Revival. He might even ask Revival to join Russia. Other than that... he would probably ask if Russia could buy monster corpses we got from Event Dungeons or if we could rescue the rankers that went in previously.
But when I got to the small reception room, the prime minister laid out all sorts of overbearing flattery, like how thankful he was that I came or how good of a leader I was, then said this.
"If Russia's SS ranker is alive... please kill him."
It was something completely unexpected.