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 Chapter 21. Fall's New Students (3)

"Shin-nim, why are you taking something like that?"

The fight ended. I, of course, had the highest contribution. Because three people died, there were only seven rewards to choose from. From them, what I chose was the 'Thunder Crystal.'

On the outside, it looked just like a transparent crystal, but black sparks filled in the inside, making it look like a plasma globe. The moment I laid my eyes on it, I was sure it was a medicine just like the Compressing Elixirs or the Soul Tempering Elixir. However, it seemed Shina thought I refused the good reward.

"I'm going to hunt a lot of Dark Ratman, so don't worry about it."

"Yes? So there was a reason why you hunted the 5th Floor Master for 3 years?"

Mm... there was, but at the same time, there wasn't. I debated whether to explain to her or not. In the end, I nodded my head.

"Yep. You know about it, right? That Floor Masters drop items that increase stats."

"I do, but I heard the chances are low and that there are limits to how much you can consume them. I even heard that they weren't guaranteed to raise your stats, so I didn't think anyone would challenge the Floor Masters for them. Not to mention, Floor Masters are dangerous. If you die, you wouldn't be able to enter the dungeon for a week."

"Muscle, Bone, and Skin Compressing Elixirs all have pretty high drop rates, though you have to meet certain conditions to consume them. What's important is how high your contribution is. If they really don't drop, you can always lower the number of people in the party."

"Also, it's not that they don't work sometimes. It's just that after the first one, you have to consume several of them to have the same effect. Whoever told you must have been confused. Ah, of course, there is a limit. Each stat can only go up by 10 at most."

"Wow..."

Hearing my words, Shina gasped. Staring at me, she asked.

"Could Shin-nim have... for all the Floor Masters...?"

"It's only the 5th and 10th Floor Master, but yeah, I consumed all the stat increasing elixirs to the limit."

"As expected, my eyes weren't wrong... Unni's too..."

"Unni?"

"I-It's nothing, Shin-nim."

Shina shook her head, then said with a sigh, "Fighting the Floor Master dozens of times... I don't have the confidence. I can't even imagine doing it. The week where I can't enter the dungeon after dying is... like hell. I know how strong you are, but to think you could take the risk to continually challenge the Floor Master. Huhu, in that way, your strength makes sense. It's not just the body's strength, but the mind's."

"You're praising me too much."

All explorers had reasons to enter the dungeon. Although slightly different than others, it was the same for father. Because the dungeon was the source of income for our family, he could not be careless.

Although he put himself at risk to obtain mana, once he awakened, he never challenged the Floor Master again. Explorers from other continents were under even more dire circumstances, and thus could not act carelessly. Of course, there were still those who acted arrogantly and caused their parties to be annihilated.

In any case, I was in a much better situation compared to them. Although a crisis struck the world I lived in, the situation was not that serious yet. Well, I wondered what would happen at first, but the situation never came down to threatening my family.

That was why I could be bold in exploring the dungeon. That was why I could slowly and leisurely seek to get stronger.

I was just lucky. That was what I thought. If Earth was in a desperate situation like Luka or Edias continent, I would not have been able to spend several months just to fight the same boss. I would not have had the chance to even find out I could increase my stats through grinding the boss. After all, I would have known a mana cultivation method if Earth was like the other continents.

Regardless, it seemed hard to convince this girl staring at me with eyes full of admiration. As such, I kept my silence. Shina seemed to be drawing her own conclusions.

Anyway, I successfully defeated the Dark Ratman and obtained the qualification to advance to the 16th floor.

[You consumed a Thunder Crystal. Your resistance to lightning increases slightly. Your affinity with lightning increases.]

"... Haa?"

The Thunder Crystal I swallowed expecting a stat increase gave a result that was both hard and not hard to accept. Even if my affinity with lightning increased, it did not matter since I was not a magician.

I did like the increased resistance to lightning. Since consumable item effects seemed to stack up to ten times, my resistance to lightning could increase nine more times. When that happened, I would not need to worry so much about lightning magic.

'What a shame.'

Compared to the sweet fruit the 5th and 10th Floor Masters gave, the Thunder Crystal felt disappointing. It seemed I could only look forward to the Dark Ratman Set and the Dark Ratman Slayer title. I didn't know whether to be happy about having a shorter grind or sad about not having the chance to increase my stats.

With a sigh, I stood in front of the stair to the 16th floor. I could not repeat the same mistake forever.

"Alright, I'm ready."

With a serious expression, I opened the friend window. Including Shina, I had only friended three people. I looked for Palludia's name. It was there. She was inside the dungeon.

I clicked on her name and sent her a message.

"Palludia, it's me."

[...]

"Sorry, Palludia, for not replying to your messages before. I was in a dangerous situation, so I meant to contact you later, but..."

[Who is this?]

"It's me, Kang Shin."

[I don't know anyone with that name.]

"No, I... sorry."

[I don't know what you're sorry about. Like I said, I don't know an orc like you.]

'You do remember! Also, I'm not an orc!'

"Whew, I was wrong. Forgive me."

[That's what you have to say after ignoring me for so long? That's it?]

'What else would I do?' I felt the urge to complain, but I calmed myself down by thinking of Yua's smiling face. Yep, I calmed down right away.

"Sorry, if there's anything you want me to do, tell me."

[Hmph, like you could heal my wounded pride. Don't be stupid.]

"Don't be like that. A chance like this doesn't come often."

[You don't sound sorry at all! Do you know how much I... uk.]

"Hm? What?"

[Don't ask!]

Palludia. She was like a medical book. I couldn't understand her from start to end.

[... You'll do anything?]

"If it's within my ability."

[Fine, you cowardly Orc.]

"Go on."

[...]

Palludia was silent for a moment. Just when I was wondering if she was fed up and about to delete me from her friend list, she sent me a message.

[Hurry up.]

"Hm?"

[Climb up quickly! To the 25th Floor Master!]

"Eh?"

[I'm saying I'll wait for you! So hurry to the 25th floor! We can defeat the Floor Master together!]

"Uh, let's make that 30th floor."

[Hey!]

It would take me several months to grind in the 15th and 20th floor. However, Palludia seemed uninterested by my offer.

[I'll give you three months, so you better reach the 25th floor by then! Otherwise, I won't meet you ever again!]

"H-Hey!"

[No buts!]

With that the message ended. I tried to contact her again but she did not respond. This girl, did she even know what floor I was on? And what did she mean she wouldn't meet with me again? Wasn't the last time we saw each other almost four years ago?

I was speechless.

"Three months? That's impossible. What an unreasonable girl..."

I murmured to myself and sighed. Although she called me Orc, I knew she considered me to be her friend. Because I knew I was in the wrong, I wanted to make up for it, but that did not mean I would ruin my pace for it. If she didn't want to see me, then she wouldn't. I made my resolve.

However, Loretta from the 15th Floor Shop smiled at me.

"Customer, you had a girlfriend?"

"No, she's just a friend. Can you stop smiling like that? It's creepy."

"You made fun of me before, customer, so it's only fair that I do the same."

"Don't be absurd. Besides, Palludia is really just a friend. One that easily gets angry, treats me like an orc, is short, and has a small chest."

"She's your friend? That sounds more like a mortal enemy."

Loretta made a rare serious expression and advised me.

"You should sever all ties with her immediately. From what I see, she'll do something perverted to customer. Like kidnapping you and using you as a sex slave."

"What did you say?"

I gave Loretta the coldest look I made in my entire life.

"..."

"D-Don't look at me like that! I just happened to read a novel like that recently!"

"..."

"Ah, your eyes got colder! My heart's going to freeze, please look away!"

Loretta spent the next 10 seconds unfreezing herself, then took something out from her pocket as I was heading up to the 16th floor.

"Customer, here's a special offer from the Floor Shop!"

"You're trying to sell me something again?"

"This here is a very special item. It's a ticket that ignores the once a day limit for battling the Floor Master and allows one to challenge it again! It's the 'Floor Master Battle Voucher!'

"If you had something like that, why didn't you tell me sooner!?"

"It's being sold at the cheap price of 3,000 gold!"

"6 million won!?"

I almost passed out from the shock. I understood why she only told me about it now. Each time I defeated the Wraith Queen alone, I got 3,000 gold. The Dark Ratman gave 5,000 gold, from which I only received 500. I would be losing 2,500 gold every time I used it.

"That's crazy expensive."

"But customer, isn't it enticing? In truth, I'm selling it at the manufacture cost because no one has bought any in the past 300 years. They aren't normally this cheap!"

"If it's so unpopular that no one bought any in 300 years, can't you make it cheaper?"

Loretta didn't seem to flinch at my reasonable claim.

"I have to at least take the manufacture cost! Customer, I'm already being generous with my offer. Not to mention, this isn't something anyone can buy. Ah, by the way, you can only use up to two per day. So, in total, you would be able to fight the Floor Master three times a day!"

Looking at Loretta's sincere eyes, I knew she wasn't lying. It was true that I had a lot of gold stockpiled. But if I continued to buy those things to fight the Dark Ratman, I would eventually dry.

That said, if I used them, I would be able to finish grinding the 15th and 20th Floor Masters and reach the 25th floor in 3 months. I was certain. Setting my promise with Palludia aside, just the prospect of quickening my growth tempted me. In that case...

"... Fine."

"Oh! So you'll buy them!?"

"I'll buy them after I reach the 20th floor."

"Aww."

Loretta made a disappointed expression. I smiled and waved my hand at her. Then, I continued on my way to the 16th floor. Three months, huh. I wonder why she was so bent on meeting me in three months.

'Well, Palludia, I'll see you then. Don't be too surprised after seeing my changed appearance.'

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