Chapter 39. Event Dungeon (2)
Midterms ended. I had no classes on Fridays, so Thursday was the last day of my midterms. It was also the class I happened to share with Su Ye-Eun.
I vaguely thought she'd hit me up to go eat fries again. Since I started having classes with Su Ye-Eun, I started avoiding food with potatoes.
"Let's celebrate the end of midterms with beer and fries!"
"I expected nothing less."
"Let's go, Shin!"
"How did the test go?"
Su Ye-Eun answered my question with a scream. How did this girl get into college?
'Something always happens when I eat fries with this girl...'
When the communication channel opened last time, I was almost scared out of my wits. It was almost like it happened because I went to eat fries with her. In a displeased tone, I asked Su Ye-Eun.
"Don't you have any friends other than me? Anyone you have classes with?"
"N-No one talks to me."
"Then stop always wearing your hoody."
With the hoody covering her face, Su Ye-Eun's presence disappeared completely. I almost thought it was some passive skill. With her pretty face, people would be all over her if she just dressed up a little...
"I hate getting attention."
"You really have a tiresome personality."
"It's fine, I have you."
For a moment, I saw tentacles with suction cups stretching out from her body and wrapping around me. Was I caught in a trap? By this zero social skills, zero presence, monsterphobia, potato witch?
"Come on, let's go!"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming."
They said words sowed seeds. I didn't believe in it, but I decided to believe it from today. When I was taking a breath after ordering a beer and fries, the TV on the wall was showing a strange place.
It was suspicious. I began to hate this shop famous for its fries.
[Breaking news. At a shopping mall in Seoul's Yeongdeungpo District, a black pillar of light suddenly shot up to the sky. This phenomenon which was first seen two minutes ago is also being observed in other countries' main cities...]
On TV, I saw a shopping mall I visited in the past totally enveloped by black light. As if that wasn't enough, the black light was shooting up into the sky, forming a pillar visible from quite a distance away. There were also images from major cities in other countries. Japan's Osaka, America's New York, China's Beijing, Britain's London, etc. They were all large cities with huge population densities.
[Experts consider this phenomenon as a continuation of Two Moon, and have advised governments to dispatch Guardian to affected areas. According to Article 7 Section 1 of New Moon Act, the government has begun to evacuate all Yeongdeungpo District residents and has dispatched Guardian's Special Forces.]
New Moon Act. It was a law created after Two Moon to deal with monsters and monster-related work. It outlined the government's response when a monster-related disaster occurred. For example, the code of conduct, safety measures for citizens, and federal assistance for any material damage received.
Although it had many faults and led to endless protests, it was still convenient in times of crisis like this.
"Hmm. I wonder what it is."
Black light. Major cities.
Just looking at them through the TV screen, I could feel the ominous aura emanating from them. However, I knew what those lights were. That was the feeling I had.
"Shin, did you say something?"
"Hm? Did I say something?"
Su Ye-Eun looked at me like I was acting strangely.
"Didn't you just say something about pancakes1? I like pancakes too."
"Pancakes? What pancakes? I'm not in the mood to eat. In fact, I think I have to go to the... dungeon."
I shouted out loud. As if in response, the black light shooting up from the shopping mall subsided and revealed the building's appearance. No, it was wrong to say it was a building. It was a whirlpool of black smoke emanating an ominous aura. It was just like teleportation portals in games!
At the same time, I heard message noona's voice in my head. She'd been making a lot of business trips recently.
[Event Dungeons have been created on Earth! When cleared, you can obtain various rewards such as stat points or skill points!]
All Awakened on Earth likely thought this: It's finally here.
All dungeon explorers on Earth likely thought this: Those are Event Dungeons!?
I quickly opened the communication channel. Sure enough, Mastiford was chatting away in it.
[You all heard it right? Those are Event Dungeons!]
[Unni, you're going to go?]
[Of course! You should come with me, Sumire!]
[If you die in an Event Dungeon, aren't you dead for real?]
At Edward Walker's words, the two girls became quiet. I was thinking the same thing, even if it was something I did not really want to admit.
This world was different from the dungeon. We were not given second chances.
As such, adventuring had a danger incomparable to losing a week's worth of time.
[These Event Dungeons are dangerous. I can smell it. The sweeter the reward, the more lethal the poison they bear.]
[Then are you just going to leave them be? The rewards will disappear if other Awakened clear them. Are you that much of a scaredy-cat? How can you call yourself a British citizen?]
[Shut it, Mastiford. I don't see what that's got to do with it. Me being British has nothing to do with acting like a fool who doesn't know fear.]
Well said, Mister Walker!
[The dungeons we've been going to until now were like games. There was no risk involved. Although being hit by monsters may have hurt, you were guaranteed your lives. And when you won, you were guaranteed rewards. But not now. It's a gamble with your life on the line. No matter how sweet the reward seems, it's not worth it.]
[Ho, you're more prudent than I imagined, or should I say cowardly? Shouldn't a man charge in no matter how dangerous it is and come out victorious!?]
Father, who had fought against a tiger barehanded and won, had the right to say that. That said, I won't forgive him for making me fight one when I was only 13 years old! Even if I won in the end!
[Hmph, are you saying you'll go into those dungeons?]
[Think about it. I'm not active yet as an ability user. If I go into a dungeon, I would be advertising to the whole world that I'm an ability user.]
[So you were just talk after all.]
[... You, do you want to make a trip to Korea? I'll welcome you wholeheartedly. With my spear, that is.]
Father... I felt I needed to interfere before father started fighting Walker. I also needed to point out something everyone was missing.
[Sorry everyone, but before we talk about the benefits we can gain as dungeon explorers, there's something important we need to address.]
[Ah, Yeon Hwawoo! Great! Why did you ignore me until now!? I've been calling you for a while!]
[Hm? I had the communication channel turned off, why?]
[Ugggaaaah! How annoying!]
I ignored Mastiford's screaming and continued.
[You guys know what happens when you clear an Event Dungeon, right?]
[I haven't entered one before, but I've heard about it.]
[Ah, I've cleared it before. Huhu, twice in fact! And for one of them, an Event Raid hap... Ah!]
Mastiford who was excitedly bragging cried out in shock. It seemed everyone had an idea what I was trying to say.
[The Event Raid... You're right.]
[That's right. I remember now.]
Eh? Father, you're on the 21st floor now!? I didn't think he'd catch up to me so quickly. Though, as I was completely into raising my stats through the Muscle Strengthening Elixir, I didn't pay much attention to leveling up.
[That's right. If we rashly clear one, a raid boss might appear and make the situation worse. We need to come up with a solution before we do anything.]
[Hmm, but even if we don't do anything, wouldn't the Awakened be dispatched?]
[That's true... Mastiford, didn't you brag about being a SS-rank ability user with public trust? This is your opportunity to shine. Send the world a warning.]
[Mmm, I'll try. I'll try but... I don't really have much power, you know? Britain has another SS-rank ability user so my words won't have much weight. Plus, Korea isn't a powerful country. This is exactly why I wanted to create an organization of dungeon explorers!]
[Miss Mastiford, I'm saying you should use your personal authority as a SS-rank ability user. Don't you understand the weight your words carry? Don't talk to the government, talk to the mass media! You can even hold a press conference if you want. We need to prepare the entire world, whether we clear the dungeon or not!]
[E-Even if you suddenly compliment me, I can't do anything! Hmph!]
As I was chatting in the communication channel, I naturally had my hand over my mouth. Su Ye-Eun, who had three fries sticking out of her mouth, was staring at me like I was the weird one. I ignored her gaze and turned to the TV. There, I saw a letter written on top of the Dungeon Gate. It was undoubtedly the letter 'A'!
[Mister Walker, if you knew what difficulty the Event Dungeon you had to enter was, what would you do?]
[I would still hesitate. That said, given that I have some information about the dungeon, I could prepare myself to challenge it. Compared to the huge danger I would have to eventually face, overcoming the current smaller danger would have some merit.]
[Good. Korea's Event Dungeon Gate has the letter 'A' above it. I think this is like the rank that classifies ability users. How about other countries?]
At my words, everyone became quiet. Sumire was the first to respond.
[It's true! Osaka Castle's Gate says B+!]
[The entire Osaka Castle disappeared!? I wanted to go see it eventually!]
[That's not important right now, Miss Mastiford!]
[Hey, you stop picking faults at whatever I say. I'm at my mom's house right now, so I can only see Yeungdeungpo's Gate! I'm a Yeundeungpo resident too!]
'Like I care! Turn on your TV and look at the other countries! I'm in a place where I can't even change the TV channel!' I growled at her in my head.
[I confirmed it. Britain's Event Dungeon says A+. It seems America's Event Dungeon is S.]
[Hm. France has B, China has C. Although China has the lowest difficulty, five Event Dungeons appeared there. 3 Cs and 2 C+s.]
If the alphabet above the Gates were really based on ability users' rankings like I thought, wouldn't a single S-rank ability user be enough to clear a S-rank dungeon? Wasn't solo play the standard for all dungeons?
[Huu, this is hard. If you consider a 10-man party as the standard... No, since you can't quit and come out like in the dungeons we go to, we'll have to consider at least 20 people for taking shifts. Since they don't have inventories like us, we'll need to add 5 more people to carry daily necessities. That's 25. Even if porters can be low-rank ability users, wouldn't America's S-rank dungeon need 20 S-rank ability users? That'll be difficult.]
[There's a possibility that only 10 people can enter a dungeon. In that case, we'll need ability users with higher ranks than the dungeon itself.]
I decided to stay quiet. Although I was also a dungeon explorer, the amount of common sense knowledge I knew seemed light years apart from theirs. Not to mention, not all ability users on Earth were dungeon explorers.
[Plus, if an S-rank raid boss appears, we'll need at least 100 to 300 people to come out victorious. That'll be a disaster among disasters.]
[Now that you put it that way, Yeungdeungpo's boss would be A-rank too...]
Mastiford seemed to be immersed in her thoughts, when she suddenly said,
[Everyone, I need your help. My mom's feeling uneasy. I want to get rid of the dungeon quickly and calm her down. Help me beat this dungeon. As a magician, although I have strong firepower, I'll be taken out if I leave any openings. I can't do it alone.]
... Just like I thought from the beginning, she was honest. People usually found it hard to acknowledge their weaknesses. For someone like Mastiford who seemed like a blob of self-esteem, I didn't think she would so easily admit her weakness. Right now, she not only revealed it, but she was also asking for help. It meant she knew her weaknesses just as much as her strengths. I began to see her in a more favorable light.
Plus, I knew she really liked her mother.
[I refuse. There's no reason for me to put myself at risk.]
Edward Walker was the first to answer. In a way, it was the logical answer. On the other hand, Minami's answer was the complete opposite of Walker's.
[I'll help, unni. I'll fly to Korea right now! I have confidence in my defense, so I can withstand most attacks!]
[Sumire! Thank you, I love you!]
That girl was still too kind. She should really think things through a bit more.
[Miss Minami, I'm not trying to be condescending, but I don't think a explorer on the 18th floor can take on an A-rank monster.]
[Y-You're right, but I have confidence in my defense! I can even take a Floor Master's attack head on!]
This young lady was certainly not normal. Climbing 18 floors in 2 years, plus... Eh? 2 years? There were 5 dungeon explorers right now, and there were 5 dungeon explorers when I became one 5 years ago... A question emerged in my mind. But now was not the time to ask. I reluctantly put it away in the back of my mind.
[Miss Mastiford, what are our plans if a raid boss appears when we clear the dungeon?]
[Don't worry. I have an SS-rank firepower. If I'm properly protected, I can deal with an A-rank raid boss by myself.]
With that, I made my decision.
[I'll participate too. Although I might be lacking, I can at least protect Miss Mastiford.]
[W-What's up with you suddenly? What are you scheming? Is it the stats? Is that what you're aiming for?]
[That one thing. More importantly, I'm confident I won't die in an A-rank dungeon. Plus, if someone can guarantee to kill the raid boss without suffering losses, it would only be proper to lend a hand to the person capable of doing it.]
Objectively, I assessed my ability to be about B+ rank. Of course, that was only taking Peika's ability into account. Adding on my physical strength and techniques, plus my abilities as a dungeon explorer... I was probably A-rank. Even without my spear that is.
[Hmph! Even if you change your mind now, I won't put you in our organization!]
[I don't want to go in your organization, you witch.]
[I'll cooperate too. Since my so... I mean, since Yeon Hwawoo is cooperating, it's only proper as a fellow Korean to join in.]
'Just say the word son, father!' I complained in my head. That said, father seemed to be worried about sending his son to such a dangerous place alone as he also joined in.
But do dungeon explorers have to be the ones to go?
[Miss Mastiford, you're a SS-rank ability user. Why can't you just bring other ability users instead?]
[What other ability users? Do you think people would choose to barge into a suspicious and dangerous place like that without receiving any rewards?]
[An SS-rank ability user's name doesn't even have that much weight?]
After hearing what I said, Mastiford let out a deep sigh.
[You see, British Guardians are busy with the Gate that appeared in London. Korean Guardians would be all over me, but I'm afraid of the aftermath.]
The scene of Mastiford entering Korea's Gate with other Korean ability users would be the perfect advertisement for the proud Korean image the government was trying to sell. Once I understood, I nodded my head instinctively.
[Even though we're doing a good thing, we have to sneak into the Gate. Do you understand, Yeon Hwawoo?]
[Yeah, I got it. You have it rough, Miss Mastiford.]
[Thanks for noti... wait, why am I talking so friendly with you!?]
Mastiford suddenly yelled after talking well for a while. Reaffirming that this woman wasn't normal, I shook my head. At the same time, Mastiford put the conversation to rest.
[Then we'll gather in front of that shopping mall in two hours!]
[That's too fast! Miss Minami has to fly over from Japan! I know you want to take care of the dungeon as fast as possible, but calm down.]
[Ah, you're right... Then 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.]
[Got it, unni!]
[That's fine with me.]
[Ho? The four of you are gathering? Yeon Hwawoo, I thought you'd be different... well, good luck.]
With that, Walker went silent. It seems he turned off the communication channel.
[I'm off too. I'll be there on time so don't worry.]
[W-Who'd worry for you!? Ah, wait, you're about to turn the communication channel off, right? Don't-!]
I turned it off. Letting out all the tension I built up with a sigh, I gulped down on lukewarm beer in front of me. At the same time, I caught sight of Su Ye-Eun staring at me strangely.
"What's wrong, Shin? You seem to be trembling."
"I'm just nervous. It looks like I'll be doing something dangerous."
I stared at the Gate on TV. A whirlpool of grey smoke. Although Mastiford didn't say much about it, I still had a lot on my mind.
It was different from the dungeon.
If I died, that was it.
Wouldn't they be fine even without me?
"Tsk. I can't turn tail in front of just this much danger."
It had been a while since I thought about it, but I remembered.
The superhero I dreamt of becoming when I was a little kid was not a coward. From the dungeon, I learned that a coward cannot get stronger. If everything ended when I died, I just had to not die.
What was the reason I raised my strength in the dungeon? Before monsters began appearing on Earth, it was to see just how far I could go. I also wanted to know what was at the end of the dungeon. That was the same even now when monsters began appearing on Earth.
Until now, I ignored Earth's monsters because I could not gain skills or level up from hunting them.
It was different now. If that dungeon's difficulty really was based on A-rank ability users, then it was worth taking it on with my current strength. If things went badly with that dungeon, there was the possibility that ordinary people, not ability users, would die. Just like when the second moon first rose in the skies.
"Though, I only said I'd go because I was confident I wouldn't die."
"D-Die? It's that dangerous?"
"Like I said, I won't die."
I wasn't a saint. I had no plans to throw my life away for someone I didn't even know. But Yeungdeungpo wasn't that far from here. If a raid boss appeared, it was possible that someone I cared about would get hurt. I had to prevent that at all costs.
... Most importantly, there were rewards in that dungeon. Although it was only temporary, I had an SS-rank ability user in my party! It would be hard to find another opportunity to leech rewards so easily! Whoops, my real intentions were leaking.
"D-Don't suddenly laugh. It's scary..."
"Ah, the world is vast and there are truly lots of things to grind."
I'll get stronger! Overcoming danger and getting stronger from it is what excites people! Thinking that, I tightly clenched my fists. Although I sneered at father's simple personality, I had yet to realize I was just like him in the most crucial area.
"I should really take you to the doctor... Uuu, I'm worried."
"You mind your own business!"
1. The 'geon' in dungeon sounds like the word for pancake