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 Chapter 46. Hermes (1)

There was only 1 week left from the 3 month period Palludia made me promise.

And today, with the Muscle Strengthening Elixir I gained from the first Lizard Knight I hunted, I had reached my limit.

[Your muscles become strengthened to their limit, greatly increasing your explosive power. Your strength and dexterity both increase by 3. It seems there will be no further effect if you consume more of the same item.]

The moment the 10th increase appeared for Muscle Strengthening Elixir, I saw my strength and dexterity increase by 3 for a total of 12. Combined together, they were almost 5 levels worth of stats.

[Name: Kang Shin Race: Human Sex: Male

Class: Elementalist (Sub - Skill Collector) Title: Lizard Knight Master Rank: Silver 9

Level: 21

HP - 7,650/7,650 MP - 5,460/5,460

Strength - 70(+22) Dexterity - 63(+15) Constitution - 60(+15)

Intelligence - 20(+5) Magic - 77(+5) Charm - 45(+5) Luck - 21(+5)

Normal Skill - High-rank Martial Arts (Lv 1), High-rank Spear Technique (Lv 4), Peruta Circuit (Lv 4), Mid-rank Heroic Strike (Lv 3), Low-rank Provoke (Lv 9), Return (Lv 1), Deific Manifestation

Class Skill - Low-rank Spirit Mastery (Lv 9), Low-rank Spirit Aura (Lv 6), Low-rank Elemental Control (Lv 7), Low-rank Elemental Contract (Lv 7), Low-rank Elemental Tempest (Lv 8), Thunder Beast (Lv 1)

Subclass Skill - Endow Skill, Spirit of the Collector]

"Wow, 22 bonus stats just in strength."

5 from the title's effect, 2 from the Power Earring I obtained on the 5th floor, 10 from the Lizard Knight set effect.

The other 5 came from Black Earthen Spear, which had a cheaty effect of increasing my strength by 5 and dexterity by 10. As expected of a reward from an A-rank dungeon.

There was more. All attacks done with the spear applied poison damage, and poisoned the enemy with a fixed chance!

I didn't regret picking the Black Earthen Spear at all. Although it had not been long since I got my Silver Spear, it was simply incomparable to the Black Earthen Spear, both in terms of stat bonuses and extra effects.

"Though I'd love to enter another Event Dungeon..."

After Korea's Gate suddenly disappeared, other countries went on high alert and increased the security on their Gates. Although many countries investigated why Korea's Gate disappeared, unless a dungeon explorer told them, they had no way of knowing. Mastiford had also gone on TV to warn the world about the danger of Gates.

With the excuse that she saw it in her dream when she awakened, she warned that a disaster might strike if they were cleared hastily. Her words had also increased security around the Gates.

As there was no guarantee that a raid boss would not appear, I couldn't just randomly clear an Event Dungeon. Even if I knew a raid boss wouldn't appear, there was no way for me to enter an Event Dungeon without being found out by other countries, not unless I had Mastiford's help, anyways. Knowing stat points and other delicious rewards waited, I could not do anything about it.

"So there's only one thing I can do."

I looked at the scene in front of me and grabbed a handful of popcorn, which I took out from my inventory. Then, I shouted in a mumble, "Keep going Ren!"

"Crown Prince! I hate you!" Ren shouted as he frantically 'parried' the Lizard Knight's attack with his claymore. That was right. I was currently watching Ren's one-on-one fight against the Lizard Knight. It was a fight that really had you on the edge of your seat.

"Don't give up! Put more strength into your legs!"

"Ugaaaaaah!"

Ren squeezed out all the strength he could muster as he swung his claymore. His form had been honed through 3 weeks of training. As he had an abnormally high strength from the beginning, if he learned enough techniques, there was a good chance he could defeat the Lizard Knight alone.

In truth, the 'thrashing phase' was supposed to last a full month. However, there was no need to break my promise with Palludia and stay for one more week.

"The tail's coming!"

"Haap!"

The moment I yelled out, Ren instantly reacted and slid toward the Lizard Knight. The tail swung empty air, and having approached the Lizard Knight, Ren rushed into close quarters of the Lizard Knight whose form had been disrupted from swinging its tail. Then, he shouted as he raised his claymore.

"Lion Upper!"

"Kahak!"

"Good!"

I clapped. Not facing the enemy directly, but going for a fatal blow using the inevitable opening the enemy created. That was at the core of my teaching. Ren had just done exactly that.

Realizing I had succeeded in putting down his hot-blooded temper, I felt like crying tears of joy. With this, he could proudly say he had passed the thrashing phase.

"Shiiik! Human, die!"

"As if! Lion Strike!"

Even though I was eating popcorn as I cheered Ren on, I tensed up when the Lizard Knight raised its spear. If Ren failed, I had to jump in and pick up where he left off. It was why I was here in the first place.

However, it seemed I had worried for nothing. Ren used the perfect skill for the occasion, making the Lizard Knight let go of his spear. When he became flustered, Ren's attack poured in.

"Lion Cross Attack!"

'Ren really likes lions.' Thinking absent-mindedly, I watched a cross-shaped wound appear on the Lizard Knight's chest. It was deep. He didn't consume elixirs by grinding Floor Masters like me, so why was he so strong? Even though I raised my strength with the Muscle Compressing Elixir and Muscle Strengthening Elixir, I felt like I would lose by a slight margin if I compared my strength with Ren directly.

As I tried to wrap my head around this mystery, Lizard Knight used Dragon Skin. At this point, Ren started using the tactic I had taught him.

That is, he picked up the Lizard Knight's spear faster than he could, and ran away.

"Give it back, Human!"

"I won't, Lizard Knightttt!"

Ren picked up my way of talking as well. I called it the IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder1) Reflection. It was because monsters who heard it would almost die from IED. I wondered if the dungeon would let that become a status effect. Today, Ren's and my Provoke skill proficiency was diligently increasing.

"Give it to me now, Human!"

"Like I ever would!"

The Lizard Knight became slower in his Dragon Skin state. As such, he always used his earthquake attack to deal great damage. However, if you made him drop his spear, he would always try to pick up his spear first.

If you took his spear and ran away, the Lizard Knight would always chase after the one who took it. He could try to use his hands to attempt the earthquake attack, but he never did, no matter what. He always tried to get his spear back.

With the 50 percent decrease in speed from Dragon Skin, it was hard to catch up to someone focused on running away. Even so, he chased after Ren with his reddened skin. Against such a horrifying sight, the one running away would also be motivated to run faster. Since the runner would die the moment he was caught, he quite literally ran with his life on the line.

The result was a game of tag that made any spectators watching laugh hysterically.

"Ren, I can see your legs!"

"If you couldn't see my legs, I'd be a ghost, not a human! Uhuk, he's going to get me!"

"HUMAAAAAN!"

The Lizard Knight roared as he chased after Ren. Oh! Ren was getting faster! Humans truly showed greatest growth in the most desperate situations. I came to such conclusion as I shoved some more popcorn in my mouth.

"H-HUMAAAAN!"

"I'm not deaf, you lizard bastard!"

"Kushaaa!"

Ren and the Lizard Knight were making laps around the wide boss room. The Lizard Knight, who saw me in the middle of chasing Ren, came after me as if to finish me off first. When I grabbed him and sent him flying back, he coughed up blood, got back up while shaking his head, and continued chasing Ren. It seemed he instinctively understood that he was no match for me without his spear. When the Lizard Knight began chasing him again, Ren frowned and shouted.

"Unfair, Crown Prince! Why are you so relaxed!?"

"I'm not relaxed at all, Ren. In fact, I'm tensed. My hands are all sweaty from thinking about whether you'll be caught or not. Nom."

"Don't say that as you eat popcorn!"

Their running competition ended in less than 5 minutes. Once Dragon Skin had worn off, the Lizard Knight had caught up to Ren.

"I caught you, Human!"

"I'm the one who caught you!"

At that moment, Ren instantly turned around and threw the spear randomly at his face. The Lizard Knight instinctively grabbed the spear, then made a regretful expression.

"Lion Rage Rush!"

Immediately afterwards, Ren's claymore radiating with a golden aura pierced its chest. It was a clean and powerful strike.

Although the Lizard Knight tried to strike down at Ren with his spear, his trembling arms no longer had any strength. In the end, he dropped his head without ever stabbing Ren. He was dead.

[You defeated the Floor Master!]

[10,000 gold is distributed evenly among party members. You received 5,000 gold.]

Holding his claymore, Ren stood still silently. I clapped as I put the popcorn away.

"Congratulations, Ren."

"I... I..."

"That's right. You defeated him alone."

"Hu... Huhuhuhu. Thank you, thank you, Crown Prince! I never thought I would succeed in hunting the Lizard Knight alone!"

Ren raised his claymore into the air with a happy expression. I also smiled and responded.

"You did well. Well, you'll have to do it again by yourself if you want to receive the special reward and title."

Ren looked at me with a blank expression, then asked.

"I, I see... Then what was this?"

"The thrashing phase graduation test."

After hearing my words, Ren became silent for a long time. His hands holding the claymore trembled as he opened his mouth.

"A-Are you saying... that I have to do another Floor Master solo raid?"

"Yep. You did it once, who's to say you can't do it again?"

"..."

Ren slowly turned to face me. His hands were holding his claymore.

"CROWN PRINCEEE!"

Smacking my lips, I cleaned the popcorn crumbs on my mouth. Getting up with my spear in hand, I mumbled regretfully.

"Tsk, it hasn't been fully fixed yet."

3 weeks. Although the time I spent with Ren was short, it was enough to form a close bond between us. Standing in front of the Floor Shop, I shook hands with Ren, who currently looked like a mess.

"I taught you everything I could. If you succeed in the Lizard Knight solo raid, you can go around calling yourself a warrior."

"Thank you, Crown Prince. But it hurts where you hit me."

"You reap what you sow. Alright, then. I wish you luck."

"... Before you go, there's something I want to confess."

"Sorry, but I'm into women."

"I like women too! That's not the confession I'm talking about!"

Ren shouted angrily. I laughed at his predictable reaction.

"Then what confession are you talking about?"

"I'm... not human."

Eh? That wasn't what I expected at all. Not knowing how to respond, I just stiffened with my smiling face. Ren then put strength in his body with a humph.

In the next moment, two triangular tufts of fur appeared. No, rather than tufts, those were ears.

... Ears?

"I'm a beastman. You've probably heard of them before. A race that possesses the traits of both beast and human."

"Ah, I've heard of werewolves before. Ones that turn into wolves under the full moon."

"Full moon? I'm not sure what you mean, but I am the last surviving member of the lion beastman, called werelions. Although we can't turn into lions, we do have strength that vastly surpasses that of humans. In exchange, our wild nature explodes out often..."

So that's why he was so strong! The mystery had been solved completely. A race possessing traits of both human and beast. As I was thinking rather stupid things like how Panan continent also had lions, I noticed Ren's lion ears twitch. With Ren's handsome, but not at all cute, face, it created somewhat of a weird combination. Looking at it, I could feel something boiling inside of me.

"Ren, put away your ears."

"Crown Prince, why are you holding up your spear? Why are you pointing it at me?"

I shouted at Ren who was asking such an obvious question.

"I don't need animal ears from men!"

"Uwoaaah! C-Calm down! Uwaaak!"

Just like that, it would take a little longer until Ren could go do his solo raid.

"Thanks for everything. I'll report to you once I succeed."

"Goodbye, Ren. Try not to take your ears out."

"Mm, I have no plans to show them to anyone other than Crown Prince. Then, I'm off."

After confirming that we had each other on our friend lists, we disbanded the party. Ren returned to the dungeon he came from. Confirming that he had disappeared, I let out a deep sigh. Now that a comrade I spent some time with was gone, I felt a little empty. Unconsciously, I mumbled.

"I'm alone again."

"What do you mean alone, Shin-nim? I'm disappointed."

When I turned around, I saw Loretta with her elbows on her shop desk and her chin on her hand, staring at me with her oval eyes.

"I've always been by your side."

"Ah, sorry, Loretta. You're right. It's us two again. I feel a bit happy since Loretta pointed it out."

Because I felt like a connection other than that of shopkeeper and customer existed between us, I felt happy. Hearing my words, Loretta's face reddened. Then, as if to hide her face, she put her hands over it.

"..."

"Loretta? What's wrong?"

"Shin-nim. You did that on purpose, right? You did it fully knowing everything, right?"

"Knowing what?"

"Aaaaaah! You're really frustrating! Go away, don't come back!"

"Even if I do, I'll see you again on the 21st Floor Shop."

"I don't care! Just go for now! Ah before you go, here's Holy Water! 1,500 gold per bottle!"

"You're still selling!? Your business spirit is astonishing as always!"

A woman's heart was indeed complicated. I didn't know just which rhythm to beat to! I climbed to the 21st floor grumbling. In my hand were five bottles of Holy Water, which was 7,500 gold.

There was one week left. To appease the little crown princess's anger, it was time for me, who wasn't some knight nor hero, to run to the 25th floor!

1. behavioral disorder characterized by explosive outbursts of anger and violence, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand (e.g., impulsive screaming triggered by relatively inconsequential events).

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