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 Chapter 88. S-ranker Yeon Hwawoo (5)

[You equipped the Dullahan Set. Your strength and constitution increase by 17. When the Dullahan Set is equipped, you can use 'Outburst' once per day.]

[Your brain is strengthened to its peak. Your intelligence and magic increase by 3. It seems consuming more of this item will have no further effect.]

"Hu, it's over..."

I wondered why, but it felt like I had finished grinding in only a day. In reality, it had taken a little over a month to do so. Although I almost died a few times in the process, I managed to complete the grind without dying a single time. The sense of accomplishment made my confidence rise. More importantly, I got rid of my habit of trying to take out Floor Master skills whenever something happened.

My mental protection was much better as well. I still thought my intelligence update was slow, but I would not make the same shameful mistake again as I did at the MT.

"I'm glad the set equipment skill is Outburst. In the worst case scenario, it could have been Sudden Rise..."

[That's creepy.]

[Scary!]

Peika and Ruyue shouted in disgust at my monologue. Someone on the floor getting beaten suddenly getting up. It was indeed something from a horror movie. I patted Peika and Ruyue while laughing, and saved Outburst in the 7 o'clock position. Even though I shouldn't rely too much on Floor Master skills, they were undoubtedly part of my strength. With these incredibly strong skills in my arsenal, I couldn't be unhappy.

There were now 7 skills stored in Collector's Pocket Watch. Looking at the gems in the clock positions, I smiled. Tomorrow was the day I would go to Britain's Windermere. It was great that I could finish grinding the 35th floor before then. Starting from now, it was time to get to the 40th floor before Hwaya came to pick me up on a plane!

Just when I was about to step on the staircase to the 36th floor, Ellos contacted me.

[Shin! We broke through the 30th floor yesterday.]

"You... That's really fast! It hasn't even been three months yet."

[You see, we got more party members. It would have been nice to stick to just the three of us, but we realized we shouldn't be so adamant about it.]

"It's still fast."

[I learned a lot from you that day. The party members we added were explorers who had stayed on the 25th floor for years without being able to advance. Even if they couldn't break through the 25th floor, they had survived against the invaders during that time. Together, we challenged the Giant Ghoul, and though it's a bit embarrassing, we imitated you and managed to break through. We did get wiped out once on our way to the 30th floor, but we still managed to get here pretty fast. And... I'm still surprised, but we managed to beat the 30th floor's Skeleton Knight without losing any party members. We were together with a pretty amazing explorer though.]

"Amazing explorer?"

[Yeah. It was a young man named Ren. We only had seven people including him, but he complained about something not dropping and didn't want to wait for more. I almost thought he was you, with how calm he was.]

"..."

Ren! You finished grinding the 25th floor and were already on the 30th floor!?

[He was really amazing. He still couldn't be compared to you, but his planning, movements, and claymore techniques were truly excellent. We were really shocked when he pushed the Skeleton Knight back in a one on one fight. Fighting against a Floor Master alone... I didn't think there was another explorer who could do it other than you, Shin.]

"Ah, yeah..."

[Thanks to him, we cleared the 30th floor in one go, and for helping my continent's explorers grow, his Highness allowed me to meet our continent's Hero. He even taught me a little. It was all thanks to you, Shin.]

"No, it's the result of your effort. I wouldn't say it was because of me. I'm only taking care of myself, but you're also leading five other comrades. Ellos, you should be proud."

[... Thanks, Shin. One day, I hope I can stand by your side again.]

"You will soon."

I couldn't tell him that I had already finished grinding the 35th floor and was about to head to the 36th floor. However, the moment my conversation with Ellos ended, Palludia called me as well, almost as if they had planned it out together. Surprisingly, the content was the same as well.

[I broke through the 30th floor! Without even a single party member dying! Kang Shin, where are you now?]

"I broke through the 35th floor."

[Oh, I see... well, it doesn't matter. I don't care at all, I was just asking.]

Although she sounded extremely disappointed, I didn't point it out and she didn't yield.

[Anyways! Don't forget, you said you'd come over this week with food from Earth!]

"Yeah, I know. I'll bring lots. You said you broke through without losing a single party member? That's great. Good work."

[Ah, mm. If you leave it to Palludia Gren Ehuir-nim, it's a piece of cake! ... Though a slightly annoying guy helped us.]

I suddenly felt a sense of uneasiness.

"Is that person's name perhaps..."

[Ren. He said his name was Ren. He was really tall, very muscular, and had messy blonde hair. He couldn't talk while facing me. He kept blushing, so it was annoying.]

Ren...! You couldn't look at Ludia because she was too pretty!

[Apparently, he's been helping explorers advance since the 25th floor. I hear people are calling him the Golden Lion of 30F.]

"That's a very interesting nickname."

On the 25th floor and 30th floor, I beat the bosses solo, so I didn't really meet any other explorers. Although the 25th and 30th floor has less explorers than the lower floors, there were still quite a lot of people stuck there. As a result of Ren carrying them through in my place, he had received an excellent nickname!

I made up my mind to call Ren 'Golden Lion' the next time I saw him. Thanking Ludia inwardly for letting me know this good piece of info, I ended the conversation. Then I received another message. When I checked who it came from, it was unexpectedly Ye-Eun.

[Shin, I'm not getting this compressing elixir thing.]

"What?"

I tilted my head. Three weeks had passed since Ye-Eun became an explorer. Considering her abilities, she was rather slow. I was wondering why she was only just now contacting me, but it seemed there was a problem.

"Did you defeat it solo?"

[Ah, yeah, I did the first time and got a Deific Manifestation Magic Book. It said it was going to call someone. I got scared so I haven't tried it out yet.]

"Try it soon. Whoever gets summoned might be helpful. So, you didn't clear it solo after that?"

[No. I cleared it in a 10-man party, but it didn't come out. I tried again with 8 people just in case, but it didn't drop anything again.]

"Really...?"

[Then I tried with 5 people, then 2, but it still didn't drop.]

"Really? Why?"

[I didn't think Shin would lie to me, so I kept trying for two weeks after that, constantly changing the number of people in the party, but the compressing elixir never came out. The Floor Shop owner said he didn't know anything about it.]

"..."

Her trust in me was... heavy...!

[But I had fun! Orc Lord was an interesting guy! The people in my party weren't scared of me either... hehe, I'm having fun lately!]

Fighting the Orc Lord was fun? She really had an innate talent for this. With a bitter smile that couldn't reach her, I spoke.

"I'll ask someone I know why the compressing elixirs won't drop. Just wait a bit."

[Okay.]

I paused my conversation with her and thought for a while. Why didn't the compressing elixirs drop? What was the problem? As I couldn't think of any reason, I went and asked Lin. Lin was in the middle of inscribing something onto a gem radiating golden light. It seemed he was close to finishing the mental protection item I asked for. At this rate, wouldn't I break through the 40th floor first? No, it was good to have more than one way to protect myself from mental attacks. If possible, I should try to get as many skills and items that helped...

"Am I distracting you?"

"My concentration won't be shaken by just talking with you, so feel free."

"Alright... Lin, you see, I made a friend of mine from Earth into a dungeon explorer. She's an A-rank Awakened from what I can tell."

"And?"

"Her contribution should have been high enough, but compressing elixirs never appear on her reward list for defeating the Orc Lord. Do you know why?"

"It's probably not just the compressing elixir. She probably isn't getting boss set items either."

Lin said casually. I instinctively understood.

"Is there a problem with her? Like having an ability?"

"Oh? So you already know."

"But what about me? I awakened my ability, but I could still obtain elixirs."

"You got your ability after you became a dungeon explorer. Not to mention, your ability is the type that grows along with your level and training. Of course your accomplishments would be acknowledged normally."

"You mean my friend's accomplishments won't be acknowledged normally?"

"You... Think about it. What do you think determines what comes up on reward lists from defeating bosses?"

Lin asked me as he put the powder he shaved off from the gem into a separate bowl. After thinking about it for a bit, I answered.

"Don't better items come out if you defeat the boss in a more technical and overwhelming way?"

"You're only partially right. You're missing one important thing. It's compared to your true ability."

"You mean, because my friend's strength is above the standard, her accomplishments can't be assessed properly even if she defeats the Orc Lord overwhelmingly?"

"Exactly. Looks like you're starting to use your head."

"But... Compared to other explorers, my stats are also above the standard from compressing and strengthening elixirs."

"You're within the dungeon's scope, so you're fine."

"I understand."

In other words, things I gained from the dungeon's system didn't act as a minus when calculating my accomplishments. On the other hand, Ye-Eun, who became a dungeon explorer after already having an A-rank strength, had strength that went above the dungeon's standard. Since she defeated the Orc Lord with such strength, she could not get the appropriate reward from the Orc Lord. It was similar to how my superior strength lowered the reward of the B-rank Event Raid. It made sense.

"She says she got the Deific Manifestation Magic Book and the title."

"Those are fixed rewards... Do I need to explain more?"

"Yes. What floor does she need to get to before she can get proper rewards from the dungeon?"

"I don't know. I don't really care how strong your world's A-rank is. What rank are you?"

"S-rank."

"Mm, taking into account how strong she would get from level-up stat bonuses and titles, probably... 50th floor?"

Oh no, say goodbye to Skin Strengthening Elixirs, Ye-Eun. It was a good thing I didn't tell her about them. With a bitter smile, I told Ye-Eun what I'd just heard. Ye-Eun seemed rather fine with it.

[That's great! So I can just keep going up while defeating things alone, right?]

"Yeah, but don't skimp out on opportunities to grow your ability. Stealth and... what was it?"

[Dagger technique! I got two wooden daggers when I entered the dungeon. I like it, since it's a lot cleaner than fighting with my hands.]

"Ah, I see. Anyways, make sure you level those skills up. You're going to regret it later otherwise."

[Thanks for worrying. See you later!]

"Deific Manifestation. Don't forget to try it out."

[Okay! I'll catch up to you soon, so don't go too fast, okay?]

With that, Ye-Eun ended our call. Sorry, Ye-Eun, I can't do that. There's a bet on the line..

"By the way, Kang Shin."

"Yes?"

Lin was still digging at the gem as he spoke.

"That friend, she's a girl, right?"1

"... Yes."

"Oh? A girl. Heh."

Lin made an evil smile.

"Of course, I felt it was weird that a Hero didn't have a girl or two. Kuku, noonim might end up only staring at the roof again, kukuku."

"We're just friends, so don't misunderstand. And don't talk like there's something between Loretta and me. ... Again?"

"Oh? You're curious? You're curious, eh? Maybe noonim has a chance this time. Ha."

"I, I'm not curious at all."

... Yep, I wasn't curious. Nope, not in the slightest. I only asked just because. And since that was the case, I stepped on the 36th floor staircase with a totally fine expression.

"Ahuk!"

"That guy, he's quite agitated..."

"I, I only missed my step, ahuk!"

"At this rate, your vitality will hit zero from hitting the steps before you even make it to the 36th floor."

I, I'm going to break through the 40th floor today! For sure!

1. Pronouns are gender-neutral most of the time. Although he said 'she' in the translation, he hasn't actually revealed Ye-Eun's gender.

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