Chapter 8. The World Becomes a Dungeon (1)
About two years after I first defeated the Orc Lord, any party I was in no longer knew defeat.
No matter how messed up the party composition was, even if a worthless explorer joined, I had no problem defeating the Orc Lord.
I defeated an Orc Lord everyday without exception, and the 100 gold reward stockpiled slowly.
With the increased number of times I succeeded in defeating the Orc Lord, I naturally had more opportunity to obtain a Muscle or Bone Compressing Elixir. Now, just eating one or two wasn't enough to raise my stats. I had to eat at least ten.
The amount of free stat points I gained through muscle and bone compressing elixirs was 28. It was just short of the amount gained from 6 level ups. I knew I was level 6, yet not really level 6.
One day, because no Muscle or Bone Compressing Elixir had dropped, I chose the Orc Lord's Glaive. It was just about when my wooden spear was completely worn out. In truth, it was surprising I lasted so long with a wooden spear. Once I began carrying around the glaive, the way people saw me changed. It became easier to find my place in parties. It was the first time I realized the importance of weapons.
Once I had the Orc Lord's Glaive, my attack power increased exponentially. Sometime later, I found myself wearing a leather helm, leather gloves, and leather armor. They were all equipment dropped by the Orc Lord.
"It's the Crown Prince..."
"Yes, after 5 years, I can finally escape the 5th floor!"
My name became more and more well-known. When I began recruiting party members, all ten slots filled up in an instant. Other dungeon explorers also called me the 'one who leads the path past the 5th floor' and 'Savior Incarnate.' Although I tried to stop the embarrassing nicknames from spreading, it was of no use.
Because I didn't want to make money by hunting orcs like my father, once I defeated the Orc Lord, I left the dungeon and studied. I had to make use of my 20 intelligence stat. My grades at school went up. My mother was happy and the number of universities I could attend went up.
No matter how much money I made from the dungeon, it was my mother's opinion that I had to attend a university when I graduated from high school. I could do little to resist my mother. In truth, the thought of attending a university excited me. It was something I couldn't have even dreamed of when my intelligence of low.
Yes, other than the fact that I couldn't obtain mana, everything was perfect.
I focused my efforts on the Orc Lord Raids and paid little attention to maintaining a social life at school (not that I had one to maintain in the first place). One day, I was called to part of the school teachers rarely visited.
I was nervous, wondering if delinquents were trying to pick a fight with me. Instead, a familiar girl had appeared. She was from my class. Contrary to her usual cheerful and enthusiastic self, her head was drooped down like she was an entirely different person.
"I-I like you."
Who? This cute girl? Me? She likes me?
I thought it was a joke. Even though I was taking muscle and bone compressing elixirs, I was still the person who was once called an orc. When I asked if she was joking, she began crying and ran off.
"Why are you crying!?"
"I-I wasn't kidding! Uwaaah!"
A rumor had spread throughout school that I was rejecting girls. When I came home and told my mother and sister about it, they stared at me as if they had just heard the most ridiculous thing.
"You didn't notice?"
"Eh? Stupid? I'm not stupid anymore..."
An unsolvable mystery was created that day.
Half a year after that, I began to think whether I needed all ten members to defeat the Orc Lord. Just as a test, I went into battle with just eight people, but it was still extremely easy. The ones who came in with me made expressions of disbelief.
"It's... a bug..."
Bugs referred to monsters that dropped an unusually high amount of gold or a high-grade item that normally would not drop on that floor. They were considered treasures, created from mistakes by the ones who operated the dungeons. But it seemed I was being treated like a bug.
"This is no laughing matter, Crown Prince."
"He's right, Crown Prince. You should hurry up and head to a higher floor."
"Stop calling me Crown Prince."
I retorted bluntly and checked the list of rewards. It was then that I seemed to be struck by lightning.
[1. Orc Lord's Glaive
2. Power Potion
3. Middle Potion
4. Skin Compressing Elixir
5. Orc Lord's Boots
6. Muscle Compressing Elixir
7. Mana Potion
8. 230 Gold]
'No way! Am I seeing this correctly?'
I washed my eyes and looked at the list of rewards again. Orc Lord's Boots. This was the first time I had seen it in 2 years of hunting the Orc Lord. There was something else that surprised me. Skin Compressing Elixir! I was thinking about how my skin wasn't reducing at the rate that my muscle and bones were reducing.
Without a shred of hesitation, I chose the skin compressing elixir.
[Skin Compressing Elixir (Rare)
Warning. When someone who has not consumed both muscle and bone compressing elixir consumes this elixir, one could experience severe pain and permanent bodily damage. For those that consumed both muscle and bone compressing elixir, this elixir will make one's stretched out skin tighter and stronger, boosting one's defense and giving the skin a clean, hard texture.]
I ate it, and my constitution increased. It was the start of a new grind.
When the number of people decreased, new items appeared on the reward list. When I thought about it, it made sense. Quantity decreased and quality increased.
I hunted in a party of eight for a while, then switched to seven, then six, then five. Even then, everything went smoothly. Skin compressing elixirs appeared more often, and muscle and bone compressing elixirs always appeared.
I compressed my body endlessly. The more I repeated it, the smaller and stronger I became. When I realized my 210cm height had gone down to 190cm, the winter break of my 3rd year of high school had started.
Standing in front of a mirror, it was all I could mutter. The mirror was now capable of capturing my whole body without problem. Did I become blind when I focused on a topic? Although I washed myself every day, it was only now that I was seeing the changes in my body.
The me in front of the mirror was a normal young man. No, I wasn't exactly normal. Those who worked out could easily see through the strength hidden in my muscles.
On the outside, I was more than enough to be described as slim. More importantly, my muscles weren't repulsing to look at anymore. In fact, it was the opposite. My body finally matched my face, which took after my mother's good looks. Although I felt like I was still a bit too tall, it was nothing to complain about.
Feeling a sense of fulfillment, I sighed silently. It was a long journey, but I had finally done it. To be exact, no matter how much compressing elixirs I took, my stats wouldn't increase anymore. So I quit.
After taking elixirs for almost 3 years, I had gained a total of 40 stat points. 10 strength, 10 dexterity, and 20 constitution. Just with my status alone, I would be evenly matched with level 14 explorers.
"Ellos and Palludia must have passed the 15th floor now..."
I murmured bitterly and let out another sigh. The fact that I couldn't use mana had tied me down to the 5th floor for 3 years. I felt sorry for myself. I then realized my father must have felt the same.
It must be why he was going around talking about getting qi at such an age.
[Name: Kang Shin Race: Human Sex: Male
Class: None Title: None Rank: Bronze 7
HP - 1,940/1,940 MP - 0
Strength - 34(+2) Dexterity - 30 Constitution - 39
Intelligence - 20 Magic - 0 Charm - 16 Luck - 10
Skill - Low-rank Martial Arts (Master), Low-rank Spear Technique (Master), Mid-rank Spear Technique (Master)]
Was this the status of a level 6 explorer? The answer was yes. I didn't believe it either, but it was the truth.
What was strange was that my charm stat had gone up by itself. It was 7 initially, but it had gone up until it was 16. Because the charm and luck stat were bonus stats and you could not distribute status points to them, I didn't pay much attention to them.
Most importantly, my magic stat was still 0. Compared to the HP I had, it looked completely barren.
My equipment were entirely from the Orc Lord. Its helmet, chestplate, leggings, boots, gloves, and glaive. On one ear, I even had an Orc Lord's Earring, which raised the strength stat by 2 points.
If I walked around Myung Dong like this, would they think I was cosplaying? I quickly erased the thought from my mind. With how the world was these days, it wouldn't be surprising if someone really attacked me thinking I was a monster.
"It looks like I'm ready."
If you ask what I'm ready for, it was obvious. It was killing the Orc Lord solo!
I had always kept the possibility in my mind. The reward increased as the number of explorers in the party decreased. If I succeeded in defeating it alone, what reward would I get? As far as I knew, there was no one who managed to defeat the Orc Lord alone. The reason was simple. Once one defeated the next floor master, it was impossible to go back and hunt the previous floor master.
In other words, explorers above level 11 could not come back to the 5th floor to kill the Orc Lord. Those below that did not even think about hunting the floor master alone. If there was such a person, it would be someone who grinded through elixirs year after year just like me. I had asked father about the elixirs, but he said that as the man in charge of the house, he gave up hunting the Orc Lord and focused on hunting as many orcs as possible. It was likely to be the same with others in a similar situation as father. Someone who could pass the 6th floor did not need to kill the Orc Lord.
That is, I was the first. I should be. I would like to be.
I did not want to just try it. If I was doing it, I wanted to succeed. Pressing down on the Orc Lord's Helmet, I stood in front of the huge stone door.
"Huu... here I go."
Then, just like 3 years ago, I pushed open the stone door and shouted.
"Orc Lord! Fight me!"