I CAME BACK AND CONQUERED IT ALL Chapter 50 Siheung 8 Dungeon (3)

Siheung 8 Dungeon (3)

“I was actually here to offer Bill Russell a scouting offer.”

What?

“It’s a great honor to be here with Nicole Thompson, too. Then, I will take this opportunity to explain Celestial Dragon’s proposal to the two of you.”

Nicole asked, even before Han-seol could finish speaking.

“Me too? Are you serious? Are you sure?”

“Yes, you did a great job today. Thanks to your unique skill, we managed to stay together, and we did not even need to use my [Battlefield Command] skill. There was no one left behind, as well. Besides, I’m sure you’re at the top of the ranking.”

She was only called a support-type, but she was not an SS-Rank Hunter for no reason. Nicole took an active part in the battle and slaughtered many monsters.

“Stop it. Your guild can’t hire me based on your finances. You don’t have to praise me.”

Han-seol laughed. “Was that too much of a face-saving gesture?”

“The real purpose must be for Bill Russell over here.”

“I can’t deny that.”

But I shook my head, too, and voiced out the answer that I prepared. “I’m going to retire after getting my share of this expedition.”

“Oh, as expected.”

Some of the Hunters who pretended not to listen should have heard me as the distance between us wasn’t much. “That’s why you didn’t register as an SS-Rank; all this was on purpose.”

Nicole stepped in. “I’d like to ask you a question which is sudden and a bit different.”

She spoke while looking at Han-seol. “Actually, I was thinking about retiring after finishing this expedition. I’m not as determined as Russell. By the way, what about you, Han-seol? Have you ever thought about retiring?”

Why was she asking her that all of a sudden?

“If a Hunter is of your level, your income must be fine. Don’t you want to take a break?”

“For me…”

Han-seol answered, “I don’t think money and retirement are related. I’m just fulfilling my responsibilities as an Awakened. I don’t intend to retire. As long as my body allows, I will continue.”

Nicole looked dumbfounded when she heard those words.

“Responsibility? What, like a given duty or something? Do you have a religion?”

“No, it’s not like that, but…”

Han-seol looked straight at Nicole and replied, “The day I Awakened, I thought to myself. I don’t know what beings will affect this phenomenon…”

Han-seol’s eyes stared at a distance. “I thought that I was chosen because I had a mission in the world to accomplish.”

“What’s that mission?”

Han-seol shut her mouth for a while. It was the longest silence since this conversation had begun. Her lips opened again just before Nicole tried to hurry her.

“Wouldn’t the mission be to eventually prevent the dungeon from collapsing and prevent the world from falling into greater chaos? In other words, contributing to the continuance of existence of humanity for a long time without destruction or decline,”

Nicole frowned. “You…do you have an obsession with becoming a hero? Are you enjoying the praise and support of others too much? Do you want to enjoy the public’s attention by vowing to save the world, am saving it, will save it, and will continue saving it in the future?”

There was no change in Han-seol’s expression after hearing the sarcasm that Nicole had used against her. A gentle smile was simply plastered on her face.

“I don’t care about how other people judge me.”

“Will you still be satisfied?”

“Yes, my satisfaction is not affected by other people’s evaluations or interests in me. I’m the one who makes the decision and who evaluates and acknowledges my actions.”

“You’re quite an odd type, aren’t you? So, on the contrary, it doesn’t matter if everyone in the world criticizes and curses you? As long as you’re satisfied?”

Instead of answering, Han-seol suddenly stood up from her seat. “That’s a long line of boring words from me. I’m sorry that neither of you is interested in the proposal. I won’t take any more time off of your break.”

She greeted us and turned away.

As I was looking at her back, Nicole spoke in a much smaller voice than she used in the conversation that we three were just having.

“Are you really going to retire?”

“Yes.”

“Isn’t it a waste of your skill to do so?”

The real Bill Russell, who lent me his identity, really decided to retire. Only he would know the reason in his heart. I then changed the subject.

“Why did you suddenly get involved in the conversation? You don’t look like someone who moves around aimlessly.”

“Well, you are both the most unusual and conspicuous of the Hunters here.”

“Unusual?”

“Yes.”

Nicole nodded and spoke. “I’m telling you again. I have a good hunch. Regardless of the skills, I was just born with them.”

That must be her way of talking.

“By the way, my gut keeps whispering that Han-seol is suppressing her skills.”

She has noticed the same thing, one which I had already seen. However, Nicole’s words did not come to an end there.

“Of course, it’s not something in comparison to the power you’re hiding.”

The sword exclaimed. ‘Oh? She has some eyes! She’s clever, isn’t she?’

This raised a question in my mind. Was this keenness pure gut feeling?

“Why do you have to come in front of me and tell me that instead of keeping it to yourself?”

“I told you I could have a good hunch.”

Nicole whispered. “My feeling is telling me that it’s better to talk to you about this.”

And she added one more thing.

“Also, for me to return from this dungeon in one piece… I’d better stay close to you.”

“Then I’ll ask the hunch. The story that we just heard from her…”

I referred to Han-seol, pointing with my chin. “Do you think she’s genuine?”

The answer came right back, and there was no hesitation in that period.

“Wouldn’t she have mixed truth and falsehood in moderation? She had some parts kept hidden, purposely not saying everything there is to tell.”

Then she stood up and spoke. “That is the same as you.”

At this, Nicole giggled and laughed and went back to her tent. She had light and upbeat steps, like a dance.

*

Since our previous encounter, there had been several battles, and we arrived at the destination led by Nicole a week after we entered the second phase.

“It’s a portal artifact!”

Although it was not working yet, it was similar to what we had seen on the island. In the first stage, the Hunters had to assemble themselves, but this time, it was already set up. However, to point out the problem, the portal was not a safe area. After we cleared the herd of monsters, we gathered around the artifact again.

“If we turn that on, we’ll move on to stage three,”

Finishing off all the monsters in the third stage was the Clear condition of the entire dungeon. This was the last step ahead of us. But then.

“What is this? How the hell does it work?”

Hunters began to put their heads together around the artifact.

“The artifact on the first stage had a controllable button, but there’s no such thing here.”

‘It’s a kind that is seen a lot in maze-type dungeons.’

We had to make certain patterns with Mana to solve puzzles. The hint was left on top of the artifact, and it only took some time for them to interpret it. Of course, I didn’t mean to waste such time.

‘No matter how I move Mana from here, no one else can see it.’

“Can I see it, too?”

I imbued the thing with Mana, pretending to touch the artifact. And then, I added a bit of control to it. So that even after I took my hands off, the Mana would stay inside the artifact to slowly make the shape I wanted. Even after the work was done, I wriggled more meaninglessly and let it go from my hand.

“Hey, I don’t know.”

When I gave up and backed off, other Hunters rushed in and tried to solve it in many ways. After a few minutes…

Weeeng!

Suddenly, the artifact began to give off a subtle glow.

“Huh? Uh!”

Then, a familiar portal suddenly appeared in front of us. The system message sound was heard loud.

-This is the door to the third stage of the dungeon.

-Limited personnel: 3 persons

-Door closes when exposed to an unstable environment.

“Gasp!”

At last, a Hunter, who was fiddling with the artifact, made eye contact with other Hunters with a look that he did not know what kind of situation this was.

“What?! How the hell did you do that?”

“I don’t know!”

While everyone was confused, Han-seol’s face, as she once again checked the system message, stiffened.

“Fortunately, the portal was activated soon, but this isn’t going to be easy.”

“Wait. I didn’t misunderstand, did I? An unreasonable message saying something about limited personnel of three… Wait, it’s real?! What the heck?!”

Unlike the second stage, this portal of the third stage had a limit to the number of people—only three people. Only three out of twenty of us could enter the third stage.

“Oh, damn bastards!”

Nicole spoke urgently. “Wait, I don’t think the only thing we need to worry about right now is the limited number of three. If the same pattern goes on here as before…”

A terrible sound echoed from the far side of the mist before she could finish her words. “Argh!”

The cry of an Earth Dragon echoed, but it wasn’t just one or two.

“Damn bastards, I’ll knock you guys out myself if I get to see you!”

The earth vibrated. Waves began here as we experienced on the portal to the second stage.

*

“Pant! Pant! Sons of bitches!”

After the end of the battle, there were bodies of torn and crushed Earth Dragons all around. The monsters’ reactions were similar to that of a herd of Flying Dragons from the island trying to break down the portal. They were desperately after the artifact. However, this time, fortunately, the portal was not closed according to the monster density. The rules seemed to have changed since the boundaries were different in width, and there were already many monsters in the boundaries Phase 1 and Phase 2 that were linked, but they were various dungeons with distinct boundaries.

“Well, we’ll have to proceed the same way here.”

“The 17 remaining people here have to protect the portal.”

Yes, that was why I kept exposing my power that was considered more than a normal S-Rank, to be selected within three people who would move on to the third level.

“Let’s have a quick discussion.”

Who was going to be left, and who was going to go over? All the explorers put their heads together. It was Nicole who spoke first.

“Naturally, I have to be included, right? Considering the unique skill, too. Since I’m the only SS-Rank out of 20 people. If you have to select a few, it is right that I should go ahead.”

There were only two SS-Rank Hunters dispatched from other countries. The other one besides Nicole was Mei Lin Wu, who had wide-area range control skills. She remained on the defensive force of the portal in the first stage.

“Well, that’s right.”

Everyone nodded in agreement. Nicole followed right on.

“For the others, Bill Russell would be good. Do you all acknowledge his combat sense and offensive prowess?”

What she said a few days ago still lingered in my ears.

‘I’d better stay close to you for me to get out of this dungeon in one piece.’

There were no complaints there either. Instead, someone asked. “What about the other one?”

It was a sensitive issue that also affected contribution and additional compensation. One person raised the hand while everyone was busy looking around.

“Well, I think I should go,”

As soon as I saw the face, I tried to hold back the corners of my mouth from rising.

‘Wouldn’t you look at that?’

Han-seol was insisting to everyone with a look of determination.

“Yes, the other one should be me.”

“But you…”

Someone swallowed back while trying to say she was not of A-Rank. In this dungeon, Han-seol has also quite exposed her skills. Judging from that alone, not many of the S-Rank people here will be confident of winning by fighting one-on-one against her. Nicole was the one who objected with a disapproving tone.

“I know you’re a tough one beyond your rank, but wouldn’t it be better if the expedition leader stayed here?”

“Let me explain why I need to join you both and go ahead.”

Han-seol spoke calmly. She did not mention a debatable logic about whether she had to see the end as an expedition leader or that a Korean had to be the one to finish it since it was a dungeon that opened in Korea. Instead, she cited a practical reason.

“I can still communicate with the rest of the people who are left on stage two after I move on to stage three. Although for a limited time, that helps a lot.”

Someone spoke as if they had realized it. “Oh, that skill!”

“Yes, I learned the [Battlefield Command] skill of A-Rank. It’s a telepathic skill through a medium.”

I remembered the function of the skill as it is being mentioned now.

[Battlefield Command]

– Skill user, or ‘commanding officer,’ can stamp ‘soldier class insignia’ to another Awakened person, and a string of Mana connects the two. Only the commander can see the string.

– The commander can telepathically deliver orders to the soldier with the class insignia. The soldier can also report telepathically to the commander, but direct telepathic communication between soldiers is not permitted.

– The once-created string shall last for 6 hours.

“The line between the commander and the soldier doesn’t break even if you cross the portal as long as the door is open. We’ve already verified it in the previous step. Even after moving on to stage three, I can communicate with the people here for 6 hours. I can alert the situation in case of an emergency. If it’s over 6 hours? Depending on the situation, I can come back here and stamp another and return. There is no problem if we respond flexibly to the width and structure of the stage three dungeon.”

“Stage 3 could be wider than stage 2.”

“Again, we just need to be flexible. We don’t have any information right now anyway, so I’m suggesting to consider a lot of possibilities.”

No more objection could be made because everyone saw her performance comparable to that of an S-Rank Hunter. So, the three people to move on to stage 3 were chosen.

‘It’s rather going well.’

I smiled inwardly.

*

The dungeon’s third stage was also a foggy grounded area, and Nicole’s unique skills were useful as expected. Nicole, who scanned the entire dungeon, spoke.

“The overall range is rather narrower than stage two.”

“That was lucky.”

“Rather than being lucky, isn’t it designed like that in the first place?”

“To fit the limit of 3 people. Well, it’s meaningless speculation.”

Nicole then explained how many monsters there were, and how they are distributed. There was no such thing as a safe zone this time. This was because monsters were not crowded in one place and continuously moved.

“Kwaaaaah!”

A Chimera, which seemed to be a mixture of Flying Dragon of the first stage and the Ground Dragon of the second stage, appeared. The sharp horns on the skin and the terrible regeneration power allow it not to die immediately even if the upper body is divided into two, resembling the Earth-Dragon. Meanwhile, its ability to fly at high speed resembled the Flying Dragon. They attacked by flying in the low misty air, and when they were hit back, they were buried in fog, fled from our sight, and then descended again by attacking fiercely. It spewed fire and poison amid everything.

Shhhhhhhhh!

Boom boom!

“It’s running away again!”

When we began to think that we had completely taken one out, another creature from the fog showed up after it healed and rushed in.

“Let’s do this.”

It was Han-seol who had proposed the strategy after several battles. It was a combination of her skill [Battlefield Command] and Nicole’s unique skill [All-Seeing Light].

“It’s inefficient if three of us go around together like now. The process is slow, but there are too many to catch.”

She carried on. “You said that, right, Nicole? Unlike the Flying Dragon, these have a short maximum of time to stay in the air. If they fly away with a wound, they’ll have to come back down to the ground and rest, right? And the injury is then regenerated. We have to aim for that gap to finish this off quick.”

Everyone agreed.

“So, instead of moving together, Nicole, please continue scanning the entire dungeon with the [All-Seeing Light].”

“There is a limit to the number of magic eyes, so even if I scatter it at a uniform distance, we will have blind spots.”

“There’s nothing we can do about it. You can change the position of the eyes once in a while. Nicole’s skill identifies Chimeras’ flight paths hidden in the fog and let me know by your soldier’s telepathy. When they come down to the ground after their airborne time, we take the chance and strike them. We can reduce the number one by one.”

I added, “Han-seol, you and I don’t have to go together. The [Battlefield Command] skill will replace the communication device. It would be faster for each of us to go around and catch one.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Nicole objected. “If I keep using my unique skill, isn’t my Mana consumption going to be too great?”

“I’ve prepared enough potions. Please let me know if you think you’re going to have a potion shock while recharging your Mana. Then I’ll telepathically deliver the message to Russell and regroup or adjust the pace.”

I shook my head. “We can just finish the hunt before the shock comes.”

Nicole laughed. “You’re confident.”

Of course, I was.

‘I’ll have to go in and out of the blind spots of the magic eyes and slaughter them.’

Hunting was easy if I used skills and items, but I couldn’t show them to Nicole’s magic eyes. I felt comfortable moving away from the two.

“If you agree, let’s get started.”

Han-seol used her [Battlefield Command] skill to stamp the backs of our hands with a soldier class insignia. I could see that the thread of light from me to Han-seol.

‘The skill description says it’s only visible to the commander.’

That was for the common case. [The Successor’s Eyes] could see it as long as it was composed of Mana.

‘If it doesn’t feel right, I’ll just snap it off, pretending to have misused an artifact.’

“You’ve been through enough to tell how toxic this fog is, haven’t you? Don’t trust your five senses as a Hunter and move exactly as I direct you.”

Han-seol and I nodded at Nicole’s words. “Well, let’s go!”

*

After Han-seol and Seo Jin-wook, disguised as Bill Russell, were scattered as planned, Nicole remained to keep an eye on the entire dungeon. When Nicole delivered the path of Chimera to Han-seol, she caught it close to her and offered what was close to Seo Jin-wook through telepathy like a relay. Han-seol completely blocked those approaching Nicole, and Nicole stopped her [All-Seeing Light] for a while to take them down herself at times.

Seo Jin-wook referred to telepathy’s contents but did not move 100 percent as stated, so Nicole often missed his appearance. She thought it was inevitable because of the blind spots, but it was actually intended. Although it was impossible to make wide-area clairvoyance Nicole’s level, Seo Jin-wook could also see through some distance. If there seemed to be a Chimera passing through the blind spot, there was no need to hide my power, and Seo Jin-wook released the sword energy with [Artha’s Sword Dance] and flew up by [Stardust Wing] to take it down. As a result, Chimeras were wiped out much faster than Han-seol and Nicole had thought. They heard a system message earlier than expected.

– You’ve met the Clear conditions of the dungeon!

– Clear conditions: Eliminate all monsters at the last stage of the dungeon.

– The boundaries are weakened at every stage of the dungeon.

Nicole was shocked.

‘Already?’

She stumbled down, covered with sweat.

‘Phew, it’s over anyway!’

The three stopped the break of the S-class dungeon. It was worthwhile, but there was a huge reward waiting for her. The mind was naturally enriched with a break. She felt a warm sense of relief permeating her veins, which had been frozen by tension. One appeared through the fog as if she was waiting for that moment. It was Han-seol.

“You’ve done great.”

Nicole was not surprised at her brief appearance. Right before the attack, when all the Chimeras nearby disappeared, Han-seol began to return to the place where Nicole was. While Seo Jin-wook actively went far to hunt, Han-seol left the outskirts completely to him. For some reason, that helped Nicole concentrate on her unique skills. But Nicole felt the cause was somehow an excuse.

‘I don’t know why I feel so uncomfortable. Anyway, I don’t like that woman.’

While muttering inwards, Nicole smiled and waved to Han-seol.

“Well done! Wow, we finished this in less than six hours! People waiting outside the gate and the people guarding the portal must be all stunned. It took months from opening the gate to completely clearing stage 2, but it took less than a day for stage 3.”

In the process, Seo Jin-wook, who was free from other people’s sight, made a great contribution, but Nicole recognized the size of the contribution as smaller than it was. It was as Seo Jin-wook intended.

“Are you alright? Can I get you a potion, please?”

Han-seol said to Nicole. She was watching her, and her whole body was drenched with sweat. After a long time maintaining [All-Seeing Light], Nicole ran out of her core’s active Mana and faced several times the danger of going into exhaustion. She prevented encountering potion shock by drinking the potion at a timely interval. Nicole shook her hand.

“No, the last one was really close. I purposely didn’t drink the potion. If I take a sip here, I might go into a shock right away.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I have to wait for 30 minutes. Please give me the potion then.”

Nicole checked her core condition. It was close. She had only a few active Mana left. It would take some time to recover naturally. At this rate, all she could do was to make a very thin Mana barrier.

“Well, shall we get some additional reward?”

It was just as Han-seol had guessed. Considering the number of monsters that were knocked down, Nicole was, of course, the candidate for the additional reward.

“Yes, I wish you luck.”

Nicole disappeared for a while. Han-seol thought as she was left alone in the fog.

‘How long will she take?’

Most Hunters chose whatever reward they felt like choosing since they didn’t know what it was. Han-seol, who overheard the conversation that night, was aware. Nicole bragged that her senses were very good. In preparation for her quick return, as she would leave her choice to her feelings, Han-seol concentrated Mana in her hand as soon as Nicole disappeared.

Swish!

Nicole reappeared. This was one of the most distracting moments for the explorers.

“Oh, I think I got shitty compensation…”

She couldn’t finish her words. When she reappeared, there was a long stretched palm of Han-seol, just a centimeter away from Nicole’s back of the head. At the end of it, the concentrated Mana turned to an energy wave and flashed. An attack is performed at an extremely close range. There was no time to draw in the rest of her Mana and avoid it. The bullet made up of pure power smashed Nicole’s head, as she was defenseless, just like a watermelon.

Quick!

Skull fragments, thick blood, and spinal fluid splattered.

Thud!

The headless body lost its balance and collapsed—the thick blood-smeared to the dirt. Han-seol, who had so easily finished an SS-Rank Hunter, looked down at the body for a moment. She had a look that showed that she didn’t feel much emotion, a look of indifference. Han-seol mumbled to herself in the fog.

“You said you had such a good hunch, but you didn’t expect to die today, did you?”

There is a moment of silence, and then she whispered again.

“Well, that’s the same for me,”

Han-seol turned her steps. Her back soon disappeared in the thick fog, heading northwest. Although relying on the five senses of the body would lose one’s sense of direction in the fog, Han-seol walked along the ‘string’ that is visible instead of her senses. And the string was connected to Bill Russell.


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