I absentmindedly dropped down the pitch-dark hole. I felt like a skydiver who had jumped off a plane forgetting his parachute.
Nevertheless I safely landed at the bottom. While my superior physique played a part in this, the largest contributor was Fortune’s D-rank effect of ‘Safe from falls.’.
I saw it through the unfathomable darkness, a magnificent structure built in an empty space so large it was unbelievable that this was underground. The structure… should be called a palace, perhaps.
It appeared that the huge Zelkova tree planted above it had been pressing down on this palace, while its roots had dug inside and widened the cracks along its walls; however, this wasn’t the part that was drawing my attention.
“It’s a strangely familiar palace design.”
I had never gotten such a feeling from the architectural styles of the various races and countless cultures I had seen in the continents of Fantasia, and that was because this structure before me had an Eastern flavor of Earth to it.
Korea’s Gyeongbok Palace, Japan’s Himeji Castle, China’s Forbidden City… From the tiles on the roof, window, to the murals on the walls, it felt like everything good was taken and mixed in. Or was it the opposite? This here was the original, while the ones on Earth were fake? Whatever the case, I got a gut feeling the moment I saw it.
“I’m sick of journeys finding out the secret or truth of the world, though…”
I had 11 years of Hero-ing under my belt, and I had plenty of experience digging up all kinds of trivial truths. While they were grandiosely wrapped up using the word legend or myth, when you got down to actually opening them up, many of them turned out to be either childish or empty facts.
And wasn’t the very representation of this the ‘Hero of legend’? The natives of the fantasy world firmly believed that the Hero chosen by their god was an amazing human, but in reality these heroes were no more than social rejects of Earth kidnapped to be recycled. When you took away the Job perk and Holy Sword from a Hero, all that remained would be a corpse.
Except for me, that is!
▶Startled: I never heard such an enormous building was buried beneath the festival continent!
‘Huh? Wait. Miss Trainee Teacher doesn’t know about this either?’
▶Affirmation: Yes. I didn’t know at all.
A place that even an absolute figure related to the teaching staff didn’t know of. Perhaps she wasn’t able to inspect it due to being a temporary teacher and not an official one; however, regardless, it was suspicious without a doubt. Something that was hidden or that isn’t known even by the teaching staff—this reason alone made it worth looking into.
“Shall I make an entrance to start off with…”
I gave a hard kick at the palace walls.
While it was quite sturdy for an old palace, it wasn’t to the extent of withstanding my leg strength enhanced by all sorts of Skills; a rather good entrance was made.
▶Flustered: Student Kang Han Soo?! The entrance is right over there in the open though?!
‘Tsk-tsk. Miss Trainee Teacher, listen well. That’s a one-dimensional approach.’
From time immemorial, grave robbing was a specialty of ‘Heroes’. Especially if something caught my eye, whether it be some jar of gold, I would sweep up everything down to the last coin.
In the case of a ruins like this that was neglected for long, there was bound to be intact traps and watchmen dispatched in several layers at the entrance. There was no reason to insist on going to find them myself.
Humming a song to myself, I entered the palace through the freshly made entrance.
Right off the bat I saw something of a forked path before my nose; one heading right, and one left. There was no friendly warning sign, and as the paths were symmetrical, there was no hint or clue to base my judgement on. The chances of not going around in circles was fifty-fifty.
I fell into thought, stroking my chin.
“So it’s a classic labyrinth style?”
I could deeply sense the malice of the maker behind this, the intent to defeat the visitors who came aiming for a jackpot through deception and stress. I too was victim to this sort of thing countless times in the 1st Playthrough.
▶Advice: Life is a series of big and small choices. You can’t advance towards the future if you hesitate fearing failure. Student, Kang Han Soo, have courage. I’ll be cheering you on by your side!
‘Thanks, energetic Miss Trainee Teacher.’
Indeed, it was as she said. It wouldn’t do to fear failure, and yet I had been worrying and hesitating until now at the possibility of this palace, which gave off the air of holding an amazing secret of the world, collapsing.
‘I might as well start reflecting from now on.’
▶Question: Uh, Student Kang Han Soo? What exactly to you mean by collapsing…?
After summoning Holy Sword 2, I answered through action instead of words.
The jet-black aura of Dark Energy(SSS) began to envelop Holy Sword 2’s crimson blade, and an immense force amassed at its center.
As the effects of my offensive-type Skills piled atop one another, giving rise to a series of synergistic effects, Holy Sword 2 further amplified it all, and for some reason even the ‘energy of the universe’ joined in. My Level was also sufficient thanks to hunting Monarch A and the other rabble.
“This is my choice.”
I thrust Holy Sword 2 forward in a stab.
The force of Dark Energy(SSS) extended forward in a straight line, and like a bulldozer, that jet-black energy relentlessly pushed through the palace walls, monuments and the like which were blocking the way.
Pong! Crash! Boom! Pang!
A wide tunnel was formed as tens of layers of walls were penetrated.
I was going to go by the 3rd choice.
▶Disconcerted: Eh… This is a choice too I suppose. While it won’t be the adventure of mystery intended by the planner who built this palace…
‘Look here, Miss Trainee Teacher. Adventures are for the weak. Only those punks incapable of using the straightforward tactic of destroying the labyrinth cling to vague hopes as if gambling, saying, “It’ll turn out well somehow.” That’s exactly Sieg’s way of thinking.’
“… I wonder what’s become of that guy around about now?”
Right when the 4th Playthrough began, Sieg had fainted after taking a blow to the chin from me. Perhaps he was bewildered by going directly over to the 5th Playthrough after having fallen fast asleep—now that would be a bit funny.
▶Gratified: While you may pretend otherwise, Student Kang Han Soo is very considerate I see. To think you’d worry for your classmate. It’s said that friendship is love without its wing…
‘Wait! Miss Trainee Teacher!’
▶Reply: Yes? Please speak.
‘Friendship with Sieg? Love? Don’t go off anywhere spouting such horror! If the teaching staff misunderstand and stick me with Sieg again, my blood pressure might just explode.
‘Miss Trainee Teacher, did you get what I said? I’ll spread rumors that you’re a man if you don’t understand properly.’
▶Shock: I’m not a man I tell you!
‘That ain’t my concern. A Hero’s specialty is grave robbing, while incitement and fabrication his hobbies.’
I followed along the third path and headed straight inside a temple. Although I saw works of art and antiques scattered about which seemed like they’d be sold for quite a bit, I abandoned the thought as it was said the things obtained during the festival couldn’t be let outside. Of course, there were exceptions to this.
According to Miss Trainee Teacher:
1) Level EXP
2) Skill proficiency
3) Event rewards
These three things would remain in possession, which was why I gave up on my small material desire and swiftly advanced towards the deep regions of the palace.
▶Peek: Aren’t you hurrying too much?
‘Mhm, I am hurrying.’
It would be a lie to say that the palace’s Eastern architectural style wasn’t interesting; however, even at this moment the scum outside were diligently targeting my event rewards. I was absolutely not allowed to forget this fact—there was no time at all to dawdle.
“Sure is comfortable since I can ignore traps with Fortune’s effec-”
A device activated upon detecting my movement.
‘Huh? Strange. It should be normal to ignore traps?’
Upon analyzing the cause, it turned out that unbeknownst to my right hand, my left hand had been holding onto an expensive diamond. It seemed that my left hand had activated the trap by blatantly touching it. Haha! This sly leftie of mine.
The iron cells built in various spots in the temple opened, and 5 monsters let out queer screams as they pounced towards me.
Even these things appeared to be quite Eastern like the palace.
▷Job: Champion(Crisis→Fighting Skill↑)
▷Skills: Iron Fist(B) Deadly Venom(B) Fighting Skill(C) Berserk(C) Immortal(D)…
▷Condition: Thawing, Frenzy, Agitation, Fury
Ogres, or if called in the native way at home, goblins. These were humanoid monsters with sharp horns protruding from their forehead. Their average height was 5m, their four limbs were as thick as a drum barrel, and their tough-looking bodies would remind you of a dump truck.
Unlike crafty trolls, ogres were very much stupid; they lacked the very thought of tactics or cooperation. In exchange, their natural born combat instinct and physique could be considered top-level among all monsters. Their hobby was to eat men.
An ogre whose eyes were bloodshot crimson threw a punch the size of an electric rice cooker at me.
“It’s obviously not meant for the festival.”
These fellows were stronger than normal ogres. Their Levels alone far exceeded that of an ogre’s average Level of 300. If just 100 of the ogres in this temple were released on the surface, then the Hero Festival would transform into their tasting party; Hero BBQ, Hero Stew, Hero Bacon… That’s how powerful these ogres were.
Of course, that was speaking from the perspective of scum. With a light caress of Holy Sword 2, the 5 ogres were all bisected and collapsed to the dusty earth just like that.