It seemed that he had been serious—after leaving the pub swaying just like that, Sieg packed his things the next day and set off on an adventure without making any plans.
Really! Was he still going through puberty?
‘Then shall I kill him?’
I had no intention of grabbing hold of a failed test paper and rotten rope. If the 3rd Playthrough was doomed, then I just had to move on to the 4th Playthrough. This was also why I didn’t try to raise my Level—the Demon King’s penalty. The lower the hero’s Level was, the weaker the Demon King became. I was being prepared to assassinate Demon King Pedonar and begin the re-test at any time, in case it looked like my reputation was done for or showed no signs of improving.
‘Who said anything?’
“Sir Hero! Sir Hero! It’s terrible!”
In the far distance off, I caught the sight of Lanuvel, already sobered despite guzzling down so many drinks all night, running over while acting cute. When she had drawn near I asked, “Why? Feel like you were submerged in formalin?”
Being so soaked in alcohol, I didn’t feel that Lanuvel’s corpse would rot even if she did die.
“Sir Hero! This isn’t the time to be spouting such incomprehensible things! Sir Sieg got a woman!”
“Yes! And three at that! Isn’t it amazing?!”
It went beyond amazing and sounded like a miracle to me.
There were three people in total who were accompanying Sieg on his adventure. Their jobs were respectively priest, archer and thief. The three were all said to be capable beauties who were fairly well regarded by the kingdom’s mercenary agency. The priest was a daughter of a famous count’s household, and the archer was an Elf who was formerly a slave. The thief’s identity was apparently unclear.
In any case, they were said to be young and pretty.
“Really, how extraordinary.”
He was so busy getting thrashed by Alex day after day, yet when did he find women? And all three of them beauties at that?
I put my plan to kill the Demon King right away on hold. That Sieg was going on an adventure with girls?
‘Goddamn! I’m too curious!’
… But my workload ended up increasing due to Sieg’s escape. There really was no end to this charity business.
“Bloody Alex. Croaking after leaving a mess.”
Alex was troubling me even in death. He should have only sacrificed himself if he wanted to save Hero Sieg, no? Yet he drove the palace knight order into the abyss of death as well. As a result, the strength of the kingdom had plummeted. There was no impact on regular soldiers and so there was no problem with public order yet, but there was a drastic reduction in field commanders that could be called elites. That the kingdom’s security became poor was no surprise either.
Things would be difficult left alone as is, the reason being that the countless demon worshipers who directly received my commands already knew that I was controlling the kingdom from the shadows. This secret would leak not long in the future and at that time, if the kingdom’s situation wasn’t good, a fatal blow would be dealt to my reputation and character scores. Even though it was a mess enough as it was because of the flood!
As of now, I had no mind to spare for Sieg’s adventure.
“I have to turn the demon worshipers into military strength.”
In this fantasy world, your Level and Skill would be greater the more evil you were, as your EXP and Skill proficiency would rise upon killing others. Demon worshipers were no exception to this. There were some who were deeply involved in political and commercial circles, and there were even armed forces in the 1st Playthrough that were powerful enough to wipe the Dumpling Kingdom off the map.
The Dark Knight Order. Those associated were not only present in kingdoms, but scattered across everywhere in the continents. A group made up of the most elite, talented orphans secretly taken in and forged through harsh training.
The Dark Knight Order was also here in the Dumpling Kingdom, but it would take 3 more years if they were to surpass the palace knight order and grow powerful enough to overthrow the kingdom. This was because the B-rank demon was leading their movement, but if an SS-rank individual like me stepped up, it would be as easy as I had dealt with the Elf King.
“Sir Hero! Sir Hero!”
Lanuvel stuck to me like gum, chirping by the side.
“Aren’t you going to follow after Sieg?”
“You, are you nuts? What about my reputation and the kingdom? It should originally have been Sieg and not me supporting the kingdom. Since Alex died because of him, he should have taken that responsibility as well. This impudent punk went off on a journey with girls.”
His personality was trash-level, and yet Sieg was worthy of an A-grade in character? It was dubious whether the teaching staff were sane.
‘And who’ll defend the kingdom until then?’
It was sloppy. Much too careless.
At present, this kingdom would become a scene of hell if even a single Level 400 demon were to invade. The Dumpling King and the two princes would meet their deaths within instants, while the queen and princess would be reduced to the playthings of countless demons.
Even now, as long as I was willing, I could usurp the crown without lifting even a finger. The demon worshipers were already completely in full control of this kingdom; it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say there wasn’t a place that my influence didn’t reach here. This peace wasn’t just made out of nothing.
‘That’s what you call escaping from reality, though?’
I knew well what Professor Morals was trying to say. Sieg held the dream and hope that the kingdom would remain safe until he completed his growth. He was only chasing after the obscure future without looking at the present. Hah! Wasn’t he a complete gambler? But I was different.
I was going to face the present head on and lead the future. This was why I had prepared this occasion.
“The palace knight order has become nothing but an empty name. My friends, you all are the kingdom’s future from now on.”
Lined up before me were 300 young men and women. Although they were still greenhorns that stunk of milk, within 3 years they would transform into bloodthirsty killers who would plunge this kingdom into shock and fear. They were merely laughable as of now, though.
A set of Skills only emphasized for combat. Even those ranks were at a standard hard to achieve around that age. Approximately 10,000 children had been thrown into a murderous training scheme akin to a heartless war, and 300 of them remained at the end. The way they were trained wasn’t as sane as Alex’s methods. They were the products made by grinding people.
It still wasn’t the end. According to the plan, they would keep at it for 3 more years. 200 of them would drop out of the competition and only 100 would remain until the end. Only 1% of the original 10,000 would survive. Even the efficiency of this training method was dubious, and that was why I had put a halt to it.
“I will give a chance to you all who do not even have a proper name! Grow strong and find your name yourselves! Because I will show you the way.”
I activated Dark Energy(SS), a power of the highest level on another league from the B-rank demon’s! The barbarians of this world called this a ‘demon’s contract’.
The energy of darkness unleashed from my body disappeared from sight as it was evenly absorbed by the 300 young men and women. There was an immediate change to their Status.
Race, Job, Skill, Condition. Everything had changed apart from their Level, and their looks as well; the color of their hair and eyes which had been diverse, as becoming of fantasy world natives, had turned a uniform black. Upon closer observation, some kind of protrusion had appeared above the outer edges of their ears. Horns had only partly grown, as they weren’t pure demons. Even so, however, their physical bodies had become superior to that of pure humans. Their racial advantage had changed.
“You all have been reborn. Do you believe in me?”
Their responses were satisfying. They differed from the ordinary knight who disregarded training for the sake of honor and keeping up appearances, and only chased after the skirts of maidens. These men and women had no EXP perk like a hero, and yet they had managed to achieve this much growth. It wouldn’t do for me to not grant them an adequate reward for this. It was time to reveal my 1st Playthrough knowledge.
“From now on, I will let all of you know of the hunting grounds that suit you. The time limit is one month. Reach Level 200 with the resolve to die. Ah! But don’t be disheartened even if you fail. The weak will be given tasks befitting of the weak. Go!”
“Platoon 1, depart!”
“Platoon 2, prepare!”
“Platoon 3, standby!”
The future Dark Knight Order moved in perfect order. They would develop and clean up the mess that Alex and Sieg had shat out, and then let me embrace a positive reputation.
A month to go. My schedule would be a bit tough, but this much was enough to focus on raising the Dark Knight Order while residing in the kingdom.
After this matter, I planned on also leaving the kingdom and journeying across the continents. I was going to build up achievements while being careful of my character being called into question, whereas for my reputation I was going to gradually expand it using this kingdom as the base.
Investigating his destination would be the goal of the journey. If things still didn’t look good though, I would only have to go take down the Demon King right away. There was no need to be impatien…
“Sir Hero! You’re really amazing!”
Lanuvel, who had been quietly watching by the side, flattered me foolishly.
“What about me?”
“The air around Sir Hero was so fearsome that I thought you were Demon King Pedonar’s incarnation! Your acting is outstanding!”
“… Hey, Lanuvel.”
“Have you even seen the Demon King before?”
I had met with the top dog with my life on the line twice, though.
“Eh… No. I haven’t.”
“Don’t wag your tongue then! It’s always daft fools like you who spread groundless speculations and ruin the reputation of others! Put a sock in it while I’m speaking foul and not killing you!”
I couldn’t wrap my head around my reputation in the 2nd Playthrough, no matter how I thought about it.
I had massacred the demons back then—what I hunted weren’t any old living fossils—and yet my reputation dropped instead of rising. That… was proof that 2nd Playthrough Lanuvel didn’t do her work properly. Thus, I had to consider another measure to take. I tried imagining my current grades:
1) Combat Ability: Don’t care.
2) Achievement: Let’s kill the Elf King again!
3) Reputation: Meltdown imminent.
4) Character: No problem.
The most urgent matter was to recover my reputation which had gone to the dogs after hunting Ullullu. A 4th Playthrough would be guaranteed if something wasn’t done about this. I had a rather excellent plan in mind, however—the demon worshipers. They were scattered everywhere across the continents. I intended on rallying the whole lot of them and have them promote the public opinion of me into saying, “Sir Hero Kang Han Soo! You’re the best!”
It was easy to fool the idiotic barbarians of this world.
The Dumpling Kingdom would be the first step to accomplishing this.
2 months had passed in the blink of an eye.
My perfect plan had proceeded without a hitch. The entire members of the Dark Knight Order had really reached over Level 200. The number of members who had drawn close to Level 300 weren’t few either.
At the same time, the small harem Sieg had formed had grown as well, but I couldn’t help feeling frustrated every time I received a report about them.
“To comfort the loneliness of a grandma living alone whose husband and children have passed away, staying at her home for two days while doing the cleaning, cooking, laundry and so on, just what…?”
Was it that heroes had to pay mind to the welfare of the elderly?
Sieg’s adventure was a bizarre one. Most of what he did was welfare activities which anyone could do even if they weren’t a hero. Cases of him behaving abnormally, saving the EXP that he took down with effort, weren’t few either. Thanks to that, the growth of Sieg’s party was at a despairing level.
Hero B: Level 125 → Level 124
Priest A: Level 56 → Level 73
Archer A: Level 245 → Level 247
Thief A: Level 118 → Level 125
It was a surprising magical feat, setting off on an adventure and becoming weaker! Sieg was showing a miraculous rate of development where his Level was falling despite having received a hero’s EXP 500% perk.
I could deny it no longer—Sieg was definitely a masochist. Priest A having made a jump in growth while healing Hero B was proof of it.
“Sir Hero, are you worrying about Sieg again? I think my esteemed hero is too kind-hearted~𝅘𝅥𝅮”
Aqua spoke while using a spear to stab the throat of a Level 615 Orc chieftain.
“Aqua! Aqua! Are you hurt anywhere?”
“Not this time as well because of the awesome Sir Hero~”
“… I see.”
Behind Aqua was Saintess A, who had been in an ill mood the entire journey. She had insisted on chasing after us, even though I had told her there was no need for her to follow. The purpose of this journey was to find Ullullu’s destination, and around half a month had now passed since its beginning.
Hero A: Level 750 → Level 751
Scholar A: Level 200 → Level 352
Heroine A: Level 236 → Level 537
Saintess A: Level 124 → Level 124
I had taken note of Sieg’s adventure and was raising these muppets on my back.
‘Professor Morals, are you looking at this? Please include this well in my character and reputation scores.’
“Sir Hero! Lanuvel is way too tired!”
Lanuvel sunk to her knees in the grass.
‘… This kid is testing this gentle hero.’
“Get up right now! Spineless kids like you will only come to their senses after being caught and subjected to some physical talk! Do you wanna experience it that much?”
In any case, things were going extremely smooth.