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!
‘Huh? Wait. Miss Trainee Teacher doesn’t know about this either?’
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.
‘Wait! Miss Trainee Teacher!’
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.
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.
The ogres, famous for their tenacious vitality, breathed their last one after another and turned into EXP. I didn’t confirm their deaths one by one, but instead quickly passed through the area. There was no need to stop due to running across some ants during a stroll, was there?
I ran into three more of such interferences.
My experiences and intuition told me that I had arrived at my destination.
“It must be here.”
The decoration alone of the firmly shut grand doors before me was dazzling. There was bound to be a treasure or boss monster of the temple inside.
‘Really now! Miss Trainee Teacher, I’ve done 11 years of Hero-ing. Grave robbing is my specialty, got it?’
Seeing how Miss Trainee Teacher didn’t seem to be able to believe me even after saying this much, I decided to show a light demonstration.
I lightly jumped on the spot, twice.
“One, two, one, two~”
I shook my pelvis to the left and right, matching the rhythm; this was an exercise to lightly stretch the waist so as to prevent a herniated disc. Afterwards, I pulled my right foot back, and then launched it forwards with all my might. This kick was acknowledged 4 times in a row by Demon King Pedonar—its power and performance were impeccable.
The enormous doors were destroyed like cardboard.
“Gasp! Who is it!”
There was a boss in the room as I had expected; an Elf male who appeared very much similar to the Elf King. I could already feel the wickedness oozing from his very genes. My 11 years of experience whispered to me: that’s definitely the incarnation of evil.
The wicked boss who had been sitting on his throne shot to his feet and shouted, “That sword, could it be…!”
He seemed to know of Holy Sword 2, a joyful news which I hadn’t expected at all, because Demon King Pedonar had left some profound bait saying, “Show Holy Sword 2 to the Oblivion Dragon King,” before his death. In the 4th Playthrough I took down the Demon King straightaway and it ended, yet it was in an unexpected place that I discovered a clue to the sword.
“You know about this Holy Sword?”
“Of course! I am extremely well aware.”
“But O Hero, how is it that you have come this far alone? I do not see my daughter who went out to receive you at the palace entranc—Guegh?!”
After leading the boss’ line of sight onto Holy Sword 2, I threw a hard blow at his slender jaw. This was but the beginning, however. Cut! Stab! And pummel!
“It would’ve been real dangerous if I didn’t know.”
“K-keuh… O Hero, why do you attack…?”
I had obtained extremely important information from the boss’ words—that there was another monster similar to him.
This was the boss’ Status. It was on a different league from the pathetic Elf King who lost his wife to the Demon King. They were only similar in appearance. The ranks and make up of the boss’ Skills were at a terrifying level. Perhaps the one relief was that his defensive Skills were relatively lower ranked.
I could handle going one-on-one against him, but two of such opponents would be impossible. So…
“Shut it and die already!”
I had to take the boss down while he was alone before his darned daughter, who was supposedly lurking at the palace entrance, noticed something was up.
“O-O Hero! Let us talk for just a moment…!”
Fallen to a disadvantage, the boss insisted on talking peacefully; however, I knew—the moment I let my heart soften at his offer of peace and showed an opening, the boss who was pretending to be aggrieved would close his mouth cleanly and counter-attack.
Now wasn’t the time to hesitate. The boss’ darned daughter could be on her way back. I would become disadvantaged the more I dragged out the time.
‘Me? I lived amidst the deception and backstabbing of my companions!’
“I won’t be fooled anymore.”
“Kuh! How could one called Hero be so rash-”
His heart pierced through by Holy Sword 2, the boss’ life came to an end.
My Level shot up.
And Black-Box advanced in rank as well.
“Hmm. Is there some connection between races of similar attribute…?”
I could no longer pass it off as coincidence. If only to oppose the Fantasy God who only let retards graduate, this was worth investigating. But where would it be good to start…
“My father the King, I did not see the Hero who released the seal on the underground priso… My father!?”
It seemed like I could get investigating right away.