There were several tens of thousands of dark ghosts coming at me. Still, I am confident that we could escape them.
My confidence is based on two things.
First, the dark ghosts’ flight speed is not all that fast.
They were way behind Talaria's Wings’s flight speed.
Of course, since I am holding Myong Myong, I am not going to be able to use the maximum speed. Still…
Secondly, I had the Soul Steal, which will be critical against the ghosts.
The Soul Steal’s effect was applied on the ghosts that were coming at me.
The dark ghosts usually didn’t make any sounds. However, once the Soul Steal was used, they started to scream in pain. It seems they were suffering.
There were several tens of thousands ghosts, and they were all starting to moan in pain. It is creepy experiencing this.
With the Soul Steal applied, the ghosts’ flight speed has slowed significantly.
The Soul Steal’s cheat like qualities included that superb effect, but moreover, there were also that the effects were applied in a very wide range, and the effects were not affected by the number of the targets.
The skill’s performance is not negatively affected no matter how many enemies there were; let it be orders of thousands, tens of thousands or more.
Through the noticeably slower dark ghosts, I flew through them as if I was doing aerobatics.
In the past, I had used the Talaria's Wings’s flight ability many times through long hours. So, I am quite used to the flight, and I was able to lose the ghosts pursuing us.
The dark ghosts chased after us. They didn’t give up. However, there is the difference in speed, so they were not able to catch up to us.
Instead, the distance between us and the ghosts continued to increase over time.
We escaped their formation. Now, we have some moment to spare. Myong Myong moved his head to direct the way.
Initially, Myong Myong was afraid of the flight. However, that didn’t last long. Now, he is smiling like the little kid he is.
He said he liked the wind pouring onto his face more than the flight itself. He said the wind was cool and refreshing.
After a while, I even held Myong Myong up so that he could fully face our destination with his body.
Like that, we flew for a few hours. The lush forest ended, and a wide green field started to come inside the view.
It seems to be the destination.
All I did was follow Myong Myong’s directions to get here. We were able to get here without getting lost.
Unlike my initial concern, Myong Myong is not afraid of the flight. So, we were able to get here faster than I thought.
If I knew this, it would’ve been better if we moved by flying since the first day.
Wait, if we did, then my journey with Myong Myong would have become shorter.
The pace was slow, but it is enjoyable traveling through the forest with Myong Myong.
Thinking about that made me feel sad that we left the forest.
“Myong Myong, should we land and walk from now on?”
Out of foolish regrets, I asked.
“Ho, are you very tired?
It seems Myong Myong interpreted my question to mean that I must be tired and having difficulty in maintaining the flight.
Talaria's Wings is a power skill. It didn’t spend any of my own power for its use.
However, I decided to keep quiet and nodded to say that I was.
After seeing me express that I was exhausted, concerns and a sense of apology showed in his large, round eyes.
Could it be that he is thinking I overdone the flight for him and got tired because he said he liked flying?
It is poking my conscious.
I avoided the random tree branches that were tangled up and landed on the surface.
As soon as we landed, Myong Myong said to me,
“Ho, let’s eat here and rest before going again.”
I looked around the area with my detection skill and then agreed.
The dark ghosts were not even near the area yet.
We came here at quite the high speed. I think we have plenty of time to eat and rest for a bit.
As Myong Myong requested, I brought out various things for him from the inventory and the dimensional bag.
First, Myong Myong fixed some uneven surfaces on the ground and picked off rocks.
At an even surface, he placed the floor mat and cushion seats.
He firmly pressed the cushion to see if it was soft. Myong Myong said,
“Ho. Have a seat here and rest. I’ll prepare everything by myself.”
Usually, even when Myong Myong took charge of cooking, I handled setting the places to sit on the ground and making the fire.
However, perhaps because Myong Myong thought I was tired, he said he would do everything by himself.
I knew Myong Myong liked doing things for other people, so I let him be. I sat on the cushion seat.
I watched Myong Myong be busy. It is pleasant to watch. However, at the same time, I felt sad. The feeling kept on lingering.
If we walk like this, we were going to be able to leave the forest in half a day or a day at the most.
I was about to sigh, but I held it in.
Myong Myong would worry if he saw me sigh.
I took a moment to organize my thoughts. I decided.
I decided to take Myong Myong to the outside of the forest as soon as the meal is over, and I will take him there without hesitation.
During the last floor, I had been circling around out of my desire and greed to stay there longer. I handled the stage haphazardly. I remembered the result of my actions very well. They were still very vivid in my head.
There is no guarantee that the same kind of things would not happen.
I did not want to experience something so horrible again. So, I decided to take Myong Myong outside of the forest right away and clear the stage.
That is what I decided.
Myong Myong was preparing the food. However, it seemed he saw the gloomy atmosphere on my face. He was holding a pot, but he put it down and walked toward me.
He went to my back and massaged my shoulders.
Myong Myong’s height was about the same as my sitting height. So, he had to stand on the tips of his toes and massage my shoulders.
“Was it very exhausting?”
I could feel the sincerity in his voice. He is genuinely concerned.
I felt something surging up from inside.
I was holding down the sigh, but I could not help but to let it out.
I felt like something else was going to fall down if I didn’t sigh.
I raised my hand and held Myong Myong’s tiny hand that was on my shoulder.
“No. I’m fine.”
I wanted to sound as normal as I could. However, my voice was shaking a little.
Myong Myong leaned on my back and hugged me.
I felt the warmth coming from the back. As I felt the warmth, I could be even more certain of my decision.
It is truly unfortunate that I could not be with this child longer. However, I am unaware of the traps still left in this stage. Therefore, I must clear the stage as fast as I can. That is what I decided.
I swear that I won’t let the horrible misfortune hiding in the stage to surface in front of this child.
I swear that I’ll resolve it no matter what if it does happen before I clear the stage.
* * *
We finished the meal and cleaned up the place. At that time, I could hear the ghastly scream in the distance. I thought the dark ghosts could not catch up to us today because of their slow flight speed. So, I could not help but to be surprised.
I flew up to the top of a tree. From there, I saw something unexpected.
The one approaching with ghastly scream was indeed a dark ghost.
However, there is just one ghost instead of the swarm earlier.
Also, the ghost is truly humongous.
The ghost completely covered the open sky. It is so large that it is fully blocking the sunlight.
When the swarm of dark ghosts faced the situation where they could not catch up to me and Myong Myong before we leave the forest, could it be that they combined together or something?
The gigantic dark ghost is approaching us at an incredible speed.
First, I quickly went down to the surface and explained the situation to Myong Myong.
After that, I brought out the tent from the inventory and set it up in middle of trees.
The tent had several magical effects installed, including camouflage. So, it should be better than being out in the open.
I ushered Myong Myong into the tent and used the Soul Collect skill.
[Soul collect count: 11043]
They were the souls I had been collecting all along so far.
They were mostly white and dark ghosts.
I had been experimenting through the past few days. So, I already checked that the collected souls do not join forces with other ghosts.
“All of you, appear.”
The skill was activated. The souls of the ghosts came out and filled the area around the tent where Myong Myong was in.
The souls were all tiny, smaller than the size of a pinky finger. Still, there were over ten thousand of them, so they exuded quite the presence.
“All of you, protect Myong Myong.”
These were the souls who would ignore a command as simple as moving forward when given from me. However, when it came to requests related to Myong Myong, they usually granted the requests.
The requests such as “surprise Myong Myong” or “be around Myong Myong” and other requests like that were usually granted.
So, I tried out the command while hoping for the best. Fortunately, the souls followed my words and gathered tightly around Myong Myong.
As for the souls that could not enter the tent, they made a large barricade around the tent.
When I tried to approach the tent, the souls all opened their arms and screamed.
… I had no idea what kind of combat abilities I could expect out of them, but their presence should be better than nothing.
“Myong Myong, please wait here for a bit.”
Beyond the tightly packed wall of souls, Myong Myong complained and begged me not to leave him alone, but I ignored his complaint.
Until now, I was confident about being able to protect Myong Myong regardless of the strength of my enemies.
So far, it was actually safer for Myong Myong to be right next to me at all times.
However, currently, there is a huge enemy approaching.
Instead of having Myong Myong coming with me, it is the right choice to have him stay here and go to the battle by myself.
After placing defensive measures around Myong Myong, I opened Talaria's Wings and flew up to the sky.
While watching the gigantic ghost approaching rapidly, I organized my battle plan.
I don’t know how powerful the ghost’s defenses were. Still, I don’t think it would be able to block an attack that has Aura Blade applied.
Moreover, I could feel the giant ghost’s core clearly.
It is a mountain-sized ghost. However, I should be able to eliminate it if I destroy that core.
The problem is that this important core is inside the ghost’s body. Also, I didn’t have a weapon that could pierce the core in a single shot.
To reach that ghost’s core, which is located in the middle of the ghost, I will need a weapon that is at least as long as a building.
However, to destroy the ghost, I have to destroy the core.
I changed the Transmutable Thousand Arms’s form to a long spear.
There is only one answer I can think of.
Using Aura Blade-based attacks, I need to cut away little by little toward the center of the ghost from the outside.
I’ll repeat the process until its core is exposed, and then I’ll destroy the core.
I will fight in a relatively simple pattern.
The gigantic ghost possesses incredible speed, and it also has sharp ice pick-like hands and huge teeth. Still, I am confident about dodging all of the ghost’s attack midair.
So, the battle is going to be about if I could destroy the core before being exhausted. It is a battle of attrition.
As the distance closed, the giant ghost hastened its speed by a level and charged toward me. Watching the ghost, I tightened my grip on my hand.
Although my plan is scratching away at the ghost’s body little by little, considering the ghost’s huge size, I had to make the Aura as long as possible.
Having the Aura to extend beyond the weapon is a very exhausting practice. So, I must activate the Aura only during the moments when I’m attacking.
I used the skill and calmed my breathing.
Instead of the enemy’s attack, I should focus more on my own attacks.
The ghost came to a close range. It constantly roared.
Instead of waiting for it to attack, I approached into its arm’s range.
As soon as I approached it, the ghost swung its arms to attack me.
Its gigantic arm is coming at me up front.
Instead of it being an arm, I feel like a building is flying towards me.
In fact, that’s probably closer to what’s actually happening.
I dodged the ghost’s arm by a thin margin and diagonally swung the spear which had the Aura applied.
By the time the ghost’s arm reached the other side in the distance, I was able to leave a long wound on the arm.
Lengthwise, the wound is over a few dozen meters long. However, in comparison to the ghost’s gigantic body, it is not even noticeable.
Damn it. When will I reach and destroy the core at this rate?
This is totally just going to be a grind.
* * *
[Round 19, Day 15, 07:10]
With a scream that sounded as if the source was moving away to the distance, the gigantic ghost dissipated into the empty air.
I confirmed that the ghost is destroyed and then used the Soul Collect skill.
[Soul collect count: 211659]
The count had increased substantially.
As I thought, the gigantic ghost was the result of a huge number of ghosts combining together.
Still, are the souls not merged as one and recognized individually?
I think I should ask Kiri Kiri about this later.
Two hundred thousand, an incredible number, were added. Still, I am not able to feel all that happy.
I am too tired to feel that way.
The ghost was literally the size of a mountain. To destroy its core, I spent several hours flying around and swinging my spear.
Later in the battle, one of the ghost’s arms was cut off in a whole. So, its attack patterns had been one sided since. Although I had been pouring on attacks since then, it still took too much time.
The battle started during the dinner time. However, the battle ended in the morning the next day.
I landed and disengaged the Talaria's Wings.
As soon as my legs that supported my body weight hit the ground, my knees faltered.
I spent too much mana.
It seems my mana circuit is affected. A corner of my stomach felt stiff.
My stamina also felt empty.
I think it has been a very long time since I have exhausted myself like this.
I moved my faltering legs and headed to the tent where Myong Myong is.
Fortunately, there were still over ten thousand souls of ghosts that were standing watch around the tent.
I commanded the souls who were blocking the tent’s entrance. However, the souls did not step aside.
Fortunately, the “disappear” command was effective.
The countless souls suddenly disappeared.
With the souls gone, I was able to look inside the tent.
Inside the tent, Myong Myong was there. He is sobbing while being curled up just like how he was on the first day we met.
“Myong Myong, did you wait long?”
Having heard me, Myong Myong quickly got up and rushed into my arms.
He tried to say things, but I am not able to understand them exactly.
Still, I could be certain about what he meant for the most part.
It seems that he is very scared. He is unable to stop crying. I brushed Myong Myong’s back and sighed.
For a Hell Difficulty floor, I thought the 19th Floor stage was going rather smoothly, so I was starting to feel worried.
Usually, when a Hell Difficulty stage felt easy, it meant there was a trap hiding somewhere.
However, now that I safely defeated the gigantic ghost that appeared at the end, I felt slightly at ease.
With lightened heart, I patted Myong Myong’s back and consoled him. Myong Myong is unable to stop crying.
* * *
[Round 19, Day 15, 13:05]
I held Myong Myong’s hand and continued to walk. We arrived at the line that is the border of the forest.
Beyond the border is a wide green field.
Also, in this place where the forest ended and the green field started, there is a small village.
It is Myong Myong’s home village.
Myong Myong said his tribe members were all skilled at housework, and they took on the professions for helping others.
So, if only his tribe members lived together, since they all would insist on doing works such as cleaning and decorating, the economy of the village would not function smoothly.
Therefore, most of the tribe members left the village to work in other places.
He said that his tribe members usually got work from the merchants who stopped by at the village and left the village together.
Because of that, some are away from the village for a few months to several years, and some stay away for a long time, even up to half of one’s lifespan. Like that, Myong Myong’s tribe members worked at places far from the home village and earned money.
He said that they return to the village once there isn’t any more work. They would rest and find new work or prepare for retirement.
They were quite literally benevolent house spirits.
Perhaps because this is the village of such a tribe, the roads around the village were organized neatly.
There is a large wooden fence that surrounded the entire village. However, instead of a practical fence, the fence is decorated like something out of a modern day’s movie set.
The scenery inside the fence that I could see is also clean and humble.
I held Myong Myong’s hand as we walked toward the village. A message appeared.
[You cleared 19th Floor of the Tutorial in Hell Difficulty.]
[All of your abnormality and wounds will be healed.]
[You acquired 3000 points as clear reward.]
[You acquired 3000 points for the first clear.]
[Many gods are showing positive responses to you. You acquired 3500 points.]
[Many gods are showing negative responses to you. You lost 600 points.]
[Additional rewards are given based on the play record.]
[You acquired 4500 points as an additional reward.]
I succeeded in clearing the floor.
It looked like this is the end of the 19th Floor.
A portal appeared below my feet.
I stopped for a moment, and Myong Myong looked up at me.
Um… Should I at least take him to the inside of the village and then leave?
Thinking like that, I started to walk toward the village again.
Step after step, my steps felt heavy. While I walked toward the village, the village’s wooden fence suddenly moved.
The fence made a loud noise and slammed closed in front of me and Myong Myong.
I vacantly stood there. I was unable to say anything about the situation. At that moment, from beyond the wooden fence, I heard a locking sound.
I think the village is definitely refusing to allow me and Myong Myong to enter the place.
What is this?
The stage is cleared already, so what is this?
Buy us some coffee!