[Lee Ho-jae, 60th Floor: All right… Don’t die.]
I sent the message to Lee Yun-hye.
I’m sure she will do well.
She’s made plenty of preparations. The rest is up to her.
I was about to close the large book on the desk, but I stopped my hand.
Instead, I flipped to the front page.
The contents at the beginning of the book were the records up to when Lee Hyung-jin challenged the 17th Floor.
Most of the contents were about plans and records for accelerating his development.
Also, the pages were filled with comparative analysis between him and the mirage at the 17th Floor as he continued to develop.
I flipped each page slowly as I read the contents.
Soon, I got to the part that was just before Lee Hyung-jin challenged the floor.
The day before he challenged the 17th Floor, the records showed a detailed analysis of his growth, simulation of his duel against the mirage, the result and his analysis of the simulation’s results.
That was the end of the records by Lee Hyung-jin.
As for the records afterwards… They were not by Lee Hyung-jin.
I brought out a piece of candy from the inventory and bit on it.
I decided to correct my habit of signing whenever I felt uneasy.
As Yong Yong grew, he started to be even more disapproving toward my singing.
Does he hate it that much?
Whenever he heard me sing, he snarled like a cat who just heard the vacuum cleaner turning on. Thinking about his reactions to my singing shames me a little.
I could understand Yong Yong.
I was well aware that I was terrible at singing.
So, instead of singing, I decided to put something sweet in my mouth.
I’ve heard that sweet substances improve one’s mood, although I don’t think it is helping much.
I was thinking about this while remembering a friend who always looked happy to have something sweet. However, this turned out to be not all that great of an idea.
Thinking about the friend made me feel good for a moment.
However, right after that, I felt low again.
I have not seen that friend for such a long time now.
[What are you doing? Masturbating by yourself?]
This lunatic bastard. What did you just say?
[What are you doing all cooped up in your room? Why are your emotion in such chaos? You are making me get motion sickness, so calm down, will ya?]
Lately, the clone bastard said he wanted to have his own private life, so he had the mental and emotional links severed.
However, because he was my clone, he couldn’t completely severe the emotional link between us.
In the end, he must have somehow felt the change in my mood. That must be why he is complaining.
As I thought, eating something sweet does not help calming my mind at all.
With the candy still in my mouth, I started to sing as my usual habit dictated.
Concerned that Yong Yong might hear it outside, I sang in a quiet voice.
I felt like I could calm down a little as I hummed.
With a slightly lighter mind, I finished reading the rest of the book.
Now, the records were detailing Lee Yun-hye’s growth.
I carefully read to the very last page and closed the book.
The 17th Floor. I had been agonizing for a very long time because of the 17th Floor.
Actually, the theme of the floor was not particularly problematic.
Let’s think about this based on the information gathered so far.
In a way, it could be said that the stage had a creative motive.
The 17th Floor was focused on analyzing the information about the challenger who passed it last.
It was the first stage ever to be about another challenger.
The battle was going to be decided on how well the new challenger analyzes the information provided about the past challenger at the time of clearing the 17th Floor and comes up with countermeasures to defeat the mirage of the past challenger.
The preparation for the battle was more important than the duel itself.
Besides analysis, communication, social skills and personal relationships were important.
If the past challenger who cleared the 17th Floor intentionally lies about one’s own abilities, it could be fatal to the new challenger.
On top of this, it is not easy to provide detailed information about one’s own abilities.
This has to be based on trust.
So, the 17th Floor is strikingly unique from other stages where the challenger grinds and struggles to clear the stage. It recognizes that the Tutorial system is a society of its own, and the preparation for the duel is done using this assumption.
This method of clearing the 17th Floor could be easily implemented because of the characteristics of the challengers.
Challengers grew through acquiring skills, so they usually developed specializations.
Some lacked close-range combat skills, so they were defenseless against close range attacks. Some were weak against flanking attacks. Some were weak against magic. Some were weak against mental attacks. Some were weak against a drawn-out battle or a short battle. Some were neutralized by specific items or skills.
Exploiting such unique weaknesses, the challengers could clear the stage in order like playing rock-paper-scissors.
Challengers in the American server my advice and clearly established the specializations of the challengers. They picked orders and challenged the 17th Floor.
So, most challengers were able to pass the 17th Floor without much trouble.
In our server, the problem was me.
Unlike other servers, in Korean server, we had an irregularity named Lee Ho-jae.
I didn’t exactly have any specialization when I was at the 17th Floor.
Perhaps because I had a tendency to not want to have any weakness, or perhaps I happened to have been gaining skills I needed at the right times, but…
I didn’t have any particular weakness back then.
I was good at everything: drawn out battles, short battles, fighting against many, few, fighting a surrounding formation, difficult battles, I was strong against everything.
I was immune to mental attacks. I even had resistance to curses.
In addition, I could ignore most status abnormalities.
Against ranged fighters, I could get close in an instant with superior movement skills. Against the close-range fighters, I squashed them with my attack power and ability to take on beatings.
I was also good at fighting against magic. Skills like stealth were no use against me.
On top of this, I was quick, so I always got to deal the first strike.
I really didn’t have an answer on how to fight something like me.
On top of this, I was firm with split-second decisions. I had great senses, and I had quick reflexes.
I never hesitated to fight dirty when I realized the opponent was powerful.
When the situation turned against me, I used moves that harmed both my opponent and myself.
In such situations, relying on my pain resistance, faint resistance and etc. and my mental strength and focus, I charged in risking both of us getting hit and possibly dying in the process.
I really am a mad dog.
Also, the 16th Floor had the doppelgangers, and this was a problem.
The mirage at the 17th Floor has fresh memories of the doppelgangers.
If the challenger tried to convince the mirage by explaining the secret behind the 17th Floor and ask it to help the challenger pass through the 17th Floor…
The mirage will smile, say ‘ah, yes. That totally makes sense. Haha,’ and stab the challenger.
Convincing the mirage was not going to be possible.
Even if the challenger tried to mention some distant memory that might trigger a response from the mirage; the Tutorial system won’t allow it.
The mirage won’t comprehend it or delete it from the memory immediately.
In the end, to fight the mirage of myself from the 17th Floor, there is no point in aiming for the specialization.
The challenger has to fight me by having superior stats, although even that won’t guarantee victory.
There is no other way.
Didn’t you sever all links with me?
[I reconnected them. I was wondering what was going on.]
Is that so.
Hey, what would my mirage at the 17th Floor think when it meets someone of Lee Yun-hye’s caliber as the opponent?
[It probably will curse at the difficulty.]
That’s probably it.
It will promptly swear at the gods.
[It might lose. Out of 100 fights, about 80 of them.]
What about the rest?
[They will both die in about 15 fights, and maybe it will manage to win in the over five?]
That’s probably right.
No matter what, it was not possible to raise Lee Yun-hye’s chance of victory any further.
Her power was in no way insignificant.
Lee Yun-hye was already significantly more powerful than my former self at the 17th Floor.
[What could we do now? We did everything we could. Lee Yun-hye grew as much as she could as well. This is the limit. Nothing is going to change even if we delayed this any further. I am certain about this.]
Still, I am so worried.
[By any chance, if something goes wrong this time again, don’t go kicking yourself and dig a hole on the ground. It is so unsightly to watch. You have Yong Yong now.]
Do you have to talk to me like that?
Aren’t you anxious?
[I don’t have much thoughts on the matter. To begin with, I was born at the 60th Floor and have been living here since. It was an incredibly boring life. Still, since Yong Yong was born, I felt like I could enjoy living. I had been living well since. When I can go outside, that would be fun too, but I won’t be so shocked if I cannot.]
It must be great being you since you don’t have any worries.
[Why don’t you come out soon? Yong Yong is waiting.]
Having heard what he said, I checked the time.
It was almost time for dinner.
After dinner today, we were going to have Yong Yong try out polymorph magic.
Yong Yong was very excited about the prospect of transforming into a form that was similar to me and the clone.
Yong Yong had been waiting for this for days and focusing on polymorph magic.
He will want to finish dinner as soon as possible and challenge polymorph magic.
Thinking about Yong Yong who was probably anxiously waiting for me to join them for dinner, I got out of the room.
* * *
“Shall we start?”
Having heard the clone bastard, Yong Yong stepped onto the magic circle. He bobbed his head up and down eagerly.
Actually, it has been a while since Yong Yong mastered the polymorph magic.
It’s been two rounds… So, two months?
However, Yong Yong wanted to look completely human.
Also, he did not want to show his progressive iterations to us.
He obsessively tried to hide his intermediate forms of being about half human and half hatchling.
The clone bastard thought of it as a teenager who would not want his parents to see him changing clothes. I thought it was because Yong Yong was a perfectionist when it came to magic.
Anyway, we never saw Yong Yong in a polymorphed state.
Of course, if we wanted to peek at Yong Yong’s polymorph training, it’s not like he could stop us, but we didn’t because we were certain that Yong Yong would hate that.
Perhaps it was something unique to dragons, but Yong Yong was especially sensitive to privacy.
Slowly, Yong Yong started to recite the incantation.
Although polymorph was a high-level magic, the incantation was completed quickly.
With the activation word, white smoke was generated and hid Yong Yong.
Actually, polymorph magic didn’t have such a smoke effect.
It was a special effect added by Yong Yong.
Could it be that he is embarrassed about the transformation sequence, just as the clone bastard thought?
I could hear cracking noise and Yong Yong’s faint cries.
It seemed his mastery was not high enough to go through the polymorph painlessly.
After a while, the white smoke was gone. Yong Yong looked human. He shouted brightly,
“Success! Dad! I succeeded!”
He was excited. Yong Yong was running toward me. I wanted to smile back at him, but the tip of my mouth refused to move because of one problem.
Yong Yong looked unrealistic. He looked like something straight out of a fashion magazine.
First, as of a hatchling of a silver dragon, he had silver hair and silver eyes. He was short, reaching around my waist.
Also, he was wearing extravagant clothing, something that people from the days of Rome wore.
Silver hair and silver eyes were common in anime. However, seeing them in real life looked very unrealistic.
I was not saying they were odd. I was just saying his appearance was that mesmerizing.
Actually, that was not the real problem.
I was panicking for a completely different reason.
It seemed the clone bastard was panicking for the same reason. Confused, the clone bastard said,
[Was Yong Yong a girl?]
* * *
She was sitting on my lap. Yong Yong was curious about having ten fingers on her hands now. She fiddled with them as I watched her.
I still could not recover from the shock.
No matter how I looked at her, Yong Yong’s polymorph appearance was not a boy who happen to look really good and fair. Yong Yong appeared to be a girl.
[I thought she was a boy because you told me Yong Yong is your son.]
I thought so too.
Damn it, how did I screw this up?
My brain was not running properly because of the shock.
No matter how I look, she is a girl.
Her long hair was coming down to her shoulders.
The skull structure of her face, the shapes of her facial features…
Also, below her head…
Yong Yong suddenly got down from my laps. She generated a transparent barrier.
It was a seal that prevented mana from approaching her.
She created a barrier between me and her. She showed her palm toward me and shouted in a stern voice.
If anyone else saw this, they would have been reminded of a policewoman who was directing the traffic.
“… That’s right. If someone tries to examine you with mana, block it like that.”
“Yes! I did well, right?”
“Yes, yes. You did well, our Yong Yong. You remembered my words well. You are so smart.”
I praised her like that. Yong Yong disengaged the barrier and smiled widely, thinking she accomplished something monumental just now.
I stroke her head and sighed inside.
I was too thorough in protective education.
[Should I try to examine her without her knowing?]
Don’t bother. If she notices still, then how are you going to explain that to her?
Considering Yong Yong’s caliber, it won’t be easy to get past her barriers and examine her internal organs while keeping her oblivious.
Also, I taught her that examining another person through mana is very rude. I also taught her that it should not be done to anyone except to enemies.
On top of this, I told her that she could not let down her guard, especially among those close to her.
Yong Yong hated doing this in the first place as well.
I was glad that Yong Yong thought what I did earlier was just a test like the ones I had been giving her in the past.
Ugh… The early education is coming back to haunt me.
[Check after having Yong Yong turn back to the hatchling form.]
[Check the thingy. She is wearing clothes in polymorph form. Won’t the thingy be visible if you flip Yong Yong in the hatchling form?]
… It is not possible to check the gender via visible inspection.
[What? How could that be?]
It turns out there are some species of lizards where determining the gender through visual inspection is not possible.
[… In that case, let’s check in the current form.]
[It’s easy to determine gender for human beings.]
Having said that, the clone bastard bravely approached Yong Yong.
“Yong Yong, try holding still for a bit.”
Yong Yong smiled and responded.
It seemed the clone bastard was relieved to hear that. He relaxed his face a little and grabbed Yong Yong’s clothes.
At that moment, Yong Yong showed an extreme response.
She snatched the clone bastard’s wrist and twisted it behind his back to neutralize him. She then shot a powerful shockwave at the defenseless clone bastard’s back.
The quiet residential area was filled by a violent sound of explosion. The centerpiece of it all was the clone bastard, who was thrown to the distance and plummeted on the ground.
“No! I hate it! Stop!”
Yong Yong shouted those words in loud, exhilarating voice as if they were the one-liner for a magical girl’s transformation scene. Yong Yong then looked at me.
She looked like she was expecting me to praise her.
… I think I was way too diligent in sexual education.
I struggled to hide my troubled mood as I held Yong Yong’s hand.
“Yong Yong, you should say ‘No’ first and then attack. You reversed the order of things.”
Yong Yong panicked a little.
“Still, you did well. If anyone tries to take you to a corner or offer candy and asks you to go somewhere or grab your clothes without your permission, then…”
“Shout NO and then attack!”
“That’s right. That’s right. My Yong Yong is so smart. You remember everything I taught you. Well done.”
Perhaps because I tried to examine her with mana earlier, it seemed she was assuming the clone bastard’s move was also a test.
I taught Yong Yong to fight off any suspicious individual who tries to approach her; it could be an attempted kidnapping or sexual assault. I taught her to promptly declare that she is refusing such treatment and then attack with full force.
Yong Yong seemed to be in a great mood because of the two consecutive praisings. I stroke her head and said to the clone bastard who was thrown to the distance.
Hey, are you all right?
Are you not all right?
[What the… She is not even two years old. Why did you teach her such things.]
I heard that things like this should be taught early on.
[Who said such bullcrap?]
I read it from a book about raising children.