[Lee Yun-hye, 17th Floor: Yes, I’ll start the preparations.]
I sent the message to the mister and moved to the bonfire room.
Is it because I’m feeling anxious?
Perhaps it was due to the diligent training. Nothing appeared to be wrong with me.
The tips of my hands were coolly still and ready. My senses were sharp.
My entire body was still and collected.
However, I could feel myself shaking, even when I wasn’t.
Around the time I got a little used to the Tutorial, I had been hearing stories about the 17th Floor.
Since then, all of my hardships were for the sake of clearing this 17th Floor.
Of course, this was not going to be the only difficult trial to reach the 60th Floor. However, I was certain that this was the most dangerous one.
On top of this, this stage was traumatic for the mister. So, I was constantly told to be wary of the 17th Floor and prepare for it.
When I felt like I was having a little easier time in clearing other stages, I had to handicap myself to increase the difficulties in the stages. Even during the waiting periods, instead of resting, I had to focus on practicing.
I don’t think I am a perfect student, but I think I’ve done all things the mister has told me to do, within realistic limits.
I was now facing the very reason for all of my dedication.
Since I’m about to challenge the 17th floor, perhaps it is only normal for me to feel nervous and shaken?
I can’t seem to calm myself.
Mister said I should put my hand into the bonfire in times like these and get a grip from feeling the pain.
Isn’t that nonsense?
It is time for me to focus. I should get rid of useless thoughts.
Mister said I am significantly stronger than his former self at the 17th Floor.
Mister didn’t praise me easily because he was concerned I might become complacent. Considering this, that was a rare occurrence.
Even I think I’m stronger than what the mister was at the 17th Floor.
As he put it, I am significantly stronger than his former self.
When he got to the 17th Floor, it was still at Round 17.
To borrow how people put it in the Community, the time period around Round 17 was now treated like the stone age where the cavemen walked around with wooden mace and mumbled ‘wooga wooga.’
Back then, nothing was known about the mechanism behind casting. Nothing was known about methods for acquiring skills or items.
Without settings or growth methods for classes or skill trees, people passed through trials on their own and got rewards from clearing the stages. That was all they had back then.
It is obvious that there are huge differences in what we know and have now in comparison to past challengers.
On top of that, I am being supported by mister, so this is especially true now.
However, he never stopped worrying.
He thought there definitely was a chance that I might be defeated by the mirage. To minimize this chance, he painstakingly agonized about every little thing.
There was a time when I thought he was worrying excessively because of a trauma. However, I am certain that is not the case now.
Now that I am actually at the 17th Floor, I came to know with certainty just how much of monster he is.
What in the world…
He got to the 17th Floor in just 17 rounds.
That is ridiculous.
That means, on average, he progressed one floor per round.
In Hell Difficulty…
Where was I at my 17th round since I entered the Tutorial?
Around the Sixth Floor?
I think I was stuck at the Sixth Floor.
If I was to get to the 17th Floor by the 17th Round since I entered the Tutorial, I wonder how much more work and hardships would I have had to endure?
How much luck and talent would be needed?
I cannot even get a feel for it.
Also, I’m sure these differences are what’s making mister worry so much.
No matter how far ahead I am in specs, a complacent attitude will be poisonous.
As he said, I’ll die right away if I let my guard down.
I must focus.
I brought out the necessary items from the inventory in order.
I looked at the paper with the list and brought out the items. They ended up filling the entire bonfire room.
Now, I have to eat all of these.
I think I’ll turn into a pig.
It was fortunate that most of them were liquid medications.
First thing is…
They were pills that minimized my urge to defecate and urinate.
They were high quality medicines that allowed absorption of all nutrition and eliminate only the waste of the waste.
I don’t know how it works in detail.
I was wondering why I had to eat these first. However, after seeing the items all over like this, I think I know why now.
If I take such a large amount of liquid medicines, my stomach and intestines will be full.
I swallowed the pills and checked the second list.
There were seven different kinds of self-strengthening liquid medications.
I had to take them in the right order. Mister made them in rainbow colors, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, dark blue, and purple. In that order, I drank the liquid medicines.
These are a lot…
I only took the second list liquid medications so far, but my inside feels too full already. It tastes bitter too.
There is a faint taste of strawberry. That’s making me feel worse.
He didn’t need to include such a fruit flavor…
The room was still full of liquid medicines on the floor. I sighed.
… Drink them and die.
* * *
The liquid medicine was flowing back up through the neck. I quickly covered my mouth.
My throat was refusing to swallow the medicine. I forced it to move and barely managed to swallow it.
Finally, I drank them all.
If this is not a prime example of human will’s victory, I don’t know what is.
Numerous empty bottles rolling around the floor were the proof of my fighting spirit.
The preparations were not over yet.
Now that I finished drinking the medicines, the next thing to do was to put on the various equipment that he sent me.
I brought them out of the inventory and put them on in order.
I have used them several times before, so it was not hard to put them on.
He minimized the use of the equipment to maximize stage difficulties for me. However, once it became clear that I could clear a stage, he allowed me to actively utilize the items.
I could not afford to be unaccustomed to utilizing the equipment. It would be terrible if I was still clumsy about their use in the most critical moment.
On the wrist guard, I placed several accessories with precious stones. I was wearing ten rings on my fingers. I was wearing loads of bracelets on my wrists as well.
With so many accessories on me, I won’t even be able to use a bow properly.
“Activate the combat state.”
With the pre-established activation words, the accessories on me disappeared.
They didn’t just become invisible.
I touched my fingers, and I didn’t feel the rings there.
The accessories were literally gone.
Despite that, I could still get the effects of the accessories. How intriguing.
Now that I finished wearing all equipment, the next is… performing the ceremony.
I drew a magic circle on the floor dabbed a drop of blood on it.
It is generally known that most summon spirits are not related to sacrificial ceremony. However, the summon spirits actually greatly prefer a ceremony where the contractor pays one’s sacrificial tribute in their own blood and flesh.
I heard that this is the purest way for the summon spirits to consume the contractor’s mana. I honestly find it creepy.
Watching the magic circle slowly resonating, I sighed again.
[Lee Ho-jae, 60th Floor: Is the preparation not done yet?]
[Lee Yun-hye, 17th Floor: It is taking longer than I thought. I think it will take until tomorrow morning, so please rest until then. I’ll contact you when it is ready.]
Drinking all medicines took longer than I thought.
It cannot be helped. The challenge will have to be postponed until tomorrow morning.
* * *
[Welcome to the 17th Floor stage of the Hell Difficulty in Tutorial.]
The interior was empty.
It reminds me of an empty cargo storage building.
There was a transparent barrier at the center. Beyond that was a man standing there.
The man looked around the place with dumbfounded look on his face. As soon as he saw me, he brought out two spherical shaped objects that were each the size of a palm.
Soon, the spherical objects each turned into a long sword and a shield.
Although this was just a mirage, seeing mister in real life like this… It was strange.
He looked similar to what I have seen on televisions before I entered the Tutorial.
He was not exactly the same.
In my memories, although he looked a little sharp, there was a gentle student-like side of him. Unlike that, his mirage was… How should I put it…
He looked a little wild.
That was if I put it nicely. Honestly, he looked a little scary.
[The 17th Floor’s trial will begin.]
Description: The Temple of Trial located at the top of the Vetus mountain range had been producing guardians for the holy land of a certain god who refused to reveal the name.
Of many candidates, to select the most powerful guardian, the temple…
I ignored the explanation window that gave me useless backstory.
This was not important at the moment.
[The trial will begin in 30 seconds.]
As soon as the mirage saw me, it changed its attitude.
It looked like it was going to charge at me the moment the barrier disappeared.
This is different from what we anticipated.
Mister told me that the mirage probably won’t charge in to attack right away. His former self liked having conversations with people. He said the mirage wouldn’t give up this chance to have a conversation so easily.
If possible, it will try to have a conversation, even with someone who it is supposed to fight. He figured that the mirage will try to strike a conversation for the sake of just chatting before the battle really starts.
However, what’s with that attitude?
The mirage looked unable to suppress its murderous intent.
It seemed like it couldn’t even wait 30 seconds for the barrier to disappear. It came right up to the barrier and stared at me.
Did it go completely berserk because of the system?
There was nothing about that in the information we obtained from the managers.
I should start the preparations for the battle right away.
First, I drew a magic circle on the floor.
As if it was intrigued from watching me drawing a magic circle, the mirage smiled.
It really looked like it was purely enjoying watching me.
After that, I recited the incantation for the strengthening magic.
All strengthening spells prepared in skills, liquid medicines and equipment were activated.
Next was the summon spell.
The summon monsters that were to be summoned first were the water spirit and five wolf spirits.
The water spirit was over two meters tall. With its ice and water magic spells and its body, the water spirit will stop the mirage from gaining distance on me. As for the five wolf spirits, they will charge at the mirage to hinder its movements.
[The trial will begin in 10 seconds.]
I wish I had more time.
If the mirage wasted just one more minute on useless chatter, I could have prepared even more things.
The situation was not rolling along as smoothly as I hoped. However, it was not like this was completely unexpected.
I was fully prepared for situations where a part of the preparations went to waste.
I brought out the bow and arrows from the inventory.
I placed an arrow on the bow, and my anxiety disappeared completely.
I just needed to place one arrow at the mirage, and that was going to be it.
It didn’t matter how it happened. As long as I made one direct hit, that was going to be the end.
The mirage’s defensive abilities could not stop my arrow.
With a skill’s power added to the arrow, each shot was close to the power of magic casting.
There are also the additional effects by the arrows and the bow themselves.
The arrow could cleanly penetrate even SS rank armors. Also, the attack was going to continuously deal magic based attack on the penetrated subject.
This may be the mister’s mirage, but it won’t be able to stand more than one shot.
Even mister was certain about this.
On top of this, the mirage had never experienced an arrow of such speed and power.
The mirage had not experienced much magic spells yet either. It won’t be able to respond properly to my arrow.
[The trial is starting.]
With that message, the barrier that separated us dissipated.
Precisely when the barrier disappeared, I launched the arrow.
Surprisingly, the mirage responded to the arrow.
It lowered its head to dodge the arrow that was flying at it. It was charging toward me without a moment’s delay. Looking at the mirage, I thought,
Did it read the trajectory?
Considering the speed of the arrow, dodging it by looking at it was ridiculous.
During the brief moment it took me to place another arrow on the bow, one of the wolf spirit was cut and disappeared.
That was too clean.
I never thought it would be able to destroy a wolf spirit with a single blow.
The mirage was continually demonstrating moves that were different from our analysis and predictions.
I launched an arrow through a gap between the wolf spirits charging at the mirage and the water spirit that was blocking its path.
I shot it precisely aimed at the mirage’s neck.
It seemed the mirage was not hindered by the spirits’ interferences at all. It dodged the second arrow again.
After that, it struck the advancing wolf spirits down and continued to advance.
The water spirit’s movements were unable to keep the mirage from advancing further even for a moment.
Instead of trying to put the third arrow on the bow, I drew distance to the back and prepared a magic.
My focus was heightened. The world was moving extremely slow.
The mirage was probably in the similar state.
From now on, each moment is going to decide the duel.
Before making any move, I need to think as much as possible for a precise decision.
Flame surged up from the floor and blocked the path between me and the mirage.
As if the mirage was thinking it definitely should, it jumped into the flame without hesitation.
As soon as I confirmed this, I shouted the activation words.
To where I was standing a few moments ago…
I moved to the back of the mirage.
The mirage had thrown its body into the flames.
It definitely will not be able to dodge this time.
Thinking that, I tried to place the third arrow at the bow. However, I had to change my plan immediately.
The mirage, which was inside the flames, suddenly turned and threw its body in my direction.
Its response is too quick.
This is not through feeling or seeing my movement while being in the flames.
Did he know I was going to move to this place?
It does not know magic, yet it predicted this movement?
The wind spirit joined my body.
As I felt the wind spirit moving my body to the back, I launched the third arrow that was hanging on the bow.
I felt a sound in my head.
It was a warning sound by an artifact that detected the use of an active power skill.
The mirage only had two active-type power skills.
Blink and Soul Steal.
Of the two, the one that would cause this artifact to sound an alarm is the Blink.
The water spirit was not able to catch up to the mirage’s speed. I moved the water spirit to my location.
The mirage moved using the Blink. Its blade struck the water spirit instead of me.
I was teleported to where the water spirit was.
The water spirit didn’t buy me much time.
The mirage destroyed the water spirit in just two strikes.
It precisely aimed at the summon spirit’s core and destroyed it.
The mirage is driving me nuts.
With the little bit of the time gained by sacrificing the water spirit, I launched the fourth arrow.
Again, the mirage moved its body to the side and dodged the arrow.
I can be certain now.
That mirage is looking at the arrow and dodging it.
I shouted the activation word, and the arrow, which was flying to the side of the mirage, exploded mid-air.
I succeeded in an attack for the first time.
Another Blink was used.
Blink also negated all momentum of the subject.
Instead of being blown off by the reaction from the explosion, is it intending to come in close and attack?
Even so, it already is affected by the shock from the explosion.
Is it ignoring the damage head on and approaching me?
It’s my turn to make a prediction.
The mirage’s stance is seriously compromised because of the close proximity of the explosion.
It only has limited options for attack in that stance if it uses Blink in the current state to attack me.
It could use the Blink to simply avoid the shock from the explosion. However, considering the mirage’s personality, it won’t waste the Blink for just dodging the explosion.
The duel was dependent on maintaining distance.
Also, the Blink, which could instantly close in the distance, could be said as the most critical element in the battle.
After using the Blink five times, there was a waiting period before it could be used again. The mirage won’t try to waste it.
From that stance, if it used the Blink to approach me, only something like a high kick could deal a critical strike to me.
When I finished my thoughts, the mirage, which was drenched in blood from the explosion, used the Blink and appeared in front of me.
As I predicted, a high kick was coming at me. I blocked it with my right palm.
By the power of the artifact I had on my left wrist, the impact of the kick was negated. At the next moment,
The shockwave contained in the artifact launched. The mirage was thrown to the back.
Due to the shock’s reaction, I was forcefully thrown to the back, rolling on the floor.
I felt impact on all over the body.
Back, waist, wrist…
After the kick’s impact was neutralized, but before the shockwave was launched, the mirage moved its leg again during that brief moment.
The leg was pressing down hard as if it was going to cut through. My wrist, which was blocking this move, was overexerted.
In that state, I had to endure the reaction from the shock, so the damage to the wrist was quite substantial.
Until the wrist heals, I have to fight with just casting magic.
It won’t take long.
Even if it did, 15 seconds at most.
I just need to hold out for one turn.
Thinking like that, I put forth my right hand and got up.
I was thinking hard about which magic to use next. Meanwhile, the mirage on the other side got up and said,
Limping on one leg, the mirage got up. It seemed like it was not intending to charge in right away.
Since the beginning of the battle, the mirage had been focusing only on fighting.
I was curious about what it was saying.
In my head, I thought I should ignore it and attack already. However, my curiosity preceded those thoughts.
What would it say?
Would it ask about my abilities?
It might complain about the unjustified difficulty of the 17th Floor.
“No matter how I think about it, I don’t remember you.”
What the mirage said was something a little unexpected.
"Yet, you know me?”