“It is a very elaborate map...”
This was Resh’s impression. Grid and Coke also agreed.
Satisfy was a world that boasted a size comparable to Earth’s. There were many elaborate places in Satisfy, but the quality of the Abyss was special. Unlike other existing places where the geological and physical phenomena were expressed by the line, ‘99.9% realistic while the atmosphere and phenomenon were somewhat exaggerated’, the Abyss was 100% consistent with reality. The smell, shape, color, texture, physical phenomena, and climate changes, and so on...
Everything was extremely realistic. It was so realistic that it was hard to distinguish between the virtual world and reality, making it feel creepy. Unlike normal maps, there was no BGM, and this enhanced the feeling even further.
‘I always had this thought, but isn’t Chairman Lim Cheolho an alien as rumored?’
Water droplets flowed down the cracked stone walls, and dripping sounds echoed throughout the place. It was inconvenient to move in the Abyss because the rocks were carved in all forms and bulged out everywhere, representing the traces of time. The Abyss wasn’t a straight line underground. As they descended, the inside became as complicated as a labyrinth, and the ceiling seemed to cover the sunlight.
“I’m nervous,” Coke’s voice shook as his pupils reflected the darkness that didn’t allow him to see beyond a meter’s distance. His feelings of nervousness didn’t seem exaggerated.
Grid scolded him, “Didn’t you go to the army? Front-line troops like me were fighting each other every day in the tunnel, and I had to get used to this atmosphere.”
“Were you on the front lines? Sure enough, Grid was great since the army...”
“It’s a lie.”
Talking about the army in the game—this conversation was possible because they were South Korean men. Players from other countries wouldn’t talk about the army so naturally. They had been to a dungeon more than once or twice and would’ve brought up a dialogue suitable for game play. The problem was that the three people gathered here were Koreans.
Resh felt a strange sense of belonging and started to participate in the conversation, “Just because you weren’t on the front lines doesn’t mean you can’t be proud. I was from the XX division. We had many things to be vigilant about and received less training than rear troops.”
“Instead, you take on risks.”
“There are pros and cons to each, but we should all be proud.”
Was this a game or reality? Was it the Abyss or the army? In the midst of the stories about reserve forces and civil defense forces, Grid’s shoulders trembled slightly. The average person was more afraid of people than ghosts, but Grid was different. He could beat people with force, but he had no solutions when it came to encountering ghosts.
Grid had peeked at Khan’s ancestral ghosts in the past and was still afraid of ghosts. He couldn’t show it because of his constitution, but from his point of view, the atmosphere of the Abyss was so creepy that it wouldn’t be strange for ghosts to pop out straight away.
Of course, Coke and Resh didn’t notice that Grid was scared. They knew that Grid was the strongest person in the world. He was the majestic Overgeared King. They couldn’t imagine that he was a coward.
“Our light stone is working well.” Grid sought to dispel his fear, so he released his tension by talking about the light elemental that revolved around him and illuminated his way.
Resh stared at the light elemental. “The majority of Overgeared members are in possession of an elemental. Did you get help from Great Sage Sticks?”
“No. He might be great but it isn’t enough to give the guild members elementals.”
“Then you have been blessed by the world tree?”
“Yes, do you know about the elementals?”
It wasn’t strange for the intelligence network of a high ranker to know about Sage Sticks. After all, Great Sage Sticks was a famous person. However, shouldn’t there only be a few high rankers who knew about the blessing of the world tree? Resh’s intelligence network was amazing considering the fact that the forest of the world tree was inaccessible to humans. Resh replied humbly, “I’m well informed. Since I am in the palace, I often hear rumors and gained a bit of superficial knowledge.”
Grid nodded in understanding.
“Um...” However, Coke was different. He wondered if this was an opportunity to get some information out of Resh. “What is Prince Dulandal’s character like?”
“He is a bit selfish, and he is hot-blooded because he lacks patience. At the same time, he knows how to take care of the people below him.”
“I guess the level of the prince should be extremely high?”
“Um... It is a similar level to the dukes.”
“Wow, so strong?”
“Having the same level doesn’t mean the skills are the same. In fact, I’ve never seen him fight before, but he doesn’t look that strong. However, it is said that 1st Prince Roland and 4th Prince Edan are so strong it is hard to find adversaries for them in the empire.”
“...!” Coke was greatly startled.
This meant at least two of the imperial princes were comparable to the dukes...? They had been born with a golden spoon in their mouths and had grown up comfortably, so he thought they would be lazy and wouldn’t have good personal skills. Resh smiled. “The princes live a life filled with competition. In particular, the eldest prince has brothers who want to ascend the throne, and it is unknown what his future will be like...”
“Why are you so surprised? The more special the NPCs, the stronger their armed forces are. It is no wonder that they are strong. The emperor is probably greater,” Grid told the briefly surprised Coke.
Coke repeated his habitual, “As expected of Grid.”
Then he continued to ask questions, “What do Dulandal and the imperial family think of our Overgeared Kingdom?”
Now, he had cut to the chase, but the moment that Coke’s eyes shone...
“I can’t talk about that,” Resh interrupted the questions. “I’m deeply grateful to be helped by the two of you and I’m willing to do my best since I’m a fan of Grid, but I don’t want to do something that will cause problems. Please understand.”
“Yes, of course. I naturally understand. I was too excited that I forgot about Resh’s position. I’m really sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Resh responded to Coke with a smile.
Grid watched the two of them and grasped the situation in hindsight, ‘Coke was trying to extract information.’
He could acquire a monster’s skill by ingesting the corpse of a monster he hunted. This was one of Coke’s basic characteristics. It was the source that allowed him to grow rapidly under the training of the 10 meritorious retainers. His existence itself was that of a carnivore. In fact, he was very strong. By the way, he also seemed to have a wise side.
‘He is a versatile talent.’
Grid’s heart felt full. It felt like he had picked out the highest rated card when playing a mobile game. He was filled with joy and happiness.
He realized that the shaking of his body had disappeared. He was no longer afraid of the atmosphere of the Abyss where it wouldn’t be strange if ghosts popped up. This was the power of a human. Grid patted the shoulder of Coke, who was greatly embarrassed and apologetic. “Cute guy. It seems to be starting from now on, so raise your spirits.”
Certainly, when walking deeper underground, some foreign objects started to stand out. It was an artificial trail. There were old steel bars. They had been installed in the small spaces that occurred naturally throughout the stone walls, turning them into ‘prisons.’
“From here on out is the real Abyss,” Grid confirmed from the warning windows which kept appearing more frequently as he held the Sword Aiming at the Gods in his hands. The reason he didn’t bring out the Enlightenment Sword was that the place was narrow. The chain explosion of the black flames could collapse the inner walls of the tunnel and crush them to death.
Suddenly, there was an uncomfortable friction sound ringing out from beyond the darkness that wasn’t touched by the elemental’s light. There was a noise like a thick chain being dragged across the ground.
“It’s coming,” Grid’s words caused Coke to shake off his tension and pull out his sword and shield. Around the time he became Prince Lord’s knight, Grid had made him battle gear. Unfortunately, the sword’s rating stayed at unique, but the shield’s rating was legendary. Coke didn’t care about the rating. The essence was that it contained Grid’s skill and effort. The enhancement figure was even +8. Coke had used all his assets to enhance it with the determination that he would use it for years and years.
‘It is truly the Overgeared Guild.’ Resh glimpsed the value of Coke’s items and realized the power of the Overgeared Guild.
The Overgeared Guild controlled high-level hunting grounds, raided all types of boss monsters, and secured valuable production materials. Then the legendary blacksmith Grid designed and produced items using the materials they supplied. The result that was produced transcended common sense. The armed state of the Overgeared Guild was close to the ideals of the high rankers including Resh, so the Overgeared Guild was naturally strong.
Step. Resh stepped in front of Grid. Grid might be stronger than Resh, but he was still only a helper. Since Resh was the subject of the quest, it was right for him to stand in front. It was a risk he had to take. Resh thought like this.
“Let me first assess the difficulty.”
Then it happened the moment that Resh spoke. The sound of the chains being pulled accelerated, and two human figures appeared in the darkness. They were imperial soldiers named ‘polluted guards.’ No, they were monsters. Although they were armed with armor and swords etched with the symbol of the empire, they couldn’t be considered human. Their skin was melting like mucus, and poison spewed from their mouths. The sound of clanking chains was actually coming from cracks in their necks.
Resh blocked the swords of two prisoners while simultaneously penetrating the abdomen of one of the guards by aiming his sword under the shield. Grid was amazed by the single motion that defended and counterattacked. “A skill?”
“No, it is a basic technique,” Coke explained. “The biggest strength of classes that use shields is that as long as the damage received doesn’t exceed the level of the shield, we can defend and counterattack at the same time.”
“Then why does Vantner only defend?”
“Ah... It is a very difficult technique. Depending on the strength of the opponent, the probability of a successful counterattack will be reduced.”
It was almost always a raid when Grid fought in a party with Vantner. Boss monsters were generally transcendent, so the success rate of Vantner’s counterattack success was low.
“There is a 40% counterattack success rate against same-level monsters. Of course, this is a story based on me.”
40% success against the same level monsters...? Then what about that person? Grid was at a loss for words. Resh blocked the attacks of the guards and succeeded in counterattacking at the same time. His success rate was as high as 70%. Most surprisingly, the levels of the guards would be higher than Resh’s level.
“His control isn’t normal. I’m confident in my skills, but I can’t even give a business card to him.”
Coke’s skill was good, and Grid knew it well. They weren’t as precise as Faker’s, but Coke clearly had high-level control skills. Thus, Resh’s control skill, which amazed even Coke, was tremendous.
“Based on the control alone, is he like Faker?”
“It is better to evaluate him as on the same level as Hao, who is one stage below Faker.”
There were really many masters in the world. Grid admired Resh.
“Ugh!” Then Resh allowed one blow through as the two guards kept attacking. He lost strength in one arm, and his shield slid down to the bottom, allowing the guard to strike his exposed chest.
“Heart of Steel!” Then Resh used a skill. He instantly boosted his defense and reduced the amount of damage he recieved. The reduced damage would be moved to the end of his sword and then amplify the attack power of his next blow. One of the guards received a thorough hit and screamed. Resh didn’t miss this gap.
He evaded the attack of the other guard coming from the side and added attack power to the shield by using a charge, striking the head of the stumbling guard. Then there were the following movements of attacking and defending. After a fairly fierce duel, one of the guards turned to ash while Resh’s health and mana were 10% and 15% respectively. It happened when Resh broke through the poisonous liquid, which the surviving guard had thrown, and grabbed the sword.
“Thanks to Resh, the enemy’s performance has been well measured. Then I will now join in.” Coke came forward. He didn’t delicately neutralize the guard’s attacks like Resh had done. The success rate of his counterattacks was also low. Still, he was twice as fast as Resh and found it easier to kill the guard.
The one-on-one fight was a big reason, but the difference in basic stats was much larger. When Coke’s sword pierced the guard, the guard’s health was drained out. Yet when the guard cut Coke, he didn’t lose that much health. It wasn’t just the influence of being overgeared. Coke’s collection of passive and active skills from monsters boosted his stats. The actual difference in levels between Coke and Resh was only four levels, but it was actually more like 10. No, it was more like 20 or 30. Just like how Grid overwhelmed other players of the same level due to the stats he gained from crafting, Coke was a second Grid who overwhelmed other users of the same level by raising his skills through hunting.
“...” Resh’s expression was blank. He knew he was behind Coke in both level and gear, but he didn’t expect the gap to be so big.
Coke yelled at Resh who was staring blankly, “Raise your spirits! It isn’t good to be like this so early!”
What was he saying? Resh was feeling stunned when two new guards emerged from the darkness. Then they died immediately. Grid killed them.
He shook off the blood from his sword and muttered indifferently, “It is only level 380. This place is just the beginning.”
That’s why Resh was told to raise his spirits. Belatedly convinced of this, he wiped the poisonous liquid on his shield. He was ashamed of his fierce struggle and didn’t know where to look. Grid’s and Coke’s eyes were filled with respect and liking toward Resh as they watched him.
‘He will be very strong if he is raised properly...’
‘I want to learn his control skills while fighting together.’
‘I want to go home...’
Each of them had different thoughts as the party moved deeper into the Abyss.