The Hero Returns - Chapter 415
This would be his first time sensing something like this.
No, wait. It couldn’t technically be called the first since Su-hyeun sensed something similar when he first ran into the Bull Demon King.
He had a feeling that he was staring at something without form, something with an unfathomable depth. Even though its scale was minute, Su-hyeun could definitely sense a similar vibe from somewhere behind the administrator.
This was the power that could be felt from the so-called Apostles, the proxies of the gods.
“I can’t tell you that,” answered the administrator. He no longer appeared drowsy from sleep; he looked so much sharper now.
That answer only proved how sensitive Su-hyeun’s question of who the “god” the administrators were serving had been.
As if to indicate that the information was out of bounds, the administrator simply closed his eyes tightly. He didn’t want to mistakenly let Su-hyeun use Insight on him.
“No need to be on guard like that, though. I’ve already finished using Insight by now, anyway,” said Su-hyeun, causing the administrator to flinch notably.
‘Had he already used Insight?’
Su-hyeun noticed how stunned the administrator was and sighed softly under his breath. “It seems that the god you guys serve really hates to be under the spotlight or something. To think that even Insight failed to pick up the info related to that god.”
“I—is that so?” the administrator deeply sighed, looking obviously relieved.
He must’ve been quite nervous just then. His earlier drowsy face was gone for good now.
“Besides all that, let’s talk about my compensation first, shall we?” Su-hyeun beckoned with his finger as if he were asking for stuff he had left behind in the administrator’s care.
From the 105th floor to the 199th in an instant, he bypassed 94 floors in one go. Since he had leapfrogged so many floors, it was now time to cash out all the clear rewards that had accumulated in the bank, so to speak.
The conference of the administrators that lasted for 10 days wasn’t simply to figure out which floor they should send Su-hyeun off to but also the corresponding compensation.
“You have to choose between two items this time too.” The 199th floor’s administrator was involved in discussing Su-hyeun’s reward in the past as well, so he immediately understood what the latter was demanding here. He put forward a couple of options to choose from. “One is an item crafted by a certain god. Weapons have been excluded since it’ll be hard to find something better than what you’ve been using already. This item is in the form of a glove.”
“What about the other one?”
“It’s a fallen leaf of Yggdrasil. It might be something you need the most, actually.”
“Take a look for yourself,” the administrator waved his hand in the air.
Two images materialized before Su-hyeun’s eyes. One was a glove, while the other was a small leaf just big enough to cover his palm.
[Zeus’s Thunder Glove]
* The glove used by the highest-tier god Zeus when he holds lightning bolts contains the power of a god that can rouse up and command thunder and lightning.
[Yggdrasil’s fallen leaf]
* A leaf that fell from the First World Tree, Yggdrasil
* Grants the power of the World Tree when consumed
The rewards on offer were truly outstanding.
Their explanations alone made him salivate over both items, especially more so with the fallen leaf from the First World Tree Yggdrasil. This item was a heaven-defying elixir that granted you the power of the World Tree simply by consuming it.
Elixirs granted one enormous power simply by consuming it, and as such, countless awakeners desired to acquire them. Even Su-hyeun was no different in that regard.
He had to seriously contemplate his choice this time.
“You need more time?” the administrator asked after about five minutes of silently waiting.
Su-hyeun could only reply after another five minutes of silence went by. “I’ve made up my mind.”
“Which one will it be?”
Su-hyeun extended his left hand forward. “I will go with this one.”
[You have acquired “Zeus’s Thunder Glove.”]
A transparent glove was slipped over Su-hyeun’s left hand. Outwardly, it looked like nothing was there, but he was definitely wearing a glove over his hand now.
The sensation of wearing it felt pretty good. Su-hyeun lightly clenched and unfurled his left hand a couple of times before nodding his head.
Puzzled, the administrator asked, “Why did you choose that one?”
“I didn’t see the need to rely on another elixir, you see.” Of course, he had a good reason for his decision. “Yes, it’s true that I’m still relying on an item, but I believe that I’ve already borrowed enough power from something or someone else at this stage.”
“I see.” Only then did the administrator discover the “seed” inside Su-hyeun’s body.
The First World Tree, Yggdrasil, was easily the biggest in all of the realms out there. Even so, a leaf that came from such a tree was still nothing more than a single leaf in the end.
A seed, however, was already growing inside Su-hyeun’s body right now, and he was no longer suppressing its growth. On the contrary, he was helping the World Tree mature even better by providing some of his energy as fertilizer. He was confident that he wouldn’t get devoured by the World Tree, after all.
Since that was the case, he didn’t need to rely on some other things related to the World Tree.
“In any case, I’ll use this item well. I’ll gradually figure out how to use it on my own as well.”
“You wouldn’t have regretted it no matter which one you chose, anyway. We have selected both of these, thinking that they suited you the best, you see.”
“I can see that.”
Su-hyeun didn’t regret his decision. Just as the administrator had alluded to, both of the options available were quite tempting, for sure.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he decided that Zeus’s Thunder Glove between the two would serve his needs better at this point, so he chose it over the leaf.
He studied his hand with the transparent glove for a while and then nodded again. Just by having it on, he thought he could get some idea on how to use it.
“All right. Is it okay to send you away right now, then?”
“Yes. Is there some other preparation I should make?”
“No, there isn’t any.” The administrator shook his head. As he did, the surrounding scenery began distorting. “Well, let’s get it started immediately. I wish you fortune in war.”
The moment he finished saying that, the distorting scenery transformed completely.
The 199th floor’s trial had truly begun.
“So the 199th floor…”
Su-hyeun ended up climbing to a lot higher floor than he had anticipated. Without a doubt, he would be facing a trial boasting a far greater difficulty than ever before.
“What will show up in the 200th floor’s trial, I wonder?”
While he was thinking about this and that, the distorted scenery finally righted itself.
The view before his eyes belonged to a city that would have been right at home around the 20th century. This world’s level of scientific progress didn’t seem that advanced, but it didn’t feel that primitive, either.
Su-hyeun scanned his surroundings for a while.
He spotted a steam locomotive quickly dashing across the tracks. There was a magic circle drawn in front of the vehicle, however.
“A fusion of magic and science, hmm?”
Just as his thoughts reached that far, a couple of messages appeared before him.
[The 199th floor’s trial is commencing.]
[Stop the Tyrant’s game.]
What “game” was the system talking about?
The contents of the messages lacked any details. However, he didn’t need a lot of time to figure out what the system was telling him.
“T—t—the dead people, they—!”
“Sh*t, what’s gotten into these punks all of a sudden?”
A commotion was coming from a distance. The voices were coming from the passenger compartment of the steam locomotive noisily chugging ahead.
Sure enough, his clue appeared almost right away.
* * *
The commotion began with just one person.
A woman began growling like some wild beast. Then, she indiscriminately attacked everyone. She displayed extraordinary strength that she even managed to shove aside several grown men and began tearing into their throats with her teeth.
Several police officers, unable to hold back anymore, unloaded their firearms at her. These guns possessed enough firepower through magical means to even penetrate steel plates without a problem. They were all convinced that the woman would be dead the moment the rounds hit her head.
Despite having three holes in her head, she remained unperturbed and began attacking the officers.
She tore through the throat of five people, but that wasn’t the end of the bad news.
The victims with their throats ripped out by her began displaying the same symptoms as her.
The passengers gave up on resisting and began retreating to the rear compartment of the train. It was obvious that they would lose their will to fight after witnessing the woman still ruthlessly attacking back despite the bullet holes in her head.
On top of that, she possessed physical strength several times greater than an average person.
“Stop the train!”
“Dammit! Don’t they know what our situation is?”
“I said stop the train now!”
“How long until the next stop?”
“Still at least one hour…”
It was complete pandemonium.
Several people became so terrified that they simply flung the moving train’s doors wide open and chose to throw themselves outside.
They knew they wouldn’t survive the impact; they were basically committing suicide. However, they still made this extreme choice, as they did not want to end up in such a wretched state if death was the only thing in store for them.
Terror spread among the masses faster than even the most contagious virus.
“I—isn’t there a knight among us? Or someone with a knightly background, even—!”
“I used to be a knight, but even I have never seen anything like that before!”
“You used to be a knight?”
“Then, what are you doing not protecting the citizens?”
“Since you got paid your wages through our taxes, do your job properly, will you?”
“I’m just an old man who retired after hurting my back, so what are you even saying to me right—?”
The woman that began all of this pounced on the old man, the former knight. He reflexively swung the book in his hand to ward off the incoming woman.
However, his book ended up hitting the back of a completely different target. The knight’s eyes landed on this man’s wide back instead of the woman trying to pounce on him.
“Hmm…Is this a zombie? For a game, isn’t this a bit too cliché?” muttered the unknown man in a monotone voice.
This man’s tone was different from the others. He didn’t sound flustered; instead, he was calm and composed. As such, his voice had a calming effect on everyone else too.
It was as if he had come from another world altogether.
“W—who are you?” asked the retired old knight to the man who still had his back to him. He was hoping that the man who rescued him today was a famed warrior or some such.
“My name is Kim Su-hyeun.”
“Why? Is it a strange name? Well, besides all that, just what are these things, anyway?” Su-hyeun asked as he extended his hand to the side.
When he did…
The old knight got so frightened that he stumbled to the floor.
He had just witnessed how the crazed woman that had been trying to pounce on him bite into Su-hyeun’s arm.
“Y—you…you’re also bitten!”
“But I hoped that you—!”
Despairing expressions filled the faces of the crowd.
Their reactions were to be expected, however; their experience up until then said that getting bitten by these crazed people who were letting out beast-like howls would make you act the same as them.
Su-hyeun abruptly appeared to inspire confidence in their hearts, but that didn’t last for long, as they all feared that he would also transform into a savage monster and turn on them as well.
“Hold on, his arm…?”
“Her teeth…can’t break the skin?”
The way the woman was trying to bite into Su-hyeun’s arm looked as if she was chewing on a hardened steel plate or some such. Not a single teeth managed to break through the skin on his arm, while the contact surface continued to issue metallic creaking noises.
“First of all, it’s definitely a zombie, so…”
Su-hyeun grabbed the woman’s throat with his other hand.
Almost as soon as he did that, something seeped out of her body.
It wasn’t just her, though. The others who were displaying similar symptoms of zombification reacted the same as her, and blackish smoke leaked out from their bodies to float to the ceiling.
Soon, though, all those smoke coagulated into a single mass. Su-hyeun stared at that and asked, “Okay, so where are you now?”
No reply came from that black mass, but that was already enough for him.
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A faint grin appeared on Su-hyeun’s face as he fixed his eyes at a location much farther away than the black smoke before him.
“Aha! So that’s where you were.”
He decided to think that this was as good as an answer.