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I felt somebody shaking my body as I was asleep and opened my eyes to see Sol staring down at me. The landscape of the Black Forest at dawn entered my sight. We were in the middle of a forest, so a cold chill hit my body. I circled my magic power in my body before getting up, clearing my head up enough to feel refreshed.
“The stars are gone?”
“Yes. There are none. Orabeoni had a good sleep.”
An Sol called me oppa when we were all together, but now she strangely called me orabeoni. (TN: More formal version of oppa) It was a little disconcerting, and I got goosebumps from it, but I didn’t say anything to stop her. Sol always bowed and spoke politely, so it seemed that she received a good home education.
I responded with a soft smile to Sol’s greeting and felt a hand pulling my clothes when I turned around to wake Yoojung and Hyun up. I turned back and saw Sol biting her lip. It seemed like she had something to say to me.
I opened my mouth and spoke in my most sincere voice, “Yes, Sol? What did you want to say?”
After I asked the question, Sol looked at the ground and avoided my gaze. But then she bit her lip and raised her head with a determined expression. I didn’t know what she wanted to talk about, but I braced myself and waited for her next words.
“…Pee…I need to do it.”
“I’m scared to go alone so… Orabeoni, can you come with me?”
“…Go alone,” I said, shaking my head.
This time, Sol didn’t back down. Despite my direct refusal, Sol didn’t let go of my clothes. Her innocent eyes were trembling, but there seemed to be a slight light in them.
In the end, I decided to step back. I couldn’t help feeling doubt as I looked at An Sol. It had been over three months since we first entered Hall Plain, which meant that Sol was now 20 years old. Of course, she wasn’t that much younger than me, but sometimes, her mental age made her seem like a child.
I wasn’t the only one who found her behavior strange. It wasn’t obvious at first glance, but after spending a long time together, even Yoojung also felt that Sol’s behavior was strange. In the past, Yoojung had asked An Hyun about it once, but he avoided answering. It seemed as if there was something he wanted to hide about Sol. I vowed that I would ask again later if there was a chance, before stepping out of the camp with Sol.
“This place should be sufficient.”
“Orabeoni… can you go a little bit further away?”
“I’ll stay still. Don’t worry, I won’t see anything.”
“I’ll believe you. Really. You promised.”
Sol asked two or three times before taking off her clothes with an uneasy expression. I looked away from Sol, taking out a cigarette and putting it into my mouth. As I lit it up and sucked in, I could hear the sound of clothes being taken off. Soon after, I heard Sol squatting down and pissing, making me feel awkward. She wasn’t ashamed to do this in front of a man. Or, maybe I wasn’t seen as a man. Either way, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
As time passed by, the sound of urination gradually subsided and I now heard the sound of someone walking on grass. Sol smiled brightly when she saw me waiting in my spot.
“Phew, this is really like managing a baby. Don’t do this too often.”
After saying those harsh words, I began to turn away when Sol suddenly grabbed my arm. I was abruptly spun around to face An Sol, causing my cigarette to fall. Why was she so aggressive all of a sudden? Sol smiled at my confused expression and brought her face to my chest.
“To be honest… Orabeoni was a little bit scary yesterday.”
Indeed. It seemed cruel to stab a sword into someone’s neck just because they were a little annoying. However, Sol currently wasn’t trembling, so I waited for her next words.
Sol enjoyed being near me for a moment before saying cautiously,
“But… Orabeoni is always strong and sweet. If it weren’t for Orabeoni, I would’ve…”
The words were difficult to say so she trailed off, closed her eyes, and sighed. But it was true that I felt odd holding her now.
The female user before me was a famous user who would awaken as the Brilliance Priest later on in life. There was a rumor that An Sol was taken into the Odin Clan, a gathering of top-level users from across the continent.
I worked hard in my own way, but my reputation and ability didn’t match hers. At the time, An Sol was a user at the peak, so it felt strange that she was relying on me so enthusiastically right now.
I was pulled into the atmosphere and placed my arms around her. Sol was startled by my action as her face slowly turned red. My left hand remained on her back as my right hand stroked her ebony hair.
Then I whispered softly, “Do you think I should’ve spared that female vagrant yesterday…? Are you afraid…?”
Sol wildly shook her head. It was ticklish, but I couldn’t help smiling at her reaction. Sol’s uneasy expression disappeared at the touch of my hand and the smiling face of a beautiful woman started to appear.
“Uhhh…no. I’m not afraid. Hyun oppa said this: ‘In order to survive, we have to be like Soohyun hyung… you should control your mental state. We would’ve died if it weren’t for Hyung…’ I might be unqualified to stick by your side but…I believe in Orabeoni. So Orabeoni… don’t abandon me.”
Yes. An Hyun said such praiseworthy things? In other words, I was definitely within the hearts of the kids. So far, the kid had blindly followed me. However, this changed into a firm belief in the Black Forest.
“I won’t. And Hyun is wrong. We can survive if we work hard together. This type of foolish…”
“I know, I’m aware of that. But… just let me stay like this for a moment.”
I wanted to hold her a bit longer but opened my arms at the thought of not being able to control myself. However, Sol nodded vigorously and rushed back into my arms again.
“I will work hard. I will work hard enough to make Orabeoni pleased… so…”
“Can’t you do this a bit longer?”
“Please stroke my hair. Quickly.”
Sol heard my unspoken agreement and buried her face in my chest again. I shrugged and lifted my hand again. However, from today on, I felt that Sol’s perception of me had changed significantly.
* * *
“How are you feeling?” I asked Hyun.
“Good. When I got up today and checked, my endurance had increased by one. I really feel like my body has become more resilient. I also feel more flexible than before.”
“Huhu. Endurance is an important stat. Otherwise, you will have a glass cannon for a body.”
An Hyun laughed with satisfaction at the sight of his stats going up. Yoojung was pouting next to him, but she also looked good. I felt a little envious as I looked at Hyun. I would also like to raise my stamina…
An injury well beyond the limits of your stats was likely to cause your endurance to fall; however, receiving an injury just above or below the limit was perfect for increasing endurance, as long as the aftertreatment was perfect. It was like when bones were broken cleanly: the body would adapt to the wound to some extent, and stick harder together when attached again.
I cleaned up the camp while An Hyun thrust his spear and showed off the steadfastness of his body. After a simple breakfast, we set off again towards the alchemist’s dungeon.
I was convinced that the traces I saw at the beginning of the Black Forest didn’t belong to vagrants. Now I was chasing their trail. It seemed they had entered quite deeply since the traces hadn’t disappeared just yet.
From the beginning to the middle, the Black Forest wasn’t a place that a lot of users could see. Nevertheless, there was a high probability that a group had entered. I guessed it had something to do with the dungeon of the ancient alchemist, Vivian.
“I feel a chill at the thought of being overwhelmed today.”
An Hyun spoke from where he was walking on the right side. Maybe he was talking about the battle with the pack of wolves yesterday. He didn’t slow down and watched the area carefully.
I opened my mouth and said, “Certainly, that battle was the most dangerous. However, it isn’t common for such a pack to emerge. Anyways, once we finish this exploration and return, I will find some armoring for you.”
“Armoring…? Ah, armor? I’m still wearing the basic armor received from the User Academy…”
“It’s made of leather, so it’s hard to expect a big defensive effect. A spearman should wear plate armor since that’s more convenient for him than either chain armor or scaly armor.”
“Aha. I know a little bit about weapons, and now I know more about armor. Indeed, thinking about the battle yesterday, it would be nice to have some armor. It is hard for me to defend myself when I swing the spear… but it will cost a lot of money to buy all those things at once.”
I shook my head at Hyun’s words. Armor with good defense was usually set at a price that novice users couldn’t afford. They were too busy trying to live to worry about armor. The fact that we were on our first expedition and had new weapons would be a tremendous luxury to other novices.
“Maybe it won’t be like that. Even the experienced users can’t easily earn money unless they chance upon a big jackpot. In the end, we should collect money from now on and prepare it one by one.”
“Well, there is no need to worry since I have the GP given at the Rite of Passage.”
“No. As I said before, that is really a last resort. You should absolutely save your GP. You will clearly have to use it later. Let’s just try this for now.”
“Phew. Money is a problem everywhere.”
I smiled and nodded as Hyun spoke like an old man. Of the current group, Hyun was the one who adapted the most to the Hall Plain, so I could definitely count on him. His defense was weak in battle, so it was worth thinking about armor in the near future.
After spending a few moments with Hyun, I sensed something and activated Third Eye. The traces of the users who entered first became clearer. It seemed like we would catch up with them by the middle of the day.
Of course, I didn’t have the slightest intention of acting like them. If I was lucky enough to find it first, of course, I would claim rights to it. Existing users would know about the right of first discovery. However, there was no need to worry even if I didn’t find it first.
<I found it by chance and all those who entered it died. No, they didn’t die. Huh? A total of three people. No, it should be one person. What am I saying…>
Originally, the alchemist’s dungeon wasn’t revealed at this time. It was uncovered two years later in the Caves of Screaming, and only revealed a few months later. So what if the other group found the dungeon? If my prediction was right, they would soon be killed. They probably failed to capture the dungeon and were all wiped out.
If they found it first, I could just step back. I would wait a few days around the dungeon and eventually see their dead bodies. Rather, it might be easier if I let them enter first to handle some of the traps or monsters at the entrance. In addition, I would get a pretty good profit from the equipment they had.
After finishing the calculations, my feet became busier. I wanted to proceed with the dungeon and explore the Caves of Screaming. The kids sped up after me, despite not knowing why.
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