When Seo Jun-Ho came out of the shower, the Frost Queen was sitting on the sofa. She was staring at him as if she were hoping for something...
"Thank you for guarding me. Do you want some tea?"
"…And cake, too. I want to eat mocha flavor."
Now he just had to pretend. When he took the snacks out of his inventory, she used a fork and ate the food with relish.
"The tea and cake are delicious today. These two are the best combination on earth. The strange thing about this snack is that it tastes different every time I eat it. It surprises me.”
'…That just depends on the amount of Spirit Crystal shavings I put in that day.’
The way she looked as she ate her snacks made even Seo Jun-Ho curious about trying some Spirit Crystal shavings for himself. It didn't taste like anything to him, but it must taste different to her, a Spirit. She liked it a lot when he put in a lot of Spirit Crystal shavings, and on days when he put in less or didn’t put in any at all, she would always reveal a bitter look.
"I put in a lot today because it must have been hard for you, suffering from Skaya."
"Huh? Put what?"
"What a joke. There's no way that adding something to the sacred tea and cake will make it taste different," spoke the Frost Queen, even though she was the one who was addicted to that seasoning.
After finishing her tea time with a happy expression, the Frost Queen looked at Seo Jun-Ho. "You have become... a level higher."
Seo Jun-Ho's magic had shot up after taking the Heart of the Darkness Dog.
Title: The Bringer of Spring (2+)
Strength: 238 Stamina: 227
Speed: 225 Magic: 277
With this, his stats had now completely surpassed his Specter days. If someone asked whether he was stronger right now than back then, he would be able to give them a definite answer.
‘As long as I adapt to my current stats, I would be stronger than I was back then.’
Thanks to this, he strongly believed that he would now have only a few opponents even on the 2nd floor. However... if he woke up another one of his friends, his stats would decrease once again.
'Of course, I’m sure my magic won’t go down by such a large chunk of 70, like it did before.’
This was because his current achievements were much higher than back then. With a greater understanding of the Frost skill, the penalties should be reduced.
"Are you going to wake up your comrade again?"
"I'm thinking about it."
Soon, there would be a big fight in Port Lane. The scale would be huge as two squads from the Fiend Association would be moving together. He had no idea what they were up to, but it wouldn't be as harmonious as a company team-building activity. He knew for sure that it would be fierce and dangerous.
“Whether it would be better to have one more friend with me or if I became even stronger first, I have no idea.”
"Well, it must be a dilemma. If you are lucky, you might even be able to face their leader."
"…That’s not good."
Seo Jun-Ho’s skills had exceeded his past self, but his confidence was not as high as back then. It was all because there were so many strong people in the world.
'And there's no way to know how good their leader is at the moment…’
Even by reading the memories of the fiends, he didn’t manage to find out that much. In the end, it meant that the only way to find out was to clash with each other directly. All Seo Jun-Ho could do now was to raise his level as much as possible and improve his physical condition.
"Let's go out."
"Where are you going?"
"Gotta explore in advance," Seo Jun-Ho said before packing his luggage.
Know yourself and know your enemy—this was not a concept limited to mere information.
"I have to at least get a look at the stage where I'll be fighting. It's kind of a rehearsal."
There was bound to be a difference in fighting ability between fighting in a familiar place and in a brand new place. In particular, this was even more important in a battle of masters where small differences determined victory or defeat.
"The dwarven equipment are not complete yet," reminded the Frost Queen.
"It's all right. I just need one for now," assured Seo Jun-Ho.
As Seo Jun-Ho left the house and went out to the square, Graham, who was discussing a blueprint with Skaya, looked at him. Graham’s eyes narrowed. "You're light-footed as if you’re going to leave."
"You saw correctly. I have to go somewhere."
"…Is that so? Well, you’re human."
Graham nodded and ordered the other dwarves to bring something. Soon, the dwarves came struggling as they carried a huge coffin-like box.
Putting his foot on the box, Graham warned Seo Jun-Ho. “It is a destructive weapon. It can go beyond your intentions and take the lives of the innocent."
"I will use it with caution."
Seo Jun-Ho looked into Graham's eyes. Graham had a childlike face, but his eyes were as deep and taciturn as that of a wise man.
“...Normally, dwarves never make weapons for those who have evil minds."
The fact that the White Anvil tribe made Seo Jun-Ho a weapon meant that they believed in Seo Jun-Ho's heart and personality.
"However, a person's heart is like a white paper, so no matter how clean it is, it can easily get tainted," said Graham.
That was true. Nothing was easier to shake than a person's heart.
"That's why we always install a device when we make weapons," Graham said with a smile.
"Those who have evil in their hearts and are lusting for blood will not be able to use the equipment of the great dwarves."
This meant that measures had been taken to prevent the abuse of equipment made with their pride on the line. But there was no way Seo Jun-Ho would go astray. Instead of a hundred colorful words, Seo Jun-Ho looked Graham straight in the eyes and simply said, “Trust me.”
Graham looked at him for a while before smirking and removing his foot from the box.
"…Take it. I didn't know there would be another guy like Kim Woo-Joong," said Graham as he went back to the workshop. "In a few days, the rest of the equipment will be finished."
Skaya followed closely Graham's back and waved lightly. Seo Jun-Ho put the weapon box in the inventory and left Del Ice.
The sound of a fountain pen racing on paper was heavier than usual. Jang Kyung-Hoon, the Vice Master of the Goblin Guild, felt worries echoing from the same sounds he heard every day.
"Do you have any concerns?"
Shin Sung-Hyun stopped taking notes and shook his head. "Did I get caught?"
"It's the approval documents that we receive together, and first of all, I’m also a Player."
With a light sigh, Shin Sung-Hyun pressed his finger against his nose.
"I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a worry.”
"Still, try letting it out. You don't know if my balding head might be of help.”
Shin Sung-Hyun smirked at Jang Kyung-Hoon's self-burn. It would have sounded like an insult if it had come from someone else, but it seemed like a joke when Jang Kyung-Hoon said it.
"It sounds like deceit when someone who graduated at the top of their class from Yale at 15 years old says it.”
"But even then, I'm playing on the master's palm.”
Shin Sung-Hyun felt refreshed thanks to his good comrade and spoke, "I was thinking about the Archmage."
"Oh! She was a great woman. She was, say, greater than what was written in the textbook. In many ways."
"Did it look like that to you?"
"Yes, I thought she would be calm, but she was more energetic than I thought... To be honest, she seemed to be at a higher level than me."
"You saw well," Shin Sung-Hyun nodded. "If I had to compare, I’d say she is at the same level as Ju-Ha. If they were in a life or death situation against each other… the Archmage would probably prevail."
"Huh, I thought the Archmage would be strong, but I didn't know she would be that strong."
Jang Kyung-Hoon’s mouth opened wide in surprise. Wasn't Skaya Killiland a person of the past? In reality, only two of the five Heroes had returned, but there had always been noise in newspapers and magazines dealing with gossip.
"They made a fuss about her being a relic of the past, but… as expected, class is eternal,” said Jang Kyung-Hoon.
A person from twenty-six years ago was stronger than Gong Ju-Ha, a High Ranker, despite having just woken up from a long sleep. Jang Kyung-Hoon was at a loss as to whether he should be happy or sad about this.
"Although I have only seen the Archmage for a moment, it did not seem like she would be joining any guild.”
The Big 6 had always been rivals to each other. They had always wanted to take the lead over the other Guilds so they worked hard every day for this purpose. Naturally, they would react sensitively to the possibility of an archmage joining one of the Big 6. But as far as they could see, she wasn't the kind of person that would go under anyone.
"Isn't it a good thing?" asked Jang Kyung-Hoon.
The Big 6 coexisted while having a competitive relationship at the same time. This was because they had one common enemy.
"We have more power to deal with the fiends now."
If the Big 6 hardened their hearts and started a war even though they were at a disadvantage, they would have been called the Big 3 right now instead of the Big 6. The fight between whales would have destroyed the small and medium-sized shrimp-like Guilds. However, the Big 6 refrained from doing such a thing. Rather, they instilled hope in the latecomers, in the underdogs. It was a vain hope that with a little more effort, they would be able to follow in the Big 6’s footsteps. In particular, Shin Sung-Hyun of the Goblin Guild was paying keen attention and investing in the growth of rookies. It was no coincidence that he attempted to contact Seo Jun-Ho before any other Guild in the world.
"Skaya Killiland is a strong Player. No one will deny this fact," Shin Sung-Hyun remarked.
The Archmage was strong. She was definitely strong. She was strong enough to be considered a High Ranker right now.
"But she is a magician and a very famous one at that.” Shin Sung-Hyun added.
This was her problem. A magician always created unexpected variables to neutralize their opponent. However, Skaya Killiland's magic was already being used by all magicians like textbooks.
“At this rate, she will only be good prey for the fiends.”
The wall Shin Sung-Hyung felt when he met the Demon King, the tightening of the blood vessels in his heart, the dry bitterness rising up to his neck—he didn’t feel any of that in her.
"Of course, in the past… 26 years ago, she was definitely a person worthy of being labeled as an ‘absolute being.’"
Still, if she was given a year or two more to adjust to the modern times, Skaya would inevitably become even stronger. She would become strong enough to threaten one of the Nine Heavens.
"To do that, she has to stay alive first."
So, he issued a warning in a rather fierce way. The tall pride of the Archmage may have been hurt, but she would have understood what he had meant, as she was a smart person.
'...I'm not sure if she understood me well considering that she was quite angry, but…’
With a self-deprecating smile, Shin Sung-Hyun asked Jang Kyung-Hoon, "By the way, did you tell Ju-Ha to invite Seo Jun-Ho sometime?"
"Yes, she seemed to like it. I don't think she has told him about it yet. Since we have plenty of time before our next raid, it seems like she is looking for the right time to bring it up."
"There's no need to rush."
Seo Jun-Ho had recently become one of the figures garnering Shin Sung-Hyun's interest. But a few days ago, another figure similar to Seo Jun-Ho popped up.
"How's the location tracking coming along?”
"Are you talking about Newbie 76?"
Newbie 76 was a hot newbie who had turned the matching system upside down. He was also a terrifying monster who defeated Gong Ju-Ha.
‘I didn't expect such a monster to exist.’
People praised the information network of the Big 6 for having reached the sky but considering this situation, they still had a long way to go. There were too many beings who had fallen through the gaps in their information network like grains of sand. Shin Sung-Hyun was not happy about it, of course.
"Let's invest a little bit more in the Information Department and Future Strategy Office."
"What? But I reorganized and delivered the new budget just four months ago…”
"It's still not enough."
Shin Sung-Hyun thought that these were turbulent times.
‘Seo Jun-Ho, Newbie 76... People like them are appearing one by one to shake up this stagnant situation.’
On top of that, there was also the return of the 5 Heroes. Thinking about what would happen in the future, Shin Sung-Hyun knew he had to prepare as soon as possible.
"It's going to be fun.”
The sound of the fountain pen flourishing a signature on a document sounded excited.