Chapter 23 - Instruments and Intrigue
New Dungeon: You are the first adventurers to enter the tomb of the instrument-loving dwarf:
Fame increased by 200 (+200 FAME).
Double experience and 2x normal item drop rate.
The first monster killed will drop the best quality item it can drop.
“We’re the first to find this place!”
The quartet shouted ecstatically as they entered the dungeon. Their levels were higher than the average, but most of this growth came from player killing rather than hunting. Therefore, this was their first time discovering a dungeon.
“Come! From here on, just trust us.”
Gallantly, the quartet took the lead. Originally, the purpose of going through the canyon had been for this exploration, so after having arrived at their objective, their enthusiasm rose to an all-time high.
“It’s exhilarating! Right, Weed-nim?”
Mapan was happy. It was a rare experience for a merchant. Weed only nodded his head silently.
‘So their aim was to bring us here.’
Now, he began to understand the quartet’s behavior. It explained why they were so strangely nice, openly kind and why they got them to go down into the canyon.
‘These guys were not trying to go over the Bar Khu Mountain range, from the beginning their goal was to find this place. They must have information about this place.’
At this point, there was no need to show that he knew what was going on, so Weed still acted as if he knew nothing and played the fool.
“Thanks to Gran-nim we get to experience an amazing adventure. Sculptors do not find experiences like this so easily…”
“Yes, just believe in us. Hunting together with others is one of the real joys of Royal Road.”
The quartet made a path through as they entered deeper into the cave. Weed and Mapan followed slowly after them.
“Keeek! It’s an enemy.”
“Enemies are appearing!”
“These humans are entering our nest.”
Deeper inside the tomb, the werewolves that were relaxing beside a lit campfire reacted. There were many werewolves living inside this dungeon. Lycanthropes were extremely populous in the Bar Khu Mountain range. The werewolves ,who were already in their wolf form, attacked the group.
“Huh, they’re just Lycanthropes?”
“What a huge disappointment!”
The quartet unsheathed their swords and easily dealt with the Lycanthropes. The Lycanthropes here were a bit stronger than their field counterparts at level 130, but they couldn’t beat the blades of Gran and Levi.
‘They’re strong.’ Weed judged.
It wasn’t just their level. They also had good reflexes and judgment. They knew where and what to attack and how to properly strike an opponent. They were gifted in combat!
‘four players… Could they be the Dwichigi Quartet!?’
The movie Weed had seen on a website flashed inside his mind. Videos uploaded by the victims with the wish for vengeance. He didn’t really remember their faces, but now that he had seen how they fought, Weed knew. But Weed sighed.
‘It looks like they’re beginners in exploring.’
The first slain monster would drop the best quality item that it can drop. Therefore, it would have been preferable to chase away the Lycanthropes and hunt a boss class monster instead. But the quartet didn’t seem to care and advanced further into the cave. One of the benefits of being the first to find this dungeon had been wasted.
“All you guys have to do is trust us.”
“Yes, that’s all you have to do.”
The four senselessly laughed as they butchered the Lycanthropes.
Either way, one couldn’t ignore their combat skills. A player killer’s skill proficiency was much higher compared to that of normal players of similar level. Probably due to their experience fighting people, they were skilled in fighting against monsters. They didn’t miss a weak point, and they fought well as a group.
To cap it all off, they spent money like it was nothing. They gulped down mana, health and stamina regeneration potions which cost 5 gold each like it was water while exploring. The money was earned from selling items from player killing.
If they had earned money from hunting, they wouldn’t be spending money this extravagantly. They didn’t even pick up the copper or the loot the Lycanthropes dropped. The quartet found it bothersome to pick up items that might sell for a few silvers in a general store. For Weed, who attacked a monster for even 1 copper, the quartet were people from a different world.
‘Should I also become a player killer? I’ll lose all the fame I’ve gained so far but it looks like I can earn a lot…’
While Weed was picking up coppers as he watched the fight, Mapan found himself in a crisis. One of the Lycanthrope passed through the quartet and was approaching him.
“Eek! A Lycanthrope!”
Mapan looked at Weed, pleading to be saved. But, Weed completely surprised Mapan instead.
He had seen Weed extinguish many Lycanthropes. Many, many Lycanthropes! As soon as they had appeared, Weed would let out a loud roar.
Then, the Lycanthropes were mercilessly mashed into pulp. When the sword had needed repair and couldn’t be used, Weed kicked and head butted. For Weed, nothing was impossible in a fight. It may have seemed strange seeing such confident behavior, but Lycanthropes were not scary at all. It was because Weed was beside him, Mapan had nothing to fear. He believed that Weed would protect him. It was something Mapan truly believed.
But…how could this be?
Weed showed signs of being far more terrified than himself. Weed’s face had turned into a deep blue color; his body was shaking in fear, in complete and utter despair.
When Mapan tried to say something, Weed covered his mouth.
“Ack! Are we going to die?”
Mapan was left speechless. He had no idea of what Weed was thinking. The Lycanthrope attacked!
The werewolf charged at him, but Mapan avoided it by rolling on the ground without a moment to think. Even so, he was fine. Mapan had seen Weed fight many times, so he was used to the Lycanthrope’s attacks. The Lycanthrope charges in first and it attacks with its jaw and claws, and it was because of that, that Mapan barely avoided getting hurt. Weed also rolled to evade the Lycanthrope’s attacks. He was covered in dirt and his clothes were a mess. The Lycanthropes pursued the closest target which was Weed.
But Weed was able to avoid them by rolling around and kept his body intact. Fortunately, when Weed rolled near the quartet, Margaux immediately finished off the remaining Lycanthrope. After the battle, the quartet apologized to Weed and Mapan.
“We are sorry about this. To let one Lycanthrope through, we made a huge mistake.”
“No, it’s OK; we are still alive after all. Thank you for saving us there…”
Hearing Weed’s words, Halman grinned.
– Group Whisper –
– Just like I thought, these guys are nothing special.
– We were worried for nothing, just because his equipment looked decent.
– Well, his equipment are common equips that can be used by any class. And they’re only lvl 100 or so equips anyway. Even his blade that dangles around his waist is the same.
– Then let’s hurry and go!
The quartet finally were relieved of all their doubts and lost their wariness. But, they had no inkling of Weed’s intentions.
Weed had watched as just one escaped the quartet’s slashes. It seemed coincidental that one of them went past the quartet to endanger Weed and Mapan, but it was not. Considering the quartet’s combat abilities, the situation was manageable. But, they let one though on purpose. It was to see how Weed and Mapan would react. And Weed acted as if he was fooled.
Without a thief or an adventurer in the party, the traps couldn’t be removed. The floor sinks to reveal metal spikes rising up or floundering after being flattened by sandbags that weigh 10 times more happened frequently. They fell into every trap that could be called a trap and sometimes they fell for into it again. In Weed’s eyes, the traps were obvious and seeing the quartet fall into traps over and over again, he almost wanted to say where they were.
‘Gah, just put your trust in us.’
Of course, that thought disappeared after seeing Halman screaming while bleeding heavily. The dwarven tomb had two underground floors. Gran found the stairs heading down to the second floor without hesitation.
“Aha, fortune smiles on us! Hahaha!”
Gran laughed heartily. Weed didn’t take his laughter seriously. They arrived on the underground second floor. This floor had more dangerous traps set up everywhere. The seldom appearing Lycanthropes were not scary at all but there was no end to the amount of traps.
Oil poured from the ceiling, and without giving time to react it ignited into flames. Halman, whose health was already low turned gray and was logged out. Following slowly behind, Weed and Mapan were safe.
“This trap was ridiculous.”
The remaining members of the quartet didn’t shed a tear for their fallen comrade. They looked at the result with a slightly different approach. One less person meant a higher share for those remaining.
‘Only two more to go’
‘Well, if one more dies, I will get…’
‘I want to be the only one left alive.’
They had no loyalty. After Halman’s death, the others quietly wished for the deaths of the rest. And they already planned to kill Weed and Mapan at an appropriate time.
“But…” Gran suddenly spoke.
“It is a little unfair that we are the only ones at risk.”
Margaux and Levi were surprised with Gran’s words.
– Gran, what the hell are you doing?
– We need someone to sacrifice when we get to the thunderbolts. Are you going to deal with them right now?
– Just watch for now. I have an idea.
“What do you mean?” Mapan asked awkwardly, but Gran only smiled in response.
“It’s not a big deal. It is my intention to distribute the risk. One of my own colleagues has just died, don’t you guys feel even a bit responsible?”
“I would like one of you to take the lead. Since we’re companions that are traveling the same road we should share the same risk.”
Mapan was clearly hesitant. In his mind he strongly wanted to leave, but the current atmosphere made it hard to speak. He felt that he should never have come to this place!
‘Still, I am truly indebted to Weed…’
At that moment Mapan steeled himself.
“I’ll take the lead.”
Weed volunteered before Mapan could speak.
“As a sculptor my offense is minimal, but I do have HP to spare, so please allow me.”
“Oh, then you have my thanks.”
From then on, Weed played the lead. You couldn’t call them a party because Weed and the quartet had never proposed it! They had not invited him of Mapan to their party as they didn’t want to share the experience. They only gave away the cheap common loot that they didn’t want.
Player killers usually don’t enter most towns. In very serious cases, village guards could attack player killers and they might meet someone who held a grudge against them, so it was better to refrain from visiting a town. This reason was why they were gladly giving away items they weren’t going to be able sell.
‘This is an interesting place.’
The dungeons Weed had explored were ones filled with lots of monsters. Swarms of bloodthirsty monsters moved about in packs and the hunting grounds were filled with wandering Death Knights. For Weed, it was the first time exploring a dungeon filled with traps.
‘It’s over as soon as I become careless.’
Just a little bit ahead of him was a place where blue and red tiles were arranged like a baduk board. It was the moment when a trap-finding skill would have been used. However, there was no thief or adventurer in the group to use it.
(TL: baduk: most people know it as ‘Go’, the Japanese name for the game)
“Hey Weed, we have to keep moving.” Gran encouraged him from behind.
Weed advanced while pressing firmly on the floor, but he moved slowly in order to quickly respond to any traps. Weed first stepped on a blue tile. Nothing happened. It was a relief. Then, he stepped on the red tile. Again nothing happened. But Weed still had 50 meters to go to the end of the passageway. With no clue when a trap might spring.
‘Blue tile. Red tile. Blue tile. Red tile. I stepped on alternating tiles and nothing happened. If this was the way to dismantle a trap, then it was far too easy. If it is like that…?’
Weed had a thought. What would happen when two tiles of the same color were stepped on? He stepped on blue tiles twice in a row. Still nothing happened. This made him even more wary.
‘The colored tiles were made as a deception. It was not meant to be anything. It was made as a distraction. If that is the case….’
Weed’s eyes became sharper.
He scanned ahead and found an almost invisibly thin thread extended at the height of an ankle. Since it was at the boundary between the red and blue tiles, it was a difficult trap to find unless you were paying attention.
‘The person who trips it is in trouble.’
Weed naturally stepped past the string. Gran was next, and followed directly behind Weed. Rather than sticking close to him though, there was a little bit of distance between them. It was far enough from Weed to not be able to help if he set off a trap. Then, it was Levi and Margaux who followed behind Gran. Mapan was at the end of the line. The quartet needed one person for the lightning so Mapan was at the safest place.
Gran had also seen that thread. Though it was very faint and thin, being keen on Weed’s cautious movement had allowed him to discover it. The reason for being so keen was that he might set off a trap that Weed avoided due to luck.
‘Hmm, this trap…Is it just coincidence that he silently avoided it? Or…’
Gran lightly passed over the thread. But he didn’t stop to say anything to the person behind him. He moved a bit more quickly since he didn’t know what would happen.
(T/L: sound effect of trap being sprung)
Levi had moved carelessly onto the thread, cutting it in the process. At that moment, the walls to the left and right opened up and a rain of arrows poured out.
Levi, who had a large build could do nothing as the arrows flew into his body. All he could do was scream helplessly.
As Levi begged, Gran and Margaux stood still on the spot. Eventually Levi died from the numerous arrow wounds, and a single breastplate dropped where he had been standing.
“How pitiful to die at a place like this.”
Margaux took the armor for himself. Gran and Margaux just grinned at each other. They each distrusted the other, seeing as neither of them had moved a finger to help Levi.
After all, the four members of Dwichigi Quartet had met each other as murderers in the first place. The group was merely formed to kill others for fun and deprive them of their items. They didn’t have friendship or loyalty to each other so they could have parted at any time.
*Boom! Boom! Booooom!*
The pathways appearance changed.
A single, straight tunnel appeared before them, leading through the underground cave. Thunderbolts crashed into the path. White lightning blasted randomly inside the passage ahead. Although it was a magnificent sight, it was also endlessly dangerous.
Lightning-bolt. A three circles spell with a mind of its own, striking without any kind of pattern. Weed looked back.
“How am I supposed to go through there?”
Gran pulled out a small stone.
“We’re fortunate. This is a stone that collects lightning. With this, we can safely go across.”
“I see.” Weed identified the stone as he took it.
Item: Lightning stone:
A special stone with high iron content. It has the power to attract electricity.
If it is refined it can become good quality iron.
Electric Resistance 99%.
Has the ability to absorb electricity.
As Weed read through the stone’s description, Gran and Margaux laughed coldly.
‘We will cross while using him as a sacrifice.’
‘After we pass this obstacle it’ll be the place where the treasure is’
One victim was necessary in order to cross this road. The one holding the lighting stone could do nothing but die.
“Hey weed, just go through it already. You may die but then we would be safe, isn’t that worth the risk?”
Gran gave a toothy grin. At that moment, they finally revealed their true colors! Weed consented.
“Well, it is a good thing if only I die and everyone else can cross.”
“What are you going to do on the way back?”
Gran and Margaux looked at each other with dumbfounded expressions. They had only thought about getting to the treasure. They had not even thought of going back. It had completely slipped their minds.
They had obtained only one lightning stone! They would surely die when they return. Gran drew his sword.
“Now that things have become like this, you guys are no use. Time for you guys to die”
Gran shouted coldly as he went into an attack posture. He was covered with a bloodthirsty aura while his skill was about to activate.
“You dirty bastards…”
Mapan gritted his teeth as he grasped the reality of the situation. Yet Mapan still had his ace up his sleeve. Weed! Weed would deal with them. From observing, Mapan knew that Weed was more than enough to fight against Gran. However, Weed still had a terrified look on his face. In that state, he wasn’t doing anything. He didn’t even pull out his sword.
‘Why…just why? Weed can easily to handle this…’
While Mapan thought something was wrong, Gran began his attack. But instead of attacking Weed or Mapan, he attacked Margaux.
“Gran, I knew you would do this!”
Gran and Margaux started a fight to the death. Gran thought that he could kill Weed or Mapan at any time, so Margaux who was the most bothersome one had to die first. Since they had not trusted each other from the beginning, Margaux was prepared.
“Hah, Flame Sword!”
The elements of Fire and Ice.
Gran, who had finished the examination for his second job advancement specialized in fire swordsmanship. Margaux, who specialized as an assassin could easily fade away in dark places. He struck while he remained hidden. Skills ran rampant, sparks flew and blood spewed forth. Their skills both leaned on the offensive side. Their skills were evenly matched, but Gran was the one who emerged victorious. As an assassin who was used surprise attacks, he couldn’t beat a swordsman in a straightforward contest like this.
“Dammit, I was so close, just a little bit further to that treasure…”
Though Margaux was betrayed, there were no hard feelings between them as he lay dying. Justice, friendship, they were not needed! They were useless for those who loved deceit and theft. Margaux was near death. Just then, Gran’s sword sliced off Margaux’s head.
“Muhahahaha! Now the treasure is all mine!”
Gran leaned back and laughed loudly. A shield dropped where Margaux had died.
“Weed-nim, Mapan-nim. One of you will hold the stone and go inside for me. In return I will give you this shield. Since it was used by a guy over level 200 it’s worth enough in return for dying. It’s better if you don’t reject my offer. Since I only need one person, I will be killing the other remaining person right now.”
In Gran’s head, the calculations were finished. When you enter, sacrifice one person and obtain the treasure. When returning, die once. As long as you weren’t really unlucky you would not drop the treasure. The possibility of dropping the treasure which you got from the dungeon was really low. In addition to that, it was okay to drop one of his items in return.
Gran was already savoring the joy of the treasure in his grasp. That was until Weed drew his sword.
The clay sword slipped softly out of its scabbard. In response, Gran’s tone immediately changed from respecting to threatening.
“Whoa, you plan to defy me? If so, then die here, Mapan will guide me then. I may be considerably injured, but don’t you know that you attacking me is nothing but amusing? Alright, I’ll give you 3 seconds. Attack me as much as you want.”
“You have my thanks.”
A three second concession like out of a chivalric novel was something that Weed would not refuse.
“Your choice, have it the way you like it. Sculpting Blade!”
As the sword gathered light, a sense of insecurity showed in Gran’s eyes.
‘Maybe I shouldn’t have yielded? Yeah, I’ll make it look like I’m giving him 3 seconds but I’ll attack first!’
As Gran was in thought, Weed approached at an unimaginable speed and swung his sword, cutting off Gran’s head.
Even to the moment of his death, an expression of disbelief covered his face. He was going to let Weed attack once and counterattack, but in that one attack had caused Gran’s low HP to completely disappear.
Mapan let out a deep sigh. He had predicted as such, but now that the quartet were all dead, there was nothing to do.
“So what do we do now? Shall we go back now?”
“We’ve come this far so I’m going to find the treasure. Though it’s questionable that the treasure exists.”
“How? Once you enter, you can’t come out… If we die here they will revive before us.”
“That does not necessarily mean that you have to die. These people were novices when it came to exploring. They failed to choose the correct path even with the map. They even said a path is not always something that is set, but they still didn’t understand their own words.”
“What do you mean?”
Weed chanted a spell and pure white wings sprouted from his back. Since the beginning, he had been confident in safely crossing over the Bar Khu mountain range. The reason why he was so confident lay in these wings. At the ‘Mirkan Tower’ of Lavias, with the payment of 10 gold, one could fly for the duration of one month. The power of flight lay in a special feather from the Avians.
Avoiding the falling lightning and thunderbolts, he flew to the opposite side. There he saw a small coffin and a thing that appeared to be a musical instrument, a harp.
‘This is must be the treasure...’
Weed took the musical instrument.
Item: Harp of Vino the Dwarf:
Vino was a short and fat dwarf. But he loved a human woman.
It was a love exceeding race, a love that could never be fulfilled!
Human women disliked Dwarves, so Vino despaired. Thus he put all his effort into music.
Since music contained artistic beauty, and thus it could buy the favor of women.
30% Rise in Female NPC popularity.
Weed looked at the harp, stunned. Eventually, his mouth broke into laughter.
Halman, Margaux, Levi, Gran.
For all their conspiracies of lies and killing, the treasure at the end was only a magical harp. It could have been stronger weapons, better armor, but no, it was an instrument to earn a woman’s favor. The map had even indicated this fact even from the beginning.