“My daughter, as a guide??”
Esil’s explanation and Jin-Woo saying the exact same thing finally managed to calm down the boss’s agitation. He settled back down on his throne to think.
‘The floor entry permit, and a guide? Are they truly everything he wants from us?’
From the moment the demons found themselves locked up in here, they had to constantly hear the order to protect this land in their heads.
The order itself was not what one would call forceful. However, just like one would follow their instincts to eat when they were hungry and sleep when they were tired, the demons all thought that they had to carry this order out.
That was why the boss felt his heart fall to the pit of his stomach when he heard the news of black-armoured soldiers suddenly invading this land and hunting down lesser demons. He knew that the thing they were supposed to protect this place from had finally arrived.
The boss gave it a lot of thought, before ordering the subjugation force to move out. And surprisingly, the platoons made up of black soldiers proved easier than expected to defeat.
However, according to the reports made by the advanced scouts, there were enemies on a completely different scale compared to those easy-to-defeat black soldiers present as well.
They said that against platoons led by the robe-wearing giant ‘knight’ that could spit out flames, or a knight with something lengthy attached to its helm, there was no guarantee of victory at all.
And that was why the entirety of the Radiru Clan was getting ready to sortie in order to subjugate those two forces.
Unfortunately, those reports failed to mention the man in front of the boss’s eyes. Not even once. Meaning, the enemies’ true combat force was someone else entirely different.
‘If I knew this monster-like human was the leader of those soldiers, I wouldn’t even have started fighting in the first place.’
The boss could see it.
He rejoiced after hearing the news of those black soldiers suddenly vanishing. But, they were now gathered right in front of his eyes. They were hiding within the man’s darkness, waiting for an order to attack.
Even now, the boss felt a chill from the countless soldiers inside the shadow shooting him cold glares filled with thick, bone-chilling murderous intent.
‘Negotiating with a mere human hurts my pride, but….’
A certain scroll named ‘Entry Permit’ could also be found in the list of things the demons were supposed to protect. However, wasn’t the cost of protecting that single scroll far too high?
No, even if the boss was prepared to sacrifice every single one of his clansmen, he couldn’t be sure of winning against this human and his soldiers.
Not only that, this man….
‘….Is hiding his true abilities.’
It was uncertain what he was aiming for, but there was little doubt that he was hiding almost all of his powers like an iceberg floating on the quiet water’s surface. Fighting against an enemy no one could truly comprehend was a terrifying prospect, indeed.
The boss asked again with a nervous expression.
“Truly… is that all you want?”
If the boss could protect everyone simply by handing out that Entry permit, then there was no reason not to. Also, since he’d be doing that in order to protect this land, he wasn’t exactly going against that order from the unknown source, either.
Jin-Woo nodded his head.
“You will not bring harm upon my daughter?”
Suddenly, Jin-Woo felt Esil’s glance.
‘A monster worrying about his daughter, is it…..’
Jin-Woo was inwardly surprised but didn’t forget to nod his head regardless.
The boss pondered for a short while, before a smile formed on his face.
“We’ll do that, then.”
The moment he agreed to hand it over, the boss felt as if a persistently-annoying aching tooth had finally come loose or some such.
If the event of stopping the prophetised advent of calamity by handing over a scrap of paper didn’t qualify as a matter to rejoice, then what else would?
“No, if you could do that, we’d be very grateful.”
Jin-Woo had been getting ready for the eventuality where things go the other way, but after seeing the boss’s bright smile, he too smirked and let go of all the built-up tension in his body.
‘I guess Esil got her personality from her old man.’
Was this how the System’s setting was like for this place, or what she said was really…..
Jin-Woo quickly shook off the distracting thoughts and gave his assurance to the eagerly-waiting boss.
“I keep my promises.”
The boss snapped his fingers, and a soldier hurriedly brought a large scroll from somewhere to present it before Jin-Woo. He then unfurled the scroll.
‘It is really the Entry permit.’
Confirming the contents of the scroll, a thick smile formed on Jin-Woo’s lips.
[Item: Entry Permit]
A permit allowing you to enter the 81st floor of the Demon’s Castle. Can only be used on the 80th floor’s floor-transfer magic circle.
He was suspicious of whether he could get an item from monsters through nothing more than just dialogue, but this was really the Entry Permit he was looking for.
If there was one difference from the permits found on the lower floors, then it’d be the red emblem of the Radiru Clan stamped on the bottom of the permit itself.
‘So, does this mean I’m supposed to take the permits away from different clans from this floor onwards?’
The corners of Jin-Woo’s lips arched up.
He preferred this arrangement a lot more than hunting monsters endlessly and waiting forever for the permit to randomly drop without notice.
Jin-Woo rolled the scroll back up and sent it to his Inventory.
“Hey, is it fine if we get going now?”
Jin-Woo urged Esil and turned towards the exit, but then, the waiting knights suddenly blocked the doorway.
Jin-Woo looked back feeling puzzled, only to find Esil grinning brightly back at him.
So, what was going on now?
The boss quickly walked over and stood before Jin-Woo.
“We’d never let an important guest of the Radiru Clan go like this.”
A certain overbearing aura came off from the boss’s large frame. However, seeing that there was a smile of a friendly neighbourhood uncle etched on his face, it didn’t look like he was trying to intimidate the other party.
The boss spoke with a pleading tone of voice.
“As a celebration of the successful negotiation, would you mind having a feast with us? We also need to prepare my daughter for the long voyage ahead.”
Jin-Woo shifted his gaze over to Esil.
She was cautiously waiting for his answer, although he could easily see that she also wanted this.
Well, she did keep her side of the bargain. So, wouldn’t it be only right that he too behave in a gentlemanly manner, too?
Besides, he also needed to eat anyway, and he had grown sick and tired of the stale bread and jerky strip combo being sold in the Store by now.
“….Okay, I will.”
Jin-Woo finally consented after a short bout of hesitation, prompting the boss to break out in a big grin.
The complexions of Esil and the knights also brightened considerably. Soon, the boss was yelling at his subordinates.
“What are you all doing? Prepared for a grand feast!”
Since he had spent way too much time on the 80th floor, he wasn’t planning on wasting any more on other floors.
He was worried about whether Esil, coming with him as a guide, could use the floor-transfer magic circles or not, but that worry was put to rest pretty quickly.
[A Demon Aristocrat has requested to accompany you.]
[Will you allow it?]
[Once allowed, the companion will be able to use the magic circles, and depending on the rate of contribution, experience points earned will be shared as well.]
‘….Wait, I’ll be sharing my experience points with my companion??’
The thing about sharing experience points got on his nerves slightly, but thankfully, there was the clause about ‘rate of contribution’. Which meant that, as long as he didn’t give his companion a chance to fight, the experience points wouldn’t be divided at all.
So, Jin-Woo made sure to drill this point into Esil.
“Even if battles break out, you must not interfere. I shall take care of everything. Understood?”
Esil replied rather shyly.
In any case, Jin-Woo agreed to her accompanying him and hurried with his steps. A few steps behind him, Esil did her best to chase after Jin-Woo while carrying luggage several times the size of her actual body.
The luggage itself wasn’t heavy, but keeping up with Jin-Woo’s walking speed was proving to be somewhat challenging to her. Jin-Woo had no choice but to stop and wait now and then so she could catch up to him.
“We can see it now over there.”
After arriving on the 81st floor, Esil began checking out the map of this very floor, and then, pointed at the faint outline of a castle far away from them. Jin-Woo nodded his head, having already thought as much.
Esil put down the large luggage, and began rummaging through it. Soon, a ceramic liquor bottle rested in her hands. Jin-Woo had to ask her about that.
“What are you planning to do with that now?”
“This is a bottle of the finest liquor that the Clan Head of the Garuche Clan enjoys. If we go and speak to him with it, the negotiation will be…..”
Jin-Woo smirked and summoned his Shadow Soldiers out.
As soon as he called, the soldiers instantly revealed themselves.
‘How can this be….?!’
Esil doubted her own sight, then.
There were three ‘soldiers’ with similar levels to that of an upper Demon Aristocrat. And then, two deadly-looking daggers suddenly appeared out of nowhere to rest in the hands of the very person who summoned these soldiers.
After being subjected to an aura that was sharp enough to almost slice her flesh simply by standing near him, Esil had to do a double take to make sure that the man in front of her eyes was the same person she had been conversing with until just now.
“Y-you’re not going to negotiate with them??”
Rather than an answer, Jin-Woo asked back, instead.
“By any chance, is your clan friendly with this Garuche or whatever clan?”
“N-no, not at all. We the aristocrats always competed bitterly against each other for a place in the Demon World’s nobility ranking, so…. Still, they are a group we can hold civilised meetings with.”
Hearing that, Jin-Woo simply grinned.
“In that case, it’s fine.”
Making one exception was enough. Just as important as finding the Entry Permit, he needed to raise his level, too.
“You, wait here.”
Jin-Woo told her as so, and while leading his soldiers forward, headed towards the distant castle.
Esil stood there in stunned silence for a moment, before she belatedly stared in the direction of Jin-Woo’s travel.
In that short amount of time, the castle belonging to the Garuche Clan was burning in flames.
A monster as tall as a giant spat out a pillar of flames, and the castle’s gate and walls melted down without offering any resistance whatsoever. Garuche knights rushing out in confusion were cut down by the black soldiers one by one.
“Oh, my dear lord….’
Esil was so shocked that she spat out something that could either be a gasp or a moan.
The castle of Garuche that looked several times more impregnable than Radiru Clan’s own castle, was powerlessly crumbling down. Esil could only swallow down her nervous saliva.
‘If father didn’t hand over the permit willingly, then…..’
The Radiru castle might have been burning down to cinders just like the Garuche castle right about now.
Just imagining it made her dizzy. At the same time, she thought that her clan got a really lucky break after their negotiation went down so well.
Another tower beyond the castle walls crumbled back down to earth with a loud explosion.
‘How can anyone fight against a monster like him….?’
Esil wiped the sweat drops trickling down to her chin, and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that her clan had managed to skirt past a calamity.
The higher-ups of the Japanese Hunter Association and the ministerial members of the Japanese government had gathered today for an urgent meeting.
As the heavy, gloomy atmosphere descended on the conference chamber, the Association President quietly opened his mouth.
“I hear that recently, the mood in South Korea is boisterous due to the entrance of their tenth rank S Hunter.”
The high ranking officials present smirked slightly.
There were already more than twenty rank S Hunters in Japan. Yet, the Koreans were celebrating their tenth rank S?
Well, that did make some sense considering that, after excluding the two they lost to an accident as well as to emigration, there were only eight rank S Hunters found in Korea, to begin with.
Whatever the case may be, today’s meeting wasn’t held to ridicule South Korea. If that were the case, then the atmosphere of this place wouldn’t be this grave.
Sitting in his chair with a deep frown on his face, the ‘Boei Daijin’ of Japan – the Minister of Defense – testily opened his mouth.
“What does that have to do with today’s meeting?”
His voice accurately conveyed how deeply troubled he was.
The island at the southern end of the Korean peninsula, Jeju Island, had been completely overrun by monsters after the Koreans failed to clear a dungeon there.
On top of that, these weren’t any other regular monsters, but ant-types that boasted a rigid hierarchy system as well as an incredibly rapid reproduction rate.
If that was all, the Japanese government would simply ridicule their Korean counterpart and laugh at their misfortune, but now, the Japanese mainland was bearing the cost of that mishap as well.
Only yesterday, an ant they suspected to have flown in from the Jeju Island completely wiped a small village off the Japanese map.
They could no longer ignore the fallout from that event anymore. Most of all, their urgent priority had to be with calming down the irate Prime Minister and his orders of finding a speedy resolution to this crisis.
Which meant, the job security of several important people gathered here was hanging in the balance, yet to start such an important meeting off with some useless banter?
It was only natural that the Defense Minister would frown unhappily.
However, the Association President carried on regardless.
“People are more prone to making mistakes when they are in an agitated state.”
The snow-white hair and wrinkles filling up the entirety of his face spoke of how old he was already.
“And I believe this is the best chance for us.”
His declaration managed to gather the eyes of everyone present within this noisy conference chamber. Unlike just now, when he raised his voice in unhappiness, the Minister of Defense was speaking with a lot more nervousness.
“Do…. you have a good plan in mind?”
“Rather than calling it ‘good’, I’d say ‘appropriate’ is a more suitable description, instead.”
Everyone present, including the Minister of Defense, as well as various ministers and Association’s own upper management, all focused their attention on the Association President’s words.
As if he was taking his time for precisely this moment, the President opened his mouth.
“If you insist that a piece of land is yours when you don’t even have enough strength to defend it, will anyone acknowledge you as the owner?”
A bout of silence fell on the conference room.
Just what was the Association President trying to say here?
Considering the relationship between South Korea and Japan, that declaration would never be glossed over as a senile old man’s ramblings if the general public got wind of that.
Not to forget, this old man was none other than the current President of the Japanese Hunter’s Association.
“…So, what is it that you wish to say?”
Minister of State cautiously asked.
The Association President scanned the men sitting to his left and right side, before confidently declaring out loudly.
“We shall get rid of the monsters in the Jeju island.”
The chamber had gotten noisy for a brief moment, but it was silenced immediately by the Association President’s voice.
He carried on.
“….We will take Jeju island from them.”
< Chapter 103 > Fin.