༺ Nazrea, City of the Dead (5) ༻
A contract with the Grim Reaper.
Just like the Precept, it was a setting that was not available in the game, and that only existed to explain stories about the boss characters. A contract with the Grim Reaper was similar to Precepts, in that they were both high-risk high-reward systems.
The moment one created a contract with the Grim Reaper, their soul would get tied to the Grim Reaper, and breaking the contract meant the annihilation of the soul.
《Do you dare try to forge a contract with death as the one who deceived death?》
Immediately after mentioning the contract, the Grim Reaper and I entered a different dimension that was separated from the real world.
“Stop putting on airs. I know you’ll take the offer.”
In fact, the Grim Reaper was a more flexible being than one would expect.
Proof of that was how it accepted Erin’s contract after weighing the possibility of circulation being broken forever in the future and 1.2 million souls leaving the law of circulation.
At the cost of giving up on 1.2 million souls, the Grim Reaper decided to choose the future. The god of death was flexible enough to weigh the differences and priorities to choose for itself.
《Interesting. Tell me what is on your mind, deceiver.》
Look – even now, despite labeling me as the deceiver of death, the Grim Reaper was still willing to listen to my words and see if the contract would be a benefit or not.
“I want the elimination of the contract you made with Erin Danua, and one of the ‘Treasures of the Underworld’ as an advance payment. It has to be in the 10’s at least.”
《And what will you do?》
“I will cleanse Nazrea in half a year.”
《…That will be impossible for you.》
“That is not up to you to decide. You just have to weigh the points on your scale. How is it; does my contract sound fair?”
In silence, the Grim Reaper contemplated and stroked its chin before opening its mouth.
《Your reward is too little for releasing 1.2 million souls.》
《Choose a single-digit treasure. Otherwise it will not be balanced.》
That was the best-case scenario! By repeating the ‘repeat quest’ of Nazrea and having more and more of the Grim Reaper’s goodwill, it was possible to receive a legendary or an epic item in return.
As items from the Underworld, most of them would lose a large portion of their power in the middle world, but some of them were so powerful that it didn’t matter.
A single-digit treasure referred to the top 10 epic items under the possession of the Grim Reaper. There was only one chance of getting a treasure from the Grim Reaper, and in the game, those single-digit treasures required the veteran players to kill the Immortal King hundreds of times but that was only possible in the game because there was no time limit.
Even though I tried it in the last iteration, we couldn’t stay here for too long unlike how it was in the game, and thus we could only get ourselves items in the 30’s.
“Alright. The treasure I want is…”
As soon as I left the alternate dimension of the Grim Reaper, I found Erin looking at me with a pale face.
“W, what have you done?”
She grabbed me with a shivering voice and palms drenched in sweat.
“I made a contract.”
“What kind of contract!?”
Her eyes quivered and couldn’t stay focused, as she paid close attention to every single word that left my mouth.
“I will cleanse Nazrea in half a year. If I succeed, the contract you made with the Grim Reaper will also be eliminated.”
Erin said with a coarse voice and a pale face. Even though she was always generous and kind, this time she was different.
“You… You must have gone insane…!”
“I am very sane.”
“Do you even… know what it means to make a contract with the Grim Reaper? You won’t even have a speck of your soul left if you fail! You are giving up on the circulation and the chance of reincarnation!”
She said while trembling with anger and confusion. When I gave her a wide smile in return, she seemed even more confused.
“Why… exactly are you doing this?”
“Because that’s what I learned from you.”
“You know, I was a little kid who was playing a hero game.”
“This world was like an amusement; everything went the way I thought. I wanted to enjoy it like a game while getting praised by everyone.”
At the start, I was definitely playing around like it was a game. Before starting to perceive this world as the real world, I was still saving people, but I became quite conceited during that process hearing all their cheers and praises.
I became a bit stronger, but also overly arrogant.
“I was still a little brat – a kid who thought of himself as a hero.”
“That was when you showed up.”
When it was the most difficult; when it was the most frightening – when I put myself in danger due to being overly conceited by my own ability, she came and created a mountain of corpses before offering her hand.
『Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?』
I was saved and met a real adult – a hero – for the first time in my life. I saw the back of an adult who stood for children with dedication without asking for anything in return.
Until the very end, all I could do was look at her back.
Being a protected kid was… bone-strikingly painful and made me feel extremely powerless.
She was someone I couldn’t protect;
A hero who died first in order to save me.
“This time, I want to be the one saving you.”
I was standing right in front of her but she couldn’t say anything in response. Instead, she just blankly stood there looking into my eyes.
“I won’t fail this time. I’m not the same as the ‘weak me’ who couldn’t even attempt anything.”
You probably don’t know how big of a presence you have inside me anymore. You probably have no idea how heartrendingly painful it was to see you leave that day, and how much I blamed myself for being useless.
But this time, I won’t let that happen.
“Now, instead of chasing after your back… I can stand by your side.”
“This is not because of something splendid like saving the world. This has nothing to do with that. I…”
Because I received so many things from her.
“I’m just giving them back.”
The most revered and beloved person whom I still missed to this date… my hero.
“I’m just… giving back what I received.”
A few days later at Nazrea.
The life that had continued for 300 years was still going on as usual. On the third night, as always, the silver spearman defeated the Immortal King and safely waited for the new loop to begin.
What was slightly different was that she stood at the same place she had been a few days ago to gaze down at the city – at the same place where she and the boy shared their last conversation.
The silver spearman – Erin Danua – gazed down at the city.
This city was still like a pandemonium and a scene straight out of hell, just like how it had been for the past 300 years.
She had been fighting against this painful reality for 300 years.
There was no particular reason; it was simply because she was a hero.
She was one of the last survivors of the race of gods that still remained in this land. At the same time, she was the Queen of the Kingdom of Shadows, the paradise that now ceased to exist.
Erin Danua knew she was a special being and had been doing her best to fulfill her responsibilities as a special person. The choice she made 300 years ago had a similar reason.
The ‘Danu’ could live an eternal life. As the last queen of their race… she had her way of seeing things.
Humans died way too easily. In such a savage world, human life was something that was very easy to collapse.
She didn’t want to turn away from them. She wanted to protect their lives and show them how lives were sad, painful yet happy and bright at times.
That mindset was probably the reason she first wanted to become a hero.
“I completely forgot about it…”
For a long time, she had forgotten about the origin of her story. The things she had forgotten due to being exhausted from all the fights and the endless conflict were re-aroused by her disciple from a distant future.
『This time, I want to be the one saving you.』
It was her first time having someone trying to save her.
Because she was a hero, it was always a life of saving others. Eventually, after living as a hero for the majority of her life, she started taking herself out of the picture every time.
Because it was obvious that she had to sacrifice; because it was obvious that she had to be the one protecting them…
There was an unavoidable sense of isolation that came at the cost of forever being a protector and never a protectee, but she became way too used to it after a long period of time.
『Now, instead of chasing after your back… I can stand by your side.』
The fact that people needed company in life was very obvious. Even though she had forgotten something so obvious due to a long life of isolation, the boy enlightened her back to it.
He told her he would stand by her side.
Reflecting on those words, she couldn’t help but widen her lips and give a big smile like a fool. Her reddened face was as scorching as the summer sun.
How could she not find him adorable?
The boy who wanted to save her from her life of endless solitude was so loveable that she couldn’t come up with any words in response.
“Korin. Korin, huh…”
She repeated mumbling that name, which now sounded so pleasantly sweet, without even realizing the identity of the emotion budding inside her.
The Grim Reaper stared at its long friend who had to go through the third night as always.
Although the god of death had known her for over 1,000 years, the Grim Reaper had never seen such a girlish expression on the face of its long-time friend, which was why it had trouble getting used to it.
《Well, I guess it is not all that bad.》
The lethargic expression she used to have while massacring undeads before meeting the boy was definitely not a good thing to look at as her long-time friend.
For now, the god of death decided to quietly gloss over the positive change of its friend.
《But what exactly was he thinking? He could have chosen any of the single-digit treasures and yet…》
The Grim Reaper suddenly recalled the choice of that warrior. The treasure he chose while giving up on all the countless Treasures of the Underworld was the worst, and perhaps the most useless item for Korin Lork.
– The attack will always hit the target.
– It will separate the flesh from the soul.
– The attack ignores defense.
It was a powerful orb that could make any weapon act like the scythe of the Grim Reaper after being attached to a weapon. Any weapon with this attached could twist the laws of nature and bring a definite result.
But that was only if it was used by the Grim Reaper.
When used by a human, it would somewhat maintain its abilities but definitely wasn’t at the level of other great treasures.
Let alone knights and mages…. Even the souls of normal humans would be able to retaliate against the soul-separating attack when used by a human. It might be insanely powerful against weak golems or low-grade undeads which would have weak connections between the soul and the flesh but…
〚I do not perceive spirits.〛
Because of the power of Precepts which was as firm as the contract with the Grim Reaper if not more, Korin Lork couldn’t interfere with the works of astral bodies.
In other words, that meant that using the orb, which was considered a semi-spiritual attack, would make his attacks miss without fail.
《However, the scale did not tilt.》
It meant that the Grim Reaper had paid enough price for the contract, which meant…
The Grim Reaper admitted that it had met a warrior who was worth expecting things from. If it was that man, he might be able to save its long-time friend… and change the fate of the ruined queen.
Rewinding the time back by a few days; back to Hotel Kanna near the entrance of Nazrea;
Night ended and the day was slowly starting to break as several students started to show up at Hotel Kanna.
“About time to end.”
The one who planned this group event, Professor Kang Ryun, finally announced the upcoming end of the group event.
This group event was about surviving from the undeads for as long as possible for 3 days while collecting as many Moonstones as possible.
Survival skills and the agility to escape from the chasing undeads – on top of that, the students had to search for Moonstones from the countless waves of undeads. The resulting marks were to be given while taking all those points into consideration.
There were a total of 8 teams and 32 people from Purple Hawk and Merkarva. Only 4 of these 8 groups would be proceeding to the next stage of the group event but… the people from Merkarva didn’t have positive looks on their faces.
“Ugh… Our team failed on the first day though.”
“…Most of the guys that failed on the first day are from our Academy.”
Jaeger and Lark were disqualified due to the sudden gathering of the 3 great bosses of Nazrea, but the problem was that Jaeger and Lark from Group D weren’t the only ones that failed on the first day.
“I think we’re doomed.”
“Well… I guess it was lucky of us to make our way up here in the first place.”
“That’s it for us Mandrake Bandits, huh…”
Most of the contestants from Merkarva Academy were from the ‘Immortan Lork Bandits’ – those who grouped up and viciously attacked other students to monopolize points. What that meant was that although they were skilled at ganging up on others as a group, their individual skills were very subpar.
So unlike Purple Hawk who brought the cream of their crop, there were a lot of disqualified contestants from Merkarva Academy starting from the first day.
“I guess there’s no hope for Merkarva except for Group A with Marie and Group D with Korin…”
“Two people were disqualified from Group D on the first day as well. We have zero hope…”
Realistically speaking, Group A with Marie Dunareff was the only one they could trust. In other words, the result of this group event was probably going to be 3:1 with Purple Hawk having more groups.
People came in after opening the main entrance of the hotel. The professors and the priests had dealt with most of the undeads nearby so they were probably going to be students.
“Sorry. We were almost late.”
6:50 am. The ones that came in were from Group 1 of Purple Hawk Academy, Kang Yuhua, and her team.
The group with the strongest student of Purple Hawk Academy, Sword Lord Kang Yuhua, walked in while dragging behind a large pack that evidently contained an enormous amount of Moonstones. The knights, Watanabe Jun and Xin Zhou, ripped the bag after dragging it inside as the Moonstones started crumbling down from inside.
“Sorry, President. We’ll pick them up.”
They silently began picking up the Moonstones but the students from Merkarva gasped while talking to themselves.
“What the… how many do they have?”
“It’s like they had a monopoly on them.”
Kang Yuhua and her Group 1 had brought a ridiculous number of Moonstones.
In fact, they did have a monopoly on them to some extent – thanks to her ability that allowed her to walk on the sky, Kang Yuhua focused solely on the Moonstone undeads and was the most efficient of all the students in this group event.
Some of the students even saw her fly like an angel above thousands of undeads, beheading some of them on her way.
『Group 1: 558 points』
“Highest so far.”
Kang Ryun said after assessing the quantity and quality of the Moonstones, his assessment appalled the listening students.
Even though Groups A and D of Merkarva had yet to return, Group 1 still had an incomparably large number of points compared to the current second place, which only had 160 points.
“Good work. President. Your team will come 1st by far in this group event.”
“We might have to see,” said Kang Yuhua.
Kang Ryun seemed puzzled after hearing her words. Unlike him, who was staying in the hotel to form a formation that chased out undeads, Yuhua had gone to further places in search of Moonstones.
“There is a monster in Merkarva.”
“Hello~. Ahht! Are we late?”
Saying that, an amicable girl with water-colored hair, Marie, walked into the building with her group members.
The only team Merkarva could believe in, Group A, had finally made their return.
“Ohh! It’s Senior Marie!”
“They brought a bunch of Moonstones as well!”
Marie, Isabelle, Russel and Eristina. All 4 members of Group A returned at the same time and were carrying a bag that was at least double the size of Kang Yuhua’s Group 1.
There were so many Moonstones that Marie was even using her familiar, Doggo, to help them drag the bag across.
“There we go!”
Marie placed the bag down with so much vigor that people seeing her for the first time wouldn’t even consider her a mage. Out of everyone, Senior Professor Kang Ryun was the only one who didn’t lose their composure.
“Wait while I assess your marks.”
“Okay~. Oh my, you guys are Lark and Jaeger! Where is Korin?”
[Group A: 499 points]
“How can this be?”
“Group A has double the Moonstones though!”
“Is that measuring machine bugged?”
Merkarva students created a fuss. Even though 499 points was enough for Group A to proceed to the next stage of the group event, there was still a matter of pride.
“Calm down. The device is functioning properly. Look.”
Kang Ryun immediately settled the students like the veteran he was and showed them the reason why Group A had fewer points.
Some Moonstones were completely crushed, and there was a bunch of powdered Moonstones inside Group A’s bag.
“It weighs a lot, but more than half have lost their value as magic stones.”
“Ahaha… I, I see~”
“See. I told you Marie. Your spells were too strong.”
Both Group 1 and Group A knew the reason why there were so many broken Moonstones.
Even when facing hundreds and thousands of undeads, Marie relied on her overwhelming mana output to wipe them out with magic, and every time she did that, the Moonstone undeads were also crushed alongside the other undeads.
“Well, at least we defeated some elite monsters.”
Isabelle commented how elite monsters in semi-Grade 1 and Grade 2 were in fact easier compared to the low-grade undeads.
In any case, the ranking was as follows.
Group 1: 558 points
Group A: 499 points
Group 3: 160 points
Group 2: 155 points
Group 4: 126 points
Group C: 98 points
Group B: 55 points
It was essentially already decided that three Purple Hawk teams and one Merkarva team would be making their way up to the next stage of the group event. Even though Group D hadn’t returned yet, the students weren’t expecting much from Group D which had lost two of its members on the first day.
“Hello everyone! Good morning!”
“Uhh, I think we’re a bit late, Mr. Korin!”
At last, the two survivors of Group D, Korin Lork and Alicia Arden returned to the hotel.
The students and professors naturally turned to the bag they were carrying and all thought the same thing. They thought it was to be expected after seeing their bag, which was incredibly small compared to the other groups.
“You were fairly late, Student Korin. Student Alicia.”
“59 minutes. Right on the dot, sir.” said Korin.
“That’s why I told you we should have breakfast later.”
“It would take ages for us to have time to sit down again after leaving the city. I can’t wait for that long.”
“Student Korin. Bring me your bag. Let me assess your points.”
Even though it would probably be meaningless, Kang Ryun still did what he had to do.
“Yes sir~. It’s right here.”
Korin took out a single Moonstone from his bag.
A large chunk of Moonstone landed on the desk, which gathered the eyes of everyone nearby.
That Moonstone, which gained its name for being a stone that harbored moonlight, had a brilliant silver light that made it literally appear like the moon.
It was top-notch! That was a perfect Moonstone, both in size and color, that no one could argue against.
“T, two hundred and fifty points…”
The students couldn’t help but feel stunned after seeing the number on the display screen of the measuring machine.
With just a single Moonstone, their group sky-rocketed all the way to 3rd place. What kind of elite monster did they have to defeat to gain such an enormous Moonstone?
“Uun? Korin? Weren’t we prohibited from going to the center of the city?”
Marie tilted her head, seemingly puzzled after seeing this Moonstone which was clearly from the danger zone.
“They said it was dangerous, but there was no rule stopping us from going there.”
‘I should have gone there as well!’ said Marie while bringing her hands together.
“Hmm… Group D. You have 250 points and have come 3rd place…”
“I have more though?”
“T, they have more?”
Korin took out two more Moonstones. The students were shocked after seeing how they looked similar to the one before.
“Korin and Alicia, these guys. How far deep did these guys go?!”
“The center of the city… Maybe they killed the 3 great bosses of Nazrea or something?”
The two following Moonstones equaled 246 and 272 points.
“Now, this is the last one we have.”
And the last one Korin took out was in a completely different ‘league’. It had a red luster that was ominously different from the other Moonstones. It seemed so inauspicious that it didn’t even look like a Moonstone anymore.
Everyone was struck speechless.
Group D: 1,768 points
Group 1: 558 points
Group A: 499 points
Group 3: 160 points
Group 2: 155 points
Group 4: 126 points
Group C: 98 points
Group B: 55 points
As such, the four teams that would be proceeding to the next stage of the group event were decided.
On the way back from Nazrea, I looked at the City of the Dead through the window of the house hanging on the monster carrier.
Erin, the one who separated from my master like a clone 300 years ago, was still inside that city.
“That was very eventful.”
Sitting by my side, Alicia handed over the potatoes steamed by Marie.
“You’ll be going there again right?”
“I need to.”
Alicia seemed to have realized that I would be going back one day to save the imprisoned Erin. Would she get mad… if I told her I made a contract with the Grim Reaper?
“Please go together with Senior Marie and me when you are going there again. I don’t know what you are thinking, Mr. Korin, but let us help you.”
Her willingness to help was so commendable that I rustled my fingers through her hair and made it into a mess. She went, ‘Uhk! Ehk! Uhk!’ but that was okay.
“The next group event is more important. You have to get to work immediately after going back, Alicia.”
“…You’re really driving me around like a servant. By the way, don’t we have to do the doubles event as well after going back?”
“There’s that too.”
Kang Yuhua and Sa Jinhyuk should be participating in a team for the doubles event. Originally, Sa Jinhyuk was attending the individual event so he wasn’t going to participate in the group event but…
Kang Ryun had some tricks up his sleeve. Well, I’ll let him do what he wants for now though.
“Let’s take a rest for now. We’ve been working too hard.”
I had to think of ways to make use of the power I got from the Grim Reaper as well. Obtaining a Treasure of the Underworld was slightly unexpected but if everything went well, the ‘Orb of the Grim Reaper’ might act as a nice hidden card for the 3rd Arc.
“I wonder what Hua Ran is up to right now.”
Thinking about the girl that was at the core of this main scenario, I felt a bit concerned.
The day I returned to Merkarva, I heard some shocking news from Lady Josephine.
“Student Hua Ran is in confinement.”
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