Chapter 12. Leuf’s Garden (3)
The darkness faded. Daybreak washed the garden in holy light.
“God…I’m fucking tired.” The magnificent dawn filled his sight as Seo Jun-Ho lay in the flowerbeds. “Hup.”
He stood up. Using his spear like a cane, he planted his trembling feet into the ground and brushed off the dirt on his butt. He looked around with a tired face.
“…If I had messed up, I would’ve joined them.”
The garden was still dotted with traces of the night’s fierce battle. At that moment, a System message rang in his ears.
[You have cleared Leuf’s Garden.]
“…Hm.” Instead of being happy, Seo Jun-Ho felt suspicious. The clear requirement for this Gate was to defeat all the monsters. Of course, hunting 62 monsters were no easy task.
‘But not if there were four Players.’
It wasn’t hard for each Player to kill 15 of them.
Seo Jun-Ho stroked his chin, locked deep in thought.
‘I read up on all 186 Players who have entered this Gate in the last nine years.’
They were mostly novices, but India’s super rookie was among them.
‘Unless the info was inaccurate, he would’ve been able to kill 40 Leufs all by himself.’
As long as the three others weren’t completely useless, they definitely would have been able to clear the Gate.
“But why did they fail?”
Seo Jun-Ho was missing something. His eyebrows furrowed.
[You have received a blood flower as a clear reward.]
[You have leveled up,]
[You have leveled up.]
[All stats increased by 2.]
[5 strength stats have been restored.]
[The Gate will automatically collapse in one hour.]
The new messages crowded his view. Seo Jun-Ho’s eyes widened as he read them.
He hadn’t been expecting much from the clear reward, because Gates of this level didn’t usually give anything particularly great. But the blood flower?”
A grin crept into his face.
‘I got lucky.’
Blood flowers already had a very low chance of appearing in Gates, and they only bloomed after feeding on peoples’ blood. That was why it was called the blood flower. Seo Jun-Ho had heard rumors about it, but this was the first time he had actually gotten one.
“Item information,” he muttered, pulling the blood flower out of his inventory. A hologram window appeared.
Description: A peculiar plant that becomes a special herb upon feeding on human blood. The effect changes depending on the number of petals.
Effect: Gain 1 magic stat upon consuming a petal.
Seo Jun-Ho laughed heartily, his face stretching like a Buddha statue. He even felt like he would be willing to talk to those tabloid journalists now.
‘From what I remember, blood flowers gain one petal per year…’
The Gate had first appeared 9 years ago. But the flower only had seven petals. Perhaps it had bloomed late.
“I’ll take it. Thank you for the food.” Seo Jun-Ho immediately popped it into his mouth. The sickening taste of blood covered his tongue.
[Magic has increased by 1.]
[Magic has increased by 1.]
Seo Jun-Ho smacked his lips as he finished off the petals. “…It tastes horrible, but I’d eat another one if I could.” The reward was more than worth it. “Wait, then my stats…Status window.”
Title: Bringer of Spring
Strength: 34 Stamina: 35
Speed: 39Magic: 37
Even though he had spent the entire night massacring the Leufs and ended up clearing the Gate, his level only increased by four. This was because leveling up required more EXP the higher one’s level became.
‘All my stats increased by 4 because I leveled up…And I got 7 more magic stats from the blood flower.’
In a single night, his magic stat increased by 11.
“I guess I won’t have to worry about my magic power for a while.” His next battle would be much easier. Seo Jun-Ho grinned and turned around. “Now that I’ve cleared the Gate…Let’s get their cores.”
He went around the Leufs’ corpses, swiftly collecting their cores and putting them into his inventory. When he finished, he headed toward the maze instead of the exit. Up close, it was much bigger than it was from afar.
‘Back there, I thought it was only about 3 meters high, but it looks like it’s at least 5.’
The height made it considerably intimidating. It was currently morning, but he wondered how it would have felt if he faced it at night while being chased by Leufs.
Seo Jun-Ho was suddenly glad that he didn’t make the decision to escape here.
As Seo Jun-Ho entered the maze, he occasionally froze the ground so that he wouldn’t lose his way. The ground was covered in all kinds of weapons and equipment. He quickly scanned them.
‘That one’s old, that one’s broken…Wait, what is that? There’s a flower growing inside the armor.’
None of the equipment caught his eye.
As he turned toward a different path, he gasped. “Hm!”
There, a skeleton was leaning against the wall. Next to it was a notebook and a bow.
“…Found it.” This was what he had been looking for. Seo Jun-Ho slowly approached the wall, carefully picking up the fallen bow. It was covered in dust, but it was a perfectly intact, high-grade bow.
‘So this is Tempest Butterfly.’
Tempest Butterfly was named as such because the arrows it fired flew dizzily like a butterfly, and the sharp winds it caused were like a tempest.
“It’s not as good as ‘Final Horizon,’ which was found in some historical ruins on the 2nd Floor…But it’s a good bow.”
Final Horizon was a bow for sniping, and it was said that it could fire an arrow to the end of the horizon. However, it was currently in the hands of a fiend who obsessively collected bows, so Seo Jun-Ho didn’t really care about it.
Seo Jun-Ho stared at the bow for a second and looked up. He realized the identity of the skeleton.
“…Tushar Vishi.” A rising Player from India.
Seo Jun-Ho said a silent prayer for him. “Thank you.”
If Tushar had felt spiteful enough, he would have placed Tempest Butterfly into his inventory before he died. If he had done that, the rare-grade bow would have disappeared forever.
But he didn’t do it…
“I suppose the reason for this will be written in this notebook.” Seo Jun-Ho carefully opened the old, weathered notebook. The contents were written in neat English.
“This is… a journal.”
Tushar Vishi’s entire story was written inside.
The entries were written with the date and time. Since Seo Jun-Ho was proficient in English, Japanese, and Hindi, he had no problem reading them.
– April 7th, 2044. 12:40 PM.
I’ve received a request to clear the Leuf’s Garden in Korea. The reward is unthinkable for a mere level 10 Player like me. People keep telling me to reconsider, but I can’t let this opportunity slip by.
– April 23rd, 2044. 4:12 PM.
We’re going into the Leuf’s Garden tomorrow. All my practice arrows hit bulls-eye.
I have a good feeling about this.
– April 24th, 2044. 11:37 AM.
We finally entered the Gate. My teammates are fellow comrades who I’ve been fighting with since we were level 1.
We scouted our surroundings. It’s so beautiful that it’s hard to believe that we’re inside a Gate.
– April 24th, 2044. 8:33 PM.
When night fell, flower ghosts came crawling out of the ground. This Gate’s pattern is a monster wave. On the first wave, 8 Leufs came out. We joked and laughed as we killed them. But in the second wave, 16 came out. On the third, there were 32. When 64 came out on the fourth wave, we gave up on killing the Leufs and ran away to the maze.
If we defeat them all, I hope there won’t be 128 after them. Dammit, this Gate is crazy.
– April 25th, 2044. 5:29 AM.
The dawn is bright.
We somehow survived the first night. The Leufs that were chasing us crawled back into the ground. But one of my comrades died because he lost too much blood.
…We made him a grave as promised and buried him.
I swear; this day is the longest of my life.
-April 25th, 2044. 7:12 PM.
The sun will set soon.
I hope I can write another entry tomorrow.
O great Shiva, god of destruction, grant me strength.
– April 26th, 2044. 2:48 PM.
I collapsed as soon as the battle ended. I barely have any feeling in my fingers, so it’s difficult to even lift a pen.
We killed the remaining Leufs from the night before. But the fifth wave began after that, and there were 128 Leufs. I’m not exaggerating. There really were 128 of them. We nearly died while fighting, and now there are only 40 left. Once the sun sets, I can even hunt them all by myself. Tomorrow, we’ll be able to leave this accursed Gate.
…Wait, there won’t be a sixth wave, right?
– April 26th, 2044. 5:02 PM.
Fuck! That fucker!
One of my teammates was a fiend. How did he manage to trick us?
He attacked me from behind. I killed the dirty fiend, but he cut my left palm while we were fighting. I can’t feel my left arm. I can’t lift a bow like this.
My last comrade heard the commotion. The color left her face when she saw…
Now there are only two of us. I’m worried about tonight.
Seo Jun-Ho’s eyes softened sadly as he read the journal. The next entries were written with unstable handwriting. He could feel the urgency in the ink.
– April 26th, 2044. 6:58 PM.
I ran without looking back. My comrade was fighting for the two of us because of my injury, but she was eventually killed.
Dammit! The tears won’t stop.
What do I do?
I’m so scared. My entire body is shaking.
When I finally stopped, I was faced with a dead end. I also stepped on a trap, and now my leg is bleeding.
It’s getting harder to keep my eyes open. I think this will be my grave.
…I can hear the Leufs coming. They’re getting louder. If someone finds this notebook, please tell our families that we’re sorry…
Perhaps the Leufs had taken some time to come because the entry continued. Seo Jun-Ho was able to guess that it had been the case because the handwriting at the bottom was even rougher, and the contents were filled with deeper resentment and anger. There wasn’t even a date and time anymore.
– If I survive, I’ll kill all those fucking fiends. They’re the cancer of humanity.
O great Shiva, let all those sinners burn in hell. I offer my soul to you.
Someone, anyone, take vengeance for this pitiful warrior.
After that, the next few pages were filled with nonsensical cursing. But the last page had another change in tone. It seemed to have been written by someone with a clear mind, ready to accept death. The handwriting reverted back to Tushar Vishi’s neat style.
– April 27th, 2044. 12:01 AM.
I am still alive. I will put down my notebook and pen and lift my bow, even if it’s with my teeth.
O goddess of war, O god of archery.
Show me the great miracle of the butterfly once more.
That was the final entry.
“…Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like there had been a miracle.” If there had been a miracle, Tushar would still be alive.
Seo Jun-Ho’s questions were now answered.
‘The number of Leufs increases depending on how many Players enter the Gate.’
A shiver went down his spine. If he had entered the Gate with three unqualified Players, they would have faced a total of 248 Leufs by the fifth wave.
“…Even I don’t know if I’d be able to handle that.” Especially if he had to carry three extra Players on his back.
‘Who knew that the best way to clear this Gate is to come alone?’
Seo Jun-Ho had been the first person to enter this Gate alone in the past 9 years. After people kept failing, the predecessors were scared and always entered with a full party of four.
Seo Jun-Ho calmed himself and stood up. “Hup.”
He scrolled through his inventory. He always carried a certain item, just in case. “Here it is.”
He pulled out a bottle of cheap liquor and poured it over the skeleton.
“Hindus believe in reincarnation, right? I hope you were reborn in a nice place.” Seo Jun-Ho said a short prayer for Tushar. After paying his respects, he checked the information on Tempest Butterfly.
Force of arrow increased by 250%
A fierce wind will be created around the arrow when fired
Use requirement: Level 10, 45 strength, 45 speed
Even though the world had become like a game, there was no attack stat or anything attached to weapons. As long as you landed a good blow to the head or the heart, it would do the job.
The Tempest Butterfly’s effects were great, but Seo Jun-Ho didn’t express his usual excitement out of respect for Tushar Vishi.
‘I don’t have enough strength or speed stats, so I won’t be able to use it right away.’
Of course, he could wield it if he wanted to, but since he didn’t meet the usage requirements, the item effects would be null.
Seo Jun-Ho looked down at Tushar’s skeleton. His skull was facing the sky as if longing for life.
“I’m gonna borrow your bow. It’s not really payment, but I’ll take revenge for you on those fiends. I really hate those bastards too.”
As if in answer, Tushar’s skull clattered down after years of facing the sky.
“…Farewell, India’s young hero.”
Seo Jun-Ho turned around and left the Gate.