Chapter 53. The Price of a Gamble (1)
This might be obvious, but Players generally had better instincts than normal people. After all, their senses became sharper as they leveled up and gathered experience from Gates.
But sometimes, there were things that they could sense even if they lacked the level and experience.
The eighteen Players trembled like school children about to be punished by a teacher. Rodomir, the leader of the Black Moss tribe, was giving off an energy that was so violent and wild that it gave them the chills.
‘Goddamn, the rookie was able to fight back so I didn’t expect much…but he’s gonna kill us all.’
‘You’re telling me Seo Jun-Ho fought one-on-one with this beast?’
‘Hm…I wonder if we can take him down by taking turns and distracting him with a pincer attack…’
They fell deep in thought, and so did Cha Min-Woo. They previously thought that they could handle him when they were watching from afar, but there was an immeasurable gap between their expectations and reality now that they were close enough to hear even his breathing.
‘Jun-Ho-nim fought so bravely against someone like him?’
They bit their lips. Was it because they were scared? Of course, that was a part of it, but there was another.
‘…Dammit, what kind of burden did we place on a three-month-old newbie?’
‘Shit, I tried to give him some advice as a sunbae before. How fucking embarrassing.’
‘Genius displays itself even in childhood. Seo Jun-Ho is going places.’
They felt both embarrassed and ashamed.
“10 minutes.” At that moment, a veteran Player spoke. He was the same one that had realized what Seo Jun-Ho had been doing earlier. “I don’t think any of us can defeat him. You guys know that, right?”
Without realizing it, all the Players there nodded. Perhaps it might be different if the other Players dealing with the rest of the dark elves quickly finished up their fights and joined them, but with just the eighteen of them, it was an impossible feat to defeat such a monster.
“So let’s just survive the next ten minutes.”
“Is there any reason why it’s ten minutes?” Cha Min-Woo asked.
“I heard from the back lines that Seo Jun-Ho will completely recover in around ten minutes.”
Seo Jun-Ho’s recovery.
The Players looked determined when they realized that they just had to hold on for ten minutes. Defeating Rodomir on their own would be impossible, but holding on for ten minutes was much more doable.
Cha Min-Woo resolved himself. Fortunately, he didn’t look back; because if he did, Seo Jun-Ho would have seen the fear in his eyes. “We can do it. If it’s just ten minutes, we can hold on…” he chanted under his breath.
“Dodge, you idiot!” A Player next to him pushed his shoulder. As he rolled on the floor, he felt the vibrations of the cave in his bones.
Rodomir had made the first move. With a stroke of his sword, the wall formed by eighteen people directly shattered.
But thankfully, no one was hurt. Cha Min-Woo gripped his sword.
“Thank you for saving me! And I’m sorry!” he yelled.
“Get it together!”
The eighteen Players all moved in different directions, but they all had the same goal.
‘That ahjussi said that we just need to hold on for ten minutes, but…’
They were putting their lives on the line. It would be unfair if the only thing their opponent lost was time.
‘He should gamble his life too.’
They had their pride as Players, after all. Nineteen figures twisted and fought, aiming for each others’ lives.
Rodomir was starting to feel uneasy.
‘They were like ants before…’
When he assessed them before the battle, he hadn’t been too worried about them. He had been confident that he would be able to kill them all in five minutes at the longest.
But as soon as the battle started, things went in an unexpected direction.
His enemies were relentless. If he tossed one aside; three would go and catch that person, and during that time the rest of them would attack him.
‘Why are they fighting so hard?’
Rodomir scowled and paused his attacks, staring at the humans. When he saw the fierce look in their eyes, he realized that these disgraceful pests were trying to hunt him.
‘The power difference is obvious.’
If they were smart, they should run with their tails tucked between their legs, but they were actually trying to kill him.
He felt disappointed in himself when he couldn’t kill them all immediately.
‘Why do I feel so uneasy and afraid?’
He gripped and ungripped his fist. He hadn’t realized it yet, but he hadn’t been using his full power. Rodomir looked past the Players.
It was because the human that he first crossed swords with was still glaring at him from afar as he sat on the ground. The human was starting to recover from his injuries.
“Fufu.” Rodomir laughed. It was funny.
‘I am a fallen being and had burned my own soul away…yet I’m wary of that human?’
How could it not be funny?
But his laughter didn’t last long. The amusement left his face, and his eyes became as cold as ice in the middle of winter. He swung his sword at the Players’ heads again. It was the same trajectory as before, so they reacted the same way, but the results were different.
“Ahhhh!” A Player screamed as Rodomir cut through his shield and chest. Other Players quickly sent him to the back lines as he gasped for breath. Healers immediately attended to him.
“It was the same attack as before though?”
“…Is he finally starting to get serious?”
An alarm went off in the Players’ heads. When they checked the time, they realized that it had been seven minutes since the battle started.
‘There are still three minutes left.’
‘We’ve survived this far. We’ll survive for three minutes more, somehow…’
That was what they thought, but it only took three seconds for them to realize that they had been arrogant.
No one could block Rodomir’s strike when he attacked for real. He was like the ruler of the battlefield, controlling it as he pleased. If he wanted to kill something, he killed. If he wanted to destroy something, he destroyed.
“Keep going….keep going…” The veteran Player whispered hoarsely as he stood back up. His arm was bent the wrong way and it hung pitifully on his side.
He was a human being who could feel fear. He wasn’t some noble self-sacrificing hero either. But even with that, there was a reason why he still wouldn’t lower his sword.
‘No one can defeat him except Player Seo Jun-Ho.’
He hadn’t thought that before the battle. Telling his teammates that they only had to survive for ten minutes was meant to be a morale boost. He thought that they would be able to take this one guy down if they joined with the rest of the forces, but…
‘…that’s not true.’
Rodomir wasn’t just ‘one guy.’ The real hunt would start when all the other dark elves had been annihilated and he was the only one left. He was strong enough to be a one-man army.
The veteran player realized that if the Gate had been a little older, Rodomir would have been the boss monster of a 1-star Gate.
‘The Association grants a star to a monster with 10,000 Players killed.’ The only reason Rodomir hadn’t received one was that they were the first group to attempt to clear the Gate where he was. The veteran thought that Rodomir was more than strong enough to kill 10,000 Players.
The only sounds that could be heard were the Players’ harsh breathings. They could sense the despair in each others’ breaths.
“Is that all?”
Rodomir narrowed his eyes. He looked at them in disgust as if they were insects. The look in his eyes only angered the Players, and they used their weapons to prop themselves up.
“So you still have some strength left.”
It didn’t really matter. Whether it took him a hundred or a thousand times to force them on their knees, they would eventually stop getting up. But that time didn’t come.
Rodomir’s eyes narrowed. His eyes were fixed on a certain human that was walking toward him.
“You know what they say in movies at times like this?” Seo Jun-Ho asked. He finished stretching as if to show that his ribs were fine. “Here comes a new challenger!”
“This isn’t the 2010s…”
“Jun-Ho-nim, that’s a little…”
Seo Jun-Ho’s face fell. “W-what are you saying? All the movies I’ve seen have lines like that.”
Was he behind the times? Why was he making a dad joke?
Seo Jun-Ho cleared his throat as his face started to turn red. “Forget it. Leave this guy to me and go support the main forces.”
“Can you really take him on alone?”
“He’s really strong…”
They seemed reluctant. Truthfully, Seo Jun-Ho was giving them a reason to retreat. However, they wanted to protect their pride and honor.
“Let us fight with you instead.”
“Yes, I agree. After crossing swords with him, I don’t think he’s a monster one person can fight alone.”
“It’ll be your fault if you die while fighting alone.”
‘Why are they like this?’
Seo Jun-Ho’s frustration was starting to show on his face. While he was getting treated, he thought about how he could use his skills without arousing suspicion. The solution was obvious, but the others wouldn’t play long.
“There’s no need to ponder.” Rodomir gave him his answer. He raised his sword high over his head. “…I’ll just kill you all at once.” He swung with all his strength. The force of his strike was like a small explosion.
Seo Jun-Ho’s eyes glinted.
“Player Seo Jun-ho!”
Right before Rodomir’s sword swung, Seo Jun-Ho had stabbed him. Tremendous dark energy exploded between them.
The Players were thrown back and they realized what had happened. A black dome had formed in front of them. It spread across the clearing as Cha Min-Woo banged on the dome.
“Jun-Ho-nim! Are you alright?!”
A low voice came from the inside. “This…the bastard used…I didn’t do it…trapped…really…”
“Did he fall for the enemy’s trap?” Unable to hold back his frustration, Cha Min-Woo attacked the dome several times to no avail.
“There’s nothing we can do.” The veteran Player approached Cha Min-Woo and sat cross-legged on the ground. He stared at the dome bitterly. “I don’t know who will step out once it’s over…but all we can do now is believe and wait.”
The Players sat in front of the large dome and waited.
“What is…this?” Rodomir was uncharacteristically disoriented. He looked around the pitch darkness that surrounded him.
“This is Curtain of Darkness.” Seo Jun-Ho stroked the wall affectionately. “I usually make it to cover a small area to have private conversations, but sometimes, I hold fights in here. Like right now.”
“…So it’s your skill.”
“Were you hiding your true strength?” Rodomir growled.
Seo Jun-Ho shrugged. The darkness around him started to waver, and ice started to form.
“Your anger makes me feel like I’m the boss monster,” Seo Jun-Ho muttered as he unsheathed Black Dragon Fang. He tried to imagine it the other way around. If he had landed a near-fatal wound on a boss monster and it retreated to recover, only to come back with two new skills…
“Man, that 2nd phase would be a pain in the ass.”
Of course, Seo Jun-Ho didn’t feel this way because it wasn’t a situation that he had to deal with.
“So this is how bosses feel? How fun…” He laughed gleefully.
1. The original Korean proverb is ???? ??? ???? ???? which is directly translated to Sandalwood is fragrant even when it’s a seed leaf. ?