A black object fell and dirtied the marble floor. It was the chocolate pudding that Grid was eating.
The South Korean team's waiting room. Grid had lost his soul. He didn't even notice that the expensive pudding he normally didn't buy had fallen to the ground.
"God Grid? Hey, God Grid!"
Peak Sword noticed Grid's unusual state. He grabbed Grid's shoulder and randomly shook it. He couldn't help feeling worried. Among the many snacks available in the waiting room, Grid had only picked the most expensive chocolate pudding. He had already eaten six consecutive ones!
"Hey! I told you! I told you it was dangerous if you consumed so much sugar at once! But you...! You just said that freebies are good...! Hey! God Grid!! Wake up! Look into my eyes!"
'...It's different from the image I imagined.'
The representatives' images of Overgeared King Grid and Peak Sword was very big. In particular, Grid and Peak Sword were heroes and idols to the young rankers participating on the Korean team this year. They imagined a noble image. However, reality was the exact opposite of their imagination. They seemed like neighborhood idiots.
But why weren't they disappointed? Grid and Peak Sword had no authority? Well, it was better to be friendly and comfortable.
"It's okay. I was just thinking about something else."
In the turmoil, Grid belatedly regained his mind and focused on the screen again. He watched Yura hunt monsters and gather the 'proof of strength.'
"Really... Really strong."
In fact, he hadn't expressed it, but Grid had been worried about Yura. She had been in the top position. How hard would it be for her to be in a slump for more than a year after becoming a Demon Slayer?
A conditional class that exerted exceptional power in certain conditions. It was a good fit for ordinary people like Grid. However, it was poison for a versatile person like Yura. It was a poison that regulated Yura's talents, who could act in various fields. Grid worried that Yura had been regretting her choice.
'...I would certainly regret it.'
But she didn't. She walked alone without relying on anyone. Then she descended to hell. This was the result. Yura succeeded in returning as a dominant power in the National Competition.
Grid was someone who always tried. He knew how much Yura had done for this moment. Thus, he was in awe.
Peak Sword handed a tissue to Grid with a solemn expression. There was no handkerchief.
"Wipe your mouth..."
[The crystal skeleton has been defeated.]
[All the Proofs of Strength have been gathered. Visit Andrew Village and meet the chief. He will give you the second version of the 'Saint Sword's Song.']
'I shouldn't overlap with Kraugel.'
Had Kraugel already collected all the proofs? Or was he still at the collecting stage? According to Yura's calculations, it was naturally the former.
'I might meet Kraugel if I go directly to the village.'
She didn't want to admit it, but even if they were both legendary classes, Sword Saint Kraugel's combat ability was much better. The pressure that Yura felt when she was hit a while ago was considerable. If Yura had pulled the gun a bit later then she was likely to be hit. Kraugel's strength was beyond what she had expected.
'If only Hell Leap was a bit more stable...'
It was the trump card that Yura acquired by clearing a hidden Demon Slayer quest. Unfortunately, it was difficult to use. It was a skill that temporarily moved the user's body 'somewhere' in hell. No one could guarantee where the caster would fall. In the worst case, she could fall where a great demon was or directly onto hell fire.
In fact, 30 minutes ago, Yura used Hell Leap during her confrontation with Kraugel and fell right in front of the castle of the 15th great demon. She was caught by a red monster guarding the gates and even the legendary passive couldn't completely resist the 'absolute petrification.' The agility of her body fell significantly.
Yura couldn't help letting out a sigh. She lamented being weaker than Kraugel despite also being a legend. Her level was even higher. She had passed level 300 before the start of the National Competition, while Kraugel was still in the mid-200s. Even so, Yura had a low chance of winning in a frontal confrontation.
'...No, it's an excuse.'
Class wasn't the only important thing. The grim reality was proven when the normal class Kraugel had defeated Grid.
'Hurry.' Acting in front of Kraugel wasn't her first choice. She would miss the gold medal if she kept avoiding Kraugel. Then there would be no meaning in participating in the saint sword drawing. 'I can't avoid a fight with Kraugel.'
Yura realized the cold reality and ran to Andrew Village. She wished that Grid's support would bring her good luck.
"Ah, they met again."
"Yura is pitiful."
"Isn't it really dangerous this time?"
It was two and a half hours since saint sword drawing started. By the time most participants acquired the third verse of the Saint Sword's Song, Kraugel and Yura were on the last verse and encountered each other again. It was their sixth clash. No matter how much Yura was damaged, she kept chasing after Kraugel.
As the confrontations continued, Kraugel's side overwhelmed Yura. Kraugel's combat adaptability was unmatched. In the repeated battles, he grasped the unique characteristics of a Demon Slayer and reversed them completely to neutralize Yura. Now it was hard for Yura to resist. The only path she could choose was to retreat from Kraugel's swordsmanship. She didn't look back when she met Kraugel and used Hell Leap.
In the process...
"Now she is summoning a demonkin?"
The people were startled at the sight of Yura. She disappeared with a red light and reappeared through a black hole with something on her shoulder. People naturally assumed it was a demonkin that she summoned. But the demonkin was biting her shoulder.
The commentators, crowd, and even Kraugel was confused at the situation. They couldn't understand why Yura had ended up like this. But they noticed it within a few minutes.
'No way, has she been going to hell every time she uses the skill?'
It had been like this from the beginning. When she disappeared and reappeared, Yura often seemed injured or affected by a status condition. It was obvious that the teleportation skill she used was different from normal instantaneous movements.
"Isn't this skill too dangerous?"
Kraugel asked as if he knew everything. But Yura's expression didn't change at all.
"I don't know what you mean."
Yura cut off the demonkin biting at her shoulder and pointed her gun at Kraugel. She had to open the distance and recover enough resources to make full use of Hell Leap. Kraugel read her intentions and tried to narrow the distance, but she was the sky above the sky for female users. She didn't allow him to easily narrow the distance.
"Oh! Kraugel is a completely bad guy!"
Grid was extremely agitated. It was because Kraugel hunting Yura instead of proceeding with the quests was too hateful.
"Can't you share a gold medal and silver medal? Why are you acting like you want to eat everything?"
"It's because he acknowledges Yura's skills. There's a chance he might miss the gold medal if he spares her."
Like the other player, Eat Spicy Jokbal was concentrating on the game. Viola, the woman in a hanbok sitting next to him nodded as if she agreed.
"That lady, she's too strong."
It was obvious that Kraugel was one level higher. The problem was that so far, only Grid had managed to go against Kraugel. In people's eyes, the difference in skills between the two people was minimal.
"But what the hell is that Hell Leap?"
"Yes. I thought it was simply a fraudulent movement skill, but now a monster has come out."
Yura once again retreated. She escaped from Kraugel and lurked in the forest, escaping from a great crisis for now. Grid's throat became parched as he felt relief. He was just grabbing a soda when a security guard approached him.
"That... A guest has come."
"Guest? Who is it?"
Who would come to the South Korean team while the National Competition event was going on? The security guard replied to the confused Grid.
"Panmir of the US team."
The first ranked blacksmith since Satisfy opened. He was the person who made Grid participate in the blacksmithing event in last year's National Competition.
'Is he coming to ask me to participate this year?'
After thinking about last year's incident, Grid laughed and left the waiting room. Panmir was an opponent difficult to ignore. Grid respected his position but didn't fear him. Grid was familiar with Panmir's craftsmanship. He understood the sense of deprivation Panmir felt because Grid was a legendary blacksmith. Panmir was an opponent Grid had to be careful of in many ways.
"It has been a while."
Grid discovered Panmir in the hallway and spoke first. Panmir had more grey hair than last year. But his solid body and strong eyes didn't make him look old. He looked like Khan would've 15 years younger.
"I'll speak bluntly." Panmir responded to Grid's greeting and immediately got to the subject. "This year, I will beat you."
No, this was the only reason why he came? It was disturbing his day with this silly thing. Grid couldn't hide his displeasure and frowned. Panmir added, "Even if I win, it doesn't necessary mean I'm better than you. Your craftsmanship and perseverance in manually making each item is naturally better than me. Nevertheless, there's a reason I can say that I will beat you."
Panmir stopped speaking and pulled out a thin booklet. It was the book that described the rules for the blacksmithing event.
"It's due to the manipulation of the organizers."
From this year on, the rules of the blacksmithing event changed. Last year, all participants made the 'same item' with the 'same design.' But this year, the participants could make the item they wanted with any design. The most important change was the victory criteria.
Unlike last year, where the 'comprehensive value' was judged based on the item's ability, this year's blacksmith event only looked at the 'rating' of the item. The criteria was changed so that those who produced unconditionally high rated items would receive good evaluations. Growth type items were no exception. It didn't matter if the item could grow to the legendary rating. If it was a normal rating when it was finished, the gold medal would be lost.
Panmir spoke with straightforward eyes.
"Haven't you already noticed? The reason why the rules and evaluation criteria for the blacksmithing event changed this year was to keep you in check."
Even if items of the same rank were produced, Grid's items would have higher average stats. If the criteria for evaluating items were just stats, the winner of the blacksmithing event would be Grid.
This was why the organizers changed the evaluation criteria for items.
"Changing the rules to keep a certain player in check... In your position, I would feel that it's unfair."
"What do you want to say?"
"I want to tell you not to take it personally if you lose to me in this event. You aren't worse than me. You were just defeated by the organizers."
What type of confidence was this? The biggest problem was that Panmir was speaking with good intentions. Grid was forced to shut up because he was too embarrassed to reply.
Panmir smiled bitterly at him.
"I achieved level 280 and completed three hidden quests. Now I have a 0.01% chance of producing legendary rated items. In addition, my items will be at least epic rated... I can make crazily fraudulent items. So prepare your heart. Then I'm going."
After a while, Panmir left and Grid was left alone scratching his head.
"The conclusion is that you are worried about me?"
He knew for a long time that Panmir was a person with excellent craftsmanship. But Grid didn't know Panmir was such a gracious and sensitive person.
Grid wouldn't show mercy to Panmir. At present, Panmir could never imagine that Grid was holding back a surprise card.