The Guild Alliance and the Rankers responded enthusiastically to Crevon's call for help. They insisted that they had received a lot from Crevon and that they shared deep emotional bonds with it, but in truth, most of them were after the money that Crevon had put up.
They all gathered at World's End in the East.
"…This is no joke."
But the calamities that they came to face far exceeded their expectations in terms of scale and intensity. Four calamities were stationed in the vast area about the size of Jeju Island.
The Players stared at the creatures from myths and legends that anyone would have heard of at least once. Their overwhelming presence shook the earth. The Players dared not venture into it and could only watch from afar.
"Huh? What's that?"
Suddenly, a child-like voice broke the silence dominated by tension.
It belonged to Yi Jiyoon. Everybody turned their attention to her. Yi Jiyoon, unperturbed, simply stared in one direction.
Before long, everyone turned their gaze to where she looked.
An archer stood atop a nameless, gracefully steep mountain.
A black lotus was engraved on his robe which fluttered in the wind. He aimed his bow at the vast field below without leaving any room for error.
A series of murmurs—more like laments—broke out at the same time. The people gathered here knew him all too well.
Black Lotus. He had come back. It was clear who his arrows defined as the enemy.
A tiny wave of panic swept across the entire crowd.
Everyone watched him pull the bowstring.
Some tried to put up a barrier, and others were already running away.
But the arrows were fired before anyone could react.
At the sound of the arrows flying through the air, some screamed, and others got down on the ground.
But no matter how long they waited… the attack that they anticipated never came.
Black Lotus' arrows were not aimed at them.
Upon this realization, a series of doubtful murmurs broke out. His arrows were actually fired in the opposite direction, towards Chimera, the 3rd calamity, and the group of monsters near it.
The arrows fired in a single shot divided into many different paths and rigorously tore up the monsters.
"Is this… real?"
His archery skill had surpassed the human domain. The arrows, divided into five different paths, moved as if they were self-intelligent. The five lines pierced one monster after the other. The arrows moved as though they were painting in the air. One little move was equivalent to the death of at least 10 monsters.
The monsters roared in fury at the surprise attack. They were again shot to death by the arrows. And yet the monsters were not frightened, and the arrows too continued to pierce them without hesitation. Their stubborn animosity had no effect on the arrows.
That's when the players realized that Black Lotus was helping them out, although they weren't sure why.
In that case, there really was no reason for them to be so afraid.
The most simple-minded guilds were the first ones to think so, and they ran. They were the members of the Chinese guild, 'Empire of Glory', and the Indian guild, 'Mumbai Crew'. They ran to where Black Lotus' arrows had just landed. To earn TP, they killed and tore apart the monsters that were already half-dead.
Seeing this, other guilds also rushed in impatiently, and High Rankers were left with no choice but to participate as well.
It was the start of a war.
Boss joined us soon after the fight, which was way too disorganized to be called a war. She was completely prepared for action, and we all rushed towards Python, who was by itself.
Python was literally a giant serpent, but her head slightly resembled that of a human.
She was scattering her bodily fluids and eggs in the canyon to mark her territory.
"Can I go in and fight now?"
Cheok Jungyeong asked as he began to stretch. He seemed to acknowledge her as a challenging opponent, seeing how he put quite a bit of effort into stretching. Arms as big as my thigh and legs as wide as my body moved around intensely.
The exorbitant size of his biceps made me wonder what his stats looked like.
There was only one way to satisfy my curiosity.
I took the Directory out.
[Magic Power ??]
I was at a loss for words. All but his perception stat had question marks, which meant that they were well over 11.
He seemed more of a monster than Python.
"…What are ya looking at?"
Of course, it wasn't like they didn't make any sense. Cheok Jungyeong had acquired 'Secret March', a special skill that boosted physical stats, and his base stats were high to begin with, thanks to his Gift.
"Ah~ I see."
Cheok Jungyeong gave a broad grin.
His Gift was 'Inheritance', which allowed him to connect with his former life. And in his former life, he was the strongest warrior in Goryeo.
"But our bodies are made differently, so you can never be like me."
Cheok Jungyeong mistook my gaze as a sign of envy and remarked.
"…It's not like I want to."
"Heh, don't lie."
"You're too noisy, Gyeong."
Boss stopped Cheok Jungyeong. He mumbled in dissatisfaction and retreated.
Now, it was time for the mission briefing.
I gathered all of my dark ore arrows in one place.
"She's pretty tough, so we can't just do whatever we want. Each of us will have to play a specific role."
This was obvious to anyone who has played MMORPGs before, but the cooperation among team members and the strategy were the most important aspects of a raid.
Cheok Jungyeong, who liked to play solo, seemed pretty annoyed, while Jin Yohan smiled and nodded.
"I know, I know. But there's only four of us."
"No, there's seven."
At that precise moment, a dark flash and a white bird of prey appeared, wrapped up in wind.
Sannuri and Spartan stopped next to me. They brought Jain, who had been sleeping, with them.
"Haa… I wanted to rest for a bit."
Jain got off, tidying her disheveled hair.
Finally, everyone—me, Boss, Cheok Jungyeong, Jain, Jin Yohan, Spartan, and Sannuri—was here.
I began assigning roles.
When taking on a snake that big, it was better to divide her into different parts(?) and attack. And so Cheok Jungyeong was put in charge of the tail, which was Python's vital point, Jin Yohan was assigned to the right side of the body, Boss was assigned to the left side of the body, and I assigned myself to the head.
"We can leave the other monsters nearby to Sannuri and Spartan."
"…What about me?"
Jain bent her head and asked.
"You're quick on your feet. Please assist anyone who needs more help."
With a long yawn, we prepared for action.
First, Cheok Jungyeong stepped forward.
"So you're saying that I have to go and get rid of the tail first?"
"Yes. But be careful, she'll probably shoot poison with her tail. It'll be hard to block it even with my armor."
Item levels and monster levels worked slightly differently. Simply put, item levels were more valuable. For example, depending on its properties, a Lv.3 sword could be used to kill Lv.6~8 monsters.
But our enemy was the Lv.30 Python. Cheok Jungyeong's Lv.6 Infighter's Leather Armor should not be able to protect him from Python's venom.
"No worries. My body is tougher than this armor."
The blood vessels in Cheok Jungyeong's eyes were already starting to erupt. As a warrior, he was clearly excited in the face of a fierce battle.
"Okay, then. Let's go."
With that, Cheok Jungyeong ran.
Koong, koong, koong, koong!
The sound of his footsteps shook the earth, and the ground where he stepped cracked, throwing bits of the soil into the air.
Cheok Jungyeong roared and jumped. For a second, he flew, purely from the strength of his legs.
I shot my arrows just before Cheok Jungyeong landed on Python's tail. The other members of the Chameleon Troup, Spartan, and Sannuri chased after him at a speed almost equivalent to my arrows.
The raid had begun.
[Party 'Chameleon Troupe' is the first to defeat a calamity. This news will be announced shortly.]
[You acquire a Calamity Core.]
[Now you may go up to the 10th floor at any time.]
[Warning! 'Party play' is recommended at 10F and above.]
Team 'Chameleon Troupe' reached the 10th floor without difficulty.
The 10th floor was completely dark and we couldn't see a thing as though our sense of sight was blocked. The always kind system was also silent this time.
"…What the heck is this place?"
Cheok Jungyeong's voice filled the air. The echo of Boss' voice followed immediately.
"I can't see anything."
But I could.
When it came to vision, my Gift was unrivaled. You could say that it's my privilege as the original author.
First, I walked up to Boss and grabbed her hand.
"…Who are you!?"
Boss shouted and snatched my arm. My arm bent the other way and touched her body.
"Everyone be careful! Somebody tried to grab my hand! I caught him, but—"
"It's me, Boss."
"O, Oh. Sorry."
Boss let out a dry cough and let go of me. I grabbed everyone's hands one by one and gather them together. Soon a line was formed with me leading the way.
"Everyone, don't let go."
I said as I held Boss' hand tightly. A positive answer came from behind.
—Welcome to the 10th floor, the Maze of Insensibility.
A strange voice descended from the sky and shook the atmosphere. As it was clear that the voice was from the administrator, we immediately focused.
—I am the administrator of this floor. I assume you are here to find your way to the 11th floor.
The voice was cold. Its unpleasant tone gave me goosebumps.
—The way to the 11th floor is simple. You must find your way out of the Maze of Insensibility.
I let out a sigh of relief. In the original story, less than 100 words were used to describe the 10th floor. I was worried things might have changed, but it hadn't, thankfully.
—However, numerous traps and monsters are waiting for you in this maze, and you'll lose your senses one by one as you get closer to the exit. Just like how sight was taken away from you.
The administrator paused briefly before continuing.
His tone was much warmer and more friendly than it had just been.
—But, I am also aware that you are the first ones to conquer a calamity. I respect people like you. Therefore, I have made a difficult decision to allow you to keep all of your senses in the Maze of Insensibility in exchange for your Calamity Core.
I sneered in silence.
He dares to scheme against us when he's only the administrator of an insignificant floor.
"No, we'll just do it."
—You will regret it. I've come to this conclusion after much deliberation. Under normal circumstances…
"That's okay. We'll play fair."
—…Fool. Good luck, then.
The voice stopped abruptly.
The darkness remained, of course, since we didn't offer our Calamity Core.
With the administrator's voice gone, everything became silent.
"Hey, I've got a question."
All of sudden, Cheok Jungyeong broke the silence.
"Why are these administrators or whatever helping us climb the Tower?"
Immediately, my heart skipped a beat. Cheok Jungyeong's thoughtless question was piercing the root of my settings.
"I don't know… maybe because they're already dead?"
The answer to his question required further explanation.
Take 8-3F, Crevon, for example.
Although the rulers of the 8th floor, the Atalos Royal Family, had 'Lü Bu', 'Lancelot', and other heroes from history under their control, they didn't subjugate the demons. This wasn't because they pursued virtuous and ethical values such as coexistence or peace. They simply had no other choice.
A dead man was a dead man.
Souls like Lü Bu and Lancelot who once lived on Earth but were now dead couldn't move outside their designated areas. Even Lü Bu, who had the most broad sphere of activity, could only move around on [8F Crevon Mainland] and some parts of [3F Prestige].
However, the 'administrators' were free from this restraint. At the same time, they were aware that the worlds they were living in were simply part of a 'Tower'.
Therefore, they aimed to re-establish themselves in the real world—the Earth—or wished for the complete extinction of their soul. That's why they helped or hindered the Players. The Players played the most important role in the administrators' revival and extinction.
"…The hell does that mean?"
"What I mean is, I'm not sure either. For now, let's get moving."
Anyway, we took a step into the entrance of the dark maze.
"Hold on to the person behind you and don't let go. I'm pretty lucky, so I'll make sure I'll get to the exit. Just focus on not letting go. Please, Cheok Jungyeong!"
"…Ha, you out of your mind? Why are you pointing me out?"
I didn't answer and started to walk.
My hearing was still sound, and right behind me, Boss was following me holding my hand.
I walked down the path that my luck pointed out.
However, as I walked on, my senses became more and more restricted.
Soon, my sense of hearing was disappeared…
Followed by my sense of touch.
I could no longer tell whether I was walking or sinking down in a swamp.
And now, I couldn't help but start doubting my sight, the only sense that was still intact….