WebNovel The Hero Returns Chapter 68

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Chapter 68: Chapter 68

Here was an item that he treated like a headache ever since he failed to find a way to hatch the d.a.m.n thing until now.

One would only find out whether an egg was useful or not once it hatched, but it didn’t want to show any signs of doing that. But now, for the first time ever, the egg began showing some reaction and that reaction came about because of the light leaking out from the Silk Mermen’s remains.

No, it’d be difficult to link the two.

This was the egg of a “Divine Beast.” He had no idea whether the Silk Mermen were hatched from eggs or not, but these monsters definitely didn’t fall into the n.o.ble-sounding category of Divine Beast.

Which could only mean…

The condition for this egg’s hatching could be related to the floor number.

The egg began showing a reaction right after he climbed past the 20th floor and entered the 21st. It seemed that the egg’s hatching was set to advance little by little whenever monsters appearing in the trials of the 21st floor and higher were killed off.

Whatever the case might be, Su-hyeun had been antic.i.p.ating the hatching of the Divine Beast for quite a while now. If the 21st floor’s stage could hasten the egg’s hatching, then he no longer had a reason to quickly exit this place.

At first, he was planning to pa.s.s this place as soon as possible, but now, he had changed his mind.

After finis.h.i.+ng off the Silk Mermen, Su-hyeun thought about the Divine Beast’s Egg and smirked meaningfully. But, quite unlike him smiling in happiness, the other three members of the group were swimming in the pit of confusion.

Keshunirn had been accompanying Su-hyeun longer than anyone here. They had attacked a total of five dungeons together, and as they seemed to get along on pretty well, they decided to work together. More correctly, it was not Su-hyeun but Warrick he was working with — however, Keshunirn wasn’t aware of that.

Keshunirn’s own skills weren’t good enough to accurately a.n.a.lyze Su-hyeun’s actual level. It was the same story for both Aile and Howal.

After sensing the high-density magical energy from Su-hyeun, Aile adopted a wait-and-see att.i.tude, but now that she got to confirm his abilities for real, she grew a little more relaxed.

“That was amazing. Were you hiding your true abilities?”

Su-hyeun turned around to face her and replied to her question. “It’s just that we didn’t encounter a situation requiring me to use my power.”

What a textbook-like answer that was. The reply ended up sounding as if he was boasting a little, but there was no helping it, really. They wouldn’t have believed him if he told them the truth, and more importantly, Su-hyeun being excellent was an undeniable fact, anyway.

“Rather than that, let’s hurry. We don’t know how large this dungeon is. Let me take the lead,” said Su-hyeun. He sounded a lot more excited than earlier.

Was she mistaken? Aile was fl.u.s.tered by how he could still speak in such a bright voice even after they found themselves in the current situation, but she somehow managed to reply to him.

“O-of course. Let us.”

Whatever the case might have been, they still felt relieved by the fact that they got to confirm Su-hyeun’s abilities as the real deal.

Although the uneasy atmosphere still lingered, they definitely needed Su-hyeun’s strength if they were to conquer a yellow-colored dungeon.

* * *

Bang, boooom—

[Warmth has been added to the Divine Beast’s Egg.]

[The Divine Beast’s Egg has….]

Every time Su-hyeun’s hands moved, monsters’ bodies were set alight and disintegrated. Aile took care of the stray monsters that broke through the waves of flames every now and then.

Piik, pipipipik—

Kiiieeeehk—!

A lizard-type monster with long chin screamed out. The creature, pierced by an invisible spear, soon breathed its last breath.

“Nice work.”

“I only killed a handful, though.” Aile waved her hand at Su-hyeun’s praise.

During the last few hours they leisurely attacked the dungeon, only Aile proved to be any sort of a.s.sistance to him.

The three present in this place were all rank B Awakeners.

Aile, however, was an awakener with grade 5 magical energy, and as such, the other two men couldn’t even come close to her abilities.

In more ways than one, this trial made it a bit c.u.mbersome to return home for a short while. Of course, he didn’t feel that the difficulty was too high or anything like that.

Su-hyeun’s gaze was directed at Keshunirn and Howal following him from behind. He was certain of Aile’s role here. She was essentially the real leader of the group, and also, she was supposed to play the supporting role in conquering this dungeon, too.

In that case, what about the other two?

* * *

As expected, the unfortunate part was the achievement points situation.

Besides the completion rate bonus received at the end of the trial, earning these achievement points was not easy because they were handed out in relation to the awakener’s current skill level, meaning when a high-leveled awakener partic.i.p.ated in a trial with a comparatively low difficulty for his skill set, hunting down monsters wouldn’t earn him that many achievement points.

And even if some points were awarded, it’d be only a tiny amount. That’s why Su-hyeun only managed to sc.r.a.pe together a small number of achievement points through the trials up until now.

And…

As he went in deeper, monsters that were slightly stronger than the ones before began showing up, but unsurprisingly, not a single achievement point was awarded to him.

The only silver lining about this whole thing was the Divine Beast’s Egg showing some reactions. If hunting monsters down acted as a catalyst in hastening the hatching of the egg, then there should be no better-suited stage than this one.

Ten days.

During these past ten days, Su-hyeun led the rest of the group and roamed every nook and cranny of the dungeon. The paths branched like a maze several times, but he deliberately went in the wrong directions every time.

But now, there was no other path to go around. The result of moving around without a break for ten days was the death of every single monster hiding in every corner of the dungeon.

Although it took a while, he almost could taste the definite result matching his hard work, which was the incubation rate of the Divine Beast Egg.

[Incubation rate: 67%.]

The number of monsters hunted down during the past ten days was easily over a few thousand. Only after he killed that many monsters did the rate reach that high.

It sure was hard labor, but as long as he could hatch the Divine Beast’s Egg, he couldn’t label it as a waste of his time at all.

Only one path remained unexplored. It happened to be the path where he sensed a faintly higher concentration of magical energy sometime ago. Most likely, this path would take them to the boss room.

“Why don’t we search for the exit in earnest now?” Su-hyeun asked.

The first one to react to Su-hyeun’s words was Keshunirn. “So soon? If we take that path, I think we should enter a new area….”

“H-he’s right. Let’s check a bit more.” Howal quickly chimed in to agree with Keshunirn’s opinion.

The huge bundle carried on his back was filled with Ether stones found here and there inside a dungeon. These stones were diligently picked up while they roamed around in this dungeon for the past ten days.

Aile’s goal was Ether stones as well, so she didn’t find the matters of the past ten days displeasing, either. If one wanted to ama.s.s that many Ether stones, one would have to attack dozens of regular dungeons.

They were, in a way, riding a bus.

Su-hyeun was hunting down monsters at such an astonis.h.i.+ng rate and as a result, there was almost zero chance of them getting hurt, so they focused on sweeping up every Ether stone they could find. That was precisely why the group never complained once about leaving the dungeon as soon as possible and followed after Su-hyeun all this time.

“No, this really is the end,” said Aile.

What a relief it was that words could still get through to at least one person here.

Su-hyeun nodded his head at her a.s.sertion and continued on. “The path Keshunirn has spoken of is the same one we checked out three days ago. The paths here are laid out like a maze, actually.”

“A maze, you say?”

Keshunirn and Howal had been completely oblivious to that fact. Now thoroughly surprised, they hurriedly asked to confirm.

It seemed that only Aile managed to notice the layout of the dungeon. Even though it had already been ten days since they started traveling together, Su-hyeun could only groan under his breath once more.

He searched through his memories, and it seemed unlikely that their lack of skills was to blame here. They were supposed to be rank Bs, so that simply couldn’t be it.

So, the reason why Keshurnirn and Howal failed to notice the dungeon’s structure until now despite their ranks could very well be the numerous Ether stones right before their eyes — in other words, “greed.”

“It’s likely that the boss room is in that direction. The only place we haven’t checked within this dungeon is that area, so the exit must be there, as well,” said Su-hyeun.

“Mm… it is unfortunate, but it can’t be helped, I guess.” Keshunirn was displaying his unwillingness to leave the dungeon, his former nervousness and fear at the beginning now a distant, forgotten memory. It was the same story for Howal, too.

Su-hyeun quietly studied both men for a bit before raising his voice. “If you still have some stamina left, then let us hurry and leave. There is nothing left here, anyway.”

The rest of the group naturally thought of Ether stones when Su-hyeun spoke of nothing being left here.

The boss room would, quite obviously, contain a far greater number of Ether stones, and as the exit was also located there, they really couldn’t think of a reason to linger around here anymore.

Inside the dungeon where all monsters had vanished, only their footsteps echoed vividly and loudly.

Once they made their way through the path, a ma.s.sive open s.p.a.ce revealed itself. There was a lone round tower standing tall in the middle of this s.p.a.ce, and five more paths stretched out with it as their center.

Creaaaak—

Slam—!

The path they took to get here suddenly disappeared. A ma.s.sive plate fell to the ground behind them and blocked the path.

“W-what’s going on?”

“The path, it’s….”

“What about the boss? Where is the boss?”

All three became fl.u.s.tered at this sudden development.

In the meantime, Su-hyeun was quietly studying the round tower in the middle.

A short while later, new messages popped up in the heads of the group, including Su-hyeun.

[There are five branching paths. For the next two hours, monsters will flood out from those paths dozens of times.]

[An exit will be generated at the foot of the round tower. However, only one individual can transfer out through the exit every 30 minutes.]

[Protect the round tower from the monsters. If the tower is destroyed, the exit will not appear again.]

[The trial will begin in five minutes.]

“….What was that?”

“A m-mission?”

The sudden appearance of the mission caused both Keshunirn and Howal to fall into panic.

The comparatively-calm Aile looked at the five branching paths and spoke up. “A dungeon structured similarly to a trial…. As expected, the difficulty is considerable.”

It seemed that this wasn’t her first time in a dungeon of this type. Su-hyeun stared at the round tower located in the middle of the s.p.a.ce.

Now that he took a closer look, there indeed was a complicated magic circle inscribed on the ground at the foot of the tower. A small stone was stuck in the middle of the magic circle, and that must’ve been the medium that acted as the exit.

Su-hyeun quickly a.n.a.lyzed the potential variables.

“A-all of these, they are Ether stones!” Keshunirn, checking out the exit, cried out in a loud voice. That prompted Howal and Aile to gather around the exit as well.

“All of these? Really?”

“It can’t be… One dungeon can’t possibly contain so many Ether stones of such high quality,” said Aile.

Her suspicion wasn’t misguided.

The haul of Ether stones they got from this dungeon was considerably more, excessively so, than from other dungeons. Not only that, the round tower before their eyes easily exceeded a dozen meters in height.

Aile studied the tower. And sure enough, Ether stones could be found wedged here and there on the magic circles engraved on the surface of the tower.

“At a bare minimum, they are all above mid-grade quality. And also….”

The medium embedded in the middle of the magic circle. Aile’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

“A h-high grade Ether stone?”

Not just several mid-grade stones, but even one high-grade Ether stone as well. This amount was more than enough to blind anyone.

Of course, as Su-hyeun wasn’t a person from this world, so he wasn’t all that interested in those items.

However, he thought he could now figure out the variable of the trial given to him this time. Su-hyeun’s eyes clearly reflected the naked greed on the faces of the other three people, including Aile herself.

———-

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