Chapter 15: Chapter 15
The skills’ powers were classified into two categories.
Firstly, the most basic requirement of a skill was its magic level. The second was its ability.
Thus, regardless of how high the skill level was, if the ability was meager, one would not be able to use it to its fullest potential. In this regard, it wasn’t a bad idea to make use of this trial to raise Su-hyeun’s skill ability.
As he watched the surrounding monsters’ corpses burn, he let out a breath of exhaustion.
The Flame skill’s ability had increased.
It was the same with the Provocation skill. There was nothing better than real battles to increase a skill’s ability.
Su-hyeun clicked his tongue as he watched the corpses lying on the ground.
“It’s not here.”
The 10th floor.
Regardless of how difficult it was, the trial would not arrange monsters that were impossible for awakeners to deal with. It would be surprising to see monsters of a higher caliber than the Predatory Snake.
“Well, if a tougher monster than the Predatory Snake appears, the mission would not be valid.”
The Predatory Snake’s territory created a deterrence to other monsters. If there were stronger monsters, the village would have been destroyed much earlier.
“This should be enough.”
He had sufficient corpses to feed the snakelets. The rest were hunted to increase Su-hyeun’s skill’s proficiency. Su-hyeun brought out the six young men who were supposed to feed the snakelets.
“A-all of these…”
“Did you catch all of these?”
The six young men looked wearily at Su-hyeun.
There were countless bodies. Most of them were black as if they had been burnt to death.
“Drag those bodies there onto the cart. They should sustain the snakes for a few days.”
“Um… What will our benefactor like to do? Will you be returning with us immediately?”
Benefactor? Su-hyeun’s eyes narrowed at the awkward, burdensome title.
“I’ll catch up in a while.”
“Why don’t you leave with us?”
“That’s right. Let’s go together. Mealtime is already over, too…”
It seemed that they were worried that Su-hyeun might disappear without a trace.
Even though Su-hyeun was an awkward and unfamiliar person at first, he was now the only person they could rely on.
Su-hyeun was aware of their worries. But before that, he had something he needed to do.
“The snakelets take time to mark their territory. No matter how fed and bloated they are, it’s going to take around a month.”
“S-so… In the coming month…”
The young men’s faces turned pale at Su-hyeun’s words.
Su-hyeun’s words meant that in the following month, the village would be unsafe from the monsters outside. They didn’t know it, but it was part of the trial that Su-hyeun was given.
“I’ll protect the village for the next month.”
“…What?” asked one of the men.
“Personally, by the benefactor?” asked another.
It should have been a happy matter, but they could not bring themselves to feel that way. The question of why came naturally.
Why was it that Su-hyeun wanted to help them like this? It was an overly one-sided relationship. And if you were no fool, you would know that one-sided good deeds without reason were not something you could easily come across.
However, such doubts from the young men did not matter to Su-hyeun. No matter how they saw him, Su-hyeun would only take one action.
“Anyway, I will catch all the monsters around the village, so don’t worry. Just return to the village. I will also return before the sun sets.”
The young men had no choice but to nod their heads, leaving Su-hyeun at that spot.
After a moment of rest, Su-hyeun wandered around the village and began calling for monsters.
Just like that, all day long, Su-hyeun caught the monsters again and again.
Time passed quickly.
Luckily, the village was recognized as a safe zone, so Su-hyeun was able to come and go between the real world and the village. Occasionally, Su-hyeun would return to the real world to contact Shin Su-yeong and then return to the village to repeat his hunts.
The villagers’ attitude towards Su-hyeun had also changed. At first, their gazes towards Su-hyeun were full of suspicion. They thought he might be approaching the village with an ulterior motive. However, their suspicions cleared up as time passed.
Perhaps, just like what Su-hyeun had said, they could see that the snakelets were becoming tamer. The snakelets grew day by day. The young men had begun to train them in various ways according to Su-hyeun’s words.
Late one night, Su-hyeun finished his hunt and returned to the village. His skill’s proficiency was progressing steadily.
Su-hyeun was satisfied after checking his accomplishments.
As the snakelets grew, his accomplishment percentage increased. That steady rise in accomplishment was also proof that Su-hyeun was on the right track.
Su-hyeun returned to his shabby tent house and laid down on the hard floor. He was exhausted.
After fighting monsters all day long, his body felt drained of strength. Recently, it felt as if he had gone back to the past.
This place was very similar to the world he lived in: a destroyed world, anxious people, the black, dead sky and earth.
It was swarming with monsters outside the village. It might have been set up as such to match the stage of the 10th floor, as there were no monsters above a certain level.
Just as Su-hyeun was about to close his eyes, he heard some rustling.
He felt a presence outside the tent house. It was a very small presence.
Dragging his tired body, Su-hyeun stood up from his spot. He walked towards the door and saw a familiar face outside.
It was the same six or seven-year-old kid that he saw a few days back. The child who came to find Su-hyeun seemed so afraid that she covered herself behind the tree in the distance.
Looking at the child who was half-covered, Su-hyeun said with a small smile, “I can see you. Are you looking for me?”
The child was cute. Su-hyeun continued talking, holding back his laughter that was threatening to burst because of the child’s reaction.
“Since you are looking for me, could you come nearer? If you stand so far away, Uncle would not be able to hear you.”
“I’m not a kid! I’m Mellie!”
Upset by being called a kid, the child cried out.
She was an interesting child. With seemingly no thoughts of going closer, Mellie kept her distance while stealing glances at Su-hyeun. He waited until the girl came closer.
Mellie approached Su-hyeun slowly after making eye contact several times.
After moments of fidgeting, Mellie came near and held out her hand towards Su-hyeun. In her palm was a small piece of bread slightly smaller than a fist.
“What could this be?” Su-hyeun asked. “Is this for me?”
“I’m just thankful.”
“I heard that you were protecting our village. Thank you for protecting our village.”
It seemed like rumors had spread throughout the village.
“Did you know that? Actually, the village chief was a horrible person. I knew that…but…”
“How did you know that?”
“My elder brother was taken away by the village chief. And he did not come back.”
Su-hyeun’s heart sank at Mellie’s answer. This young child was aware of everything. She was aware of the sadness of losing her brother and was holding onto the grief.
That was why while the others called the village chief a hero, Mellie seemed unable to do so. Mellie looked up at Su-hyeun with shining eyes and continued speaking.
“Well, they said that you are our village’s hero. The other uncles said that.”
“Yes. So, I will give you this. Take it.”
As she passed over the bread, a sound of hunger could be heard from Mellie’s stomach. Without batting an eye, Mellie held out the bread to Su-hyeun, hurrying him to take it. Something inside of him choked up.
Why was this young child given such a difficult task as starvation? What was it that made this young child unable to express her hunger?
He closed his eyes. Anger flared up.
He was not a hero. He had already felt that fact, bone-deep, in his past life. However, in this young child’s eyes, his unremarkable self seemed like a real hero.
Su-hyeun opened his eyes. He looked at Mellie’s eyes again.
“No, Uncle is…”
Would it be right to say this?
Was it right to destroy this child’s fantasies and hopes that were instilled in these words? There was a moment of hesitation.
“Mellie! You can’t do that! I’m sorry, so sorry.”
Mellie’s mother appeared and swept her up in her arms. The woman might not have even known what she is sorry for. Knowing this, Su-hyeun hurriedly waved his hands.
“No, it’s fine. I was bored and had fun because of Mellie.”
“That’s right! Mom, you don’t even know.”
As if asking her to please be quiet, Mellie’s mother placed a finger to her lips. She bowed her head to Su-hyeun once again.
“No. I should have been keeping an eye on her…she has no manners…”
“It’s fine. Really.”
The woman had a look of relief after studying Su-hyeun’s expression. Luckily, Su-hyeun had not shown any displeasure.
“Uncle, are you not going to eat this?”
Mellie once again held out the piece of crumbly and slightly dusted bread towards Su-hyeun. The girl’s mother started nagging at Mellie again, but Su-hyeun laughed lightly and accepted the bread.
“Since Mellie gave me a present, I’ll have to repay her, right?”
The crumbly, small bread returned as a piece of soft and warm bread.
Mellie’s face brightened as she saw a piece of large bread emerge from Su-hyeun’s pouch. “Wow!”
Mellie laughed excitedly. Her mother looked troubled once again. She looked between Mellie and Su-hyeun, unable to do anything.
“Mellie, you are really… I’m sorry. You do not have to eat that…”
Before the woman ended her words, Su-hyeun put the bread in his mouth and ate it. “It’s delicious.”
In fact, it wasn’t even chewable. But…
“Really, it was delicious.”
Those were sincere words.
It was tough to swallow that dry and tough piece of bread without water. It tasted nothing like food.
He would not forget the bread he ate that day for the rest of his life — it was, indeed, that gratifying.