I tighten my grip around the accelerator of the Dwarven Supercar.
It was a speed-driven drive, riding through the magic power and flames shooting up from the ground. The hot breeze mixed with ashes irritated our faces, but it was bearable since we both had our masks on.
The demon realm I've only seen in the movies or read in books passed right by me. Dark pillars of flames shot up from the ground, and monsters were screaming and chasing the Dwarven Supercar.
It was quite noisy.
However, my traveling companion said nothing. With the bear helmet on, she simply watched the whole scene, not even asking where we were headed.
So I just focused on driving.
Ignoring all the obstacles, we drove for about 30 minutes towards the GPS coordinate shown in the Book of Truth.
[Lv.6 The Strange Valley of Darkness]
I finally found one of the settings I had discarded.
I stopped the Dwarven Supercar at the entrance of the valley.
"We're here, Boss."
Many of the Tower of Wish's settings had been abandoned. The original story had changed a lot as well from when I was initially planning it. It had become more shallow and its uniqueness had disappeared completely.
I was very passionate while coming up with the settings, but when I was writing the actual story, I was less focused due to pressure and the lack of time.
This won't be fun to use. I only have half an hour until the deadline. I don't have time so let's just skip this. Ah, this one is too difficult to describe, etc… Dozens of NPCs were discarded this way, along with more than ten episodes.
As such, the Tower of Wish arc became incomplete and full of holes.
Lazy me from the past left it that way.
But now, I wanted to finish that story.
That's probably what the co-author, who should be watching me from somewhere even now, wanted to see as well.
"Where are we?"
I was being emotional when Boss asked curiously.
How should I explain?
I stroked my chin and thought for a moment.
Then suddenly something crossed my mind.
I just had to come up with a similar excuse as the one I always gave.
"……I read some books over at Prestige."
Boss widened her eyes. Then, for some reason, she smiled a little.
"I've been reading a lot of books recently as well."
She probably thought we had similar hobbies.
"…Webnovels count as books too."
It's been a long time since I saw her usual self. Spartan must have healed her somehow.
"Look. This author here is earning a lot of TP with his webnovel…"
But then she even tried to show me the novel she was sponsoring, so I stopped her there.
"Anyways. I found this description in the book."
I cleared my throat then recited to Boss what I had written in my settings book.
"The 'Demon Prison Camp' is hidden somewhere on the 5th floor. In this prison camp, human NPCs are treated as slaves to demons…"
Inside the canyon, there should be a pair of husband and wife: 'Kedrick' and 'Lirko'.
[5th Floor Slave NPCs - Lirko and Kedrick]
1. Two human NPCs locked up in the 'Valley of Darkness'.
2. Kedrick is a master blacksmith, and Lirko is a talented lancer.
3. Kedrick possesses an item called [The Mysterious Pocket] and Lirko is hiding an item called [Kedrick's Ghost Sword].
4. [The Mysterious Pocket] is a unique item that enables the user to bring something from inside the Tower to the outside.
5. [Kedrick's Ghost Sword] is an excellent Lv.6 sword.
6. Kedrick and Lirko have high potentials.They can grow up to Lv.55, equivalent to most administrators.
In addition to those two, the Valley of Darkness also had 'Krakoon', who was the acting commander-in-chief of the demons.
"This valley must be that prison camp."
Boss looked at the valley lying before her eyes. There was a narrow canyon placed between two mountains. It obviously looked dangerous.
After watching for a while, Boss turned to me again.
"But what do we get from saving the NPCs?"
"Huh? Oh, that's……"
I couldn't tell her.
'The NPCs will help us at a crucial moment. No, we have to make them help. Not just for the 'Tower of Wish', but also for the many obstacles and devils that would come in the future.'
…I couldn't say something like that.
"NPC are useful to us."
"Yes. Just look at my Riry Shop. Henry and Kiri are both on my side now, right? I earn more than 3000TP per day, it's almost like I'm cheating."
Henry and Kiri grew rapidly.
Now that the famine was taken care of, they became very tall…… well, maybe not very but they certainly have grown and already mastered a passive skill called the [Law of Thinking]. In addition to that, since they seemed to want to learn more, I gave them a skill book called [Sharp Eyes].
For the record, [Sharp Eyes] was a rare-rank basic skill. It was a pretty decent active skill that could measure an NPC's abilities and hidden potential.
However, since I couldn't learn any more skills, I decided to leave it to Kiri.
Just like that, being able to indirectly use skills that I couldn't learn was another advantage of winning an NPC over to my side.
"And, well, if we get rid of all the demons in there, there will probably be an additional reward."
Plus, this couple was even more important.
Unlike Henry and Kiri who didn't possess any profession, Kedrick, the husband, was a blacksmith, and Lirko, the wife, was a talented lancer.
I even had this description written down for Lirko.
'Lirko, when freed from her shackles, is able to overpower Kim Suho with limited abilities by force.'
I didn't know what I was thinking when I wrote that sentence.
"So let's go. Together."
I spoke, looking at Boss.
Boss returned by gaze.
Her sparkling dark eyes were always like jewels.
"…If you say so."
Boss nodded and headed towards the valley.
Together we entered.
We were only a few steps in when everything became dark.
The sound of stepping on sand filled the air.
Living up to its name─The Valley of Darkness─my vision was blocked. In exchange, it seemed my hearing became sharper.
"Boss, where are you going?"
Suddenly Boss changed directions. No, not changed. It was more like she suddenly leaned towards the right.
"…I have no idea. It's too dark to see."
I caught Boss' wrist before she went too far ahead.
"Just follow me. I can see well."
Boss nodded silently.
We kept on walking like that. For some reason, the inside of the valley was strangely quiet. Since 'dark ores' were buried in this valley, slaves were supposed to be working to dig them up.
In any case, I kept going forward, and soon came across a dim source of light. It was a withered flower, buried under the valley's dark soil.
I checked its information at once.
[A Nearly-Withered Shamrock Plant]
It was a shamrock plant, a valuable herb whose bud gleamed with white light. You could chew it whole, and it was also used to make an Elixir, which has the power to resurrect even the dead.
It was a herb that I had to get my hands on at some point.
Unfortunately, this one was almost dead…
"Boss, wait just a second."
I stepped over to the shamrock plant. Sitting in front of the dry, thin plant, I took out the Orb of Regeneration. Then I brought it close to the flower. The orb touched the leaves and began to give off a faint glow.
Recovery and regeneration progressed slowly.
The dried leaves gradually stood up, and the withered stems begin to stand.
But it was too slow.
To speed things up, I inserted my magic power into the orb.
All of a sudden, the orb glowed brightly. In an instant, a flash of light erupted, rushing through the shamrock plant…
[Lv.4 Healthy Shamrock Plant]
The plant regained its healthy look of the past.
The white light flowing out of its bud was beautiful.
I put the shamrock plant in my inventory.
When I stood back up, Boss was looking at me with widened eyes.
"What was that?"
"Oh, that? That was the item Medea gave me as a reward."
A loud noise suddenly rang out.
"It seems there's someone else here besides us. I've felt a strange presence for a while."
At her words, I quickly activated Master Sharpshooter's eyes. The Thousand-Mile Eyes stretched far towards the direction that the noise came from and stopped at a spot.
Standing there was a mysterious Player draped in a robe.
He was holding the NPC 'Kedrick' by the neck. There was no doubt that he was trying to kill him.
He glanced my way, as if he felt my gaze.
"There is an enemy. Follow me."
I held the Desert Eagle in one hand and Boss's hand in the other as I ran. Boss didn't ask any questions and simply followed me.
…Soon we reached the spot where the player stood.
[This place is a prison camp.]
['Dark Veil' of the Valley of Darkness will be removed temporarily.]
The darkness disappeared along with the system alert, and the man's figure was revealed.
He was draped in a robe, but I could guess who it was.
The second or maybe the first existence that wasn't in my original story.
He called himself 'Bell'.
He stared at me and at the Boss who was standing besides me.
I could see his face beneath the robe. He seemed startled, but then smiled.
"…You guys got the quest, too?"
"I guess not. That's fine. Long time no see, huh?"
He said, scratching his head.
I answered and tightened my grip around the Desert Eagle. I didn't know how he got here, but this was a good chance.
His existence had been bothering me.
I wanted to kill him at least once today.
However, the man standing in front of me suddenly blurted out something strange.
"No, not you."
Bell grinned and looked at the Boss. Complex feelings were embedded in his gaze.
"Hey, let me give you a piece of advice."
"You'd better get out of her way."
At that moment, huge magic power leaped out. The ground vibrated at the resonance of magic power which shook the whole place. Only then did I look at Boss.
Unlike her blazing magic power, her facial expression was calm. It was the type of calm face that gave off an ominous and dangerous feeling.
But there was one thing that was clearly different.
The color of her eyes…
They were blood-red.
They were the eyes of 'Yasha', something that I came up with in my settings.
Bell said to Boss.
"Long time no see, Byul."
[Lv.3 English Royal Court Guild's Hideout]
Essence of the Strait, Frost Sanctuary, Desolate Moon.
Along with these three guilds that competed for the top rank even in real life, the 'English Royal Court' was one of the highest-level guild hideouts in Prestige.
—You know me, right? We met in Tutorial Town.
The events that took place yesterday were being played as a video in the lounge of the hideout.
The title of the video was: Aileen and Rank 1 in a Battle of Nerves.
Rachel had recorded it for members who could not attend the important event.
The Royal Court guild members were watching the scene from that day in stifling silence.
—I don't remember. Why don't you just eat quietly?
Those words stopped Aileen's prodding. It was a voice imbued with precise magic power, causing a concentrated echo of the soul.
When that voice filled the room, the guild members stiffened a bit. They felt overpowered and overawed even though it was from a video footage.
"…To think there was someone other than the Spirit Speech Master who could use magic power this way."
The vice-team leader, Davin, said nervously.
"It's a big world, and there are many people with great powers."
Rachel returned Davin's remark.
Containing magic power in one's words without the help of an artifact was difficult and also inefficient. Without real talent, it only served to increase the volume of one's voice.
However, Aileen and this mysterious Rank 1.
They fought only with magic power imbued in words. This short battle was much more fierce and violent than soldiers exchanging blades 1000 times.
"You're right. Really, I feel quiet inferior."
"…Inferior? It's not like we stood there and did nothing."
Rachel smiled bitterly.
The gap in strength was too overwhelming. Even though they all started at the same place, those two had gone far, far ahead.
That was why Rachel was convinced once again that she was right to choose to focus on raising the guild on the 3rd floor, rather than aiming to go higher.
If a crow-tit wanted to win against a stork, rather than stretching its legs, it had to compete in a different field.
"For now, let's stop watching the video."
Rachel turned off the video.
"Land prices have gone up a lot lately, haven't they?"
"Yes. The profit is already 2500TP."
Kimbol, who was in charge of the guild's finances, answered.
The Royal Court guild invested 4500TP to buy two buildings and 500 acres of farmland. It was all a result of their efforts in hunting down undead monsters, attacking hidden dungeons in Prestige, and chatting with NPCs to complete even the most mundane quests.
"By the way, Vice-leader."
However, Davin was worried.
"If there is another residential area on the upper floors……"
"Of course I thought about that."
Rachel lightly cut off his remark.
"If the level of civilization in the new residential area is better than that of Prestige, I think all of the land should belong to NPCs. We won't be able to buy anything with the money we have.
However, if it's worse, that means there isn't a residential area better than Prestige, so our investment would be a success."
Davin thought for a moment and then nodded.
"……Right. You would be perfect if you did a little less shopping."
Rachel narrowed her eyes slightly. Cut back on shopping? As far as she was concerned, she was saving as much as she could and spending the extra money very cautiously.
"Anyways, let's go take care of today's work."
Today, they were scheduled to hunt monsters on the 4th floor. As the Undead King and his minions continuously respawned, they could obtain item drops while training and leveling up their skills.
Rachel stepped outside with the Royal Court guild's members.
Walking through the familiar darkness of Prestige, they headed towards the crystal stele.
Somebody called Rachel's name.
It was a familiar voice. Rachel looked back with her head tilted.
Standing there was an old classmate.
The man who was always first place at Cube, Kim Suho.
It was the Sword Saint from Creator's Sacred Grace.
"Wow. It's so nice to see you again."
Kim Suho approached with a smile. Next to him was a hoard of people.
As always, he was the center of attention.
"It's been a while…"
But one of Kim Suho's companions particularly stood out.
Rachel's eyes were fixated on her.
"…I met them on the 2nd floor. Ah, you guys all know her, right? This is Rachel, the vice-leader of the English Royal Court guild."
Oblivious to Rachel's confusion, Kim Suho introduced her to his group.
"H-Hi. D-Do you remember me? I, uh, I was in school with you, too…"
Yi Yeonghan stuttered.
Rachel, still looking straight at 'her', nodded without hesitation.
"Yes, I remember."
"I'm Vanessa Fermun, and this is Paolo Fermun… We're from the Colaion family."
A woman with an Italian look, Vanessa Fermun, introduced herself along with her brother. Rachel also greeted them.
There was only one person left who had yet to introduce herself.
It was the woman whom Rachel had been looking at this whole time.
Rachel couldn't keep her cool in front of her. It was the same for all other members of the Royal Court guild.
It was only natural.
The woman standing in front of them was one of the only 70 Master-rank Heroes in the world.
A 'Hero among Heroes', a powerhouse who could kill a calamity-grade monster with a single arrow and whose skills and character were widely respected by others.
A Hero whose title was just as brilliant as her accomplishments.
Jin Seyeon, the Divine Archer.
"Nice to meet you, Vice-leader of the Royal Court guild."
Jin Seyeon smiled at Rachel.
"I'm Jin Seyeon."
"Ah, y-yes. It's nice to meet you. My name is Rachel."
"I know. I've seen you a lot on TV. Haha."
Surprisingly, Jin Seyeon had a very straightforward personality. It was different from how she was portrayed in the media, where she came off gentle and almost saint-like.
"Why don't we shake hands, to celebrate our meeting?"
Rachel couldn't tell if she was dreaming or awake, even when Jin Seyeon reached out her hand.
Rachel was dumbstruck.
Of course, she had heard the rumors saying that Jin Seyeon was looking for a ticket. But those rumors said that Jjin Seyeon was 'looking for' one, and not that she 'already found' one.
'Let's think about it later'
Rachel forced her trembling hands to still, and took Jin Seyeon's hand.
1. Byul (Boss' name potentially?) means "star" in Korean.