Chapter 61: The Final Puzzle (2)
‘That is… the final puzzle of this place.’
I walked to the magic-using, anything-but-ordinary squirrel. It didn’t run away and simply watched me come with a self-confident expression.
“You want to make a trade with me, right?”
The squirrel appeared to understand me. It nodded. Even I had no idea what this squirrel was.
[Eye of Perception’s proficiency is too low to identify the target.]
However, there was no mistake that it wanted to trade with me.
‘Rather than giving it what it wants right away…’
Lighting a slight fire up its butt wasn’t too bad an idea.
“Could this be what you want?”
The item I pulled out was none other than ‘Black Yak’s Lean Meat’.
The squirrel stomped in place in anger. Of course, it was a squirrel, so its stomps didn’t produce any vibrations whatsoever.
I heard a notice.
[The ‘Merchant of Venice’ is watching you.]
Well, look who we have here.
‘Looks like a lot of Guardians who would normally be in the Italian server are pretty interested.’
The Merchant of Venice was a very prominent Guardian from Italy, the Guardian of a Player called the ‘Queen of Water’, Elliana.
‘The Merchant of Venice, huh.’
I studied civil service, so I knew more about domestic Guardians than foreign ones. However, I still knew the basic disposition and traits of foreign server Guardians.
‘He’s probably watching to see how I can work this trade in my favor.’
The ‘Merchant of Venice’ was a Guardian who believed that being a successful negotiator and bargainer was a kind of achievement. The Queen of Water Elliana was not only an outstanding magician, but also a genius at commerce. It was often said as a joke that she held 30% of Italy’s GDP.
‘The Merchant of Venice made an appearance at the negotiation table that held a mere squirrel.’
The special hidden field in the Seoul Station Dungeon 2nd underground floor was indeed a very unique place.
“Then is it maybe… this?”
I pulled out the ‘Hobgoblin Perfume’ I just acquired, something completely useless for a squirrel. The squirrel shook its head roughly. It raised a cotton ball fist, upon which a yellow number popped up next to it.
It was trying to express itself with magic. The number one. It was probably saying that this was my last chance. I grinned.
“Ah… I honestly think this is a loss for me.” I dithered and dallied. The yellow number next to the squirrel’s fist grew bigger.
It was like the squirrel was yelling, ‘This is your last chance! Your last, I said! Hurry! Hurry and gimme what I want!’ From the way it folded its arms and huffed at me, I apparently had something it really, really wanted.
“Think about it. You’ve gotta admit, it was really difficult for me to get something this special.”
[Taking out a strawberry from the ‘Fruit Bundle’.]
I picked up a strawberry from the Fruit Bundle safely stored in my Inventory. The squirrel’s eyes widened. The number changed from ‘1’ to ‘!’. For most monsters, a ‘!’ meant that you had properly pulled their aggro.
[Taking out a banana from the ‘Fruit Bundle’.]
“Ah. I really hate to let this stuff go, since it’s so good. And I can’t even eat the thing you’re offering, let’s be honest.”
[Taking out a clementine from the ‘Fruit Bundle’.]
“This is also really delicious…”
[Taking out a blueberry from the ‘Fruit Bundle’.]
The squirrel hopped in place. The yellow ‘!’ mark changed to a red ‘!!’.
Its eyes were glued to the fruits in my hands. Where the fruits went, the squirrel’s gaze dazedly followed.
“But if you really want them… guess I have no choice. Wanna trade?”
The squirrel nodded vigorously. It was rubbing its palms. The self-confidence and arrogance I’d seen at first was gone.
“Can’t be helped, I guess. Alright. Let’s trade.”
It was a ridiculous trade, but one that couldn’t be seen as just ridiculous.
‘There’s definitely… something about this place.’
It wasn’t like the ‘Shot Table Dungeon’ the Giant of the Sunset created to nurture Choi Sung-gu. It wasn’t a place made by some Guardian by investing Coins, but a real hidden field existing within the System itself.
‘A Thin Hobgoblin coincidentally made Fruit Bundles… in a place like this?’
Fanged Boars dropped ‘Fruit Bundles’, which had made me a little more sure that this was a fabricated space.
‘Was that really a coincidence?’
There was a very high chance it wasn’t. Disguising the Fruit Bundles as a ‘mistake’ of the Thin Hobgoblin was a deliberate, intricate trick played by the System. If I hadn’t acquired this Fruit Bundle or had already eaten it, it was possible I wouldn’t be having this trade with the squirrel right now.
‘If I wasn’t able to trade with the squirrel… I probably wouldn’t have been able to get out of here.’
The chance of that was very high.
‘I hope that this is the key to the exit.’
I heard a notice.
[Squirrel proposes a trade.]
A trade window opened up.
It was my first time seeing a squirrel that could activate a trade window. To be fair, it was also my first time seeing a squirrel that could use magic, so this much was par for the course.
[‘Amplification Mana Crystal’ acquired.]
The trade was completed nice and sure with a trade window.
[Amplification Mana Crystal]
A mana crystal that amplifies magic power.
Amplification value: ?
Remaining uses: 2/3
The amplification value was marked as ‘?’, which meant it was an item of a level that I couldn’t fully grasp at my current level.
‘It also has two uses left.’
I obtained an item that would be worth $10 million in three years. My goal for three years later was originally $1 million, but now, I had $10 million.
The Merchant of Venice seemed satisfied by my trade as well.
[The ‘Merchant of Venice’ is greatly satisfied by your trade.]
[The ‘Merchant of Venice’ has decided to watch your progress.]
On top of that, they gave me a special item.
[The ‘Merchant of Venice’ has gifted you a ‘Forced Exchange Scroll’.]
Senia, who had been watching from start to finish, let out a long breath.
‘He finally… did it.’
She thought that Kim Hyukjin would be able to do it somehow, and he really did it. The Guardians were seriously making a ton of noise right now. The Guardians who had revealed their True Names were doing their best to maintain their silence, but they had no intention of leaving her channel, and the anonymous Guardians were sending so many messages it was hard to read them all.
–Isn’t he level 29 right now?
–He’s 29, but I think he got a level up point?
–What? Then he’s level 30?
It was an issue of huge importance for the Guardians in the Korean server. Level 30. The point at which a Player chose their exclusive Guardian. Even out of all the Players in Korea, Hyukjin’s Playing was obviously exceptional. He was showing them a Play that was impossible to replace, a Play of a completely different level.
–We’ll only know the exact details after the Intermediate Administrator checks.
–Hurry and tell us what exactly his rewards are!
While the rabble were making a fuss, the ‘Herdsman of Las Vegas’ sent Senia a 1,000 Coin sponsorship. He was demanding one thing from her—he wanted her to publicize what rewards Hyukjin got.
[The ‘Herdsman of Las Vegas’ has sent the Intermediate Administrator a 1,000 Coin sponsorship.]
[The ‘Herdsman of Las Vegas’ has gifted the Intermediate Administrator a ‘Pause authority’.]
Thanks to that, Senia was once again able to use the pricey ‘Pause authority’.
“Player Kim Hyukjin. May I ask a few questions?”
* * *
When the world turned black and white, I already guessed what Senia would do. It was obvious she was using a ‘Pause authority’ to ask me what rewards I got, so I already had an answer prepared.
“You’re going to ask about the rewards I got, yes?”
I shrugged. There wasn’t much to hide right now. Or actually, this was a moment where I couldn’t hide things.
“First of all, as you probably know, I got one level up point.”
My level right now was 29, so with this, I would become level 30.
‘The Guardians must be… going wild right now.’
There were quite a few Guardians who had made both overt and covert attempts to recruit me. In the current situation, I was a one-of-a-kind, limited edition. There were Guardians to replace Guardians, but no Player that could replace me.
For now, I moved to a different topic to amp up the anticipation a little.
“A new trait was added to Eye of Perception. I’ll briefly set information about Eye of Perception to public. You can also scan me if you want.”
[Eye of Perception]Type: Innate Ability Basic acquisition conditions: Sixth Sense Calm Observer’s Eye Additional acquisition condition: Overcome the death sentence of ‘Sixth Sense’ Overcome pain Detailed explanation: Eye of Perception is an eye of ‘intuition’, meaning the user gains concrete knowledge about objects in the outer world through their sense of intuition. It allows the user to intuit and receive information about the target. Proficiency:  Traits: Distinguish between Awakened and Non-awakened Read Status Windows Sense danger Resistance towards illusory attacks or apparition magic
The new trait I gained from clearing the ‘Forest of Unknowns’ was the final bullet point, resistance towards illusory attacks or apparition magic. That alone was already more than sufficient a reward, because it was also something I could make good use of later in the ‘Gwanghwamun Dungeon’.
“On top of that, I got a mana crystal.’
I shared the information about the mana crystal. Senia’s wingtips trembled. It was possible she could see the ‘amplification value’ that was marked as a ‘?’ for me.
‘Looking at her reaction, it must be an incredible item after all.’
It would take at least three years for the world to become aware of this crystal’s true value. This thing was like a surefire winning lottery ticket.
“Also, I got Hobgoblin Perfume.”
A perfume hobgoblins apply when playing tricks. It enables a special ‘Stealth’. However, overly large movements will cancel the spirit art.
Effect: Transparency spirit art
This Hobgoblin Perfume, one of the items that would later undergo stringent management by authorities because it could be used for crime, was another of my gains today.
On top of that—
“The Merchant of Venice also gifted me a special item.”
I intentionally publicized this as well.
[Forced Exchange Scroll]
When a Trade Window is active, this scroll can forcibly complete the exchange.
If someone put an expensive item into the trade window by accident, I could use this item to forcibly steal the item. To be honest, I wasn’t really the type who liked these kinds of items. It was—how should I put it?—the minimum amount of decency left in me. However, I mentioned this item because I was about to level up.
Because I was getting to level 30, the point at which I would choose my Guardian.
‘Now, then. You all heard that, didn’t you, Guardians?’
The Merchant of Venice gifted me a special scroll like the ‘Forced Exchange Scroll’, even though he only started watching me today.
I had drawn things out long enough. I’d probably excited a lot of people with this. I could only guess how many Guardians were gathered in Senia’s channel.
“Shall we level up?”
Just as I said that, something strange started happening to Senia.