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Chapter: 103


Chapter 103

My throat was grabbed in a turn of events that could not be chalked up to me being careless or making a mistake.

[The use of Eye of Perception has been forcibly suspended.]

This was a significant difference in skill. Someone so strong I couldn’t do anything against—even at my current level—had appeared.

I heard a voice.

"You. Are you a bug?"

I couldn’t breathe. My feet dangled in the air. But I didn’t struggle. I always knew that I would definitely meet this Demon King Kang Sung-il sometime, somewhere. It was just a question of whether I would become his enemy or not.

I couldn’t speak well, but I still did my best to choke out a word.

"Senia."

Senia, my angel BJ, appeared. Her wings were trembling.

"He has long since been recognized by the System as not being a bug."

"Hm. That so?"

The Demon King, Kang Sun-il. His real name was unknown, and even his face was cloaked in obscurity. Even now, I couldn’t see the Demon King’s face in the darkness.

‘Even though it’s not dark enough for me to be unable to see his face.’

And yet, his face looked almost shadowy to me. He appeared to be using some kind of special barrier or magic to prevent his face from being seen.

"How do you have these abilities at this level when you’re not a bug?"

He was still grabbing my throat, but I could breathe a little more easily than before. The Demon King had loosened his grip a bit. But I couldn’t rest easy.

‘One misstep, and I’ll die.’

He certainly seemed like a human. I came this far by using my knowledge of the future. But what about the Demon King? He was the first to open the hidden shop of the Gwanghwamun D-Tower 2nd Floor, and he had the skills to overwhelm me here as well. It couldn’t be explained by any stretch of the imagination. It was impossible, no matter how much of a damn genius he was. There was definitely, definitely something I didn’t know. Something the world didn’t know.

"What about the dude who has me subdued with a single hand?"

The Demon King snickered. I couldn’t see his face, but I could feel it. It was fascinating. His face was as shadowy as ever, but I could feel that he was smiling. An image sketched itself out in my head. Two shadowy eyes and rising corners of the mouth with red lips in the middle.

"Dude? Did you just call me dude?"

"You can’t expect respect when you’ve given none yourself. You were the one who talked down on me first."

"You’re an interesting one. Do you not fear death?"

Of course I did. I had a lot to lose now. There were people I had to protect, happiness I wanted to protect. I didn’t want to die.

"If you had wanted to kill me, you would have done it long ago."

"I see you’re perceptive."

Kang Sun-il’s moniker was Demon King. The reason he was called ‘King’ instead of Demon or Devil was because he had the charisma and personality to merit the title, despite being the massively powerful incarnation of evil itself.

‘He kills servile people without mercy.’

However—

‘He allows people with aspirations, people who stand tall and proud, to live.’

Of the many heroes who faced off against the Demon King, many of them were captured by the Demon King and then released. That was the kind of Demon King the public knew. That was why I thought in advance about how I should act when I met the Demon King and always kept this scenario in the back of my mind.

"Is the reason why you’re so calm because you’re a Precognitive Dream user?"

"I knew I would meet you."

"Since when?"

"Since a very long time."

I had known ever since I regressed, and that nebulous possibility congealed into certainty when Eye of Perception was disabled back on the 2nd Floor of Gwanghwamun D-Tower.

It felt like a foreign something was running its tongue down my body, like a giant monster was licking me. The Demon King Kang Sun-il was observing me.

He snickered again.

"You’re a fun one."

He put me down on the ground, and I coughed roughly in spite of myself.

"Do you want to live?"

"Of course."

"And if I don’t permit that?"

"Then I’ll have to fight for my life."

If we fought, I would be crushed. The current me could not defeat the Demon King.

"If I allow you to live here, what can you do for me?"

I already knew the answer the Demon King wanted to hear. An in-depth study had been done on the ‘domination’ Kang Sun-il pursued. He liked the strong. Whether they were woman or man, young or old.

"I will become stronger."

Kang Sun-il grinned. I saw an illusion of big red lips appearing in midair, dripping red saliva as they curled into a grin.

"You say you’ll become stronger. How strong?"

He put a dagger to my neck, the blade sharp and keen. This dagger glowing blue in the darkness was likely the ‘Lamentation’ that reaped the lives of countless heroes in the past. Of course, even that name was just one that people came up with.

"You’ve aroused my interest. That demands a high price. Answer me—how strong do you intend on becoming?"

"Strong enough to make you, the person reigning as the strong one right now, kneel."

Or—

"Or strong enough to become a fierce blade you can trust."

I hadn’t been able to decide yet whether I wanted to confront the Demon King or not. I needed to give him an answer that would leave both routes open.

[The ‘Courageous Lion King’ is satisfied by your aspiration.]

[The ‘Whispering Devil’ is enjoying himself.]

[The ‘Nameless Observer’ is observing.]

[The ‘Barrier of Blue Light’ wants to protect you.]

A bluish energy covered my body. Kang Sun-il withdrew the dagger he’d placed at my neck.

"You’re truly amusing. The Barrier of Blue Light is protecting you." After looking at me again in amusement, the Demon King continued. "Do you remember seeing me in Gwanghwamun D-Tower?"

"You disabled my innate ability back then as well. I remember."

"It almost seems like you have been prepared to meet me from that moment on."

"I just didn’t know it would be today."

"It seems you’re liked by many Guardians."

"..."

His next sentence was deeply profound.

"Do not trust the Guardians too much."

A lot of Guardians had to be watching Senia’s channel right now, and Kang Sun-il’s Streamer had to be somewhere too. Was it really okay to carelessly say something like that?

Guardians with perverted dispositions would probably like hearing his words, but everyone knew that making a declaration that so openly rejected the Guardians wasn’t very favorable for a Player. And yet, Kang Sun-il didn’t seem all that concerned.

"Try your best to become strong, then."

He put a hand into his pocket.

‘Huh?’

When his hand re-emerged, it was clutching Darongi, who had [!!!] marks above his head. I had no idea when the little rascal crawled in there, but I immediately tensed.

Darongi stared at me with [???] marks, completely oblivious to how much danger he was in. This brat, he should read the opponent a little. My heart began to thump involuntarily.

‘If he tightens his hand…’

Darongi would explode. There was no doubt. I saw veins bulging on the right hand holding on tightly to Darongi. I eyed that hand warily, every cell of my body tense.

‘The veins… are black.’

Kang Sun-il handed Darongi back to me. 

"He’s cute, so I just let him be. I’ll give you what he stole as a gift."

I heard a notice.

[A ‘new item’ has come into Darongi’s Inventory.]

[Check Darongi’s Inventory?]

Kang Sun-il said, "I’ve asked you to try becoming stronger. I see that you have more than enough qualifications to do so. Become stronger."

"..."

He added one more, extremely insidious sentence.

"If you can get out of here alive, that is."

* * *

The next instant, he disappeared. It was almost as if I had seen an illusion. He simply vanished like a mirage.

At the same time, I heard a notice.

[Eye of Perception has been reactivated.]

That, at least, was good. The forcibly suspended Eye of Perception started working again.

‘I can’t… feel the Pearl Centipedes.’

I couldn’t feel a single trace of the Pearl Centipedes that were supposed to be here. Up until my meeting with the Demon King, their presences were faint, but there. Not anymore.

‘There are no Pearl Centipedes, but…’

I sensed a far bigger energy. It felt like something huge was staring at me. Like something was glaring at me from the darkness, far in the distance.

‘All the Pearl Centipedes fled.’

They had all disappeared, fleeing from a far more vicious predator higher on the food chain. I recalled the last words spoken by the Demon King.

–If you can get out of here alive, that is.

‘Dammit.’

It seemed that this place wasn’t inhabited solely by the Pearl Centipedes. I didn’t know if the Demon King had a hand in it, or if this was how the System originally had it. The important thing right now was that there was a predator higher than the Pearl Centipedes here.

‘A monster that eats the Pearl Centipedes.’

Like their name suggested, Pearl Centipedes were centipede insects that had pearls. The most famous monster that preyed on them was the ‘Predator Tree’, a plant monster that extended countless branches to capture and consume insect monsters.

‘It’s the perfect environment for a Predator Tree to show up.’

Predator Trees despised sunlight. They were 3-meter-tall trees that walked around. They liked dark, underground places and preferred environments with sufficient humidity. Even better if there was a little ventilation.

It was part of my study notes, too.

–Predator Tree. Has a habit of ambushing Pearl Centipede habitats and nesting there. Likes places with good ventilation. Level around 40, is capable of eating a Great Orc Warrior alive, and has extremely high defense, making it almost impossible for a Player of the same level to solo it.

It was nearly impossible to hunt solo due to its sturdy bark.

–The Predator Tree makes a strange ‘gghhh’ sound as it moves.

I heard sounds from afar.

Gghhhh–!

Gghhhh–!

Gghhhh–!

–Also, when a Predator Tree moves, faint vibrations occur around it.

Even without Eye of Perception, I could feel the faint vibrations under my feet.

‘A Predator Tree… is coming.’

I didn’t have the skill to freely escape the gate like the Demon King had.

–When a player of the same or lower level is facing a Predator Tree one on one, not resisting and standing still will increase the chances of survival. When full, Predator Trees will not go after humans.

Gghhhh–

Gghhhh–

The sound grew louder.

Rumble–

Rumble–

The vibrations grew more and more intense. I started being able to faintly make out the 3-meter-tall, walking tree monster, the Predator Tree. I saw its enormous gaping mouth gleaming with an ominous red light, as well as the wooden branches swaying around it.

‘If I face it head-on, I’ll die.’

I had no intention of fleeing.

–When hungry, the Predator Tree moves with its mouth open. The mouth on the tree trunk is characterized by its ominous red light.

It was hungry right now. This level 40 monster could swing its branches like a whip far faster than I could run.

‘I will get out of here alive.’

I never even thought that a level 40 monster would show up here. No, I failed to think that. But even so, I had zero desire to go belly up and die here. The moment I thought a Predator Tree might be here, I had a hunch that I would be fighting it.

‘It’s still better than fighting Kang Sun-il.’

The chances I could kill this thing were 50/50.

‘Even so.’

I could do it. The battle was a toss up anyway. It would come down to me winning, or this tree winning.

‘I’ll kill it.’

I shouted, "Choi Sung-gu! Now!"

____


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