‘They must have followed my smell here.’
Gnolls were basically a dog species of monsters. That’s just how astounding their sense of smell alone was. They had most likely caught onto my presence from the moment I started climbing Mt Bukhan. Or it may just have been the influence of ‘Dominator’ attracting them.
At any rate, this was a troublesome situation. Minshik was holding onto a sword before I knew it. To be specific, he was holding onto a sword made of fire. A style I used to enjoy using.
Minshik glanced at me.
“Hurry up and run I said!”
“Wait. Those are monsters?”
“You can’t take them lightly even if they’re the lowest-grade monsters. It takes no work for them to tear apart a person’s fles-.”
“They don’t look like monsters to me.”
It was all or nothing now. I decided to unlock a new ability.
I crouched over and slowly moved my hand up and down, and then the gnolls fixed their sights on my hand, shaking their heads up and down.
“What on earth…!”
Minshik’s eyes became the size of plates, his jaws gaping wide. His surprise was plain to see.
However you looked at them, the gnolls held no hostility. In fact, they were following me. It was only natural from my point of view, but to Minshik it must appear very much like a miracle. Finally, the gnolls were gathered around me in an orderly manner. Minshik was being wary, but he couldn’t attack recklessly.
“I saw it on the news. A mutation of bulldogs they said? They do look a bit strange though.”
“No…how could that be. These are gnolls I tell you.”
“There’s alot of dog breeds in the first place.”
As I merrily played with the gnolls contrary to his expectations, Minshik spoke as if confused,
“…didn’t used to have such an ability…”
“What did you say?”
“Tamer, you must have the talent for a Tamer. It’s not like there were no Monster Tamers before.”
Monster Tamer. Every priest of Aletheia had some sort of talent related to it. However, making monsters follow you at first sight meant that talent was of overwhelming degree. A talent almost rivaling that of a chief priest. In their last bitter moments, they had even tamed a Demon Dragon.
Minshik’s gaze grew complicated.
“These fellows are really obedient. Got anything to eat?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I get the feeling they’re hungry.”
I hadn’t intended for this result but since I had decided on a course, I had to see it through to the end.
Minshik’s expression completely went stiff.
“No way, can you hear their voices?”
“Not their voices really. But I think I can at least tell what they want. Does being a Tamer mean I can raise these guys?”
“Do you see any messages popping up? Tha-, that’s not right. You haven’t even Awakened yet. Man!”
Minshik gave a dry cough. He then took out a few strips of dried meat from a pocket and threw them over at me before falling into deep thought.
“Had his original talent regressed after changing occupation to Magic Swordsman? Then that would mean that this was his true calling to begin with…”
“What have you been talking to yourself about for a while?”
“This means that you’re an unbelievable genius! This is something totally unbelievable!”
Ultimately, Minshik ended up raising his voice. What an overreaction.
A laugh escaped my lips.
“I can’t see any messages though?”
“That’s why it’s a relief. My bad habit might have acted up again otherwise.”
Bad habit. By that he must mean being envious to the point of resentment. After all, his motivation came from the gloriously shining figure of my past self. That’s how my existence must have appeared to Minshik, though my insides were rotting at that point.
Minshik’s cellphone began ringing at the moment. He took the call, and had a short conversation before nodding and opening his mouth to say,
“Linlin says she found the mutant. Let’s head there.”
“What about these guys? Can I bring them?”
I pointed to the 20 gnolls. Before I knew it they were circled all around me. They looked at me as if I was their owner, shaking their tails and they went round and round myself.
Minshik spoke in a half-resigned manner,
“…Do as you like.”
Everyone was of one mind.
The moment they spotted me, and the gnolls following me, they readied themselves to attack, but soon after listening to Minshik’s explanation they turned their gazes full of disbelief towards me.
Linlin spoke from a distance far from the gnolls.
“Does this even make sense?”
She was a warrior granted power by the Cait Siths. It didn’t seem like she was particularly fond of the dog-resembling gnolls.
“What an extremely unusual talent.”
Shaoting chipped in as well.
On the other hand, Syria was merely staring blankly at the gnolls.
‘I recall that Syria liked dogs.’
We were lovers for no more than a few months, but the time we spent together was quite long. She counted as one among the heroes, and her ‘Saintess’ power was especially needed by everyone.
I did have my suspicions at the start when Minshik brought over Syria. But there was no one who knew that Syria and I were once lovers. It was a romance only between the two of us. He must have brought her because a Saintess was crucial to walking the path of a hero, so I hadn’t thought much of it, but now that I saw her again before my eyes, I couldn’t help feeling slightly nostalgic.
“The gnolls do not seem to have any intention of attacking. The reason why the gnolls are so obedient to him is because he possesses a peerless talent as a Tamer.”
Minshik spoke in quite the severe tone.
Linlin and Shaoting had been watching me as if worried I would drag them down, but the looks in their eyes changed after hearing Minshik speak.
Linlin abruptly raised her hand and asked,
“Has he really not even awakened?”
“Indeed. He has yet to come into contact with a ‘Gate’ after all.”
“I’ve met a few other Awakened before but never have I seen someone who stands out so much before awakening. He’s not actually already awakened and fooling us, yes?”
“Is there any reason for him to do so?”
Linlin stared at me blankly.
“So there was a reason why you picked him. As well as there being a reason why my cat senses were rejecting him.”
She further inched away from the gnolls even as she spoke.
Shaoting nodded and also interjected,
“If he awakens then our fighting power will instantly rise. A Saintess and Warrior, Magician and Cait Sith, and a Tamer on top of it all!”
“Shaoting. Is this not quite a good combination?”
“I do think so indeed.”
Shaoting nodded in satisfaction.
Separate from them, I was throwing dried meat at the gnolls while in the midst of thinking.
‘This does happen to be a chance to measure his current disposition…’
…to see if he would become a hero, or an evil-doer.
If I ever caught a hint of him turning into an evil-doer then I would have no other choice than to pick the easiest, yet hardest path. The path of staining my hands with blood!
His words were sincere. But I hoped that he would show it not with words but through actions and not disappoint me.
Minshik clapped his hands, drawing everyone’s attention, and then spoke,
“Now, let us go hunt the mutant.”
The hunt for the mutant was simple. Linlin and Shaoting cornered it while Minshik swung his blade of fire from the front. The situation came to a close within merely 10 minutes after the battle had begun, so it could be said that this was indeed a capable party.
‘He really studied me alot.”
The performance he showed was similar to the way I used to lead a team to hunt. It wasn’t a performance that was possible by simply watching me. It was evident that he had tried hard to become like me or had experimented on it. Had he done such preparation out of expectation that he would come back to the past?
Soon a golden Gate rose from the mutant’s corpse.
“Hansung, follow me. A whole different world will unfold before you.”
Minshik was the first to enter, and then after Linlin, Shaoting and Syria, finally it was my turn.
“A different world huh.”
I had seen so much of it that it wasn’t much different to me anymore.
I picked at my ear once before placing a hand on the golden Gate, after which golden streams engulfed my body and then my surroundings soon changed.
[You have discovered a ‘Gate’ leading toward the ‘Altar of Ancients(Lv1~Lv5)’.]
[Only those with a total stat of 150 and below may enter.]
Words that I’d seen before.
Thankfully my current stat total was 148, below 150.
I took a look at the surroundings. Spacious wilderness all around. Minshik, who had entered ahead of the others, was making a serious face.
“Someone had entered before us after all.”
Minshik’s expression hardened at the fact that there was no reward for being first inside, however, it was me that had taken that reward. 1,000 points. It was only natural that there was no reward.
“The gnolls must have escaped at that time…just who was it?”
Minshik was frowning hard.
“Had someone apart from me also returned? Someone among the devotees?”
He had spoken very quietly, but I definitely heard it because my attention was concentrated on him.
‘It seems that even he doesn’t know how many succeeded during Aletheia’s ritual.’
Aletheia had carried out a ritual of time. I had stopped it, but seeing how Minshik had returned, the possibility of someone else also having returned couldn’t be ruled out. Indeed it made more sense to suspect whether another devotee had returned rather than doubting me. I was an outsider (to Aletheia) after all.
For an instant, killing intent sprouted from Minshik’s eyes.
“We move quickly. There has to be a path leading to the altar.”
His footsteps hastened, perhaps out of impatience.
The altar was to the west, but it appeared that Minshik didn’t know the altar’s exact location. We moved to the east without rest, however, there were much more gnolls waiting in the east. More than anything, the direction we were going in overlapped with the territory belonging to the ‘chieftains’ that were after me.
I was the main culprit behind disrupting the ecology of the gnolls of this place. The three gnoll chiefs who ruled over this territory were also aware of my existence. I had hunted their gnolls bit by bit, luring them away in small numbers at a time, so they were surely full of rage.
‘How unexpected that a gnoll chief would set a trap.’
We were ambushed.
Or to be precise, they had attacked aiming for me in particular. The gnolls came at us from behind, having hidden themselves behind rocks and in holes they had dug out.
The problem was the number of gnolls. They appeared to number about a thousand. No ordinary gnoll could have gathered this many. They were definitely under the lead of a gnoll chief.
We had no other choice but to scatter, because everyone had no thought to spare as they fended off the gnolls that assailed us like hail. The gnoll chief’s intent was obvious. To separate us all!
‘Pretty good thinking for the likes of a gnoll.’
A chief it may be called, but a gnoll was still a gnoll. And yet to think it could employ tactics.
I slashed open the stomach of a Giant Man-eating Flower and stepped outside. The gnolls I had Dominated had also been in there. I had thrown myself into the mouth of a Giant Man-eating Flower for the sake of throwing off the gnolls that were on my tail. I was sopping wet all over, covered in digestive fluids, but it was better than dying. Thankfully the gnolls that were chasing were nowhere to be found nearby.
I gave my head a shake, and turned my gaze around. My gnolls were carrying someone with their hands held up. I just stood there and called out a name.
Syria was the first person to be targeted during the chief gnoll’s ambush. I didn’t know whether it noticed her instinctively or not, but it was true that it wasn’t possible to battle for long without Syria’s healing. That was the reason why our ranks quickly fell. Still, I was barely able to save her with the Dominated gnolls.
I scrunched my brows.
‘This turned out for the better actually.’
Linlin, Shaoting or Minshik, they were all people who were capable of looking after themselves on their own. I wasn’t worried for them. My plans were knocked out of course due to the gnolls’ ambush, but this was fine as well. I could freely move as I wished now that it has come to this. Of course Syria was still left, but she was someone I knew well. I knew alot when it came to ways of winning her over.
Right now my eyes were gleaming with annoyance. It was truly filthy unpleasant, this feeling of the hunter becoming the hunted. By gnolls, of all things.
‘I’ll sweep them all off the face of the earth.’
As such, gnoll chief. I will have you clearly know just who you dared to provoke.