The Operator recited a verse.
[Wandering merchant from far away land]
[Crossing the Canyon, treasure in hand]
[Caught by Giants and hung by his toes]
[Giants know not of the value he towed]
[‘Eating’ is the most valuable thing that they know]
Sungjin deliberated over the verses. The verse hinted at a hidden location, but there was no direct hint about where that might be.
“…tell me again.”
After the second time, Sungjin figured out that there were two hints about the location. “Hung by his toes” and “Eating”.
‘Upside down… for eating…’
Somewhere the Giants would cook… Somewhere suitable to make food. Sungjin searched his memories.
‘Oh wait a minute…’
Now that he thought of it, he recalled seeing a crock pot. One large enough to fit someone in it.
‘Where was that again?’
It was somewhere within the Canyon; he was sure of it. Sungjin asked Serin who stood next to him.
“Miss Serin, do you remember seeing a Gigantic Crock Pot?”
“A crock pot?”
“Yeah, not a normal sized one, something large enough for a grown man to fit in. Something really large.”
Serin shook her head.
“No, I don’t remember seeing something like that. If I saw something that strange, I would remember.”
‘Which means that I had seen it in the later half of the Canyon’.
Sungjin made a deduction. Serin had probably only been halfway through the Canyon. She couldn’t possibly have seen anything that appeared in the later portions of the Canyon.
Once he made up his mind, Sungjin turned to search for the crock pot. But Serin stopped him to ask
“Kei, where are you going?”
Sungjin hesitated. He didn’t feel comfortable telling her about the existence of ‘Hidden Pieces’. But he decided to say
“I have something to find. A hidden element.”
He explained her the truth. She was already extremely grateful to Sungjin for saving her. He believed that she would not request anything unreasonable of him even if they did find the treasure.
“Yes. Just like the secret boss we just fought, there are also secret treasures hidden on each map.”
Serin’s eyes grew wide with surprise.
“Yes. So I am going to go and search for it. You are welcome to stay here and rest until you return to the black market. We already hit 100% raid completion, so there are no more mobs to be found on the map.”
Sungjin wanted to turn and leave as soon as he was done with his explanation, but Serin replied
“Let’s go together. I don’t have anything better to do anyway… and staying with that corpse alone feels… bad.”
Serin indicated towards Santiago’s corpse which was lying a slight distance away.
‘Ah… Yeah, that would be bad for her.’
Sungjin nodded slightly and respected her decision. Either way, having two pairs of eyes searching for the hidden item was better than one.
She already proved useful in finding the hidden boss. Sungjin and Serin began to walk deeper into the Canyon one more time.
They walked for a while without speaking. But surprisingly, it was the proud Serin who broke the silence.
“Excuse me… are hidden bosses… in every round?”
She became more chatty.
“And you hunted them each time?”
“How… Finding them is one thing, but didn’t you fear death? Don’t they scare you?”
“As you can see… if you can’t grow stronger in these raids, you can’t survive. So… I have to work harder and push myself further; to be stronger.”
“Kei, you’re already plenty strong though.”
Sungjin did not reply. He didn’t want to tell her that later chapters fielded terrible monsters.
Instead, he decided to give her a warning.
“Miss Serin, please get as strong as you possibly can be. That’s how you get to live longer.”
“I am trying my best each round… so does that mean I should be trying to find and defeat the hidden boss each round?”
Sungjin was caught in a dilemma, just like in the case with Hiro. Telling her ‘yes’ entailed too many risks.
“A decision like that… make the call after you’ve seriously considered your situation.”
“You should only consider attempting the hidden boss if all of the following are true: All 5 party members are exceptionally powerful and talented. Your team works together very well and stays coordinated. No internal strife occurred after killing the final boss. Only if all of these are true, you can consider attempting the hidden boss. Otherwise, everyone is going to die.”
Sungjin told her something similar to what he had said to Hiro. Serin carefully considered his words.
“Thank you for letting me know. But…”
Her words trailed off. Sungjin understood why. She even said she experienced ‘something similar’ in previous rounds.
Her exceptional beauty was interfering with her chances of survival. But then
‘Ah… that’s right.’
Sungjin recalled something and decided to tell her.
“Um… In the black market, you can find a Mask shop.”
“Yes. If you go there, you will be able to purchase masks that temporarily changes your appearance. Please go there. In my opinion, you are…”
‘Far too beautiful.’
Was what Sungjin wanted to say, but he felt bashful and changed his words.
“Going to find it useful.”
“I understand. Thank you for all your help, Kei.”
And with her words of gratitude, she gave a radiant smile quite unlike her usual cold self.
Sungjin intentionally replied back halfheartedly. And he stole a glance at her.
‘This lady… if luck would follow could be a strong candidate for the final party members…’
It was going to be chapter 5 soon. The initial stages of the raids were going to be over soon, and Sungjin was slowly making plans to prepare for the future.
‘Last members; Final 5.’
Being included in the final five was beyond a doubt for Sungjin. He became greatly overpowered thanks to the ‘Restart’.
The problem was the other four individuals.
No matter how strong an individual was, there was no way one person could complete the raid all alone. These ‘Raids’ were designed to be beaten with the cooperation of 5 people.
Cooperation, as chapters continue, becomes increasingly important in making meaningful progress. It was a good idea to start considering about who had the potential to become the final team members from now on.
There are two main factors in becoming one of the final five. One is exceptional skill, and second is unbreakable trust.
Sungjin had no doubts as to her skill. She had won the Gold medal in Olympics; it proved that she was the best archer among humans. And Sungjin saw her skills first hand.
And unlike her initial cold demeanor, she was a respectable and upright human being. Most importantly, she already deeply trusted him. Thinking thus far, Sungjin continued to speak.
“As you might have noticed… as the ‘Raids’ continue to progress, an incredible number of people will perish along the way.”
Serin’s face expression hardened immediately, and she nodded nervously.
“So… even though the raids began with all of humanity participating, the number of people will…”
Sungjin was about to say “continue to dwindle until there are only five people remaining” but he changed his verbiage slightly.
“Probably dwindle until there are only five people remaining at the end. You understand this much, right?”
Serin nodded slightly.
“Yes… That would make sense if these ‘raids’ continue without an end.”
“If that time comes and only five are remaining, it is best if all five are dependable people, in skill and in trust, right?“
“I think so. I get how people with great skill might be able to survive until the end, but isn’t it impossible to guarantee that each person, in the end, is trustworthy?”
Sungjin thought of what she had said. It was technically correct. But…
‘If I wanted, I could ‘pick’ at least few of the members of the Final Five…’
Sungjin knew he had some level of control over the membership; he had overwhelming advantage of skill, information, and stat points above other hunters.
Manipulating not only the outcome of raids but also the process was possible to a certain extent. While Sungjin was lost in thought, Serin said
Sungjin stopped and looked towards where Serin had pointed. There was a large pot boiling in the distance.
Sungjin had tunnel visioned on his way to kill the boss and had overlooked the pot. He then asked Serin,
“Please step back a bit.”
“Why? Are you… thinking of tipping it over?”
“Let me do it. I know you’re strong and all, but tipping over a boiling pot of water with nothing but a sword… Is probably dangerous right?”
She was right. Sungjin stepped off to the side to let her have a clear shot at the pot. The only question was; does her arrow have the penetrating power to pierce through the pot?
But when she pulled back her bow, she spoke:
“Strength of Giants”
For a brief moment, her Pearl Ring illuminated brightly.
It was the ring she had received as the raid reward. She must have already checked the stats on the ring and equipped it. It reminded Sungjin of “Kamram – Ring of the Siamese Twins” in his pocket.
‘I didn’t even check what I have… I suppose I could check it along with the ‘Hidden Piece’ reward.’
Sungjin decided to indulge in joys of checking out his equipment a bit later.
The arrow she shot flew off towards the pot, making a far more threatening noise than ever before. In one strike, the arrow passed through the pot.
‘Bubble gurgle gurgle gurgle’
Water gushed forth the hole she had punched through the pot. She looked down at her ring and said
“It’s quite useful. Although X2 bonus on Strength only has 3 seconds duration, so I can’t use it more than once…”
He nodded to her comment. Her ‘Rain of Arrows’ was a great AOE skill suitable for multiple enemies, and now she had obtained a powerful lethal shot she could use for bosses.
The two of them stared at the pot for a while. But there was nothing inside. The Operator remained quiet.
“What’s going on?”
Sungjin was confused for a moment.
‘Did I misunderstand the verses? Or…’
His thoughts were interrupted.
“Kei, isn’t that thing suspicious?”
Serin said, grabbing his attention. Next to the Pot was a large corpse of an Ettin, and a small tent built right up to the cliff wall.
Sungjin walked over to it. The first thing he noticed was the Ettin. He didn’t recall killing it, but the wounds on it suggested it was him who had killed it.
‘…I guess I just ran by while mindlessly killing them.”
Passing by the corpse, he entered the tent. Inside the tent, he didn’t notice anything out of place… Except
‘There’s a wall in the back of the tent? Why?’
Finding it extremely suspicious, he approached the wall. Upon closer inspection, he found a place where the wall was slightly separated from the tent fabric. There was an empty space beyond.
No light passed through from above, and a slight breeze blew out from the gap. Around him filling the tent was a large pile of dissected animals and meat.
‘This is the Giant’s Refrigerator.’
“What… Wait, a Human? Please! Save me!”
He could hear voices from the other side. Sungjin searched between the gap. He saw there, in the dark; A half rat demi-human hanging by his feet upside down.
The Cube cheerfully rang out with an announcement.
[Congratulations! You have discovered]
[Hidden Vendor ‘Wandering Merchant Ruff Han‘!]
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