Franz was shocked. He didn’t know how the man was able to check his stats, but his stats were peculiar indeed.
Master Hunter’s bonus stats were massive. Illich, while looking at his stats, said to him
“Chosen One… doesn’t grant 10% core stats. Strength and Dexterity are up by 30…40%… wait, those at the end… Magic Power and Mind Power are receiving several hundred times their normal value in bonuses. Just how is this kind of…”
Franz just stared at him. The man was showing such a different expression from before that Franz even wondered
‘Is this even the same man?’
Illich closed the status window and asked Franz
“This title… when did you earn it?”
Franz was silent for a moment. In the first half of the raid, he had wanted to introduce the man to make him into a Chosen One, but the situation was different, far different from then. Franz replied
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because I want it, of course. Tell me, just how did you get such an amazing title?”
Instead of answering, Franz posed the question he had since before.
“Instead of that… Why didn’t you help the teammates earlier?”
“Earlier, when they were injured by the monster. Why did you abandon them.”
Illich answered with a toothy grin.
“Of course… because they outlived their usefulness.”
Franz opened his eyes wide.
“I needed their strength to finish the raid. But they’re better off dead once the time for rewards come around.”
Franz raised his blade.
Illich smirked at his accusation.
“What do you mean? Me, a troll? Do you see any red aura around me?”
Franz was enraged. He wanted to charge and strike Illich down immediately. Illich said to him
“What, want to kill me? If you attack me now, you’ll become the troll, no?”
He was right. Although Illich had committed to a troll-like behavior, he was not in a ‘troll’ state. So Franz held his sword up and did not make a move. Kei had once warned him in the past
‘Franz, you are too hot-headed. Tone down your anger. You even attacked me preemptively, remember. What if I intentionally let you hit me and then turned the tables on you. You’ll just become tagged as a troll, and I could have collected spoils from you. You know that right? When you are about to attack someone, especially when the other person has not yet entered the troll state, think first. Consider that you might be in the wrong.’
Seeing that Franz did not make a move, Illich moved his neck to the either side before speaking.
“I am a shining example of a rule abiding hunter. Their death is not on my hands; they died because they were not good enough.”
Frans considered his words for a moment before giving a reply.
“You were the one to order them to attack while the Abomination held the shield wall.”
“Yes, I did. It’s great isn’t it? As you can see, if you have them die on their own, you are not considered a troll.”
Franz raised an eyebrow.
“What are you talking about?”
“Once I understood this hidden boss’s pattern, I gave a believable order, and they listened. They were commanded to march into danger and they followed… that’s proof of their ineptitude. Those who cannot think for themselves deserves to die. They will die anyway. Nothing but parasites to my contribution.”
Franz made up his mind, here and now, to become a troll and fight this man.
This vile man pretended to be the leader and tricked others to their death. But Franz still did not charge in yet. It was because while the man was evil, he was also very strong.
‘This man is dangerous. I will lose if I run in without a plan.’
Illich had a good idea of how strong Franz was, but Franz had almost no information about him. While Franz was thinking of these things, Illich continued to speak.
“But you seem to have a brain of your own. I told you to attack the shield, but you disobeyed me… well, that’s why you’re still alive.”
‘Shoud… I call Kei now?’
But Kei said not to call unless he was in mortal danger especially when there’s still over 20 minutes before the end of the raid.
‘I have things to do. Very important things. If you can’t find the Hidden boss or Piece 20 minutes before the raid ends… then call me, I should be free by then. Probably.’
There was still 40 minutes until the raid ends. He didn’t feel it was right to call him over while Illich was still not in a troll state and ask him
‘Please kill that man.’
Even more so if he was in the middle of his ‘very important things’. If at all possible, it would be best for Franz to resolve it on his own. If he didn’t want to bring shame to his title as the ‘Chosen One’, he would need to pull his own weight.
Franz quickly took his opponent’s power into consideration. He had tricked his teammates to die on their own. In other words, he was confident that he could finish the raid even with two or three people missing.
But he had left Franz alone. He could have betrayed Franz during the fight against the boss, but he chose not to. This means that he was not confident he could face the boss alone.
‘That means… he is almost on the same level as I am…’
But then he said
“It would have been best if you died along with the Hidden Boss, what a shame. I didn’t want to have to kill you myself.”
Franz glared at him.
“I don’t like to get my own hands dirty. Killing someone… well it is not all that hard, but losing 10% of the reward just because I have to enter troll state is a waste.”
He had been looking down on Franz all this time.
“How can you say that after seeing my stats?”
Franz asked Illich, and he answered saying
“Yes, we both saw. Your bonus stats are massive… but it’s still not enough. You can’t beat me.”
Franz readied himself to fight.
“Ok, we shall see about that.”
Illich raised his shield.
“I like these raids. Five to ten hunters are all perfectly isolated. If everyone else dies, there is not a way anyone can find out that I have trolled.”
“Yes, every single hunter who has ever seen me thus far has died. So there is no possibility of a rumor and I can do this chapter after chapter. As an undiscovered troll.”
Franz no longer wanted to hear a single more word out of Illich’s mouth. He raised his sword high
And charged at him.
Sungjin returned to the Ice stairs to gaze down upon the troll he had just killed.
‘Does this mean… only the trolls can become the strongest…’
Sungjin had been able to go from dimension to dimension to earn an unparalleled number of black coins, but if he had not been able to take such a route, the only way to make himself noticeably stronger than others was to commit to trolling.
Even with the penalty, if one or two people were to die, his portion would increase by several times.
When the Raids first began, not many realized this, but as the raids continued, more and more people figured this out.
And once they do, trolling becomes incredibly attractive. If the contribution meant for five hunters were to be divided among 3, 2 or monopolized by a single person, then the amount of stats and coins one could earn would increase multiplicatively.
As Igor had said in Kutan Desert, the Reward system heavily favored the trolls.
‘Is this why there are endless number of trolls… Well, at least I can earn a bit more coins this way…’
‘Now that I think of it… that means it’s entirely possible that people other than Ed had risen to that spot by trolling.’
It was true. The final 10 from the previous life had all been people of immense strength and skill. They were originally star athletes, soldiers or somehow gifted with unusual amounts of magic power; people who were especially talented in combat all with equipment and weapons to compliment their fighting style, backed up by enormously high status points. In simpler terms
‘They got more points because they were more skilled’
Was one possibility, but this was no guarantee. Any one of the final 10 could have regularly trolled to obtain their position. Sungjin rested his chin on his hands as he sank into thought.
He was close with four of the hunters. He felt that he understood those four very well. Hildebrandt, the father of three daughters, would have never done it. He was a good man. Sungjin could not bring himself to imagine him choosing to carry out such a deed.
Mustafa was a pious Muslim with strong faith in his God. He always offered prayers before battle, and was always the first to run to help anyone hurt to heal them.
People of Islamic faith were painted in poor light in Korean Mass Media, but Mustafa was a warm and kind individual. He was also very unlikely to have ever trolled.
He had spent a long time with Nada and had plenty of opportunities to observe her, but she was also definitely not a person who would troll. It was the same now as it was then, she was a woman who was more likely to be the target of trolling, rather than the one to initiate it.
Edward was already proven guilty. He who was the one responsible for annihilating the previous team had no excuses. He had always sported a friendly smile, but that kind of face might have proven to be an extremely useful tool in trolling.
He didn’t know until the last moment, but he could have possibly been killing others on his way to the top.
Sungjin crossed out Edward’s face in his mind.
The rest were people he did not know very well. First was the master of Spearmanship, Ryushin. Ryushin was someone who regarded his spearmanship very highly.
‘Our Martial arts clan had defended justice generation after generation…’
Due to his inflated pride, he had often bickered with other hunters, but also because of pride, he was very unlikely to have ever trolled.
Next was Araujo. Araujo was a professor slash soldier who loved to lecture others. A witty and fun loving man, he seemed far from someone who would troll.
Next was Umhkuba. African aborigine, he had grown up far removed from civilization so if he had ever felt that ‘I need to troll’ he would have done so without any doubt or hesitation.
Shunsuke was so quiet he had never conversed with him. Because Sungchul had seen him speak on few occasion with others, he could kind of tell that he was a man of few words who only spoke when it was absolutely necessary so he couldn’t make any sort of judgement as to his character.
Last was Illich. A cold man. An ex-soldier. He had keen judgement and excellent leadership, but he was unforgiving when the team deviated even slightly from his plans.
‘If it is Illich…’
Sungjin looked up at the ceiling as he imagined for a moment. If he ever concluded that trolling was beneficial, he would likely carry it out.
Even if it was morally wrong to do so. The more Sungjin thought of it, the more likely it seemed that he would do it. Sungjin put three stars next to his face in his mind.
‘Illich… check check check.’
[10 minutes have elapsed since arriving in this Dimension.]
The Operator let him know. He always set an alarm with the Operator so that he would know as soon as the Trollseeker marble came off cooldown.
“Hmm… Total remaining time?”
[42 minutes 21 seconds.]
The raid started with very little extra time for Dimension hopping, but he still somehow managed to leave enough time to go on two more troll hunts. Sungjin picked up the Trollseeker Marble. This was going to be his fourth hunt. There were two marbles left in all. Sungjin then said,
“Pursuit of Justice”
A pillar of light descended from above once more. While receiving the light with his entire body, Sungjin had a thought.
‘Hmm.. It might even be possible that I run into Illich, Umhkuba or Edward using this.’
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