Episode 153

Secret Area, The Forgotten Relics Of The Gods (1)
3 weeks ago
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Taesan checked the reward he received after conquering the battlefield of the gods.

What he received was a small gem.

[A gem immersed in pitch-black light]
[A gem that has swallowed a dark light. Nobody knows what's inside it.]

“A material item?”

It was an unexpected reward. Considering that it was related to most of the gods in the labyrinth, he expected a high-grade skill or equipment, but it turned out to be a material.

Taesan looked at the gem with curiosity.

Inside the gem, something black was undulating.

“Do you know what this is?”

[Aside from being high-grade, nothing. I'm an adventurer, not an appraiser. But it seems pretty good, doesn't it?]

Taesan felt it, too. Despite being trapped in the gem, a subtle power was emanating from it.

“This came at the right time.”

It was a material received as a reward for a special quest. It would be valuable enough as a material for the dragon’s claw.

Taesan pocketed the gem and left the room.

Then, Vargan greeted him with a beaming smile.

“You’re here!”

“…Were you waiting?”

“Waiting, of course! Haha! My eyes were right!”

He grasped Taesan’s shoulders with glittering eyes.

“Indeed, you had enough strength! I’m so grateful! Very grateful!”

“Ouch.”

Taesan grimaced and shook him off. Vargan awkwardly raised his hands.

“Ah, sorry. I was too happy and got carried away.”

Joy was the only thing evident on Vargan’s beaming face.

Taesan’s conquest of the battlefield must have been very pleasing to him.

“You deserve this reward. Take this.”

He handed Taesan a pair of platinum earrings. They had a similar pattern to the ring he received before but were more luxurious.

[Platinum Earrings]
[Health + 300]
[Mana + 70]
[Strength + 40]
[Agility + 40]
[Intelligence + 40]
[Attack Power + 40]
[Defense + 40]
[Platinum Earrings. Their value is indescribable.]

“Oh ho.”

Taesan smiled. Vargan watched him with satisfaction.

“It looks like you’re satisfied.”

“Definitely.”

Such stats on a single pair of earrings. As the ghost had said about the ring, it wasn’t equipment one could normally obtain at this level.

“I’m glad you’re satisfied. Then, I must go back down.”

Vargan groaned as he gathered his equipment.

As he was leaving, he said to Taesan,

“Then, I hope we meet again when the opportunity arises! Young adventurer!”

With that, Vargan left.

Taesan wasn’t sure when they would meet again, but he felt it wouldn’t be too long.

Taesan also started to move.

Before going down to the 34th floor, he needed to visit the blacksmith. He planned to show him the obtained item and request the crafting of equipment.

“Are you here?”

The beardless dwarf greeted him as usual.

“What brings you this time?”

“I’ve obtained a material. I was wondering if it could be used to refine a dragon’s claw.”

Taesan handed over the gem he received as a reward.

Hafran’s face, which initially showed no expectation, contorted upon receiving the gem.

“…..What is this?”

He looked at the gem.

“What about it?”

After staring intently at it, he turned his gaze back to Taesan.

His face was filled with surprise.

“Where did you get this from?”

“Quest clear reward.”

“You received this as a reward? It’s something even gods would struggle to obtain.”

“It’s not worthless, then.”

If the battlefield’s clear reward had been insignificant, Taesan would have been displeased. Hafran stuttered unusually.

“This is… This is… How did you get something like this…”

“What kind of material is it?”

Hafran closed his mouth. Looking at the gem with a complex expression, he said,

“The Origin’s Light is deep within the gem.”

“The Origin?”

“It’s a light known to have existed since the creation of the world. It’s a substance that races to the end of the world, surpassing time and reaches the end of everything first. Its value… I don’t know. Is there anyone who can appraise it?”

Hafran touched the gem with a dreamy look.

“It’s a fantastical substance that’s faster than time and impossible to catch. Even gods… can they control such a thing?

“That’s it.”

Taesan smiled. Judging by Hafran’s reaction, the reward seemed to have been sufficient.

Taesan got to the point.

“Can this be used to refine the dragon’s claw?”

Hafran closed his mouth.

It was uncharacteristic of him, who always responded calmly.

“I don’t know.”

Eventually, Hafran gave an ambiguous answer.

“It’s the first time I’m handling this material. The dragon’s claw and all the materials you’ve given, and this one, too, are not of low grade. Integrating all of them… I can’t guarantee it.”

“Then, is there anyone else here who can do it?”

“There isn’t.”

Hafran answered firmly.

“There’s no blacksmith here better than me. I can assure you that.”

His gaze remained fixed on the gem as he said this.

Taesan nodded.

“Then you do it.”

Upon hearing Taesan’s response, Hafran’s eyes flickered.

“Really? Are you sure? This is… not ordinary.”

Personally, the blacksmith wanted to handle that gem.

Hafran longed to work with the Origin’s Light, control the power of the Spirit King, and refine the dragon’s claw into something so perfect that no one would dare to comment.

It was both his dwarven instinct and his deepest wish.

But he was also afraid.

He feared turning these precious materials into worthless trash under his own hands.

Taesan spoke calmly.

“I have no use for it anyway.”

He was like a ghost. An adventurer tackling the labyrinth, not a blacksmith.

“So, go ahead. I won’t mind whatever the outcome. Besides, don’t you really want to do it?”

Hafran’s gaze and gestures towards the gem. All of it showed how much he wanted to work with it.

“…Really?”

“Of course. But if it turns out useless, you’ll have to work for free to the extent of its value.”

“I better put in the effort then. Otherwise, I might end up working for free for a lifetime.”

Hafran chuckled.

Taesan didn’t know, but he was the first to let Hafran do as he wished.

“I must not disappoint.”

Hafran gripped the gem.

“First, I must tell you. There are two options.”

A light was in Hafran’s eyes as he spoke.

So far, he had seemed powerless and indifferent to everything. Although he appeared to have a goal, he behaved as if he had essentially given up.

But now it was different.

His voice was filled with energy, and his actions were full of certainty.

“The first is to use the materials you gave separately. They are exceptional, so they’ll make useful equipment.”

“And the downside?”

“They’ll be useful for a while. You won’t find better equipment than that. But as you reach the deeper levels, you’ll need to replace them.”

“Is the deep level that different?”

“That place is literally of a different league. No matter how precious something is here, compared to the deep level, it’s just trinkets.”

A hollow laugh escaped, but it made sense.

Those who reached the deep level were all capable of easily defeating dragons.

Comparing the Golden Dragon of Vekveta and the Spirit King, the latter was superior.

“Also, crafting equipment doesn’t work with just one material. At least four or five materials are needed. In the case of a material too high-grade, like the Origin’s Light, other materials can even hinder the process. If they don’t meet a minimum standard, the value of the equipment greatly diminishes.”

After some thought, Taesan asked.

“What if we use all these materials for a single piece of equipment?”

“Then there would be no need to replace that equipment.”

With a confident face, as if it couldn’t be denied, Hafran said,

“If it’s successful, even upon reaching the deep level, it would be difficult to find superior equipment.”

“Then let’s go with that.”

Choosing equipment that could be used till the end rather than something that would need to be replaced eventually was obviously beneficial.

Hafran seemed to have anticipated this, his expression calm.

“But there’s one problem.”

“A problem?”

“The materials’ characteristics are too strong.”

He touched the gem with an uncertain face.

“The dragon’s claw. The Ember of the Spirit King. The light of the origin… each of these materials is unique. The combination of materials is important in crafting equipment. Of course, they would still be excellent, but compared to their value, it might not be satisfying.”

Hafran stroked his chin, deep in thought.

It wasn’t until the forge’s flames weakened that he spoke.

“There is one way. But… I’m not sure how it will turn out.”

“Tell me about it.”

Taesan had no intention of creating something mediocre. Hafran began to explain.

“There is a hidden relic I know of.”

“A relic?”

Taesan’s eyes sparkled.

“I don’t know whose relic it is. I happened to obtain the key to its passage.”

Hafran produced a key. Its color was distorted and emitted a dark light, indicating its age.

“This leads to that place.”

Taesan stared intently at the key.

The key emanated a subtle aura as if saying this was what he had been searching for.

‘The blessing of a god.’

The lost goddess’s blessing of regeneration.

When he obtained it, it was explained to him that he would be able to find the goddess’s location in the future.

“I don’t know exactly what’s there, but…”

[If it's a divine artifact, it should be sufficient to combine all the materials.]

“That’s right. It’s risky, but there’s a possibility.”

“What’s the difficulty level?”

“From what I’ve detected from the outside, it’s quite challenging. You’d need to reach at least the late 40th floors to get through.”

For Taesan now, it was just barely possible.

Taesan nodded.

“Alright.”

[Sub Quest Started]
[Blacksmith Hafran wants you to gather materials for the creation of a perfect piece of equipment.]
[Reward: One Perfect Piece of Equipment]

“If it’s too dangerous, you can come back. This place, being a secret area, is not affected by the floor reward system. You can try again after getting stronger.”

Taesan nodded and took the key.

The key disappeared into Taesan’s body as if it had been waiting for him.

Simultaneously, Taesan learned how to open the secret passage.

Taesan pulled at the space with his hand. The space opened, revealing the area beyond.

Hafran looked surprised.

“When I had it, it didn’t have that effect.”

“There’s a connection on the other side.”

Taesan immediately stepped into the space.

Hafran saw him off.

“Take care.”

Taesan stepped into the space.

The first thing he saw was a world turned entirely ashen.

It was similar to the labyrinth, but everything was faded. When Taesan touched the wall, its surface dried and crumbled away.

[The walls of the labyrinth have weathered over time. How old is this place?]

“The goddess forgotten even in the labyrinth must have been here from before.”

[The Genesis of the Labyrinth… truly ancient.]

Taesan examined the structure in detail.

The passage and structure were the same as the labyrinth. The width was also similar. There was enough space to move around, but it wasn’t very spacious.

Taesan moved forward.

Hafran had mentioned that this place required a late 40th-floor level capability to pass through.

Given that, the likelihood of something being hidden here was high, and it didn’t take long for Taesan to be greeted.

Swoosh!

An arrow flew towards him. Taesan immediately activated mental acceleration.

‘It’s slower than I thought.’

The speed was such that he could catch it if he decided to.

Just as Taesan, thinking the entrance wasn’t very difficult, reached out to catch the arrow, its speed changed.

It became several times faster than before, aiming straight for Taesan’s chest.

Taesan swiftly turned his body.

Swoosh!

The arrow grazed past Taesan’s arm by a hair’s breadth.

The arrow that had grazed past Taesan turned in mid-air and flew back towards him.

Taesan concentrated his mind and read its trajectory. He followed the zigzagging arrow with his eyes and moved his body. Taesan’s sword cut the arrow in half.

It wasn’t an ordinary trap.

A considerable shock was transmitted to the sword that cut the arrow, something a typical 30th-floor adventurer couldn’t have blocked.

[Even after so much time, the trap is still intact.]

“It doesn’t seem to welcome me.”

Despite having received the goddess’s quest, the relic seemed unwilling to let an intruder pass easily.

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