Merilda stared blankly at Elena moving in the distance, inadvertently thinking to herself.
How envious she felt.
She was envious of her.
So very envious.
The fact that she was so casually by the Master’s side made her feel like she could die of envy.
So envious that she wanted to kill that woman right here and now-
Merilda forcibly restrained herself as her hand involuntarily started to rise.
She coldly assessed that killing that woman right now would gain her absolutely nothing.
Furthermore, the moment the Master found out about it, if ever.
Merilda momentarily felt as though her breath was being choked off, but she quickly shoved the malicious thoughts aside and looked at Elena again.
Seeing Elena, who didn’t realize how blessed she was, Merilda suddenly wished she could be her.
Of course, objectively speaking, there were too many differences between Merilda and Elena.
So much so that comparing them one by one would be ridiculous.
Yet, Merilda wanted to be that woman.
If it were possible, Merilda was willing to give up everything she had built up to this point right here, right now.
At least for her, the chance to return to the Master’s side.
…To start over by the Master’s side held value beyond anything else.
Therefore, Merilda, looking at Elena with endless envy but also with hatred,
With a grit of her teeth,
involuntarily raised her hand again as she saw Elena entering a room, biting down hard,
forced herself to lower her hand once more.
As a beastfolk, she barely suppressed the destructive impulse rising instinctively within her and looked with bloodshot eyes at the room into which Elena had walked, located on one side of the Lord’s castle.
All too familiar to Merilda.
The door with several nail marks on the handle.
That was originally Merilda’s room.
The very first room the Master had given her.
Tears began to well up in Merilda’s eyes without her realizing.
All she saw was Elena entering a room, but to Merilda, that scene felt significantly meaningful.
The tears brimming in Merilda’s eyes spilled over.
She felt as if she had lost a place to return to.
At the same time, it felt as if the Master was erasing her presence.
Erasing and overlaying-
That pain was so unbearable, Merilda clutched her chest.
Tears flowed from her hate-filled red eyes.
And her gaze remained fixed on the door of what used to be her room, now Elena’s.
…She could not stop her self-loathing and grief until the day broke.
It has been a week since Elena was gifted with two hand axes.
As Kim Hyunwoo hoped, Elena was growing quite rapidly.
‘In just a week, her strength stat increased by 3, and her agility stat by 4.’
Objectively, the stats hadn’t increased dramatically.
Intuitively, Elena’s stats had only increased by a total of 7.
However, considering that the game itself hardly showed serious increases in stats, as if they were practically fixed, Elena’s rate of improvement was incredible.
‘…The road to 5 stars seems a bit long, though.’
In Arteil, stars increase sequentially as the total stats increase.
For a 1-star hero, if the total stats are below 120, they are treated as 1-star. For 2-star heroes, they become 2-star once their total stats exceed 120.
Subsequently, 3-star heroes need a total of 200, 4-star heroes 330, and finally, 5-star heroes must exceed a total stat count of 450 to become 5-star characters.
Therefore, Elena, currently with a total stat count of 103, will become 2-star once her stats increase by 17, and upon becoming 2-star, heroes receive stat adjustments according to their stars.
‘This is the difference between ordinary soldiers and heroes.’
In Arteil, all ordinary soldiers also have stats, and among those called elites, there are soldiers with stats superior to 1-star, 2-star, or even 3-star heroes.
Yet, the reason soldiers cannot defeat heroes is due to the stat adjustment rate that exists for ‘heroes’.
Heroes called so from 1-star receive a 10% stat adjustment rate.
For example, if the agility stat is 20, a 10% adjustment makes it effectively 22.
Furthermore, as stars increase, the stat adjustments become stronger.
‘2-stars get 20%, 3-stars 30%, 4-stars 50%, and 5-stars 70%…right?’
While talent and traits are important, stats, being an indicator of strength, cannot be ignored, so this hero-exclusive stat adjustment creates an absolute gap between heroes.
A 1-star hero cannot defeat a 2-star hero, and a 2-star hero cannot defeat a 3-star hero unless they have exceptional talent and traits.
Moreover, 5-stars can increase their bond and affection with the lord to receive additional ability bonuses, allowing for 100% stat adjustments.
When the affection level reaches stage 5, the adjustment rate exceeds 100%, so Kim Hyunwoo endured the horrendous BM to avoid dropping the heroes’ favorability.
The stat increase due to the adjustment rate at 5 stars was too important.
‘Eventually, I quit because of that BM, though.’
Since the moment he entered the game, the bond with heroes became an element he could not help but obsess over, so he was quite concerned about Elena.
‘But, is it normal for affection to be measured this long?’
Kim Hyunwoo, still seeing the affection not properly determined, tilted his head for a moment, suddenly curious.
‘…Thinking about it, what criteria does this world use to determine a hero?’
It was a question that naturally arose now that he was in the game, though he had accepted it without question when it was just a game, but he soon shook his head.
Because that wasn’t what he needed to focus on at the moment.
“How is the recruitment of soldiers going?”
“There are about 100 applicants currently. However, due to the limited number of blacksmiths, it may take some time to supply the materials.”
“Considering the speed of producing materials, it might take about a month.”
“That’s too long.”
“But under the current circumstances, this is the best we can do.”
“Show me the blacksmith’s situation panel.”
The situation panel appeared immediately at Kim Hyunwoo’s request.
“It’s definitely low.”
The forge is running with an absurdly low number of people, perhaps because not many refugees from specialized professions like blacksmiths have come in.
“I wish it could be roughly completed within two weeks.”
Kim Hyunwoo was planning to pioneer the first and second layers of the Labyrinth to coincide with Elena reaching 2 stars.
And, of course, soldiers were needed to pioneer the first and second layers of the Labyrinth.
‘Actually, it seems like Elena could be sent alone.’
Despite thinking this, Kim Hyunwoo needed soldiers because of affection levels.
A Labyrinth is basically a place where anything can happen, and sending a hero alone could certainly lower affection levels.
‘I can’t do anything that would lower affection levels, especially if I want Elena to grow quickly.’
Knowing how powerful the stat correction rate from affection is, Kim Hyunwoo did not want to do anything that might lower the correction rate.
Above all, there was another reason Kim Hyunwoo wanted to enter with the soldiers.
“We need to secure a base, you know.”
Kim Hyunwoo nodded in response to Loria’s question.
“I’m thinking of creating a safe zone, a resting space, inside the Labyrinth.”
Kim Hyunwoo grinned at Loria’s puzzled question.
“It’s better to do business with everyone rather than just a specific class, right?”
With that, Kim Hyunwoo immediately got up from his seat as if organizing his thoughts.
“I need to visit the forge.”
“I need to increase the labor efficiency.”
Kim Hyunwoo said with a smile in response to Loria’s question.
Tienus Merchant Group is an incredibly large trading company that travels across the entire continent, and to put it a little exaggeratedly, they sell everything that exists in this world.
Therefore, every territory in the Southern Continent hopes that the Tienus Merchant Group will visit their lands.
The items they sell can only be bought from them, and once the Merchant Group visits a territory, the dissatisfaction among its people noticeably decreases.
For this reason, while every territory wanted the Merchant Group to visit, none of them pressured the Merchant Group to come.
Even the Eastern Clan, known as the most powerful force in the Southern Continent, did not recklessly pressure the Tienus Merchant Group.
There were two reasons for this.
One was that if relations with the Tienus Merchant Group soured, it was always the territory that suffered.
The other was because of the guardians that appeared when the Tienus Merchant Group was tampered with.
For these two reasons, the Tienus Merchant Group could travel the Continent freely without even needing soldiers.
The owner of the Tienus Merchant Group was a girl with red hair.
“If you’re talking about Lartania territory, you mean the place that’s completely ruined in the Calan Kingdom?”
“Hmm, Lartania territory has been revived-”
The woman known as the ‘Golden Witch’ in the Southern Continent, ‘Adria,’ listened to her assistant’s words.
“Shall we go take a look?”
“If you say so, I’ll prepare immediately.”
“Let’s go then, well – it might not be much.”
She muttered this with her characteristic calculating smile.
“There might be something that person wants.”
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