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Chapter 280: Chapter 280
* * *
He thought he heard it wrong.
However, he couldn’t have heard wrong even if he tried. Sixty-one and ninety-nine sounded completely different, after all.
Soon afterward, Su-hyeun’s figure appeared in a new world.
He initially thought that his entire view had become whitened, only to realize that wasn’t true. He was simply standing in a pure-white s.p.a.ce, that’s all.
“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?”
Accompanied by a voice coming from somewhere, a comfy-looking couch suddenly materialized right before Su-hyeun’s eyes.
Only then did he realize someone was here with him—a middle-aged man boasting an abundant black beard. This man emitting a somewhat old-world atmosphere was drinking tea while pointing toward the couch. “I’ve prepared a place to sit that I thought you might find most comfortable. Does it not suit your taste?”
“I’m sorry, but no one will sit on a couch offered by a suspicious person in a suspicious s.p.a.ce.”
“Is that how it is? Makes sense, however,” the man muttered in understanding and nodded slowly.
Su-hyeun already had an idea who this black-bearded man was but didn’t come out and say it. Instead, he waited for the man to mention it first.
“I am…Rather than saying my name, I feel that introducing myself in this manner should be for the best. I’m the administrator of the 60th floor.”
“I thought as much.”
“So, will you take a seat now? Talking while looking up at you is rather uncomfortable, you see.”
Su-hyeun nodded at the administrator and settled down on the couch.
He already knew what kind of an occasion this might be. An administrator seeking him out personally like this was unprecedented, and there could be only one reason for that.
“Did the meeting go well?” he asked.
Without a doubt, it must have something to do with that “meeting of the administrators” that the system informed him about earlier.
The administrator nodded at Su-hyeun’s question. He put the teacup down on a coffee table and replied, “Things got quite troublesome there due to your actions. No, wait. You weren’t the only one responsible, actually.”
“There’s someone else?”
“The Great Sage who Pacifies Heaven. Also because of him.”
Su-hyeun nodded again as if he expected as much. For sure, the 60th floor’s trial had several strange points compared to the trials found on the other floors.
“Who knew that he’d step foot into the realm of Taoist G.o.ds via Sage Arts to coincide with your arrival? Thanks to that, the trial given to you became completely distorted, as it turned out. All the while overturning our expectation several times in the process, too.”
“The trial got distorted? How so?”
“Now originally, the Bull Demon King was scheduled to attack the Heavenly World, along with the Great Sage Heaven’s Equal. That had been set in stone for a very long time. However, the Bull Demon King decided to let go of his lingering attachments and ended up not partic.i.p.ating in the war against the Heavenly World.”
The war was supposed to take place with the Bull Demon King partic.i.p.ating. After listening to that explanation, Su-hyeun realized how the trial had been distorted. “So, I ended up taking on the role of my first brother?”
“My apologies, but yes. That’s what happened.”
That made sense now. He was wondering why the difficulty had shot up so much even if this was a trial found on one of the 10-numbered floors.
However, the trial’s final goal of killing the Jade Emperor was supposed to be performed together with a much stronger combat force called the Bull Demon King.
“Not only that, but you also wouldn’t have learned the Sage Arts if it weren’t for the Bull Demon King’s interference. That was also not within the framework of the trial we had set out, and it left the hint you were given totally meaningless.”
One variable caused many things to change.
But that wasn’t too surprising. Even someone like the administrator failed to predict the event of the Bull Demon King viewing Su-hyeun in a favorable light and teaching the Sage Arts to him.
“So, when he said that the trial became distorted, did he mean this?” he thought.
He did think some things were strange, albeit belatedly.
Hints that are given out by the administrators usually proved to be useful in some way. If the hint of “the most dangerous enemy is always near you” was supposed to indicate Sun Wukong, then a clue about the golden headband should have shown up somewhere, too.
But Su-hyeun had absolutely no idea about the headband at all. Initially, he thought that he missed the necessary clues somehow, but no matter how deeply he pondered it, he couldn’t remember just where he missed such a vital clue.
But, that was only obvious—he never missed anything in the first place.
The trial’s framework had gone off the rails so much that no clues could be given anymore.
“At first, I entertained the idea of completely ending the trial right away. I also even thought about deleting this floor and simply send you directly to the 61st instead.”
“Was there a reason to do something like that?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I thought that without the Bull Demon King’s a.s.sistance, you’d have zero chance of winning against the Heavenly World.”
“But the end result was different.”
“Indeed. You managed to overturn our expectations quite splendidly. And that posed an even greater problem for us.”
“There seem to be quite a few problems here.”
“Although it was the 60th floor’s trial, the difficulty has shot up far too steeply. The trial would still have been quite difficult without the variable messing up things in the first place, you see.”
One variable after the next.
Su-hyeun figured out why the trial had become so distorted from the administrator’s explanation.
The variable of the Bull Demon King pushed the difficulty of the trial until it became almost unsolvable. Nonetheless, Su-hyeun still managed to pa.s.s the trial.
That caused much confusion among the minds of the administrators.
“In the end, we decided to send you to the 99th floor. Our decision came about not just because of this trial’s difficulty but also after we’ve determined that your level has risen high enough to meet the requirements.”
“Then, the reason for handing over the Peach of Immortality beforehand was…”
“That was our final criteria to determine which floor we should send you to. We needed to see the realm you’d reach after consuming the peach, you see.”
He wasn’t wrong there.
For one thing, Su-hyeun acquired the Sage Arts, learned the basic breathing technique, and even mastered seeing the Gyeol. Thanks to these changes, his magical energy consumption had decreased drastically and, at the same time, created the necessary foundation to become even stronger in the future.
On top of this, he consumed the Peach of Immortality, causing both his magic level and the count to rise up greatly as well. The current him wouldn’t find waging a lone battle against the Heavenly World all that difficult anymore.
“Still, I don’t understand it.” Su-hyeun shook his head after listening to all the explanations. “Surely, you didn’t prepare this occasion just to explain something like that to me?”
There was little doubt that the trial this time got distorted in many areas. The distortion caused confusion regarding a few things, and it’s also true that the administrator’s explanation managed to dispel most of his confusion.
But the administrator going out of his way to prepare an occasion like this just to hand out an explanation? Now that was the situation that was hardest to understand.
“You wouldn’t have any real reason to inform me of what happened, and even if you wanted to tell me, wouldn’t using the system to pa.s.s along the relevant information a simpler way?”
“You’re indeed correct.”
“I know that you’ve been watching me, which means, you should know that I’m not a big fan of beating around the bush.”
“Well…” The administrator put the teacup down again and, with a sheepish expression, scratched his head. “I wanted to meet you personally and just shoot some breeze, you know, but I can’t help it if that’s how you feel.”
“Actually, there were a couple of other things I wished to convey to you. Since you’re now on the 99th floor, I’m guessing you’ll soon head over to the 100th.”
“I guess so.”
“When that happens, you won’t be able to exit the trial until you finish it.”
Su-hyeun stood up almost half-way from the couch out of surprise.
He can’t exit until the trial is over? In other words, as long as he was stuck inside the trial, he must now abandon any and all events taking place in the outside world until it was over.
“I don’t have a choice but to pa.s.s the 100th floor’s trial as quickly as possible, then,” he thought.
If possible, he needed to avoid spending half a year in it, which was something he did during the last trial.
The minimum length of time for a dungeon to become a full-on outbreak was 15 days. Su-hyeun inwardly planned to pa.s.s the 100th floor’s trial within that timeframe if it was possible.
“I think you’ll be running into us quite often from the 100th floor onward.”
Su-hyeun stopped mulling his options at the administrator’s announcement and looked at the black-bearded man.
That term “us” signified, rather obviously, the administrators found on each of the floors. With the sole exception of the 43rd floor, no administrators bothered to show up, besides a few from the 10-numbered floors.
That’s also what Su-hyeun remembered happening past the 100th floor in his previous life.
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m sure you’ll get to learn that after pa.s.sing the 100th floor. It’s a bit too premature, unfortunately. Although, it’s not too far from now…” The administrator paused and then narrowed his eyes to slits as he picked up the steaming teacup once more. “That is, as long as you manage to survive.”
This administrator should know Su-hyeun’s ability better than anyone else.
So, if the 100th floor’s trial was specially prepared for him, then that warning probably implied that a particularly difficult trial was waiting for him there.
“Something difficult even for the current me, in other words,” he inwardly concluded.
That warning also probably meant to tell him that he should focus on pa.s.sing the trial properly rather than pa.s.sing it quickly.
“What’s certain at this stage is that something will change after pa.s.sing the 100th floor,” he thought.
His current life was different from the previous one.
Was it because he kept pa.s.sing the trials set at the difficulty level of 10? Su-hyeun was getting a lot more attention from the administrators compared to when he was Kim Sung-in.
“Not sure if this is ultimately a good thing, but…” he told himself.
For the time being, it shouldn’t be all bad. The trials set out by the administrators should result in him becoming even stronger, after all.
Su-hyeun quickly organized his thoughts and nodded, before extending his hand toward the administrator. “Got it, so please hurry up with the handover of the rewards.”
“Sounds like you’re asking for stuff you left behind with me.”
“I’ll be directly sent to the 99th floor, which means I’ll also be losing out on all of the possible rewards of the floors from here to there, doesn’t it? And that’s probably why you convened a meeting—to discuss the additional reward as well.”
“Haven’t you already mastered the Sage Arts? Not to mention, you even got yourself the Somersault cloud.”
“They are things that I managed to earn from the first and third brothers, not some rewards you gave away.”
“Although you’re not wrong, why does it feel like you’re forcibly taking away my things for some reason?”
“It’s a physical item, then?”
“Well, it is, but at the same time, no.”
While making his reply, the administrator stood up and clapped his hands. When he did, the couch Su-hyeun was sitting on, the teacup he was drinking out from, and even the coffee table, all vanished into thin air.
Su-hyeun hurriedly stood up as well.
Right after that, a bright light began glowing from the below the floor.
Soon, two images floated up close to Su-hyeun. The semi-transparent images resembling holograms were of a large card and an even bigger fan.
“The Palm Leaf Fan?”
The first thing to catch Su-hyeun’s eyes was the ma.s.sive fan that was as big as his whole body. This azure-colored fan looked as if it was made of feathers plucked from a huge bird. And it happened to exactly resemble the weapon that the Bull Demon King showed to him before.
“You know what this is? I’ll be able to keep my explanation brief, then.”
“This is…the real deal.”
“Of course, it’s real. You think I’ll give you a fake?”
Su-hyeun’s muttering to no one in particular prompted the administrator to retort as if an obvious thing had been brought up.
But that’s not what Su-hyeun meant originally.
“Wasn’t everything up to now all fake?” Su-hyeun scanned the s.p.a.ce he was standing on as he said that. “This s.p.a.ce, even the items you were showing me earlier, all of them.”
The administrator’s eyes that showed no discernible change until then grew ever so slightly wider after listening to what Su-hyeun said.
“He has already seen through them?” he thought.
This location he was at with Su-hyeun was an illusory s.p.a.ce created with something similar to illusion-type magic or maybe even a skill.
Being able to suddenly create items or make them disappear like a G.o.d was nothing more than a type of illusion, but Su-hyeun had seen through all that.
“If you knew, you could have broken out of here, couldn’t you?”
As the administrator had said, it wouldn’t be that difficult to break out of illusion-type magic once you managed to perceive its effects.
“If you tried to attack me, I probably would have done that,” Su-hyeun replied as he stared at the Palm Leaf Fan. “However, that’s not what happened, is it?”
It was at this point that the administrator had no choice but to accept that he had evaluated Su-hyeun wrongly.
“We should’ve sent him directly to the 100th floor instead,” he inwardly mused.
Su-hyeun’s capabilities enhanced by both the Sage Arts and the Peach of Immortality were well beyond the estimation of the administrators.
His being able to see through an administrator’s illusion implied that he had already reached the same realm as theirs now.
“To put it in another way, you’ll behave yourself and stay inside the illusion until you get your additional rewards.”
“Yes, something like that.”
“Very well. Go ahead and choose, then.” The administrator pointed at the two rewards floating before Su-hyeun’s eyes and said, “Either the Palm Leaf Fan of the Bull Demon King capable of summoning a storm or the t.i.tle of “Sage.” One of these two.”