Surviving The Game As A Barbarian Episode 164

April 1, 2024 • 13 min read • 743 views

Exploration (3)

My head is cool when I wake up.

It’s like how the cooling fan starts spinning when you’re about to do some overheating work.

‘There’s a fucking rat…….’

My heart beats slowly, and my thoughts accelerate.

The sky tower operates as an independent layer.

Once the portal changes color, it’s impossible for anyone to follow. No item or hidden piece I know of can break through it.

Which means.

“Did the rat enter before the portal changed color?”

From the beginning, the rat entered with us.

Of course, we waited for a while to ensure that no one followed us in, and before we started, we even cast detection magic in case someone used stealth abilities…

“If it’s a stealth skill of level 2 or higher, it could go undetected. Because ordinary magic can’t detect it.”

Of course, this was only assuming the worst-case scenario.

It’s unlikely that this creature is a big shot with a rank 2 essence.

As a result, the rat was trapped by detection magic.

It would be reasonable to assume that the rat used an item or skill to evade detection magic at the first entrance.

“From the fact that they’ve been tailing us quietly, it proves they’re not confident in their combat abilities.”

Good, I suddenly felt a surge of courage.

Raven doesn’t seem too intimidated either, judging by the way she calmly explained the situation to me.

‘Okay, so how do we deal with this?’

TL/N- I am using ‘they’ for the rat, cause identity is not revealed 

[They probably won’t harm me right away. So, please take a moment to think it through and act wisely. My life is in your hands, Mr. Jandel-]

The answer came quickly.

“Bethel—raaaaaaaaa!!”

I quickly stood up, calling out the name of our ancestral god.

And immediately ran towards where Raven was.

[Crazy!!]

Raven screamed in horror, directly into my head, but…….

This is the best option.

If I play tricks and she gets taken hostage, it will be a pain in the ass.

Besides, they don’t know we’ve noticed them, right?

Normally, when people are too surprised, it’s hard to make rational decisions.

“Raven! Are you okay!! You appeared in my dream!!”

I threw in a suitable line as I ran.

“Huh? I didn’t get caught, did I?” I made the rat think, if only for a moment.

Giving them a glimmer of hope.

Of course, I couldn’t be sure what decision they would make in a flash…

“Kyak!”

Until I reach Raven, they don’t reveal themselves.

Thankfully so.

“Nyang, What’s going on!!! Is there an enemy!!!”

“…What, I was sleeping well.”

The commotion in the dead of night also startled the trio awake.

The second effect I hoped for when I shouted the name of the ancestral god.

Now, even if the rat tries to surprise attack other companions or take them hostage, we can be prepared.

However, did she accurately hear my shout in her sleep?

Misha, making eye contact with me, bowed her head deeply.

As if struck by an arrow in the heart.

“To appear in a dream… Were you two in such a relationship…? I, I didn’t know. So… I didn’t know and I was… Nyaha, haha, ha…”

What is she talking about now?

I gave up and just shouted.

“Prepare for battle! There’s a rat among us!”

True to an explorer’s nature, the phrase “prepare for battle” was absolute.

The trio almost reflexively took out their weapons, formed a close formation, and guarded their surroundings.

I quickly moved around them.

Aynar shouted

“Bjorn, a rat? Do rats also appear on the 4th floor?”

“…It means there’s another explorer hiding among us.”

“Oh, I see? I really thought it was a rat and got scared!”

“…Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the hidden person among us rather than an actual rat?”

I had a lot to say but held back.

Now was not the time for that.

“Raven, where are they?”

“Uh, they’ve disappeared. The detection magic isn’t picking them up.”

Right, so we can’t detect them again.

I’m not sure if it’s an item or a skill.

But if it’s an activated ability rather than a passive, it must have a duration.

“Keep casting it. Until they show themselves.”

I sent Raven behind me and issued the order again.

“Since they have stealth abilities, stay alert. They’ll have to reveal themselves when they attack.”

The team members, now fully grasping the situation, looked around seriously.

“……”

Silence persisted for a few minutes in that state.

They still hadn’t shown themselves.

But they couldn’t plan on hiding forever.

They just needed time to think.

“Jan-dell…”

“Don’t be anxious. Time is on our side.”

All four doors in the stone chamber were firmly shut.

There was no way to escape.

Unless there was a stairway of fate or something, but there wasn’t.

“Just come out. I’ll make it quick and painless.”

As I muttered into the void, that’s when it happened.

“I’ve got a detection!”

“Where are they?”

“Over there, by the door!”

Right, they were there.

“Can you disable it?”

“Now that the target is identified, yes.”

“How long will it take?”

Raven didn’t answer.

She just extended the wand she was holding forward.

「Alluva Raven casts Level 8 support magic [Detection]」

The gem at the end of the wand lit up.

And then…

Whoosh!

A blue light clung to something invisible, forming the shape of a person.

When the glow vanished.

The figure that had been in stealth finally revealed itself.

“Looks exactly like a rat in disguise.”

A masked stranger in a tight-fitting stealth suit.

“Bethel—raaaaaaaaa!!”

“……!”

The moment our eyes met, I dashed forward, kicking off the ground.

Thud.

As if they had made up their mind about something, they flung the door open and climbed up the stairs.

“Bjorn! It’s running away!”

“Don’t panic, first gather our belongings.”

Instead of immediately giving chase, I started collecting the scattered belongings.

If there’s no one left, the door would close.

Then we wouldn’t be able to come back down to collect our things.

Well, there was the option to leave one person behind and go…

‘Why bother?’

There’s no reason to hurry.

The place they opened and ascended to was none other than the Stairs of Courage.

No monsters will appear until we all ascend.

In other words, it’s already like a rat in a trap.

“We’ve got everything.”

“Then let’s go.”

After stuffing everything including the sleeping bags into our backpacks, we chased after the figure.

As everyone entered, the stone door closed behind us with a bang.

I led the way up the stairs, shielding the front with my shield.

‘The look in their eyes didn’t seem like they ran up here without thinking…’

I was a bit tense.

What exactly was their aim?

Since there was nothing immediate to grasp, I became even more cautious and continued upwards.

Soon, the stairs ended.

And beyond the open door, the next stage appeared empty.

Or, is it not quite right to say it was empty?

‘Shit, I didn’t expect this…’

A stone chamber about 40 square meters in size.

At its center, a corpse was melting away.

****

Boom!

As the entire party entered the chamber, the door closed.

And then, a horde of monsters was summoned.

“Nothing caught up on the detection spell?”

“No.”

“Fight thinking that the rat might be hiding nearby.”

We maintained a defensive formation and dealt with the monsters.

It took about 6 minutes to finish the battle.

When the fight was over, everyone’s gaze naturally converged on one place.

“Bjorn, that corpse…”

Misha trailed off.

I seemed to know what she was trying to say, so there was no problem.

 

She must be questioning if it’s real.

I called over an expert.

“Raven.”

“It doesn’t seem fake. I can feel the remnants of magical power.”

“Simply put.”

“It means it’s a freshly dead corpse.”

“Could it be—”

“It can’t be someone else’s corpse. The faint mana emanating matches perfectly.”

…So, that’s it.

‘Dammit.’

The figure had committed suicide.

Before we could even properly exchange words.

The fact made me feel uneasy.

It’s like something out of a novel, isn’t it?

A member of a secret organization consuming poison before becoming a prisoner.

‘I didn’t even consider this possibility.’

I’ve met many bastards before, but they all wanted to live until the end.

This is the first time someone fled only to commit suicide.

Especially without a proper fight.

“…I guess we need to check.”

I slowly approached and removed the mask.

However, it was impossible to discern the gender or race.

The muscles in their face had all melted and flowed away.

This wasn’t something out of a horror story about ghosts.

“Jan-dell, should we remove the clothes too?”

Following the mage’s instruction, I removed the corpse’s clothes.

A more shocking sight was revealed.

“As expected, the entire body has melted. It’s not acid or anything since the clothes are intact…”

Raven approached without hesitation and prodded the corpse here and there with something like a metal rod.

“The bones are still intact. The hair is normal too. It seems to be a substance that only dissolves proteins…”

Watching her handle the corpse without batting an eye, I couldn’t help but ask.

“Are you okay?”

“Huh? With what?”

“When you saw the corpse golem and vomited—”

“Aack! That was because the stench of decay suddenly hit me during the chant. I’ve seen much worse in experiments, so this doesn’t bother me at all?”

“…I see.”

It struck me how her personality didn’t match her appearance.

Even a 10-year veteran explorer like Mr. Bear had to turn his head. He then spoke from far

“…Jan-del, are you sure it’s dead?”

“It seems so for now.”

“Then I’ll go over there and rest. Cheese is my favorite food, after all.”

“Cheese?”

“If I keep looking, I won’t be able to eat cheese.”

It was a valid reason, so I let him go, and Aynar and Misha left for similar reasons.

“Ch, cheese? I don’t know what that is, but it sounds delicious.”

“Bjorn? I don’t think I’ll be of much help either, Nyang”

…Right, no need for everyone to suffer.

“Both of you go and rest.”

I focused on the conversation with Raven.

“Was it poison?”

“Yes. I don’t know which alchemist made it, but it’s a very unique poison. As soon as you ingest it, the substance is expelled through the sweat glands, causing the skin to melt away.”

“A perfect poison for suicide.”

“Exactly. Especially if you need to hide your identity.”

My unease grew.

What the hell was this person involved in?

They definitely didn’t seem like a simple plunderer.

Click.

I stripped the figure of its equipment.

Not only as loot…

But also on the off chance it might provide a clue to their identity.

“No identity badge.”

“…That’s strange.”

It was more than strange.

Without an identity badge, one couldn’t pass through the checkpoints to enter the city.

‘Could they really have been sent by dragon slayer?’

If they came from the underground city, the lack of an identity badge would make sense. With that thought, I thoroughly searched through the figure’s expandable bag.

There weren’t many items.

A few exploration tools and rations.

And then…

“Wow, was this person an expert? They have everything from sleep herbs to basilisk paralysis poison.”

The rest were all consumables for personal combat, some of which were rare enough to interest Raven.

‘Truly a bastard with nothing but murder in mind.’

Even though I never got to exchange words with the masked figure, they somehow gave me the creeps.

A cunning plundering method that utilized the uniqueness of the 4th floor.

If it hadn’t been for Raven, we might have really been in big trouble.

“But, what were you doing at that time?”

“……I was just cleaning myself up.”

Ah, right, she did mention that.

“Why not do it when everyone else is awake?”

“Well, you know, this is only my second time entering the labyrinth. And I’ve only known Urichfried for less than a month.”

Right, she was still adjusting.

I hadn’t even considered that because she always seemed so composed.

Anyway, had she just become aware of her own appearance?

Raven, who had been wearing something like a thin dress, frowned and then opened her pocket dimension to take out and put on some clothes.

“Next time, just tell me. I would have set up a tent or something.”

“No need. I’m an explorer now. I don’t plan to make a fuss over such things.”

“If that’s the case.”

After further discussing and examining the body with Raven, we didn’t make any significant discoveries.

So, we covered the liquefied masked figure with a cloth and all gathered in one corner to finish our sleep.

Oh, and of course, we decided to keep watch, just in case.

I was the first to take watch.

“……”

As I reviewed the events of the day in silence, I heard groaning sounds.

It was coming from Raven’s sleeping bag.

Was she having a nightmare?

Just as I was wondering whether to wake her up, Raven slowly opened her eyes.

“Mr. Jandel.”

“You’re awake? Don’t worry and go back to sleep. I’m keeping watch.”

“It’s not that, I have something to ask.”

After telling her to go ahead, Raven hesitated a bit before finally starting.

“If I hadn’t used the detection magic then, what would have happened?”

Her tone was far from her usual confidence.

I realized then.

No matter how calmly she acted, and even if she managed her emotions well afterward,

It was impossible for her not to have been affected in some way.

“Do you want an honest answer?”

“Yes.”

“If we were unlucky, we all could have died, or if lucky, only one or two of us would have.”

Silence lingered for a moment.

“Is… is exploration always like this?”

I nodded with a bitter smile.

“Yes.”

Never knowing when or where you’ll meet a fucked-up person.

The possibility of losing your life any day.

That’s exactly what exploration was.

But…

“Don’t worry. It’s not always hard and terrible.”

I wasn’t sure if it would be comforting, but I shared some past experiences from Team Halfling.

How Dwalki was disheartened after encountering plunderers for the first time.

And the beautiful scenery of the 3rd floor that Rotmiller showed to cheer him up.

“The seniors used to say it was just a meaningless magic saturation phenomenon.”

Raven chuckled softly and muttered.

I wondered if this was a true mage’s sentiment…

“I’d really like to see it next time too.”

“Alright, next time I’ll wake you up before midnight.”

Soon, a somewhat more relaxed breathing sound came from Raven’s sleeping bag.

Thus, the 8th day came to an end.