Surviving The Game As A Barbarian Episode 166

April 2, 2024 • 12 min read • 714 views

The Great Demon Realm (1)

The 5th floor, the Great Demon Realm.

A layer where team-based units start to reach their limits, and clan-scale hunting becomes smoothly operational.

The moment I stepped into it, my chest swelled with emotion.

Not metaphorically, but literally.

“Huh? Bjorn, did you feel it too? I feel like my spirit level has risen!”

Aynar immediately made a fuss, but it wasn’t a level-up.

Just an increase in Spirit power.

「Achievement Unlocked」

Condition: Reach the 5th floor.

Reward: Spirit Level permanently increased by +20.

But if this is possible, does it mean all other achievements that met their conditions have been unlocked as well?

It seems likely, but I’m not certain.

Well, I’d need to see my stats for that.

Mental strength isn’t exactly a stat you can feel tangibly.

“Calm down, Miss. Aynar. It’s not a level increase, but a phenomenon known as a ‘baptism.'”

Anyway, Raven, who loves to explain, kindly informed Aynar in place of me.

And in a way that was easy to understand.

“It’s a blessing the labyrinth bestows on explorers who reach this far. Baptism is commonly known as such. Mages think a bit differently, though.”

“Oh, that’s kind of romantic!”

Aynar, being superstitious, didn’t ask about the Mages’ view. Maybe Misha, who was listening, got curious?

“Nyang, does that mean the baptism is meaningless for Mages who can’t consume essences?”

“No. Our magical power increases. Now that I see it, the amount is considerable. I should have come here earlier, as the seniors said.”

“Hmm, I see…”

Misha trailed off.

However, it felt like I knew what she might be thinking.

She probably remembered Dwalki, who always lacked magical power.

“Ah, I heard that priests gain increased divine power. And one more thing—”

Before Raven’s explanation could go on endlessly, I cut her off.

“Isn’t there something odd?”

“Huh?”

Raven looked puzzled, not understanding what I meant.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bear, who had been to the 5th floor often, nodded in agreement with my statement.

“There are a lot of people. It’s usually not this crowded.”

Yeah, so it’s not a typical situation.

I glanced around and swallowed hard.

The starting point of the 5th floor, the Great Demon Realm is a safe zone.

That’s why it always looks like a campsite.

But…

‘Why are there so many tents?’

It’s almost the size of a village at this point.

Not only that, but looking at the flags planted here and there, more than half seem to belong to clan-affiliated explorers…

‘What’s going on? Why are they staying here?’

Explorers who use this place as a base are mostly team units.

Is this some kind of loophole?

Clans with a large number of members usually manage to camp among themselves even in the middle of the 5th floor.

But…

“Bjorn, it seems like everyone is staring at us… Is that okay?”

5th floor explorers.

Explorers so good they belong to a clan.

They were looking at us from a distance and murmuring among themselves.

I don’t think they’re trying to be cocky.

What’s really going on?

As I was pondering the reason,

“Hey!”

A man from afar waved his hand and quickly approached us.

“Abam! That’s you, right?”

“…Karal?”

“Good to see you. Finally decided to form a team, I see?”

“Just happened to connect by chance. And you? Still with them?”

“A man’s got to have loyalty. Where else would I bury my bones?”

Mr Bear greeted the man as if he knew him well.

Realizing my gaze, he added an explanation.

“Ah, this here is Karal Larveger. We were companions. Until he left me to join a clan on his own.”

“When did I abandon you? I begged you to come with me, but you were the one who ignored me.”

Judging by Mr Bear’s milder tone with him, he must be close.

This was a good opportunity.

“I’m Jandel’s son, Bjorn.”

“…Oh, is that you?”

Karal seemed intrigued, perhaps having heard my nickname “Little Balkan.”

“I heard you’re not even a year old yet, and you’re already here……. Somehow, I feel quite small today.”

“Just got lucky. But I have a question.”

“I think I know what you’re curious about. You want to know why we’re still here when we should be on our way up?”

Well, to be fair, I was more curious about why they were looking at us from afar…….

But I nodded anyway.

“It’s simple. Among those who agreed to join us, more than half couldn’t make it. Essentially, the entire plan has come to a halt.”

More than half couldn’t make it up?

How could that happen?

I instinctively sensed the seriousness of the situation.

“So, I have to ask.”

Karal asked cautiously.

Then, he brought up something completely unexpected.

“Did you guys also get attacked on the 4th floor?”

That masked bastard…….

So we weren’t the only ones.

***

After a moment’s hesitation, I answered truthfully that we had been attacked.

Karal then asked a few questions about the incident, and we provided honest answers, gaining the information we needed.

“So, you detected them with a detection spell…”

“It was purely coincidental, because when we first ran the detection spell, it said there was nothing there.”

When he added that the masked figure had chosen to take his own life after his identity was discovered, Karl’s expression turned serious.

“Huh, suicide, you say…”

“Do you have any suspects in mind?”

“Not yet, only that it was thoroughly planned, but I’m glad you told me, and if you find anything…… pass the message through Abman.”

After that, Karal left to report back to his clan.

So, we also took some time to discuss.

“…It wasn’t just a simple plunderer.”

The figure in the mask wasn’t alone.

They were indiscriminate in their attacks on explorers above the 4th floor. We were the third team to survive the attack?

Certainly, it’s not incomprehensible.

There’s no guard setting in the Sky Tower.

In fact, even those who did survive mentioned losing team members or severely injured teammates before finally defeating the Masked Man.

We were the first to find them before they did, and drive them to self-destruction.

The stares we were receiving now made sense.

At first, they must have looked at us expectantly, hoping we were one of their own. Then they wondered if we had been attacked, too.

“Mr. Jandel, do you think what that man said earlier is true? That the attack resulted in at least 300 deaths…”

“Well, we won’t know for sure until we get back to the city. I’m sure there are some who survived, but stayed on the fourth floor because their team members or scouts were killed.”

“Ah, right…”

Of course, that’s what I said, but it doesn’t matter much.

It’s certain that hundreds of explorers have died.

And not just any explorers, but veterans who have climbed the tower for decades.

“Sigh…”

I was both terrified and a little relieved.

At least they weren’t sent by the Dragon Slayer.

I had even fantasized that it might have been an assassin sent by the district head or the Dragon Tribe.

“What kind of big bastards would do such a senseless thing…….”

I decided to hold my tongue at this point.

The fact that the royal family was planning a purge against Noarark was still undisclosed information.

‘It seems this incident is like a declaration of war.’

I was internally convinced.

The culprits behind this terrorism were explorers from Noarark.

‘This is going to escalate.’

A headache was starting to set in.

A war between the royal family and Noarark is going to happen.

Or rather, it’s fair to say it has already started.

But the biggest issue here is…

‘If the purge fails.’

If Noarark locks its doors and the war drags on.

Then I’m screwed too.

The next battlefield would undoubtedly be the labyrinth.

Noarark or Raphdonia, both cities need magic stones to sustain themselves.’

Shit.

Why did I have to be dragged into the game at this time? If I had arrived just a year earlier, I would have had more time to prepare.

‘Wait… But if I hadn’t delivered the High Priest’s letter to the temple, wouldn’t the war not have happened?’

I brushed off the thought as soon as it occurred.

How is this my fault?

It’s all the Dragon Slayer’s fault.

Originally, all three major religions were supposed to keep the royal family in check by maintaining neutrality. Who asked for the High Priest to be kidnapped and enslaved?

“Bjorn?”

“Ah, I was just thinking for a bit.”

“So, what do we do now?”

When I snapped out of it, all the team members were looking at me. They still see it as a simple act of terrorism.

They wouldn’t be as troubled as I am.

“There’s no change in plans. We resume exploring.”

I made the decision, and Raven cautiously expressed her concern.

“Is it really safe to continue exploring with those people in the labyrinth?”

“It’ll be fine. With so many clans gathered here, if the attackers had any plans, they wouldn’t be able to execute them here.”

Now is probably the safest time.

Next month, even the 5th floor might be overrun by those bastards…

And it’s possible that access to the labyrinth could be blocked.

“Let’s stop worrying and go make some money.”

The 5th floor will be closed after the 30th day, so we need to earn as much as we can now.

Who knows how long we’ll have to rest for.

***

The structure of the 5th floor, the Great Demon Realm, is simple.

Imagine a large, tray-shaped boulder, and then imagine four slides branching from it.

The only problem is that these slides divide into dozens of paths, some ending abruptly and connecting to other paths in a confusing mess.

As soon as we left the starting point, bathed in red light akin to a butcher’s shop, we were greeted by the labyrinth’s darkness and a sweltering heat.

Not all four paths are like this…….

This is the nature of the path we chose.

「The character has entered a special area.」

「Field Effect – Hellfire Gorge is applied.」

「Status Ailment [Ash Brand] is applied.」

「All consumption values increase by 1.5 times, and fire resistance decreases by -30.」

All consumption values.

Simply put, whether it’s spirit power, magic power, sacred power, or stamina, it’s consumed at 1.5 times the usual rate.

But it’s not too bad.

Compared to other paths, this is manageable.

「Alluva Raven has cast Level 8 enhancement magic [Cold Blood].」

[Your character’s resistance to fire is greatly increased]

Cold magic seeps into my veins, chilling my heated body.

We continued our exploration slowly.

We hadn’t encountered any monsters yet, but just walking was stressful enough.

‘It’s not even a bridge in the clouds.’

A path about 10 meters wide.

The labyrinth’s darkness obstructing our view.

And a cliff that emitted intense heat.

“Aynar, stop looking down.”

“I was just wondering what’s down there…”

“I heard lava flows there.”

“Lava? What’s that?”

“Uh, it’s hard to explain…”

Raven answers Aynar’s curiosity again. Aynar frowned at every difficult word, but listened intently.

‘They seem to get along well in this regard.’

As the team leader, it was a pleasant scene, but I couldn’t just watch.

“Aynar, stop bothering Raven and watch where you’re going.”

“Ah, got it!”

Tightening up the loosening tension, I continue down the sloping path. Halfway down, we came to a fork, and I pulled out my notebook and drew a map that ignored any sense of scale.

I have no intention of using the safe zone as a base and continuing my explorations but…

I judged it necessary to be able to return in case of an emergency.

Three forks later, I was beginning to realize the greatness of Rotmiller, when

Kwah-ang-!

A column of fire burst next to us, and then…

Tiny embers scattered and fell forward, forming a dense cluster.

A beast covered in flames.

“They’re ifrits.”

“Two level 5 monsters right from the start.”

Raven cast the spell ‘Frost Enchantment’ at the start of the battle. Ifrit is a spirit creature, so it’s immune to physical damage.

[Your weapon is imbued with frost damage.」

A frosty glow surrounds my mace.

I charged in my [Gigantification] state and swung my mace at one of them.

The feel was unsatisfying.

Thud!

But, the mace that had easily shattered a troll’s shoulder had no effect on the Ifrit.

This is why I dislike spirit creatures.

Unless it’s a ‘Material Conversion’ spell that changes physical force into a comparable type of spirit damage, ‘Frost Enchantment’ can only provide so much extra damage.

“Aisir Faust.”

Raven’s Level 6 curse magic ‘Rapid Freeze’.

And Misha’s [Ice Shatter] combo.

Eventually, the battle was carried by Misha and Raven while I held off the Ifrits.

「You have defeated the Ifrit. EXP +5」

Mr. Bear summoned his Iron Guardian to assist in tanking, but Aynar could only watch.

Such is the fate of a physical warrior.

Clatter.

Magic stones dropped where the Ifrit vanished.

As expected, no essence.

But then…

「Your character has leveled up.」

「Spirit Power increases by +10.」

「Maximum essence absorption capacity increases by +1.」

Finally, I reached level 5.

It would be more meaningful if an essence had appeared.

[Squeeeek!!]

Now, only one ifrit remained.

The beast of flames roared at us, mourning its fallen companion.

At that moment…

“An Ifrit, huh?”

A group of five explorers emerged from the opposite direction. They seemed to be heading back to the safe zone after finishing their hunt…

What kind of manners had they learned?

“It looks like it’ll take more than 5 minutes.”

“Ah, I’m so tired, let’s just take it down, shall we?”

A massive water blob fell from the sky, drenching the Ifrit’s body.

The flames quickly died down.

“What is this—”

Before I could react, an arrow shot through Ifrit’s head.

Swoosh.

The last one vanished into light.

After confirming what the creature left behind, I sighed heavily.

“…An essence!”

A Level 5 monster’s essence had appeared.

Damn it.

I was dumbfounded.

Why does it always happen like this?