Surviving The Game As A Barbarian Episode 167

April 3, 2024 • 14 min read • 657 views

The Great Demon Realm (2)

The moment the red essence floated up.

The eyes of the opposite explorers group, who were all thinking of turning back and resting, sharpened.

It was as if looking into a mirror.

Our expressions wouldn’t be much different now.

“…”

A heavy silence lingered for a moment.

It didn’t last long, as the explorers were quick to judge.

The first to speak was a hammer-wielding warrior from the other group.

“So the essence came from the monster we killed, huh?”

“Uh, Mr. Nelbo…”

“Stay out of this, mage. I’ll handle it here.”

Okay, so this guy is the leader.

He’s already decided what position he’s going to take in this situation.

Claiming ownership of the essence.

I smirked inwardly.

Honestly, I hadn’t expected anything less.

They were the kind of bastards who couldn’t wait a few minutes and rudely interrupted the battle.

I muttered softly.

“Prepare for battle.”

A declaration of intent that if they tried to force their way in, there would be blood

“Mr. Jandel…”

Raven voiced her concern.

Similar to the situation with their mage who tried to intervene Mr. Nelbo.

Apparently, mages are not comfortable with this kind of thing.

Maybe it’s because they’ve all grown up in comfortable environments?

“Don’t panic. It’s just that five more humanoid monsters have appeared.”

With that, I summed up the situation.

Did they realize I was the leader?

The hammer warrior fixed his gaze on me and made a comment.

“You, you’re that guy…?”

“Do you know me?”

Instead of answering, the Hammer Warrior pulled up his helmet’s visor.

But the problem was, I still had no idea who he was.

Have I ever met him before?

I couldn’t forget such intensely thick eyebrows that were so burdensome.

“…?”

As I looked on in confusion, the hammer-warrior, seemingly frustrated, removed his helmet completely.

Flash!

The bald scalp shone under the floating light sphere magic.

Then I remembered.

“…Baldy!”

It was that guy from the time I went to negotiate with the District Head. He was trying to capture me to do some public farming.

I hadn’t expected him to be disguising himself with a helmet.

“Pfft!”

For some reason, the members of the opposing team burst into laughter.

The bald head turned beet red, perhaps in embarrassment.

“…You want to die, barbarian?”

Baldy said, putting his helmet back on.

“It would be wise for you to watch your words. You don’t have the District Head to protect you here.”

What is he on about?

If he knew anything about my relationship with the District Head, he wouldn’t dare speak like this.

Well, it doesn’t matter.

“You better leave while you can, unless you want to lose that head of yours too.”

“Is that so? You think you can take me on?”

As I took a step forward, Baldy matched it with a step of his own.

The distance between us closed, with the essence caught in the middle.

The air grew heavy, a chill that even the canyon heat can’t quench.

The archer from Baldy’s team pulled back his bowstring.

Click.

Behind me, Mr. Bear loaded his crossbow.

The silence was so dense, we could hear each other’s breathing.

“…”

It was like a tightly drawn string.

The moment that string snapped, a storm of blood would begin.

Both I and Baldy knew this.

Yet…

“Baldy, back off now, and I’ll give you a magic stone.”

“You barbarians are bad at math. We killed the monster. Naturally, both the magic stones and the essence belong to us.”

Neither side was willing to back down.

Teams that have made it to the 5th floor, the top 30% of explorers.

Knowing full well that gaining an essence but losing even one team member in the process would be a greater loss.

Still, we tightened our grip on our weapons and closed the distance.

Sweat trickled down my spine.

‘This bald bastard is too greedy.’

Traditionally, the ownership rights should be ours.

Perhaps he intended to follow the convention at first.

If a single gemstone appeared, maybe he was going to hand it over coolly?

He may have even joined the battle in the first place because he just wanted to rest soon.

But then, the essence appeared.

‘…Do we really have to fight this out?’

I began to shake off any reluctance and prepare for the worst.

The current situation is akin to a game of chicken.

The first to back down loses.

If everyone wants to be a winner, catastrophe is the only outcome.

 

“Baldy, this is your last warning.”

I don’t usually prefer to threaten with words, but this time, I give it one more try

“Oh, I’m so scared I’m shaking.”

The answer was no.

With that, I made up my mind.

If that’s what he wants, he’ll have to see it through.

Without even this level of resolve, one cannot survive in the merciless world of explorers.

‘Given the situation, I’ll have to consume the essence myself.’

Originally, the plan was to store the Ifrit’s essence in a test tube for sale. It wasn’t particularly well-suited for me, Misha, or Aynar.

However.

Step.

An essence is always beneficial when consumed.

It’s better for me to use it than to give it to that guy.

It doesn’t cost much to erase the essence, so it’s best to use it until it’s no longer beneficial and then discard it.

‘Let’s fight by shoving them off. We might not be able to take their gear, but winning is the priority right now.’

Okay, I’ve roughly finished planning.

Now it’s time to put it into action.

The car was cautiously taking its foot off the gas, measuring the angle.

“Let’s stop this, everyone!”

“Right. Mr. Jandel, please put down your weapon.”

Suddenly, the mages from both sides stepped forward, and the situation entered a new phase.

“‘Mage? I thought I told you to leave us alone.”

“Mr. Nelbo, can you stop with that tone? It doesn’t make you look any better.”

 

“…”

“Answer.”

“…”

“If you keep acting like this, next time we won’t enter the labyrinth together, okay?”

“…I’ll stop.”

A single word from the mage, and Baldy, who appeared as a youthful boy, immediately tucked his tail. For some reason, the baldy’s dignified mage couldn’t keep still.

He had just been playing along with the act.

I didn’t hide my disgust.

‘Baldy, acting all high and mighty…’

I don’t even want to talk to him anymore.

Anyway, after Baldy lowered his weapon and stepped back, the tension eased.

“That robe with that emblem. You’re from the Altemion School, right?”

“Yes. And you’re from the Warton School?”

“Hehe, correct.”

The Warton School was also known to me.

It was a significant school, but…

It was particularly memorable for its specialization in water attribute magic.

“”Efrain Bello.”

“Alluva Raven.”

Mages from both sides exchanged names. It was a brief moment of civility, in contrast to the earlier tension between the armed explorers.

“How is Master Altemion? I saw him at a conference a year ago…”

“Well, my master is as usual. And Master Warton? Still deep in that research?”

“Ha, of course. It’s our secret project, after all.”

Their conversation had the feel of ‘We’re all in this together!’, it felt like observing a high society.

It was probably a recognition that everyone was just a few connections away from each other, so there was no need to complicate things.

“So what are we going to do now?”

Raven brought us back to the issue at hand.

“You do realise that asking for the essence of the monster we’re hunting is a bit of a pushy claim, don’t you?”

“Hmm, it’s not entirely unreasonable. But traditions are just that, traditions. Since we were involved, it’s clear. The committee is likely to recognize it as a personal dispute between explorers.”

Unlike us, ready to fight like beasts, the mages aimed to resolve the issue through dialogue.

“I know traditions are traditions, but it’s hard to look favorably on someone who breaks them. And if you’re going all the way to the Council over a single essence….. I think it would be more reasonable for your side to give up?”

“That’s…”

The opposing mage hesitated.

Our mage had won the argument.

“Yes, that’s right. So we’re going to forfeit it. I didn’t like Mr. Nelbo’s idea to begin with.”

This could have been resolved this way too.

‘Maybe I’m just meant to be a barbarian after all?’

I lowered my grip on the mace.

Today wasn’t the day, but a day when it would be useful was bound to come.

The labyrinth is such a place.

***

“Mr. Bello?”

“Are you going to keep being a dick?”

“Well, there’s a certain way things are done in our industry…”

Baldy looked as if he was asking for reconsideration, but the mage’s authority was firm.

“Then I must have misjudged you, Mr. Nelbo. This isn’t about defending our rights; it’s just your greed, isn’t it?”

“…”

“I thought I had shown you enough respect as a leader. But this makes you no different from plunderers, does it?”

Baldy could say nothing in response, just grimacing in frustration.

It wasn’t entirely satisfying.

I was secretly curious about how it would feel to smash that gleaming head.

“Mr. Jandel, what will we do with the essence?”

While Baldy was being scolded by the mage, we discussed what to do with the essence.

“Cough!”

Aynar gave me a ‘look at me’ gaze, but the decision was the same as before.

“Store it in a test tube and sell it in the city.”

“That sounds good. Clean and simple.”

I will give Aynar a better essence later.

‘After all, I don’t have the money to give her an essence right now.’

Normally, when a team member claims an essence, they pay about half the selling price. Well, for me and Misha, it could go on our tab…

Whether Mr. Bear or Raven would agree to that was another matter.

“Aynar, cheer up. If we sell that, you could buy tens of thousands of cotton candies.”

“Te-tens of thousands!?”

Overwhelmed by the sheer number, Aynar staggered but then seemed to regain her spirits. She seemed to find this an acceptable outcome.

‘…Though she’d have to start by paying back the money I lent her.’

Anyway, after we finished discussing the disposal of the essence, Raven stored the Ifrit’s essence in a test tube, and we stepped aside to let them pass.

But it wasn’t going to end just by walking past.

“What’s your name?” Baldy stopped in front of me to ask.

What is this? A warning to be careful on my way home?

As I glanced down at him, he quickly added, indicating not to misunderstand.

“No, I mean… if this is a form of fate, shouldn’t we at least know each other’s names?”

Fate my foot.

Still, I gave him my name.

“I am Bjorn, son of Jandel.”

“Jandel’s son, Bjorn?”

Baldy tilted his head, as if the name sounded familiar.

He also gave his name.

“I’m Melthason Nelbo.”

So, it wasn’t Hans Nelbo after all.

This somewhat eased my mind.

“Then be on your way.”

It would be ridiculous to shake hands and make up now, so I ended the conversation.

Baldy walked away with a bitter smile.

Starting with him, his companions passed by us one by one.

The shield bearer, the swordsman, the mage, and then the archer.

“…”

The archer, passing in front of me, paused when he saw me.

The reason was simple.

I was glaring at him fiercely.

[“Ah, I’m so tired, let’s just take them all down, shall we?”]

If it hadn’t been for this guy, we wouldn’t have had to start this mess.

In some ways, he was more infuriating than Baldy—

“Hans! What are you doing? Hurry up and come!”

Soon, the archer avoided my gaze and hurried away.

I froze like a statue.

“…”

…There was Hans.

***

Day 21 dawned.

It had already been four days since we entered the 5th floor.

During this time, we continually hunted monsters as we navigated further down.

Meanwhile, Aynar also reached level 4.

‘…So, she’s entered the labyrinth three times and reached level 4?’

In some ways, she’s experienced faster growth than even me.

I wish someone would let me hop on their bus too.

Anyway, we encountered a few challenging situations while fighting monsters, but the exploration itself went smoothly.

I was worried something might happen because of Hans.

‘Maybe the incident with the essence was the end of it…’

A hopeful speculation.

When piecing everything together, it seems plausible.

 

Though I luckily got through it this time, we nearly ended up in a 5 vs 5 brawl.

So, simply put, the possibility that the essence drop was the end of the “Hans effect” is quite high…

No, what am I even thinking?

‘Damned bastards.’

I usually don’t believe in jinxes.

Really, that was the case until I met Hans.

“Mr. Jandel, isn’t it time to stop that now?”

While I momentarily stopped to update the map, Raven cautiously approached me.

“Stop what?”

“…I understand you’re working hard, but looking at that, we won’t be able to find our way back anyway?”

A statement befitting a mage who values results over efforts.

“…”

I couldn’t argue back.

In fact, I wasn’t confident I could use the map to even return to where we started.

The paths in the Great Demon Realm were that complicated.

It wasn’t just about facing multiple diverging paths; there were places where the path was broken, requiring us to use ropes to cross.

But…

“If I keep at it, I’ll improve. Next time I come here, I’ll be better.”

I’m the scout for Team Apple Narak.

Although I wanted to live as a barbarian warrior, harsh reality steered me towards this role.

Therefore, I also need to practice.

I’m sure Rottmiller wasn’t that good the first time around.

“Well, if that’s the case, I have nothing to say… But isn’t it tiring?”

“Well, it’s bothersome, but there are fun aspects to it.”

The fun aspect.

It wasn’t just a casual remark; I meant it.

Seeing it as part of building skills, there’s a sense of growth.

The saying “preparation is key” exists for a reason.

If we ever find ourselves in a situation like the Witch’s Forest, this skill I’m honing now will come to my aid.

‘Above all, becoming a scout means I can naturally lead the team to places I want to go.’

“So, are we just going to keep descending today?”

“What other choice do we have?”

The Orc settlement, the Witch’s Forest, the Steelrock Hills, and so on.

Just as the 3rd floor is composed of various fields, the 5th floor also has fields with names.

Among these maze-like narrow paths, there are wide disk-shaped terrains that appear similar to the starting point.

Some are accessed through caves in cliffs.

So far, we have discovered three such fields.

Well, all three were occupied.

‘It seems there are way more clan hunting grounds than in the game.’

As newcomers to the 5th floor, this is an incredibly frustrating aspect. It’s not that we lack the ability to hunt monsters, but rather, our growth is slowed down because of those people.

‘Fucking realism game’

To hunt monsters exclusive to these fields, one must pay the controlling clans.

And even after paying, you only get a one-time hunting right for experience gain. Perhaps capturing the true nature of humans in a game was too ambitious?

The ladder kicking is many times worse than in the game.

But…

No matter how much they try to kick away the ladder.

Does that mean I won’t be able to climb up here?

I’ve been playing this one game for 10 years and have mastered all the tricks and hidden elements. I’ve once been stuck on the fifth floor for over a year, so I know every nook and cranny.

‘…Having come down this far, it’s about time that it appeared.’

There are plenty of ways to get stronger.

See you on Monday