Max Talent Player - Chapter 177
Max Talent Player
[Translator – Lei ]
[Proofreader – Ash ]
Vela didn’t seem to think much of it.
“Those guys saw us going to the 3rd floor.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yeah, ‘cus I shouted to those frustrating turtle guys that I was going on ahead.”
Hyukjin didn’t think that Wings would be taken out by Orc Warriors and Troll Soldiers.
“The cooldown of the escalator going to the 3rd floor will soon end.”
Would Wings come up?
It wouldn’t be them.
“Some other Player is going to come up.”
For a while now, a strange sensation had been prickling his entire body—Eye of Perception was screaming danger. The warning had been blaring in his head nonstop. A ‘dangerous Player’ was approaching.
‘No. By this point, he might not even be a Player.’
For now, Hyukjin was categorizing him as a Player, but Hyukjin didn’t know for sure if ‘he’ truly was a Player.
Before long, his Eye of Perception sensed the flow of mana.
‘The escalator is activating.’
Which meant someone was coming up. And then, Hyukjin saw him—a man dressed casually in ordinary old jeans and a t-shirt.
Someone had come up to the 3rd floor.
“Long time no see.”
Hyukjin couldn’t react. That very moment, the man’s body moved, stopping directly in front of Hyukjin in a flash. Hyukjin calmly stared ahead at the man’s face.
‘I knew he was coming, but… I couldn’t react.’
That was just how fast his opponent was.
“Well, you weren’t able to react, but the fact that you read my movements is worthy of praise.”
His opponent’s name was Kang Sun-il. A person so shrouded in mystery that no one knew if that was his real name or a pseudonym, a being so far removed from the standard that it was hard to tell if he was even a Player or not. Someone who would later be called the ‘Demon King’.
Vela seemed displeased by the Demon King’s appearance.
“The heck? The heck are you being so threatening?” Vela made a fist. “You good at fighting?”
And before Hyukjin could stop him, Vela punched, his fist shimmering with blue energy. It was a serious punch, with no weighing this or that. Apparently, the moment Hyukjin promised to be his ‘assistant’, Hyukjin had already become a teammate to Vela. To Vela, attacking an opponent who threateningly closed in on his teammate was all too natural.
The Demon King did not dodge Vela’s fist.
An impact rang out.
But the person who screamed wasn’t the Demon King, but Vela. Vela quickly pulled back his fist, his fingers dangling limp. Every bone in his hand had shattered.
The Demon King grinned.
He reached out, grabbed Vela’s throat with one hand, and lifted him.
“If you don’t have the skills, nurture your discernment.”
The Demon King’s fingers dug into Vela’s neck. Blood began to stream out. Even the future Fight King, Vela, was unable to free himself from the Demon King’s stranglehold. He flailed.
Still holding Vela’s neck, the Demon King just turned his head a little. He grinned again.
“Stop?” He seemed amused by Hyukjin’s attitude. “Did you just give me an order?”
Hyukjin didn’t respond. Why did the Demon King show up now, at this timing? Was this coincidence, or inevitable?
‘It’s not a coincidence.’
If so, then the Demon King had to be aiming for something. What was that?
The Demon King wasn’t really trying to kill Vela. If he wanted to do that, he would have killed Vela earlier, before the Italian Player could throw his punch. Though of course, there was no doubt that Vela was at the risk of dying even now.
‘He’s aiming for something.’
Hyukjin had to find out what that was. If he didn’t…
‘I’ll probably die, too.’
He had the feeling he kept getting involved with the Demon King even though he didn’t want to.
“You seem to have something to say to me.”
Vela’s eyes began to dim. The Demon King didn’t seem to want to kill Vela right now, but at this rate, Vela would die. Even a stone merely thrown as a joke could kill a frog.
Vela used his innate ability, desperate.
He tried to hang on somehow by using his innate ability, barely clinging onto his dimming consciousness.
“Let go of Vela,” said Hyukjin.
“Did you say you know the future? You must have predicted this in advance, yes?”
Hyukjin didn’t respond. Truth was, he hadn’t predicted this. He hadn’t predicted that the Demon King would appear here.
It wasn’t good to lie excessively to the Demon King. He would have to sprinkle in some lies, but it couldn’t be a complete falsification. There had to be seven parts, no, nine parts truth to one part lie. Only then could he make the Demon King act.
“You weren’t in the future I knew.”
“That means your very existence is a variable in the world I know. A variable that continues to shake the future I know.”
“A variable, huh. I like that you’re honest.”
The Demon King moved the hand that was holding Vela’s neck, bringing Vela’s face to Hyukjin’s. Vela’s face had gone paper white—he was already half-unconscious. Froth was dribbling out of his mouth.
“Let’s make a bet. Will I kill this guy, or spare him?”
“Let’s make a bet. Will I kill this guy, or spare him?”
I couldn’t carelessly answer the Demon King’s question. Someone’s life was hanging on my response. But I was also not very afraid. The answer was already set. It just came down to whether I had the bold decisiveness to choose that answer.
I threw a question back at him. “Why haven’t you killed Vela?”
“Do you want me to?”
The Demon King tightened his hold. An iota more force, and Vela’s neck would snap with a crack.
Vela was now unconscious. His arms and legs went limp. A little longer, and he might really die. Whether Vela died or lived didn’t seem to matter much to the Demon King. As far as I could tell, what was important to him wasn’t Vela, but my response.
“If you wanted him dead, you would have killed him long ago.”
“You’re not wrong.” Demon King shrugged, as if telling me to keep talking.
“But you didn’t kill him. And you’re trying to get an answer out of me.”
What did that mean?
“In the end, there must be something you want to hear from me.”
The Demon King grinned. I was struck with the same sensation as last time, the feeling of the Demon King’s lips stretching into a big, red grin, almost like there was a big mouth I couldn’t see above the Demon King’s head.
It was an ominous and terrible feeling. It felt like a sticky tongue would snake out of those red lips at any moment to swallow me into the depths.
The Demon King tossed Vela away. It was just a light toss, but Vela’s body hurtled away like a baseball.
Vela crashed into the wall. Blood dripped from his head.
‘That’s not enough to kill him.’
He wouldn’t die. Injuries could be recovered in a jiffy with a healer’s help, so the wounds themselves weren’t a big issue.
“Go ahead then. Try telling me what I want to hear.”
“There’s one reason why you keep sparing me, isn’t there?”
I didn’t know why the Demon King was interested in me, either. To begin with, this was someone I couldn’t even be sure was a Player, someone who referred directly to the Guardians when telling me not to trust them. So why? Why was this non-standard being, the Demon King, doing this? I didn’t know the root cause for his interest in me, but I knew what he wanted.
“Isn’t it because you see the potential to reach you in me?”
The Demon King chortled in amusement. “The potential to reach me?”
He clutched his belly, guffawing. I couldn’t tell what was so funny. I didn’t think there was anything else he wanted from me, but maybe I was wrong? Or was I only partially right?
“That’s right. You have to get stronger.”
He flicked his finger, and a formless force strangled my body. It was hard to breathe.
“Strong enough to reach me is a very good way of putting it.”
I felt the world spin.
‘I have to hold it together.’
The Demon King was interested in me, and it was thanks to that interest that I was alive right now. I didn’t want to die here. As my mind slowed, a question occurred to me.
‘It might be in ten years, but… could Korea’s 8 Heroes really be a match for the Demon King?’
Many feats were achieved through the 8 Heroes fighting the Demon King. But the ‘Demon King’ I was seeing right now was unimaginably strong, though that might be because I was a Player in the beginner period.
‘You can only see as much as you know.’
There was still much I didn’t know. It might be possible that I could fight him once I broke into the mid-game, became a master, and hit the high levels. Just like how a Lycanthrope was a terrible and terrifying beast during the Tutorial, now, it wasn’t even a good warm-up.
My lungs screamed for air. I forcefully held onto my dimming consciousness and barely cracked open my lips.
“How long will you keep examining me?”
Just before I lost consciousness, the force choking me instantly disappeared. That ‘formeless pressure’ faded like a mirage, as if it had never existed.
“You felt that, too?”
“I’ve experienced something similar from someone else.”
The Demon King turned a bemused gaze on me. “Something similar?”
“Someone told me that there is something called [Achievement] engraved on my body like stigmata.” That someone was none other than the Great Explorer, Jackson. He was the one who had told me about stigmata. “I got the same feeling I had when he was reading my body’s Achievements.”
The Demon King didn’t agree or deny, but my guess was probably correct.
“Did you hunt —’s toys?”
I stared at him. He definitely said something just now, but I wasn’t able to interpret it. My ears definitely heard, but didn’t hear it.
The System had interfered, meaning there was something I shouldn’t know at this point in time, a secret the System was protecting.
“Even though they’re absolutely impossible for you to hunt at your current level…”
Foes that were absolutely impossible to hunt?
“If you’re referring to the Fire Giants, I did hunt them.”
“Fire Giants?” The Demon King laughed with a pfft. “If the real Fire Giants were to hear that, they’d black out from their blood pressure shooting up.”
Just how much did the Demon King know, and what was he? Were the Fire Giants I hunted not the ‘real Fire Giants’?
“Well, it’s true that you’ve managed pretty amazing Achievements for your current stage. You have my praise.”
“Though it’s still just at the level of children playing.”
From looking at him, I could tell. The Demon King truly didn’t intend on killing me. Of course, he would likely kill me if I dissatisfied him, but that wasn’t the case now, at least.
“Did you come here to check the stigmata engraved on my body?”
“As if. You evaluate yourself too highly.”
He gave me a withering look that dripped, ‘You think I would’ve made a visit specially to check on the likes of you?’ Considering the indifference clear in his eyes, what he said didn’t seem to be a complete lie.
‘He’s interested in me, but… he doesn’t see me as a very important person.’
I suspected the Demon King had important matters of his own right now, and he was checking me on the side while taking care of his business. He probably wasn’t lying.
“If you’ve broken the toys, did you get —?”
I couldn’t answer. As if reading my expression, the Demon King scowled.
“—. Can’t understand me?”
I could hear, but couldn’t hear. My brain could not comprehend it. The information coming into my head was being restricted. I felt a sense of disparity.
The Demon King breathed a long sigh.
“You’re still far off.”
Then, he said something I couldn’t make sense of.
“I’ll wait for you at Endless Sky.”