Chapter 20 -The Luxury of a Cup of Coffee (2)
“Hmm. You got guts.”
Count slightly lifted a corner of her mouth.
“And you don’t seem to be that surprised that a cat turned into a human…you’re not like young folks these days. Ah, this is a compliment.”
“Thank you. I do have guts. I even see ghosts and stuff.”
“Ahahaha. You’re even relaxed enough to joke. Amazing.”
Count started to wave her fan and laughed. Even though he didn’t say that as a joke.
The hunters all peeked at each other. Only the Count laughed. The team leaders who had been loudly shouting prices became quiet as mice with the arrival of the Count.
“Uh, maam. Pardon me, but…”
The large blond hunter carefully spoke up.
“Isn’t 50,000 Gold and the vice guild master…too much? O, Of course, subjugating the 10th floor is amazing. But…the skills of Kim Gong-ja…are…not known…”
As he went on, he stuttered more. It was because he suddenly forgot out to speak. The Count was covering her mouth with her fan and looking at him. She smiled with her eyes past the fan.
“Are you done pardoning?”
“Then before you pardon yourself more, bring your bosses. Sorry, you guys won’t understand me. Ah, it doesn’t matter if you can bet higher than 50,000 Gold. Just sit here comfortably.”
She was politely telling them to ‘piss off.’
And since they were being told to piss off, there was nothing else they could do. They left one by one.
And after 10 minutes, like they handed the baton over to someone else, new hunters entered the cafe.
Rank 5. Venomous Snake, Guild Master of Chen Mu-mun.
“Mm. I’m a step behind. I admit it’s our mistake.”
Rank 4. Guild Master of Ten Thousand Temple, heretic questioner.
“Mistake isn’t the right word. Our job isn’t to welcome a new hero, but to stop the existing hunters from being confused. You were too excessive.”
Rank 8. Vice Guild Master of Civil Militia, Crusader.
Rank 2. And even the Guild Master of Black Dragon, Black Witch.
I exclaimed to myself.
‘They’re all assembled.”
I was proud of myself. They were the highest rankers that I only saw in interview videos and such. They all sat down in front of me. I was able to realize how much more expensive my body was now.
Count cupped her chin and laughed.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since we gathered like this. It feels like yesterday when we subjugated the 2nd floor together. Now we’re all old.”
“Ssangryun. [TN: An extra S on Sangryun sounds like bitch in Korean.] Before I boil you in soup, shut up.”
Venomous Snake growled.
Chen Mu-mun’s Guild Master, the one-eyed hunter. The person known to be the one to successfully clear the 2nd floor had an eye patch on his eye.
They said it was a scar after challenging Sword Saint.
“I heard on the way here. What, 50,000 Gold? Vice Guild Master? You always cosplay a beast and even your IQ’s been reduced to a beast’s? The 50,000 Gold I could understand since that’s Ssangryun’s specialty, throwing money around, but Vice Guild Master my as…”
“Alright! Let’s order coffee!”
Heretic Questioner spoke brightly.
“It’s rude to enter a cafe and not even order. Should the people who lead the greatest clans in the tower be like this? I’ll order a cafe mocha. Everyone?”
“Ah, I’d like a warm americano.”
“A cool cafe latte sounds nice.”
“…hazelnut latte. Hot. Additional shots. Grande.”
The Guild Masters spoke one by one like they had been waiting. The only person to be surprised was Venomous Snake.
“What? Coffee? Hey. The world’s been turned upside down because the 10th floor was cleared, and coffee goes down your throats? Are these bastards suckers for caffeine or…”
“Chen Mu-mun would like a dark espresso, I see. Understood.”
“This fucking religious guy…?”
“Store owner-nim! Please take our orders!”
Heretic Questioner ignored the Venomous Snake and shouted. Flinch. The barista at the counter trembled. She became pale at the fact that she would be making coffee for the highest rankers.
“W, Would…you like to….order…?”
Heretic Questioner beamed.
The Guild Master of Ten Thousand Temple. The blonde hunter. The young man who was in charge of making sure religious fights didn’t occur in this place where people from all over the tower were gathered was famous for speaking formally to everyone.
I heard he even spoke politely to terrorists he questioned.
“One tall iced cafe mocha. One tall warm americano. One tall iced caffe latte. One grande warm hazelnut latte, with a shot. And one espresso! That’s my order!”
“Yes! Uh, yes…!”
Heretic Questioner turned his gaze.
“-what would hunter Kim Gong-ja-nim like?”
All kinds of gazes landed on me. The table instantly became quiet. An amused gaze. A bright gaze. A violent gaze. A cold gaze. An indifferent gaze. Five faces and 10 eyeballs silently looked at me.
Like they were testing my reaction.
-Don’t be scared.
Then, Bae Hu-ryeong, who had been quiet all this time, spoke up.
-They’re not much. Just think that they’re not that much! You were even killed by grandpops Marcus. None of them are better than grandpops.
I knew well.
‘It’s just a mind game.’
And it was a twisted, tricky mind game.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Store owner-nim. Do you have a menu?”
“Maybe because I have a macchiato earlier, I don’t really feel coffee right now. I want to decide after seeing a menu…mm. Never mind. Please give me a hot chocolate if you have one.”
I had to show a composed attitude right now.
‘These people didn’t randomly come here at once.’
Earlier, when the team leaders came, and now, the hunters all arrived at the same time.
Was this a coincidence?
A strategy hidden behind coincidence.
They were acting.
‘This is a strategy to make me lose my composure.’
It was a high-class strategy, kind of like how gangsters ganged up on one person to threaten them.
‘Well. Even if they’re a bit more scarier than hunters…’
It was a frozen and tense atmosphere.
‘It’s nothing compared to being burned alive.’
In other words, it was just a little ice.
Before I was killed by the Flame Emperor, I would’ve trembled in fear seeing these people…but not anymore. I wasn’t scared at all.
The reason was ridiculously simple.
‘Try to kill me if you want.’
Even if they killed me, I would be fine!
Bae Hu-ryeong nodded his head.
-Yeah. Like I said. That talent is your strength! Glare at them like they can try to kill you if they want. Put power behind your eyes! Like these losers who can’t even kill you are acting tough!
‘Uh, thanks for the support. But I’m not going to let you off the hook.
Bae Hu-ryeong grabbed his head in despair.
On the other hand, the Heretic Questioner’s expression changed.
“Interesting. It seems like you didn’t do much before subjugating the 10th floor. A sudden change…I guess you can’t tell what’s gonna happen to anyone!”
“He did do something.”
The Count covered her mouth with her fan and smiled with her eyes.
“That youngster was chosen as my guild’s lottery winner. He’s got luck. And guts. And I don’t know how, but seeing as he cleared the 10th floor, he’s got skills. Luck. Guts. Skills. If a youngster has those 3, they’ll succeed.”
“Haa…so that’s why I said earlier!”
Venomous Snake sighed from across the table.
“Don’t do this and that and just scout him! Would the person who cracked the 10th floor be a newbie who doesn’t know anything? Tsk. We put on an act even though it didn’t work…”
“That’s not important.”
The Guild Master of Black Dragon, who had been sitting quietly stood up.
“Just because some of our reputations were hurt doesn’t mean all of ours were. We’re all busy. Let’s push back blaming others.”
“Hunter Kim Gong-ja.”
The Witch looked at me.
“I’ll ask directly. Which guild are you planning on signing up for?”
A steady gaze.
“If you’re planning on not registering in any guild like the Sword Saint, let us know in advance. We have to discuss how to handle the media if that happens.”
“And if I’m planning on applying?”
“An intense auction will start.”
The Witch calmly spoke.
“We’ve stayed too long on the 9th floor. It was just tough. But since you cleared the 10th floor, the chance to advertise the value of the Tower to the outside world has come again.”
“A chance, you say.”
“Yes. Chance. A chance to bring people from the outside who aren’t just war refugees.”
The barista brought a tray over and served coffee. No one spoke. The Witch just took a sip of her hazelnut latte.
“And most of all. The hunters who were living comfortably on the 1st floor will have a renewed sense of adventure with the 10th floor open. What kind of world will be waiting there? Even the realists will wonder.
“The shortage of food will be solved.”
The Witch looked at me like she didn’t expect what I said.
“…you’re quick to understand. That’s right. It’s hard to manage the supply of food with just 9 floors.”
“I’ve been opening a pathway from the outside world to here 24/7.”
The Count smiled.
“I’m not as strong as I used to be. It’s a bit tiring with my age.”
“We need a new product.”
The Witch continued to speak.
“We need to bring adventurers to the land beyond the 10th floor. And we need to find things that can only be found past the 10th floor.”
“Then we need a way to positively appeal to the outside world. Something like [Start of a New Era!]. And you’re saying that’s me, right?”
“…Right. Exactly on point.”
They were all things that would happen in the future.
That was also the reason why the Guild Masters couldn’t touch the Flame Emperor. To be a hero. Being the new icon of the new era. It was because for the tower to keep growing, there needed to be new heroes!
‘But the Black Dragon still tried to assassinate the Flame Emperor.’
I thought of the conversation I overheard in the slums.
-Who ordered you to kill me? Just answer that.
-Was it the Witch of Black Dragon?
The Saintess had nodded her head back then.
If she was telling the truth, then the Witch in front of me had tried to poison the Flame Emperor. I couldn’t know the reason why now but…
‘We’ll get along.’
‘Someone who hated the Flame Emperor can’t be a bad person!’
Like the enemy of my enemy was my friend. I felt a camaraderie with her.
“I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying the guild that successfully catches me can be the new symbol of the tower’s growth. And other guilds will probably have to act as lackeys.”
“I’ll feel bad if that happens…so let’s do this.”
The hunters focused on my words.
I pulled out the trump card I had.
“…a trump card?”
The Witch tilted her head.
“Are you saying we should choose by playing a game? The guild you’ll be in?”
“I’ll join the guild of the winner. I don’t even need a position or contract fee. However!”
“If I win, I’ll apply simultaneously to all your guilds.”
“Ah. I’ll only be a guild member on the outside. In reality, you have to treat me like I’m on the same level as you all. And you can sell my image, so it’s good for you. I’ll be on the same level as the leaders of all the greatest guilds. How’s that sound?”
At that moment, the eyes of the Guild Masters changed.
Count burst out in laughter.
“A youngster who just subjugated a single floor wants to be treated like us?”
“Yes. If I win.”
“Amusing. I’m fine with that.”
The Count put her coffee down and looked around.
“What about you guys?”
“As long as there’s no tricks, I’m fine as well!”
The Heretic Questioner agreed first.
“…let’s not use our skills. Then you all have the advantage. If you get caught using your skill, that person’s automatically disqualified.”
Next was the Venomous Snake.
“Our guild is poor anyway so if we bid on you we’ll lose. Even if I lose the game, I won’t lose anything else, and if I win, I’ll gain a lot. Sounds good.”
And the Crusader agreed.
Lastly, the Witch nodded her head.
“Fine. I’ll accept your suggestion.”
The gamble was on.
We decided the rules of poker. The rules itself were simple. The highest rankers neatly checked whether there were any tricks on the cards.
And when the cards were distributed.
‘You don’t really want to call me Gong-ja-nim, right?’
I called out to Bae Hu-ryeong, who was still in despair.
‘Let’s do this.’
‘Just call me that until the end of this game.’
Bae Hu-ryeong’s eyes widened.
-Huh? Can I really do that?!
‘Yes. Of course.’
‘Instead, you have to tell me what cards each of these players are holding.’
-Yes! Yes! Alright!
Bae Hu-ryeong jumped up and down.
-That’s fucking easy! As expected of Gong-ja-nim! Look at this generous guy! I don’t know how someone can be this nice! You want to know what cards these bastards have? Yup, don’t worry. I’ll even tell you if they’re cheating or not! Sir!
Time to begin.
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