Chapter 348 – Key man (1)

Episode 348 Key man (1)

In the darkness.

In the middle of an endless void, Piggy stood alone.

‘Get out.’

A middle-aged man’s voice shouted.

The moment he heard the voice, Piggy realized.

‘Another dream.’

The vision he had when he was nearly crushed to death by a pile of golems during the midterms.

The nightmare he’d barely escaped with Vikir’s help.

‘This trash is not my blood.’

His voice was bitterly cold.

Followed by his mother’s sad sobs.

‘You lowly thing, you don’t even know what subject you’re talking about.’

‘Get him out of here now.’

‘…… Get rid of him.’

The whispers around him follow the whimpers, swirling around.

After that it was the same again.

A fleeing mother, forests and mountains, pursuers, steep cliffs, raging rivers, hungry wolves, and the surprised faces of passing merchants and mercenaries; a mother who gradually regained her smile; a stepfather who was always kind; a difficult but rewarding exam period; a school dormitory life that was difficult and hard, but made bearable by friends.

The fantasy continues as time flows like a river.

Next thing Piggy knew, his body was covered in some sort of sticky thread.


His surroundings, which had been nothing but darkness and emptiness, were now filled with uncomfortable walls of flesh.

The unpleasant sensation of being trapped in the esophagus of a giant monster.

Piggy pushed forward, flailing desperately.

The muscle fibers in his limbs were snapping.

Then, up ahead, he saw a door.

A large, circular gate, with searing flames blazing around it.

<Gates of Destruction, “Serpent’s Tongue”>.

The tip of the searing pillar of fire split into two, like the tongue of a snake.

Countless pillars of flame, each ominously shaped, hovered incessantly around the gate.

A moment. Piggy felt an intense desire.

A great, fundamental desire to enter the gate, a desire he dared not resist.

‘Why am I like this?’

A normal person wouldn’t even dare to walk towards the gate.

But Piggy was walking toward it, not even knowing why, even to himself.

And then.

“Hey, Piggy.”

A familiar voice called out from behind him. It was Tudor’s.

“You can’t go in there. We’re human.”

Tudor’s words gave Piggy pause.

Then he heard Sancho’s voice right behind him.

“That gate is for demons. We can’t go through it.”

“Are you crazy? Get back here now!”

Bianca called out to Piggy.

Other familiar voices called out behind them.

“Come back, Piggy.”

“It’s safer this way.”

“You can’t go there!”

“Over here! Over here!”

“Look this way! Turn your head!”

His mother, his stepfather, his friends back home…… all the people he missed called out to him.

Piggy finally stopped walking and stood, his eyes glazed over.

And then.


The head slowly turns back.

Piggy was about to turn his back on the gate.

……just then.

‘Never look back.’

The voice sounded like it was speaking to his heart.

The beat restarted his heart and cleared his foggy mind.


Even as Piggy snapped out of his reverie, he could still hear the shout from behind him.

“Piggy! Look over here, please!”

“Behind you! Look behind you!”

“Dodge! Run now!”

“Come on, Piggy! You have to come this way!”

The voices of family and friends demanding that he turn around.

But. Every time Piggy unconsciously tried to turn his head, a voice echoed in his chest, hot and harsh, almost the panting of a fierce animal.

‘Never look back, keep moving forward.’

The voice sounded like a stubborn old man moaning and speaking.

Piggy took a step forward with his eyes tightly closed.

“Piggy! Are you crazy! Come back!”

“Why are you ignoring us!”

“Get back here now!”

“Look here, Piggy! It’s your mom!”

“You ungrateful brat, if you don’t look over here right now……!”

And Piggy’s face fell, too.

How could he not turn around when the people he had missed so much and cherished so much were shouting at him in such desperate tones?


Piggy stopped in his tracks, drooling.

He closed his eyes and tried to turn his head away.

And then.


A hand grabbed Piggy’s face.


Piggy opened his eyes in surprise.

But before he could look back, the hands on either side of his cheeks jerked his head back to the front.

Piggy looked down at the hand holding his face.

A rough hand, wrinkled, scarred, and covered in sticky blood.

The hand’s owner was clearly at his side.

‘Walk forward.’

It was the same harsh, hoarse voice from earlier.

Piggy shuddered, but took a step forward.

When he glanced sideways to follow the hand, he saw a taller man walking beside him.

A middle-aged man.

It was hard to make out his features from the edge of his vision, but Piggy could see that his hands and face were covered in burns and slash marks.

He was limping, but he was carrying Piggy forward as if to support him.

Hands around his neck, shoulders, and chin to make sure he never looked back.

And then. Piggy came face to face with a huge gate.

Searing fire and heavy steel. It was the kind of gate that intimidates the onlooker.

But for some reason, Piggy wasn’t afraid of the door at all.

The only thing that bothered him was the shouting behind him.

However, Piggy had made it this far thanks to the mysterious man walking beside him.

There was a strange sense of accomplishment and pride. For some reason, it felt like he had to walk through the gate.

Piggy had just opened his mouth to say thank you.

The man next to him took his hand off Piggy’s body.

‘Don’t look back, you’re on your own from now on.’

At the same time, his figure and voice disappeared from Piggy’s sight.

Piggy knew without looking.

That he wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place, and that he had just gone one last time, to a very far away place, forever.

“……He’s a good person.”

Piggy pushed the gate in front of him with all his might.

And threw himself out into the darkness beyond.


With only the dull sound of the gate closing behind him.

* * *


Piggy jerked his sweaty body to his feet.

The first thing he saw when he lifted his head was his own reflection in a puddle of water.

“Oh, you’re back?”

Piggy touched his face and realized he still had the skin of a teenager.

All the years he’d lost in the river had been reset.

Finally, Piggy lifted his head and looked up.


There was something even more astonishing than before.

Plant roots sprouted from the ceiling, black as the night sky.

The roots of the deep roots that extended from the main body of the Hell Tree were passing through it.

And at the base of the many tiny roots that sprouted from the main root hung a slender fruit.

There was a human figure sleeping inside the outer shell of the fruit, and only the face was sticking out of the shell, so everyone could tell who was who.

Tudor, Sancho, Bianca, and all of Balak’s warriors hung there, wrapped in cocoons.

Each with their eyes closed and in a deep sleep.

Piggy sensed that the massive root was the main body that sustained the Hell Tree’s power.

Looking down at the main root, he could see that the veins within it drew steadily from the waters and fires of the underworld.

From there, the seeds of various aquatic plants, such as the blood daylilies, and jellyfish, such as the Black Sea Shadowless King, were brought forth.

“……Yes, using the emotions we unleashed as fuel to connect the human world to Hell.”

Piggy opened his mouth, his voice trembling.

Right now, Piggy’s power alone is not enough to deal with the giant root in front of him.

…… But there was something he could do with his powers right now.


Piggy drew the sword hanging from his waist.

The levels and stats he had accumulated while training in the great river were still the same.

His age had returned to normal, but the experience he’d gained in those years was still in his hands.


Piggy swung his sword with all his might.

The strike sent his friends tumbling to the ground, one by one, as they clung to the roots of the tree.

Piggy went to Tudor, the first to fall, and peeled off the fruit.

Then he began to slap the sleeping Tudor across the cheeks.

“Tudor, wake up! Sancho! Bianca!”

Piggy slapped with such fervor and sincerity that one by one, Tudor, Sancho, and Bianca began to wake up.

“Huh? What is it, I thought I heard my father call me and turned around?”

“Hmm? Sis, where did you go…… huck? Where am I?”

“Ew, my head hurts. What is it, my face is back to its normal age?”

The first to open their eyes was the first to die.

Piggy pulled down the rest of the fruits.

One by one, the natives of Balak who had been trapped inside also began to open their eyes.

All of them were alive, both those who had died and those who had been killed.

“Huh? Look at that! Isn’t that Balak’s hunting ground?”

“What? How can a little kid like that…….”

“Heck, no, that’s the face, and they’re all babies!”

Tudor, Sancho, and Bianca were horrified to see the pale-faced girl in front of them.

She was Ahul.

They were all stunned to realize that the woman warrior, with her overwhelming power, level, and the presence of mind of a seasoned old woman, was actually such a young girl.

Indeed, the majority of Balak’s warriors who have awakened from the Fruit since then have been young children, leaving Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, and Bianca feeling somewhat helpless.

However, they still had the experience, levels, and stats they had gained in the great river, so they couldn’t be underestimated just because they were children.

They are Balak warriors who have already lived for several decades.

It’s a fact that Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, and Bianca, who have spent seven years on the flowing river, know well.

Meanwhile. Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, and Bianca muttered a few words to each other as they saw the roots of the Hell Tree.

“……Yes. The hatred, murder, insecurity, anxiety, nervousness, inferiority complex, and lust for life that we spew is the nutrient that sustains this Hell Tree.”

“I suppose this is the source of power for demons. It is the nutrient conduit between Hell and the human world.”

“Is this what you’ve been drawing the flames and waters of Hell from, to power the tower?”

“All of the unfortunate creatures I’ve encountered have crawled up these roots.”

Just then.

“Hey, over there!”

Ahul shouted in poor imperial language.

Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, and Bianca turned their heads in the direction Ahul was pointing.


There, hanging from the tree, was a large fruit.

A fruit that looked much larger and heavier than the others.

Trapped inside was Vikir.

“We’ll get him out!”

Piggy cautiously raised his sword and swung.

Immediately, the gaseous aura characteristic of an Expert emanated from the tip of Piggy’s sword and shot out in the shape of a crescent moon.


The fruit Vikir was trapped in fell to the ground.

Everyone rushed to Vikir.

“Vikir, wake up!”

“Open your eyes, Vikir!”

“He’s breathing!”

“He’s just in a deep sleep.”

No matter how many times they slapped him and shook him, he wouldn’t wake up.

Obviously, Vikir was the only one who survived the final beheading.

But none of the men in the room doubted Vikir’s sincerity.

“Vikir knew, that the first to die wakes up the fastest from the illusion.”

“I see. I guess this was one of those missions where the early deaths were an advantage.”

“If they made it this far, they must have been strong and skilled enough to not die easily.”

“They must have gotten used to being the last man standing, and they probably wouldn’t have died easily, so they’d be stuck in their hallucinations longer…….”

Eventually it all became clear.

<Mission> – Die and Kill!

※ Don’t let your guard down! Latecomers become increasingly stronger as time goes by! If you don’t want to be caught up, even if you’re a ship owner, you have to work hard, right?

※Recognized only when everyone has cleared the mission!

Mission “Die”, “Kill”. It wasn’t just about killing others.

It ended when you had to ‘die’ yourself.

Moreover, this mission was a last man standing.

It meant that if you inevitably become vicious and live with the habits of betraying and hurting someone, you will have to bear the full consequences.

The first to die would be the first to exit the illusion, and the first to be abandoned, the first to be betrayed, would not leave their competitors still sleeping.

Add to that the restriction that everyone has to complete the mission, and the difficulty level is truly unimaginable.

It’s a diabolical idea, indeed, to switch sides in the blink of an eye and create new ones.



Vikir opened his eyes.

Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, Bianca, Ahul, and the rest of the Balak warriors rushed to check on him.

“Vikir! Are you okay!?”

“Are you hurt anywhere?”

“How many fingers do you see here, Vikir?”

“No, what on earth were you doing all alone in the flowing river?”

Vikir’s eyes narrowed for a moment.

Then he looked down at his hands.

” ……The wrinkles and age spots are gone, and when I wake up, I’ll be back to my normal age.”

Everyone who heard him was stunned.

If his hands had wrinkles and age spots……, how long had Vikir managed to survive in the flowing river?

Vikir didn’t have much of an answer to that question.



-LV: 1 (%)

-Titles: “Gutter Rat Hunter,” “Hell Dog,” “Daylily Lumberjack,” “Majin Executioner,” “King of Black Sea Executioner,” “Demonic Dragon Great Rival,” “Renowned Boatman”


↳Strength: 798

↳Agility: 798

↳Stamina: 798

↳Physical Resistance: 798

↳Magic Resistance: 798

↳Reflexes: 798

Level 1. Total of 6 major stats: 4,788.

The fact that he’d blossomed all three of his special stats and had 798 each only confirmed the ridiculousness of his record.

After a moment of silence, Vikir turned his head to look at Piggy next to him.

He gave a short laugh.

” ……You did a great job.”

Was it because he was deep in thought? Vikir’s voice was very hoarse and rough.

It returned to normal quickly, but for a moment it really sounded like an old man’s voice.


Piggy’s expression changed.

“This, this voice!”

At everyone’s puzzled looks, Piggy spoke again.

“It’s the voice that saved me from the hallucination! It’s the voice!”

Piggy was certain that the voice that had led him to the gate, that had helped him not to look back, belonged to Vikir.

He knew it, too, because the scars on Vikir’s hands were exactly the same as his, the position of the moles, the shape of the nails.

‘Never look back. You’re on your own from now on.’

Piggy remembered the voice and squeezed Vikir’s hand.

“Vikir. If I had looked back then, I wouldn’t have woken up, and I wouldn’t have been able to wake up my friends.”

Vikir paused for a moment at Piggy’s genuine gratitude.

‘What? I don’t remember doing that.’

Vikir thought for a moment, and then came up with a hypothesis.

‘The old comrades I encountered when I reached the 10th Floor Lost Paradise.’

Could it be that something similar had happened this time?

Perhaps his pre-regression self, a residual thought in his memory, had materialized in some way and helped his friends, Vikir thought.

Just then.

<Mission End> – Die and Kill!

※ The deathmatch is finally over!

※ How did you feel once you died?

※ As soon as the late comer clears the mission, the ship owner will be reverse summoned out of the tower.

※ Ship owners eligible for reverse summons are limited to those who have cleared the mission.

A loud notification sounded and the rewards began to pour in.


Piles of golden candies fell in front of everyone.

At the same time, the gate to the deeper levels of the Abyss appeared.

……And the sound that Vikir had been most wary of.

<Reverse summons of ship owners will be carried out>

<Do you agree to the reverse summons?>

As Vikir had warned, Ahul refused to be recalled.

“Well thought out.”

Vikir stroked Ahul’s head and nodded.

Since he did not know exactly what outcome the Insectking race he met in the Black Sea had met, he decided that it would be better to remain in the tower.

“I will clear the tower. You will then leave the tower and return to the jungle. We must rebuild Balak.”

At Vikir’s words, Ahul and the rest of the children of Balak nodded with determination.

In the tower, their incredible talents blossomed, and they would become great warriors and restore their clan.



Tudor, Sancho, Piggy, and Bianca spoke almost simultaneously.

Turning to Vikir, his friends asked.

“Do you know why only Piggy was able to wake up?”

Their questions were legitimate.

To be honest, Piggy’s physical strength was the lowest of the four, and so was his mental strength.

When it came to strength, energy, persistence, and hardness of heart, Piggy was also last.

But somehow, it was Piggy who was the first of the four to wake up and save them all.


Vikir stroked his chin silently.

His gaze remained fixed on Piggy’s forearm, a small wound with black blood caked on it.

“Listen, Piggy.”

It was the result of Vikir, who had lived in the flowing river for decades, constantly thinking and worrying.

“Perhaps you are the key to bringing down the Amdusian Abyss.”