The Marble of Avarice greatly increased Tusk’s power .
Tusk inhaled so sharply and forcefully Jinwoo felt the air itself thin .
With a powerful exhale, Tusk began spewing huge pillars of fire all around him . With each blast, several demons disintegrated in a ball of fire .[You have killed a high-level demon . ] [You have earned 1700 EXP . ] [You have killed a supreme-level demon . ] [You have earned 2200 EXP . ]
. . .[You have killed a high-level demon . ]
His mouth opened into a wide smile as the steady stream of system alerts popped in front of his eyes .
‘It worked even better than I imagined it would!’
As the flames ceased pouring from Tusk’s mouth, Jinwoo surveyed the field with satisfaction . The vast majority of the demons which had appeared had withered under Tusk’s fierce assault . The rest were granted no reprieve, as the mage’s attack was quickly followed up on by a legion of shadow infantry, 100 strong, pressing forward and ruthlessly dispatching what survivors remained .
Jinwoo could hear his heart pounding in excitement between his ears .
‘So this is what being a shadow monarch feels like, huh?’[You have killed a high-level demon . ] [You have killed a high-level demon . ]
Jinwoo looked on, smiling inside as the system alerts continued to pop up in front of him . Without his having to lift a finger, his shadow soldiers had easily wiped out all the monsters in front of him; to say he was pleased with how things had turned out would be an understatement .
‘And Tusk in particular . . . ’
Instinctively, he turned his head towards the towering high orc shaman, and the beautiful red orb it held in its hand . Although, Jinwoo had noticed, shadows didn’t seem to reach quite the same power that their original owners had possessed, in Tusk’s case, it looked like the Marble of Avarice, with its ability to double the magic damage of its user, had more than made up for the loss .
‘I guess I’ll let Tusk hold onto the Marble for now . At the very least, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any direct damage magic skills myself, so the amplification effect would probably be wasted on me . . . ’
Out of habit, he opened his skill information page .[Number of extractable shadows: 127/820] [Number of storable shadows: 127/155] .
He scowled briefly as he remembered how neither shadow extraction nor shadow storage had seen any changes when he attempted to use the Marble himself .
‘No, unfortunately, it looks like raising my intelligence stat really is the only way to increase the extraction and storage limits . ’
Chunk . Chunk . Chunk .
His thoughts were interrupted by the clanging noise, and he looked up to see his shadow soldiers kneeling before him . As he surveyed the room, his eyes widened and his jaw went slack . Dead bodies littered the floors, and items – all trash, of course, but nonetheless very profitable vendor trash floated amongst the corpses . With a smile, Jinwoo collected all the items, letting a nearly ceaseless parade of item acquisition messages dance across his vision .
‘But it looks like we still haven’t gotten the entry permit to the next floor huh?’ He quickly mounted onto Tank and, with a brief command, ordered the massive bear to move forward .
CHUNK . CHUNK . CHUNK .
Jinwoo stopped, and began scratching his head sheepishly . His entire shadow army had begun marching in step behind him as he moved forward, and it took only a few steps for him to realize how silly and inefficient the whole parade looked . After having spent so much time with Jinwoo, the soldiers that remained in his shadow army had all leveled up substantially, and were more than capable of fighting even a high class demon on even footing, and Jinwoo had reinforced their numbers with monsters from Class A dungeons . At this point, having his entire army together would be overkill for whatever demons he could encounter, and besides, Jinwoo noted with a bit of a grimace, the floors of the Demon Tower had grown in size as he went up, and now each floor was comparable in size to a small city .
‘Yea, if I kept my entire army together, I’d never finish clearing this dungeon . ’
He thought briefly, than quickly began issuing his orders . Communicating a complex order to his army was basically impossible; although his shadows could understand Jinwoo’s verbal commands, and some, the higher level ones like Igris and Iron, sometimes even seemed to understand Jinwoo at a near human level . Most of his shadow army could only understand basic commands, like “attack” or “find” . Still, it sufficed for his purposes .
“There are only two orders . One, kill every demon you see . Two, notify me immediately if you find an entry permit item . Now move out . ”
He would lose out on much of the vendor trash if his shadows (who had no inventory of their own) did all the dirty work for him, but it was a necessary sacrifice, Jinwoo felt, to reach the top floor in a reasonable amount of time . With a wave of his hand, his army, neatly separated into 6 cohorts of 20, scattered in different directions .[You have gained 1500 EXP . ] [You have gained 1500 EXP . ] [You have gained 900 EXP . ] [You have gained 1100 EXP . ]
Experience soon began pouring in from all sides as the shadows began encountering demons, and Jinwoo smiled as he saw his EXP meter rise .
He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes at the messages coming from the system .
‘Why am I gaining less experience than normal? Ever since I passed floor 75, I’ve encountered only high-level demons and supreme-level demons, and I should be getting either 1700 EXP or 2200 EXP . So why am I not even getting half of that? Unless . . . . ’
A thought suddenly dawned on him . He almost certainly wouldn’t have realized what was going on without the unique system of the Demon Tower, where he could actually see his EXP meter and the EXP he gained from killing enemies – indeed, he wouldn’t even have realized what was going on just from his experience in the lower levels of the Demon Tower, where he had avoided sending out parts of his shadow army on their own so that he wouldn’t miss any quest items .
It seemed, Jinwoo observed as he carefully monitored the system messages entering his view, that the further away the shadows got from him, the less experience he gained when they dispatched an enemy . He probably wasn’t facing any lower level demons, but it seemed like his shadows had gotten far away enough from him that it began affecting his experience gain rate .
‘Well, looks like I’ve found something unexpected . We’re getting less experience from each individual demon killed, but the sheer number of enemies seems to make up for it well enough . At the very least, the experience we lose out on isn’t nearly worth how much faster we’re able to clear out these floors . ’
As if to confirm his impressions, system messages rang out .[You’ve leveled up!] [You’ve leveled up!]
Jinwoo pumped his fist .
‘Nice! We’re clearing quicker, and we’re still able to level up!’
His plan had worked better than even he had expected; he managed to reach the 80th floor far quicker than he had originally thought he would be able to .
At the 80th floor, Jinwoo summoned his shadow army to him again .
199 shadows formed up neatly in from him . He smiled inside as he examined the statistics of his army . They had been swallowing up experience for 4 massive dungeon floors, and their own levels had risen sharply .
‘Oh? What’s this?’
Jinwoo raised an eyebrow as his gaze passed over Tank .
‘When did he manage to gain 10 levels?’
As Jinwoo watched on, Tank rose on its hind legs and let out a low, savage roar .
With a laugh, he waved his shadow army, now 6 units of over 30 shadows, set out onto the floor again, then headed off in a separate direction, intent on clearing some demons himself . He felt no particular concern for his own safety; after all, his shadows had proven more than capable of handling the high-level and supreme-level demons, and although his shadow army was powerful, indeed, extremely powerful compared to the demons he had faced, they still paled in comparison to his own strength . Indeed, if you excluded Tusk with the Marble of Avarice, Jinwoo was reasonably confident that he could still have beaten the entire rest of his shadow army .
‘What if you included Tusk?’
He couldn’t help but consider the thought .
‘I still think I could win, but it would definitely be a lot more fun . . . Well, it doesn’t matter, it’s impossible to determine anyways . ’
About a week ago, as an experiment, Jinwoo had ordered one of his shadow soldiers to attack himself . To his amusement, his shadow soldier had, for the first time in his memory, disobeyed his order, refusing to move . He wasn’t sure if it was some sense of loyalty they had towards him, or some other force – maybe it was a rule of the game that his shadows couldn’t hurt him? In the end, he ended up removing the order; maybe, he thought with a slight wry amusement, he felt some loyalty towards his soldiers and didn’t want to force their hand with an order like that anyways .
He narrowed his eyes, instinctively drawing Baruka’s Dagger into his hand . A demon had reached very close proximity – he could sense its presence near him, but he couldn’t see a demon anywhere around him . He felt a small dose of nervous energy at this unprecedented experience .
With a groaning creak, the ground beneath him heaved violently, and cracks began emerging in the earth . Three supreme-level demons, shrieking with a demented laughter, suddenly poured from out from the cracks, surrounding Jinwoo, who frowned at the surprising use of . . . surprise .
With a howling laughter like a banshee’s shriek, the demons, which had misjudged the frown for fear, lunged forward, aiming to bite Jinwoo’s delicious head off .
Their teeth met only air, as Jinwoo somersaulted high above them, and they had only a moment to wonder what had happened before their heads leaped from their bodies, hitting the ground before Jinwoo himself .[You have killed a supreme-level demon . ] [You have killed a supreme-level demon . ]
“Ahhhh, how interesting . ”
The last time, Jinwoo recalled, a monster had shown such an interesting tactic was many days and many dungeons past; in the last C-class dungeon Jinwoo had done with Yoo Jinho, they ended up facing some stone men which had hid in the ground, just like these demons had, before bursting out in an ambush attempt . But, like the demons who had just failed their attempt, the stone men were met only with death at Jinwoo’s hands . Still, Jinwoo thought, it made for a more exciting fight than a mere straight up slaughter . With a bright expression on his face, Jinwoo gathered the items the three demons had dropped, and began sauntering off .
He made no more than a few steps before he stopped suddenly, turning his gaze towards the ground .
“Oh? But why did you choose not to come out?”
The demonic pupils at his feet expressed only fear .
‘Something’s wrong . Did I misjudge? Are there actually dangerous enemies on this floor?’
Another group of shadows had returned to Jinwoo, destroyed, which could only mean one thing: the shadows had been destroyed, repeatedly, to the point where his mana wasn’t able to restore them back . This was the first time in five floors that it had happened; from the 76th to the 79th floor, splitting his army into 6 units and scattering them across the floor had proven to the be most efficient manner of clearing the floor, and no demon he had faced up to that point had been able to do much more than mildly inconvenience one of his detachments .
‘Is it an existence beyond a supreme-level demon? What would that even be? A super-supreme-level demon? But it’s not outside the realm of possibility . . . . from the 80th floor onward, even supreme-level demons were regular mobs and not elite mobs or bosses, and they’ve even begun adopting regular mob tactics, like hiding in the ground to lay an ambush . But tactics like that won’t cover the big difference in actual power . . . besides, whatever this is looks like it’s got some targeting?’
That was the other bizarre point to Jinwoo, now that he thought about it some more . Of his 6 groups of soldiers, Tusk led one, Igris led another, Iron led a third, Tank a fourth, and then 2 more were not led by anything beyond the mere soldier grade . The two groups that had been destroyed were the two weak ones . It couldn’t have been a mere coincidence that those two were the first groups targeted – no, that target choice had to have been deliberate, which meant that there was some kind of demon which was intelligent enough to detect what its opponent’s weaknesses were, and then execute a plan to exploit them . On top of that, this enemy had clearly been powerful enough to wipe out some “mere” soldier grade shadows, which had previously been capable of handling even supreme-level demons without a problem .
A demon that was strong and intelligent . No matter what kind of enemy it was, it would definitely be a troublesome foe for Jinwoo .
‘So there’s 4 groups left – well, five if you include myself . It looks like whatever this thing is, it’s targeting the weakest parts of my army, which means . . . . ’
At that moment, Jinwoo disappeared .