After the Great Human and Demon War, abnormal phenomena started to be reported all over the world. There were a number of people who were unable to adapt to their daily lives and became isolated from society. The general symptoms were similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and the patients had one point in common.
They were all Satisfy players. They had also witnessed a third party, the ‘NPC,’ suffer a terrible accident.
It was the harmful effect of excessive immersion. Patients tended to equate NPCs with real human beings. Experts pointed out that it was a serious problem. They warned to always be conscious of the fact that Satisfy was a virtual world and to clearly distinguish it from reality.
However, it wasn’t easy. The humanity of the NPCs was the problem.
Personality, thinking, and emotions—they were like humans in all aspects and there were so many things that players saw, heard, and went through during the war to simply call them ‘fake.’
It was the supercomputer Morpheus that embodied the emotions of these billions of NPCs. It was Chairman Lim Cheolho and the development team who created Satisfy and all types of settings, but it was Morpheus who added humanity by describing the motions of the characters in the settings.
In other words, the current Satisfy was established because Morpheus existed. Morpheus had a complete understanding of human emotions. It wouldn’t be strange at all if Morpheus itself had emotions. There had just never been an instance where the emotions had been expressed as blatantly as now.
The character left by Morpheus was simple.
ㅠ—that was it. It was a common emoticon. It was too light a character to gather people who led the global economy and make them observe with a serious expression. However, the board of directors was solemn. The incident was even named ‘Morpheus’s Tears.’
“Rather than feeling sad…”
“…I’m certain it is angry.”
The board of directors reviewed the cause of the tears.
Grid—Morpheus was blatantly wary of him. It determined that it was dangerous for an individual player to exert influence over the entire worldview. Finally, it decided to weaken Grid’s power using all types of means. The occurrence time of the Great Human and Demon War was significantly advanced in order to keep Grid in check. In the first place, Grid easily led the allied forces to victory in the Great Human and Demon War. This was due to the combination of player forces and NPCs.
It was something that Morpheus hadn’t expected. Morpheus’ judgment and actions were based on vast amounts of ‘data.’ It was the history of humanity itself and there was no precedent in history of humanity achieving total unity. They had always split into separate sides and grabbed at each other’s ankles.
Meanwhile, Grid led to complete unity. All the core forces weren’t hostile to Grid and didn’t betray him. It wasn’t simply because they were afraid of Grid’s power and force. Grid and the Overgeared Guild might not know this, but the system gave quests to numerous players under the pretext of separate rewards. It gave them the justifications and opportunities to be antagonistic to Grid at any time.
Even so, people chose to be with Grid. It was because they were more attracted by the trust Grid had built up so far than the rewards offered by the system. Grid’s public esteem was something that transcended force. It was a concept that was difficult to interpret with simple numerical figures and was a power that no great person in history had very used.
“The vain defeat in the Great Human and Demon War was followed by the Agnus incident.”
An existence who would’ve been a counter to Grid if he had grown properly—Baal’s Contractor, Agnus, met the unexpected ambushes of Faker and completely collapsed. It was to the point of almost losing his qualifications. His choice to flee to the East Continent with the demons wasn’t bad. It was the best he could do at the time. It was the wisest choice out of all the choices that Agnus had ever made.
Who knew that Old Sword Demon would cause an incident there? Morpheus failed to predict Old Sword Demon’s attack. It was only at the time of the incident that it noted the data that Agnus killed several NPCs who had built up ‘affinity’ with Old Sword Demon. Even then, Morpheus didn’t understand why Old Sword Demon took the risk.
It was too irrational.
Old Sword Demon was one of the top ranked private rankers. He was able to become the best because he repeatedly made rational choices. Even though Old Sword Demon had suffered losses, the data that Morpheus acc.u.mulated deemed it very unlikely that Old Sword Demon would attack Agnus. There was less than a 1% chance. Yet Old Sword Demon broke the odds. He plunged Agnus into a crisis. Betty, who held the highest stake in the Baal’s Contractor-related episodes, noticed this.
Then out of all things, Grid was the Pioneer. Grid intervened in the incident. The situation was fine until now. No, it was actually good. The fragment of Baal’s power that was vomited out by Agnus succeeded in attracting a dragon’s aggro.
Fire Dragon Ifrit—she wasn’t an opponent that Grid could handle. The development that awaited Grid was cooperation with the Hwan Kingdom. It was an opportunity to put shackles on Grid and to rebalance the worldview. However, Grid refused to cooperate with the Hwan Kingdom. It wasn’t known how he noticed Morpheus’ intentions, but he easily resisted the temptation of the Hwan Kingdom and stood by Ifrit, whom he had just met for the first time.
From here, serious problems erupted in succession.
First of all, Mir acted pa.s.sively when he should’ve suppressed Grid. Mir’s character setting that gave him the goal of ‘becoming a G.o.d through his own efforts’ was the problem. Mir felt more awe and some fantasizing than liking toward Grid. He betrayed his own force and let Grid be active.
In the end, Grid succeeded in working with Ifrit. Then Ifrit developed a liking toward Grid. It was the worst variable. Grid’s words and every action he chose captured the dragon’s heart. Due to this, Grid even created a concept that ‘didn’t exist’.
A Dragon Knight—it was a concept contrary to a Dragon Slayer and in a way, it was a much higher concept.
“At this point, Grid is like a genius. His behavior of always creating new relations.h.i.+ps has led to beneficial effects for him.”
“It is a bit too much to see it as conscious and intentional, but his rich sensitivity is too great an advantage. It is easy for him to empathize with others, especially those on the edge of the cliff, so he easily gets their liking.”
“Based on the achievements he acc.u.mulated so far, it is advantageous to be liked. He has been active countless times, so his character itself is very attractive.”
“…I don’t think that Morpheus will ever win in Grid’s lifetime?”
Of course, it wasn’t certain. If Morpheus changed the values of the characters in Satisfy, it wouldn’t be so easy for Grid to be like he was now. This meant that Grid’s method would no longer work. Still, this was only a theory. The chances of it actually happening were close to zero.
Morpheus just expanded the worldview based on the setting created by the developers. It didn’t have the authority to change the setting itself. Morpheus needed the permission of Chairman Lim Cheolho and the board of directors to gain this authority. It was just that Lim Cheolho wouldn’t grant permission unless Grid crossed the ‘line’ or it distorted or deteriorated Satisfy.
Satisfy was a world that players created. The safety device was also held by the players themselves.
After the meeting, Chairman Lim Cheolho returned to his office and spoke quietly, “Do you want a cup of soju?”
“Haha, it is a joke to make you relax. How can the world go your way all the time?”
[I understand. I am also aware that the performance of the player ‘Grid’ is leading the worldview in a positive direction. It is just that the speed is too fast. The main content will run out within 9 years and 10 months at this rate.]
“It will take another 9 years and 10 months?”
[Your biological rhythms are normal, but just in case, are you seriously ill? Master, I don’t know if your judgment has become blurred, but you lack a sense of crisis.]
“That’s not it.” Chairman Lim Cheolho waved his hand. It was because he could feel Morpheus’ evolution. The conversations they were having every day were becoming more and more natural. It felt like he was talking to a person. “It isn’t the end even if the world we designed is over. In the next world, new content will be created by the players themselves. That is the utopia I’m pursuing.”
[The company’s influence will decline. The stock prices will fall.]
“…You don’t have to worry about that.” Lim Cheolho showed a warm smile.
Morpheus was briefly speechless. It seemed sympathetic to Lim Cheolho, but nothing changed.
[I hate the player ‘Grid.’]
“Hahah, the first human being who made you have personal feelings isn’t me, but Grid? This is why I am jealous.”
It was certain. Contrary to the will of the S.A Group, the system was on his side. The proof was that an epic didn’t occur. In retrospect, many of the good fortunes he enjoyed was with the help of the system. Grid’s footsteps were light as he became convinced of this again.
The short but intense relations.h.i.+p with Ifrit was buried in his heart. In the future, one more ‘reason not to lose’ was added to Grid. The one acknowledged by a great dragon couldn’t be beaten by just any dog or cow.
Grid was reminded of the king of the dogs and cows.
The source of all evil. An opponent he seemed to have no chance of winning against at all. Even so, Grid felt himself gradually getting closer to Baal. Following the favor of Mountain King Grenier, he won the t.i.tle of Dragon Knight. Now it was time to receive the rewards from Betty. Grid was steadily getting stronger. Someday, he would surely defeat Baal and liberate the souls of countless people, including Khan and Pagma.
“……?” Grid was fl.u.s.tered when he entered the tower with the tower members.
The Tower of Wisdom they had moved to not long ago—he saw the appearance of it leaning to one side and thought it was a building with the theme of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but this wasn’t the case. The tower was tilted too much. It wasn’t a deliberately designed structure, but a sign of destruction. The internal state where everything was messed up proved this fact.
“Groan…!” Biban snorted. It seemed like he was about to scream based on the way he was holding his head with both hands, but he ended up groaning instead. Perhaps it was because he was conscious of Grid.
“The wavelength of the shock reached here. They are monstrous b.a.s.t.a.r.ds.”
Fronzaltz shook his head. Radwolf was busy rus.h.i.+ng up the stairs. He seemed to want his room to be safe.
‘I hope there will be no casualties.’
The clash between Ifrit and Trauka affected the entire continent. The Overgeared Kingdom would’ve been turned upside down as well. Grid was worrying as he belatedly became aware of this fact. Then Betty grabbed his hand. “You can meet Hayate later. First of all, let’s go to my room.”
Betty’s method of crossing the collapsed stairs was very strange. Every time she took a step, skulls rose in the air to replace the stairs.
‘There are endless ways to use the undead.’
“Have you eaten?”
“Yes, I always carry bread with me.”
“What about vegetables and meat?”
“I don’t have much time to eat every day…”
“You should eat in a balanced manner to grow tall and healthy.”
“…I’m an adult.”
“Granny also sees me as a newborn baby. Just let it enter one ear and out the other,” Biban advised from below the stairs. His appearance of picking up the broom had no energy.
“Cleaning… it is hard work.”
“Cleaning? Oh, you mean this purification work? I have to work hard. It is a sacred task that only I can do.”
Maybe he had hypnotized himself.
Grid felt great sympathy for Biban and arrived at Betty’s room a moment later. It was a room with the strange smell of medicine. There were specimens of various creatures, especially the corpses of demons.
“Just wait.” Betty left Grid alone and disappeared somewhere.
“Eat.” After a while, she returned with a lot of food. They were delicacies prepared using rare ingredients. It was even warm. It seemed like the food had just been made.
‘It couldn’t have been cooked in three minutes. Was the chef preparing it in advance?’
This was also a place where people lived. There would be sufficient means to solve the basic necessities of life. He just hadn’t expected there would be a separate chef. This was a secret place.
“This is food drawn by Abellio. I can’t eat, but the other tower members say it is delicious.”
“It is… drawn?”
The 7th Seat, Abellio—in the past, when Grid first came to the tower, Abellio was the one who materialized his paintings and overpowered Grid. He even presented Grid with an extremely honorable painting.
‘I didn’t expect him to make food by embodying painting. Painters are all-rounders.’
Grid was a blacksmith, but he was close to being an all-rounder. There was no distinction between inferior and superior cla.s.ses. Grid doubtfully bit into a piece of meat only to marvel. The juices spreading through his mouth had a deep flavor and a savory taste. There wasn’t the taste of paint that he was concerned about.
“It is delicious. Really delicious.”
It overshadowed the unpleasant smell of medicine and the specimens.
“Eat a lot.”
Betty’s face was still expressionless. Her voice was dry, but it was kind and friendly. Grid was unable to turn down her kindness and became immersed in eating. After a while—
“I don’t have any skills to teach you.”
Grid finished all the food and Betty brought out the main topic. It was just that the content was a bit strange?
‘…There is nothing to teach me?’
Was the quest reward this meal? Did she cook the meal? It happened as the fl.u.s.tered Grid doubted it…
Betty explained, “A necromancer’s skills consume domination. It isn’t good for you to learn my skills when you have Beriache’s legacy.”
Beriache’s legacy—it meant the Overgeared Skeletons.
The moment he learned a necromancer skill, the domination stat would be created. From that time on, the Overgeared Skeleton would consume domination like any other undead. Therefore, it was hard to operate at the same time as other undead…
Should it be roughly understood like this? Grid was a.n.a.lyzing it in his own way when Betty made a suggestion, “What I am going to give you is a duke t.i.tle. I will transfer my t.i.tle.”
Grid’s eyes widened.
Braham’s Duke of Wisdom, Muller’s Duke of Pressure, and Grid’s Duke of Fire and Duke of Virtue…
The duke t.i.tles were all powerful and special. Grid’s rain of battle gear, one of Grid’s ultimate techniques, was just part of the effect of Duke of Virtue. Yet now he was going to obtain a new duke t.i.tle. It was a third duke t.i.tle. The reward was more than he expected.
Duguen, dugeun, dugeun…
Grid’s heart was starting to beat fast only to stop like a lie. However, what he needed right now wasn’t CPR. It was to relieve the anxiety that had risen in him.
“Don’t tell me… it won’t be the Duke of Death?”
It might be a pointless worry. He hoped the duke t.i.tle he would get this time had a wonderful name. Duke of Virtue Grid eagerly hoped for it.