Return To Player Chapter 262

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Return To Player

Chapter 262: Publisher (2)

“We’ll just have to hope the other players do their part.”

“Is that possible?”

“That’s what we’ve been working towards this whole time.”

I had some knowledge of the basic invasive tactics used by the Publishers from my first playthrough.

That’s why, up until now, not only had I been trying to increase the overall level of Earth’s players, but my colleagues and I as well.

We opened dungeons, crafted high-quality equipment, and gathered points in a much quicker and more robust fashion than in the first playthrough.

Even the players wandering the streets now were stronger than those who survived to the end of the first playthrough.

Though individual capabilities vary, overall there had been a significant leveling up.

The real issue, however, was the key players.

“Has Lynn woken up?”

“No. She’s still asleep.”

The two most significant issues at present: Lynn hadn’t awakened since losing consciousness in the battle against Bango, and the memories that had vanished from my mind during the process of obtaining the key to the Demon Realm.

‘Time might be the answer to the former, but the latter will lead straight to a bad ending if not addressed.’

As the Demon King, I knew that the ending was not to be concerned with.

But it couldn’t be ignored either.

If it came to pass, the events of the bad ending would transpire just as they had before.

‘Earth would be destroyed, and all the players on it would be scattered across the universe.’

The human casualties from that process would be enormous.

I could find consolation in the fact that not all would be annihilated, but that wasn’t the future I wanted.

“…Anyway, I’ll leave the monitoring of Akynen to you.”

“Yes, I’ll continue to keep an eye on the community’s response.”

It was a reliable response.

If the Publishers were likely to make a move, having Akynen, who had sound knowledge of it, on our side was reassuring.

“Sehan.”

Idra called my name as I was slowly moving away.

His eyes, quietly observing me, held a hint of worry.

I let out a faint smile in response to his gaze.

Ever since returning from the mad Demon King’s realm, Idra had taken even more care of me.

Before, he would have brushed things off with light comments, but now he did not.

The more I saw of him, the more I felt his humanity shining through.

“Don’t worry. Instead, keep an eye on the vanguard.”

“Of course.”

Idra had already deployed hundreds of thousands of observers all over the Earth.

It wasn’t just for surveillance; we would need them for upcoming purposes as well.

“I will also make good use of this.”

“That’s the least I can do for you.”

A note was in my hand.

It was from Idra today.

At a glance, it looked like an ordinary note, listing a few locations.

Places that I had visited with the ‘Forgotten One’.

Of course, since I had no memory of them, it was entirely based on Idra’s remembrance.

‘Let’s see.’

I had done my part.

With the time I had left, I planned to focus on recovering my memories.

“Then.”

After a quick goodbye, I exited the Deerside building.

Spreading my black wings, I took off into the sky, and the entire Seoul landscape spread out before me.

Seoul, bustling below, was filled with the liveliness of people.

Already recovering from destruction, it was returning to the forest of buildings it once was.

It was an everyday scene I hadn’t seen in the first playthrough.

I flew past them, slicing through the sky.

‘So much has changed.’

Not just Seoul, but the entire world had changed profoundly since the first playthrough.

Back then, at this point in time, we were still slowly walking towards annihilation.

The level of the players was lower, and there was no hope.

It was merely a matter of when we’d be destroyed.

But now, things were different.

Despite preparing for a direct confrontation with the Publishers, the players weren’t despairing.

Though there wasn’t much time, they had all become stronger than in the first playthrough.

‘If there’s anyone weaker now…’

I thought of the man who would be tending to Lynn.

Luke Tailor.

An expert in combat skills, but having fallen back from the front lines due to being less capable than other Deerside guild members.

‘That’s not necessarily a bad thing.’

In the first playthrough, he was a teacher who taught me how to fight.

At one point, Luke became the strongest player of all humanity.

Of all the players, perhaps Luke was the only one who’d become weaker compared to the first playthrough.

His power may have been similar, if not better, but the first-playthrough Luke had become one with Astraia.

However, I liked that about him.

Because it meant he hadn’t died.

‘Strength, after all, is necessary for survival.’

Even if one’s power wanes, what matters is survival.

It’s worthless being strong if you end up dead.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been here.”

Thud.

I had arrived at a very familiar place.

The university I attended before the world turned into a game.

“Is this my first visit here?”

I murmured quietly as I reviewed the note provided by Idra.

Various locations were marked, and at the top of the list was this university.

‘The “Forgotten One” has been with me since the start, then.’

It was here that I became a player, where the game began.

It was known for having a nice campus in Korea, but now it was desolate, difficult to recognize its former shape.

Though Seoul had been significantly restored, educational facilities like universities had not regained their functionality.

“Excuse me, are you Kim Sehan?”

Someone called out my name at that moment.

I turned to see, inexplicably, Park Dongkwon standing there.

Upon my gaze, his color drained as if regretting initiating contact.

“Why are you here?”

“Ah, well, the guild leader said he wanted to move the guild here for a while. I’m here to check if there’s a suitable building. For a change.”

“From Cheongju?”

“Yes. It seems like he wants to concentrate players in Seoul in anticipation of the impending showdown. If we’re scattered, we’ll be easily picked apart.”

“That makes sense.”

By ‘guild leader’ he mentioned, it was clear he referred to Yoon Hyunkyum of the Blue Whale.

‘It feels somewhat nostalgic.’

Ignoring the rubbish before me, Yoon Hyunkyum had been the student council president of this university.

With his help, many of us who started at this university survived.

As predicted, Yoon Hyunkyum grew immensely and became one of the leaders of Korea’s top guilds.

“But what brings you here?”

Park Dongkwon regarded me suspiciously.

“Looking for something.”

“What? There can’t be anything to find in a place like this…”

Ignoring his bewildered mumbling, I walked across the campus.

Despite the chaos, the buildings were surprisingly intact.

Well, the monsters who had attacked us at the time were just goblins, so it made sense that they were unscathed.

‘Goblins, goblins…’

In the first playthrough, goblins nearly killed me.

So…

‘So, what happened?’

My head began to throb. Had I almost died to goblins?

The fading memories signified a link to what I had forgotten.

Without forcing myself to remember, I continued on, walking along my familiar path and into the familiar building.

Entering a room filled with computers, I finally let out my held breath.

“Phew…”

The computers, surprisingly, were intact and undamaged.

Just covered in thick layers of dust and spiderwebs, including the one I frequently used, now also hazy with dust.

Was I experiencing a strange nostalgia for tapping the monitor with my palm?

Back in my university days, I often came here to play games.

Though the computers weren’t meant for gaming, the professors didn’t mind, and no one really paid attention to me.

While these computers were supposed to lose all saved information upon shutdown, these were unusually lax about it and didn’t have such measures.

Click. Click.

“Still won’t turn on, huh?”

The computers wouldn’t boot, likely due to a lack of power.

I silently observed them.

I should have been checking other places, but I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the computers.

Perhaps it was the amount of time I spent here during my college days.

Or maybe it was something else…

Snap!

I flicked my finger lightly, and the computer lab lit up, power restoring to the room.

The lights were out, possibly broken, but the monitors and computer towers unexpectedly came to life.

Whirr!

The familiar sound of booting filled the room as I pressed the power button on the computer.

The operating system displayed on the monitor, and shortly a plain blue background appeared.

At a glance, there were no games, just a clean desktop – that was, of course, because I had hidden them well.

‘If I go into My Documents and open this folder, here are the games.’

The hidden games were right there as I had left them.

I felt an indescribable longing seeing them after so long. Yes, there they were, all the save files intact.

“Huh?”

While examining the games and saves, I noticed something odd.

“No one else played, did they?”

I remembered playing these games alone.

No memory of playing with anyone else, yet some save files clearly weren’t mine.

“It’s clear these aren’t my save files.”

Erased from my memory?

No, normally I’d feel a mild headache in such cases.

But now, there was no sign of that.

This was genuinely something I didn’t know about.

The saves weren’t stored where I normally kept them, but hidden away in a different spot.

Undoubtedly, someone else had played the games on my computer.

‘Who could it be?’

Despite racking my brain, I couldn’t think of anyone.

There were fleeting acquaintances, but if they played games on my computer, they must have known me well.

‘Notepad?’

There was a notepad file in the folder with the save files.

After hesitating, I cautiously opened it.

The notepad contained a message as if intended for someone to read – clearly, that someone was me.

“Oppa, watching you play made me curious, so I tried it for myself. But honestly, I’m not sure if I find it fun.”

It seemed the player was a woman.

Was there a woman I knew during my university days?

“I wanted to share the topic with you, but games really don’t seem to be my thing. I couldn’t master it even after trying so hard.”

Running the game, the lack of leveling was evident.

The gear also suggested a lack of understanding – indicative of a beginner with little experience in RPG games.

“But I’m too embarrassed to ask for help, so I’m just leaving this note. Hopefully, you’ll find it.”

The note seemed to expect me to read it, albeit a bit too late.

Most of the content was mere lament, with the odd nagging remark such as not playing games all the time and to get some exercise.

“If you do read this, ask me this tomorrow.”

“Let’s play together.”

“Maybe it’ll be a bit more fun if we do.”

That was the last thing written.

No further notes were added, whether the rest was hastily written or simply incomplete, I couldn’t tell.

“The date on the notepad… it’s two days before the ‘game’ started.”

I undoubtedly would not have been able to find the note.

Nor would I have been able to ask to play together.

‘It’s clear the person who left this message is related to the “Forgotten One.”‘

Why was this the only thing left, even when everything related had vanished?

Though all else was unsure, a smile broke across my face, and my eyes warmed slightly.

Of course, I didn’t know why.

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