Return To Player Chapter 72

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Return To Player

# 72
072. The Mourner(2)
Chungcheongnam-do, Cheonan.
A location that wasn’t particularly large to begin with but has now become a city of the dead.
Minah was in a place that was quite remote even for Cheonan.
It was so close to a village that I couldn’t help but wonder.
‘Why on earth is Minah in a place like this?’
The Observer of Idra was guiding me through the sky.
Recently, feeling quite pleased, it had offered to guide me personally.
As I mentioned earlier, it was a village away from the city center.
The area was full of mountains, teeming with monsters. I suspect that most people were probably killed in the early days when the game started.
No sign of humans, only the bones of what once were people were scattered in the broken roads.
Clearly, this place must have been devoid of human life for a long time.
‘It would have been better if there were high buildings.’
There were hardly any apartments nearby.
Mostly were low-rise commercial buildings. Naturally, most of them had collapsed due to monster attacks.
It was clear that the place had been neglected for the past few years.
“Is that the place?”
The Observer seemed to signal me towards a particular direction, flittering in the air.
And there, a building significantly larger than the others caught my eye.
“A high school…”
Is Minah really there?
Cheonan still contained several sizable cities.
There were residential areas; it would have been better to stay in such a place.
‘There must be some reason for this.’
Minah had a willful disposition, but she wasn’t foolish.
On the contrary, she was quite clever.
If she was staying quietly in such a place, there must be a definite reason.
Step. Step.
“This place looks perfect for a horror movie.”
Was there ever a place more fitting for the term ‘abandoned school’?
Entering the school, I was met with indescribably appalling remnants.
The outer walls of the building were painted with bright red blood, and bodies left unattended for several years remained on the floor.
Surely, they must have been students during the monster invasion.
Among the skeletons were some wearing uniforms, making it easy to infer that the clothing represented school attire.
“……Wait a moment.”
Looking at the uniforms, I realized something strange.
Because they looked familiar.
“Could this be the uniform that Minah wore?”
Minah was always seen in her school uniform.
Even if she had armor to wear, she often wore it underneath her uniform, and recently, through Siwoo, she had been upgrading the uniform itself. Reinforcing it with threads of mithril while maintaining its original appearance.
I wondered why she would do such a thing…
‘It wasn’t just because the uniform was comfortable to wear, was it?’
That’s what I thought.
The clothes worn by several of the bodies in the hallway were unmistakably similar to Minah’s uniform.
No, they were identical.
They only seemed different because they were old and left neglected.
“……!”
A shudder ran down my spine.
Reflexively, I reached into the air and grabbed a shortsword.
Clang!!
I spun, swinging my sword, and a sharp noise echoed through the hallway.
The opponent, not expecting me to block, leaped back, landing a distance away.
“You didn’t expect me to block that, did you?”
“I didn’t expect you to attack out of nowhere either.”
“In this dangerous world, it’s only natural to attack before being attacked, right?”
The woman who spoke had a short bob haircut, as though her hair had been crudely cut with a blade.
Her calm eyes and a faint smile were striking.
“I’m hurt. It’s been a while since we met.”
“We’ve met before? Wait a moment… Ah, yes.”
Minah placed a finger to her forehead and gazed closely at my face.
“I have a feeling it’s been about 2 years since I last saw a filthy face like yours.”
In reality, it had been around 2 years since I had encountered Minah.
Although we only crossed paths during a quest, she was quite a memorable player, so I remembered her for a long time.
The next time I met Minah was much later.
Of course, we didn’t encounter each other during this quest, and it was after Seoul had succumbed to destruction.
Considering she survived almost until the final quest, Minah indeed was a resilient person.
After all, considering her abilities, perhaps it was to be expected.
“So, why are you here? Did you come looking for me?”
“I suppose you can say that.”
“How did you know I was here?”
At Minah’s question, I pointed upwards.
Above us, my Observer was joyfully watching the situation.
“Surprising. There’s still an avatar who can speak with the gods.”
“I think you are quite favored by the gods as well.”
“Hmmm, there was a time. But it’s been completely off since about a year ago.”
She shrugged her shoulders and, assuming there was no need for further hostility, placed her weapon back into her inventory.
Indeed, there were no Observers around her.
It meant that the Harlequin had completely lost interest in her.
‘Come to think of it, when I last saw her, I don’t recall an Observer either.’
But by that time, not just the Harlequin but most of the players on Earth had already been abandoned by the gods. Only my god, Idra, stayed with me until the very end.
It left just before the final quest ended.
‘In the end, it’s just a game.’
What happens when a game becomes dull?
The answer is straightforward. You quit the game.
You stop logging in and lose interest.
It’s the same with this world.
When the gods lose interest, the avatars no longer receive their aid.
No matter how much points are invested in the avatars, once the gods’ hearts depart, they do not return.
Why bother with a game that’s no longer entertaining?
Only two gods do not treat this world as a game.
My god, Idra and the goddess of justice, Astraea.
Demons also do not treat this world as a game, but that does not mean they respect it.
They simply consider the world to be something like a farm.
“So, what is the matter you wish to discuss? You came all the way here, so you must have something to say.”
“That’s right. But before that, I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Why are you wearing such dark clothing? That doesn’t seem like your style.”
Although I often wear black clothes, Minah does not.
The clothes she was wearing now seemed almost like mourning attire.
It felt like it.
“Do I need to tell you that?”
“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”
“How boring.”
Lee Mina laughed heartily and gestured lightly with her hand.
“Follow me. It’s a bit awkward to talk here.”
***
She led me with a surprisingly docile attitude.
Through dark, desolate hallways, to a classroom.
On the dusty, worn-out nameplate barely visible were the words “3rd Year, Class 2.”
The inside of the classroom was cleaner than I expected.
It was a space completely disconnected from the outside.
A proper living space with a refrigerator and a bed.
But what caught my eye were photographs lined up at the back of the classroom.
Some were awkward and blurry, and a few had only names written on them.
“These are memorial photos.”
“Those?”
“Yes. I couldn’t get all the kids’ photos from the class.”
She looked at them with a distant gaze.
“The class must have been close-knit.”
“Hardly. I didn’t have many friends actually. If they’d been close, they wouldn’t have just casually left the names like that.”
This was unexpected.
With her straightforward personality, I thought she’d have quite a few friends.
“As the world changed, I had to become like this. Was I originally a quiet kid too?”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“I realized I couldn’t stay like that after going through the first quest. I thought I had to survive by any means. Despite appearances, I was pretty good at acting.”
She said, slouching in the chair.
“I still vividly remember the first day the game began. I was going to school but skipped to go play in Seoul with two close friends, and it was that very day the world turned upside down.”
“Weren’t you originally from Seoul?”
“No. I visited from this rural town. Just happened to help a friend’s sister who had some business in Seoul.”
We casually covered it up as a school anniversary day.
Lee Mina said, laughing.
“After that, as you know, the game began, and I got separated from my two friends. I stayed in Seoul for a while, looking for them. Initially, I had no money so even robbed banks. Later on, I realized all of that was pointless.”
Mina stared blankly into space.
As if her friend was right there.
“Being in uniform was the only thing we had in common, so I couldn’t bear to wear other clothes.”
That was why Mina always wore her uniform.
It was the only clue for recognizing one another, given the different regional uniforms.
‘I sometimes thought she was wandering around Seoul alone, but I never realized there was such a reason behind it.’
I had figured she was just hanging around, but who would’ve thought there was such a story.
I could now understand why she didn’t follow me to Daejeon during the raid quest.
“So, did you find your friend?”
“Yeah, I did.”
Lee Mina smiled, standing up.
She walked slowly to the back of the classroom and caressed two picture frames with her finger.
These two photos were clearer compared to the others.
“But I found them too late. They had held out for a long time there, but by the time I found them, they were already…”
“Held out for a long time?”
“It seems they made a deal with devils. But they got used up and thrown away. Then they died.”
By the time she thought of taking revenge, Min Suho had already killed them all.
“So it all seemed pointless, and I came back here to do this sort of memorial. My parents had already passed away when I contacted them on the first day, so I had nowhere else to go.”
Lee Mina talked without energy.
This wasn’t the vibrant Mina I always knew.
I couldn’t believe the cheerful Mina had such a story beneath the surface.
‘Connected with a devil… Heukcheonhoi, perhaps? No, wait a minute.’
My heart sank abruptly.
‘But didn’t I kill everyone in the Heukcheonhoi?’
Could the devil her friend contracted with possibly be Nebiros?
Feeling a cold sweat run down my back, I cautiously asked.
“Was your friend associated with the Heukcheonhoi?”
“No. That place was managed by Nebiros, right? My friend was with a different group.”
Lee Mina added that it was a guild located in Seoul, not Incheon, and I felt a secret relief.
‘…I’ll have to be more careful when dealing with devil contractors in the future.’
If I unwittingly attacked Mina’s friend, it would be disastrous.
I must make sure to caution Jisoo as well.
Surely there was no way one of the devil minions Jisoo killed included Mina’s friend?
I fervently prayed that there wasn’t.
“Ah. I must’ve been bored, blabbering about all of this.”
Lee Mina said, shaking her head vigorously.
Then she took a deep breath and looked back at me.
“Are you satisfied with the answer to your question? Now it’s my turn to ask. What is it that brings you here to find me?”
“…”
At being asked outright, I found it hard to answer.
It didn’t seem right to ask Lee Mina, who was here mourning her friend, to help with the coming fight.
But I still had to give it a try.
“…I intended to ask for your help with the upcoming quest. But considering your situation, that seems hard. Instead, I’d like to ask if you could make an elixir.”
“The upcoming quest? Ah, this or that choice.”
“This or That Choice” was the name of the quest.
Lee Mina finally remembered, scratching her head.
“I was going to choose 100,000 ordinary people, but made a mistake and ended up selecting 1,000 players.”
It was a mistake?
Lucky if it turned out well, since those who chose the opposite all died.
“Elixir, huh… Surely there aren’t many who can make that now. But if someone of your caliber is seeking it, the opponent must be really strong, huh?”
“Extremely strong.”
Of course, I’m stronger now.
Because I have memories of the future, not just the present.
I’m more skilled in combat, and having fought once, I know how to win.
“Alright, I was bored anyway, so I might as well make it. How many bottles do you need?”
“One is sufficient, but there’s something else I’d like you to make as well…”
“Hmm. What is it? Just so you know, I can’t make anything harder than an elixir.”
“I’m aware. This should be easier.”
I took out an orb-like object from my inventory.
“I want this to be potent enough to work on even top-level players.”

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