Vur blinked and looked down at the root bracelet glowing on his left wrist. He turned his head towards Tafel, who had walked up to his side. “The tower gave me a skill; it’s called Fear.”

Tafel glanced at the bald woman lying on the ground who was staring up at her and Vur like a frozen rabbit faced with a snake. “I’m not surprised,” the demon said before squatting down by the injured monk. Rather than injured, it was more apt to describe her as mortally wounded or dying or about to visit the farm with all the happy little animals. “Heal her?”

Vur’s eyes glowed golden, and a green light washed over the dying woman, causing her injuries to fade away, her body cracking as it twisted back into shape, forcing wooden splinters out as it did. If it weren’t for her broken weapon and the not-yet-dried blood on Miranda’s clothes and face, she would’ve thought the previous encounter with the puppet had been a dream. A shiver ran down Miranda’s spine, and she instinctively used the skill she had obtained from the orb once more. Her shadow rose up and engulfed her, causing her to disappear from view.

“Shadow Cloak!” Kim Hajun said, his eyes widening. Once again, the signature skill of a lord was hidden within their temple on the first floor. The first time may have been luck, but what were the odds of it happening again? It must’ve been true. If he could monopolize all the hidden pieces within the temples, wouldn’t he be invincible? His plans could be pushed forward by several years!

“Is that the skill from the hidden piece?” Lindyss asked, raising an eyebrow as she walked over to the space where Miranda had been. Lindyss crouched next to Tafel before nodding. “That’s not a bad idea, but I bet it doesn’t last very long or feel too pleasant.”

“What did she do?” Erin asked from Lindyss shoulder.

“She hid inside the shadows,” Lindyss said. “You know how it feels like inside my pocket?”

Erin shuddered. She had stuck her hand inside the cursed elf’s pocket a few times to retrieve some things. It was unpleasant and cold, not a space suitable for living creatures. “So…, she stored herself?”

“Yep,” Lindyss said and nodded.

Less than a second later, Miranda reappeared while gasping for breath, her face pale and cheeks gaunt despite having been healed by Vur moments ago. Her irises flitted from side to side, and her gaze landed on Kim Hajun. “Ka-Kispisit! That’s an authentic Ka-Kispisit suit from Earth, right?” She clasped her hands together and stared Kim Hajun directly in the eyes. “As fellow Earthlings, shouldn’t we help each other out?”

Dozens of thoughts zoomed through Kim Hajun’s head in an instant. He took a look around at his companion’s expressions before clearing his throat. “Are you in a clan or a guild?”

Miranda blinked. “Yes,” she said, keeping her gaze maintained on Kim Hajun. “I was recruited by the guild Virtuous Hand.” Miranda paused, waiting to see if the guild name would trigger a positive or negative reaction. Sometimes, one’s guild or clan affiliation could determine their life or death. Guilds and clans feuded with each other plenty of times, often blacklisting members of opposite clans or guilds. Upon seeing Kim Hajun’s face harden, Miranda continued. “But I was just recruited recently, like, yesterday. The ink on the contract hasn’t even dried yet—not that I signed a contract, a figure of speech, you know?”

Kim Hajun blinked. “You’re not close with them?”

“Absolutely not,” Miranda said, shaking her head.

“I’ll be honest,” Kim Hajun said. “In the group I’m currently in”—he gestured around himself—“I don’t have the power to make decisions, but if you’re willing to leave the Virtuous Hand and join us, then my group members probably won’t harm you.”

“Probably?” Tafel asked. “What do you mean probably? We’re not violent.”

Kim Hajun glanced down at the lower part of his suit jacket where the buttons had been punched off by Kax’s buffed-by-Vur fist. He raised his head, met Tafel’s eyes, and decided to silently agree with her. “There you have it,” he said, turning his attention back onto Miranda. “If you join our group, we won’t harm you. Not that we’d harm you if you didn’t; I just want to make that clear.”

Miranda’s gaze shifted from the dressed-like-a-millionaire Asian man to the woman with horns and purple eyes. Then, she looked at the beautiful woman with pointed ears before shifting her gaze onto the shirtless man with golden, draconic eyes. Then, she thought back to the hunched-over figures dressed in black robes who had recruited her into the guild Virtuous Hand. Miranda repeatedly nodded her head. “If you’ll have me, I’ll absolutely join you guys.”

Kim Hajun turned to face Vur’s group. “What do you think? She obtained the Shadow Lord’s signature skill, Shadow Cloak. If you help her grow, I’m sure she’ll prove to be a great asset for the Extreme Heat Clan.”

“Don’t look at me,” Tafel said, turning her head towards Vur. “He gets to make the final decision.”

Lindyss raised an eyebrow. “And why is that? Don’t you usually decide things?”

Tafel shrugged. “Vur’s the one who’ll have to carry her around in his claws when he flies. He’s already carrying Kax, Kim Hajun, and Jeffery.”

“I don’t mind,” Vur said. “If I pack them tight, she can fit in one paw with them too.”

Miranda’s suspicions of Vur being a dragon came to the forefront of her mind. She hoped due to a lack of critical information she was misunderstanding Vur’s words. “I heard that once we complete the temple trial, we’ll have completed the advancement exam to the next floor.” Her voice shrank. “Is that not the case? There shouldn’t be any reason to fly anywhere.”

Vur looked around. “There’s nothing else hidden here,” he said. “How many more temples are there?”

“Quite a few,” Kim Hajun said. “Do you have enough food to open them all?”

Vur shrugged. “I saw a place with animals while flying here.” His stomach growled. “We can hunt first.”

Miranda swallowed down her anxiety, a bit concerned her question had been ignored.


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