SPACE 8. Under the Black Water……
‘Why in a place like this……’
Ark looked around with astonished eyes. It was a small swamp surrounded by cliffs on three sides where 100 octopuses were gathered around. The octopuses were the size of a person. Ark had seen octopuses like these before. They were the Charenjok that cleaned the pipes on R-14. Ark had fished up a Charenjok a while ago. He was stunned as Ark never imagined he would see a Charenjok in a place like this.
“A-aren’t you a Charenjok?”
–What? What are you saying after pulling at the hook in my leg for 30 minutes? Do I look like a pushover? Kaack, spit! I can’t just leave! Compensation! Compensation!
The Charenjok said angrily and spat ink over him. But Ark was thinking about something else. Ark’s purpose for searching around the lake was to locate Charem. However he still hadn’t explored half of the total area. A week or more was the amount of time needed to search through the whole area. There was also no guarantee that he could find Charem after searching for a week. There were many reasons but the crucial one was that Charem could move. There was no guarantee that Charem wouldn’t move to an area that Ark already explored. That was the reason why Ark considered abandoning the quest. It would also take some time to 100% explore the lake. No matter how much time and effort invested, there was a possibility he couldn’t find Charem. It would require a considerable amount of luck. In such a situation he had met a Charenjok. The Charenjok were aliens Ark encountered before.
‘If the Charenjok live in this lake…..’
The Charenjok might know where Charem was. Ark got the idea and quickly asked.
“Does the Charenjok live in this lake?”
–What? How do you know I’m a Charenjok and not just an octopus? Huh? Is that why you fished me up? I’m 100% an octopus. Anyway, I’m an octopus not a Charenjok.
“I apologize for the incident just now. It wasn’t on purpose. If I knew the Charenjok lived in this lake then I wouldn’t have gone fishing so dangerously. In fact, there is a reason I know you’re the Charenjok. In the past I became close friends with the Charenjok living on a space station. Do you know how happy I am stumbling across the Charenjok in a place like this? If other Charenjok live around here then I would like to meet them.”
–Hah, how funny. Do you think I will be tricked?
The Charenjok spat and declared sharply.
-You think you can trick me so that I would sell out my colleagues? Hah, I already know your identity. You, aren’t you a slave trader? You sneaky bastard! Yes, that is clearly your identity…..long words aren’t needed. Now, bring it on! If you think that I’m a Charenjok then prove it! Bring it one! Bring it on!
The Charenjok raised its octopus like legs and made an X. The octopus seemed to have some twisted misunderstanding. However, Ark’s situation meant he needed to seek help from the Charenjok. He couldn’t take the X personally or turn the octopus into sashimi. Ark struggled on how to remove the octopus’ misunderstanding when he remembered an item.
“Will you believe me if I show you this?”
Ark took out a small octopus and showed it. It was the Charenjok’s token that he received from Burum who was the manager of R-14’s secret hunting ground. The item restored 1 health every 3 seconds for 10 minutes for a total of 200 health. Well he had over 1,000 health so it wasn’t a big help but it was a helpful item. Anyway, now Ark had a way to prove he was acquaintances with the Charenjok. But the Charenjok’s reaction was more than he expected.
The Charenjok showed their emotions through colour. Now his head turned to the colour of shock.
-Follow me. I will guide you to our village.
The Charenjok worried for a while before nodding his head and replying. The place he arrived was a swamp surrounded by cliffs on three sides and the lake. The bog was surrounded by cliffs and the lake well hidden by the cliffs so it was a tough place to find unless deliberately searching for it. The Charenjok had their own reasons for living in a place like this. While Ark was busy thinking…..
A massive Charenjok 3~4 times the size of a normal one messed with the token and started speaking. And he stared at Ark.
–This is definitely something that only an elder of the Charenjok would have. This is an important token that the Charenjok elder wouldn’t give up easily. I can’t imagine the deep friendship that must be between you for the elder to give it to a human.
You said he was cleaning pipes……
Burum hadn’t hesitated at all when giving him the Charenjok token. Well, he wanted control of the paid hunting grounds quickly but he hadn’t felt like the Charenjok elder hesitated at all when giving it to him. No, he only just discovered that Burum was a Charenjok elder. Well he wasn’t that interested in something like that.
–Yes, the elder who gave you this token was Burum?
“Yes, that’s right.”
Ark explained how he met the Charenjok on R-14 and became friends with them. The giant Charenjok called Bakum who was an elder of the Charenjok sighed bitterly after hearing Ark’s answer.
–Pipe cleaner…..indeed, a refugee on a foreign planet wouldn’t receive that many benefits. It is unfortunate but at least they are still alive. Sometimes I would think. Should we also defect to the galactic federation like other Charenjok? But it was clear what treatment our species would get as refugees. So I chose freedom rather than safety. I decided to refuse the protection of the galactic federation and lived in the Outlands.
Istana was the planet of the federation but they only had control over the terraformed areas around the cities. Therefore the Outlands which accounted for 90% of Istana was a lawless area and the Charenjok who lived there didn’t need citizenship. Burum intended to purchase land to buy this citizenship. The Charenjok who had no citizenship couldn’t escape from the galactic federation.
But getting a citizenship didn’t mean freedom. Therefore some Charenjok chose to abandon the safety of the cities in order to live a life of true freedom! This freedom meant they didn’t need to clean pipes to receive a small salary. They could get any decent paying jobs that were available. That’s why the smuggling city of Charem was able to operate in the wilds of Istana. It was a place free of the federation’s control so the Charenjok could live openly in Charem despite not having any citizenship. But the circumstances were different for the Charenjok in Charem.
Charem was a city equipped with a shield and many advanced functions. The vast majority of people flocking to Charem were criminals but they still had citizenship with the federation, Aschulat or Rama. In other words, they were part of a civilization. On the other hand, the Charenjok had just lost their home planet and civilization. At one point, they flourished so much that they even toured Earth on UFOs. Then their home planet was taken away by the Kakajok and they were just common octopuses. And living in the Outlands wasn’t safe for octopuses.
–Many of us entered the Outlands and were killed by monsters over several years. But the most annoying thing is the slave traders. It took some time to avoid monsters and slave traders to occupy a spot here……
That was the reason why the Charenjok on R-14 didn’t leave the federation despite receiving discrimination. People without citizenship weren’t protected by the galactic federation. They were virtually treated like monsters. Therefore there were many Charenjok in the Outlands who were captured by slave traders. The pioneers also entered the Outlands so the Charenjok were forced to hide. That’s why the Charenjok thought Ark was a slave hunter when he first fished him up. Anyway, the octopuses were quite pitiful.
–But I can believe you since you have the Charenjok’s token. This token is the proof of your friendship with the Charenjok elder. Throughout the generations, the Charenjok has passed on these tokens to sincere friends. We might’ve lost our homeland and become refugees but the Charenjok still hasn’t forgotten their pride. You should relax here and eat.
The elder octopus pointed to the fish piled on one side. Spotted, Sneak, Bark, Happy…..they were fish that Ark already had in his bag. And the place the elder octopus indicated for him to rest on was a gap in the rocks of the cliff.
Ark eyed the fish and rock gap with uncomfortable eyes. Some areas that Ark couldn’t understand floated inside his head.
‘This lake contained Charem. And Charem is a smuggling city. The city is now sealed off so where are the smugglers coming from? And slaves are one of the smuggled goods. Naturally slave traders would be among those entering and leaving Charem. But Bakum said they settled in this place to avoid the slave traders. Even if the lake is 100 km in size, it wouldn’t be entirely safe.’
He also felt such doubts while fishing. A large number of people had to enter or leave the lake to get to the hidden city. There were many fish in the lake yet none were registered in the federation’s database. Wouldn’t everyone entering or leaving the city be aware that registering an unidentified creature receive compensation? There was no user who wouldn’t drool over bonus experience. Therefore he became nervous by the elder octopus’ words.
‘Did I make a mistake? Or perhaps Marquis Martin gave me the wrong information?’
“I want to ask one thing.”
Ark said before cutting to the chase. Once again, Ark didn’t come here to fish or find items.
“In fact, I came to this lake because I heard that there is a city of alien species here. I can’t tell you anymore but there is a reason I’m looking for the city. You’ve lived in the lake for a long time so you should be aware. Have you seen a city anywhere?”
The elder octopus’ eyes widened.
–Like you said, we’ve lived in this place for a few years. Although we don’t dare go onto land where there are monsters, we know everything about this lake. But I’ve never seen something like a city. If such a thing was here then isn’t is impossible for us not to see it?
Something was strange. Ark’s heart started beating quickly and he spoke again.
“Then it doesn’t have to be a city. A strange place is fine…..”
–A strange place…..
The elder octopus suddenly flinched and his head turned to a worried colour. There was something. Ark sensed it after seeing the elder’s head change colour.
“Anything is fine. If there is something strange then tell me.”
–No, this is unrelated to the city you’re searching for. But telling you about it isn’t difficult. In fact, in this lake a prohibited area exists.
–Yes, it is a place that a whirlpool occasionally occurs. When we first came here a young octopus….no, some young Charenjok wanted to test their bravery and entered. But not 1 person returned. The problem is that their bodies weren’t found. It was like they just disappeared or evaporated. A search party was sent but they completely disappeared too. It isn’t just the whirlpool. Sometimes people would disappear even when there was no whirlpool. Approximately 50 Charenjok ended up disappearing. So I declared that area prohibited and nobody goes near it anymore.
The elder octopus sighed and looked around.
–That’s why the village’s atmosphere is like this.
In fact, Ark also thought the atmosphere of the village was odd when he first came here. All of the octopuses’ heads were a green colour. At first he thought it was something to do with the lake’s water quality but they seemed to have some worries. Ark had experienced with these colour changes so he knew they were feeling ‘fidgety’ and ‘worried.’ Of course, Ark wasn’t interested in the octopuses’ emotional state. But he was interested in the prohibited area. Sometimes a whirlpool would appear and the octopuses would disappear?
‘Maybe it is connected to why I can’t find Charem.’
“Has something happened?”
–That….you can’t help even if you know.
Right now every bit of information was important to Ark.
“I am someone who thinks of the Charenjok as a friend of the heart. It is because of my sincerity that Burum on R-14 gave me the token.”
Ark wasn’t telling the whole truth. He was the type to distort the truth if it suited his purposes.
“You might not be the ones I shared a friendship with but I consider all Charenjok my friends. If I can then I would like to help. If you have a problem then please tell me.”
–To think I would meet a human who says something like this.
The elder octopus looked impressed and nodded.
-The problem isn’t a big secret. A few days ago a couple of young Charenjok disappeared. We belatedly discovered this and went out to search. We swept the lake for a few days but didn’t find them. The only place we didn’t search is the prohibited area. It is obvious that the young Charenjok headed to that area.
“Why would the young Charenjok head to that place?”
-A few months ago there was another incident where a few Charenjok disappeared. They chased after the rare Elephant fish that isn’t easily seen and entered the prohibited area.
Ark couldn’t understand those words. The Elephant fish that the elder octopus mentioned was one that Ark named directly. It had only been named a few days ago but the NPC mentioned it casually like they had been calling it that for a long time. Once again he realized that he was inside a game.
‘Should I have given it a more plausible name?’
It felt bad hearing the name from somebody else’ mouth. Anyway, the elder octopus continued talking.
–The ones who disappeared this time are the family of the Charenjok from the previous incident. We told them that they absolutely shouldn’t go to the prohibited area…..in the end things turned out like this. But if we send another search party to the prohibited area then the situation will repeat again and again……
The heads of the octopuses gathered around the elder turned even paler. Hearing the situation again made them more nervous. But in the next moment their heads simultaneously turned white. It was due to Ark’s subsequent words.
“I will look for them.”
-What, what the? What did you say?
“I will go to the prohibited area and look for the Charenjok.”
-W-what….didn’t you hear me? You won’t come back alive once you enter the prohibited area.
“I will still enter.”
Ark said with a resolute expression.
“I’m a pioneer. A pioneer’s pleasure is to pursue unknown areas! Of course a pioneer has to risk their life for that. It is better for a qualified person like me to go.”
–But they’ve already disappeared for a few days. They probably already…..
“I’ll go check.”
Ark approached the elder octopus and grabbed his shoulder firmly.
“Like I said, the Charenjok is a friend of my heart. I will overcome danger and enter the prohibited area to look for the young Charenjok. How can I say the Charenjok is a friend of my heart when I ignore their plight? Please tell me the location of the prohibited area. I will be happy to enter a place of death if it means saving the Charenjok.”
It was the place where he had to search for Charem. However, if he already needed to enter then he might as well get some benefit from the octopuses. The octopuses had run away from monsters and slave traders and hid various items behind rocks and weeds in the lake. Therefore the octopus might give him something valuable. He also might find a useable item. Anyway!
The octopuses were impressed. Their heads turned such a bright red that it seemed like they were going to explode.
–Did you hear? I brought that human here!
The octopus that Ark fished up exclaimed.
–Awesome! This is the first time I’ve seen such a brave human!
The octopuses spilled ink as they moved their bodies excitedly. The sight caused goose bumps to form on his body.
Their impressed behaviour continued for a while. The elder octopus who also looked impressed finally said.
–I understand. If that is your intention then I won’t stop you anymore. I’m truly ashamed but I must respectfully ask for your help. I have my pride but right now I am speaking for the Charenjok. I can’t just send you to your possible death while looking for the young Charenjok without anything.
‘Is it a prepayment? They’re giving me something first?’
Expectation filled his face. Ark’s eyes shone like lanterns at the thought. The elder octopus fiddled with the token and nodded.
–It looks like the seal hasn’t been released from this token yet.
–Yes, a special ancient power is sealed within the tokens given to the Charenjok elders. Of course, this power still has an effect now. But the seal has to be released through a special ritual for the true power to be shown. Elder Burum who gave you this token is probably young and inherited it from another elder.
The octopuses exclaimed with surprise after hearing their elder’s words.
–No! Why is Elder-nim……
–Yes, Elder-nim we are refugees who lost our home and are drifting through the galaxy. Only a few elders remain in this galaxy. Of course we are thankful to the human but he hasn’t found the young Charenjok yet……
‘What the, what is this? Why are they in an uproar?’
The atmosphere was hard to understand. It was obvious that the octopuses didn’t like it at all. However the elder octopus was determined.
–It is already decided!
The elder octopus replied in a firm voice. And….all of a sudden he bit at his legs? Why was he suddenly biting off a leg? Was he telling Ark to bite the octopus leg while searching for the prohibited area? Just as Ark was thinking this. The elder octopus placed his leg and the token on a table. And the leg was attached to the token.
Bbok! Bbok! Bbok! Bbok!
After a long time. The bouncing octopus leg lost its elasticity and fell. Light was then emitted from the chewed off leg.
|-The level of the Charenjok’s Token (Special) has increased!
Charenjok’s Token (Special) Lv 2
Item type: Recovery
The power of the token received from Burum on R-14 was blocked by a special seal. Bakum the leader of the Charenjok hiding on Istana was impressed by your courage and released the seal. The seal being released means that 2 health will be recovered every 4 seconds for 10 minutes. In addition, experience will accumulate every time it is used and it can evolve to a stronger token.
<Recovery from poison, your health will recover by 2 every 4 seconds for 10 minutes
‘What, what the? The Charenjok’s Token is a growth type item?’
Ark’s eyes popped out at the information window. Originally the Charenjok’s Token restored 1 health every 3 seconds for 10 minutes for a total of 200 health recovered. 200~300 health recovered was useful but it became less so once his health increased over 1,000. Now the item restored 2 health every 4 seconds for a total of 300. That was an extra 100 health recovered in 10 minutes. It wasn’t a big different but the recovery would increase with each level up. When used steadily it could increase to 100, 200, 300…..it would recover more health. It could grow! There was nothing more exciting for a RPG user. An item that could grow was a jackpot! He was just wasting time when he fished up an octopus and received a jackpot like this. He also didn’t understand it yet but he received a possible clue to find Charem.
‘A big fish! I really fished up something big!’
It was truly a game. But there was a part he didn’t like.
‘Damn that Burum! If he unsealed it immediately then how much would it have grown by now? Ah, I really become mad when thinking about it. I explained everything when handing over the paid hunting ground and he just chucked the token at me! That bastard, are his 8 legs so valuable that he can’t part with one?’
Ark thought casually. Anyway, the elder octopus looked tired after breaking the seal and he said.
–This is the only thing I can give you for entering the dangerous prohibited area. It is only a little bit but I hope the broken seal is useful. So I beg you to search.
The elder said to Ark while his hands were pressing against his wound.
–I’m asking you. The young Charenjok are our hope. It might be too late but I’m not giving up yet. Even finding our children’s body would be good. This is the last request of this old man.
At the same time an information window appeared.
|<Under the Black Water>
The Charenjok living in the northern lake of Istana have discovered a fearful secret about the lake. Sometimes a whirlpool would appear in a certain area of the lake and any Charenjok who encounter it won’t return.
Now some young Charenjok who think of it as a ghost story has disappeared in the prohibited area. You have volunteered to investigate the prohibited area and Bakum was so impressed that he released the seal on your token. You have already received your reward. Now investigate the prohibited area and find the whereabouts of the Charenjok children.
Bbol bbol bbol bbol, bbol bbol bbol bbol.
Ark sat cross legged on the air board and looked around. The air board was moving across the lake towards the prohibited area Bakum told him about.
“I feel a little uneasy but…..”
Ark had received the quest to investigate the prohibited area but he actually felt uneasy.
‘I’ve heard various things from the octopuses but I don’t know anything about the prohibited area. And there is no way of discovering what is there.’
Ark only knew one piece of information. The Charenjok frequently disappeared in that area. The Charenjok didn’t have any combat power but their environmental adaptation was excellent. Furthermore, the Charenjok were octopuses so underwater was their home environment. It was difficult to imagine the Charenjok disappearing in the whirlpool. No, even if they were caught in the swirl at least their bodies should be discovered in the lake.
‘There is no doubt that there is something else apart from the whirlpool. I don’t know what it is but it is clearly dangerous if not even 1 octopus managed to return.’
That wasn’t the only problem.
‘Does Charem really have something to do with the prohibited area?’
He kind of wasn’t happy about it. Ark had received Marquis Martin’s GPS information and had to sneak into Charem. So Charem was hostile territory. The city wasn’t a safe place. No, it was difficult to predict what could happen so it might even more dangerous than hunting monsters.
‘There is no doubt that it is dangerous.’
He didn’t have a choice about finding Charem. He knew the risks beforehand but now he was actually trying to reach it. Therefore he started to worry about the death penalty. Since arriving at the lake, he had wasted 2 STK-VII and gained 15 levels. His worries were endless.
“I don’t know when I will be in a city again…..”
There was no Fairy in the Outlands so the death penalty would be enormous. The longer he spent hunting, the higher the death penalty would be. Especially if there was a lot of danger. The burden increased by 100 times! However, he couldn’t visit a city every time he entered a dangerous area. The resurrection system in Galaxian wasn’t that severe. There were places in the Outlands with a Fairy for users like Ark. They were pioneer villages called Sector.
‘But there aren’t a lot of users yet so the closest sector is 600 km from Nabe. Furthermore, many high level monsters inhabit the area between Nabe and the lake. If I have bad luck and encounter a level 100 monster……’
GAME OVER! He would be throwing everything away in his attempt to register. But it took 4 days for a round trip to Nabe and back so he couldn’t do that.
‘Yes, it is slightly worrying but I don’t know anything about the situation yet. I haven’t entered yet so even the danger is just my guess. I can’t waste 4 days on danger that isn’t verified. I might encounter similar situations from now on so I can’t run back to a city or sector every time. This is a risk that all users in Galaxian have to take. It is why I selected the Survivor body coating. I decided after investigating Fairy registration.’
That was Ark’s decision.
In fact, Bakum hadn’t entered the prohibited area so he didn’t know the exact location where the octopuses disappeared. He only guessed that area wasn’t normal when no octopuses returned.
-There is a place 30 km from here where there is a large rock with a tunnel in it. The Charenjok disappeared around that rock.
That was the only information Bakum gave. But it was easier to find the destination then he thought. He could easily find the large rock that Bakum spoke about. Both sides form a tunnel while the maroon water inside was so dark that it seemed black. This was the place where the ghost story originated from!
“Yes, this really gives off a creepy atmosphere.”
He couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable again once he saw the place. However, he couldn’t run back to Nabe like a frightened puppy. And Ark still had a trump card. He still had one STK-VII grenade with destructive power remaining. Of course, there was only one left so he could only use it in the worst situation but it would stop him from dying.
“Shall I make some preparations? Character information window! Equipment! Skill!”
|Character Information Window|
|Health||1,600 (+90)||Mental Power||800|
Cleaning Foreman (Agility + 3)
Ignorant Destroyer (Wisdom -10, Strength +7, Stamina +7)
Beltana’s Hero (Strength, Agility, Stamina, Wisdom, Intelligence, Luck +3)
|* Galactic Federation Contribution: 3,000|
|*Body Coating: Survivor
+ Environmental adaptation increases by 50% due to the Survivor coating.
+ The Survivor coating reduces the drop rate of Satiety by 30%.
+ The Survivor coating will reduce fall damage by 50%.
+The ‘Clairvoyance’ effect of the Survivor coating is applied.
|-Equipment Information Window-|
Armour: <Bhurad’s Energy Shield>, <Harkenion Armour>, <Beginner’s Leather Pants>, <Pioneer’s Boots>
Accessories: <Charenjok’s Token: Lv 2> <Cheksun’s Tool Box>, <Battle Suit>
|-Skill Information Window-|
|* Passive *
<Space Combat (Lv 2)> <Facilities Maintenance (Lv 2)>, <Swamp Walking (+Snow Walking) (Lv 2)>, <Metallurgy (Lv1), <Steel Stomach (Lv 1)>
|* Active (General Common)*
<Dig (Lv 2), <Withdrawal (Lv 1), <Hacking (Lv 1), <Fishing (Lv 1)>
|* Active (Battle Specialization)*
<Dagger Mastery (Lv 1), <Sword Mastery (Lv 1), <Close Marksmanship (Lv 2)>
|* Active (Survivor Exclusive)*
<Binding Sword (Lv 1), <Mind Shield (Lv 1), <Stealth (Lv 1)>
It had been 4 months since he started Galaxian. Everything Ark had obtained during that time was shown at once. This was probably the most rewarding moment for users in RPG games. The results of all his efforts could clearly be seen!
“But the skill window……”
Facilities Maintenance, Hacking, Dig, Metallurgy and even Fishing! He felt like he started off in a strange place. In fact, it wasn’t just in Galaxian. During his previous game, he had a lot of curiosity and ended up with a lot of similar skills. These skills were considered difficult to grow so the majority of users didn’t like them. However, Ark became the strongest person in New World due to these skills. The important thing was to learn to take advantage of every skill!
Ark smiled and closed the information window. His equipment and skill inspection was finished.
“Now, let’s go!”
Ark plunged into the lake. Ark gathered the floating air board and dived in. The rock tunnel that Bakum mentioned was quite deep underneath the water. Ark used the Wire Camera to check inside the tunnel and he still couldn’t reach the end. The Wire Camera was the reason he hadn’t immediately dived in.
Bugul bugul, bugul, bugul.
He blew some air bubbles while diving down. The Nymphe depth gauge said he reached 50 metres before his feet touched the ground. The tunnel and 50 metres depth meant the water was pitch dark.
However, he could see 10 metres in front of him thanks to the Clairvoyance skill he received from the Survivor coating.
‘The search area isn’t wide but this should be enough.’
Ark started to earnestly search in the dark water. He went back and forth for a while and checked the opposite end of the tunnel a couple of times. However, he couldn’t find anything like what Bakum mentioned. All he saw were Mouse fish and Elephant Fish…..Ark’s unfortunate naming sense meant the fish were wandering around with horrible names.
‘The problem is…..’
He couldn’t find anything. Bakum said that dozens of octopuses went missing here. And some young octopuses had entered here a few days ago. So why wasn’t there even the slightest trail? He couldn’t even find tracks from an octopus leg.
‘It must be this method!’
Therefore Ark brought out his shovel! Ark went back to the beginning and started to dig at the ground. Despite his Dig skill reaching intermediate level, he was 50 metres deep so digging the ground wasn’t that easy. The buoyancy meant it was difficult to move the shovel. However, Ark didn’t give up and kept on using the shovel. Dust rose up all around him.
Ku ku ku ku! Ku ku ku ku!
Suddenly there was a roaring sound and the floor shook. At the same time, a huge amount of mud rose up and bubbles appeared. A red eye peered at Ark through the dust. The identity of the massive object was revealed.
Air bubbles emerged from Ark’s mouth. The translation of the bubbles……
A lobster had risen through the ground! The size was 5 metres! It was a huge lobster where the pincers were 1 metre.