"This is a restricted area!"
After having dinner with Jane, Eddie and the new addition to the bunch, Elise and then making sure that the latter is capable of returning by herself, Nex logged back into the game.
Instead of the quiet Dwarf Settlement, he found himself surrounded by countless of city guards and armed adventurers who stared at him with excessive caution.
"Show proof of your identification or we would have to use force!"
One of the higher ranked guards came out and asked Nex warily while putting his hand on his weapon, ready to draw it at any moment.
Nex didn't get excited nor let out a battlecry like a battle-hungry idiot. He instead had a calm voice when he murmured his reply.
"You sure arrived with a delegation. Weren't you told I already took care of this?"
"You think you can fool everyone? How can a First Awakening man deal with a demon rift? I bet you took all the credit from the one who really did it!"
An arrogant voice was heard before the guard can open his mouth. A young blond boy in his teens came out of the crowd, wearing fancy clothes and had an Adventures Guild Badge on his chest. It was different from Nex's as it had two green stars which indicates the lowest rank in his awakening level.
Nex gave the young man a what-do-you-want-from-me-kid kind of glance before turning back to the guard and handed him his own Adventurer Guild Badge.
"Here you go, young man. One proof of identification."
The middle-aged guard's mouth twitched as he took the badge and examined it. His eyes widened in shock. On the other hand, the young boy was fuming from the reception he got. He reached for his sword.
"How dare you!"
But before he can completely pull out his sword, several earth spikes came out from the ground and stopped just a few centimeters from his vital spots. He was forced to stay in place, unmoving.
Almost immediately, everyone pulled their weapons out and pointed them at Nex. He remained unperturbed during this entire event and just stared at the guard with a calm gaze.
He acted like this whole event wasn't related to him in the least as he patiently waited for the guard to finish inspecting his badge.
Indeed, the guard waved his hand at the crowd as he sighed.
"Stay your hand. He is a Master Rank."
Hearing his command, the people lowered their weapons and began to whisper to each other.
"So, he is the new Master Rank?"
"I heard he managed to land a hit on the Guild Master!"
"On the Guild Master? Then it really might actually be him who destroyed the rift!"
Nex wasn't interested a bit to the gossip mill and just talked to the guard.
"Say, where is the Settlement Head? I need to continue on my journey and I want to say goodbye before I go."
"You can meet him. He is in his home. Before you go though, I need you to give me the full account of events so I could pass the record to the Kingdom and the Adventures Guild. This should be done so they can reward you accordingly."
Nex knew that he would have to do it as it was the protocol. He simply nodded.
Seeing Nex's compliance, the guard's face brightened as he internally sighed in relief. Usually, people with this type of rank are a bit... eccentric. Most of the time, they have troubles with these types of procedures.
"Great! Then, please follow me."
The crowd that previously stared at Nex with wariness and doubt are now looking at him with admiration and awe. All, except for a single pair of eyes that looked at the silver-haired man's back with hate.
In the last few days, the Guard Captain heard a couple of interesting rumors.
A young man in his First Awakening managed to hunt an Earth Drake along with ten different Elite Bosses all on his own. Not only that, the reason for all the slaying was just to learn how to cook!
The young man also went to the Adventures Guild in order to register. He used a recommendation letter from the legendary Mister Armstrong and immediately got a Master Rank after being tested directly by the Guild Master himself!
In addition, he heard from his old friend who was a guard in a remote village that a young man with similar features was able to reach the peak of Unawakened from being powerless in only a day and a half! What an unbelievable feat indeed!
And now, standing right in front of him was the very same young man. This young man was telling him how he had killed an army of Demons and even managed to defeat a soul projection of a Devil!
To be frank, if he didn't get a message from the Guild Master telling him not to underestimate this young man, he would have long thought that everything was nothing but one giant hoax.
"So you are saying that you defeated all of the Demons that came out of this rift. We searched the mines and indeed found a large number of Demon corpses. The bit of a problem here is that do you have any proof that you are the one who killed all of them?"
Nex rubbed his chin and thought of some shiny small objects. Demon cores.
"I gathered these from the stronger ones and as for the mobs, I can show you the type of attacks I have used. You can see if they match the corpses' wounds."
The Guard Captain's eyes turned round upon seeing the peak First Awakening ones. He lifted his head and stared at Nex deeply before shaking his head.
"No need for that, we saw that the Demons that those cores belonged to were slain in the same way as the lower ranked ones. However, we didn't find any signs of the soul projection of the Devil that you spoke of. Do you have any way to prove your claim?"
Nex removed the glove from his hand to show the tattoo there.
"Well, I do have something. This is also the reason why nothing remained from that soul projection."
The Guard examined the crest more closely, only to feel great shock rising inside him.
"It's a [Crest of the Chosen]! But I never heard of this before. Since when did the main mark become so blurred?"
His vision landed then landed on the smaller marking that was next to the large one.
"This is a [Proof of Devil Slaying]!"
The Guard lifted his head and stared at Nex with a weird gaze.
"To think that the first [Devil Slayer] in the last decade did it while he was in his First Awakening... People won't believe me even if I swore to them!"
He felt a pat on his shoulder and saw Nex staring at him with an encouraging gaze.
"It's fine. I sincerely hope that they won't believe you."
After saying goodbye to the Old Dwarf, Nex left the settlement and continued his journey towards the Western City. He planned to arrive there in about six days and do a couple of stops here and there.
But before half an hour had passed since he went out of the settlement, he stopped in place and groaned.
"Why do people love to bother me?"
He murmured helplessly to himself before turning towards the forest behind him and yelled.
"I know you kids are following me!"
"Then you're not as incompetent as I thought."
A snickering voice was heard then the young boy from earlier came out along with three other kids with similar age, gear and Adventures Guild Badge.
"But don't think that it means that you are truly the one who killed those Demons! Not to mention the ridiculous story of the Devil! No matter what your rank is, you are still a nobody at mid-stage of First Awakening!"
"You followed me all this way just for this?"
Nex gave them a weird gaze then his face changed into wariness.
"Don't tell me you are here for my body! You followed me all this time because you were too mesmerized with my handsomeness to do anything else!"
Nex hugged his body like a girl who is about to be molested and gave a terrified and tearful expression.
"I can't let you! I won't be able to marry anyone if you do something to my inexperienced body!"
Imagine if the wife saw this scene and heard his claims...
The young boy denied with his face bright red and his body trembling with rage and humiliation. The two girls in his group, a cute and petite Thief and a lovely Elf Mage started to giggle and laugh.
"Maybe you should let it go, Sean? He got the approval of the Guard Captain after all. He is obviously not a bad person."
It was a struggle for the Mage to finish the entire sentence in between giggles.
"Thank you, milady."
Nex bowed slightly and flashed a smile towards the girl. It made her suddenly realize how handsome the man in front of them was, eliciting a deep blush from her. The other girl stared at her with envy.
"That's right, Sean."
The last member of their group, a burly Beastman Shield Bearer boy agreed.
"I can't feel anything bad from him. He most likely helped the one who killed the Demons hide his identity from the public."
As he said this, he pulled out two large shields and stared at Nex with fire in his eyes.
"But I do feel that fighting with him will be fun."
"Hold it, Paddington."
Nex held his hand and signaled for the Shield Bearer to stop and stared at the rest of the kids.
"If you wanted to fight, you could've just asked! You didn't need to try being cool like that blonde over there."
The blonde kid seemed like he was about to explode but he somehow managed to hold it in and turn to the girls.
"You heard what he said! You don't have excuses now, do you?"
The Mage rolled her eyes and turned to Nex with a sweet smile and a slight bow.
"Thank you for letting us fight you. I know it's disrespectful to challenge Masters and Paragons."
Nex waved his hand dismissively and signaled them after replacing his sword with the wooden one.
"Come. You can give me all you've got!"
Immediately, the kids spread out. The Thief vanished in the shadows. The Shield Bearer charging head on, like a mammoth with the blonde kid, Sean, in tow. Lastly, the Mage girl was lifting her wand and chanting at incredible speed which caused magic circles to appear at once.
"I see... So this is the power of Second Awakening. A little stronger than I initially thought but still manageable."
Nex stood there with his arms crossed. It was like he was just watching a movie and not waiting to be attacked. He was leisurely enough to give out comments.
The phrase "still manageable" is something that only Nex could say to the current players. The difference between First and Second Awakenings isn't just on the tripled stats effectiveness that will draw clear disparity in power. There is also the wider amount of additional abilities and most importantly, the greatly increased skill effectiveness that depends on one's job or proficiency that can exhibit powers far greater than before.
To exhibit the gap in the simplest way, imagine a stack of several rocks that should be broken through by using a skill. Before the Skill Enchantment, one could only manage to break two but after it, one could go through the eighth stacked rock. The discrepancy in the skill's effectiveness before and after the Skill Enchantment is that great.
By the time that Nex is done with his examination, the Shield Bearer arrived right in front of him and swung on his shields like an elephant swinging its trunk. The power behind the blow was nothing to joke about as the shield rapidly closed in on Nex and caused the air to vibrate.
"Well, I guess it's time for me to move."
Nex murmured as the shield smashed where he was. He was supposed to be messed up and bloody considering the force used and the weight of the shield but it just passed through its body like it had hit nothing but air.
"It's an afterimage!"
The Shield Bearer yelled. After he sensed danger from his side, he immediately turned with his shields covering his body, only to feel something hit his head. He heard a voice in his ears as his vision darkened.
"Your Beastman instincts are quite good. However, once you meet someone who has experience in fighting Beastmans, they will be nothing but a hindrance."
"Damn it! He got him!"
Sean cursed as he saw the Shield Bearer getting knocked out after getting a single hit from Nex. But as he saw the magic circles appearing around the latter's body, his mood turned better and he stepped back.
'Charging skills… And now single target spells…'
Nex smiled. The magic circles in his surroundings flashed. They shot fast and concentrated elemental bullets to where he was.
'These kids aren't half bad at all.'
"Did we get him?"
Numerous colorful explosions occurred when the bullets reached their destination. Since the elemental explosions obscured their vision, the kids weren't sure whether the Mage attack was able to hit Nex.
To their surprise, a heavily cracked hill, around 2 feet in circumference and 7.5 feet in height appeared at the spot where Nex was supposed to be.
"He's now trapped there!"
Knowing that their opponent could manipulate Earth, Sean wasn't surprised much. Instead, he used this opportunity to his favor. Streaming mana into his sword, he used a skill and smashed the hill with his sword.
The hill easily broke upon meeting the sword. But to Sean's shock, there was nobody there. Instead, the hill was full of stones. Suddenly, he heard the crying voice of the Mage.
The Mage took a step back in surprise and fear when Nex suddenly appeared in front of her. She clumsily tried to hit him with her wand but he easily dodged it and closed in on her.
"I'm not that scary, am I?"
Nex smiled at her warmly and tapped her forehead lightly.
Being exposed to Nex's charm directly, as a young girl, the Mage couldn't do anything but make unclear noises. She stared blankly as he tapped her forehead with mana imbued finger that caused her to lose her consciousness as she heard his words.
"Using a wide variety of elemental spells at your level is only useful when fighting against an enemy that can either defend against only one at a time. Or when wanting to find out what is the enemy's weakness. For the rest, it's just a pointless waste of mana and chanting time."
Lightly putting the young kid on the ground, Nex then took a step back immediately and put his bracelet forward.
The moment the shield was formed, he was met with an invisible blade. The force was strong enough to send Nex further back and break the shield a moment after the blade's momentum ended.
"Quite a force for a small girl…"
Nex smiled as he watched the little Thief vanishing into the shadows once again. The moment she completely faded, Nex turned around in an instant and swung his sword.
'[Martial Secret : Soft Force]'
Instead of the sound of two swords clashing strongly, the small sound of tapping was heard as Sean's sword met Nex's. Sean's eyes widened in shock as he felt that all the momentum and power in his sword and hand disappearing.
Nex didn't give him time to speak as he kicked his chest and threw him dozens of meters back. Without wasting any more time, he turned around in place and clapped his hand strongly.
'[Martial Secret : Stun Clap]'
Like a flashbang, Nex's clap caused an ear-deafening sound and spread a flash of light that for a moment, made the world white.
The pained voice of a young girl was heard and when the light died out, the little Thief was crouching on the ground, holding her ears tightly while closing her eyes.
Nex got right in front of her in an instant and put his hand on her head.
The girl felt warm energy entering her head and spreading to her eyes and ears. Slowly opening her eyes, instead of white, she saw Nex smiling amiably at her and patting her head.
Blushing heavily, the girl tried to go away but for some reason, she couldn't nor she wanted to get away from his warm hand. While she was in conflict, she heard Nex speaking to her as her eyes started to close.
"Your stealth and firepower are quite good. But you are too hesitant when it's time to act. Remember, a good assassin only needs to do one thing right. That is, to deliver the right attack at the right time."
Laying the girl on the ground softly, Nex then stood up and smiled at Sean who looked at him with shock and fear.
"Now then, from where do I begin with you?"
Author: matanman. Proofreader: bet2z.
Open to any review and will be open to questions on my Discord channel: https://discord.gg/TXFKER6.
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