I Gave Up Being Stronger-Chapter 134
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During Cha Jin-Hyeok’s time as a government official, his social status fluctuated daily. After handling an incident well, he would be hailed as a national hero. However, if he made a slight mistake, he was treated like garbage by everyone.
To put it nicely, it was a shift in his social status, but in reality, it meant he was just a punching bag for the public.
However, things began to change significantly after Wang Yu-Mi joined.
“Jin-Hyeok, you shouldn’t be doing that!”
One day, there was an incident with civilian casualties. Though the situation was complicated, the bottom line was that an entire family had died. To note, had Jin-Hyeok and his party tried to save them, they would have been the ones in danger.
As always, the media lashed out at them, and this time, Jin-Hyeok was their primary target. Demands poured in, urging him to make an official statement and apologize. Jin-Hyeok thought that, as a government official, he should comply with the public’s outcry. He believed it was the only way to enjoy the benefits provided by the government.
He believed that every gain came with a loss.
“Jin-Hyeok, you should just go with the bite-me approach.”
Yu-Mi’s direction, however, was different. Some might even call it peculiar.
“Trust me and go with it. Speak your mind. Say that you would have been in danger if you tried to save the family. Say that you are deeply regretting not being able to save them... Wait, no, just let me write your lines, and you can use them for the interview.”
Jin-Hyeok felt quite perplexed when he got the script (?) from Yu-Mi. His understanding of a public apology was typically humbly bowing down and saying that he was sorry. However, Jin-Hyeok was not even sure if this script could be called an apology. The main gist of it was, ‘I mourn the deaths deeply, but I did nothing wrong.’
“You want me to go on air with this? I’ll get heavily criticized, you know?”
“Just trust me. This is the right direction for your persona.”
Yu-Mi winked and flashed a sly grin.
“You are from the Moon King—”
“Of the Ashen World.”
Chills ran down his spine, and he fled from Yu-Mi.
Nevertheless, he followed her advice, and it surprisingly worked in his favor. He did not know why, but in Yu-Mi’s words, it was because of his hardcore fans, and his fandom. She said something about the ridiculously cringy Moon King of the Ashen World concept that somehow became a huge hit.
Many incidents occurred thereafter, but Yu-Mi’s advice always turned out to be the best.
‘I don't understand it, but let’s give it a try,’ Jin-Hyeok thought after reminiscing about the past.
? ? ?
Upon receiving Yu-Mi’s suggestion, Bong King was flabbergasted.
-Okay, I get that you want me to cover Kim Chul-Soo’s face.
Chul-Soo strictly livestreams only from a first-person perspective. Moreover, he always used the Deceiver’s Mask to conceal his true face.
Jin-Hyeok was about to reveal his true self, and Bong King understood why Yu-Mi wanted him to cover Jin-Hyeok’s face.
-But what’s the point in doing that now? Why reveal his face at this moment?
-There is a reason. You’ll see.
-From what I’ve gathered, Elines has a thing for handsome faces.
-Apparently, she was kidnapped by Jonprich because of it.
Yu-Mi started to write, ‘It wasn’t just about the looks. Jonprich used his unique dimensional fusion abilities and Spirit affinity techniques to gain her favor first...’ but she erased it all. These were trivial details. The important fact was that Elines, the Spirit Princess, had a fascination with handsome faces.
-Do you really think that this will work?
To Bong King, this strategy was insane.
-Do you really think it won’t?
A few minutes later, Bong King was taken aback. Elines, who had been paralyzed with fear till now, started to let her guard down. She stopped trying to escape. Bong King was momentarily speechless at the bizarre turn of events, but he was a professional Streamer.
“You can see Kim Chul-Soo from the back and Elines from the front. I don’t know what magic Chul-Soo has cast, but strangely, Elines seems to be responding to the interview. Fear is still evident in her eyes. What? Chul-Soo is reaching out his hand, and she’s taking it!”
Bong King shifted to where Jin-Hyeok was standing, maintaining a distance not to make Elines too anxious.
‘Fuck,’ Bong King thought.
There had been much speculation about why Chul-Soo never revealed his face. There were rumors about how he could have a significant burn scar or an incredibly ugly face. Some even speculated that he had tattoos that would invoke intimidation or disgust.
However, when Bong King saw Chul-Soo’s face, he felt a hint of defeat.
‘He is number one in the unofficial rankings without revealing that face? And he’s number one by a significant margin!’
Bong King believed that looks had a competitive edge. Being good-looking was undeniably advantageous. He suddenly felt envious of Jin-Hyeok, who held the top rank without displaying such an asset.
A voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Yes. My name is Elines. I was so scared~” Elines whimpered and hugged Jin-Hyeok. Jin-Hyeok, with his rugged hands, gently patted Elines’s back. At one point, Elines mumbled, “Please say everything is going to be okay~”
Bong King found it hard to comprehend what was going on.
‘Besides Chul-Soo revealing his face, what changed?’
Everything else seemed the same. Yet, Elines had lowered her guard and was now crying in Chul-Soo’s arms.
‘Is this for real?’
While Bong King was grappling with various feelings of defeat, a sudden burst of flames erupted. From the Spirit Gate, black flames surged. In an instant, the entire sewer was engulfed in the black fire.
Bong King could no longer continue the livestream.
‘What just happened?’
For a brief moment, it felt like his memory had been cut off.
“Did I just die?”
Looking around, it seemed everyone had died and resurrected from their save points.
‘Did even Choi Gang-Byeok die?’
“What happened? Were we attacked?” Bong King asked Gang-Byeok.
“I didn’t see any attacks.”
Unlike the others who had unknowingly faced death, Gang-Byeok had confronted a substantial terror.
“The Spirit King of Fire killed us merely with his presence,” Gang-Byeok said.
“With just his presence? Is that even possible?”
“I don’t know. It’s the first time I have experienced this.”
Gang-Byeok bit his lip. Even if their opponent was the mighty Spirit King of Fire, to die without even experiencing an actual attack was unsettling.
“One thing is for sure... If the Spirit King of Fire had truly tried to kill us...,”
Gang-Byeok felt a shiver down his spine, foreseeing a grim possibility.
“Our resurrection setting would have probably broken. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.”
Then, Gang-Byeok glanced around and clenched his fist.
“Chul-Soo is not here.”
It was clear that Chul-Soo had survived the Spirit King of Fire’s overpowering presence. The fact that he lived while Gang-Byeok had died was a huge blow to his ego. Gang-Byeok walked over to Lee Hyeon-Seong and sat next to him.
“Your sword technique, I saw that, Hyeon-Seong.”
“Show that sword technique to me as well.”
Though Gang-Byeok’s speech pattern seemed a bit off, probably influenced by Chul-Soo, Gang-Byeok didn’t realize it.
“My sword?” Hyeon-Seong asked.
“We now share a common goal. He is just a Streamer, but he is tougher than a Tank and stronger than a Swordsman. At least in our domain, our field, don’t we need to beat him?”
“...I guess you’re right.”
A spark ignited in Hyeon-Seong’s eyes.
“There is no point re-entering the sewers now. We can’t do anything, so...”
Hyeon-Seong drew his sword. Actions always spoke louder than words.
“Let’s go! It’s time for some training! Try and cut me!”
“If you wish.”
Bong King, observing their sudden enthusiasm, was utterly bewildered.
“They’re sparring all of the sudden?”
Externally, Bong King continued to livestream, but internally, he wanted to scream.
‘You crazy bastards! Why are you suddenly sparring here? It’s been less than three minutes since we resurrected! And why are you talking like you’re in a historical drama?!’
Sweat trickled down Bong King’s back.
‘They’re being influenced by Kim Chul-Soo...’
Bong King internally vowed that he would never go mad like them.
‘I will not be infected by the Kim Chul-Soo virus!’
? ? ?
A loud voice echoed in the sewer.
The sewer was already filled with the black flames summoned by Alkinas.
The hottest and most malevolent fire in the universe.
A hellfire manipulated by the deranged Spirit King of Fire.
It was the Tainted Flames.
Jin-Hyeok almost let out a sly laugh.
‘All the party members died.’
They all perished with the arrival of the Spirit King of Fire.
‘But I survived!’
It was burning hot, but it was somewhat bearable.
‘Three minutes? No, four minutes? No, maybe even five minutes? I think I can hold out for five minutes!’
Jin-Hyeok could feel the bloodlust of the Spirit King of Fire. The sharp and piercing aura felt like hundreds of spears stabbing him. His consciousness felt shredded, and his body felt like it was about to be torn into hundreds of pieces.
However, amidst all of this, he felt exhilarated.
‘I want to withstand it for at least five minutes.’
Had it been his Swordsman days, he could not even think about withstanding the heat. His resistance to fire would have been weaker than now. This was all thanks to properly consuming the Phoenix Heart.
‘Compared to my past self, the current me is stronger. At least when it comes to fire resistance.’
This sense of surpassing his former self elated Jin-Hyeok.
‘I wish the flames would surge just a bit more.’
Unfortunately, the situation did not last long. Elines stood between Jin-Hyeok and Alkinas.
With her short arms spread wide, Elines blocked her father.
“Daddy! He is on my side!”
“Elly, move out of the way!”
“No! He is a good person!”
The standoff persisted for a while. The Spirit King of Fire’s daughter restored the sanity of her father. Before long, the Tainted Flames that had filled the surroundings died down, and the sharp bloodlust directed at Jin-Hyeok gradually subsided.
‘I lasted three minutes and twenty seconds.’
It was an astonishing achievement for Jin-Hyeok.
For a novice, at least by Jin-Hyeok’s standards, who had not even reached Level 150, to withstand the Tainted Flames invoked by the furious Spirit King of Fire for a whole three minutes and twenty seconds was no small feat.
‘’I’d love to experiment more... but now is probably not the right time.’
The Spirit King of Fire and his daughter were having a tearful reunion. Being a Streamer, Jin-Hyeok felt obligated to capture this touching moment dramatically.
‘Some background music would be perfect right now.’
However, he had no idea which track to play or from which angle to shoot the scene. Once again, he found himself reflecting.
‘I’ve always just been fighting haphazardly and strategizing for Hidden Achievements that I’ve never thought about how to produce delicate and heartwarming scenes.’
This was a new challenge for Jin-Hyeok. Upon reflection, Kang Mi-Na was incredibly skilled at this kind of thing—evoking emotions with her production.
He felt he might have to shadow Mi-Na in the future and learn a thing or two.
“...Yes! That Oppa saved me! He also said everything was going to be okay!”
It took quite a long time for things to finally settle down. Exhausted from crying, Elines fell asleep comfortably nestled on her father’s back.
The Spirit King of Fire, Alkinas, approached Jin-Hyeok.
“I apologize for the misunderstanding. And thank you.”
“There is nothing to thank me for. I simply kept the Spirits’ promise.”
Alkinas flinched slightly.
“Do you not feel my presence?”
“I feel it. Your mere presence burned and killed all my comrades.”
“Fascinating. Most tremble in fear in my presence.”
It was typical for most to be so overwhelmed by his presence that they could not even lift their heads.
However, Jin-Hyeok was different.
‘It’s not just about concealing fear. This guy genuinely does not feel any fear toward me,’ the Spirit King of FIre thought. freewebnove(l)
It almost felt as if a part of Jin-Hyeok’s brain was malfunctioning.
“Rare to meet a madman these days,” the Spirit King of Fire said.
‘Did he just call me a madman? Me? Who is sanely and diligently growing as a Streamer?’ Jin-Hyeok thought. He sought affirmation from his viewers.
“Don’t you guys agree that this is crossing the line?”
Slightly frowning, Jin-Hyeok asked the Spirit King of Fire, “Is that how you address someone who just saved your daughter?”
“I meant it as a compliment. I quite like madmen. Your affinity with fire is beyond imagination. By any chance, did you consume the Phoenix Heart? I even sense the Flame of Nebidia in you.”
“I did consume both of them.”
“You managed to survive then. Normally, one would have been burned to ashes.”
“I was lucky.”
“Do you think merely being lucky would have been enough to survive? At a bare minimum, you must have been born with an extraordinary affinity for fire.”
Alkinas hummed thoughtfully and seemed lost in his thoughts for a while. After some time, he finally seemed to make up his mind.
“Listen, lend me your hand for a moment. I need to verify something.”