Chapter 21. Deal (2)
“What are you gonna do with all that?”
Kahn asked Yeon-woo with a disgusted look.
Yeon-woo stopped collecting the Troll’s skin and looked up at Kahn.
"Didn't I tell you? The blood is an ingredient for potions....”
"No, I wasn’t asking about that."
"Well, what’s the point of keeping the materials? You must have gathered a lot of Karma by now. And you’re definitely not stopping, right? Then why can’t you just buy items with your Karma?"
Once players made their entrance into The Tower, Karma points could be used as currency. If they wanted an item or an artifact, they could pay Karma to purchase whatever they needed. Therefore, players weren’t too keen on looting materials which were considered as ‘scrap items’ from monsters’ carcasses.
Even if they really needed materials, they’d prefer to hire other players or simply buy them with points.
Of course, rare materials from greater monsters like an Elder Dragon were a different story. Even so, those items were for giant clans or special raiding teams to deal with. That's why solo players rarely handled scrap items.
However, Kahn noticed that even while they were speedrunning through the sections, Yeon-woo was never reluctant to gather materials from dead bodies. Ever since hunting Goblins, whenever he found intact carcasses he would make a pause to loot.
His looting process was also very delicate. When filling a bottle with blood, he would make his best effort to not get the blood mixed with foreign substances, and when collecting important materials he wrapped them in leather and stored them separately.
Because of this, despite his effort to take with him only valuable ingredients, Yeon-woo's backpack was so full of materials that it looked like a balloon that was about to burst.
"I have plans for these materials."
“If you say so."
Kahn no longer tried to understand Yeon-woo.
Although his actions appeared to be meaningless to Kahn, he discovered that each of them was thoroughly planned.
Besides, knowing that individualism was major element of The Tower, he couldn’t meddle in Yeon-woo’s business. But he was far too nosy to endure his growing curiosity, so he asked one last question.
"By the way, is there anyone who can handle so many ingredients all at once? Don't get caught up in a scam and end up crying like a baby."
After packing all the ingredients, Yeon-woo lifted the backpack with his shoulders. Because of the tears and punctures it got from previous sections, his backpack had patches of leather all over the place, giving off an uncanny impression.
"I do know a blacksmith."
"Oh. He must be good then?"
Yeon-woo shrugged his shoulders and walked past Kahn. He didn’t want to bother talking anymore.
Kahn only smacked his lips.
‘Gosh, what a jerk.'
During the whole time he stayed beside Yeon-woo, the biggest thing that Kahn had felt so far was that Yeon-woo always played his cards close to his chest.
As far as he knew, most people tended to share their stories after hanging around for a while. However, Yeon-woo never brought up anything about his identity. He only spoke what he needed to say.
Sometimes, his callous look from underneath the white mask gave him chills on the back.
Of course, in the dog-eat-dog world of the tutorial and The Tower, his personality wasn't necessarily bad. He knew Yeon-woo was trying not to reveal his weaknesses.
Also, his friendliness might have looked suspicious to Yeon-woo, since they were barely acquainted with each other. But still, he had this ‘feeling’ that Yeon-woo was intentionally building a wall around himself.
Kahn prided himself on being highly sociable and profoundly empathetic. Due to that, he could feel it more so.
‘But there are not many players with that much skill, I'd like to keep him close if possible.’
Kahn stroked his chin with his hand.
If he were to describe Yeon-woo with one word, he would say ‘reliable’. Although he never talked about himself, he also never interfered with other people's affairs. And at the same time, he conducted his work without a complaint. He even showed excellent ability by clearing two sections nonstop.
Kahn wanted Yeon-woo so badly because he had a ‘big plan’ in mind. He wanted him, not for this raid only, but for the whole journey throughout The Tower. But he felt like Yeon-woo wasn’t letting him get closer.
‘Maybe it’s his mask.'
By the time Kahn finished thinking, Yeon-woo had already opened the iron gate leading outside of Section D.
He felt the whole cave quaking when he pushed the iron gate that was thicker than any other the gate they had passed.
Then, a stream of warm and bright sunshine poured inside the cave where only dim lights gleamed. There, he saw the blue sky.
[You have successfully cleared Section D as a solo player.]
[You have made an achievement that is not easily accomplished. Additional Karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 3,000 Karma.]
[You have acquired 2,000 additional Karma.]
[Your health and mana will be restored]
[All status effects will be removed]
[You have entered Section E]
[You have successfully reached the Outer Area. Additional Karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 1,000 additional Karma.]
Yeon-woo swept his hair back with his hands. A fresh crisp breeze came blowing towards him. He felt extremely refreshed.
"Ugh! It was getting stuffy in there!"
"I'm a little sad to leave. It was the perfect place for a nap."
Kahn stretched himself, and Doyle rubbed his sleepy eyes.
The tutorial could be roughly categorized into two areas. The ‘Inner Area’ and ‘Outer Area’.
The Inner Area referred to the first areas ranging from Section A to Section D, which were designed to help new players realize their level of skill and to train for what they lacked. The Outer Area referred to the later areas ranging from Section E to Section G, which tested the skills that players’ had trained in the Inner Area and had them attest to their qualifications.
Usually, players would easily accumulate stress because the trials in the Inner Area were conducted in narrow caves and passageways with bad lighting and poor ventilation. But there was nothing like that in the Outer Area.
Seeing the outside world after so long, Yeon-woo also felt the stuffiness going away. But he couldn't relax because he knew that The Outer Area would be even more dangerous than the Inner Area.
"Until Section D the space was limited by walls, so I only had to watch out within a certain range. There's nothing like that from Section E onward.’
Being in an open area also meant exposing himself to the enemy.
Different messages started popping up while Yeon-woo was focused on his thoughts.
[The challenge of Section E will begin.]
At that moment, Yeon-woo saw a flash of light on his palm.
A small bead about the size of half a finger appeared where the light had just flashed.
[You have been given one ‘Token’. Multiple Tokens are hidden throughout Section E, they can also be transferred or traded between players. Collect 99 Tokens to ascertain your qualifications]
Yeon-woo fidgeted with the bead-shaped Token. Next to him, Kahn watched with nauseated look.
"It pisses me off whenever I see that."
Yeon-woo looked at the Token quietly.
Yeon-woo focused on the message about the Token being able to be transferred or traded between players. This meant that it was possible to threaten or even kill others to take their Tokens.
To find Tokens hidden throughout the whole Section E was a difficult task. Rather than that, it was easier to stay hidden and ambush other players and kill them to steal their Tokens.
It was as plain as day which option players would choose.
His brother had a hard time dealing with such problems. But what made Arthia distinguish itself from the others was that despite all the temptations, they managed to pass Section E solely by collecting hidden Tokens without resorting to betrayal.
‘Those Hyenas will surely come for me.'
The scavengers, also known as Hyenas. Section E was infested with Hyenas using the forest as their cloak. He had to watch out for them.
Then, Yeon-woo suddenly recalled the nefarious team he saw in the diary. The ones who captured players alive and used them to farm Tokens.
His brother and Arthia stepped up and wreaked havoc on their team, but what if the remnants or other copycats made a resurgence?
Then Yeon-woo shook his head at the idea. Unlike his righteous and altruistic brother, he was a completely self-centered person. Even if he witnessed such crimes, he would most likely ignore it. His hands were already full with his own business. He had to stay out of trouble.
Then Yeon-woo glanced toward the two standing next to him.
To his relief, Kahn and Doyle only stared at Yeon-woo's Token, and they didn’t look interested in taking it. It seemed like they had already collected quite a lot of Tokens before going back to Section B.
‘Or they could’ve already collected all 99 Tokens.’
Yeon-woo then put his Token in his mouth and swallowed it.
Kahn and Doyle looked at him with a newfound interest. By swallowing Token, Yeon-woo showed his will of not yielding to other players until dead. They got a glimpse of Yeon-woo's conviction.
"I’m done reading messages, so let's get a move on. You said you’re looking for a hidden piece in Section E, correct? Then let’s get it done now. I have to go find Tokens afterward"
"Yeah, but there’s quite a distance from here. It’s gonna take us a while until we get there."
"Then we’ll gather Tokens on our way."
"Fine by me."
Kahn took the lead and set off on their way.
Yeon-woo and Doyle followed behind.
* * *
Section E boasts a much larger and wider area than all four of the preceding sections combined.
Thanks to this, each area has its own geographic feature within a different environment, forming a unique ecosystem.
Small hills are spread out to the south, a vast forest is covering the northern region, and at the end of the forest lies a muddy swamp. Black rocky mountains are lined up behind a barren desert along the east side, and a river flowing through a prairie stretches westward.
And each area is also inhabited by a wide variety of monsters.
Small monsters like Goblins and Kobolds form villages around the forest, but larger monsters such as Trolls and Ogres live deep in the forest. Lizardmen, Sandworms, and settlements of Orcs were each seen in the northern swamp, eastern desert, and western prairie.
The ordeal is about finding Tokens while dealing with the monsters and guarding their Tokens against players who may be even more dangerous than these monsters. Both are important.
Yeon-woo’s party was heading towards the swamp at the north.