Chapter 22. Deal (3)
As darkness fell, Yeon-woo’s party made preparations to camp outside.
When he was in the Inner Area, Yeon-woo would only take short naps from time to time due to being unable to distinguish night from day. But now that he could, he didn't have to continue doing that. Most importantly, Kahn had suggested the idea in order to stay in top shape.
"The monsters we’ll be dealing with are pretty tough. We have to be fully prepared."
Yeon-woo nodded in agreement.
Although Yeon-woo feigned ignorance, he knew what Kahn and Doyle were looking for. Hargan, the Lizardman King. As one of the boss monsters in Section E, Hargan was powerful enough to easily crush normal players. The top-ranked duo, Kahn and Doyle, couldn’t guarantee whether they would win against him. And the even bigger problem was that,
‘He is not alone.’
There were two Lizardman Kings in total. One male and one female. The only reason the name of this hidden piece was ‘Hargan's Lair' was because it was named after the male one. However, the real owner was the female one that resided deeper inside the lair, not the male. If you let yourself feel relieved after hunting only the male, you would find yourself in big trouble.
‘The one that has Hargan’s Crown is also the female Lizardman King. These two must have already figured it out.'
To take the crown, there had to be at least one player in charge of each, male and female, Lizardman King. Even if Kahn risked his own life, he could only handle one of them at a time, so he must have needed someone to take on the other one.
Doyle, whose physical strength was relatively weak, could only take on the role of seizing the crown while the monsters’ aggro was focused on someone else. That's why all three of them had to be in their best possible condition before setting foot into Hargan’s Lair.
Kahn and Doyle, perhaps because they had a lot of experience sleeping outside, quickly got themselves ready to camp. Doyle, in particular, showed Yeon-woo a very fascinating sight when he lit the bonfire. Using his entomopathy, he summoned some kind of bugs and made them line up on top of the firewood. The bugs suddenly burst into flames, creating a spectacular display of sparks.
Doyle gave a coy smile in response to Yeon-woo’s short exclamation.
"They are called flamebugs. When facing their natural enemies, they’ll ignite themselves on fire and combust the enemy along with them. The Tower is full of such wonderful insects."
While nodding his head, Yeon-woo looked at the remains of the flamebugs slowly fading in the flames.
‘There are still so many things in The Tower that even Jeong-woo didn't know about.’
Not everything about The Tower was recorded in the diary. Yeon-woo for sure would need to explore those things that were not recorded.
As the bonfire burned brightly, they made themselves comfortable in their respective sleeping bags. After deciding to take turns to keep watch during the night, they fell asleep one by one.
* * *
Yeon-woo was the first one to keep the night-watch. There was no particular reason for this. It was just because he had won in rock-paper-scissors.
Yeon-woo calmly stared at the burning firewood, and opened one of his hands. Five blue beads rolled over his palm. They were Tokens.
‘Together with the one I originally had, I have six Tokens now.'
Yeon-woo didn’t just walk along during the journey to Hargan’s Lair. He had been looking for the Tokens hidden and sparsely placed throughout the forest. In the crevice of a rock, by a brook, up on a tree, in a bird nest, and so on.
But they weren’t too hard to find.
"I never would’ve imagined that my strengthened senses could even capture the position of the Tokens.’
The Tokens were somewhat special. It was as if they contained some sort of special power, the feeling he got when sensing them was different from that of other objects lying around.
‘I need to collect as many Tokens as possible. As the amount of Tokens I gather increases, so will the Karma I gain. Especially from the 100th Token onwards, there will be a drastic increase, so I have to stay focused.’
Of course, his search for Tokens was conducted in secret. There was no need to let Kahn and Doyle know about it.
The two were even showing signs of remorse, saying how Yeon-woo was unable to find any Token due to being busy helping them with their raid. Doyle went much further and even brought up the idea of offering him Tokens in compensation.
Whether they meant it or not, Yeon-woo thought they must be real good guys, considering the fact that they were in a place where egoism was prevalent.
‘By the way....'
Yeon-woo tossed the five Tokens into his mouth and raised his head up to see the moon.
Proving that this place was different from the Earth, one large and one small moons were hanging high in the night sky.
‘Have I already made all the way up here? Time does go fast.’
He was feeling a bit awkward from being able to enjoy the night breeze at ease. Yeon-woo wondered if it was because he had been passing through the sections without a break.
To him, having this kind of peaceful time was like a square peg in a round hole. He hadn't had a good rest ever since entering the tutorial. He had been rolling over the floor, stabbing monsters, and running all over the place. The only sleep he’d had were mere quick naps to recover from fatigue.
But when he sat back and looked back, he realized how intensely he had kept to his schedule. It felt as if he had entered the tutorial just yesterday And now that he was relaxing, he felt a little bit tired. Though not physically tired, mental fatigue seemed to have piled up considerably.
However, he tried to not let his guard down. His senses were relentlessly scanning through the area in great detail. He dismissed all the distracting thoughts from his head.
He watched the serene night sky and enjoyed the night breeze. This alone seemed to relieve his mental fatigue and pressure that had been building up till now.
‘This reminds me of the sky in Africa.’
Yeon-woo recalled his comrades and the commander who would be working hard in his place by now. He felt a little sorry when he thought about the commander who had cared for him like a father.
‘Jeong-woo would have loved this kind of silent atmosphere.’
Then Yeon-woo shifted his gaze towards Kahn and Doyle. Apparently, they were so tired that they fell asleep as soon as they laid their head down.
‘What an interesting duo.’
It appeared to Yeon-woo that Kahn and Doyle were very different from other ordinary players. Their faces were always beaming with joy. At the same time, they behaved in a confident manner.
These two had a type of ‘bearing' that other players lacked. They dealt with these situations as if they were already too familiar with them.
‘Where on earth did you guys spring out from?’
On their way to the swamp, Yeon-woo could finally check their skills. Kahn occasionally revealed a glimpse of his excelent swordsmanship. It was powerful, sharp, and fierce. It seemed to strike a balance between magnificence and practicality. That level of swordsmanship could never be attained in just a few days. Yeon-woo was sure he must have gone through many experiences and training. Although he was talkative and foolish on the outside, he must have had no ordinary childhood.
So was Doyle. He always had dull and sleepy eyes, but he sometimes he would show a sharp look. And when he did, he displayed keen judgement and critical acumen. If Kahn was a doer that mostly engaged in close combat, Doyle was more of a thinker that stayed at the backline and made the decisions.
In particular, Doyle’s entomopathic ability might seem weak whenever he uses it for practical use, but its true power shone brightly when it was used against monsters.
The bugs he controlled were very small. What if they crept into the orifices like the nose, ears, and mouth? What if they dug into the skins, nibbled off the blood vessels, and tore up the muscles? So monsters instinctively avoided clashing against Doyle and chose to rush towards Kahn instead. Whenever that happened, Kahn got upset at the flocking monsters and they still ended up being swept away.
The teamwork that the duo showed, like two cogwheels that meshed perfectly together, was nothing short of impressive. It didn’t look like they had learned or practiced beforehand, but they had developed a certain kind of connection that instinctively told them what would be the other one’s next course of action. This must be the result of working together for not just a day or two, but for at least five or ten years. Even real siblings wouldn’t be in perfect sync like them.
‘What is your relationship? I'm sure you’re not brothers.’
He didn't know how experts like them, who also seemed to come from a privileged background, were so close to each other, and why did they have to make things harder for themselves.
But there was one thing for sure.
‘They sure look good together.'
The two of them were so willing to trust each other with their own lives. This relationship could never happen without mutual faith.
Yeon-woo was a little jealous of the relationship between the two. Of course, it wasn’t like he wanted to get to know them in detail, or to join in their relationship.
Just by looking at these two, Yeon-woo couldn’t help but see the reflection of a person he used to know.
Yeon-woo thought he was becoming needlessly sentimental as the night wore on.
He was trying to get rid of all the idle thoughts from his head. He couldn’t believe he had so many miscellaneous thoughts.
But to his surprise,
‘Is it because of this short break I took?’
His mind was now clearer than ever. Just like the sky after a heavy rain.
When he opened his closed eyes again, they were filled with whole-souled determination.
Then suddenly, Kahn rustled and woke up from his sleep. His eyes shown through his wild hair still looked very sleepy. He even gave a big yawn.
"Why did you get up? You still have some time before your turn."
"How can I sleep if it’s so noisy around here?"
A chuckle slipped out of Yeon-woo’s mouth.
Contrary to Kahn’s statement, their surroundings were rather too calm. As if someone had intentionally muted all the sound. The cry of the bugs, the whistle of the wind. No sound could be heard.
Kahn rubbed his sleepy eyes and took his hand to the scabbard he had left near his head.
Still, everything was all too quiet.
Before he knew it, Doyle had also gotten up with a yawn. He put a slight frown upon his fine face, looking annoyed at the things that disturbed his sleep.
"Haaam! How long are you going to let them be like that?"
"I was going to get rid of them when they came closer. I’m sorry to let them wake you up."
Doyle answered Yeon-woo with a grin on his face.
"It's okay. I was getting stiff since I haven’t been moving my body lately. Might as well do some proper exercise."
At the same time, Doyle turned around to look at Kahn.
"Hyung. I was wondering myself."
“Do you think they knew you were here?”
“Does that matter?”
Kahn slowly drew his sword out of the scabbard while his eyes give off cold glow.
“What matters is that they are enemies who are pointing their swords at us.”
As soon as Kahn finished his words,
His shadow suddenly disappeared.
With the sound of blood splashing, a desperate scream came out from the bush.
“Dammit! How did they notice we were here?”
“Fan out! It’s more dangerous if we bunch up!”
Soon, something stirred from within the bushes and several players came out from them, all busily moving in different directions.
They were originally planning on approaching as close as possible and jumping at their targets all at once. But once they were caught, there was no advantage in making an ambush anymore. Rather, it was more dangerous for them if they were grouped up. They were currently facing none other than the Blood Sword and Foxy Tail. There was no chance of winning if they fought them directly.
Kahn bolted around and brandished his sword, as if he didn’t even have the slightest intention of letting them slip away. With each slash, blood sprayed over the grass and a body fell to the ground.
Doyle also made a big gesture in the air.
The forest was a home of many bugs and flies. Several swarms of bugs formed at places and they each rushed towards the nearest players.
"Damn it! Fucking insects!"
"Get it off! Get it oooff!"
As thousands of bugs clung to their skin, they swung their swords trying to shake them off. But the bugs kept digging deeper into their skin and feasted on their flesh.
Painful screams echoed around the whole forest.
Even though Kahn and Doyle had been slaughtering enemies at an inhuman pace, there were still numerous players hiding in the bushes.
Doyle heard a muffled sound of stealthy footsteps from behind. It seemed like they were aiming to attack from the blind spot.
With a slightly irritated face, Doyle was about to send bugs to them but,
When he realized where they were going, he was so taken aback that a small laugh came out of his mouth.
They were moving towards Yeon-woo.
They might have targeted Yeon-woo because unlike them, his name wasn’t well known. Maybe they thought Yeon-woo was a porter of some sort.
But whatever the case was,
Could they have been expecting this?
The place that they are heading now,
‘Those idiots. Of all choices they could have made, they still managed to choose the worst.'
Was actually the jaws of death.