Chapter 25. Deal. (6)
Yeon-woo's expression sank deeply as he recalled the traces of players he had found earlier at the entrance. This was the end players must have met after being captured by the monsters. This place was used to keep humans trapped like livestock.
Although it wasn't revealed because he was wearing a mask, he himself was also seething with anger.
The hidden piece, ‘Hargan's Lair’ is literally the lair of the Lizard King, Hargan, and the Queen, Taragan. It’s their home. At this point in time, they are rigidly keeping watch to protect their newborn babies. Plus, in order to feed their babies, they would often hunt players and bring them over to their lair.
These scattered body parts in front of Yeon-woo were the scraps left after their predation. In other words, this place was used as storage to keep their food and have it prepared for their children.
‘Be it in Earth or here, at the end of the day it’s all the same.'
Similar scenes were often seen when he was serving in the military in the past. Scenes of the weak being kidnapped and made into slaves. Kids were brainwashed and made to shoot rifles, the elderly were forced to become suicide bombers, women were taken as sexual slaves, and many more tragic scenes could be seen during his missions.
The situation here was not much different from that. The only difference was that the victims here weren’t treated as slaves but as livestock or food, and that the perpetrators were Lizardmen, not humans. There was no difference at its core. No, maybe this wasn’t even part of the Lizardmen’s customs.
‘Between people’s treatment towards pigs and cows and their treatment towards people, was there any difference?'
The people were yelling for help, but if looked from another angle, they were just like cows tearing up before being dragged into a slaughterhouse.
Yeon-woo calmly sorted out the situation.
‘If we waste our time rescuing them, we won’t have enough time to take the crown from the female.’
Most importantly, the players here had brought this crisis to themselves.
The strong survive and the weak perish. This was common sense in The Tower. Those people had failed to realize their limits and participated in the trials in hope of becoming gods. Their actions were merely a thoughtless act of bravado.
"The queen could show up anytime soon. I’ll go find her so you should go hide yourself."
But when Yeon-woo took a glimpse at Doyle, he noticed Doyle was standing rooted to the spot. Yeon-woo then completely turned around expecting the worst.
As far as he was concerned, Doyle had always been reasonable and he knew how to restrain himself, except for that one moment when he saw the traces of players being attacked. And sure enough, his expression was now stiff and his clenched fist was quivering with anger.
"Don't you... get angry?"
His teary eyes looked at Yeon-woo.
"Yes, angry. How can you be so calm after seeing this?"
Yeon-woo was a little disappointed. Doyle was just a kid after all.
"I am also a person. One wouldn’t be a person if they didn’t get mad at this."
"Then why are you...!”
"But if we save them, Kahn will be in danger."
Doyle was left in shock.
Yeon-woo turned on his heel.
"Don't forget. Kahn is still fighting with Hargan at this very moment. He can't deal with Hargan alone, and the longer we stay here, the more dangerous it gets."
"Pull yourself together and think about your priorities. But if you still want to act at your own discretion, I will be putting myself out of this business. You two can die for all I care."
Doyle bit his lower lip. His eyes were shaking due to his continuous inner conflicts.
Yeon-woo squinted at Doyle. In his eyes, Doyle’s agonized look overlapped with the image of his comrades back in the military.
‘Does he have a trauma? It must be PTSD.'
Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD for short. It is a mental health problem that can occur after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.
Something from his past must be triggering his emotions. But Yeon-woo didn’t know what Doyle had been through. What he could tell, was that he had experienced something similar to this in the past and that he was being hindered by that exact memory.
After a short silence.
Doyle slapped himself hard on the cheek with both hands, leaving a couple of red handprints on his pure white skin. His once furious looking eyes were now filled with determination, as if he had made a firm resolve in his mind.
Doyle soon looked up at Yeon-woo and apologized.
"I'm sorry. I was being thoughtless."
Yeon-woo realized that Doyle had suppressed his trauma and managed to prioritize Kahn. Perhaps this would have a great impact on him, widening his view of the world in the future.
"Let's get back to work. Kahn is still waiting for us outside."
When Doyle was about to move on,
‘Wait a second.'
Yeon-woo had another great idea. The reason why Hargan made this human farm was to feed their children. Then, they could also use that to their advantage.
"I've just come up with a good idea. Can I modify our plan a little bit? If it goes well, we can also save the people here."
Doyle opened his eyes wide. Even though he had chosen Kahn as his top priority, a part of him was still holding onto hope, and to his surprise, Yeon-woo was talking about a plan to save them all.
Doyle’s eyes glistened with curiosity.
"I need you to summon the flamebugs you showed me last night."
Under the mask Yeon-woo let out a cold laugh.
* * *
Queen Taragan unleashed her boiling anger.
"Humans! How dare humans enter my lair!"
She swung her club and crushed the head of a Lizardman in front of her. The royal guard who had only come to report was killed all of a sudden, but the other guards didn’t try to stop Taragan.
Even Hargan couldn’t do anything when she became hysterical. In times like this, they knew they had to leave her alone to avoid further damage.
"My babies! They must have come after my babies!"
Taragan had laid fourteen eggs in total. From those, three of them weren’t able to break out of their shells, and another three were eaten by other monsters outside the lair. Again, another three suffered from an unknown disease and eventually slowly met their deaths.
For this reason, the five remaining hatchlings were so special to the couple, that the lair had to be kept safe from any threat no matter the cost. But right now, she was told that humans came into their lair. Not as the food tied in chains, but as intruders holding swords.They were the ones that had fled before.
Taragan raised herself with the blood dripping club on her hand.
"You! You! You! Protect my babies! Even if you die, protect my babies!"
Her obsession towards her hatchlings made her believe that the humans would go after them. If so, she, who was stronger than her husband, had to step up and fend off the intruders.
The guards also knew about her obsession, so they positively answered. They knew that if her babies suffered the smallest wound, their heads would be the next ones to be crushed.
Every time her three-meter-tall body moved, the floor shook violently.
Just then, a figure suddenly appeared in front of Taragan. Blazing eyes underneath a white mask. It was Yeon-woo, he was holding a leather pouch with unknown contents in his right hand.
"Human! I will kill you!"
Taragan roared at the human who dared to fearlessly show himself. Her ferocious roar rang throughout the entire lair. But Yeon-woo spoke to her with a smile on his face.
"Hey, Lizard Queen."
"Do you like fireworks?"
"What are you...!"
When she was about to stomp on Yeon-woo and his nonsense, Yeon-woo suddenly threw the leather pouch into the room where the hatchlings were.
Taragan felt a sense of crisis, quickly swung her club and burst the pouch in midair. With a pop, the red powder came out of the pouch and spread like fog, obscuring Taragan’s sight. It was the powder made from the monsters he had endlessly hunted in the Room of Frost and Flames.
On Yeon-woo’s signal, Doyle, who was hiding in a corner, quickly commanded the flamebugs towards the powder.
A wild explosion engulfed Taragan.
Yeon-woo and Doyle then quickly ran into the room.
"Kuaaah! You vermins!"
From the spot where the explosion had swept through, Taragan turned towards the room as she forcefully clove her way through the fire.
One of her eyes was destroyed and her burnt skin was festering. She had serious injuries on the upper half of her body, but she couldn’t just stand there crying in pain. Humans were after her babies. She had to go protect her babies. But when she rushed into the room, Yeon-woo and Doyle had already eliminated the guards and each one of them was holding a hatchling.
Yeon-woo, in particular, raised the one he was holding to give her a better view of what was going to happen next. And with a cold smile, he sliced its neck with his dagger.
"Aaaaack! Humaan! Hooow! How dare yooou!”
Madness took control over Taragan’s mind. As she lost her reason, she charged towards Yeon-woo like a bull. The only thing left in her head was the thought of tearing Yeon-woo to death.
"If you treated humans as livestock,"
But Yeon-woo had already grabbed onto the rest of the hatchlings and started to back off.
Once again, Yeon-woo shoved his dagger into the neck of one of the hatchlings that was struggling in his grip. A terrible scream echoed throughout the lair.
"You should have been aware that it could happen to you too, right?"
"Let go of that haaand! Humaaan!"
But Yeon-woo’s words never reached Taragan’s ear. Her eyes were only fixed onto her dying babies as she chased after Yeon-woo.
Yeon-woo carelessly threw the dead baby onto the floor, and the moment when Taragan jumped forward to catch her baby.
One of the booby traps they had installed immediately after entering the room was triggered, causing a massive explosion that could not be compared to the previous one.
Then the explosion triggered another trap, and another one, producing an immense chain explosion. The ground was quaking, the trees were burning. The whole room was engulfed by a deluge of fire. Taragan was suffering excruciating pain inside the blazing inferno.
"Kuaaaak! Human! Humaaan!"
If Taragan were her normal self, she would have noticed the booby traps.
Some parts of the booby traps weren’t camouflaged well enough because they were made in a rush, however, Yeon-woo used Taragan’s obsession for her babies to his advantage.
No mother would stay sane after witnessing her child’s death. Knowing this, Yeon-woo aimed at her very weakness, and Taragan could only helplessly fall for his traps.
"Noo! My babies! My little babies!"
Taragan somehow survived through the explosions. Even though she was suffering from burns all over her body, she was still anxiously looking for her hatchlings. But Yeon-woo and Doyle still had her three remaining babies in their hands.
As they kept retreating, they killed her babies one by one while luring her to every single trap they had installed. By the time the last one died, Taragan was caught in the last remaining booby trap and her body collapsed onto the floor.
Yeon-woo pushed his dagger deep into Taragan’s throat and put an end to her life.
"Between humans and monsters, it’s only kill or be killed."
[You have slain the boss monster, Taragan - the Lizardman Queen. Additional Karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 500 Karma.]
[The Lizardmen have been demoralized. Monsters in Hargan’s Lair enter a panicked state.]
A flood of messages notifying him of Taragan’s death popped up in front of Yeon-woo, and Yeon-woo was suddenly overcome with fatigue.
‘That was the last bit of powder I had left from the Room of Frost and Flame’
Although it was the booby traps that did all the work, it still hadn't been easy to lure her in while keeping a proper distance from her. If he had made a mistake, or if Taragan had come to her senses, their plan would have been completely spoiled.
‘It would have been impossible if Doyle hadn’t ignited the flamebugs with precise timing.’
Considering he had come up with the plan on the spot, everything had worked out perfectly.
Then Doyle came running and stood next to Yeon-woo. He looked like he couldn’t believe they had just killed Taragan.
Compared to what happened when he had tried to raid this dungeon with Kahn, this was an unbelievable success. He never would have thought that using a simple material from a dungeon that he must have found by luck could bring such an amazing result.
The capacity to make judgement during combat, to come up with a plan, and the ability to execute it.
Doyle looked at Yeon-woo with eyes filled with respect.
Not caring about Doyle's gaze, Yeon-woo pointed towards the dead body with his chin.
"Go take the crown first. We have to hurry up and join with Kahn outside."
Doyle answered with a nod and approached Taragan’s corpse. She had been burned to death, in her bosom she was still holding her babies’ dead bodies. It was certainly a tear-jerking display of maternal love.
But Doyle's look was icy cold. Just like Yeon-woo had said, humans and monsters had to kill each other. And once again, he had been made painfully aware that this place was The Tower where the weak get eaten by the strong.
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes as he watched Doyle take the crown from Taragan’s head.
‘I'll have to come back after we’re done with this business.’
Taragan’s body had strong vitality even after her death. Although it was incomparable to extracting life energy from the living, if a corpse had some energy left in their body, Bathory’s Vampiric Sword could still drain it. So if Yeon-woo could absorb her energy, it would be considerably beneficial towards improving his attribute points.
‘I might be able to take her skill too.'
While Yeon-woo was looking at Taragan’s body with a serious look, Doyle pulled out the crown and held it tight in his hand. His fists trembled with thrill.
Yeon-woo turned to the direction where Kahn would be. If he and Doyle joined him, they might even be able to take down Hargan.
Yeon-woo was thinking of looting Hargan’s body, not to mention earning the Karma points.
* * *
"Kwuuung! Taragan! Taragan!"
With his thumping footsteps, Hargan popped out from the corner of the passage. His face was all twisted as if he had come running at the sound of the explosion. Kahn came into the room right after him.
He could tell that Kahn had a fierce battle outside just by his looks. He looked very exhausted.
But Kahn quickly noticed what had happened as he took a quick look around the area filled with traces of explosions. He smiled to acknowledge a job well done and held tightly on to his sword once again. His exhausted body was reinvigorated.
He plucked up his courage and dashed towards Hargan.
As if they had prearranged it, Yeon-woo and Doyle also moved at the same time.
They had three people on their side. Even if they were a bit tired and had no more booby traps left, it was still enough to fight Hargan.
It was at the moment when the three were about to reach Hargan who seemed to be preoccupied with Taragan’s death that Yeon-woo noticed something strange. His senses suddenly began to warn him that the monster in front of him was dangerous.
Then, he remembered one part from the diary.
Hargan was much smaller and weaker than Taragan. But the reason he was able to become the leader of the Lizardman was because he had one unique skill.
… and it was called ‘Heat Wave(熱風)’.
His brother and his team, Arthia, had to suffer through a lot of hardship during their raid due to this skill, Heat Wave.
Streams of heated air emanated from his scimitar and hovered around Hargan’s body. He was about to cast Heat Wave.
"Get away from him!"
Yeon-woo quickly made a turn midrun. Kahn and Doyle, also sensing the danger, each turned in a right angle and ran far from Hargan's reach.
Then Hargan struck the ground hard with his scimitar.
The ground surrounding Hargan collapsed with an explosion and flames shot up from the ground at random. The sea of flame quickly engulfed the entire lair, eradicating what was left after the chain explosion.
Yeon-woo quickly covered his face with his arms but was still pushed back by the gust of wind.
Because the place was filled with so much heat, nothing could be felt within the area he scanned with his strengthened senses. He didn’t even know where Kahn and Doyle were.
After the heat had settled down, Yeon-woo could barely see the other side through the gap between his arms.
‘What's going on?’
The lair had completely collapsed. The world was full of red flames and black smoke. The scene was telling him how he had gotten the title of Lizardman King.
What if he had been one step late and got caught up in that? He would be just ashes by now. That was how destructive it looked.
Then, Yeon-woo witnessed with his own eyes.
"Taragan! I will get revenge on him! For you and our children!”
The sight of Hargan holding the body of Taragan and his babies in his arms and crying out to the sky.
And the sight of him biting into Taragan’s neck without hesitation.
It was cannibalism.
He was trying to embrace the power of Taragan. It was something that wasn’t written in the diary.
[Boss Monster, Hargan (Lizardman King) has used ‘Consume’. Hargan has successfully stolen powers from Taragan (Lizardman Queen)]
[Mutation is in progress.]
[Second phase will begin.]
Heat Wave once again raved through the lair, producing a massive earthquake.