Chapter 70. The first floor (2)
When Bahal walked out of the cafe, a group of players who had been blocking the streets gathered around him.
Flame Beast. They were Red Dragon’s combat unit, also known as Bahal’s escort unit.
Bahal looked at the deserted streets with his brows furrowed.
"Were you blocking the streets again? I told you to not do anything stupid.”
"As you know, sir, there are a lot of players after you in The Tower. There's no harm in being careful."
Bahal shook his head at the leader's words.
In fact, although they were called his escort unit, they were originally one of the special task forces fostered by the head of Red Dragon. The members of Flame Beast weren’t following Bahal out of loyalty. They were merely ordered to follow his command.
And that was the reason why they would follow him, but often disregarded his orders in detail. Especially with the unsettling atmosphere that was currently lingering all over The Tower, .
The power of a clan was measured using their Rankers as a standard, so they could not afford to lose a player such as him.
Bahal tried to explain that such a thing could never happen in a place like Outer District, but they did not listen.
Of course, the fact that they did not follow his orders did not make him feel bad.
Thanks to them being beside him, he could move around more freely without having to worry about being ambushed.
"But sir, how come the Hoarder didn’t come with you?"
"Well, he said he’ll consider our offer.”
The leader frowned as if he was upset.
"He’s pretty bold for a novice."
It seemed like Yeon-woo’s decision had irritated him, someone with a deeply-rooted loyalty towards Red Dragon.
Bahal chuckled and waved his hand.
"Don't take it so seriously. He’s just a novice overflowing with pride, you know? You and me, we all went through that after passing the tutorial."
"But still, how rude of him....”
"Simmer down. He’ll regret turning down our offer as he climbs up The Tower anyway."
The leader nodded and did not speak any further.
He also agreed that The Tower wasn’t a place that could be understood with just experiencing the tutorial.
"And our goal was to keep the other clans from approaching him in the first place. I mean, I came to see him in person, what kind of fool would dare to approach him now? Now he’s only got our clan to rely on. By the way,"
Bahal gently waved his hand as he changed the subject. A sharp look appeared on his previously soft demeanor.
"How did the investigation go? Did you find anything?"
The leader answered with a nod.
"It turned out just as you expected, sir."
"Is that so? Ha, haha! Leonte, he hasn't changed a bit. He’s a very consistent friend."
In fact, the reason why Bahal had paid a visit to outside The Tower wasn’t simply to recruit Yeon-woo. That task could have been easily accomplished just by sending one of the Flame Beast members.
Instead, he personally took on this task in order to hide his true motive. To search for Leonte’s whereabouts.
Not long ago, a strange piece of information came across Red Dragon’s intelligence network.
It was about Leonte, who they knew was aiming to become Cheonghwado’s new Wushen, secretly plotting something in the tutorial floor.
Red Dragon had already known that Cheonghwado was behind Arangdan, but they hadn’t taken any measures regarding that matter.
If they were to expose this secret alone, it wouldn’t do much harm to Cheonghwado. To make it count, they had to find something more confidential and reveal it all at once.
And now, they got a new piece of information stating that Arangdan was actually Leonte’s private group. And that he was kidnapping players in the tutorial and crafting something using their lives as a material.
Therefore, Red Dragon concluded that the issue required a closer investigation, delegating full authority and responsibility over said investigation to Bahal.
He once was Leonte’s teammate in Arangdan, so Bahal knew him better than anyone else in the clan.
Thereon, Bahal began to track down Arangdan’s and Leonte’s traces along with his team, Flame Beast.
Their fund flow, deployment of resources, and the personal data of the players dispatched to the tutorial.
And not long after, they were able to come to a conclusion.
"They are trying to make a Magic Organ out of hundreds, maybe thousands of players... I thought that this kind of stories could only be found in myths or something. Never would I have imagined that someone would actually commit such an atrocity."
Bahal had not yet figured out exactly what Leonte was making. But he could infer what kind of function it might serve.
A Mana Organ(魔力器官), also known as a Mana Engine(機關).
Every player in the world, in The Tower, has mana inside their bodies. And the vessel containing this mana is called the Mana Organ.
However, because the Mana Organ is part of the body, there’s a certain limit to the amount of mana that the vessel can hold.
Although it is said that the size of one’s vessel can increase once the player reaches a superhuman level such as that of a Ranker or a Lord, only a tiny minority has ever reached that point. And even for them, lack of mana was still a problem.
Many players sought ways to supply themselves with mana from outside sources.
The very first products that had resulted from their hard work were the items known as potions.
And once their experiment was proven successful, various kinds of items spread throughout The Tower.
Magic tools(魔道具), items embedded with various options, and Mana Source(魔力源), a storage for surplus mana. Players had even created skills known as ‘Energy Drain’ to take away mana from other players.
But as they say, avarice knows no bounds.
Players still craved ways to gain even more mana, to the point where they tried to create things that could give them an infinite supply of mana.
Bahal was sure that this was what Leonte had in mind.
The purer the mana, the better it is at producing energy.
The purest source of mana ever known in the history of The Tower was a human soul, and the easiest way to extract it was to just squeeze it out of its fleshly body.
In the past, there had been several attempts to make use of the mana extracted with this cruel method, but every single attempt had ended up in failure.
Because mana extracted from human souls was easily corrupted with the cursed spirits of the dead.
But being aware of such risks, Leonte had still tried to extract mana from the souls of living players.
He must have figured out a way to make use of that mana.
A way to process the mana. A way to keep it from being corrupted.
‘Don't tell me you were making ‘the stone’.’
There was a legend passed down since ancient times among alchemists.
That there’s a substance that is able to contain mana as densely as the magic organ of the masters of mana, the Dragon Race.
And they called it ‘the stone’ or ‘the heart’.
‘Well, that’s still impossible. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t have been revealed to the world.’
Though he knew such an item could not exist, he still had to obtain the procedure and the product.
‘It’ll be of great help to our clan, Red Dragon, and for me.'
Bahal licked his lips in anticipation.
"So, have you figured out Leonte’s whereabouts?"
"We’ve already found him in the tutorial, and he’s currently moving in this direction."
"All right. Then we shall move towards them. As I said, our goal is to secure both the item and Leonte. However, if you think you can’t secure them both, you may kill Leonte. But you must bring the item by any means."
"Okay, let’s go give them a warm welcome."
Finally, Bahal and Flame Beast jumped into action.
In order to hunt down Leonte.
But little did they know that the item they had to procure wasn’t in Leonte’s hands.
* * *
"What is it, kid?"
Yeon-woo then thought that Henova was still the same ol’ Henova.
Though he now knew Yeon-woo’s name, albeit a fake one, he still didn’t call him by his name.
But the difference was that he was now looking at Yeon-woo with a satisfied look.
He must have been happy to see a player armed with weapons and armor of his creation for the first time in a long time.
Yeon-woo smiled for a second and continued with a calm voice.
"I don't know how long it will take before I can come back."
Yeon-woo noticed Henova flinching for a split second, but he puffed out his stomach pretending nothing ever happened.
"Of course you would. After all, you’re a player trying to climb up The Tower. Why did you even bother telling me that?”
Yeon-woo was going to say something, but soon gave up and shook his head.
"Nothing, just to let you know.."
Would Henova have any idea?
That this was a farewell forever.
‘It will do him no good if I get any closer to him. I can't have him getting involved in this revenge.’
He already knew why his brother had been so fond of him.
He had to end it here.
The path ahead of him was a very rough and quite perilous one. Not just he himself, but the people next to him were also destined to walk on a thorny path.
Yeon-woo couldn’t let that happen to Henova.
Just as he had said to Galliard,
‘This is my war.’
He couldn't leave it in the hands of others.
"Thank you for everything you’ve done for me."
Henova brought his pipe to his mouth as he waved his hands without looking his way.
But Yeon-woo now knew that this was his way of saying ‘take care’.
After bowing down one more time, Yeon-woo bent his steps towards The Tower.
* * *
Yeon-woo stood in front of the enormous iron gate.
The Tower, a mysterious place where the man who ascends to the top floor can become a god.
Though he had felt it many times before, The Tower was just too tall. It almost looked like a pillar supporting the sky from falling down.
Just as he was about to open the gate, he heard someone rushing towards him from behind.
A giant hand popped out from behind and grabbed Yeon-woo's hand that was opening the iron gate.
The owner of the hand panted heavily.
A frame taller than Yeon-woo by a head.
It was a Phante.
His face was burning red as if he had run a long way.
"You didn’t even listen when I begged you to go to The Tower! What made you change your mind all of a sudden? And why didn’t you tell us you were going in? You could have left us a message or something!"
Yeon-woo tilted his head as if he couldn't understand.
"Why would I?"
"Goddamn it! "
Phante pounded on his chest with his big fists as if frustrated.
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes.
"I don't know what you think of me, but I don't have time to play house with you two. Playtime is over. I'm busy with my own business.”
Phante had a lot of things to say to Yeon-woo's cold-hearted words, but he couldn't open his mouth easily.
The two blazing eyes gleaming under his now black mask. That intense aura reminded him of Yeon-woo’s ferocious eyes he had faced back in the tutorial.
The image of a strong but self-righteous man.
It looked so similar to the eyes of his father, the Martial King, before a war.
‘What the hell are you going to do...'
While Phante stood speechless, Edora arrived.
She grinned as she swept up her sweat-soaked hair.
"Then you can go first, Oraboni."
Phante looked back at Edora in surprise. Yeon-woo also frowned at her remark because he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
Then, her smile grew brighter as she spoke the next sentence.
"But we will follow behind you. It’s up to us to go wherever we want, so you won’t stop us from following after you, right Oraboni?”
Phante then burst into laughter thinking it was a great idea.
Yeon-woo glared at the siblings for a few seconds, but soon shook his head.
"Do whatever you want. But if you lag behind, I’m not going to help you."
"Kuhaha! Don’t even worry! I'll probably be at the front destroying everything that stands in front of us. I've already been to the first floor, so if you have any questions, just ask me."
"Oh really? I remember someone who didn’t even understand the rules and made a whole mess on that floor."
"Shut up. I’ll do better the second time."
Leaving the quarrelling siblings behind,
Yeon-woo pushed the iron gate.
The entrance to the first floor of The Tower slowly opened.