Chapter 72. The first floor (4)
The players looked at each other for a moment.
A team of a hundred players.
It seemed like a lot of people, but in reality, it wasn’t.
If someone were to come forward right now, he or she would have to play a leading role for the rest of this floor’s trial.
Most players had already become acquaintanced with each other during their stay in the waiting zone, and quite a few of them were in the same team during the previous round. Among them, there was already someone that had taken the leading role.
"I'll take them."
A man in red leather armor stepped forward under everyone’s attention.
But when Aaron was about to hand over the crystals,
Phante stood between the two of them.
"What is it?"
The man asked Phante with a slightly irritated face.
"I don’t remember agreeing to this.”
The man felt a sudden surge of anger.
"Does it matter who takes them? We’ll decide where to hide after I…."
"Actually, it does. Because I’m going to take all five of them with me."
The man's face crumpled like a sheet of paper.
"You think it’s better to hide them than to have me protect them? Or is there any among you who thinks they can protect the crystals better than me?"
Phante let out a furious laugh and cast a glance around him.
The players flinched and turned their heads in order to avoid his eyes.
Phante then looked back at the man. He raised one of his eyebrows as if he was saying there was no one denying his argument.
But the man burst out in anger and argued back.
"Don’t you even feel ashamed of yourself? It was because of you that our crystals were shattered last round. It was because of your goddamn ego!"
Some of the players nodded along as if to support him.
Yeon-woo clicked his tongue as he watched their quarrel from the back.
‘So that's what happened.’
He had an idea of what had happened in the previous round.
Leaving important items to someone else? Phante didn’t have that kind of personality.
Such an important role could only be taken by himself. He had to be in control of things.
Even though he was such a difficult person to get along with, it shouldn’t have been a problem to him.
Because he was that strong.
In the world of The Tower, ‘power’ was a priceless treasure that would make up for all the shortcomings one might have.
Might is right. That sentence had always been true in The Tower.
And Edora shared the same opinion.
Unlike the simple and selfish Phante, she certainly was a rational and reasonable person. And that was exactly why she didn’t stop Phante despite his violence.
Because, even by her judgment, him taking the crystals was the safest option.
No matter how difficult the trial was, they were still dealing with players of average level. Their fists wouldn’t be able to brush past Phante’s collar even if they flocked in all at once.
Therefore, it was the correct judgment to leave all the crystals with Phante.
But if there was any problem,
"If you hadn't been so greedy and gone on a rampage last time, you wouldn’t have broken all the crystals by yourself. Then we would have… at least had a chance. So I can’t let you take the crystals this time!"
It was that Phante was a little bit too careless.
Yeon-woo almost burst out laughing when he heard the man.
He couldn’t believe it was none other than Phante who had led his team to defeat.
Even though he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he felt like the scene of the previous round was playing in his head like a video.
He imagined Phante running over to the other side, and knocking the players down one by one with his overwhelming power.
The players on the other team must have thought it to be a lost battle.
But the moment they gave up hope, they must have received the message notifying them of their victory.
‘They must have been frightened.'
Yeon-woo presumed that the man couldn’t trust Phante because of that incident.
But Phante was not a person who would listen to someone weaker than him. He was probably thinking he just had to avoid repeating the same mistake.
"So? Do you want to sort it out my way?"
Phante rolled up his sleeves and posed as if he were going to fight them.
The players’ face turned pale as they felt Phante’s ferocious aura.
The players standing behind the man pulled him by his clothes and shook their heads.
In the end, the man gritted his teeth. Veins popped out from his clenched fists trembling in anger.
Even then, Edora stood a step away from the two of them without intervening.
She only watched the situation while holding her sword in her arms, just like how she had been when Yeon-woo first saw her in Section G.
Phante then put on a smile of victory and reached out his hand to Aaron.
"Seems like it’s all set. I wish all of you good luck."
Aaron handed all five blue crystals over to Phante. Then, he stepped into the portal on the floor and melted away.
"Huhu. It’s gonna be different this time.”
It seemed like Phante hadn’t come up with any particular plan to protect the crystals. He was just busy fidgeting with the five crystals like a child playing with toys.
‘What an asshole.’
The players’ face stiffened at his actions.
But the moment Phante was about to put the crystals in his pocket, Yeon-woo, who had been watching the situation, stepped forward.
Phante noticed Yeon-woo walking up to him and stared at Yeon-woo with a puzzled expression.
And when Yeon-woo arrived in front of him, he suddenly shot his hand out.
"Hand them over. All of them."
* * *
Aaron teleported to a different area through the portal.
A place where all the Guardians of the 99 floors congregated. It was the Guardians’ chambers.
In that place, there were a number of Guardians running around the room busily. Hundreds of screens were floating against the walls displaying the situations of each floor in real-time.
"Ohyohyo. Are you back already?”
Then, someone spoke to Aaron from behind his back.
When he looked back, there stood a Goblin that only reached around Aaron’s waistline in height.
It was Yvlke.
Aaron silently nodded.
His attitude toward Yvlke was very polite.
It was because they weren’t in the same position.
As a matter of fact, not all Guardians were the same. There were several Guardians appointed to different jobs even within a single floor.
Those who monitored and managed the trials, those who were in charge of the rewards, those who took care of other miscellaneous tasks and so on.
Each of these guardians had positions according to their job just like in a corporation on Earth.
And the Guardians who possessed the highest position in each floor were the directors of the trials.
As far as what the system allowed, they could exert their power over the players on the floor they managed.
They could even dominate players on the level of Lords if necessary. But of course, the system would penalize the Guardians if they made direct intervention.
So, it could be said that Aaron, as the director of the second floor, was also in one of the top positions.
But Yvlke was in a position where even Aaron had to be careful around.
Because Yvlke was one of the leaders of all the Guardians, also known as the Twelve Zodiacs.
So even though both of them were using honorifics, Yvlke’s manner of speech was more like that of an adult talking to a child.
"So, how was it?"
But from the outside, no one could tell that Yvlke was a Guardian with such great position.
He looked like just a strange Goblin who always wore a strange monocle and made a weird sound when laughing.
"To be honest, sir, I'm not sure."
Aaron crossed his arms and tilted his head in response to Yvlke’s question.
A smile filled Yvlke's eyes, which shone behind his monocle.
"You’re not sure?”
"Yes, I can tell he's a strong player compared to other novices, but he's just a novice after all. I don't understand why would you have such high expectations for him.”
Aaron lifted his head and looked at the screen floating in the air as he spoke to Yvlke.
On the screen, he could see Yeon-woo trying to take away the crystals he had given Phante.
When Phante showed a disgruntled look on his face, Yeon-woo calmly asked back, ‘Should we get things sorted out your way?’.
Phante then flinched, looking scared just like the players before.
In Aaron’s eyes, it was just a practical joke that always happened between friends.
But Yvlke didn’t stop giggling as he watched the screen.
"Ohyohyohyo. I see. If that’s what you think, then do you want to make a bet?”
"Whether or not he will achieve something great. I’ll bet in favor."
Aaron narrowed his eyes slightly, but soon nodded thinking it wasn’t a bad idea.
"Sure. I'll bet that he won't."
"Ohyohyo. Great. Then about the stakes....”
* * *
The players looked at Yeon-woo with their mouths agape.
It was only a moment ago that Phante had taken away the crystals with his ridiculous argument.
But Yeon-woo extorted the crystals from Phante with just a few words.
Besides, they were sure they heard Phante referring to Yeon-woo as ‘hyung’.
‘Phante? Calling someone hyung?’
‘What the hell happened to him outside?’
‘What's going on?’
In The Tower, there was a popular perception towards the One-horned tribe.
It was well known that the members of the One-horned tribe were very strong.
And as powerful as they were, they also had a great sense of pride.
So they rarely talked to people outside their tribe unless they acknowledged them to be as powerful as themselves.
But they valued loyalty so much that they wouldn't hesitate to die for their friends once they opened their heart to someone.
And being the royal blood of the One-horned tribe, Phante and Edora had also inherited this arrogant nature.
And judging by what hey had experienced themselves, they could tell that the rumors weren't fake.
Phante truly was detached, impetuous and even haughty.
But what surprised them the most was that there was someone who could keep Phante company, and that Phante was even treating him as a hyung.
In particular, the players who had watched the match between him and Phante in the tutorial rubbed their eyes several times as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
"You know, you’re such a bad hyung for taking away my chance to show off like that."
Phante grumbled and kicked a stone lying next to his feet.
Then, Edora approached Yeon-woo.
"What’s your plan now, oraboni?”
Once again, the players couldn’t believe their eyes. It was their first time ever seeing Eodora erasing her icy cold expression and putting on a smile.
It was beautiful and heartwarming. The players felt their heart skipping a beat the moment they saw that smile.
Yeon-woo, on the other hand, was surprisingly unmoved at her smile.
"Can you help me guard this place for a moment?"
He glanced at the other players with a stern look and answered.
Edora's eyes sparkled.
"For how long?”
"30 minutes. One hour at most."
"Sure. Take your time."
Yeon-woo nodded and moved towards one of the rope bridges hanging on the edge of the cliff.
The players creased their brows not knowing what Yeon-woo was planning to do.
The reason why the trial of the first floor was so difficult was not only because the players had to make their way into the enemy's base and look for the hidden crystals under the attacks of 100 players, but also because they had to rely on those feeble rope bridges in order to get to the other side.
And the biggest problem was that there were only three bridges connecting the two sides.
Both teams trying to move to the other side with only three bridges, it was obvious that a fight on the bridges was inevitable.
And if the rope snapped in the process, the players on the bridge would plunge down the cliff.
Not just that, even if some players made it to the other side, maybe with the help of skills or artifacts that helped them fly, the players still wouldn't be able to do much.
They would fall prey to a barrage of intense attack from the remaining enemies and soon perish.
Because of these harsh conditions, the trial of the first floor was known to produce the most amount of casualties and dropouts out of all ten floors of the Beginner Zone.
Therefore, it wasn’t such a strange thing that Phante and Edora had failed to pass on their first attempt.
So while players were interested in Yeon-woo’s next move, there was also suspicion in their eyes.
Some even frowned right before him
But regardless of their thoughts,
Yeon-woo stood in front of the rope bridge as he slowly pulled out Vigrid from his back.
Far away in the distance, he could see the players from Red Team running towards his side of the bridge.
‘No matter how hard it may look, there must be several ways to pass this trial.’
A strong whirlwind began to form along Vigrid's blade.
The wind was so intense that the wind blowing from beneath the canyon was being pushed away.
Yeon-woo griped Vigrid tightly on his hand and held it up high in the air.
The Blessing of the Sword.
The option that had already been proven to be effective against a large number of foes.
‘But the most effective way,'
The tip of Yeon-woo's lips twisted.
‘Is to beat them down with overwhelming power.’
Yeon-woo drew a diagonal line with Vigrid.
The whirlwind that had been spinning around Vigrid flew towards the gap.
The whip of wind snapped off all three rope bridges at the same time and soon lashed out its surplus power onto the cliff.
The entire cliff quaked with a loud exploding noise. A giant scar was carved into the side of the cliff.