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Chapter 74 - Breakthrough (1)

Second Life Ranker
     Chapter 74. Breakthrough (1)

    [This is the second floor, the stage of hills and fields.]

    When Yeon-woo opened his eyes again, the world was covered in woods and greenery.

    Refreshing air and breathtaking views.

    Perhaps because the other teams hadn’t finished their trials yet, there were only Yeon-woo and the siblings in the second floor’s waiting area.

    "Seems like we’re the only ones here. So, are you gonna start right away, hyung?"

    Phante muttered as he took a look around.

    Yeon-woo nodded in answer.

    ‘What I need to find here is Demeter's Key.’

    "Like I said, if you think it’s unfair for me to hoard all the Karma, you should stop following me.”

    "Why would I? I’m curious about how far you can take this. So, for now I’ll be sticking with you."

    Yeon-woo turned his gaze to the sky with a faint smile on his lips.

    "I want to start the trial right now."

    In front of him, a portal suddenly opened up in the air, and someone dropped down through the portal.

    Someone wearing a clean-looking tuxedo just like Yvlke and Aaron, but had a head resembling that of a wolf. He was a lycanthrope.

    "My name is Johannes, and I am the Guardian of the second floor. So, you want to start the trial with just the three of you?”

    The lycanthrope looked at Yeon-woo with eyes full of curiosity.

    "It will be dangerous."

    "But I will get more Karma for that, won’t I?”

    "Sounds like you have a good understanding of The Tower’s system. Fair enough. I’ll get you three started right away."

    Soon after he said that, a message popped up in front of them.

    [The second floor’s trial will now begin.]

    [Description: You are currently in the forest blessed by the goddess of harvest. The forest has always produced enough food for all the animals dwelling in it. But as of late, several monsters have appeared trying to take over the forest and monopolize its yield. Defend the forest from the monsters and restore peace.]

    The Tower's system was designed to assist the players participating in the trials to become a god.

    In case there are players who want to proceed with a trial by themselves, the system creates a round just for them.

    It was thanks to this system that Jeong-woo and his team Arthia had been able to break through the entirety of the Beginner Zone in just a few days.

    But of course, despite how easy it sounded, it was absolute madness. It meant they had to carry out a trial that was originally designed for dozens of players by themselves.

    There had been several players who had taken on the challenge, just like Arthia. But none of them were able to complete the trial.

    Far away in the distance, Yeon-woo saw a horde of Orcs charging through the green fields towards his direction.

    But the noise didn’t just come from one side. He saw a swarm of Gnolls approaching from the West, Goblins from the South, Ogres from the North, and several other monsters from different directions.

    To subdue countless monsters and become king of the forest. That was the goal of the second floor’s trial.

    It would have required quite a lot of players and a very well thought out plan to accomplish this mission,

    But to Yeon-woo, it was a piece of cake.

    ‘This is just like the Monster Outbreak.’

    With Magic Bayonet in his right hand, he jumped straight forward.

    ‘Focus on eliminating one group, and then another.’

    His first targets were the Orcs.

    Beyond the rushing horde of Orcs, he found a helmeted Orc, the Orc King, taking command of his army.

    *   *   *

    [You have acquired ‘Demeter’s Key’.]

    Yeon-woo brought together the unknown pieces he gathered from the corpses of each one of the monster’s kings.

    With a bright light, it combined into a green key.

    [You have set the greatest record on this floor. Will you register your name in the Hall of Fame?]

    [You have refused to register your name.]

    [Your record has been deeply engraved in The Tower. You can register your name later on whenever you wish to.]

    Yeon-woo shouted at the sky.

    "Next."

    [This is the third floor, the stage of swords and spears.]

    Yeon-woo was greeted with a somewhat familiar scenery.

    "Waah!"

    "Kill them all!"

    "Stop them! Don’t let them get in!"

    A place where soldiers wield their swords and spears against each other.

    Dead bodies were piled up on the battlefield. The smell of blood mixed with the stench of burning flesh filled the air.

    What he had to acquire on this floor was Ares’ Key. It was a hidden piece obtained by combining fragments that only appeared randomly when destroying the swords and spears the soldiers were holding.

    [The third floor’s trial....]

    Before the Guardian could even make his appearance, Yeon-woo was already busy running around with his Magic Bayonet.

    ‘It took Arthia 10 days to get through the Beginner Zone. If so,'

    Yeon-woo was already swinging his bayonet towards a man who seemed to be the general.

    ‘I’ll finish in five days.’

    The general’s head was pitched violently into the air.

    *   *   *

    Inside the Guardian’s chambers,

    All the Guardians were watching the screen with horrified faces.

    "He passed through the seventh floor...!”

    "What about the time? How long did it take this time?”

    "12 hours and 28 minutes!"

    "That’s just nuts!"

    "How is that even possible?”

    "At least Arthia was a team. This guy, he’s doing it all by himself. Damn it!"

    Slamming their fists on the table, letting their bodies drop on their chairs, smoking a cigarette… The Guardians tried with all their might to ease their feelings of dejection.

    When they first heard Yvlke talking about him, everyone thought he was joking. But as Yeon-woo cleared each floor with unbelievable speed, only then did they realize that there was not a single line of exaggeration mixed in Yvlke’s statement.

    In fact, Yeon-woo skill wasn’t something that would have attracted this much attention, because many of the Guardians had once been players that had climbed up to the higher floors. Some of them had even reached the level of Lords.

    The reason why they were so impressed was because Yeon-woo had an almost perfect understanding of The Tower’s system.

    Not only did he set records on each floor he passed through, but at the same time, he also skimmed off all of the hidden pieces.

    So during the first couple of floors, they had been observing Yeon-woo as if he were a marvel. It had been a long time since a player so interesting to watch had appeared.

    But as he continued to advance, the time it took him to complete the trials grew shorter and shorter.

    Their jaws continued to drop from shock.

    Though it was the Beginner Zone, the trials were still trials. They couldn't believe how easily he was breaking through each floor.

    The Guardians thought it was no exaggeration to describe him as a ‘monster’. At this rate, he was going to beat Arthia’s record all by himself. And there was nothing they could do to stop him.

    The Guardians’ powers were limited to punishing misconducts which could be seen as a hindrance to other players ascending The Tower.

    A few hours had passed.

    A recently joined Guardian was dismayed as he read a newly received report aloud to his senior Guardians.

    "He beat the eighth floor, and it took him 7 hours and 5 minutes! It says he completed The Laurel of Athens, and acquired another key...!″

    “….”

    "Huh...!"

    Hollow laughter escaped from the Guardians’ mouths.

    "Ohyohyohyo. It seems I’ve won again.”

    Yvlke let out his comical laughter with a broad smile that revealed his giant fangs, and held out his hands to the eighth floor’s Guardian, who was also the eighth victim of the betting game.

    The Guardian's hand was trembling as he handed over the promised item.

    Yvlke once again laughed out loud with a pleased smile.

    "I'm gonna be rich thanks to Cain! I wish for everyday to be just like today. Ohyohyohyo! "

    *   *  *

    Gwergh!

    A painful scream rang across the world full of fire and lava.

    The sound came from Vulka, a monster that with red hide as tough as iron armor and horns as menacing as swords.

    Vulka was a monster concealed in the ninth floor as a hidden piece. Which meant it was virtually impossible for a novice in the Beginner Zone to kill Vulka alone.

    However,

    Vulka already had several daggers stuck in his tough hide.

    "You little vermin! How dare you touch me, the king of flame?’

    But despite his anger, not a single sentence reached Yeon-woo’s ears.

    "Tsk. I guess I can’t make him submit yet. Then I can’t help it. Edora, try to keep him distracted. Phante, just give him a good punch."

    "Okay."

    "Got it!"

    Phante and Edora dashed forward at Yeon-woo’s command.

    It had been, in fact, only a few floors ago that Phante and Edora joined Yeon-woo in fighting.

    After watching Yeon-woo’s fights from behind, they acquainted themselves with Yeon-woo’s style of combat and willingly took on supporting roles.

    If it was before they met Yeon-woo, Phante and Edora would have complained about playing supporting roles. But the two of them never said anything about it.

    It was because they were able to learn something from Yeon-woo’s combat. Something that they couldn’t learn back when they only concentrated on honing their skills.

    It was insight.

    Yeon-woo had ‘eyes’ that could properly view the situation of the battle and use it to his advantage. It was something that could only be acquired through participating in numerous wars and battles.

    And this came as a great shock to the two of them.

    They were able to see combat from a whole different perspective that they never knew existed. And that brought them an opportunity to reflect on themselves with a more objective view.

    They began to review their fights and find what they lacked.

    And when they started to apply changes to their skills based on such enlightenment.

    Their skills also showed great improvement.

    Just by helping Yeon-woo, they were able to train their skills.

    Phante kindled thunder energy onto his fists. The yellow thunderbolts coiled around Phante’s thick forearm.

    "Uratcha!" (TL: Korean equivalent to saying “heave-ho” when lifting something heavy)

    He then crushingly kicked off the ground, flinging himself towards Vulka.

    Edora also darted forward with Shinmado in her hand.

    Phante and Edora, their combined attack was perfect, as if they were one person.

    Phante jumped towards Vulka, drawing his attention, while Edora attacked him from behind. Just when Vulka tried to turn to attack Edora, Phante dug into his blind spot and launched an attack.

    And when Vulka was distracted by the two of them, Yeon-woo made his move.

    Yeon-woo jumped on the wall climbing all the way up to the ceiling and dropped straight down towards Vulka’s head with Carshina’s Dagger and Magic Bayonet in each hand.

    Kwuuung!

    With his head stabbed by two daggers, Vluka twisted his body in horrendous pain.

    The earth quaked whenever he stomped on the ground

    ‘His skull is too hard.’

    Though he had infused the daggers with a heavy load of mana, the daggers didn’t dig much deeper into his skin. It meant that he was resilient to physical attacks.

    It was exactly as he had seen in the diary.

    Yeon-woo then quickly backed off with Shunpo before Vulka’s hand could reach him.

    And Phante jumped straight towards where Yeon-woo had been a second ago and gave Vulka a powerful punch.

    With a loud exploding sound, Vulka’s body was thrown into the air and stuck deep into the wall.

    It was a formidable power.

    From some point onward, Yeon-woo had to admit that the three of them were in pretty good harmony in battle.

    ‘Without these two, I probably couldn’t have cleared the Beginner Zone this fast.’

    Although he had all the information about Olympus’ Treasury, it was not an easy task to gather all the keys spread out through each floor, and even fast enough to get the last key.

    The same went for dealing with Vulka.

    Vulka was too strong, it even made him wonder how could such strong monster exist in Beginner Zone. If Yeon-woo had to fight him alone, it would have taken him a long time even if he had fought at full capacity.

    But with him, there were Phante and Edora helping him in battle.

    The two of them followed his every command so well. Just like his comrades back in the military.

    Whenever he gave them an order, the two quickly realized the hidden meaning.

    "Are all One-horned tribe members like this?"’

    It was an inborn talent for combat. There was no other way he could describe their skills.

    Under the sustained attacks, Vulka finally collapsed onto the floor.

    It’s body was slowly fading away under a red glow.

    Before it’s corpse was completely gone, Yeon-woo quickly shoved his hand into its body and pulled out the last piece of the key.

    And when he connected it to another piece of the key, a message popped up in front of his eyes.

    [You have acquired ‘Hephaestus’ Key’.]

    ···

    [You have set the greatest record on this floor. Will you register your name in the Hall of Fame?]

    [You have refused to register your name.]

    [Your record has been deeply engraved in The Tower. You can register your name later on whenever you wish to.]

    Yeon-woo clasped Hephaestus Key, emitting a red glow like a ruby.

    ‘Now, all that's left is Hermes’ Key. Just one.'

    Yeon-woo had so far managed to get hold of all the Olympian gods' keys available below the tenth floor.

    Hera on the first floor, Demeter on the second floor, Ares on the third floor, Poseidon on the fourth floor, Apollon on the fifth floor, Artemis on the sixth floor, Aphrodite on the seventh floor, Athene on the eighth floor, and Hephaestus on the ninth floor.

    Adding Zeus’ Key he had obtained in the tutorial, he now had a total of ten keys.

    Now there were only two left to open the Olympus' Treasury. One was Hades’ Key, which could only be obtained by setting the best record for clearing the Beginner Zone.

    The other was Hermes' key which can be obtained on the tenth floor.

    Hermes, the god of travel and messengers.

    ‘Let's get it over with.’

    Yeon-woo stepped onto the blue portal on the floor.

    [The trial has ended. Will you continue on to the next floor?]

    [The next floor is limited to solo play only. Your party will be disbanded upon entering the portal.]

    Yeon-woo looked at Phante and Edora.

    "We ran together this far, you won’t fall behind now, will you?”

    "Ha! Get ready to get your ass kicked because we’re going to be faster than you!"

    Phante sniffed with his arms crossed, but he still had a big smile on his lips.

    After a faint chuckle, Yeon-woo proceeded to the next floor.

    [This is the tenth floor, the stage of pure white.]

    And before he knew it, he was already in the next floor.

    But unlike the other floors where he was greeted with different natural landscapes, on this floor, there was nothing he could see, or even perceive, except for the color white.

    Yeon-woo raised his head up.

    Just like how he had done on the other floors, he began the trial immediately.