Yeon-woo was struck dumb for a while.
‘Did it… just shatter?’
Astrape was by far the best weapon among all the treasures in Olympus.
Just now, he had thought he could get a hold of such a great weapon, but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined it would disappear immediately after acquiring it, not to mention its fusion with the Black Bracelet.
‘What the hell is this?’
Black Bracelet was an artifact Yeon-woo acquired when killing Akasha’s Snake. He had been making frequent use of both of its options—Soul Bind and Black Blade—since the moment he acquired it.
‘But I didn’t think it was anything special, unlike Vigrid.’
Yeon-woo bit his lips.
First of all, he had to figure out what happened to Astrape.
Yeon-woo commanded as he activated Draconic Eyes.
[Despair of the Black King]
Classification: Wrist Guard
Description: … But none of the ??? could stand against the power of the Black King, so they had to live in dread for a long time. In the end, the ??? decided to betray the Black King, successfully overthrowing him from his throne and imprisoning him in the abyss.
After an eon spent in confinement, the Black King’s resentment had corrupted the three ‘frames’ that had been binding him in the abyss, turning them into his servants.
The frames tainted with the Black King’s resentment vigilantly await the opportunity to ?? its wearer.
* Soul Collector
Fixed chance of reaping the soul of the killed target, putting it into the ‘collection’. The collected souls lose their memory and become corrupted, left with only deep resentment. The capacity of the collection will increase in proportion to the user’s proficiency.
* Spirit Familiar
Consumes a certain amount of mana to convert a soul in the collection into a Spirit Familiar. But in order to proceed with the conversion, the user’s willpower must overwhelm the target soul’s hatred. Once the soul is converted into a Spirit Familiar, it will become a faithful servant of the wearer and gladly carry out any given orders.
* Black Energy
The enhanced version of Black Blade. Consumes the souls in the collection and converts them into dark property energy. The power increases in proportion to the number of consumed souls. Once created, the user can wield the energy at will.
Ability locked. (Sealed)
Ability locked. (Sealed)
** This is a ‘Unique’ artifact. no same artifact exists in The Tower, and it will be bound to its owner. It cannot be transferred or traded between players.
** Some of the abilities are sealed. You must meet the qualifications or conditions in order to lift the seals.
** Some information cannot be accessed. You must meet the qualifications or conditions in order to view the information.
Yeon-woo frowned at the sight of the name he did not recognize.
Judging by the word ‘King’ in his name, he must have been one of the past Lords.
Moreover, if he was able to make an artifact capable of absorbing a godly artifact, he must have been a transcendent about to reach godhood.
But no matter how hard he racked his brain, he couldn’t come up with a single clue about who the ‘Black King’ might be. Not even in his brother’s diary could he find a line that mentioned anything about him
‘If I could figure out who the original owner was, I might be able to learn how to better handle the Black Bracelet.’
Now that he had lost Astrape, he at least had to get a better grasp of how to use this artifact. And the first step towards that goal was to learn from his predecessor, the Black King.
But much to his frustration, there was not much information about him provided in the item description.
Just when he was about to close the information window, a certain word caught Yeon-woo’s eye.
Before the Black Bracelet changed into Despair of the Black King, there had been a passage talking about Akasha’s Snake.
It stated that Akasha’s Snake missed its previous master and that it kept his belonging, in hope of his return.
What if the ‘master’ of Akasha’s Snake was the Black King, and the cause of his disappearance was the betrayal described in the description?
‘The Black King was someone who had Akasha’s Snake as his minion…. If I could at least find out what’s covered up by the question marks, it would be much easier to know who he is.’
Yeon-woo’s head became crowded with distracting thoughts.
‘Should I have chosen Aegis?’
He thought for a moment,
‘No, it may have done the same even if I took Aegis.’
He didn’t know exactly why had the Black Bracelet consumed Astrape.
It could have been because Astrape was originally part of Black Bracelet, or it also could have been because it just required a godly artifact to lift its seal.
If it was the latter, the bracelet could have destroyed whatever artifact he chose.
‘For now, I’m going to have to find out more about who the Black King is as soon as I get out of here.’
With a new plan in mind, Yeon-woo once again examined the new options.
It seemed like not only its appearance but its options also went through a complete overhaul.
‘The two existing options were upgraded and one new option was unlocked.’
Overall, there was a new concept called ‘collection’ added to the description of each option.
Soul Collector, which was Soul Bind previously, changed so that the bracelet could grow to hold more souls.
‘It’s a clear advantage. I can bind more souls. Now I can use them more frequently.’
From the tutorial all the way to the 10th floor, Yeon-woo had used the Black Bracelet in combat several times.
If there was any problem to it, it was the small capacity it had to retain souls.
But now, thanks to the upgrade, the problem was solved.
With the increased capacity, a variety of new strategies became available to him.
In that sense, Yeon-woo also found Black Energy very useful.
Until now, the dark energy converted using Black Blade could only be fused into his weapon, thus it could only be used for offensive purposes only.
But now that it was changed to Black Energy, he was free from that restraint.
Though it would require some experimentation, he could wrap the dark energy around his body for defense, and if possible, use it to strengthen certain parts of his body.
And lastly, there was a newly unlocked option, Spirit Familiar.
In fact, Yeon-woo had already experienced creating something similar to a Spirit Familiar.
It was the Evil Spirits.
When he raided Arangdan’s secret base in the tutorial, he had converted the souls of the sacrificed players into Evil Spirits and helped them fulfill their revenge.
It seemed like a Spirit Familiar was the same as an Evil Spirit, but made to serve him instead.
‘The converted souls were allowed to keep memories from their past lives. So if I could make the soul of a skilled player into Spirit Familiar, it’ll be of great help for climbing The Tower.’
Of course, it won’t be easy to get the soul of a skilled player.
* * *
When Yeon-woo finished checking his bracelet, messages appeared in front of him.
[You have chosen Astrape as your reward.]
[Olympus’ Treasury will now close.]
The entire space surrounding Yeon-woo started to withdraw and contract into a single line like a paper being folded. All the lights disappeared into the single line, and Yeon-woo was swallowed into the silent depths of darkness.
When he opened his eyes again, there was a familiar figure standing in front of him. A Goblin dressed in a neat tuxedo with a monocle over his left eye.
Yvleke, the Guardian he had met in the tutorial, greeted him with a bright smile.
“Ohyohyohyo! Congratulations. You’ve set up a new record for the Beginner Zone’s fastest clear. Though it’s just the first ten floors, I’ve never seen any player passing through the trials so triumphantly. When I first saw you in the tutorial, I knew you’d make great achievements once you entered The Tower, but this is even more stunning than what I had expected! So, I’d like to congratulate you once again for breaking the record.”
Yvlke’s attitude towards Yeon-woo was very courteous and polite.
Yeon-woo could tell that Yvlke was genuinely praising him for his performance
However, Yeon-woo was surprisingly unmoved even by Yvlke’s compliments.
Perhaps because he was still dazzled from meeting a great being such as Hermes, or because he was still in shock from seeing a great weapon like Astrape breaking down into fine dust.
But whatever the reason was, Yeon-woo didn’t feel anything despite his accomplishments.
Rather, it occurred to him that he had merely done something very obvious and unsurprising.
If others knew what he was thinking, they would point fingers at him for being arrogant. But that was really how Yeon-woo was feeling.
‘Maybe my experiences in Africa left me emotionally drained.’
Yeon-woo’s head was currently full of questions for Yvlke.
“Why did Astrape break down?”
“Ohyohyo. That’s a secret I cannot answer.”
“Then who is the Black King?”
“That’s also a secret.”
“Why was I given this bracelet?”
“The Tower provides rewards according to players’ achievements. There’s no other reason behind it.”
Yvlke grinned as he fixed his monocle.
But his attitude made him look like a sly old fox hiding an important secret from Yeon-woo.
“We Guardians are merely the custodians of The Tower. We are here to execute the will of The Tower. The rewards you receive are all given based on the performance you make. So whatever you may have experienced, it is all because of the path you chose. Therefore, there is not much I can tell you regarding the questions you asked.”
Yvlke’s keen eyes let out a strange glow.
“Oh, also, it is true that we, Guardians, watch players twenty-four-seven, but please do keep in mind that you are just one of the hundreds of millions of players we have to manage in The Tower.”
Yeon-woo answered with a nod.
Just like what Yvlke said, he was nothing but a player whom the Guardians wouldn’t care about even if he died.
However, the word ‘path’ Yvlke used kept bugging Yeon-woo.
‘I suppose that is your path.’
And it reminded him of what Hermes had said when he refused to be his Apostle.
‘My path… What could he have meant by that?’
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes.
Gods do not speak amiss, for they are the rulers of all creatures. So Hermes must have seen something in him to say such a thing. And he really wanted to know what that ‘something’ was.
‘Could it be something about the Black King?’
But after a while, Yeon-woo shook his head.
Even if he continued to agonize over this matter, he wouldn’t be able to get any answer.
Whatever path he was treading right now, he would at least bump into something if he kept walking.
If so, what he had to do now was to focus on living the present.
“Looks like you’re done putting on your thinking caps. Then let’s talk about your rewards now.”
Yvlke clapped as he laughed cheerfully.
[Total Karma: 1,420,119 Points]
“Look at this number. This is absolutely incredible! Right now, you have 10 rewards for clearing each floor, one for clearing the Beginner Zone, and another one for setting a new record, a total of 12 pieces of pending artifacts. Would you like to take them now?”
Yeon-woo shook his head.
“I’d like to combine all 12 rewards plus my Karma points for one single reward.”
Yvlke burst into laughter as if he had been expecting that answer.
“Is there anything you’d like to receive?”
“You silly. You know that is already over.”
“I’m not joking.”
Yeon-woo refuted, but Yvlke pretended he didn’t hear what he said.
“If you have nothing in your mind, then I will have the system decide for you.”
The over 1.4 million points quickly counted down to 0, and the twelve light orbs hovering next to Yvlke flew into Yvlke’s fist.
And when Yvlke opened his palm,
Yeon-woo’s eyes slightly widened.
The artifact that appeared on Yvlke’s hand was also familiar to Yeon-woo.
A nine layered shield with a monster’s head in its center.
It was Aegis.
“Your achievement is something that no one has ever accomplished so far. So it seems like the system has decided to give you this artifact as a reward.”
Only then did Yeon-woo realize.
What meaning did someone’s achievements have in The Tower?
He once questioned what kind of reward would he receive if he accrued all his achievements.
But he didn’t expect the result to come back like this.
“Would you like to take this as your reward?”
[You have acquired ‘Athena’s Aegis’.]
Aegis fell onto Yeon-woo’s hand.
He thought it would be heavy because of its nine layers, but when he held it in his hand, he was surprised to feel how light it was.
Yeon-woo passed his hand over the smooth surface of the shield.
“It seems like my job is finished. Perhaps I should take my leave now.”
A message popped up over Yvlke’s head.
[The trial has ended. Will you continue to the next floor?]
A blue portal opened underneath his feet.
Yeon-woo then disappeared into the portal.
* * *
The moment Yeon-woo left the last floor of the Beginner Zone, a huge message window appeared on every floor of The Tower.
It was an announcement shown to all players in The Tower whenever a record was broken.
Its contents were simple.
It was about an undisclosed player breaking the previous record of the Beginner Zone and registering their score in the Hall of Fame.
And when players found out that the undisclosed player was the Hoarder, the whole Tower once again entered a period of agitation.
Most of the players were worried by the advent of the new talent, but there were some who expressed joy.
Because it was the moment that the name they wanted to erase from The Tower, the name of Jeong-woo, was finally thrown into the dustbin of history.
But instead, the name ‘Hoarder’ became engraved deep inside their heads.