Chapter 87. Flame of Life (3)
Yeon-woo’s fame as ‘the best amongst novices’, however, was only useful on the lower floors.
For the two giant clans, he was no better than any other ordinary player.
He wasn’t capable of controlling a battlefield where tens of thousands of players could be easily slaughtered by just a small number of rankers.
But Yeon-woo still wanted to take part in the war.
Between watching the war from afar and actually participating in it, the information he could acquire would be hugely different.
‘I might be able to gain something unexpected.'
Yeon-woo had to know the reason why Bahal and Leonte had gotten into a fight.
Though he knew their friendship had fallen apart after Arthia’s disbandment, there must have been a more specific cause for this clash.
Fortunately, there was a way for him to participate in this war.
‘If I go to Bahal….’
Yeon-woo recalled to the offer Bahal had given him. He had told Yeon-woo to look for him whenever he wanted to.
So, if he were to take on that offer and attach himself to Bahal, he might be able to get a better understanding. After all, Bahal was the cause of this war, and he used to be a member of Arthia.
But Yeon-woo soon shook his head at the idea.
‘No, that would be too dangerous. He’ll ask me to reveal my identity if I stick next to him.’
It would be a big problem if he ordered Yeon-woo to take off his mask.
‘Then what if… I join the war as a mercenary?'
For a war of such scale, both clans would need as many skilled players possible.
‘This is the best way I can think of right now.'
But the problem with this was that they would conduct several tests to see if they could use him as a mercenary.
‘They might do a background check on me to confirm I’m not a spy. It’ll be less dangerous compared to going straight to Bahal, but there’s still is a good chance they would want my mask off.’
The fact that he had to hide his identity kept coming back to haunt him.
Struck by a sudden idea, Yeon-woo’s eyes emitted a strange glow.
‘I can make them come for me.’
If he could build a reputation big enough for the two clans to come to ask him for help with the war, the likelihood of them asking him to take off his mask would be lower.
‘But now is not the time to think about this. It’s not as if the war is going to break out in a few days. First I have to focus on clearing the 11th floor’s trial.’
Yeon-woo then summoned the quest window.
By now, every item on the list was marked as ‘completed’, except for one.
Manticores were Mythical Beasts—no, Demonic Beasts that were said to have the body of a lion, wings of an eagle and the venomous stinger of a scorpion.
Among the beasts on the 11th floor, it was the hardest one to kill, with the only exception of the four Legendary Beasts.
Moreover, this beast was known to dwell deep inside a dungeon guarded by countless Demonic Beasts.
In order to kill a Manticore, many clans had to organize large-scale parties consisting of more than 50 players.
Yeon-woo, however, was planning to break through such a dangerous dungeon all by himself.
‘The question is how long it will take me to make my way through a 10-floor-deep dungeon.’
Thus, Yeon-woo headed towards the Manticore’s dungeon with hurried steps.
Or at least that’s what he planned to do until….
With a stomp, Yeon-woo suddenly stopped walking.
He noticed a group of players hiding in the woods within the range of his strengthened senses.
"When are you going to come out?"
With a rustling sound, 30 players appeared from behind the bushes, each holding a weapon in their hands.
"Is he the Hoarder?"
The player who seemed to be the leader of the group asked a player behind him.
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes.
He recognized their faces. They were the members of Behemoth that he saw back in Barrack.
The player standing behind the leader took out a piece of paper and looked back and forth between Yeon-woo and the paper.
"That should be him. His appearance matches the description."
Then the players began to buzz with excitement. Some of them even blew whistles as if they were amazed at the sight of the much-rumored player.
Yeon-woo could see their eyes were glowing with greed like those of hyenas staring down at their prey.
"What do you want?"
He asked back in a cold tone.
"We are from Behemoth, and we came to do some ‘investigation’."
"Yeah. Ever heard of the guy who's been ruining the beasts’ habitats on this 11th floor recently?"
His remark almost made Yeon-woo let out a sneer.
It was very obvious what they wanted from him.
"Well, as you can see, there have been several innocent victims who have suffered some serious losses because of his evildoings. Therefore, we, as the representative of the victims, have been looking into the case. And it has come to our knowledge that you may be the culprit. So, we'd like you to cooperate with our ‘investigation’."
The leader ran his tongue over his lips and gestured the other players.
The players ran past him and began to surround Yeon-woo.
They were going to coerce him into submission if he didn’t comply with their demands.
The leader couldn’t stop his lips from curling upwards at how smoothly things were working out right now.
The only step left was to seize his belongings to see whether or not he was criminal they were looking for.
If he was, he would take away the materials. And even if he wasn’t, he could still steal his artifacts. No matter how things turned out, he could make a good profit out of the situation.
He was very excited about this because the one he was dealing with was the so rumored player, the Hoarder. Now was his chance to see what kind of rewards he had been receiving from The Tower.
He was confident that this would turn out well, as the clan he belonged to, Behemoth, had Cheonghwado’s backing, and everyone on the 11th floor knew it.
Therefore, he thought Yeon-woo couldn’t possibly attack them and make himself an enemy of Cheonghwado.
Yeon-woo finally let out a sneer.
To him, this situation was comical.
The expressions of the members of Behemoth crumbled.
"Did you just laugh?"
"I did. Because it’s funny how you’re trying to boss me around as if your words meant something to me.”
Yeon-woo then warmed up his shoulders and slowly drew Magic Bayonet from his waist.
"Stop with the excuses. If you want to take what’s mine, come and get it."
The leader’s face flushed red with anger, but he managed to calm himself down and continued with his acting.
"So, it was you. Well, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to make you compensate us for the losses you’ve caused.”
Yeon-woo laughed out loud.
"Try me, if you dare."
"What the f…."
Wondering where Yeon-woo’s confidence came from, the leader was about to order his teammates to strike him at once.
But his voice did not escape from his mouth.
Then, he felt his surroundings suddenly turning black.
The leader's head dropped to the floor, completely detached from his neck.
A fountain of blood shot up from the severed neck.
When the leader’s body dropped down, a figure appeared behind it.
A figure letting out a terrifying cackle with its body consisting of some kind of gray smoke.
It was Nol.
"Wh, what the fuck just happened?"
Surprised by the situation, the players backed far away from their leader’s corpse.
But that was only the beginning.
The other Spirit Familiars appeared one by one from all directions, and they began to slaughter the remaining members of Behemoth, who let out horrible shrieks.
The players panicked as they saw the gray monsters barely taking any damage from their swords.
Torn limbs were scattered around the ground as cries of terror permeated the forest.
Some jumped at Yeon-woo in efforts to kill the possible controller of these monsters but,
Yeon-woo simply infused dark energy into his bayonet and with a single swing towards the incoming players,
Their dismembered bodies dropped down onto the floor, dying the floor red with blood.
"D, do, do you not know who’s behind our clan!? Y, you’ll regret… Uwak!"
A player started screaming at Yeon-woo as he backed away, but soon tripped over a torn limb and fell to the floor.
His wet trousers stank with the smell of urine.
Although he tried using Cheonghwado’s name to escape this situation,
"And who’s going to tell them,”
"When no one will be making it out of here alive?”
Yeon-woo's dagger was inexorable.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck...!"
Eventually, the remaining players realized that they had no chance of winning the fight, and tried to escape.
A brutal monster that could control invulnerable ghosts. That’s what they saw Yeon-woo as.
"Don’t leave anyone alive. And when you bring their souls back, keep them separate from the rest of the souls."
The souls of those who died in terror could be used in many ways, particularly for making Spirit Beads to enhance his Spirit Familiars.
Uttering an incomprehensible cry as an answer, the Spirit Familiars followed the fleeing players into the woods.
Yeon-woo then also slowly moved into the woods as he cast Shunpo.
"No, please don’t!"
Terrified screams resonated throughout the entire forest.
* * *
"Welp, there they go."
"Those who went to kill the Hoarder, weren’t they supposed to be top experts amongst Behemoth?”
"Yup. And now we know the Hoarder is stronger than all of them combined."
"I mean, I knew he’d be strong since he has been arming himself with the best artifacts one could get up until the 11th floor, but...."
The leaders of the clan union, who had been waiting outside of the forest, put on a stern look as they heard the screams. It was obvious they belonged not to the Hoarder, but the players of Behemoth.
Behemoth used to be a medium-sized clan that was famous among players in the lower-half floors.
Though they had lots of enemies due to their coercive behavior, they had the skills to back it up.
But after Behemoth became a subsidiary clan of Cheonghwado, things changed.
All the other clans tried to avoid getting into trouble with them because if they got into a fight with Behemoth, they would have to face Cheonghwado as well.
So, when Behemoth said they were going to kill the Hoarder by themselves, the other clans couldn’t complain about it.
But now, they thought it was good that they hadn’t stepped up.
‘He could take Behemoth down all by himself?’
‘Does he not even care about making an enemy of Cheonghwado?’
They felt a terrible chill running down their spines.
When the Starlight Pub pointed Yeon-woo as the possible culprit of the destruction of the beasts’ habitats, nearly all of the clans staying in Barrack readied themselves to go after him.
Because they desperately needed the materials to prepare for the upcoming war.
Thus, the clans formed an alliance in order to subdue the Hoarder. No matter how skilled he was, they believed he wouldn’t be able to handle these many players at once.
Such belief, however, was slowly replaced by doubt. A doubt that they might actually lose the fight with the Hoarder.
Despite the doubt, none of the clan leaders could tell the others they wanted to call it quits.
They knew very well that it would be over for them if they showed weakness.
"No matter how strong he is, he is just one player. We have the numbers and tactics. We’ll first surround the forest, encircling him and slowly moving up to him. There’s nothing he can do against this strategy.”
The clan leaders decided to comply with the strategy that one of the leaders came up with.
The clan union finally set off into the forest where the Hoarder awaited,
Without realizing the gray mist ominously oozing out from the forest.