Chapter 88. Flame of Life (4)
“Why is it so dark in here? It wasn’t like this before….”
The leader of the Sungwoong clan, Baek, frowned as he looked around the forest covered in gray mist.
The mist which had set in once they stepped into the forest, was becoming thicker and thicker as they proceed deeper into the woods, and now he could only see three meters ahead of him.
At this rate, despite their planned siege, they might end up missing their target if they could not secure a clear view.
And strangely enough, it wasn’t just their sight that was being disturbed by this mist. He felt like his sense of smell, sound and all the other senses were being blurred by it.
If the target were to ambush them right now, they wouldn’t stand a chance.
“This is not going to work. Guys, gather around!"
Baek thus decided to gather up his clan members and continue the hunt as a group.
This was going to create a gap in their encirclement, but their safety was more important.
Soon, the clan members gathered at his order.
"Wait, where did the others go?”
But there were only 31 players gathered around him. Considering that the original number was around 60, almost half of the members had disappeared.
The remaining clan members looked around the forest with anxiousness.
The gloomy atmosphere and the screaming voices, all of these were making their palms sweaty.
A sense of uneasiness filled their minds. The possibility that they might cease to exist just like the ones that weren’t there.
Their instincts were warning them they had to get out of that forest as soon as possible.
The players glanced at each other.
"Hey, captain…? I think we should consider backing out….”
But the moment one of them stepped up and tried to persuade their leader,
"I, is that you, Baek?"
Suddenly, someone burst out from the fog while crying out loud.
Surprised by the sudden appearance, the players instinctively brought their hands to their swords, but their eyes were filled with surprise when they saw the face of the person who had just appeared.
It was the vice-leader of Behemoth.
Unlike the confident look he had when his clan first went into the forest, his face was now deadly-pale upon return.
"Why are you guys here...? N, no, we don’t have time for this. We have to get out of here! Quickly!"
Glancing over his shoulder, the vice-leader urged Baek to leave this place.
It looked like he was being chased by someone.
"Okay, calm down and take a deep breath. We can’t just abort the mission without knowing the reason. You have to tell me what happened inside.”
"G, ghosts… They are c, coming after us! T, they're going to rip our bodies apart... and kill us all …! Quickly, we have to run away!"
But Baek creased his brows as he couldn’t understand his gibberish
"Ghosts? You mean monsters like Wraiths or Banshees?”
"N, no, they were different… Fuck, just get out of my way! This is not the time to chat…!"
The vice-leader then shook Baek’s hand away and tried to run away.
However, before Baek could even try to stop him, he saw the vice-leader just standing frozen in place.
Baek then looked around and saw that his other clan members were also pale, trembling in fear.
He realized that their mouths were trying to say something to him.
But when Baek turned around, he saw the opening jaws of a giant beast.
And before he could do anything,
The giant beast chomped at Baek and the vice-leader.
Their lower body fell helplessly onto the ground.
"The ghost is here!"
The remaining players screamed at the sight of the monster that had just killed the two strongest players in their group.
A monster with a gigantic body and bestial jaws.
The Spirit Familiar, Ka, roared towards the sky.
The entire forest shook with the monstrous roar of the ghost that was once the great monster Vulka.
The players collapsed on the ground as they lost their will to fight, hoping the monster would ignore them.
But contrary to their hopes, Ka dashed towards the next prey, producing an earthshaking rumble.
* * *
Somewhere above the forest, another Spirit Familiar was looking downwards while floating in the air.
The spirit of the Witch Doctor, Boo, was floating about, letting out an eerie laughter while overseeing the forest from the skies.
The noise he made, which sounded like a sly laughter, and at the same time like a mournful cry, had started ever since creating the gray mist.
He felt like he could almost die from laughter, though he was already dead. But that was just how fun he thought the current situation was.
Every time he swung his hand in the air, a new batch of thick mist rose in the forest.
And the humans that walked into his mist reacted in one way or another.
They either shrank in fear, losing their will to continue forward, or they started screaming in order to overcome their fear.
This was because the gray mist he had spread around the forest had a very special feature. It could dull the players’ senses, and not only did it interfere with their sights, but it could also induce confusion.
Although the debuff was minimal, this alone was very effective against large groups as it could affect many players at once and mess with their cooperation.
The mist made the surroundings barely distinguishable, making players’ unaware of their own position and even of the ones standing right next to them.
The lack of vision in addition to the distant screams created a terrifying atmosphere, and the feeling that they were left alone in the forest implanted their mind with fear and a constant feeling of danger.
Such fear then slowly ate away at their wills, and in the end, their minds.
Boo was watching this whole process from above the forest, and he couldn't stop laughing at them.
‘How dare you weak humans come to kill my master?’
It was nonsense.
For Boo, Yeon-woo was someone who had to be treated like a god.
No, he was a god to him.
A god who had saved him from suffering in the limbo of the deceased, the abyss of hell, and even granted him with a physical body as well as great power.
From the moment he had regained his ‘sentience’, Boo vowed absolute loyalty to Yeon-woo.
And the more he was fed with Spirit Beads, the stronger his loyalty grew.
That’s why Boo could never forgive those who had dared to come to harm his master.
For him, they were nothing but filthy insects who had come to disgrace his god.
It didn't matter whether or not they were actually capable of harming his master. For the very reason that they had malicious thoughts against him, they had to be punished with death.
No, even in death, they deserved to rot in an infernal prison for all eternity.
Therefore, Boo made the mist thicker and thicker so that they would experience as much pain as possible.
Their fear and screams were his amusement, as well as a very fun game for him.
Then, he thought again.
After they were done with these vermin, their generous master would gift them another Spirit Beads so that they could become stronger.
So he became curious.
Curious about what kind of amusement he would be able to enjoy if he could grow stronger, and also what level of strength he would be able to reach.
His master had once told him that he was expecting him to become something called a ‘Lich’, and achieve something greater with him.
The mere thought of being able to help his master made his heart pound, though he didn’t have one.
「Bring… destruction… upon master’s enemies…!」
Boo shouted a sentence he had found in his memories from when he was still alive.
* * *
"Just die already!"
Nol leaped into the air and dodged the two blades aimed at his legs.
The whole scene of a giant monster doing flips in midair and launching counter-attacks as he landed on the ground came as a shock to the players
The shredded pieces of a player's body fell to the ground where his four sharp claws swept through.
Neither their shields nor their armor could stop Nol’s sharp claws which were infused with dark element mana.
"This isn’t happening, this isn’t hap..."
The players who were looking away in an effort to deny reality could only fall on their backs as their heads were pierced with shards of dark mana Nol had thrown at them.
But amid the massacre, Nol quickly looked back at the corpses as if he thought of something he had forgotten. And as expected, he found the souls of the players coming out of their dead bodies.
Nol quickly snatched the bodies and swallowed them before the souls could disappear.
Intoxicated with the joy of triumph, Nol let out a monstrous roar into the sky.
As his memories from his previous life gradually emerged from consuming the Spirit Beads, he could feel his past habits returning to him.
The more the remaining players fought with the monster, the more they felt their fighting will draining out of their bodies.
The monster that stood in front of them was definitely a ghost.
No matter how hard they tried to strike it with their swords, they just went straight through its body, like slicing smoke.
Placing their hopes on the few magicians in the group, they tried to corner the monster and strike it down with magic, but it quickly came back to life and jumped back at them as if it hadn’t taken any damage.
They had never heard of a beast like this inhabiting the forest, or even the entire Dream World.
The players tried so hard to defeat the monster, but when they came to themselves, there were only three of them left alive.
And they instinctively knew it.
That the three of them were the only ones left in the forest.
Because the screams they had been hearing from time to time had stopped.
"God... Why is this happening to us…!”
The three players then started to weep at the thought of their imminent fate. One of them even wet his trousers from the overwhelming fear.
They wanted to run away, but their legs didn’t seem to follow the order.
The gray thick mist covering the forest seemed like a prison.
And there was nothing they could do but to wait until the monster came back to kill them.
The sound of heavy footsteps broke the silence.
They slowly shifted their gaze towards the origin of the sound.
The first thing they saw were two intense lights, like Will-O’-Wisps floating in the air, slowly approaching them.
As the two mysterious lights came nearer, a dark figure started to form around them, and then it became a human silhouette.
It was only when the figure was already in front of them that the three of them realized its identity.
A person in black armor and a black mask. It was the Hoarder.
The Hoarder stood before them with an indifferent look.
Blood was dripping down from the dagger in his right hand. It seemed to be the blood of the players he killed as he made his way here.
The three of them gulped as they felt their fate was nigh.
Their shaking eyes were firmly fixed on the player in front of them.
They wanted to beg for mercy, but their voices didn’t come out.
One of them finally managed to utter some words.
"W, why are you doing this to us…?”
But his voice cracked.
Yeon-woo tilted his head.
"What do you mean?"
"I asked you why you are doing this to us! Y, you didn’t have to kill us all!”
They had lost all their friends and teammates in one day.
No, it was even worse than that.
Even their rival clans that had been in a friendly competition with them until just yesterday had been annihilated. And this was all done by one single player.
Just one person had killed more than a hundred players and destroyed a dozen clans.
Could he not feel any guilt from what he had done?
"That’s just nonsense."
The player's head flew off into the air with a single slice of his dagger.
Looking at the blood spraying out from where their friend’s head used to be, the two remaining players fell on their rears with their lips parted, forming a soundless scream.
They were already half out of their mind. They had already thrown away any hope of survival in front of this monster.
Yeon-woo whispered to them in a devilish tone.
"Does any of you want to live? I'm thinking of giving you a chance. Just one person."