Chapter 89. Flame of Life (5)
For the two players, Yeon-woo’s offer came as welcome rain after a long drought.
"We want to survive tog—"
"I wanna live! No, I have to live! Please, I’ll do anything if you spare my life!"
Before one could even speak properly, the other jumped up from his seated position and shouted at Yeon-woo.
The one who hadn’t finished his sentence looked at the other one with his eyes wide open as if he couldn’t believe what just happened.
The two of them were best friends.
He was going to ask for a way for both of them to survive, but just like that, his friend shattered his hope.
He could see his friend’s apologetic eyes.
And that was the last thing he saw.
Yeon-woo ruthlessly got rid of the silent one and lightly shook off the blood from Magic Bayonet.
He turned towards the remaining one as he put his bayonet back in its sheath.
"You said you’ll do anything?"
"Uhh… yes! Please don’t kill me, I have a child….”
Yeon-woo extended his hand and stopped him from speaking.
He didn't want to hear his story. If he had to listen to every player’s story in The Tower, he’d never be able to proceed.
"You know those guys who tipped you off about my location? Go and tell them right now. If this happens one more time, I will make sure they are wiped from existence."
The player then asked with a shaky voice as if he couldn’t believe his ears.
"Oh, umm, is that it?"
"Why? Should I add something else?”
"Oh, no, definitely not! I'll be sure to tell them—I mean, warn them! Don’t you worry about a thing!"
The player then turned tails and ran away, afraid Yeon-woo would change his mind.
As soon as the player was out of sight, Nol appeared dimly over Yeon-woo's head.
After nodding, Nol once again vanished into thin air.
From this point on, Nol would follow behind the player and find out who spread the information about him.
In the first place, Yeon-woo had no intention of letting those who messed with him live. In order to prevent future problems from recurring, he had to nip it in the bud and root out the source all at once.
Although the fact that his Spirit Familiars grew weaker when going too far from him was a bit problematic, he had already taken it into account when feeding Nol with Spirit Beads.
"I bet they’re still not any weaker than an ordinary player.'
Yeon-woo took a glance around the forest.
The gray mist had already lifted, revealing a clear view of the entire forest.
The forest was an absolute mess.
There were puddles of blood and shredded pieces of flesh as well as fallen trees and burnt marks scattered everywhere along the ground.
The majority of the corpses were missing at least an arm or a leg, and some were even missing their entire upper half. The more relatively intact corpses still had twisted limbs or broken necks.
Yeon-woo noticed there was one thing all the corpses had in common despite their differences in shape.
It was that all of them, or at least those who still had their head, had died with horrified expressions on their faces.
From the first to the last players he killed, they all died with the same expression.
"I didn’t notice there were these many players.”
Yeon-woo clicked his tongue when he noticed the number of souls he had collected from this battle.
It was a total of 382 players.
Though he called this event a ‘battle’, it was more of a merciless massacre.
From start to finish, the battle had been completely one-sided.
Boo had created the gray mist, thwarting the clan union’s siege; Nol and Ka launched series of surprise attacks while hiding behind the mist; and Yeon-woo, leisurely following from behind, had finished off the remaining players.
A simple but effective strategy.
However, Yeon-woo felt something amiss…
‘I don’t feel anything.’
Despite having killed so many players, he didn’t feel anything.
The words one of the players spat out still lingered in his ears…
You call yourself a human?
‘I've heard that too many times back in Africa.’
He felt that he did what he had to.
Plus, it was they who had attacked him in the first place. Everything he did was an act of self-defense.
He wondered if he always had been this kind of person, or if it was The Tower that made him like this.
However, the fact was, it was because of this personality that he had received his code name, ‘Cain’.
‘I don't think it's any good.’
Yeon-woo converted all the souls he collected into Spirit Beads and handed them out to the rest of his Spirit Familiars.
‘Let’s not think about this. I’ll have to go through this a lot later on, and I can’t let these thoughts distract me.’
Yeon-woo then jumped into the air.
He had spent too much time dealing with these players. He had to go to get the last materials needed for the vessel for the Flame of Life as soon as possible.
* * *
Starlight Pub, City of Barrack.
"They should be coming back at any moment now."
The bartender narrowed his eyes as he placed a dry cup on the shelf.
Several hours had passed since he had provided the clans staying in the city with the information regarding The Hoarder.
Due to preparations for the upcoming war, there was a great number of clans gathered inside the city. Thanks to this, he had made quite a lot of money by selling the information.
Some small clans that could not afford to buy the information with money, had even signed a contract stipulating they would share part of their loot.
Therefore, this hunt was a very important deal for the Starlight Pub, as well as for the bartender himself.
‘Even if the hunt fails, that fact alone would serve as indicative to the Hoarder’s strength. That kind of information also sells well.’
In any case, he was on the profiting side.
The door suddenly swung open with a loud thump.
Just from this, the bartender could already tell the results.
‘Looks like they failed.’
If they had succeeded, they would have come into the pub with swagger.
And sure enough, a player came walking in completely covered in dried blood and dust.
His name was Shum, he was the leader of a clan named Lante.
Glaring furiously at the bartender, Shum slowly walked towards him.
"You son of a...!"
But the bartender beckoned with his finger. Then, five large men sitting at a table in the corner stood up from their seats.
They were players he had hired to get rid of those who came to the pub to cause trouble.
Realizing the bartender’s intention, Shum flinched and turned around to make a run for it.
But at that moment, he noticed a presence from above his head. When he looked up, there was the monster he had seen back in the forest, Nol.
Shum screamed out loud and collapsed on the floor. The bartender and the five players stopped approaching Shum and stood there with a puzzled look.
But before they could even understand the situation, Nol combined his dark energy with the Flame Infusion skill Yeon-woo had prepared beforehand.
And it created an explosion that not only blew up everything inside the pub but also incinerated several nearby buildings.
Thanks to this incident, the entire city of Barrack was thrown into chaos by the sudden act of terrorism.
* * *
Three days later, Yeon-woo returned to the Phoenix's nest.
『It took you longer than I had presumed.』
said the Phoenix in a surprised tone.
Yeon-woo answered with a bitter laugh.
"A lot of people came to bothering me."
『It looks like you got yourself into some troubles.』
Yeon-woo only gave a nod as the answer.
After annihilating the clan union, the residents of the 11th floor became warier of Yeon-woo.
Some of the clans that had suffered serious damage from the hunt set a price on his head.
Because of this, Yeon-woo had to get rid of a few more groups of players whilst heading towards the dungeon.
‘Well, they did make great feed for the Spirit Familiars.’
Not only that, there was another reason he couldn’t return earlier.
"And that Manticore, it was harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t know there would be a whole colony of them in that dungeon.”
『I see. It can be a problem that they live in packs. I also forgot about it.』
Even after entering the dungeon, things were just as problematic as before.
Thanks to his Spirit Familiars, reaching the boss room didn’t pose much difficulty. The real problem began after he entered the boss room.
Upon entering the room, he saw one male Manticore with around 20 female Manticores and over a hundred younger ones beneath him.
His brother also described in his diary that Manticores lived in families, but nothing about the family being this huge.
‘Maybe they just multiplied.’
Wherever the extra number came from, it was still a fact that he had to deal with them all by himself.
‘Not everything’s so bad. Rather, it was quite profitable.’
Ever since the Tutorial’s Inner Area up until now, Yeon-woo had never fought with all his might.
He had been agonizing over a way to confirm how strong he had become, especially after acquiring Despair of Black King and Aegis.
‘I've tried using my skills while training with the spirits, but I can’t tell how strong I’ve become just from that.’
But this time it was different. He had his Spirit Familiars deal with females and the little ones, while he himself engaged in an all-out fight with the male Manticore.
Yeon-woo had faced several life-threatening dangers during the battle. Especially near the end of the fight when he was struck with the aftereffects of Combat Will, his connection with Aegis had suddenly disappeared, almost allowing a critical hit from the Manticore.
But whenever he overcame such dangers, he felt a surge of thrill rushing down his body.
He was finally able to have confidence in how strong he had become.
‘Although, it ended up giving me tons of work to do.’
Yeon-woo recalled his sword, Vigrid, the blade of which became very dull from the fight.
Not just the sword, but his other artifacts also required some degree of mending.
He thought he might have to go back and grab his hammer pretty soon.
‘The biggest change from the fight occurred with the Spirit Familiars.'
Yeon-woo had lost six of the ten Spirit Familiars in that fight. He felt their connection disappearing while he was in battle. And when he tried summoning them again, nothing happened.
However, he didn’t get frustrated at the loss. Because the surviving spirits grew just as stronger.
Thanks to this, Boo, Nol, and Ka were able to reach the maximum level of growth for a Spirit Familiar.
Those who used to be powerless ghosts, were now three giant monsters emitting enormous amounts of powerful aura. Even Yeon-woo himself flinched whenever they came near him.
『It looks like you have gotten everything you wanted.』
"And it’s all thanks to you."
『I am glad to hear that.』
The Phoenix burst into laughter. She seemed to be very pleased with his words.
『Now, shall we start?』
Yeon-woo put down a pouch he was carrying on his shoulder onto the floor.
The pouch then opened by itself, and the materials stored inside flew out from the pouch.
『It looks like you’ve selected only the best ingredients. These will make a fine vessel.』
[Hidden quest (Flame of Life) completed.]
[You have made an achievement that is not easily accomplished. Additional Karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 5,000 Karma.]
[You have acquired 3,000 additional Karma.]
[You have received ‘Phoenix’s favor’.]
[Intimacy with the Phoenix has increased. Chirpy has noticed the change and had become very pleased.]
[Affinity towards fire element has increased by 30.]
[Affinity towards wind element has increased by 30.]
[The effects of the contract you formed with a Legendary Beast will be enhanced. All Mythical Beasts including Demonic Beasts will now be less vigilant towards you, and become very friendly with you]
[Phoenix has begun the production of ‘Flame of Life'.]
The materials that were floating up in the air started to combust, producing a white flame.
The Holy Flame, the embodiment of the Phoenix.
One by one, the flame consumed the offerings while emitting a sacred energy.
When all the materials were on fire, they gathered in the center, merging into one big flame.
[‘Flame of Life (Superior)’ has been created.]
[You have acquired ‘Flame of Life (Superior)’.]
『It has been a long time since I have created a Flame of Life of this quality. What do you think?』
The Phoenix said proudly.
But when she looked back at Yeon-woo, he was staring at the flame with a blank look.
The Flame of Life
Sometimes brilliant gold, sometimes bright red, ocean blue, turquoise green, jet black, and many other colors.
And Yeon-woo watched the colors change with his mouth agape.
He felt his mind clearing up.
Also, he felt the memories buried somewhere deep inside his mind suddenly rising to the surface once again.
The memories of those warm days. The memories of the past when he knew how to laugh so brightly….
And then… In all those memories, his twin brother was there.
The one who looked just like him, but unlike him, had such a bright personality.
Yeon-woo stared into the flame for a while, belatedly realizing the current situation and quickly wiping his eyes with his sleeves.
There were some tears, which he didn’t even notice coming out, welled up in his eyes.
"...I'm sorry. I didn’t mean to make a scene."
『It is okay. It was a great opportunity to know that you, who seems to have an ice-cold heart, in fact, have a warm heart just like anyone else.』
The Phoenix said as she looked interestedly at Yeon-woo.
『This holy flame symbolizes life. And it shows to those who look at the flame what they think life is to them. And to you, human, it seems like your life consists of past memories.』
There was even a feeling of warmth coming from the Phoenix's voice.
『Do not be afraid, for I do not know what you have seen from the flame. But what I do know is that the memories of yours, they will become a sure and steadfast anchor against the waves of hardships awaiting in your life. So human, do not lose those memories.』
"Thank you for your kind words."
『It is my pleasure that I could say this to the human that has saved my child.』
Then, the Phoenix brought Yeon-woo’s egg she had been keeping safe in her nest.
But at the same time, Chirpy came running as she flapped her tiny wings.
『My youngest child has grown very fond of your egg. It seems like she is sad to part with her friend.』
Yeon-woo couldn’t help but laugh as he saw Chirpy holding onto the egg with her wings. trying not to let it go.
Yeon-woo knew that Chirpy and his beast egg had already become special friends.
He didn’t know why he knew it.
Perhaps the connection with her allowed him to know her feelings.
So, he felt sorry that he had to separate. Drops of tears fell from Chirpy’s eyes.
‘I'll have to come to visit her often even after clearing the 11th floor.’
While Yeon-woo was distracted by his thoughts, the Flame of Life suddenly drew near to the egg.
And when it came into contact with the egg, the flame scattered into different pieces and, one by one, began to sink into the egg.
The egg then grew bigger and bigger the more pieces it absorbed. The patterns on the egg also took on a vivid and distinct color.
Yeon-woo could feel the link between him and the eggs becoming clearer, stronger, and thicker. The feeling of great joy the egg was feeling right now was conveyed to his heart.
And by the time the egg finished absorbing all the pieces of flame, it grew until it was two meters tall, even bigger than Yeon-woo.
『It is a very rare case for an egg to grow this big. Could it be a Mythical Dragon?』
The egg then became covered in a bright light.
It also began to tremble as if the beast was trying to break out of its shell.
The bright light suddenly died down as if it had never happened.
At the unbelievable situation, Yeon-woo and the Phoenix muttered the same words simultaneously.
The egg did not hatch.